As a result of my interest in Tudor history, I’ve read many of Tony Riches’ books – among them his Tudor Trilogy, about the founding and growth of the Tudor family, Drake — Tudor Corsair, and Essex — Tudor rebel. The author then began to explore the era from a woman’s point of view with Mary – Tudor Princess, and Katherine – Tudor Duchess, both of which I have reviewed. With this book, he introduces us to Penelope, Baroness Rich, a force in the court of Queen Elizabeth.
Penelope begins her life as Lady Penelope Devereux with serious ties to Elizabeth’s court. Her great-grandmother is Queen Elizabeth I’s aunt, Mary Boleyn, Queen Ann Boleyn’s sister. Her father is Sir Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, whose son would become a favorite of Elizabeth, and her mother is Lady Lettice Knollys. Lady Lettice has been banished from court for her secret marriage to the queen’s great favorite at the time, Sir Robert Dudley.
Lady Penelope is a beautiful, headstrong, and much sought-after by men. She is well educated, an accomplished dancer and musician and fluent in Italian, French and Spanish. Despite her mother’s disgrace, she is appointed a Maid-of-Honor to the Queen until Sir Robert Dudley arranges her marriage with Baron Richard Rich, a loveless marriage to a staunch Protestant who rapes her as his husbandly duty.
She becomes the muse of Sir Philip Sidney, who may have fallen passionately in love between her arrival at court in 1581 and his own marriage in 1583 to her sister. In this telling, she bears him a child who is seamlessly incorporated into her family of four with Baron Rich. Her scandalous love life continues, with Penelope embarking on an affair with Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy, which produces at least three children, all of whom Lord Rich accepted as his own. You might wonder how that situation ends.
Penelope also becomes in involved in political intrigue. She makes herself known to James I of Scotland, whom she sees as Elizabeth’s successor. During the period when her brother Lord Essex organizes a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth, Penelope is with him frequently at Essex house. Did she help to foment the rebellion? What happens to her as a result, and how does she manipulate her relationship with Elizabeth and later James I and V of Scotland and England to her advantage?
This woman is astounding for her warmth, daring, passion, and forthrightness – hardly what one might consider a ‘normal’ member of the Tudor court and confidant of Queens. She lived her life on her own terms, for which she is to be admired.
As usual, the author provides a rich backdrop of life in Elizabethan England and especially life at court -the food, the dress, and the courtly manners. His detail and depth of knowledge of the intrigue of the English court is superb and richly satisfying to anyone with an interest in this era.
Mr. Riches has chosen a compelling figure for his latest book – I would have liked to meet her! I highly recommend yet another well-written and colorfully detailed book by Tony Riches.
About the author
Tony Riches was born in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, and spent part of his childhood in Kenya. He earned a BA degree in Psychology and an MBA from Cardiff University. After careers in the Roayl Air Force, the NHS and local governement, he is now a full-tiome author of historical fiction. His Tudor Trilogy has become an international best-seller and he is in regular demand as a guest speaker about the lives of the early Tudors.
His blog, The Writing Desk, has over 1.3 million visitors and his popular podcast, Stories of the Tudors, has had over 239,000 downloads.
He has returned to live in Pembrokeshire, an area full of inspiration for his writing. In hais spare time, he enjoys sailing and sea kayaking.
Visit him online at
On Facebook at Tony Riches Author
And on Twitter at @tonyriches
All of his books are available on Amazon.