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Book Launch Guest Post ~ Introducing Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester, by Nicola Tallis

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The first biography of Lettice Knollys, one of the most prominent women of the Elizabethan era

Cousin to Elizabeth I - and very likely also Henry VIII's illegitimate granddaughter - Lettice Knollys had a life of dizzying highs and pitiful lows. Darling of the court, entangled in a love triangle with Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I, banished from court, plagued by scandals of affairs and murder, embroiled in treason, Lettice would go on to lose a husband and beloved son to the executioner's axe. 

Once described as ‘a favourite’ of her kinswoman, Elizabeth I, the Queen later raged that Lettice Knollys was a ‘she-wolf’ following the discovery of Lettice’s marriage to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It was an unforgivable betrayal in Elizabeth’s eyes, and never again was Lettice welcomed to her court. But who was Lettice, and more importantly, why did I decide to tell her story? 
My interest in Lettice stems back to 2015, when I was putting the finishing touches to my first book, Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey. Whilst exploring the magnificent church of St Mary’s, Warwick, I stopped to admire the double tomb Lettice shares with her second husband, Robert Dudley.

I was so struck by it that it prompted me to find out more about her, and I was astonished by what I found … for more than a year I’ve travelled across the country looking for clues and delving deeper into Lettice’s life – I’ve transcribed her letters, visited her former homes, and admired her surviving portraits in order to build up a picture of her life. I believe that what I’ve written – the first ever full-scale biography of Lettice – comes as close as is possible to knowing the real her. More than that, I’d like to think that it adds a further intriguing piece to the complex puzzle of Tudor England that many people – including myself – are so fascinated by.

What can readers expect to find in my book? Lettice’s is a story that couldn’t be imagined: it’s full of intrigue, drama, ambition, tragedy and heartbreak. In order to whet your appetite, here’s five things you may not have known about the woman who became Elizabeth’s rival.

1. Lettice’s unusual choice of Christian name was chosen as a compliment to her paternal grandmother, Lettice Peniston. It is a shortened form of Laetitia, the Latin word for happiness.

2. Lettice’s bloodline continues to this day – many people are unaware of the fact that she is the ancestor of the present queen, Elizabeth II, through her mother.

3. Lettice was the dedicatee of a prayer book by Roger Edwardes: A Boke of Very Godly Psalmes and Prayers was produced in 1570. Edwardes admitted that he’d never met Lettice, but was hopeful that she’d recommend him to her first husband, Walter Devereux.

4. Lettice married three times: her epitaph relates that she ‘Matched with two great English peers’, but makes no reference to her third husband, Sir Christopher Blount. Blount was a Catholic who worked as a double agent for Sir Francis Walsingham in the plot to secure Mary, Queen of Scots downfall.

5. Lettice lived to the extraordinary age of ninety-one and was the last of the great Elizabethan survivors. For most of her life she seems to have enjoyed good health, and two years before her death it was reported that she was still able to walk a mile a day. 

Nicola Tallis

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About the Author

British Historian Nicola Tallis graduated from Bath Spa University with a first class BA Hons. degree in History in 2011, and from Royal Holloway College, University of London in 2013 with an MA in Public History. Since 2013 she has been studying for her PhD at the University of Winchester, where she teaches History. Nicola also worked as a historical researcher, most notably for Sir Ranulph Fiennes whilst he was working on his 2014 book, Agincourt: My Family, the Battle and the Fight for France. and is the resident historian for Alison Weir Tours. Find out more at Nicola's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @MissNicolaTal
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