The Danish Queen by Lynda Andrews


This is very basic historical fiction, which reads like something that’s been taken from a textbook and turned into dialogue or brief narrative; but that sort of thing can be absolutely fine for a bit of light reading, especially when it’s going very cheap on Kindle download.  A lot of Jean Plaidy’s books are like that, and I loved those when I was in my teens and early twenties!   Lynda Andrews (I’m not quite sure why she’s rebranded herself from “Lyn” to “Lynda”), who usually writes light reading set in Liverpool between the wars, isn’t in the same league as Jean Plaidy, but her books aren’t bad, and not even Jean Plaidy’s managed to write a book about Anne of Denmark, who was queen during a pivotal period in British history but tends to be completely overlooked.

The historical accuracy of the book can’t, generally, be faulted.  Seeing as Arbella Stuart’s name is very irritatingly misspelt as “Arabella” and Beatrix Ruthven is referred to as “Beatrice”, I rather suspect that the author had been reading Agnes Strickland – although Agnes Strickland would never have referred to Elizabeth I as James I’s aunt, as Lynda Andrews rather bizarrely does, the one really major historical error in the text.   There are some other annoying spelling mistakes too – “Gowry” instead of “Gowrie” and (unless this is a Kindle thing?) the most horrendous mangling of both “Wriothesley” and “Kronborg”.  There’s also quite a bit missing, from major things like the witch hunts and the writing of the King James Bible to minor things like Anne managing to shoot dead one of James’s dogs.  Also, major events like the plot to put Arbella on the throne, the Overbury case and even the Gunpowder Plot get far less coverage than several court masques.  And the issue of whether or not Anne converted to Catholicism isn’t mentioned at all.

But it’s only a short book.  And, as long as you’re not expecting something too deep and meaningful, and as long as you haven’t paid more than the 99p Kindle sale price for it, it’s worth a go, simply because there has been so little written about Anne of Denmark.  She was the first Queen of the whole of Great Britain and, although obviously she was a queen consort rather than queen regnant, the first Queen of England after Elizabeth I and the first Queen of Scotland after Mary, Queen of Scots.   She also played an important part in promoting art and culture, especially the Royal Collection which has been in the news quite a lot recently – and she’s got a raw deal in what little has been written about her in the past, usually being dismissed as silly and frivolous when she was actually quite politically savvy and certainly quite a patron of the arts.  Historians, especially male historians, tend to be very negative about all the Stuart queens, one way or another. However, Anne does come across well in this book, which is nice.

It’s all too short and too quick, though.  The issue of her religion’s barely mentioned, as I said.  The issue of how she coped with James being bisexual is referred to, but only in dialogue: we don’t really get much sense of how she really felt about it.  OK, obviously the author can’t know that, but that’s the point of historical fiction: she could have tried to give more of an impression of how she imagined Anne would have felt.  Nor do we really get much sense of Anne’s grief at losing five of her seven children, including Henry, the hugely popular Prince of Wales who would surely have made a far better king than his younger brother, the future Charles I, was to do.  The author never really does more than skim the surface of how anyone feels.

Then there’s James.  We get to see the only really romantic episode of James’s life, when Anne was shipwrecked in Norway en route from Denmark to Scotland, and James sailed out there to meet him, and we get some sense of the ups and downs in their marriage, but the way he’s presented is very irritating because everything he says is in Scottish dialect/a Scottish accent.  It just about stops short of “Och aye the noo”!  OK, James would have spoken in a Scottish accent, but everyone speaks in some sort of accent, and it doesn’t always work very well in print.  Some authors, especially Victorian authors, manage it quite well, but it was absolutely ridiculous to have James doing all that Och aye the noo/Ma wee lassie stuff whilst everything said by Anne, who wasn’t even a native English speaker, was written in standard English spelling.

Having said all that, Anne deserves to be much better known that she is, and so the book’s worth reading because of that.  But it’s very short, and never really does more than skim the surface of what’s going on.





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