Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Written on the occasion of Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne in 1952, Geoffrey Trease’s The Seven Queens of England tells her story and the lives of her six predecessors as queen, each of whom ruled in her own right. Each queen is described in her own chapter. When time elapses between reigns, Trease discusses the crucial political and social changes in short transitional chapters called “The Years Between.” Thus he is able to weave the continuing history of England’s political development even as he spotlights each ruler’s individual story. Therefore, the book may be read either as a tapestry of the nation’s fate under female rule or as a miniature portrait gallery of important women.

The tapestry records a thousand years of British monarchy between the first Saxon kings and Elizabeth II. In principle, royal succession from father to son seems sim-ple, but, in history, questions of royal succession have caused civil war, rebellion, and invasion, especially when a daughter succeeds a father or a sitting queen leaves no child. Consequently, the tapestry is full of dramatic scenes and suspenseful reigns when succession was doubtful. It also records England’s complex religious history, as Protestant families contended with Catholic families for the right to rule. Although religious freedom exists in modern Great Britain, it was once the cause of persecution and insurrection in the lives of four queens. Finally, the tapestry...

(The entire section is 431 words.)