The Winter Queen

Set in seventeenth century Holland, The Winter Queen is a novel based on the secret love affair between Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia and Pelagius van Overmeer. Jane Stevenson’s prose is richly textured. Initially a bit tedious for those not familiar with English history, the introductory chapters clearly set the stage for what is to follow. As the novel unfolds, the characters gain substance as they reveal themselves layer by layer, often in subtle ways.

Pelagius is a paradox. He is an African prince, a former slave, a student of theology who aspires to the ministry. A black man in a white world, he honors his African traditions, yet he is a man of deep Christian faith. He trusts that God will guide his path. It is that trust in Providence which leads him to The Hague to assist his mentor when he is called upon.

That act of faith sets in motion a series of events that brings him in contact with Elizabeth, the widowed Queen. They fall in love and are secretly married. Though their love is intense, both are troubled souls. Their biracial child is the grandson of two kings. A child of two worlds, thought by some to be part of a divine plan for the world’s salvation, he is born in secret and sent away.

Elizabeth and her family are caught in the midst of the political and religious upheaval in Europe at the time. A victim of circumstance, having found love, she cannot express it openly. Pelagius is a free man, the queen’s consort, yet he is still emotionally enslaved, torn by his love for his son, his pride in his roots, and his searing love for Elizabeth. Their child is a symbol of hope.

The first book in a trilogy, the reader is left unsure of the infant’s fate.