The Elizabethan Trilogy’s three separate novels present a sweeping panorama of English life during a brilliant period of history. Historical figures such as Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Ralegh are mingled with invented characters to give a vivid picture of the era’s life from the court to the poorhouse.
The trilogy opens with The Death of the Fox, an evocative account of the life and career of Sir Walter Ralegh, one of the favorites of Queen Elizabeth’s court. Ralegh is executed by James I in 1618, presumably for treason and conspiracy, but of precisely what sort is never revealed. The novel switches between the memories and thoughts of Ralegh, the man in the Tower of London condemned to die, and James I, the suspicious Scot who has condemned him for reasons never quite explained. The Death of the Fox weaves back and forth from the present to the past, gradually revealing the history of Ralegh’s career as he rises to power and prominence in the court of Elizabeth I and then is undone by the plots of his rivals and the suspicions of James I. When Ralegh fails in an expedition to discover gold in South America and also becomes an impediment to peace between England and Spain—a project that is especially dear to James—his life is forfeit. After years of a career that has seen the heights and depths of Elizabethan English life, Ralegh is brought out to die by the headsman’s ax, and the novel ends with his execution. The Succession, subtitled A Novel of Elizabeth and...
(The entire section is 620 words.)