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I just finished Kenilworth. It’s the ninth of Sir Walter Scott’s twenty-six Waverley novels that I have read. What stands out is his treatment of Elizabeth I. Scott’s Elizabeth I must surely be one of the most terrifying characters in English literature — absolute power and the willingness to use it. I found myself often almost trembling along with her courtiers, down on their knees in terror of losing their heads.

Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester, managed to keep his head, though he came close to losing it. It’s not a piece of English history that I am particularly interested in, but the Wikipedia article on Robert Dudley suggests that more recent scholarship sees Dudley as less a fool and toy of Elizabeth and more as one of Elizabeth’s most important advisers. Scott, it would seem, was no great fan of Dudley.

Kenilworth is set in Berkshire and Warwickshire. There are not even any Scottish characters. I’m eager to get back to Scott’s Scotland in whatever I decide to read next.

Kenilworth castle today. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Henry Sandigo wrote:

    I would have been working in a field somewhere hoping I’d get at least a bit of a bite to survive, after all the rest of my families been imprisoned or dead from the black plague

    Monday, January 1, 2024 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Henry: Yes, Scott was a royalist obsessed with nobles and royals. I can only imagine what his baronetcy (1820) did for his ego. Still, I think his more humble characters, and his love of the Highlands, much redeem him.

    Monday, January 1, 2024 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

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