NEW HNS Feature: Elizabeth Fremantle’s The Girl in the Glass Tower Explores the Invisibility of Women in History

Elizabeth Fremantle, the critically acclaimed author of Queen's Gambit, Sisters of Treason, and Watch the Lady, is celebrating the paperback release of her most recent novel, The Girl in the Glass Tower, and I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions on behalf of the Historical Novel Society.


In Elizabeth Fremantle’s fourth novel, The Girl in the Glass Tower, she departs the world of the Tudors to illuminate the life of Arbella Stuart, the tragic heir to Queen Elizabeth I. Thanks to her famous cousins, Arbella is often overlooked these days, yet that was not always the case. Several attempts to exploit her as a political pawn during a time ripe with plots and treason led to Arbella being closely watched and sequestered for most of her life.

“It is precisely because Arbella is so little known that I wanted to shed light on her story,” Fremantle explains. “In some ways my aim was for The Girl in the Glass Tower to work as a companion piece to my earlier novel, Sisters of Treason, as Arbella’s story so strongly echoes that of Lady Katherine Grey, though the two women had such different characters. Both figures encapsulate the challenges of women born close to the throne and the ways in which such a fate was more curse than blessing, something that has long fascinated me.”

Indeed, Arbella’s life as a virtual prisoner may look nothing like the lifestyle that comes to mind when one typically considers royalty, a contrast that Fremantle wanted to illustrate. “Culturally speaking, we have this idea of the privilege of royal blood as always bringing with it immense good fortune; this is what stimulates the pervasive desire of little girls to become princesses. Arbella’s story seemed to me like a dark fairy tale that turns that idea on its head.”


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