The Other Elizabeth
The artwork on the cover is “Portrait of a Young Lady," by Federico Barocci (c. 1553-1612), c. 1600.
When Henry VIII died in 1547, 14-year-old Elizabeth went Chelsea to live with her father's widow, Catherine Parr, and her new husband, Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth's 9-year-old brother, Edward, was king, but the land was ruled by their uncle. The Other Elizabeth is a story—in the vein of the Prince and the Pauper—of what might have happened during that difficult time to the girl who would one day become queen.
“Come here," said Elizabeth. "Observe a remarkable thing.” She pulled Grit in front of a mirror that stood, tilted slightly back, in an oak frame. Grit blinked with wonder—she’d never seen such a clear reflection of herself before.
“Is it witchcraft?” she whispered.
The princess looked incredulous. “It’s a looking glass. Beaten metal. It’s solid enough, see?” She put her finger on the mirror to prove it. “But look at this, look how similar we are. Our hair is nearly the same, but for yours being so filthy. And you’re only an inch or so taller than I am. From the back, we’d be difficult to tell apart.”
Grit looked. It was very true, what the princess said. Their faces were different—Elizabeth’s nose was sharper and more delicate than Grit’s, and her mouth was wider. Their eyes were different, too. The princess had bluer eyes with dark lashes, while Grit’s ran toward gray. But from the back, in matching clothes, they’d be easy to confuse for one another.
* * *
“Hmm. That’s nearly it. If you only had a veil,” Elizabeth murmured, “so no one could see your face, you just might pass muster.” Reaching back into the chest, she pulled out a filmy piece of gauze that she hooked onto the hood, right above Grit’s ears. Elizabeth held her hand up in front of her own face to hide it. “There. Could you tell us apart now?”
“I am a little taller,” Grit said.
“True. But if someone saw you alone, they wouldn’t notice that. Or you could say you’d grown suddenly, couldn’t you? The eyes are different, but that’s a slight matter. People hardly ever look me in the eye.”