Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
–Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II, Act 3, Scene 1
One of the first things most people do when I tell them that my current work-in-progress is a retelling of the story of David and Bathsheba is raise an eyebrow (or two). They assume it’s going to be a salacious love story, a bodice-ripper, or worse. Why would I want to tell that story, they ask?
Because, my friends, Shakespeare had it in one.
I have always had an interest in history, particularly the British monarchy from the Plantagenet line forward. I’ve read quite a few biographies and historical fiction novels, and recently I’ve been terribly interested in both Netflix’s The Crown and PBS’ Victoria. *Fair warning: The Crown has adult themes and occasional nudity–watcher beware.
One thing that I’ve observed in my studies of history and consumption of entertainment related to the monarchy is that “it ain’t easy bein’ Queen”. Sure, we commoners assume that it must be grand, having someone wait on you hand and foot . . . but the life of a monarch is a stressful one at the least.
Rarely is a monarch allowed to have personal feelings. They must act under a set of stringent and often ludicrous guidelines. For example, on one episode of The Crown, Princess Margaret cannot get engaged until the Queen’s baby is born, because no family announcements can be made until the birth of the Sovereign’s child (ostensibly so that no announcement could supersede that one?). For me, the wearing of heels 24/7 would be a deal breaker.
Imagine, then, what it would have been like from Bathsheba. Plucked from the relative obscurity of being a soldier’s wife, she found herself the mistress and then the wife of one of the most powerful men in the world. How wonderful her life must have been, right?
Quite frankly, it sounds terrifying.
She would herself have been powerless, subject to the whims of her husband (and, to a great degree, his advisers and courtiers). She was whisked away from the security of her own home into the bustling activity of a palace, surrounded by people that she did not know and could not be sure she could trust.
How many of her own advisers and courtiers would have been jealous of this beauty, who by their opinion had done nothing to deserve winning the favor of their beloved king?
She experienced such great loss in a short time. The loss of her husband Uriah was followed by the loss of her own freedom and then the loss of her infant child.
Her life with David was less than Paradise. I imagine that she felt deep isolation and pain, and likely fear. She’s a terribly interesting character, and one that I am enjoying exploring and investigating.
I have set her story in modern times, like I did with Ruth and Naomi in Don’t Ask Me to Leave, and it’s also been intriguing to contemplate how that might affect her character–being a soldier’s wife dealing with deployment, a new mother dealing with postpartum depression, and then spun further into that maelstrom with the death of her child. It presents a great challenge for me. How can she redeem herself?
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Don’t Ask Me to Leave is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.