In 1572, the good looking and talented Nicholas Hillyarde paints the first of many portraits of Elizabeth I, England’s “Virgin Queen”. His ability to capture the likeness of his patrons makes him famous and his skills are much sought after by the rich and powerful members of the Elizabethan Court. His loyalty to Elizabeth even leads him to becoming part of Sir Francis Walsingham’s information network. One day he is approached by a young man with an intriguing commission. Hillyarde is to paint the man holding a lady’s hand – a hand which descends from a cloud – complete with a puzzling motto: “Attici Amoris Ergo”… There is something familiar about this young man’s face, and Hillyarde is led down a dark path of investigation to discover who this young man may be. Who is the young man? Has Hillyarde stumbled across a dark royal secret, and, if so, is there evidence hidden elsewhere?
‘The Truth Of The Line’ is an intriguing novel. On the one hand it is steeped in historical fact from descriptions of life at Elizabeth’s court to the life of a gentleman at home, from the political situation at the time to the detailed descriptions of Elizabethan art; on the other hand it is an historical novel which will keep any lover of mystery entertaind.
‘The Truth Of The Line’ is a testament to the detailed research which historian Melanie Taylor has put into this book. Nicholas Hilliard was a ‘court limner’ who painted miniature portraits; he was also a goldsmith, which enabled him to create beautiful settings for his portraits. (You can see some of his work in the National Portrait Gallery, London). It was this position at court which enabled Hilliard to come into contact with many of the key players in Elizabethan society, and to be a part of some of that time’s most memorable moments. Quite a lot is known about the life and work of Nicholas Hilliard, but this novel is the first book that I am aware of to hint at a secret which the artist may have discovered when painting the mysterious young man who appears on the cover of this book. Who was he? And why the strange, almost nonsensical, motto? Although a work of fiction the details of the clues which Hilliard follows are based on Ms Taylor’s skilled interpretation of actual documents and paintings. There was a great deal of symbolism in Tudor art which enabled people to pass on a message without the use of incriminating words, and the author seamlessly moves from those symbols which are known in the art world to others which she has ‘discovered’ through her own detailed research. You will certainly be left wondering if Hilliard’s (and Ms Taylor’s?) conclusions about the young man he painted, and his relationship to key members of the royal court, could possibly be true.
If you are interested in history, or art, or cryptic clues then I think that you will enjoy this novel. It certainly left me wondering – what if…?
You can find out more about Melanie Taylor here
‘The Truth Of The Line’ can be found on Amazon
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