About this title:
An abused child, yet confident of her destiny, passionately sexual yet, she said, a virgin, famed as England's most successful ruler yet actually doing little, Elizabeth I is full of contradictions. This biography, published to accompany a Channel 4 series presented by the author, aims to turn the paradox into a person. Starting with Elizabeth's own speeches and writings, the author lays emphasis on two things: her faith made her see religion as a purely personal relationship between the individual conscience and God, yet her sophisticated education led her to a smoke-and-mirrors view of politics, in which clever image-making and speech-writing could solve or postpone real problems. The result was a surprisingly contemporary approach to some very modern questions, like civil strife in Scotland and Ireland and the risk of England's absorption into a European super-state. This approach to the enigma of the Queen's character is presented in a retelling of her reign; her love for Robert Dudley, the tragi-comedy of her favourites and suitors, her struggles with Mary Queen of Scots and Philip II of Spain and the final, humiliating debacle of her relationship with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.
The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, Good Queen Bess; Elizabeth I holds a unique place in the English imagination as one of the nation's most powerful, charismatic, and successful monarchs. Elizabeth usually is imagined as the icy, untouchable figure, re-created memorably on screen by Bette Davis and Dame Judi Dench, but that vision of Elizabeth ignores the turbulent years of her early life, from her birth as the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533 until her accession to the throne in 1558 after the death of her sister Mary. It is these early years that are the subject of David Starkey's fascinating Elizabeth
, which was written to accompany the television series about her life.
Starkey argues that Elizabeth, in her first 25 years, "had experienced every vicissitude of fortune and every extreme of condition. She had been Princess and inheritrix of England, and bastard and disinherited; the nominated successor to the throne and an accused traitor on the verge of execution; showered with lands and houses, and a prisoner in the Tower". He draws on his skills as a respected Tudor historian to produce a deft account of the religious, political, and dynastic maelstrom of mid-16th-century England that reads "like a historical thriller." The book carefully picks its way through the finer points of contemporary religious conflict and the peculiarities of Tudor court ceremony, while exploring also the formation of Elizabeth's character in relation to a murdered mother, a charismatic father, a tortured sister, and a predatory guardian. Highly readable, and written with verve and pace, this is a fascinating account of the young Elizabeth. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk
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