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Publishers WeeklyThe highly prolific author of The Victorians trains his gaze on the resplendent Elizabethan Age. British explorers like Sir Francis Drake, the first commander to sail round the earth, and return home (Magellan was killed in the Philippines), and the Elizabethan navy with its new streamlined, technologically superior galleons defeated the once-mighty Spanish Armada. The reign saw a prodigious artistic flowering with the dramas and poems of Shakespeare, Spenser, and Marlowe, the music of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, and great houses like Longleat and Hardwick. The era's dazzling sun was the Queen-a flirtatious, formidably clever, devious political animal. She was a consummate actress capable of manipulating crowds and of also flying into volcanic rages. Elizabeth's two mainstays were her ultra-Protestant secretary William Cecil, the cunning, humorless lynchpin of Elizabeth's administration, and her favorite, the stunningly attractive, extravagantly dressed nobleman Robert Dudley. The Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots was the greatest threat to Elizabeth's throne but also taught Elizabeth a priceless lesson on the dangers of marriage for a female head of state. Wilson acknowledges that the glorious era had a heinous side: the colonization and subjugation of Ireland and the African slave trade. Wilson's ruminations are cerebral, incisive, witty, and well informed. Illus. Agent: Gillon Aitken, Aitken Alexander Associates (U.K.).
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