Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne

by David Starkey


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, August 23


An abused child, yet confident of her destiny to reign, a woman in a man's world, passionately sexual—though, as she maintained, a virgin—Elizabeth I is famed as England's most successful ruler. David Starkey's brilliant new biography concentrates on Elizabeth's formative years—from her birth in 1533 to her accession in 1558—and shows how the experiences of danger and adventure formed her remarkable character and shaped her opinions and beliefs.

From princess and heir-apparent to bastardized and disinherited royal, accused traitor to head of the princely household, Elizabeth experienced every vicissitude of fortune and extreme of condition—and rose above it all to reign during a watershed moment in history. A uniquely absorbing tale of one young woman's turbulent, courageous, and seemingly impossible journey toward the throne, Elizabeth is the exhilarating story of the making of a queen.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061367434
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/25/2007
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 386,880
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

David Starkey is the Bye Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and winner of the W. H. Smith Prize and the Norton Medlicott Medal for Services to History presented by Britain's Historical Association. He is best known for writing and presenting the groundbreaking and hugely popular series Elizabeth and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. He lives in London.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was born on Sunday, 7 September 1533 at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. It was an easy birth: mother and daughter were well and the child took after her father with his fair skin and long nose. But she had her mother's coal-black eyes.

These are the ordinary, human details that might characterize the birth of any baby. But Elizabeth was royal. That meant that her entry into the world was vested with ceremony and hopes that went far beyond the ordinary. Indeed, as far as the hopes were concerned, they went far beyond what was usual even for a royal birth.

Royal births, like other royal events, great and small, from marriages and deaths to dressing and dining, were the object of an elaborate ceremonial. This was set out in the handbook of court etiquette known as The Royal Book. The ceremonies were already old when the Tudors came to the throne, though with his love of display, Elizabeth's grandfather, Henry VII, had added a few finishing touches. The result combined religious and courtly ceremony; it hid the pregnant queen like a mystery and it paraded the new-born infant like a pageant. For successive generations of Plantagenets, Yorkists and Tudors, this entry into the world had lent a little magic to even the briefest royal lives. In the case of Elizabeth, it formed a magnificent prologue to the superb royal performance that was to be her reign.

The preparations had got underway in earnest in early August when it was decided that the birth would take place at Greenwich. This was the lovely, Thames-side palace where, forty-two years before,Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, had been born. It was the favourite palace of his mother, Elizabeth of York, and it was to become his and his daughter's favourite too.

First, the Queen's bedchamber was prepared for her confinement. The walls and ceiling were close hung and tented with arras—that is, precious tapestry woven with gold or silver threads—and the floor thickly laid with rich carpets. The arras was left loose at a single window, so that the Queen could order a little light and air to be admitted, though this was generally felt inadvisable. Precautions were taken, too, about the design of the hangings. Figurative tapestry, with human or animal images, was ruled out. The fear was that it could trigger fantasies in the Queen's mind which might lead to the child being deformed. Instead, simple, repetitive patterns were preferred. The Queen's richly hung and canopied bed was to match or be en suite with the hangings, as was the pallet or day-bed which stood at its foot. And it was on the pallet, almost certainly, that the birth took place.

Carpenters and joiners had first prepared the skeleton by framing up a false ceiling in the chamber. Then the officers of the wardrobe had moved in to nail up and arrange the tapestry, carpets and hangings. At the last minute, gold and silver plate had been brought from the Jewel House. There were cups and bowls to stand on the cupboard and crucifixes, candlesticks and images for the altar. The result was a cross between a chapel and a luxuriously padded cell.

By the third week of August all was ready, and on the 26th there took place the ceremony of the Queen's 'taking her chamber'. First, she went in procession to the Chapel Royal and heard mass. The company then returned to the Queen's great chamber, which was the outermost room of her suite. There, standing under the cloth of estate or canopy that was the mark of her rank, she took wine and spices with the assembled company. Her lord chamberlain now called on everyone present to pray that 'God would give her the good hour', that is, a safe delivery. Another procession formed and accompanied the Queen to the door of her bedchamber. At the threshold, the males of the court took their leave of her and only her women entered.

Her confinement had now begun. The Victorians used the word as a euphemism, but the etiquette of the English court confined a pregnant queen indeed in a sort of purdah. Thenceforward, until the birth and her 'churching' thirty days after, she dwelt in an exclusively female world, attended solely by women.

These ceremonies were ambivalent. They emphasized that childbirth was a purely female mystery. And they paid the tribute of the dominant male world to that mystery. But they did so on strict conditions: the queen, literally, had to deliver. They also underscored how inconceivable, how monstrous even, was the notion of an unmarried and childless queen. For a queen was a breeding machine, or, as the Spanish ambassador put it only a little more elegantly, 'the entire future turns on the accouchement of the queen'. Elizabeth's career was to mount a magnificent challenge to this received wisdom; her mother's, on the other hand, was to be an awful example of its truth.

But at least on this occasion, Anne Boleyn did deliver, going into labour less than a fortnight after having taken to her chamber. Immediately, work was started to prepare the very different stage — set that was needed for the christening. This was as public as the confinement was private. It was to take place, not in the Chapel Royal, which lay at the east end of the river facade, but in the Church of the Observant Friars, which was situated at some distance from the main palace, to the northwest. Once again Elizabeth was following in her father's footsteps, as this was also where he had been christened. The chosen route, which led from the great hall to the west door of the church, was turned into an outdoor corridor. Holes were dug for posts on which were mounted frames and rails and the whole was hung with tapestry. In view of the distance, hundreds of pieces must have been used...

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsvii
Introduction: The Struggle for the Throneix
3Infancy and Mother's Death16
4Childhood and Education23
6Stepmother: Catherine Parr35
7Reformed Religion42
8Royal Father50
9Father's Death54
10Brother: King Edward VI61
11Stepfather: Thomas Seymour65
13Hatfield: Further Education79
14The Dudleys89
16Rival Sisters100
17Exclusion: Edward VI's Will and Death107
18Queen Mary118
19The Spanish Marriage123
22The Tower141
23Prisoner's Progress147
24Imprisonment: The Politics of Protest151
25Imprisonment: Personal Resistance159
26A New Dynasty?166
27A New England?171
28A Royal Pregnancy?177
29Parliamentary Revolt185
30Elizabeth's First Adventurers192
31Honourable Imprisonment201
32Marriage with Menaces205
33Two Portraits: Mary and Elizabeth214
34Power Ebbs217
35Power Flows221
36The Enemy: Cardinal Pole231
37Two Deaths234
38Accession: A New Government235
39Between Old and New250
41Religion Reformed275
42The Limits of Religious Reform: Practice289
43The Limits of Religious Reform: Persons300
44Promise Fulfilled307
Notes on Sources325

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have always been interested in Elizabeth I, along with much of English history. This book has been the most thorough source I've found on her. It gives the facts, along with some of the author's opinions. But at least, he tells you when it is fact, and when it is opinion. This book is so great for any history-loving person, and those especially interested in English Monarch history. Also I imagine it would be great for a report source. The book is definitely not boring, contrary to popular belief about history books (with the exception of the few very last chapters of the book, discussing religious dissention). It also gives great information about the time period, and other famous people of the time.
neferset on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A really readable biography of Elizabeth I focused mainly on the years leading up to her coronation and a quick synopsis of her reigning years at the end.
keywestnan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good concise summary of the dramatic story of Elizabeth's journey to the throne, especially her survival through her turbulent childhood and adolescence.
la_femme_jennifer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting look at the life of one of the most important Queens in history, though at times it gets a little too bogged down in the details and it can be hard to keep track of the vast number of characters involved. But if you like this kind of biography, you'll probably enjoy this.
NielsenGW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Starkey¿s half-biography is a paragon of modern historical scholarship. He tempers the dramatism of earlier historiographers while using contemporary accounts of the early life of Queen Elizabeth I. His stunning account is proof that non-fiction can be both exciting and accurate.
Kirconnell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This biography of Elizabeth I is a little different than most biographies because it covers the period of time before she became queen. You can see how she became the strong woman that she was and why she made some of the choices that she did. I really enjoyed this book and found it to be enlightening about one of my favorite female historical figures. I hope that Mr. Starkey follows through with his plan to cover the rest of her reign. Recommended for lovers of the Tudor period in England.
soniaandree on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great historical novel (well, it doesn't read like a formal biography), the style is fluid, the storyline concise and to the point, the references (primary and secondary) are well researched and it doesn't dwell on sordid details, which is a plus. The author is well known in his field, and I would say that this book is a library essential, either for academics/students of English or for Gloriana buffs. Highly recommended.
jshillingford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book spends more time on Elizabeth's youth than other biographies. The author obviously did a lot of research. His writing style is not as reader friendly as Alison Weir, but well worth the effort.
dellena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It was an easy read, it focused mostly on her youth instead of trying to tell the whole story in one book.Elizabeth, like most historical personages, was too complex to describe all in one work. I learned a lot about Elizabeth, although I felt the author was making excuses for her behavior.
Angelic55blonde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great book from start to finish. Many people study Elizabeth during her later reign, when she was the strong "virgin" monarch. Starkey decided to focus on Elizabeth's life when it was the most unstable... from birth to her first acts as Queen. Starkey is a great writer and this book is thoroughly researched. If you were looking for a study on her "private" life, you will be disapointed. Starkey only glossed over Elizabeth's well known loves Robert Dudley and the Earl of Essex. This is a great book and anyone interested in Tudor/Stuart England should definitely read this. A must read for anyone who likes learning about Elizabeth I.
luckycharm6139 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully researched book on the life of Englands Queen Elizabeth l, daughter of King Henry Vlll and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. It tells the story of Elizabeths tumoutuous childhood to her struggle waiting her turn to become Queen. A reccommended book for anyone who wishes to learn about Gloriana, as she was called, the Queen who brought Spains King Philip and his Spanish Armada to its knees!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating book on Elizabeth's early years. My favorite book about Elizabeth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brilliant.   Exciting and thoroughly enjoyable.    David Starkey is certainly unsurpassed in his field.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CrazeeInAz More than 1 year ago
A historically accurate and interesting story - love the writing style and the story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is one of the few books that I looked at because of my interest in Elizabeth I. The facts and the story are tald well but to me the book lacks exitement and after reading it for awile it gets boring. There were many times that I felt like leaving the book aside but my love for the queen kept me going on.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was extremely well researched and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I agree with the previous review that something that is scholarly does NOT have to be turgid and moribund. Be prepared though, this book deals primarily with Elizabeth before she becomes queen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I guess some people didn't like the fact that this is an easy read, but I did. Sure, it's not rock-hard History, but it's fun to read, it tells a compelling story, and it's well written. We could use more history like this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth has fascinated me since I was in the third grade,I read anyhting I could about her,this was my first biography of her and it was tremendously boring,whenever it seemd it was going to focuse on her it went to another person.It was annoying,I've read other biography's about her I think 3,this one was by far the worst!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great resource book if you are studying or writing a paper on Queen Elizabeth I of England. There is so much detail and quotes that are very helpful. This got me an A for my college term paper. Read this book if you have a paper, it's great!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really love this book. It is extremely thorough and complete and it is wonderful to use as a source to include in a report. It's also good reading. Very interesting.