Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

by Margaret George

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143120445
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/27/2012
Pages: 688
Sales rank: 398,095
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Margaret George is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels of biographical historical fiction, including The Confessions of Young NeroElizabeth I; Helen of Troy; Mary, Called Magdalene; The Memoirs of Cleopatra; Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles; and The Autobiography of Henry VIII. She also has coauthored a children’s book, Lucille Lost.

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Perhaps no dynasty has captured our interest the way the Tudor dynasty has. More than four hundred years after the death of Elizabeth I, the last and longest–reigning Tudor, these five monarchs, who managed to unite Britain and launch it as a world power, continue to fascinate, even obsess, us.

Margaret George started her career writing about the Tudors with her acclaimed novel The Autobiography of Henry VIII. Now, several New York Times-bestselling novels later, George is at the top of her game as she dazzles us with the telling of the life of Elizabeth, one of history’s most powerful and intriguing women.

Opening with the threatened arrival of the seemingly invincible Spanish Armada, the novel weaves back to Elizabeth’s years of house arrest under her sister, Queen “Bloody“ Mary; her accession to the throne; her once–in–a–lifetime passion for Sir Robert Dudley which was stymied by her vow never to marry; as well as portraying her final years as perhaps the greatest monarch to ever rule Britain. Sharing the stage with the Virgin Queen is her cousin Lettice, granddaughter of Mary Boleyn and a veritable Queen of Earthly Delights, who secretly wed Robert Dudley, which stung Elizabeth so much that she banished Lettice from court. Still, the beautiful and seductive Lettice managed to wed several husbands, bed many lovers (military heroes as well as the greatest writers of the day), and produce a son, the swashbuckling and ambitious Robert Devereux, who became a favorite of Elizabeth’s but later led a rebellion against her and was executed for treason.

This is a spellbinding novel that will delight fans of Margaret George as well as the lovers of historical fiction. Margaret George is recognized in this field as a respected researcher; she spoke recently at an anniversary celebration at Hampton Court in England and at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Carefully researched and deeply engrossing,Elizabeth I is George’s greatest achievement yet.

 


ABOUT MARGARET GEORGE

Margaret George has written numerous works of historical fiction, including The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Mary, Called Magdalene. This is her sixth novel. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, she currently lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin.

 


A CONVERSATION WITH MARGARET GEORGE

Q. This is your sixth novel about a historical person. What appeals to you about this type of storytelling? How does the marriage of fiction and history allow us to better understand iconic figures such as Elizabeth?

I like the challenge of biographical detective work. Treating history from a fictional, dramatic perspective allows me to explore the psychological dimensions of a person’s character in a way that conventional nonfiction biography does not. It gives license to get inside their heads, which is what we want with iconic figures.

Q. Why Elizabeth in particular? Were you surprised by anything you found in the course of your research? Did your initial understanding of Elizabeth shift as you researched and wrote this novel?

Elizabeth is the siren call to novelists; she has “a spirit full of incantation,” as the Spanish ambassador Renard said. But she is also that “riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” that defines our efforts to know her. In spite of being (as one historian put it) the second most famous virgin in the world, Elizabeth is tantalizingly elusive. We feel instinctively that she is guarding a secret of some kind. One of her earliest biographers said, “For as to her mind, what that really was, I must leave, as a thing doubly inscrutable, both as she was a woman and a queen.” As I followed the trail of clues she left, I was astounded by how she could be both so open and accessible in some ways and yet so private in the things that mattered. Her motto “I see and say keep silent” (Video et taceo) sums her up very well. She allowed herself to be seen only in certain lights and from certain angles. Her tomb effigy reveals what she really looked like—the forbidden image that was never shown in her official portraits, where she is forever young and perfect–featured. Whatever her secrets were, she took them with her into the tomb.

Q. What is the research process like for you? What helps you the most? You like to travel—is it important for you to see the places where a character has lived?

The first step for me is reading—I start out with the general and gradually get more and more specific, because I like to see the big picture first. In Elizabeth’s case, since so much is written about her, the challenge was to narrow the reading to the most important texts and not be sidetracked by the many others. It’s a luxury to read things more than once—letting the initial impression sink in and then refreshing the details. Of course it’s very important to go to a place; I don’t see how I could understand the character otherwise. Often, though, the landscape has changed or the setting is destroyed, so if something is intact and accessible that’s a real victory. In Elizabeth’s case, only Hampton Court and the Tower of London remain as they were (more or less) when she saw them. Greenwich has been rebuilt entirely, Richmond Palace was destroyed by Cromwell, Whitehall was burned. Even the River Thames is different, because it was embanked in Victorian times and is much narrower now. Seeing actual objects that Elizabeth owned or touched is very important— it makes her real. In the Victoria and Albert Museum there is a crystal bracelet she gave her cousin Henry Carey, which makes both characters more immediate.

Q. Over the course of writing a novel, authors become deeply attached to their characters and to the world that they have created. Beyond Elizabeth, which character was a favorite of yours, and why?

I found Walter Raleigh to be fascinating, particularly because he was so keen on exploring the New World. Drake was more interested in the sea than in the land and saw the New World as only a place to plunder or attack the Spanish, but Raleigh was intrigued by the biology and exotic cultures he found. His search for El Dorado in South America is a tale of high adventure and his childlike belief in it is touching. His poetry, his romances, his style, are all expected in the Tudor court, but his explorations and scientific curiosity and imagination set him apart from his fellows.

Q. You wrote a novel about Mary, Queen of Scots, prior to writing Elizabeth I. It would be an understatement to say the two women had a complicated relationship. For any readers who might not have had the chance to read your earlier book, could you briefly describe their bond? Did this earlier book influence your writing of Elizabeth I in any way?

Mary Queen of Scots presented Elizabeth with the toughest political dilemma she ever faced. They were cousins—first cousins once removed, as Henry VII was Mary’s great–grandfather and Elizabeth’s grandfather. Mary, almost a decade younger than Elizabeth, was crowned queen of Scotland when she was only nine months old, but spent her childhood at the French court, while her mother reigned for her in Scotland. When Mary returned to Scotland at the age of nineteen, she was out of step with her people—she could barely speak the language and was Catholic in a Protestant country. At first Elizabeth looked kindly on her as a kinswoman and fellow monarch, but a series of disastrous political missteps on Mary’s part soured Elizabeth’s opinion of her. When Mary fled to England (having lost her crown in Scotland) she threw herself on Elizabeth’s mercy, assuming that Elizabeth would restore her to the throne. Although Elizabeth believed in the divine right of kings, restoring Mary to the throne would not have worked in Elizabeth’s own political interest. Elizabeth had extremely conflicted emotions toward Mary—her sentimental feelings as a close cousin versus her caution as a guardian of England’s interests—but Mary’s behavior in England ultimately killed Elizabeth’s trust in her. The two queens never met, although they exchanged letters and tokens after the fashion of the day.

This book begins after Mary has been executed and has set in motion the forces that led to the Armada a year later. Elizabeth has finally come to terms with what has happened, reluctantly admitting to herself that the practical results of the action she was so ambivalent about have been positive for England. Now the Catholics had no alternative to Elizabeth as queen, and the choice was only between Elizabeth and King Philip of Spain, which none of her subjects would want.

The book enabled me to depict the aftermath of Elizabeth’s agonizing decision about Mary and her perspective going forward.

Q. The public’s perception of Elizabeth has changed from generation to generation. What does our current imagining of Elizabeth say about contemporary society? Why do certain views of or attitudes toward Elizabeth persist?

Indeed, following the changing public perception of Elizabeth is a good way to chart the concerns of any particular era. She has been seen as the champion of Protestantism (1700s), Good Queen Bess of “merrie England” of the Golden Age (early 1800s), the imperial founder of the British Empire, (Victorian era), a repressed virgin who abjured love for duty (1900s). Today she is seen as the ultimate emancipated woman, the CEO to end all CEOs. We project our values onto her, making her a fulfillment of our own dreams. However, the older stereotypes have not gone away. As religion and nationalism have become unfashionable in modern Europe, those bolstering icons have faded, but the ones about Elizabeth as an unfulfilled, sacrificial virgin remain, with the related images of her as vain, petty, and cruel to young lovers of whom she is jealous. Since sex has gone from being sinful to being essential for one’s health in popular culture, Elizabeth’s virginity has been under assault, with one group claiming she couldn’t possibly have been, and remained healthy, and another saying that even if she were a virgin, clearly she was miserable and frustrated with it.

Q. Why was the role of the Virgin Queen, the Faerie Queen so evocatively presented by poet Edmund Spenser, such an effective political strategy for Elizabeth?

Elizabeth had a seemingly insoluble dilemma on her hands—she did not want to marry (for both personal and political reasons) but an unmarried woman had never successfully held a throne. She did not hit on the tactic of elevating her virginity into something sacred for the nation immediately. It took a while to evolve. Spenser’s allegory about her as a mythological character, a Faerie Queen surrounded by worshippers and minions, gave a visual and poetic version of this idea, one that could be further expanded by paintings and ceremonies. It also echoed the earlier cult of the Virgin Mary, which had been popular for centuries before being abruptly ended by the Reformation in England. There was, in effect, a vacant place in people’s hearts for a benevolent, loving Virgin who protected her people. Elizabeth filled that emptiness in her nation’s soul.

Q. What do you feel is Elizabeth’s greatest triumph in the novel?

That she created her own way of ruling, and was uniquely successful. Had the song existed then, she could have hummed “I did it my way” on her deathbed:

I didn’t marry, in spite of the pressures to do so; I married my country instead. I turned being a woman from a liability into a strength, with the cult of the Virgin Queen, binding my people to me. I did not try to conquer lands, but only to preserve my own, and gave my country peace and stability. I did not attack Spain by land in conventional warfare but by sea where my small country was stronger, and defeated her. I kept people dangling with my “answers answerless,” sometimes for years, while I forged a new model for ruling, and for wielding power. Yes, I did it my way!

Q. Do you see any elements—for example, themes or styles—that define you as a writer?

I have always been fascinated with the dimension of time, how it goes only one way, to our sorrow. Time creates a series of selves that we cannot change or revisit. It causes us to lose ourselves and to mourn that. As A. E. Housman wrote, “That is the land of lost content/I see it shining plain/The happy highways where I went/And cannot come again.” Another of my themes, tied in with time, is the fickleness of fortune. Elizabeth’s first recorded written words, when she was eleven, were “Inimical fortune, envious of all good and ever revolving human affairs.” The ancients said fortune had a lock of hair in the front of her head and

was bald in the back, so she could only be grasped as she approached but never after she had passed. I am always struck by how my characters’ lives have been governed by their ability—or lack of it—to snatch their passing fortune, and how quickly their fortunes can change.

Q. Several writers make appearances in your book, including Shakespeare and Marlowe. Are these writers particular favorites of yours? Do you have any works from this period that you would recommend to your readers?

I do love Shakespeare, particularly his tragedies and histories, as well as his sonnets. And my favorite Marlowe play isDoctor Faustus. In some ways all my characters must confront the Mephistophelean temptation. But I’ve always been enthralled by John Donne. There are so many wonderful poems of his—“The Good Morrow,” “The Sunne Rising,” “Aire and Angels,” “A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucies Day,” and the incomparable “The Autumnall,” which I quote in Elizabeth I. I would recommend all his songs, sonnets, and elegies to my readers.

Q. Why did you decide to give the last words of the novel to Lettice? What is the significance of her prophecy, “You will, my children. You will” (p. 662)?

I was introducing the afterlife in fame and fantasy that awaited Elizabeth. By the time Lettice was ninety, Elizabeth had already taken on mythological status; few eyewitnesses to her reign were still alive. Lettice was one of the few, but her own grandchildren knew only the legend. And with the perspective of years, Lettice herself could now see the larger–than–life person that Elizabeth was all along, could embrace

her greatness and celebrate it. I thought that having the children ascribe impossible feats to Elizabeth foreshadowed what other ages did later on. Lettice pointed out that the genius of Elizabeth was to inspire others to greatness and to believe they were living in a special age in a uniquely blessed country. That was the hardest task for a ruler, and perhaps Elizabeth’s greatest gift to them.

Q. Elizabeth I has been portrayed in many films and miniseries. Which actress do you feel has captured her best? Do you have favorite films to suggest to readers?

I think Glenda Jackson’s portrayal in the BBC series Elizabeth R (1971) comes closest to capturing Elizabeth, both her sharpness and her charm. Of films of that era, A Man for All Seasons (1966) is the standout, but Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Mary Queen of Scots (1972)—again with Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth, and Vanessa Redgrave as Mary Queen of Scots—are very good as well.

Q. What qualities must a historical figure possess to inspire you to write about them? Whose life will you be interpreting next?

Because I am fascinated by the “destiny” theme, I am drawn to characters who have grabbed their destiny and gone down fighting, people who have led operatic lives, almost impossibly dramatic. They are “larger than life,” except that they actually lived. At the same time, there should be things about them that most people don’t know, and they should in some sense suffer from an inaccurate image, otherwise I offer nothing new for the reader to discover.

True to form, I want next to tackle both Nero and Boudica, enemies in the first century. Nero himself is the Roman emperor in excessive grandeur, and Boudica, the chariot–driving Celtic warrior queen who led an uprising against the occupying Romans, is a national hero in Britain. What a clash! What personas!

Q. What was it like to speak at Hampton Court? Was your sense of Elizabeth changed by walking in her house and gardens?

Speaking in the Great Hall of Hampton Court was a great honor. The other panelists were all renowned historians and writers and as we sat beneath Henry VIII’s famous hammerbeam roof I felt the presence of all the historic figures that had once crowded that chamber.

During the week I was there I came and went in Hampton Court as if it were home, and did feel closer to Elizabeth. It is the most intact of all her palaces, and also the one most associated with her parents. Anne Boleyn was the first mistress of Hampton Court, and high in the roof of the Great Hall a few entwined initials of Henry and Anne remain. Henry had planned the gardens, and so whenever Elizabeth was there she must have felt the presence of both her parents. She liked to keep holidays there—Shrovetide and Christmas—because the palace was so festive and elaborately decorated. She also set up a garden where plants from the New World—tobacco and potatoes—could be grown. I could imagine her explorers Drake and Raleigh examining the crops there and discussing them with Elizabeth.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • George brings the Elizabethan era to life. Which details or moments really made you feel as though you had been transported to another time?
  • How did Elizabeth’s court help to establish and support her public image? What challenges did her courtiers and advisers present? Besides Elizabeth, who had the most to gain by her not marrying?
  • Elizabeth admits on page 17 that she “had loved [Dudley] madly, as a young woman can do only once in her life.” She continues by saying that time had evolved their relationship into a “sturdier, thicker, stronger, quieter thing.” Which is more appealing to you—mad passion or quiet devotion?
  • Lettice says that she and Elizabeth “could almost be twins, except she loved the day and I the night” (p.178). In what ways are Elizabeth and Lettice reflections of each other? Which examples from the book can you find that illustrate this point?
  • Elizabeth, speaking of the death of King Philip of Spain, says, “Losing my steadfast enemy felt oddly like losing a steadfast friend; both defined me” (p. 399). How does Elizabeth’s relationship with Philip highlight key aspects of her personality? Of all the characters, who best fills the role of Elizabeth’s “steadfast friend”?
  • What sacrifices did Elizabeth make for her public role? Were they worth it? In her place, would you have done the same?
  • Love manifests itself in many ways, both romantic and otherwise. Compare and contrast the men who loved Elizabeth. How did Elizabeth benefit from these relationships?
  • George prefaces the novel with a quote from Shakespeare’s imagining of Elizabeth’s baptism in 1533. Does this quote accurately reflect Elizabeth’s life? If so, what examples would you draw from the novel to prove the point? If not, how would you amend the quote to better speak to her experience?
  • Did Elizabeth and Lettice’s relationship end the way that you expected? How would you describe the development of your feelings for these women over the course of the novel? Did one draw more sympathy or frustration than the other?
  • On the last page of the novel, Lettice attempts to explain the “kind of magic” that Elizabeth had as a ruler to make her subjects “feel as if they were wearing armor or sinking ships” (p. 662). What does she mean by this?
  • If you could choose any person in history for Margaret George to write about next, who would it be? What would you like to know about that person?
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    Elizabeth I 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
    nyauthoress More than 1 year ago
    Be awed by the presence of Elizabeth Tudor, the woman behind the sovereign, as you explore the humanity of the indomitable Virgin Queen of England through the pages of Elizabeth I. Margaret George's meticulously researched first person account of the last thirty years of the queen's life is an enthralling breath of fresh air. Biographies of Elizabeth I abound. George gives the Tudor-loving world a unique novel, written in both in Elizabeth's voice and also that of her childhood nemesis, Lettice Knollys. The novel opens in 1588 when Elizabeth Tudor faces her greatest challenge, the Spanish Armada. Written with a consistently regal tone, the book gives us a mirror into the humanity of Elizabeth, the woman. Yet, the author masterfully incorporates the thoughts, actions and attitudes illuminating the greatness of The Virgin Queen who ruled England for forty-five years. Glimpses into the brilliance and machinations of Shakespeare, Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh abound. Skillfully woven into the book are both the human and regal facets of the queen who "ruled as much from the heart as from the head." We see the regent's success and love for her people. Queen Elizabeth's ability to stand for long periods of time seems a metaphor for her triumph as regent. She manages uprisings in Ireland and continued assaults from Spain. She masterfully chooses advisors for her privy council perfectly suited to their jobs. In a nation beset with famine, the queen imbues calm. In an attempt to keep the plague under control, Elizabeth closes theaters and concerts and sends provisions to survivors. We view her humbly conduct an intimate ceremony of kissing and washing the feet of her subjects on Maundy Thursday while giving each gifts of food. No sovereign rules without frustrations. Queen Elizabeth's include controlling the sulking, deceitful Earl of Essex, stepson of her beloved Leicester. She juggles insufficient resources to provide food for the needy after three years of failed harvests. To provide her beloved kingdom with funds, she must decide which jewels to pawn. As she approaches the age of seventy, she persists in dodging the matter of her successor, not out of a lack of responsibility but because she wanted to settle it in her own way. She watches her most trusted advisors in the Privy Council die off one by one. The novel brilliantly illuminates Elizabeth's humanity without losing any reverence for her scepter. Called a stingy penny-pincher, the queen wore elaborate gowns and owned the finest collection of jewels in Europe. Her brave show encouraged the nation she pulled out of poverty. Particularly touching scenes depict her feeding broth and reading the Bible to beloved advisors Walsingham and Burghley on their deathbeds. She gallops on horseback across the fields to be alone and endures hot flashes. Not wanting a reminder of her age, she forbids any celebration of her sixtieth birthday. Her favorite pastime-translating philosophy from the Latin. George, a premier historical novelist, is known for her intense and impeccable research. Most interesting is her humble thanks to the queen in her Acknowledgements. ".the spirit of Elizabeth.hovered over the book as it was taking shape and whispered her guidance." Penguin Group provided a review copy. Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont.
    Humbee More than 1 year ago
    "Elizabeth I: A Novel" is a lush book, filled with fabulous details and intrigue from the Elizabethan court and the life of a young woman who was born into a responsibility which challenge she was expected to rise. Ms George's use of dialog and description draw us easily into her story. It's as if we are the proverbial "little birds" sitting on the shoulders of her characters, seeing and hearing all the private and mysterious secrets of Elizabeth, Lettice, her Deliahish cousin, and her beloved men think and do. Robert Dudley, Elizabeth's life-long love tugs at our hearts while we feel her longing and heartbreak over his loyalties, desires and, then betrayals. With the experience and exceptional qualities of a seasoned author, Ms George writes a book that is reader friendly, completely enchanting and absorbing and historically acurate where important. I had a very difficult time putting away ELIZABETH I even to go to sleep. A daunting book by any standards, with roughly 670 pages, this volume is thick and heavy. I happen to love that kind of book, personally. I find books of this ilk by tried and true authors ones I buy by sight...knowing it will be a reading experience and not just a quick hit. I could wax very art history and english lit. on the symbolism and beauty of the cover jacket of ELIZABETH, but I'll spare you. Just to look at the title on the jacket gives a tidbit of insight into the fine research of Ms George since it tells of the "z" as the Queen signed her own name. "Elizabeth I.." is a story that is so beautifully and historically captured that anyone who reads historical romance will be wise to read it to find the difference between formula novels and the real thing. There is a concerted difference between literature of this sort and that written for the light, supermarket stacks. The romance found in this book is rich and complex. I highly recommend Ms George's book because of its story that is easily understood, its flow of storyline, its portrayal of characters in a generation of heroes, fabulous courts and masters such as Shakespeare; and finally, for its easy and understandable link between Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, and the fantastic battles that helped place England as the greatest nation of its time. I have generally read Margaret George's books in the Summer because I wanted time to savor them. It's a good time now to read this one. 5 stars...go get this volume for your library! Deborah/The Bookish Dame
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    After reading Wolf Hall this was really refreshing. The characters were believeable, you could picture yourself in court along side them.You knew who was speaking unlike Wof Hall where the characters jumped around with so many Thomas'. If you enjoy royal fiction I highly recommend.
    USFAsh More than 1 year ago
    I've read all of Ms. George's novels. Autobiography of Henry VIII is in my top 5 favorite books of all time list. Elizabeth I is nowhere near that list. Boring, boring, boring. If I didn't have a personal rule of always finishing a book I start, I never would have wasted so much time on this one. It was so difficult to get through. There were a couple interesting parts from Lettice's perspective, but I sincerely hope that Elizabeth I was not such a boring lady. As people in the book died, I began to wonder whether it was from old age or from sheer boredom of being around Elizabeth. I really hope Ms. George bounces back in her next novel.
    Heavensent1 More than 1 year ago
    Elizabeth I: A Novel is a part fictional, part historical epic detailing one of England's favourite Monarch's. With much skill, Margaret George, explains the life of Queen Elizabeth during the final 20 years of her reign and her life. Told from two different viewpoints, Elizabeth herself and Elizabeth's younger look-a-like cousin, Lettice Knollys, the story explains to the reader how Elizabeth could have been. Few accounts of her personal life are remembered or recorded and much is left to the imagination of the reader however, we are shown a side of Elizabeth that allows us to view her insights, her character and those around her who helped shaped one of Britains's greatest royal persona's. Portraying her as the virginal queen who is wedded to her subjects, we are given an in depth look at Elizabeth's inner turmoils concerning, her age, her fight with Spain and Ireland and those in her court who would wish to usurp her as well as those who remain steadfast and loyal to her cause. We learn of her friendships to such historical people as Robert Dudley, John Dee, Grace O'Malley, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare and the people that she loved and adored. We watch as she determines to remain ageless while noticing those around her since childhood are dying. We feel her struggle to remain true to her faith, her people and the code she has set for herself. As well, we learn of Elizabeth's humanity, the inner thoughts that only oneself knows, and the actions that propelled her to do the things she did in the last remaining years of her life. I quite enjoyed Elizabeth I, when I first received it, I was thinking, another book about Elizabeth the first, blah blah blah. I was surprized to see the human soul of Elizabeth unfold upon the pages. From Margaret George's point of view, she was a dynamite of a lady, witty, sharp and determined. The inner thoughts of Elizabeth and about Elizabeth was refreshing and I felt she really captured Elizabeth's essence almost perfectly. However, I was disappointed that more of Elizabeth's character flaws weren't incorporated into the story, such as her tantrums and her flip flopping of ideas and strategies, for that is something about Elizabeth that is renowned, there were hints of it throughout the story, but for the most part, Elizabeth is shown in a positvie, human and yes, virginal light. I really came to dislike Robert Deveraux, the queen's pet and favourite and felt sorry for her cousin, Lettice, whose only fault that I could see was that she married Elizabeth's "love", Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. I would recommend this for any historical buffs, especially royal ones, you won't be disappointed in seeing the inner machinations of who the person whom Elizabeth may have become. It's a long read, sometimes a bit dry in places, but for the most part you will see a side of Elizabeth that must be shared.
    ZQuilts More than 1 year ago
    One might think that reading through 688 pages is daunting but I tend to prefer longer novels - they allow me to really reside in the book and get to know the characters. One of my favorite female heroines is Elizabeth the First and one of my favorite historical novelists is Margaret George so I figured this would be a perfect combination - and I right! The novel is co-narrated by Elizabeth herself and begins in 1588 as she enters late middle age . Co-narrator is her cousin, Lettice Knollys - the woman who had the audacity to actually marry the queen's main squeeze - Robert Dudley, The Earl of Leicester. Covering the last 25 years of Elizabeth's illustrious reign this book puts a very human face on the great Queen - complete with her need to keep notes to jog her memory, hot flashes that are troublesome, the sadness of the loss of more and more long time friends and trusted advisers. The characters are rounded out, well developed and made very human - among the stand-outs are William Shakespeare, Francis Drake, Francis Bacon, Walter Raleigh, William and Robert Cecil and the indomitable Earl of Essex - Robert Deveraux, the step-son of Robert Dudley and the son of Lettice Knollys- who Elizabeth had taken under her wing and upon whom she had lavished many rewards and titles. The book follows Elizabeth commitment - she is wedded to her country and it's people rather to any man of her choosing - and Lettice who lives a passion filled life of loves and losses. Lettice was banished from the Court upon her marriage to Robert Dudley and the book follows the querulous nature of their relationship and the gradual thawing of the Queen's displeasure as the pair meet on common ground - the garden of Hever castle - former home of their forbears - Anne and Mary Boleyn. Also featured in the book is Elizabeth's life long friend and confident Catherine Knollys, wife of Sir Francis Knollys and daughter of Mary Boleyn (Lettice Knollys was Mary's grand daughter). Catherine, in the book, is considered the family peace maker. We feel the threat of the Spanish Armada and the Irish threat of the great O'Neill, Lord of Tyrone. All of the political fears and skirmishes of the time are brought to light almost like having a ear on history - like being a fly on the walls of Whitehall and Richmond Palaces. Riveting stuff! This book is meticulously well researched and it paints a vivid image of what it must have been to be Elizabeth, The Virgin Queen. Historical details bring the period to life and the characters are almost 'touchable'. I loved this book and will, I think, choose to also listen the audible version. I found that Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" really came thoroughly to life when I listened it...and think listening to this book might really highlight my delight with the book even more. If anything - I would have liked this novel to go on longer. I savored the last pages of this book and was saddened when I finished the last page. It's a book I will, no doubt, re-read.
    bhowell on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I have read numerous history books and historical novels about Elizabeth I but there is always something new to learn or a different perspective to consider. By starting her story with the Armada, Ms George was able to focus on the queen as a mature ruler and by highlighting her relationship with her cousin Lettuce Knollys, explore her important relationships with Dudley and later Essex and how they shaped her rule. The novel, however comes into it own with the stong female friendship she shared with her friend and cousin and lady in waiting, Catherine Carey, and her friend and lady in waiting, Marjorie Norris. Her cousin Lettuce Knollys is certainly due her own biograghy. Living to the age of 92 in the 15th century was quite an accomplishment.to be continued
    SpaceStationMir on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Like her Autobiography of Henry VIII, Margaret George's Elizabeth I is a foundational text in Tudor fiction. Every moment of this book was an absolute pleasure to me, and I have devoted many hours to reading about Elizabeth Tudor and Elizabethan England, both fiction and non-fiction. George writes with the authority and thorough consideration of the queen herself, and brings to life arresting portraits of many Elizabethan figures, particularly the underrepresented (in Tudor fiction and biography) Letitia Knollys and the ubiquitous William Shakespeare, but I also reveled in her portrayals of the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, William and Robert Cecil, Edmund Spenser, and lesser known figures like Admiral Charles Howard and his wife Catherine, nee Carey.As soon as I saw that George was coming out with this book (it came out in May), I wishlisted it on Amazon. Then, I received it as a graduation gift from my aunt! I had been saving it to read for an auspicious time, when I found out that Margaret George was going to be at the National Book Festival. I started reading right away and was a couple hundred pages in when I met George, got my book signed, AND attended her panel and got to ask her a couple questions during the Q&A sessions. I've realized I turn into a babbling fangirl at these events, but I think I managed to convey my appreciation, especially for the vast amount of research that George does and incorporates so masterfully into her novels. One of my questions was about her interpretation of Elizabeth's character. George's Elizabeth seems more logical, calm, and authoritative than many Elizabeths I've seen in the works of Philippa Gregory, Rosalind Miles, Robin Maxwell and others. I asked her if this is her view of Elizabeth's essential character or a character that she developed when she grew older, as George's book covers the last 15 years of her life, while the other books tend to focus on her younger years. George's answer was that she sees Elizabeth as always having been very self-collected, self-aware, and that she doesn't think she ever really lost control. She believes that "semper eadem" (always the same in Latin) was a motto that fit Elizabeth well, despite Elizabeth's famous changing of her mind and notorious fits, these, she seems to think, were calculated acts. This interpretation interests me, as this is the type of Elizabeth I would like to believe in. I don't like, or find realistic, these uber-romantic portraits of her that some people have. No doubt she had emotional needs like most people, but she clearly ruled with her head, not her heart.The book is told from the points of view of Elizabeth and her estranged cousin Laetitia, or Lettice. The two never meet throughout the book, except for one occasion, which I suspect is a narrative invention of George's, but I would really like to know for sure. If my assumption is correct, then the "confrontation" scene is part of what I've observed to be a trope of literature about Elizabeth that pits her against another woman, typically Mary, Queen of Scots, but in Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth, it is Amy Dudley, who actually is a stand-in for Lettice, as Scott plays with dates and situations. Dudley was Leicester's first wife, whom he married openly during the reign of Edward VI, but when she died young under suspicious circumstances, he later had an affair with and then secretly married Lettice without Elizabeth's knowledge. It was this marriage that, when discovered, drew Elizabeth's infamous ire and permanent banishment for Lettice.The book opens with the imminent arrival of the 1558 Spanish Armada, but actually numerous Armadas threaten England throughout the book, only to be vanquished by weather and bad luck. These are all historically accurate, just little commented upon. The other perpetual threat throughout the novel is the Earl of Essex, son to Lettice, stepson to Elizabeth's beloved Leicester (whose exit is soon after the firs
    refashionista on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down until it was finished. Well written, well-researched, it certainly stands side-by-side with other respected treatments of Elizabeth I's life. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the Tudors!
    hollysing on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I thank Viking Publishing for an advance review copy. Review forthcoming.
    Cariola on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Hundreds of novels have been written about Elizabeth I, so one wonders, what could be written about her life that hasn't been covered before? Margaret George takes as her subject a less familiar period of Elizabeth's life, the last 15 years or so, from the approach of the Spanish Armada to her death in 1603. It's a daring decision, since what we generally think of as the most exciting events in her reign--her imprisonment by her half-sister Mary, her dalliance Thomas Seymour, her ascendance to the throne, the string of foreign suitors and her 'affair' with Robert Dudley, the arrest of her cousin Mary of Scotland, etc. So what could there be in the life of an ageing queen that is worthy of another massive tome?Plenty--especially if you are a reader who is more interested in characters than action. And George starts us off with plenty of action as the English troops prepare to meet the Armada. We're introduced to some of the major players of the period: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the leader of Elizabeth's troops; her spymaster Frances Walsingham (incongruously clad in armor); Sir Walter Raleigh; Secretary Burleigh; Leicester's stepson, the Earl of Essex;--the list goes on. But characters drive this novel. By focusing on an aging queen with aging advisors who are often in conflict with the younger members of the council, George finds a reason to explore relationships, the changes wrought by maturity and experience, and a growing generation gap that affects both court and country. The effect is enhanced by dividing the novel between two narrators, Elizabeth and her cousin Lettice Knollys. The ten years younger, more beautiful, and thrice-married Lettice is the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, sister of the queen's doomed mother. A third Boleyn cousin, Catherine Knollys, enters the picture as one of Elizabeth's foremost ladies in waiting. It is Catherine who observes near the end of the book that together they represent the three paths of womanhood: one a life-long virgin, one thrice widowed, and one happily married to the same man since her youth.While Elizbeth and Lettice would seem to be polar opposites (and Lettice had incurred the queen's lifelong enmity for seducing away and marrying Leicester), George's narrative subtly reveals the similarities between them as well. For one thing, both have learned the value of patience; for another, both reflect on the mistakes and lessons of the past and on the process of ageing. Whatever else she may be, Lettice is also a devoted mother; and George depicts Elizabeth as a mother much devoted to her "children," the people of England, as well as to her many godchildren. In the case of Elizabeth, George attempts to dig below the myths and give us a closer look at the woman behind the face paint and the crown. The double narratives remind us of how difficult it was to be a woman in those days, especially for a woman who had to remind the world that she was a prince as well. Now, don't get the impression that this book is all thought and no action. After all, we are talking about a period that encompassed the invasion of the Armada and the continued threat from Spain, the Lopez 'plot,' the Irish wars, the Essex rebellion, the problem of the succession, and more. And for good measure, George imagines a dalliance between Lettice and that upstart playwright William Shakespeare. (Both women comment on his work and ponder its relevance--and John Donne makes two appearances as well.) In short, George gives us a brimming picture of life, both public and private, in late Elizabethan England.There is so much more that I could say about this book, but I never like to give away too much. I recommend that you read and enjoy it for yourself!
    lazybee on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I generally like historical fiction, and am particularly interested in Renaissance England, but I had trouble making it through Elizabeth I. The novel focuses on the last years of Elizabeth's reign, which is certainly an interesting era, but the plot seemed to move very slowly, and I did not find the writing engaging. If you are looking for historical fiction set in Tudor England, I would recommend Philippa Gregory or Jean Plaidy's novels over this one.
    mountie9 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Fascinating and thoroughly researched -- more in-depth review to come. A little slow at times
    Neverwithoutabook on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Generally I enjoy a historical novel. I've certainly enjoyed other works by this author, but for some reason I just didn't get caught up in this one. I felt like I had walked into the middle of the story and somehow missed the back story. Names and events rang bells, but on the whole, I just couldn't get into this one. Elizabeth came across as rather cold for the most part, but if you are a fan of this period then this book just might be the one for you.
    zquilts on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    One might think that reading through 688 pages is daunting but I tend to prefer longer novels - they allow me to really reside in the book and get to know the characters. One of my favorite female heroines is Elizabeth the First and one of my favorite historical novelists is Margaret George so I figured this would be a perfect combination - and I right!The novel is co-narrated by Elizabeth herself and begins in 1588 as she enters late middle age . Co-narrator is her cousin, Lettice Knollys - the woman who had the audacity to actually marry the queen's main squeeze - Robert Dudley, The Earl of Leicester. Covering the last 25 years of Elizabeth's illustrious reign this book puts a very human face on the great Queen - complete with her need to keep notes to jog her memory, hot flashes that are troublesome, the sadness of the loss of more and more long time friends and trusted advisers. The characters are rounded out, well developed and made very human - among the stand-outs are William Shakespeare, Francis Drake, Francis Bacon, Walter Raleigh, William and Robert Cecil and the indomitable Earl of Essex - Robert Deveraux, the step-son of Robert Dudley and the son of Lettice Knollys- who Elizabeth had taken under her wing and upon whom she had lavished many rewards and titles.The book follows Elizabeth commitment - she is wedded to her country and it's people rather to any man of her choosing - and Lettice who lives a passion filled life of loves and losses. Lettice was banished from the Court upon her marriage to Robert Dudley and the book follows the querulous nature of their relationship and the gradual thawing of the Queen's displeasure as the pair meet on common ground - the garden of Hever castle - former home of their forbears - Anne and Mary Boleyn. Also featured in the book is Elizabeth's life long friend and confident Catherine Knollys, wife of Sir Francis Knollys and daughter of Mary Boleyn (Lettice Knollys was Mary's grand daughter). Catherine, in the book, is considered the family peace maker. We feel the threat of the Spanish Armada and the Irish threat of the great O'Neill, Lord of Tyrone. All of the political fears and skirmishes of the time are brought to light almost like having a ear on history - like being a fly on the walls of Whitehall and Richmond Palaces. Riveting stuff!This book is meticulously well researched and it paints a vivid image of what it must have been to be Elizabeth, The Virgin Queen. Historical details bring the period to life and the characters are almost 'touchable'. I loved this book and will, I think, choose to also listen the audible version. I found that Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" really came thoroughly to life when I listened it...and think listening to this book might really highlight my delight with the book even more.If anything - I would have liked this novel to go on longer. I savored the last pages of this book and was saddened when I finished the last page. It's a book I will, no doubt, re-read.
    dgmlrhodes on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Margaret George is one of my favorite authors. Her research and writing are always impeccable. At first I was surprised by her choice to write about Elizabeth Is reign in the later years. However, there are not as many books published about this time making for a unique perspective. The story of a strong and powerful woman facing the reality of her declining years makes for a powerful story. The story is good and the two storylines meet at the end wrapping up the story nicely. Well worth the time investment for a long read.(less
    MadMooseMama on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Elizabeth I: A Novel is a part fictional, part historical epic detailing one of England's favourite Monarch's.With much skill, Margaret George, explains the life of Queen Elizabeth during the final 20 years of her reign and her life. Told from two different viewpoints, Elizabeth herself and Elizabeth's younger look-a-like cousin, Lettice Knollys, the story explains to the reader how Elizabeth could have been. Few accounts of her personal life are remembered or recorded and much is left to the imagination of the reader however, we are shown a side of Elizabeth that allows us to view her insights, her character and those around her who helped shaped one of Britains's greatest royal persona's.Portraying her as the virginal queen who is wedded to her subjects, we are given an in depth look at Elizabeth's inner turmoils concerning, her age, her fight with Spain and Ireland and those in her court who would wish to usurp her as well as those who remain steadfast and loyal to her cause.We learn of her friendships to such historical people as Robert Dudley, John Dee, Grace O'Malley, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare and the people that she loved and adored. We watch as she determines to remain ageless while noticing those around her since childhood are dying. We feel her struggle to remain true to her faith, her people and the code she has set for herself. As well, we learn of Elizabeth's humanity, the inner thoughts that only oneself knows, and the actions that propelled her to do the things she did in the last remaining years of her life.I quite enjoyed Elizabeth I, when I first received it, I was thinking, another book about Elizabeth the first, blah blah blah. I was surprized to see the human soul of Elizabeth unfold upon the pages. From Margaret George's point of view, she was a dynamite of a lady, witty, sharp and determined. The inner thoughts of Elizabeth and about Elizabeth was refreshing and I felt she really captured Elizabeth's essence almost perfectly. However, I was disappointed that more of Elizabeth's character flaws weren't incorporated into the story, such as her tantrums and her flip flopping of ideas and strategies, for that is something about Elizabeth that is renowned, there were hints of it throughout the story, but for the most part, Elizabeth is shown in a positvie, human and yes, virginal light.I really came to dislike Robert Deveraux, the queen's pet and favourite and felt sorry for her cousin, Lettice, whose only fault that I could see was that she married Elizabeth's "love", Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. I would recommend this for any historical buffs, especially royal ones, you won't be disappointed in seeing the inner machinations of who the person whom Elizabeth may have become. It's a long read, sometimes a bit dry in places, but for the most part you will see a side of Elizabeth that must be shared.
    celticlady53 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I was so excited when I saw that Elizabeth I by Margaret George was going to be sponsored by Pump Up Your Books for review. Then the book came, 8 1/2 x 11 and 671 pages of a bound galley. Needless to say I felt a bit daunted with the size of the galley. I decided to tackle it right away as I knew that with life getting in the way and other books to review that this would be a challenge. I set myself a goal of trying to read at least 25-50 pages a day. I didn't read every day of course but I did pretty well, only drawback was that I had to sit at the kitchen table and read it as this was the only comfortable place for me to read a book this size. (The finished hardcover is a bit easier to handle)Now about the book, the story is told in two different voices, Elizabeth I and Lettice Knollys. Unlike other historical books about this great Queen, this one starts when Elizabeth is 55 years old and in her 30th year as Queen of England. Most of us know who Elizabeth's parents were and how Elizabeth came to the throne, what a lot of us didn't know was the relationship between Elizabeth and Lettice. Lettice was grandniece of Anne Boleyn and she and Elizabeth were very close since childhood. When Lettice married Robert Dudley Elizabeth was enraged and from then on the two of them were bitter enemies and Lettice was banished from court.This story told of Spain's quest to take control of England and Elizabeth. The Armada was defeated but they still continued to try to take England as their own. Another historical figure that was a large part of the story was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, who played a major role in having plotted to have Elizabeth removed from the throne and as a result he was executed. There is a lot more to the story of course but I do not want to say anymore..you have absolutely got to read this book if you are an English history buff, or love the Tudors, or both...this is the book for you. Margaret George does a wonderful job of telling this awesome story, and her knowledge of history and her research are impeccable. She is the author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII, , Mary Queen of Scotland & The Isles to name a few..after reading this book I know I will be reading more by Margaret George.
    Ani36ol on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I count myself as one of the people lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Margaret George¿s new novel Elizabeth I. I can honestly say that having read every one of Ms. George¿s novels I had every expectation to thoroughly enjoy it and I was not disappointed. The author researches her subjects for months, even years, and writes a very factual novel but in a fascinating way. She writes in a story format so as to entertain while imparting a wonderful piece of historical data that doesn¿t leave the reader feeling like they have just read a high school text book. I have always been a huge fan of Margaret George and continue to be so after reading this book. I hope she goes on to continue writing about the royalty of centuries ago because she is truly gifted.She manages to show Elizabeth I in two lights, both believable. One being the conceited queen who struggles to maintain her power over England without the help of a husband by her side. We also see the queen who desperately wants to be loved by both her subjects and by Robert Dudley, a softer side that is rarely written about. The love she holds for her infamous mother, Anne Boleyn, is evident and she flaunts it in a quiet yet almost ¿in your face¿ way. I ended up admiring this woman who decided that she would rule England on her own in a time when women were thought to need a man for everything. She may even be one of the world¿s first feminists. This is a wonderful novel that I shall gladly add to my ever-growing Royal collection.
    Romonko on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    This book portrays Elizabeth I from 1588 (when she was in her 50's and just before the legendary Spanish Armada debacle) until her death in March of 1603. It is a truly wonderful book written from the viewpoint of Elizabeth I with some insertions from the viewpoint of her cousin Lettice Knolleys who is almost a mirror-image of Elizabeth (although younger by 10 years). Elizabeth I was "Virgin Queen". Her cousin was married three times and the mother of three living children). Letitia married Elizabeth I's erstwhile lover (in name only), Robert Dudley, and it was a deed that Elizabeth could never forgive her for. After I finished the book I felt as though I knew these wonderful and strong women. Ms. George does a remarkable job of depicting their characters. We see Elizabeth as the brilliant monarch who still was uncertain of herself in so many ways in her personal life. We are introduced to so many historical figures like Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake, and so many others too numerous to mention. I just can't get over how Ms. George manages to bring these people and this era to life! This book is a remarkable achievement, and I feel honoured that I was entrusted to review this book before it's initial release. I highly recommend it.
    DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    It is a privilege to have received this book as part of the Early Reviewer Program here at Library Thing. Margaret George is a favorite author, her historical fiction books are truly memorable.The author has chosen to frame her book around the last 25 years of this queen¿s reign. Therefore Elizabeth I starts when the threat of the Spanish Armada was looming over England. We meet a mature Elizabeth, one who has been on the throne for many years. Although she is taking great pains to hide it, she is in her mid-fifties and feeling all of her years. From experiencing hot flashes to having to write herself notes so she won¿t forget something, Elizabeth comes across as a very real person. Along with Elizabeth, all the major characters of the age are here: Drake, Raleigh, Shakespeare etc. We are given insights into both the times and this remarkable woman who ruled over all. Margaret George shows Elizabeth as a shrewd, wise, courageous woman who was not above being be both petty and jealous at times. A woman married to her country, one who has no private life to speak of, but has power and the right to wield it.Intersected throughout the book are chapters told in the words of Robert Dudley¿s wife, and the mother of Essex. Lettice is another shrew, ambitious woman, who because of her marriage to Robert Dudley is not welcome at Elizabeth¿s court. She gives us a picture of how hard it was to be a forward-thinking woman in those days, and how her aspirations came to be focused on her son. Through these women we are shown the rise, and then the spectacular fall of Lord Essex. Elizabeth I is filled with period detail and well researched historic references, rich and colourful. I believe Margaret George has captured the essence of this woman of history. A massive book that was almost too heavy to hold, I nevertheless found Elizabeth I both enlightened and entertained me and I highly recommend this book.
    Nickelini on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    In this novelized version of Elizabeth I, Margaret George looks at the later part of her life--the years of the Spanish Armadas (the famous one was just the beginning), the years after the deaths of her most trusted advisors, and the years when her life was entwined with the Earl of Essex. Her story is told in the first person by Elizabeth herself, and interspersed with sections by her cousin, Lettice Knollys. Lettice is a Tudor-era character previously unknown to me, but a very important person in Elizabeth's life as she was the wife of the queen's dear Robert Dudley and the mother of Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Lettice is physically similar to Elizabeth, but contrasts sharply in her character. Compared to Elizabeth's virginal status, cousin Lettice is rather a cougar; not only is she thrice married, she also has affairs with several of her son's friends. Also woven into the story are the characters and writings of Will Shakespeare, Edmund Spencer, John Donne and Francis Bacon.I have been recommending Margaret George's Tudor novels for years because they are entertaining reads that are well researched. Unlike every film treatment of the dynasty that I can remember, George doesn't change the known facts to "improve" the story. Instead she leaves the historical record intact and then weaves her fiction around it (a formula that should be followed by more authors of historical fiction). It is always a bonus to actually learn something while being entertained.And now I finally understand who all the various men in Elizabeth's life were!Recommended for: This is a must-read for any fan of the Tudors. Also recommended for those who love long books that they can sink themselves into.
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    Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
    Elizabeth I - The Hot Flash Years Elizabeth I lived a perilous life until she became queen at the age of 25; her mother beheaded, she herself alternately declared a bastard and heir to the throne of England; imprisoned in The Tower and one hiccup away from execution. THEN she reigned as Queen for 45 years. So most biographies and historical novels focus on the "exciting" early years of Elizabeth's life and reign, when the issue of "would she or wouldn't she?" marry Robert Dudley was a HUGE burning question. Then when they get to the end of her reign and life, the rest of her life and reign kind of gets rushed through, because, well, at this point, people are TIRED, and she's an old lady, what more is there to say? As it turns out, a lot. In this novel, it's the early life that gets rushed through and glossed over, the novel starting with the advance of the Spanish Armada (which generally gets contracted into THE Spanish Armada, but in fact the threat from the Spanish did not evaporate with the defeat (mostly by nature) of the Armada in 1588. Two more Armadas were sent in 1596 and 1597. This novel explores (fictitiously) the strange emotional connection between Elizabeth and Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex (and son of Elizabeth's cousin and rival, Lettice Knollys). Historically, it seems that sometimes Elizabeth regarded Essex at times as a romantic suitor, and at other times almost as a surrogate son. While some of the actions here (and all the internal thoughts) are fictitious, the actions correspond to what I've read elsewhere of Elizabeth. I enjoyed the portrayal of Elizabeth as a woman as well as Queen, trying to hide her hot flashes and to discern, who loved HER, and who professed to love her for what she could give him (or her). Alternate chapters were written from the POV of Lettice Knollys - I am not sure her (fictional) affair with William Shakespeare was necessary, though it was a novel way to work him into the plot. All in all, a wonderfully textured and unique look at the period of Elizabeth's life and reign that is normally skimmed over.