The Life of Elizabeth I

The Life of Elizabeth I

by Alison Weir

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Overview

Perhaps the most influential sovereign England has ever known, Queen Elizabeth I remained an extremely private person throughout her reign, keeping her own counsel and sharing secrets with no one—not even her closest, most trusted advisers. Now, in this brilliantly researched, fascinating new book, acclaimed biographer Alison Weir shares provocative new interpretations and fresh insights on this enigmatic figure.

Against a lavish backdrop of pageantry and passion, intrigue and war, Weir dispels the myths surrounding Elizabeth I and examines the contradictions of her character. Elizabeth I loved the Earl of Leicester, but did she conspire to murder his wife? She called herself the Virgin Queen, but how chaste was she through dozens of liaisons? She never married—was her choice to remain single tied to the chilling fate of her mother, Anne Boleyn? An enthralling epic that is also an amazingly intimate portrait, The Life of Elizabeth I is a mesmerizing, stunning reading experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760738597
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 03/01/2003
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 2.75(h) x 6.30(d)

About the Author

Alison Weir is the author of Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Princes in the Tower, The Wars of the Roses, and The Children of Henry VIII. She lives outside London with her husband and two children.

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Excerpted from "The Life of Elizabeth I"
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Copyright © 1999 Alison Weir.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A riveting portrait of the queen and how the private woman won her public role."
Kirkus Reviews

"An excellent account of the greatest of England's remarkably great queens."
Daily Telegraph (London)

"Weir succeeds in making Elizabeth and her subjects come to life in this clearly written and well-researched biography."
Library Journal

"An extraordinary piece of historical scholarship."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Reading Group Guide

Perhaps the most influential sovereign England has ever known, Queen Elizabeth I remained an extremely private person throughout her reign, keeping her own counsel and sharing secrets with no one--not even her closest, most trusted advisers. Now, in this brilliantly researched, fascinating new book, acclaimed biographer Alison Weir shares provocative new interpretations and fresh insights on this enigmatic figure.

Against a lavish backdrop of pageantry and passion, intrigue and war, Weir dispels the myths surrounding Elizabeth I and examines the contradictions of her character. Elizabeth I loved the Earl of Leicester, but did she conspire to murder his wife? She called herself the Virgin Queen, but how chaste was she through dozens of liaisons? She never married--was her choice to remain single tied to the chilling fate of her mother, Anne Boleyn? An enthralling epic that is also an amazingly intimate portrait, The Life of Elizabeth I is a mesmerizing, stunning reading experience.

1. Elizabeth, the future queen of England, endured a turbulent childhood. What role did her father, Henry VIII, play in her development? How did the beheading of her mother, Anne Boleyn, profoundly influence the young Elizabeth? How did her succession of stepmothers–and their various fates–affect her? Did the specter of her sister Mary's reign haunt Elizabeth upon her accession to the throne?

2. How was Elizabeth's stay in the Tower of London pivotal in her life and in her development? How did religious struggles and political intrigue land her there? How did her confinement forever influence her views about punishment, imprisonment, and death?

3. Which of Elizabeth'straits made her so popular with her subjects from her accession onward? Why did she hold their opinion in such esteem? Was she afraid of making decisions that would make her an unpopular ruler?

4. Elizabeth had to face a public with a less-than-progressive view of women. How did she combat this bias? What were Elizabeth's own views about women, and how did they reflect the mores of her time? How did Elizabeth use her sex to her advantage? In which ways was it a disadvantage? How did Elizabeth use the legend of the "Virgin Queen," and later of "Eliza Triumphant," to bolster her image in the eyes of her subjects?

5. From the outset, Queen Elizabeth surrounded herself with a bevy of learned courtiers. How did she choose the men who were to become her most trusted advisers, such as Cecil, Dudley, and Norfolk, among others? How did men fall in and out of her favor? How did rivalries and the formation of factions affect the reign and Elizabeth's governance? How did her advisers' viewpoints shape her thoughts on policy?

6. How did the intrigue and speculation over whom Elizabeth would marry shape her reign? Why did the government feel it integral that Elizabeth marry? Why did they believe that the public would turn against her if she did not? What reasons, both personal and diplomatic, did Elizabeth have against marriage? Why do you think that, as a child, Elizabeth allegedly declared, "I will never marry"?

7. Do you believe that Robert Dudley (subsequently the Earl of Leicester) was Elizabeth's one great love? Which aspects of his personality most appealed to the queen? How did his ideals affect her reign? How did his status as a married man make him a more or less desirable prospect? Based on their actions, do you think that both Elizabeth and Dudley hoped they would someday marry? What were the arguments against Elizabeth marrying a subject? Were there any other suitors in the court who Elizabeth seemed to favor?

8. How did Elizabeth use the possibility of her hand in marriage as a bargaining chip with world leaders? What were the arguments for and against Elizabeth marrying another monarch? Did she have any genuine affection for her foreign suitors, such as Philip of Spain, Archduke Charles, Henry of Anjou, and Francis of Alencon (later Duke of Anjou)? How did she use the possibility of marriage to forge alliances both within and outside of England? Which of the country's alliances were the most tenuous, and could have been solidified through the union of marriage?

9. How was the question of succession paramount in Elizabeth's reign? Why did she deign to handpick a successor despite pressure to do so? What events made the succession question a more urgent one? For the good of the country, would Elizabeth have been better off marrying, having children, and taking the focus off the matter?

10. How did the threat of religious struggle shape Elizabeth's reign? What did Elizabeth fear most about this potential unrest? Why was Elizabeth opposed to religious extremism in all its forms, including Puritanism? How was she tolerant of non-Anglican religions, and how did she seek to limit their reach? Why did she retain elements of the Catholic faith for the Church of England?

11. How did Elizabeth's relationship with Mary, Queen of Scots evolve? How did the two women attempt to forge a friendship? Why did these efforts ultimately fail? In your opinion, did the two ever have true affection for one another? Why did Mary ultimately begin to conspire against Elizabeth? Why was Elizabeth reluctant to take action against Mary in any way, until she was forced to?

12. Elizabeth once said, "To be a king and wear a crown is more glorious to them that see it than it is a pleasure to them that bear it." How did this statement illustrate her feelings about being the sovereign? How did she view herself as a link with God? How did this affect her dealings in government, particularly with Parliament? As a ruler, did Elizabeth share any similarities with her father, Henry VIII?

13. How did Elizabeth's mercurial nature and indecisiveness affect her reign? Could she have halted any of England's crises with more decisive and swift action? In which ways was she a careful and pensive ruler? Did she improve her tendencies toward procrastination as the years wore on?

14. Elizabeth died without ever specifically having named her successor. Based on her reign, what attributes do you believe she would most value in the ruler that followed her? How was the political, economic, and social climate different upon James I's accession to the throne than when Elizabeth began her rule?

15. How did the problems England faced at the end of Elizabeth's reign compare to those she battled at the beginning? How was it a more secure country? Less secure? Had the notion of the monarchy changed at all?

Interviews

ELIZABETH I–THE VIRGIN QUEEN?
by Alison Weir

She was one of the most famous flirts in history–men were attracted to her like moths to a flame, not only because of who she was, but also because of her undoubted personal charisma. Yet Elizabeth I, who was Queen of England from 1558 to 1603, was celebrated in her own time, and is remembered today, as the Virgin Queen, an image she consciously promoted.

She was one of the greatest rulers that England has ever had, and certainly one of the best loved. She deliberately set out to court the goodwill and affection of her subjects, asserting that she was the careful mother of her people. Despite all the vicissitudes of fortune, she retained their good opinions, and at the end of her reign was able to say to Parliament, ‘Though God hath raised me high, this I account the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your loves.'

I have studied the history of the British monarchy for over thirty years now, and at least ten of those years have been spent in researching Elizabeth I and trying to discover what she was really like as a person. Certainly, over time, she did come to life very vividly for me, and it was easy to forget that she had been in her grave for nearly four hundred years. She is easily the most fascinating and charismatic woman I have ever had the good fortune to write about.

Happily, the publication of my book, The Life of Elizabeth I, coincided–by accident rather than design–with a revival of interest in Elizabeth and her age, which was largely due to the issue of two films, the splendid Shakespeare in Love and the highly controversialElizabeth. These prompted the reprinting of several older biographies and a major television series.

Many people have in their minds images of Elizabeth of which she would have heartily approved: the royal icon of the Armada years, or the Virgin Queen of the poets who presided over the England of Shakespeare and Raleigh. Yet there was far more to her than this, as I discovered to my delight, for as my researches progressed, a very different human being emerged. Elizabeth was a strong-minded, intelligent, flirtatious and sexy woman with a wickedly mischievous streak. She drove men mad, in every sense.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII by his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was executed in 1536 after having been accused, probably falsely, of plotting the death of the King and committing adultery with five men, one her own brother. Elizabeth was not quite three at the time, and we know nothing of when or how she found out what had happened to her mother. Post-Freudian historians have endlessly speculated as to the extent of the psychological damage this discovery must have caused, even going so far as to suggest that this was the reason why Elizabeth never married, but in fact there is hardly any contemporary evidence to support these theories and we should be careful not to rely on them too heavily.

Elizabeth never did take a husband. She played what became known as ‘the marriage game' with shrewdness and prevarication, keeping her many suitors, both political and personal, in a permanent state of high expectations. This was of supreme benefit to her realm, since foreign princes, who might have otherwise been aggressive, remained friendly in anticipation of a marriage alliance. Yet, almost always at the last minute, the Queen would find some good excuse for wriggling out of the arrangement. Some of these matrimonial negotiations dragged on for years: Elizabeth kept a French duke and the Archduke Charles of Austria on a string for over a decade in each case, blowing repeatedly hot and cold, to the great exasperation of her male advisers, who all understood the desperate need for a male heir to safeguard the continuation of the Tudor line.

On a personal level, the evidence strongly suggests that Elizabeth had an aversion to marriage for three reasons. Firstly, having witnessed the bitter and tangled breakdowns of several marriages within her own family, she did not see wedlock as a secure state; furthermore, she feared the factional controversy it might provoke

Secondly, as she told Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the man who she probably loved more than any other, she had no intention of sharing sovereign power: ‘I will have but one mistress here and no master!' Many women today will sympathise with her determination to retain full control over her life and her desire to have relationships with men without subsuming herself to them in marriage. We may draw a parallel between the modern woman's pursuit of a career and Elizabeth's jealous guarding of the autonomy of her position: queenship was her ‘career'. She took it enormously seriously, and was not prepared to relinquish any vestige of her power for the sake of a man, however much she might love him. Nor did she wish to interrupt it to bear children. In many ways, hers was a very modern dilemma.

Thirdly, and most important of all, we must remember that in Tudor times, monarchs were regarded as holding supreme dominion over the state and their subjects. Yet at the same time, a husband was deemed to hold supreme dominion over his wife. A queen regnant was still a novelty in England, and her position was virtually irreconcilable with the married state. Elizabeth's own sister, Mary I, had made a disastrous and unpopular marriage with Philip II of Spain, who, expecting to play the traditional superior role as her husband, had chafed against his wife's attempts to assert her regal authority. Elizabeth had no intention of embroiling herself in such a difficult relationship.

‘I am already married to an husband, and that is the kingdom of England,' she was fond of declaring. She solved the dilemma over her marital future by taking a courageous decision, revolutionary for her time, not to marry or have heirs of her body. Nevertheless, as ‘the best match in her parish', she dissembled brilliantly over this issue and exploited to the full her marriageability, using it as a political weapon to the best advantage of her realm.

Elizabeth never married, but was she the Virgin Queen she claimed to be? This question was being asked soon after her accession, and scurrilous rumours were rife throughout her reign, fuelled by Elizabeth's own behaviour, which was often condemned by her own subjects as scandalous. She would allow Leicester to enter her bedchamber to hand her her shift while her maids were dressing her. She was espied at her window in a state of undress on at least one occasion, and in old age, wearing a low-cut gown that exposed her wrinkled body almost to the navel, she had a French ambassador squirming with embarrassment for two hours during a private audience. The poor man afterwards declared that he had not known where to look.

Yet many ambassadors, at the behest of prospective foreign husbands, made exhaustive inquiries as to whether or not the Queen was chaste, and in every case they concluded that she was. She herself could not understand why there should be so many racy tales about her or claims that she had borne bastard children, some of which are still, amazingly, believed today.

‘I do not live in a corner,' she told a Spanish envoy. ‘A thousand eyes see all I do, and calumny will not fasten on me for ever.' A French ambassador who knew her well claimed that the rumours were ‘sheer inventions of the malicious to put off those who would have found an alliance with her useful'. Perhaps most tellingly of all, in 1562, when Elizabeth believed she was dying of smallpox and was about to face Divine Judgement, she spoke of her notorious relationship with Robert Dudley, and swore before witnesses that nothing improper had ever passed between them. Given the religious convictions of the sixteenth century, which are hard for our modern secular society to comprehend, it is unlikely that anyone would have jeopardised their immortal soul by telling such a lie at such a time.

Rumour, however, accused Elizabeth of worse than fornication. In 1560, at a time when Dudley's affair with the Queen was becoming notorious, his wife, Amy Robsart, was found dead, her neck broken, at the foot of a flight of stairs in a remote country house. Dudley was away at court at the time, but the finger of suspicion pointed at both him and the Queen.

The modern theory is that Amy's death resulted, not from murder, but from a spontaneous fracture that can occur in someone in the advanced stages of breast cancer. The fact remains, however, that her death was all too convenient. Not for Dudley, who realised immediately that it had put paid to his hopes of ever marrying the Queen, for rumour had long accused him of plotting his wife's demise, and he knew very well that Elizabeth would not dare risk proclaiming herself guilty by association by marrying him, for to do so might well cost her her insecure throne.

Nor, certainly, was Amy's death convenient for Elizabeth, who seems to have been dismayed to realise that her lover was now a free man. In fact, the only person who benefited personally was someone else very close to the throne, who may well have felt that Amy's death was necessary for Elizabeth's security–and his own. This was William Cecil, later Lord Burghley, who served the Queen faithfully for over forty years, and of whom it was said, ‘No prince in Europe had such a counsellor.'
Cecil, who had begun the reign as Elizabeth's most trusted adviser, had recently been ousted from her confidence by the ascendant Dudley, a man whose influence Cecil regarded as pernicious. Cecil's behaviour in the days before Amy Dudley's death was suspiciously uncharacteristic. The Queen had confided, probably correctly, to the Spanish ambassador that Amy was dying, but Cecil made it his business to take the ambassador aside and deny this, asserting that Dudley was plotting to do away with his wife. Immediately after the murder, when Dudley, the object of widespread accusations and gossip, was banished from court pending the outcome of the inquest that would clear his name, Cecil was restored to high favour. Elizabeth had been saved from contemplating a disastrous marriage. The evidence for Cecil's involvement in Amy's death is purely circumstantial, but it is not inconceivable that he was behind a government attempt to frame the favourite.

For many years afterwards, people speculated that Elizabeth really would marry Dudley. She was closer to him than to any other man, and their relationship endured for over thirty years, when it was cruelly ended by his death, which plunged Elizabeth into grief during her hour of triumph after the vanquishing of the Spanish Armada. Undoubtedly, Dudley was the great love of Elizabeth's life, despite the fact that he made two secret marriages with other women during the course of their relationship.

Dudley aside, Elizabeth had many other suitors. She was courted not only by Imperial Princes but also by the Kings of France and Sweden; the King of Denmark's ambassador went about her court wearing a heart embroidered on his doublet, while English noblemen vied for her favour, lavishing ruinous sums on great houses in which to entertain her and magnificent suits of clothing in which to dazzle her. The sexy French Duke of Anjou came to England twice in the hope of winning the Queen's love; his presence at court was supposed to be a secret, and he was obliged to observe a ball from behind a curtain, but since Elizabeth danced with outrageous abandon and kept waving in his direction, few were deceived. Tongues would have wagged more furiously had it been known that she had visited the Duke's bedchamber and brought him breakfast in bed. Like her other courtships, it all ended, of course, in disappointment. Anjou was so ardent and determined that the Queen had to pay him to go away. She was in her late forties by then, and wept publicly in Council, knowing that she had given up her last chance of marriage and motherhood.

Towards the end of her life, she enjoyed a curious and volatile relationship with the dashing and headstrong Earl of Essex, who was thirty years her junior. She may, in part, have looked on him as the son she never had, although he, like Leicester and many others before him, played the adoring lover. But soon the adoration turned to contempt for his elderly inamorata, and when, in 1601, the jealous, power-hungry Essex led a revolt against the Queen's ministers, she did not hesitate to have him executed.

She was not so decisive when it came to her cousin and life-long rival, Mary, Queen of Scots. The beautiful Mary, who had been deposed by her own subjects and unwisely sought aid in England, was instead kept a prisoner by Elizabeth for nineteen years. Acknowledged by Catholic Europe to be the true Queen of England, while Elizabeth, who had re-established the Protestant Anglican Church, was seen as an illegitimate and heretical observer, Mary spent her time in captivity plotting against her cousin's life and throne. Yet Elizabeth consistently refused to heed the pleas of her advisers to put Mary to death. Mary, she was aware, was an anointed sovereign, like herself: to execute her would set a dangerous precedent. Yet when, finally, Mary's undeniably sinister intentions towards her were exposed with the uncovering of the Babington Plot in 1586, Elizabeth's hand was forced, although she agonised for weeks before signing the death warrant, and after Mary's execution claimed that she had not authorised its issue. Her distress was terrible to witness, and in her desperate need to exonerate herself from blame, she punished her councillors. Her secretary was sent to the Tower of London.

We know a great deal about Elizabeth as a person. She was formidably intelligent and well-educated, and left behind a vast amount of letters, poems and speeches, all composed by herself. She was a fine orator. There are hundreds of surviving portraits of her, although most conform to the official image painted when the Queen was in her early thirties, which flatteringly depicts her as an eternally young woman. It is therefore hard to assess what she looked like as she grew older.

She was passionate about hunting, dancing, music and walks in the fresh air. She was also excessively vain, and owned three thousand dresses, many richly embroidered and bejewelled. She had, unusually for her time, bathrooms with piped water and mirrored walls in most of her palaces, as well as portable travelling baths, which all suggests that she had far more than the three or four baths a year with which historians usually credit her. She also had one of the first modern water closets installed at Richmond Palace towards the end of her reign.

The Queen had a wicked sense of humor. At Robert Dudley's solemn creation as Earl of Leicester, she mischievously tickled his neck as she fastened on his mantle of nobility. On the other hand, her rages were terrible: one councillor declared he would have preferred to fight the King of Spain than face the Queen in a temper. This temper was famously evident when Puritan preachers dared to rebuke her for swearing or sartorial extravagance, or when the text of a sermon was not to her liking. It was not beyond her to stamp out of the chapel in a rage.

Her indomitable spirit carried her into old age. At sixty-seven, ‘the Head of the Church of England was to be seen dancing three or four galliards' each morning. When, at the same age, she suggested another royal progress, following on from earlier long journeys travelling through her kingdom to be seen and entertained by her subjects, there were groans of protest from her courtiers, so she blithely declared that the old could stay behind whilst the younger courtiers came with her. She had a terror of being regarded as aged and infirm, fearing that her authority and position as queen might thereby be undermined.

Elizabeth's physicians and others were of the opinion that her death at the age of sixty-nine was avoidable. Her final illness began with what were probably ulcers in her throat and deteriorated into perhaps either tonsillitis or influenza, but she steadfastly refused to take any medicines or even, for days on end, to go to bed, obstinately remaining on cushions on the floor, sunk in a deep depression. She had told her people, ‘It is not my desire to live nor reign longer than my life and reign shall be for your good.' It seems she had made a conscious decision that it was time for her to depart. Even to the end, she put the needs of her people first.

The most fitting epitaph to this extraordinary woman is to be found in the pages of William Camden's biography, written soon after her death: ‘No oblivion shall ever bury the glory of her name: for her happy and renowned memory still liveth and shall for ever live in the minds of men.'

And it is still living today.

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The Life of Elizabeth I 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
swift__cat More than 1 year ago
If you like to read history but have trouble finding readable authors, look no further. Alison Weir is one of the most engaging writers of the Tudor period in England that I have ever had the pleasure of coming across. This fascinating, in-depth, and easy to follow portrayal of one of the most complex and daring queens in English history is a must read. I recommend it not only to history buffs but also to any female who feels inspired by strong women ahead of their time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After watching the films Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love, I was hooked on the life and times of The Virgin Queen. Thus, I ran to the book store to find anything I could read to learn more about this fascinating woman. This book illustrates the her ups and downs and triumphs as Queen, and what she went through trying to maintain her religon. I especially liked the family trees given to trace her lineage. Allison Weir's description of Elizabeth's Coronation made me feel as if I were lined on the streets watching it for myself. And, how she describes what Elizabeth went through, as a devout Protestant, at the hands of the Catholic Preists made me shiver. It was brilliantly written, so much so, I read it twice! Excellent!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been a student of Elizabethan History much of my life. This author ignores everything that Elizzabeth did and was concentrating only on the marriage issue. Even fictional accounts that I have read have been more comprehensive
Guest More than 1 year ago
I made the mistake of reading historical accounts by Antonio Fraser before reading Weir. Ms. Weir simply jumps around too much and even contradicts the accounts of events. In addition, as a researcher I like Fraser's citations within the text. Weir does not do this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
and I learned so much about the fascinating life of this strong woman! It is easy for a book that covers so much material to verge on the deathly boring, but this is not the case here. Weir does a remarkable job in portraying Elizabeth's inner turmoil and outer pleasures by re-creating her court and lifestyle. An excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like all of her historical books, Allison Weir excels in the historical biographies. This should be on every historians shelf.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'd been meaning to read this book for years, and finally got to it this month. It is an exhaustive - and at times exhausting - biography jam-packed with minute details about the personalities and relationships of Elizabethan court life. So, be forewarned - this is not really a history of the Elizabethan Era or the English Renaissance. A little less of who said what to whom on what day, and more of the broader picture, would have been welcome.
mermaidchick More than 1 year ago
This is the 4th book I've read by Weir and like the others its great! It has so much information about Elizabeth. I feel I got alot of insight to the person that she was. I didn't know much about Elizabeth before I picked up this book. I never knew she was so vain and attention hungry. I hate what she did to Mary Queen of Scotts. I read this book after reading about Mary and I'm still on Marys side! Elizabeth to me had no regard for anyone but herself. Then again if I was queen....maybe I would to. I would recommend this book for a great bio read. Ms Weir can write so that you don't want to put the book down no matter what!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want every detail and no story then you might enjoy. I couldnt finish it
Kate2666 More than 1 year ago
about Elizabeth and history of her suitors, I initially did not know this will be a biography and when I realized it I was a little upset because I don't really like to read biography especially 600 pages of it, however book turned out to be pretty interesting even though I still believe it could of been like 100-150 pages shorter because through out the book some of the stuff becoming repetitive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Weir is one of the best writers of English history of this generation. Her heavy reaserch and flowing prose weave history of one of the world's greatest nations, and its personalities, into readable enjoyment. If you haven't, give her a try! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alison Weir has done an excellent job in the coverage of Elizabeth I's life both before her coronation and througout her rule. This book is written in a very easily followed, mostly chronological style which proved to be very enjoyable reading. It does not appear to be a one-sided view of Elizabeth's personality, but is well rounded, showing both her extraordinary ability to put her personal feelings in check in order to rule very effectively and successfully as a woman in a man's world, as well as her at times rash and almost outrageously selfish behavior. The author includes many letters, speeches, and dialogue between Elizabeth and her consorts, as well as a family tree and a few portraits for reference. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a well rounded book on the life of Elizabeth I.
carterchristian1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book emphases the Robert Dudley and his step son Essex and shows the development of the queen from young womanhood to old age, then death. The death of Dudley's wife Amy is dixussed in detail and the author covers the possibility that Cecil arranged Amy's death to prevent Elizabeth from marrying Dudley, though this can never be proved. Interesting read of an oft told tale.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the fourth Alison Weir novel that I've read and looking back, I've rated them all three stars. This is certainly not an endorsement, as the subject matter of these novels (16th century English history) is of great interest to me. Each of these works simply falls short in providing the kind of captivating reading experience that the subject matter offers. The Life of Elizabeth I is a perfect example. Someone relying on this work for their sole exposure to Elizabeth I would think that virtually her entire reign was taken up with the pretense of marriagability. In that respect, this work is very narrow and does a great disservice, not only to Elizabethan accomplishments, but to the scope 16th century life in general. In addition, analysis contained in the book is virtually non existent. As with Weir's other works, the prose consists almost entirely of short declarative statements, one after another. The style is jarring and not conducive to either entertainment or education.The same novel on a subject of lesser interest would garner only two stars, however it would be difficult to write a novel on Elizabeth rated under three stars, the subject matter is so rich with possibility. This is a swing and a miss.
Pretear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I usually love Alison Weir's work. The books I've read are well researched, well paced, and the historical characters have depth. She manages to give a mostly accurate view of this period in history while simultaneously telling an intelligible story from a sometimes incomplete historical record. This book, however, was 100 pages too long. I don't know if Weir intended to make Elizabeth I sound like whiny petty incompetent idiot, but that's the impression that I got from the way she wrote this book. I think I could have lived a long happy life without ever believing that the world's greatest female monarch spent all her time flirting with courtiers, being obsessed with her beauty, and later in life, letting the d-bag Essex push her around. I know that Weir purposely wanted to address Elizabeth's personal life (hence, the title) but it's kind of ridiculous to try to tell the story of a sovereign's life, especially a female sovereign, without talking about the way that sovereign governed her country.
BookshelfMonstrosity on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My interest in Queen Elizabeth I has long been fed by documentaries, movies, and historical fiction titles such as I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles. I've always found her to be very fascinating and thought it was high time I read a biography about her. But which one do I choose? I found it serendipitous when a student at the high school library at which I'm interning checked in this extensive biography of the Virgin Queen, so I promptly checked it out myself.I'm so glad I did. I've been on a bit of a non-fiction tear lately, and this biography didn't disappoint. Weir is very thorough, covering all aspects of the queen's reign, from her foreign policy to her personal life. The most discussed topic throughout Weir's writing is Elizabeth's battle to stay unmarried. Elizabeth spends years and years doing a courtly and strategic dance with other heads of state, leading them on for as long as possible in courtships she has no intention of agreeing to in order to keep the peace with foreign nations. Weir makes an excellent point that Elizabeth has good reason to be very wary of marriage. Just look at the disastrous marriages that her father kept entering into, and what happened to her unfortunate mother! Elizabeth knew that in order to be the true head of her country, she must remain single. I cannot imagine the pressure she constantly felt from both her advisors and subjects to capitulate and marry.This book is recommended to all who are interested in Elizabeth and who want to read an extremely thorough narrative of the queen's private and public life.
Elizabeth.Michele on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good history, assigned in my college lit class on the era of Elizabeth I.
Angelic55blonde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a well researched, interesting book from start to finish. Alison Weir is a fantastic historian who definitely breathed life into the story of Elizabeth. She focused a great deal on Elizabeth's "personal" life (ie. romances, marriage negotiations) and showed how that impacted her "public" life (ie. the Privy Council, ruling England in general). Alison Weir also tries to answer some of the undying questions about Elizabeth and she comes to some interesting conclusions.The reader definitely gets a sense of who Elizabeth may have been and why she was so loved by her people. It's an engaging work that definitely should be read.
samantha464 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good biography tha weaves history with the atual events of her life. It veered away from the more sensationalist rumors about her life and really focused on how her reign fit into the times in which she lived and effected the country for centuries to come.
jshillingford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant biography of the "Virgin Queen." I have read several biographies on Elizabeth I (I find her fascinating), but this was teh best. Well written, very descriptive without burdening the reader, and obviously researched. All the high points of her reign, such as the destruction of the Spanish Armada, her broken engagement to "the Frog" an dmore are all here, but Weir also examines the gifts she received for Christmas, how she spent her income (frugally) and her interactions with ladies in waiting.
k8_not_kate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As usual for Alison Weir, her biography of Good Queen Bess is exhaustive and sometimes drags, but, by God, you feel like you knew the woman personally when you're done! Weir explores every aspect of Elizabeth's life in detail, vividly illustrating both Tudor England and its most famous ruler. While I'm not sure I would recommend it to someone looking for a brief or summerized account of Elizabeth's life, I would confidently call it an "authoritive" and certainly a very good biography. As for the subject of the biography, Elizabeth's story is both inspiring and, at times, exciting. An extremely effective ruler in a time when women were considered a liability on the throne, Elizabeth displayed both strength and feminine weakness at alternate times in order to manipulate parliament and her privy chamber into completing the goals she set. Her life is well worth knowing about for history buffs or the casual biography-reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could read this book over and over! I am a huge Alison Weir fan and she definitely doesn't disappoint!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was interesting, but a little hard to follow.