Elizabeth I (Women in History)

by Anne Somerset

Paperback, 2002



Orion Pub Co (2002), Edition: New Ed, 720 pages


Glitteringly detailed and engagingly written, the magisterial Elizabeth I brings to vivid life the golden age of sixteenth-century England and the uniquely fascinating monarch who presided over it. A woman of intellect and presence, Elizabeth was the object of extravagant adoration by her contemporaries. She firmly believed in the divine providence of her sovereignty and exercised supreme authority over the intrigue-laden Tudor court and Elizabethan England at large. Brilliant, mercurial, seductive, and maddening, an inspiration to artists and adventurers and the subject of vicious speculation over her choice not to marry, Elizabeth became the most powerful ruler of her time. Anne Somerset has immortalized her in this splendidly illuminating account.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member john257hopper
A splendidly detailed and magisterial, yet also very readable biography that can also serve as a reference guide to all aspects of Elizabeth's personal life as well as her reign. Perhaps the definitive one volume biography - all aspects are given full coverage, including the political,
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constitutional, military, religious and economic dimensions of her rule. The index is also very reliable and comprehensive, not always the case in equally outstanding works. The only slight criticism I have is that the chapters are rather too long and the narrative could be broken up into more and shorter chapters with less opaque titles (the habit of using not very obvious contemporary quotes as chapter titles is one I am not too keen on). Excellent.
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LibraryThing member the.ken.petersen
What makes a good biography? For me, there are three main things for which I look in such a book. They are; firstly, a confident tone that leads me to believe that I am reading someone with greater knowledge than myself about the subject. This needs to be backed up by the second requirement, a
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plentiful series of quotations and notes referring to historical sources to back up the assertions of the author. The final attribute may seem less important but, if the whole is not served up in an entertaining manner, then a book of seven hundred plus pages may easily become tedious. Thankfully, Anne Somerset passes all these tests with consummate ease in this excellent biography of Queen Elizabeth I.

I have an interest, but no great knowledge, in the history of England at the time of Elizabeth's reign. My picture of the lady was coloured by the famous speech given to the troops sent to deal with the Armada ("I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman....."). This lead to a view that Elizabeth was a historical Margaret Thatcher; a domineering, decisive woman. Nothing could be further from the truth. Elizabeth seems to have preferred to leave well alone and only take action when forced so to do by events. She also had far more to do with England's Protestant state religion than Henry VIII. Whilst Henry may have amended our religious standing, one gets the feeling that this was largely in a fit of pique, and that it was Elizabeth's careful stewardship of the Church of England that sealed our conversion.

I was intrigued to learn that the Court, at this time, was so heavily dependant upon a complex system of flattery - and almost flirting between the officials and the Queen. My ignorance also extended to a lack of awareness as to how far the Queen depended upon private enterprise. Stories of her sending the Navy to deal with Spain's Navy only to have the commercial leaders divert the ships to the West Indies in an unsuccessful attempt to plunder Spanish treasure ships is both amusing and scarily premonitional of today's politics where money talks louder than the people.

This book is so good, that I will happily add Anne Somerset's name to Peter Ackroyd's as my two favourite historical biographers. I have not read any other works by this lady, but I hold that as a fault which I must speedily rectify.
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Physical description

720 p.; 7.91 inches


1842126245 / 9781842126240
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