After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England

by Leanda De Lisle

Hardcover, 2006



Ballantine Books (2006), Edition: First Edition (1st printing), 334 pages


Many volumes have been written about the reign of Elizabeth I; this book focuses on the critical year her reign ended, when England lost its childless queen and a Machiavellian struggle ensued to find her successor. December 1602: The formidable ruler has become a dithering old woman. The kingdom has been weakened by the cost of war with Spain and the simmering discontent of both the rich and the poor. Elizabeth's senior relative, James VI of Scotland, is a foreigner and a Stuart, excluded from the throne under English law. Around the old queen and the new king swirl a cast of unforgettable characters. We witness the scheming of courtiers for the candidates of their choice, and the widespread fear that civil war, invasion, or revolution will follow the monarch's death; and we are given intimate insights into political power plays and psychological portraits relevant to our own era.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member marieburton2004
Leanda De Lisle brings the reader to the time of Elizabeth's reign where all of her countrymen were wondering, "What happens, after Elizabeth?" in her debut book. Elizabeth was the daughter of the controversial Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, famous for having six wives. Henry declared Elizabeth
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illegitimate during his reign, through and Act of Parliament no less, which undoubtedly gave Elizabeth a complex. Once Elizabeth gained her throne, she ruled for 44 years; which was 44 years of wondering who would rule after Elizabeth. Normally these things would naturally work themselves out, through marriage and procreation. Yet, Elizabeth refused to marry, thus earning the nickname "The Virgin Queen", which put a damper on the possibilities of offspring. And Elizabeth effectively eliminated most of the other contenders of the throne who had some royal lineage; she scoped out the plotters to her throne and made sure she was quite secure throughout those 44 years with the help of her Cecil's. Leanda De Lisle explains the rival factions, the religious difficulties, and the summaries of the people who would be in line to the throne with just enough information to offer the reader a sense of the later years of Elizabeth's reign. The first half of the book comprises of the author touching on all of these aspects, which to a Tudor fan is nothing new. But she writes it effortlessly, attempting to not bog down the reader down with mountains of hard to follow facts. Oh, there are plenty of facts and a lot of information here but it fortunately does not read like a textbook. Some of the names come and go, which as always, the titles of the nobility can get cumbersome to follow. Who was Lord Cobham? I had to look that up since he came back a few times. (I really wish these types of books would have a chart other than the genealogy charts that would say, 'Northumberland' is 'this person(real name)' so I can gather relationships easier.)

Leanda then moves on to James I of Scotland, who does eventually get the crown of England, quite easily it seems. There is no struggle here until England realizes perhaps having a man to rule is not so great after all. We learn a bit more about James and his personal life, his habits, and his intellect. We get a sense of what Scotland felt to essentially lose their King to England, and how the English felt to get a Scottish King after years of Border Wars and hostility towards one another. The book then details the various plots and the plotters, notably Walter Ralegh, and their effects on England that occurred after James took the throne. The book picks up its pace once getting through the first half and where it picks up after Tudor books have left off.

The criticisms I DO have of the book are that I felt when the author was trying to convey a certain point she was telling a quick synposis of an event, that related to another event, which brought us to another.. I felt I had to keep track of the dates because there was a bit of jumping around in the timeline. This happened a lot and always aggravated me. I wish it were a bit more straightforward.
Also, whereas I found this book to be an engaging read for the most part, most of the information may not be new to the British history buff, and could become a bore if looking for "new" insights especially regarding Elizabeth. The way that the author flings about the names of the effected people, it would be hard to keep up if you have not already read a few other books of the era. The author in no way "goes slow" with us as far as name dropping. And then there were some slow parts, like James' very expensive journey through England to ascend to the throne; the author comprised it of mini-stories weaving in and out.

Upon finishing the book I find myself more interested in doing some followup reading on some of the supporting characters that Leanda De Lisle touched upon. I have read several novels and biographies on Elizabeth and yet still enjoyed Leanda De Lisle's telling of it perhaps because of the enormous amount of details. Because of the differences in laws between Scotland and England, it was interesting to see how James changed things and how England's nobility reacted. I also enjoyed the color pictures, there were some that I had not seen before. This is not a light read, there is a ton of information here, so don't start this unless you are planning on devoting some time to it. This took me about two weeks to read.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars = Good, and Recommended for those interested in just the facts regarding the transition from Elizabeth I to James I, and England's journey to becoming part of the United Kingdom.
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LibraryThing member bhowell
This is a great history book which focuses on the transition from Elizabeth I to James I (VI of Scotland). It didn't just happen over night and "what came between" will greatly add to yoiur understanding of both monarchs and the powerful people who surrounded them.
LibraryThing member billiecat
As I read this book I could tell it was written by a journalist. It is well-researched, nicely footnoted, and while the prose reads very well, that is nothing to distinguish it from any other popular history written by professional historians for the reading public. But De Lisle has an eye for the
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odd detail and the contrary evidence that is the mark of a journalist. That makes the book a good read and a quick one. Covering the period from just before Elizabeth's death to the coronation of James I, the book does not explode "myths" so much as flesh out stereotypes and show the contradictions inherent in a three-dimensional picture.
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LibraryThing member vguy
Reading this as the independence business goes on around me here in Scotland. Makes one feel that Union got off to a pretty poor start with King James. What a come-down from Elizabeth: she went fearlessly among the people at the most dangerous times, while he surrounded himself with guards and
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armament; she talked of the love she felt for her people while he just demanded expressions of loyalty; she was a true scholar and fine phrase-maker while he showed off his quotes from Aristotle; and then in what seems a real crime, destroyed Raleigh in a show trial. Delisle tries to make a case that the crown might have gone elsewhere, but looks like the money was really on James all along, and so we got the Stuarts, most of whom outdid even James in vanity and vindictiveness. Striking picture if the two countries: how much richer, more sophisticated and less murderous England was.

Overall, the sense of change from QE to KJ is well conveyed but it is sometimes hard to keep track of all the characters: even Burleigh/ Cecil father/son of whom one has at least heard but i often didnt know which was which or was it only one?
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LibraryThing member setnahkt
A nicely done and highly readable history of the last years of Elizabeth I and the first years of James VI/I. The cast includes Elizabeth and James, both just a little odd (Elizabeth was getting cranky with age and James had the unfortunate habit of drooling all over people); various other
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contenders for the English throne, including Edward Seymour, Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia (illustrated by a fantastic portrait that shows her wearing a dress that makes her look like some sort of aberrant Christmas tree), the unlucky and anorexic Arabella Stuart, and miscellaneous other more distant claimants; an assortment of hangers-on and bystanders, such as the impetuous Robert Devereaux, the historian and tobacconist Walter Raleigh, the canny Robert Cecil, and James’ somewhat put-upon wife, Anne of Denmark; and Protestant, “secular” Catholics, and Jesuits engaged in a three-way tag team match with each other when they weren’t petitioning the Crown the have the other two parties suppressed. The whole thing reads like some sort of intrigue/romance novel (except very few of the participants were the least bit romantic but they made up for it by being consummate intriguers). Author Leanda de Lisle manages to keep everybody straight without overwhelming the reader with details.
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Original language


Original publication date

2005 (copyright)

Physical description

334 p.; 6.55 inches


0345450450 / 9780345450456
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