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A woman in a man's world, confident of her destiny to reign, intensely intelligent, passionately sexual yet (she said) a virgin, Elizabeth was to become England's most successful ruler. Finding her way through the labyrinthine plots that surrounded the court, she had to live by her wits, surrounded by betrayal and suspicion, not knowing who to trust with her desire to be queen, or her desire to be a lover...show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 26mm | 340.19g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Illustrations (some col.), ports. (some col.)
  • 0099286572
  • 9780099286578
  • 117,834

Review quote

"Fresh and lively... Vividly told... He sets before us not only the woman behind the throne but the girl behind the woman" Sunday Times "The best account in English of the early years of Elizabeth... One of the most zestful pieces of narrative history written...a racy read and first-rate history" Evening Standard "What a page turner! A white knuckle ride through history...inspired research, from the clues embedded in the portraits to court ceremonial to the often circumlocutory letters" Time Out "I found myself compelled by David Starkey's vivid recreation of the hazardous uncertainty of Elizabeth's early life, her successive exclusions from the centre of power, the studiedly ambiguous answers she offered her interrogators, her inevitable implications in conspiracies and narrow escapes from execution" Times Literary Supplement "Combines a relaxed and unfussy style with a thorough knowledge of the period and a sharp eye for detail. Elizabeth's life makes for a compelling story and Starkey tells it well" Spectatorshow more

About David Starkey

Dr David Starkey is a historian and broadcaster, and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. In 2000 he presented the acclaimed Channel Four series Elizabeth, and in 1998 he presented David Starkey's Henry VIII, also on Channel Four. He writes regularly for both popular newspapers and learned journal, and is a controversial panellist on Radio 4's The Moral Maze. An expert on constitutional history, he is the author of several other books on the Tudor period. For further information, and details of forthcoming projects, see www.davidstarkey.com.show more

Review Text

Elizabeth I is hardly a neglected figure, but Starkey?s analysis of her life before her accession to the throne at the age of 25 manages to treat the subject in a new and exciting way. As he points out, in order to understand the woman it is essential to know about the child, and Elizabeth?s youth could hardly have been more troubled ? her mother executed when she was two, a succession of stepmothers, an unstable father, possible sexual abuse by her stepfather and a narrow escape from being executed herself under the orders of her sister Mary. However, Starkey avoids the temptation to over-dramatize Elizabeth?s traumas. Rather than getting bogged down with psychological analysis, he sets her youth in the context of the court as a whole. He emphasizes the continuity of much of her life and is particularly good at writing about her household staff, who were the most important people in her day-to-day life but tend to get neglected in traditional accounts. He is also very astute when looking at her relationships with members of her family as seen through their letters, and demonstrating how what might seem to be standard letters and gifts actually illuminate these relationships. For instance, Elizabeth sends her stepmother Catherine Parr a translation of a book about the Protestant faith, allegedly to demonstrate her fluency in Latin, but also emphasizing their shared interest in religious reform. The most interesting and novel aspect of this book is Starkey?s analysis of court ceremonial. Every public action, even the most minor, had significance at the Tudor court and Starkey shows what each one meant and what it said about those involved. This gives an insight into the 16th-century mindset which is essential for an understanding of the world in which Elizabeth operated. Starkey knows all his facts backwards, so can choose his evidence carefully and never overloads the reader. The story he has to tell is gripping in itself, and his fascinating depiction of Elizabeth?s world prevents any staleness caused by overfamiliarity. He clearly admires Elizabeth and by the end of the book the reader has lost any tendency to see her as a victim. In fact, our main emotion is a desire to find out what happened next ? and to read Starkey?s take on it. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

11,224 ratings
4.05 out of 5 stars
5 37% (4,136)
4 38% (4,286)
3 20% (2,266)
2 3% (387)
1 1% (149)
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