Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I

Synopsis

Elizabeth I was Queen of England for almost forty-five years. The daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, as an infant she was briefly accepted as her father's heir. After her mother was executed at her father's command she was declared illegitimate and led a sometimes scandalous existence until her accession to the throne at the age of twenty-five. Elizabeth oversaw a vibrant age of exploration and literature and established herself, the "Virgin Queen", a national icon that lives on in the popular imagination. But Elizabeth was England's second female monarch, and was greatly influenced by the experiences and mistakes of the reign of her half-sister, Mary I, before her. During her reign, Elizabeth had to perform a complicated balancing act in religious matters. As religious wars raged in Europe, Elizabeth herself a moderate Protestant, had to manage an inherited Catholic realm and the demands of zealous Protestants. The importance of such familiar features of Elizabeth's reign as the presence in England of Mary Queen of Scots and her enduring efforts to take the throne, the Spanish armada, and the origins of English colonial expansion beyond the British archipelago all receive fresh attention in this engaging book. This new biography sheds light on Elizabeth's early life, influences and on her personal religious beliefs as well as examining her reign, politics and reassesses Elizabeth's reluctance to marry, a matter for which she has been much praised, but which is here judged one of the second queen regnant's more problematic decisions. Judith M. Richards takes an objective and rounded view of Elizabeth's whole life and provides the perfect introduction for students and general readers alike.

Excerpt

As ancient wisdom has it, ‘Of making many books there is no end’ (Ecclesiastes 12.12). Among the many demonstrations of that truth is the number of books written about Elizabeth I, who ruled England from 1558 to 1603. There are many reasons her reign has been found so fascinating. In part it was because she was a female king, unusual but not unprecedented, but also in part because she reigned so long. Above all, she was unique amongst English monarchs for at least 500 years in that she did not marry. That she ruled for more than 40 years as a single woman was even more intriguing. One effect of her unmarried status has been that she has also been a focus for much romantic imaginings and speculation, more so than any other monarch, except perhaps for her remarkable father, Henry VIII, who married so unusually often.

In all that, the persistent image of Elizabeth is that of a female, unmarried monarch who necessarily forged her own path through all the difficulties of being a woman on the throne in turbulent times. There is certainly some truth in that view, but she also had more precedents for how to rule – and also even greater problems to manage – than many studies have recognised. Indeed, part of the rationale for this particular biography of her is that, having recently completed a biography of Elizabeth’s elder sister Mary Tudor, as Elizabeth’s biographer I come to the study of the younger sister from an unusual perspective. Perhaps Elizabeth’s most enduring challenge was that, contrary to popular tradition, the realm she inherited was still predominantly Catholic, despite the religious changes of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Indeed, in Mary’s reign the Catholic Church had been so reinvigorated that Elizabeth, rather . . .

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