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The Life of Elizabeth I

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - An intimate, captivating portrait of Queen Elizabeth I that brings the enigmatic ruler to vivid life, from acclaimed biographer Alison Weir "An extraordinary piece of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Definitely the best I've read about Elizabeth!

The Woman Behind the Queenship

Alison Weir's biographies read to me like historical fiction. They're fast-paced, obviously well researched, and they keep you turning the pages as if you're reading a mystery. This book allows the reader to discover who Elizabeth was both as a queen and as a woman. Bastardized by her father, Henry VIII, after her mother's execution, she goes on to become one of the most important figures in English history. Very good book and highly recommended.

One of Weir's finest

Allison Wier is by far my favorite author. I met her at a book signing in Memphis and I found her to be very personable, intelligent and kind. She knows her stuff and I consider her to be the best at upping your Elizabeth I knowledge.


Apart from her obvious talents as a historian and biographer, Alison Weir is an exceptional story teller. The historical events in this biography have been dealt with many times before but I don't think Elizabeth's character, personality and motivations were ever described in such vivid and exciting terms. The book is especially rich on Elizabeth's personal life, her relationships with her many suitors and how she played one against the other to her advantage, and how she handled one international crisis after another and always managed to come out on top, even in the most desperate circumstances. Pope Sixtus V, one of her many enemies, once said admiringly: "She is a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all!".Ms. Weir also gives a detailed exploration of how Elizabeth built her own legend and through cunning, intelligence, talent and perseverance created the almost preternatural characters of Gloriana and The Virgin Queen. Elizabeth was an exceptional personality, a woman who managed to remain in control of her kingdom for many years at a time when women were considered too weak and unstable to occupy any position of power. And she didn't just remain in control, she also managed to transform England from a rather weak country living in the shadows of France and Spain into a major power. Despite having almost everything against her, she obtained the love and respect of her subjects and in the process became an almost legendary figure.As Ms. Weir so aptly puts it: "No English sovereign, before or since, has so captured the imagination of his or her people or so roused their patriotic feelings".

The Scholar Submits

Yeah, O.K., I'm a Shakespeare scholar -- the kind that writes articles 7 people in the world read (and one of them's my husband, and I think he only reads the beginning and the end). I knew I shouldn't like this book. I was ready not to like this book. I was ready to indulge in a feeding frenzy of nit-picking.The problem is, I really liked the book. Really. Sure, this is a popular treatment of Elizabeth I's life, but what does that mean? It means that Weir occasionally glosses over complexities and that her prose is jargon free. She doesn't enter any spiral-of-doom of arcane theory, and she seems to have a good time romping around the Renaissance. I couldn't put the darn book down.Perhaps what shows the honesty of this book is an admission Weir makes herself: she set out to show Elizabeth I's private life, and found she could not. No reader should miss that this is a world in which the very concept of a private life has yet to be articulated in any way familiar to us. Weir didn't come up empty (as she seems to think); she enables us, through her presentation, to realize the ways in which privacy in the Renaissance *isn't*. Weir searched for the inner Elizabeth and didn't find her, making us wonder about the entire issue of interiority.I wanted more, of course, more subtlety, more arcane documents, a more clearly articulated point-of-view (and less psychoanalysis, though there isn't much). But this book is sound -- and it's not to be condescended to. I dare attach my name to that.

A significant contribution to the understanding of Elizabeth

Like many of your other reviewers I was amazed at the negative nature of some of the reviews. Statements such as the book is filled with filth, is based on gossip, is a tabloid history, focuses on Elizabeth's flirting with Dudley and others are simply preposterous. These statements prove again that a little imformation in the hands of some can be a dangerous thing - read a book or two and one becomes an instant expert.How would one write a history of the Tudor period and not rely on gossip? The whole corpus of the primary documents of the period are largely gossip. Gossip also influences history and the players on its stage. Elizabeth simply could not marry Dudley, perhaps the only man she truly loved, due to the gossip surrounding the death of his first wife Amy Robsart Dudley. Gossip is relevant if people believe it (and it is the nature of humans to believe it). Elizabeth's courtships, flirting, etc. is also of the greatest historical significance. Constant courtship was the device she employed to convince her male courtiers that she planned to marry and produce an heir (hopefully male of course). In fact, she had no intention of marrying, knowing that the moment she did power would immediately pass to her husband whoever that might be.As to the charges that the book is filled with filth and Monica type tabloid journalism again shows a total ignorance of the period. The Tudor court was a vey racy place even by modern standards. Readers offended by such information should stick with their Jerry Falwell tapes!I have taught Tudor history for 34 years and I have seen more interest in the Elizabethan Age over that last 6 months than at any other time in my career. The reason is two recent movies: "Elizabeth" and "Shakespeare in Love." "Elizabeth" is not very good history and "Shakespeare In Love" is pure fiction. Nonetheless, I applaude both movies for they have engendered a new interest in the period and its personalities. Students are now asking me what books they should read to learn more. I recommend Weir's Elizabeth (and other of her works) because they are written in an interesting and engaging fashion. Later on I will suggest that they move on to Hibbert, Johnson, Ridley, etc. This book reveals the human face of one of the most dynamic personalities of the Western World and does it in a highly engaging and readable form. Unfortunately, the only people who read what most of us historians write is other historians. No one else is willing to tolerate the pedantry and deadly dryness of the academic style.I commend this book and recommend it enthusiastically to all those interested in Elizabeth and her age.

The Life of Elizabeth I Mentions in Our Blog

The Life of Elizabeth I in Women Who Rule
Women Who Rule
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • March 06, 2020

It's still relatively unusual, but there are dozens of instances of women who have ruled countries. They may have had to bust open a few doors, but they've made their mark on history. To celebrate Women's History Month, here are 11 of these feminine powerhouses.

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