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Elizabeth I Paperback – October 15, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this totally captivating, sympathetic biography, English writer Somerset quotes an abundance of primary sources to elucidate Queen Elizabeth I's often criticized actions. For example, she investigates the cunning ruler's "sound enough reasons" for attempting to have her hated royal cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, murdered in an underhand fashion without the bother of an execution. Somerset ( Ladies-in-Waiting) argues that the execution of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, when she was two and a half cast a dark shadow over the queen's entire life. A virgin monarch, thrilled by the power of her father, Henry VIII, Elizabeth (1533-1603) turned her sex to her advantage in a man's world. She "flaunted her femininity" with chivalrous male colleagues and used her marital availability as a chief asset in the conduct of foreign affairs. The success of her 45-year reign, writes Somerset, was very much a personal triumph aided by her magnetism and charm. A wry, convincing portrait of a complex character. Illustrated. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Elizabeth I, a fascinating, complex woman with immense political, social, and religious power, has had many biographers, but Somerset's thoroughly researched and exhaustively documented study will capture the reader's imagination. Somerset brings historical figures to life, providing the background and motivations for their actions in light of the social structure of the day. The reader gains a real understanding of the problems Elizabeth faced in ruling her unstable kingdom. Somerset has also written The Life and Times of Wil liam IV (Biblio Distribution Centre, 1980) and Ladies-in-Waiting ( LJ 6/15/84). Recommended. BOMC alternate.
-Kathar ine Galloway Garstka, Intergraph Corp., Huntsville, Ala.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (October 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312081839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312081836
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,758,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Scott Harris on January 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
Anne Somerset's version of Elizabeth I is thoroughly researched and presented in exacting detail, but despite the minutiae, it is still an interesting read. Somerset expends some space on the details of everyday Tudor life, but this book is primarily an historical work, describing court intrigues, treasonous conspiracies and international incidents in presenting a complete overview of the most important political events of the era. Readers wanting a simple understanding of Elizabethan politics could probably find an easier volume to read, but Somerset's style is quite interesting, and serious students of history will enjoy this work immensely.
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By K. Maxwell on January 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is not light-weight reading. It's quite thick at 575 pages of fine text. It does, however, cover extremely well Elizabeth's reign and puts many of her decisions in their social context.
The author has relied heavily on primary sources for this work and they give a "flavour" to the time Elizabeth lived in. You end up with a good feel for Elizabeth's mercurial personality. Her chronic indecisiveness and hatred of being forced into a decision. The mine-field of international politics, when phones and TV didn't exist. Second-guessing the opposition, or trying to prevent an opposition from forming.
For an in-depth view of Elizabeth's life, reign and era this book is up there at the top of the list, if you can take the time to read it.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've read almost a dozen books on the Tudors and this is the best on Elizabeth I. Although I usually get my doses of the Tudors from Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser, Anne Somerset has truly written and organized a beautiful book. An impressive work -- better than any other I've read on the world's greatest monarch.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on November 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an insightful and fascinating look into the age of Elizabeth I: not only does the author explore her complex private life, but her techniques of holding and exercising power and diplomacy - always mixed together - are examined with a depth that never romanticises this remarkable leader.

The story begins with a frightening look into the battle for succession. Her half-sister, Bloody Mary, at the moment is attempting to re-convert the country with ruthless brutality to the Catholicism of her mother, whom Henry VIII divorced to marry Anne Boleyn, E I's mother. Thus, E I faced not only the normal suspicion of treasonous intent between bitter blood rivals with a personal twist, but also was open in her protestantism during the bloodiest epoch of the Reformation. While E I survived and was crowned as queen, the legitimacy of her claim was always under threat - her difficult though charismatic Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, served as a living reminder of how easily E I might be replaced on the throne. E I survives, of course, and more or less triumphs over all her adversaries, but she was never bloodthirsty.

Behind this basic plot, Somerset masterfully dissects the machinery of government of the time. As an absolute sovereign, E I had the last word, but she relied on a series of deeply trusted advisors as well as a network of courtiers, with whom she forged extremely close (perhaps physical) relationships. They form a fascinating backdrop as the story unfolds with their attempts to manipulate while serving her. It is as complex as a Shakespearean drama and yet Somerset is wonderfully even-handed in her treatmet of them all, from Cecil and Dudley to the deranged and dangerous step son of Dudley.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Patricia on December 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anne Somerset's biography on Queen Elizabeth I, was the first historical biography I had ever read. I became interested in finding out more about the famous red-haired monarch from the Hollywood version of her life, in the film "Elizabeth". I knew the film version had taken some license with the historical record, but I felt that the more accurate and less glamorous story about Elizabeth, the monarch, had to be interesting as well.
The story of Queen Elizabeth, both as a historical figure and a woman of 16th century England, is a interesting one and Anne Somerset makes it an easy and thoroughly enjoyable read. She goes into great detail and has many annotations to support her statments about Elizabeth, yet at the same time, the reader doesn't feel as if she is reading a scholarly work. It was such a pleasure to read and I found it difficult to put down.
For those of you out there who are either intimidated by biographies and other books about historical figures, or think them dull, this is a great place to start your journey into these kinds of books.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. Lee on July 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
I thought Somerset's Elizabeth I was an excellent biography. At almost every turn you were loaded with so many little facts and intricacies that seemed to go off on another tangent but somehow ended up where it began and leaving you with an even better understanding of the topic.

What I liked was how Somerset presented the information. She was not in awe, and her writing was straightforward and no-nonsense. She didn't try to make Elizabeth seem more than a person, and she included all the aspects of the woman's personality, including an outrageous vanity and an almost childlike stubborness.

While, of course, a biography of Elizabeth I, it is not so much about her, but of every person that had a factor in her life, including a weak, disastrous older sister and queen, a father desperate for sons, the queen's favorite but court-despised Dudley, and her tumultous relationship with her cousin, Mary Stuart.

From start to end, its only purpose is to be as informative as possible, and though it may occasionally wander, it is filled with detail and research, which is all one can truly ask of such a book.
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