Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0670018284
ISBN-10: 0670018287
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What was the exact nature of the relationship between Elizabeth Tudor and her favorite, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester? And how did this relationship affect Elizabeth's actions as monarch? Gristwood (Arbella: England's Lost Queen) rightly revises the image of Leicester from the queen's preening and clownish lapdog to a fiercely ambitious political animal, warrior, landowner, philanthropist and patriot with clear policies of his own. Gristwood shows us a fierce champion of Protestantism, theater, medicine and exploration, and a major force at Oxford, where he was chancellor. Leicester wielded considerable influence over Elizabeth, who shared his hardheaded practicality and reverence for tradition; they also shared the gruesome fact that they each had a parent beheaded for treason. Gristwood ponders whether Elizabeth ordered the murder of Leicester's gravely ill wife. And she questions whether Elizabeth was only technically a virgin, whether she and Leicester practiced a form of chaste courtly love or whether Arthur Dudley, accused by Spain of espionage in 1587, was really the pair's illegitimate son. This vigorous, valuable and richly detailed study sheds welcome light on the psyche of a great stateswoman whose bending of traditional gender roles continues to tantalize. Illus. (Nov. 5)
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Review

“Quite simply one of the most enthralling history books I’ve ever read.”–Alison Weir

“Gristwood disentangles the many myths and stories that have been spun about the life-long love and loyalty between the queen and her ‘Sweet Robin.’”–Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018284
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,278,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Sarah Gristwood's new book is good, especially for understanding Elizabeth's relationship with her chief favorite, Robert Dudley, later Earl of Leicester.

Gristwood tells the familiar story of Elizabeth's background and upbringing, and the not-so-familiar one of Dudley's. His father and grandfather were supporters of Edward VI and Henry VII, and were executed for their pains. The narrative picks up with earnest at Elizabeth's accession and appointment of Dudley as Master of the Horse. Rumors soon began about the queen's relationship with him, and Dudley's wife died in mysterious circumstances not too long after. Gristwood evenhandedly examines the possible explanations for her death, and with plenty of hedging, suggests that Cecil was the main beneficiary.

Immediately after his wife's death, Dudley fell out of favor with Elizabeth for some time. Reconciliation followed, as did many more fallings out and reconciliations. Her many suitors were a source of conflict (and Dudley was one of them), as were the ladies at court who caught his eye and that he secretly married or promised to marry. Nevertheless, Dudley was at Elizabeth's side through most of her reign, influential and supportive, resented and admired.

But this book is also disappointing in some ways. There are passages where so many rhetorical questions are used that the implications aren't clear; and awkward modern phrases occasionally intrude (e.g., regarding the birth of his long-awaited heir: "emotionally he must have been in the money"). Charts of family connections would also have been useful, especially for the Dudleys and Elizabeth's maternal relations.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
With the primary documents basically known and castles and historic sites fully documented, 21st century writers are providing general readers with more focus on specific aspects of Tudor history and more interpretation. Recently I've read : The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire, Edward VI: The Lost King of England and After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England These books, like this one, are devoted entirely to a particular aspect of a Tudor reign (or as in the case of one, the end of the Tudor reigns).

Gristwood zeros in on the unique relationship of Elizabeth and Leicester who has been euphemistically called her "favorite". Griswold explores what this might be a euphemism for. There are lots of possibilities, but the author sticks with what is documented and what is credible. She also sticks with her focus, and brings in issues and people only as they relate to her main subject.

I did not know of Leicester's role in sending Mary of Scotland her second husband, nor his role in Elizabeth's French flirtations. I knew of the death of his wife, Amy, but nothing of the other two women in his life. While I had assumed his motives in this royal romance, I never considered his emotional state as he waited for Elizabeth with whom he had shared the experiences of having a beheaded parent.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Philadelphia Reader on December 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth & Leicester is one of the best books I've read (and I've read a lot) about Elizabeth I. Gristwood brings together a satisfying combination of historical accuracy, engaging writing style, and common sense about human beings and their interactions with one another.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By gilly8 on June 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
For those who are fans of the Tudors and especially of Elizabeth I, this is an excellent, very readable look at the relationship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, her life-long friend. This relationship has been written about and also fictionalized in movies. (Most recently the fictional "Virgin's Lover" by Phillipa Gregory attempted to describe their relationship---though her books are notorious for not being very accurate historically.)

In this book by Sarah Gristwood,the accepted techniques of historical research are used: old letters, both between Elizabeth and Leicester, and also those of their contemporaries, as well as diaries and notes written by their contemporaries. Gristwood paints a picture of a true and intense friendship, and, possibly,a love affair...as an historian she cannot make the leap and state that they were definitely lovers, though the facts as known seem to lean toward that supposition.

Robert Dudley and Elizabeth had known each other since they were both about age 9 or so,and their friendship continued during the years that Elizabeth was still officially a "[...]" of Henry VIII and no one would have expected her to ever become Queen of England.

During the political confusion after the death of Henry VII's heir, Prince Edward, both Elizabeth and most of the Dudley family all were interred in the Tower of London at the same time. (Dudley's father and brothers were involved in the attempt to put Lady Jane Gray on the throne; one of Dudley's brothers was her young husband, chosen as a puppet by his father, who planned to be a power behind the throne, along with Lady Jane's parents.) Robert Dudley saw several of his brothers and his father beheaded, and waited for his own execution as well.
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