From Publishers Weekly
When Elizabeth Tudor became queen in 1558, her religiously fractured kingdom was in financial chaos and under constant threat from superpower Spain. How the iron-willed, financially astute monarch utilized piracy and plunder as a vital tool in guaranteeing English independence from foreign domination and in transforming a backwater nation into a nascent empire is the tantalizing focus of Ronald's (The Sancy Blood Diamond) latest effort. To wreak vengeance on the Spanish perpetrators of the Inquisition, Elizabeth granted swashbuckling John Hawkins permission for his first slaving voyage to Guinea in 1562. On a 1577 mission to raid Spanish shipping in the Pacific, Francis Drake became the first European commander to sail around the southernmost tip of South America from the Atlantic into the Pacific, and in 1588, he destroyed the invading Spanish Armada. Charismatic, massively ambitious Walter Raleigh founded Virginia, popularized smoking tobacco and spent the 1590s in a futile search for the fabled El Dorado. Authoritative, assiduously researched and with a knack for making the intricacies of sea skirmishes accessible and absorbing, this is a surprisingly fresh perspective on one of the most popular subjects of royal biography. 16 pages of b&w illus.; maps.
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*Starred Review* Biographies of the great Tudor queen abound, but this solid, even exciting one pursues a particular tack and thus takes itself outside the usual run of standard treatments. Ronald is interested in pursuing the life and reign of Elizabeth I in terms of her specific effect on the founding of what was to become the vast British Empire, which reached its zenith in the nineteenth century. As seen here, it was paramount for the queen to make herself secure on the English throne in the face of Catholics at home and abroad, who preferred her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots; in addition, her personal security had to be founded on the security of her kingdom on the world stagethe two, as she saw it, went hand in hand. The queen was, as Ronald has it, an "astute businesswoman" who realized that for state-security purposes, she needed lots of money. Although Ronald insists Elizabeth Tudor was "no empire builder," the fascinating picture drawn here is of her intense working relationship with the merchant and gentleman adventurers who, out on the high seas, would secure money for their beloved monarch, and, in the process, "inadvertently," as Ronald posits it, move England into a solid financial status that would, in turn, foster empire. Hooper, Brad