- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 10, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780544577848
- ISBN-13: 978-0544577848
- ASIN: 0544577841
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #955,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince Hardcover – November 10, 2015
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“Game-changing . . . How history should be written.”
—Andrew Roberts, author of Napoleon: A Life
“It is refreshing to be confronted by challenging arguments instead of tired anecdotes. This biography is also full of unusual and interesting insights . . . What I am left with above all are haunting images of a scented room and a face dusted with alabaster—the living cameo of a most exceptional prince.”
—Leanda de Lisle, author of The Sisters Who Would be Queen, for the Spectator
“Hilton provides us with an accomplished evocation of a remarkable ruler. Her book is as elegantly fashioned and ingeniously contrived as those pieces of Renaissance jewelry that Elizabeth loved to wear.”
—Anne Somerset, author of Queen Anne, for the Mail on Sunday
From the Inside Flap
Queen Elizabeth I was all too happy to play on courtly conventions of gender when it suited her weak and feeble womans body to do so for political gain. But in Elizabeth, historian Lisa Hilton offers ample evidence why those famous words should not be taken at face value. With new research out of France, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, Hiltons fresh interpretation is of a queen who saw herself primarily as a Renaissance princean expert in Machiavellian statecraft.
Elizabeth depicts a queen who was much less constrained by her femininity than most accounts claim, challenging readers to reassess Elizabeths reign and the colorful drama and intrigue to which it is always linked. Its a fascinating journey that shows how a marginalized newly crowned queen, whose European contemporaries considered her to be the illegitimate ruler of a pariah nation, ultimately adapted to become Englands first recognizably modern head of state.
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Ms. Hilton also excels at analyzing art. Her observations especially on the many portraits on Elizabeth are insightful and memorable. Her narrative is balanced and fair. Her essential thesis is that Elizabeth’s life was shaped by three men: Cecil, Leicester, and Phillip II. She spends many pages on the intertwining of these lives. She also pricks some famous balloons: Apparently Elizabeth did not quote Psalm 118 (“this is the day the Lord hath made”) at the notice of her accession, and the famous speech at Tilbury following the defeat of the Armada (“I have the heart and stomach of a king”) never took place, at least in its most famous form. She dwells at length on Mary Queen of Scots (her head finally had to be sawed off, after two failing blows of the axe). Then Hilton spends several of her most interestingl pages on Essex, whom she characterizes as a dangerous also-ran. And the final chapter, following the “Golden Speech,” is truly sad, to see this once-great woman reduced to ugliness and disease.
This is a good book, highly recommended for the novice and scholar alike. It lacks the immediate appeal of Allison Weir’s biography, and Edith Sitwell’s “The Queens and The Hive” still reigns untouchable (though out of print, apparently). Nonetheless, Lisa Hilton’s book will provide a week of good reading and a generous contribution to studies of the English Renaissance.
Her premise is unique in that she posits the rather startling notion that Elizabeth never saw herself as a queen engaged in the thankless task of combating the 16th century's pervasive gender bias and glorification of male aggression, but rather envisioned herself as a paradigm of Machiavellian statecraft: a Renaissance prince in every way except for a prince's biological container. Hilton devotes the lion's share (an appropriate metaphor in Elizabeth's case) of her beautifully written biography weaving an intellectual and cultural tapestry of the 16th century.
Tudor history, and its inevitable tale of a king's matrimonial woes and the dire conditions under which three royal siblings were forced to mature under the shadow of the axeman, is merely the framework upon which Hilton carefully fleshes out the history and significance of the Renaissance in England, She emphasizes the period's intellectual and cultural response to the Medieval world but avoids turning it into an art history book.
Following her excellent overview of the birth of modernism in the rapidly maturing English state, Hilton proceeds to analyze the metamorphosis of England's queen from royal survivor into something like a lens that focused all of that pent-up intellectual energy into creating an age whose artistic production rivals (or even surpasses) 5th century Greece. Elizabeth successfully ruled an England in ferment because she embodied the tactical and strategic brilliance and acumen of Machiavelli's endlessly practical and amoral Renaissance prince. Intellectually prepared to be a prince, Elizabeth seems rarely, if ever, to have seen herself as anything other than a true Renaissance prince, and never allowed the accident of gender and the contingencies of birth to interfere with her political instincts, which were formidable. It is a fascinating tale and Lisa Hilton tells it with uncommon skill. If you enjoy intellectual history then I strongly recommend Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince. It is superbly written, intelligently presented and convincingly argued.