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Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, October 1, 2007
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "The Four Winds" by Kristin Hannah
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About the Author
David Starkey is the Bye Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and winner of the W. H. Smith Prize and the Norton Medlicott Medal for Services to History presented by Britain's Historical Association. He is best known for writing and presenting the groundbreaking and hugely popular series Elizabeth and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. He lives in London.
- ASIN : B002HJ3EGY
- Publisher : Harper Perennial (October 1, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.94 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #9,636,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I have given this book to more than a few friends, especially parents of teenagers. To me, it is a fascinating portrait of a period of life we seldom see in historical biography: adolescence. In this case, the adolescence of three royal children, raised in perilous times, but who from birth know that they could be rulers someday - or killed if they made a false step. These days, teenagers are seldom taken seriously, and young adulthood seems to go on through the late 20's. This story shows what can happen when children know what they will become and are given the tools to meet big challenges.
Henry VIII makes the highly unusual - almost unprecedented - decision that all three of his children including the two girls will be educated by the best Reformation teachers he can find, starting with Erasmus. From their earliest days, Elizabeth, Mary and Edward focus not only on learning languages, geography, politics, music and art but learning to rule, gain allies, avoid the traps of enemies, and particularly to balance between Protestant and Catholic factions.
This last area is one where Starkey explores new territory for me, showing that Edward VI was far from being just a poor little sick puppet and a marginal figure, as I always thought. He uses the 15-year-old Edward's handwritten comments on his Will (Devise to Succession) to show how much he understood Reformation theology and politics. Mary I won't deal with in this review, but she has a story too, and leads a narrower education and upbringing.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is surviving schemes, negotiating her way carefully forward, and gaining lands, funds and adherents bit by bit. The scene where the 25-year-old young woman rides into London to take the throne followed by her many retainers is unforgettable. The story of how she personally designs her coronation to, again, balance Catholic and Protestant expectations and bind the country together under her in symbols and ceremony, tells as much about the queen she is becoming as any of the more usual stories we know of her later years.
So yes, I recommend this book not just for the remarkable young individuals portrayed in it but as a reflection on how we now treat people of similar ages and talents. Do we expect them to rule the world and to do it soon, or do they have to wait in a long line to be considered adults and leaders? Elizabeth I or Charles III?
'The Struggle for the Throne' details the formative years of Elizabeth that, like most lives, made her who she was much before her greatest victories and adulterated losses. She is a difficult character to narrate because it is impossible to take a sterile view--one either adores her, as every Elizabeth historian does, or one considers her overrated and overpraised, as the biographers of Isabel I of Castile tend to do. Dr Starkey admits forthright that he "fell in love" with the lady. I cannot praise enough the manner in which he emphasizes the importance of certain circumstances and certain events while criticizing others which are most often treated as integral without justification. This is an important skill to possess when studying monarchy, to know when and where the body politic and the body personal diverge and connect in the head of a prince.
Though I am familiar with Elizabeth, the writing style of this biography left it so I found myself concerned with the precariousness that overlapped her whole youth, as if I didn't already know the story and she could suffer harm at any moment. It is as much a biography on the later Tudor dynasty and their peers as it is one of Elizabeth, handled well so the stories of other figures are relevant with explanation as to why they were significant to Elizabeth.
I recommend this book for the sort of person who wants to understand Elizabeth more intimately, to know who she was before she was a woman corrupted and conflicted by love affairs and the demands of politics. It has indeed joined the same shelves as my cherished books of monarchy and I will hold it for the rest of my life.
Top reviews from other countries
However, there is very little about Elizabeth as Queen and this is not a biography which will give the reader insight into the great events of the Elizabethan age. What analysis there is tends to concentrate on Elizabeth's early life, and/or play down some her more controversial actions and policies. In general Starkey rather lives up to his own declaration that his description of Elizabeth is a biography of ' the woman I have fallen half in love with' .
Enjoyable enough- but further reading will be required to build a more comprehensive, and perhaps balanced, picture of Elizabeth's full life and reign
Starkey depicts the young Elizabeth whose character almost seems a complete contrast to the more staid, statuesque figure of her later years, and as is the case with all his other works, Starkey has the effect of depicting events of the Tudor period with wit, humour and a distinct modern feel.
His portrayal of Elizabeth's early life almost reads as a historical novel rather than a serious biography, detailing Elizabeth's early misfortunes with the loss of her mother, adolescent brushes with the Seymours and her intense sibling rivalry with Mary which led to her imprisonment and nearly ended in execution.
Her troubles were at an end following her accession in 1558 although she would later become the focus for discontent by recusant Catholics from 1568 onwards. Nevertheless as well as dramatising the events of her early life and effectively bringing them to life, Starkey also helps us to understand how the events of her early life would shape her views and reign as queen, in particular with regard to her compromising stance on religion and in her attitude to the men in her life.
Starkey leaves a bad taste in my mouth in his undertones towards Elizabeth as a sexual object. The psychology & politics of the character or a deeper look into her history in order to explain the circumstances that shaped her would have been more useful but I felt this was skimmed over.
Lastly, I wish someone had warned me that I needed to have swallowed a dictionary to understand this book. I am educated to degree level but the amount of time I have had to spend typing words into a dictionary app to understand some sentences is ridiculous. I don't remember Dr Starkey using so much academic pomp in his BBC documentaries.
Normal everyday people are interested in history too not just academics. This could seriously put people off reading the book. It is worth reading though despite my moans. I just wish someone had told me about the dictionary swallowing before I ordered 4 more of his books with Amazon lol