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The Favourite: Ambition, Politics and Love - Sir Walter Ralegh in Elizabeth I's Court [Hardcover]

Mathew Lyons
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2011
When the adventurer Walter Ralegh first encountered Elizabeth I, he supposedly placed his cloak over a puddle and allowed the queen to walk across it. Thus began one of the most intriguing relationships between a monarch and her favourite. "The Favourite" explores the labyrinthine complexity of human emotion, ambition and ritual within the restricted confines of the Tudor court. Was the favourite a Machiavellian schemer who fooled the queen in her affections? Was Elizabeth willing to manipulate her courtier for her own ends? The Queen's affection for Ralegh would protect him but he would soon become the 'most hated man in England'. In "The Favourite", Mathew Lyons reveals a new portrait of an immortal relationship and a fascinating exploration of the many layers of love between Gloriana and Ralegh- courtier, chancer and privateer. Reviews for "Impossible Journeys": - 'Jocular but scholarly compendium of outlandish voyages' - "Book of the Week", "Time Out". 'Lyons' account is truly heartbreaking' - "New Statesman". 'The Book as a whole has a kind of understated magic' - "Guardian". 'Presents the tales with great wit and wisdom, and an undercurrent of learning that makes the whole project very attractive indeed' - "Independent on Sunday". 'Each story is told exquisitely and comes backed with exhaustive research' - "Sunday Times".

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (4 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845296796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845296797
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 785,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mathew was born in North West London. He studied English Language and Literature at Leeds University, where he also went on to take an MA in Renaissance Literature.

He has wide-ranging interests, but has thus far focused his writing on the intersection of history, myth, literature and travel. His most recent book, 'The Favourite', the first book-length exploration of the love affair between Walter Ralegh and Elizabeth I, was published by Constable & Robinson in March 2011. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed 'There and Back Again: In the Footsteps of JRR Tolkien' and 'Impossible Journeys'. The latter was The Folio Society's best-selling title through 2010. It was described by The Guardian as "a non-fiction companion to the tall tales of Italo Calvino's Marco Polo".

Mathew is a member of the Historical Writers Association and London Historians. He lives in West London with his wife and two children.

Product Description


The Favourite is wonderful. Elegant and intriguing - a seductive portrait of a fascinating relationship. I couldn't put it down. --Helen Castor, author of The She-Wolves.

Book Description

The true story behind one of the great love affairs in British history: Sir Walter Ralegh and Queen Elizabeth I. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Insight into Elizabethan World 22 April 2011
The Favourite is a fascinating and beautifully written account of the relationship between Sir Walter Ralegh and Queen Elizabeth I. The story may seem familiar with cloaks on puddles etc but what Mathew Lyons gives the reader is not just a well-wrought retelling. I felt submerged in the intricate machinations of Elizbeth's court, the plots, the characters, the political and social context. Ralegh emerges as a complex man but Lyons makes him come alive through meticulous research and a real eye for what makes people tick. Equally, I finished the book feeling that I had finally understood the whys and wherefores that led to the creation of the living icon, the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I. Reading The Favourite felt like being guided through the murky and highly dangerous Elizabethan court by an eloquent and erudite insider. Briliant.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabethan Adventurer... 18 Aug 2011
By jaffareadstoo TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
The Favourite is a well researched and meticulously detailed biography which explores the intriguing and fascinating relationship between an aging Queen Elizabeth I, and her "favourite"- Sir Walter Raleigh. Before reading this biography I knew very little about Sir Walter Raleigh other than he laid his cloak over a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth didn't get her feet wet, but there was far more to this complex statesman than pure chivalry. Most certainly he was an adventurer with an opportunist's eye for advancement but his affection for Elizabeth seemed to be genuine, and his influence on the Tudor court was significant. A larger than life character, Sir Walter Raleigh lived the life of a glittering celebrity, had he been alive today he would most certainly have been hounded by the paparazzi.
I found the book very readable, with a degree of informality that made the text interesting without being too arduous, and on a personal level maintained my interest and kept me intrigued until the end.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broadening the mind 29 Mar 2011
I enjoyed The Favourite immensely. Well written and painstakingly researched, the narrative goes much further than any other published works and gives an objective but clearly human view of a complex time, culture and relationship. The intricacies and factions of the Elizabethan court, the vivid descriptions of the reality of the historical context and life at sea ( especially ) and the very modern political machinations are highly illuminating and thought-provoking. I did not know, and was quite struck by, Ralegh's strong Devon accent which makes the conversations play very differently in your head.
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