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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 8 September 2010
I believe this is a book the first of its kind to delve into the power relationships between the women who directly attended to their queen's personal needs and the overwhelmingly male court of Elizabeth the First. Never before, because of the gender of the English monarch, had women of this social class found themselves wielding so much political influence. Elizabeth I's early life was fraught with very real danger because she remained the least cherished of Henry VII's children. She was lucky to have found solace from her wise and learned stepmother, Katherine Parr; but almost was undone by the scheming of her governess, Kat Champerowne and her ruthless stepfather who had designs on making her his wife should anything happen to Queen Katherine. The one complaint I had about this book was that the author seem to repeat verbatim the very biased pro-Catholic sources about Anne Boleyn without further scholarly investigation. Rather than spending any time on examining correspondence between her ladies in waiting, the Queen and various petitioners, Borman seems content to repeat how Elizabeth dealt with various claimants to the English throne, namely Mary, Queen of Scots, and the hapless Arabella Stuart. Interestingly, the women who served Elizabeth the longest chose NOT to use their influence to obtain favors for friends and family members. Overall, this book presents an original and fresh take on the court surrounding Elizabeth I but this topic could do with more thorough research.
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on 29 December 2009
Probably the best book I have read about the great lady. I really like the approach that Tracy Borman has taken - it shows a side to Elizabeth I that doesn't usually come across in most biographies. Still the complex, contradictory, sometimes vindictive woman that we've all read about but this book focuses on the events and the people which made Elizabeth the way she was. It is impossible not to feel great sympathy for her, particularly for the young motherless princess. The strongest characteristic which comes through, for me, was her loyalty to those she loved.
It sparked my imagination in a way history books don't usually. I found myself wondering so many "what ifs" while reading this book - what if she had married and had children? What if she had met Mary Queen of Scots? What if Anne Boleyn had not been executed?
This is a very readable, far from boring account of Elizabeth I and I think it will appeal particularly to women because of the empathy the author has towards her subject.
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on 1 April 2010
I have read so many books on the Tudors that initially I wasn't sure I would find much to interest me and I bought it mainly because I like the style of the author, Tracey Borman, but after a few pages I was hooked.

Concentrating entirely on a totally overlooked aspect of Elizabeth's life, her relationships with the women who interacted with her, from step-mothers, half-sister Queen Mary, numerous cousins who had a place in the succession such as Mary, Queen of Scots through to her governesses and ladies-in-waiting, the book reveals a side of Elizabeth unknown to me. And I didn't much like what I discovered. Her love and loyalty was bestowed only on those women who were prepared to admire her unconditionally and put her first in their lives such as her governess Kat Ashley, her step-mother Katherine Parr. Even this was not always enough to secure her appreciation as Lady Mary Sidney found out after nursing Elizabeth devotedly through the smallpox and having caught it herself was so badly scarred by it as to be unrecognisable she was then deprived of her good apartments at Court and assigned a cold, draughty lodging for which she begged for wall-hangings to keep out the cold in vain.

Elizabeth treated her rivals with scant respect: when her sister and predecessor on the throne Mary Tudor died Elizabeth insisted her epitaph be altered becuase it included no mention of herself and left Mary, Queen of Scots to remain unburied until her corpse became unbearably noisome. Being the much vaunted Virgin Queen made her envious of those women close to her who found happiness in marriage and very dog-in-the mangerishly determined that nobody should have what she did not. Nothing could be nastier than Elizabeth's behaviour towards the young daughter of Sir Robert Arundel, newly arrrived at court and naive in it's ways who innocently confessed her love. Elizabeth promised to obtain her father's consent to the match, only to refuse her own consent to the girl's utter devastation.

Elizabeth may have been a canny and astute ruler but as a woman towards other women she was generally a nasty piece of work although towards men she was charm itself as long as they worshipped at Gloriana's shrine and did not seek love with another woman, as witness the imprisonment of Walter Ralegh for marrying her maid-of-honour Bess Throckmorton.

The book is packed with fascinating tidbits of information overlooked by other historians such as the young princess Elizabeth painted in a group portrait of the Tudor family secretly wearing her disgraced mother's pendant round her neck.

A minor quibble is that the book needs more careful proof-reading and picture attribution. A portrait is identified in the Contents section as Elizabeth Knollys but in the text as Lettice Knollys. And on page 177 it is stated that the son of George Boleyn was made Bishop of Lichfield, despite George Boleyn having no known progeny among others. However,this does not detract from the overall fascination of the book at all.

Elizabeth's Women is an absolutely riveting read and one I literally couldn't put down.
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on 8 October 2009
This is one of the most interesting books I have read about Queen Elizabeth the 1st, normally they detail the men in her life, so this is the 1st book I have read that deals with the women that surrounded her both good and bad.
It is not a dry and academic book that the ordinary reader might struggle with (eg myself!) neither is it patronising, a really enjoyable and very interesting read.
Look forward to more of her work, she will now be up there with my other favourite, Alison Weir.
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on 20 March 2011
I really cannot help but like this book. The focus remains tight throughout on the women in Elizabeth's life and only dips into the rest to provide much needed background information to add to the picture of Elizabeth that Tracey Borman seeks to discover.

My only criticism is that Borman does not examine Elizabeth during the invasion of the Armada in more depth. All you read are the famous quotations, very bare facts and a conclusion which lacks any build up of argument. I do feel that Borman missed an opportunity to show even deeper insight into Elizabeth in this short but dramatically power-enhancing part of her life. To rush on to Arbella Stuart seems a bit pointless in comparison to having basically skipped through the absolute pinnacle of Elizabeth's reign. I am left feeling out of the loop as to why this topic is neglected......

On the whole however, this book is delightful, it includes extracts from sources in the authentic Elizabethan language and the author's examination of evidence is balanced throughout but not without inspiration. It does not feed a so-called cult view of Elizabeth nor does it try and deconstruct such a Gloriana obsession. It does however illustrate how Elizabeth created this cult around herself as a very sharp political tool.

I recommend this to anyone who is drawn to this historical figure for whatever reason, it provides a personal history of Elizabeth that academics seem to shy away from all too often. Too many history books try to be impartial to the point of dryness and writers like Tracey Borman bring much needed colour back to the subject.

Despite my criticism I still give it a 5 star rating.
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on 4 January 2010
You may think you've read everything about Elizabeth 1st. But this book shows there are new things to say.

This is a feast of feisty women, usually with Tudor red hair. Many of these stories show other women who dared to tangle with Elizabeth, coming off considerably worse. You wonder why they bothered to try - and marvel at their bravery, or desperation.

Here you can read all about their power-lusts and love-struggles, the secret marriages and the inevitable traumatic discoveries through their pregnancies.

Tracy Borman highlights the alternative female informal intelligence service which meant that the Queen often knew facts that male politicians tried to keep from her, through her ladies and the all-important servants' gossip.

She reveals how similar Elizabeth was to Anne Boleyn - in her intelligence, strong will, arrogance, and terrible temper at times - and explores Elizabeth's emotional links to her dead mother. as when in subtle homage, she based her coronation clothes and format on Anne's.

Tracy Borman tells interesting tales, which books with a wider remit don't have space for. I loved the story of the Swedish princess who journeyed for a year to see Elizabeth, only to find that a pretty young teenager in her retinue was snapped up by Katharine Parr's brother - in his fifties! Meanwhile, the princess's husband was arrested, trying to sneak away without paying their debts...Compulsive stuff!
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on 7 January 2016
Usual Tracy Borman high standard of writing. She makes masses of factual information,including letters and speeches, somehow easy to assimilate and enjoyable at the same time. A real eye opener for the fan of Tudor history.
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on 19 May 2010
Wow. This is the second book I have read by Tracy Borman in recent months, and I love her easy style. Despite having at least one other book on my shelf about Elizabeth, I was instantly caught up by this side of the story and spent the weekend with it glued to my hand - at one point my 2 year old daughter took it off me saying "my book!"... well, maybe one day! But it also brought home to me how the life of Elizabeth was shaped by losing her mother at such a young age - firstly to the tradition of the royal children having their own household - nursery and staff, houses and all - completely separate from their parents, and secondly from the actual death of her mother, thus losing the vital, interested party in seeing that she was clothed, fed, tutored... and then the nurse she had grown up with, who probably felt like a mother, was brusquely removed and given to her new brother, Edward! You can understand why she treasured loyalty and also why she probably exceptionally hard to please - so would you be if everyone you were attached to could be so easily taken away. Mother, nurse, stepmothers... What a life! And what a book.
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on 26 October 2009
This was very detailed and written in an accessible style. It was interesting to learn about the interlinking of the families and the consequent threats to Elizabeth's position from so many (female) contenders in the royal line. This is why it would have been SO USEFUL to have had some family trees at the beginning of the book.The illustrations were good, containing some (to me) new material - for example the locket ring owned by Elizabeth I and the 'recently discovered portrait of Henry VI and his children'. There is some repetition both of information and interpretation. Some proof reading might have avoided the misquotation on page 333 'I know I have the body of a weak and female (sic) woman' ('feeble'). The final two chapters seem to be composed of a catalogue of the young women who flouted Elizabeth and the increasing tetchiness with which she dealt with them: I think it would have given more human interest if, perhaps, we could have had more detail about the minutiae of everyday life and some indication of other political stresses on her. There are, of course, many comments prefaced by 'if' and 'perhaps' but the text is backed by quotations from contemporary documents and contains a section of reference notes and an index.I recommend it as a new slant on a well known historical figure and the period.
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on 4 April 2015
This is a very well researched book, which is also very easy to read. Tracy Borman's has the great gift of being able to impart facts in a way that makes the book very, very interesting and you feel you are reading a novel. I appreciated that she didn't jump back and forth over time but concentrated on each woman from the start of her relationship with Elizabeth to the end. This book made me at times feel very sorry for Elizabeth but at others I felt she was a tyrant and her behaviour to these women was dreadful. A wholly engrossing book, well written and researched.
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