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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superbly informative
On first glance at this book, I mistook it for fiction and yet another novel about Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, and the rather lurid cover would certainly lead many readers in that direction. Then I had a closer look and found that it was a book of narrative history about one of the most famous couples in history. I totally disagree with the reviewer who dismissed the...
Published on 24 April 2009 by Ms. K. Johnston

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth and Leicester
This book has a very interesting subject but I found the read rather intense. There are so many different aspects being covered all at once and I found it a little hard to keep up at some points. It puts to bed the long held theory of the Elizabeth and Leicester's so called love affair and concludes that he was in fact simply a manipulated favourite. It also dulls down...
Published on 26 Oct 2008 by Queen of the mud


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superbly informative, 24 April 2009
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This review is from: Elizabeth & Leicester (Paperback)
On first glance at this book, I mistook it for fiction and yet another novel about Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, and the rather lurid cover would certainly lead many readers in that direction. Then I had a closer look and found that it was a book of narrative history about one of the most famous couples in history. I totally disagree with the reviewer who dismissed the book as a fictional account. Historians are perfectly capable of writing narrative history very well - David Starkey is one who springs to mind - and Ms Gristwood is one such individual.

Sarah Gristwood is an excellent writer who delivers the facts of Elizabeth and Leicester's story in a clear and very fluent way, and the book is full of detail about the Elizabethan court. As for Amy Robsart, that unfortunate lady's death will still remain a mystery. No one will know what really happened, although many theories have been put forward. One thing was certain: with Amy Robsart's death, Robert Dudley's reputation was forever tarnished and marriage to Elizabeth would have been unthinkable, much to Lord Burghley's great satisfaction.

An excellent read, and I would recommend it for anyone who is fascinated by Elizabeth and her world.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How much did Elizabeth's 'eyes' see?, 4 Jan 2008
By 
I. Curry "IDC" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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There are certain themes in history that have captured the imagination, whose heroes and heroines escape from dusty pages and occupy a place in our own times. At every point in between the same stories and people have their tales told, with an interpretation that fits the relevant age. Of all the kings and queens of England, one has held the hearts of her subjects for longer than any other - Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen.

Either by her own deft knack of public relations, or by the expert spinning of her advisers, the Queen of England was a legend in her own time. Her portrait was standardised, and is as recognisable today as it was four centuries ago. The idea of her being married to the kingdom, both her virginity and devotion intact, has endured through the ages.

Despite her successes on the throne, ruling over the emerging English empire, her relative religious tolerance and stable reign, it is her relationships that have taken the starring role of popular history. Of all her relationships, that with Robert Dudley, later Earl of Leicester, has been the most examined, gossiped and intrigued.

Sarah Gristwood has managed to write a book that balances the extensive source material, the voluminous secondary writings and her own views to present something approximating a balanced view. She admits that anything approaching the truth is impossible to know, but that by setting forward the arguments on both sides one can at least form an informed opinion. Gristwood's writing is engaging, silkenly weaving a rich narrative that evokes the complex characters at its heart. A supporting case of ambassadors, advisers and ladies in waiting add colour to the story, especially with her extensive quoting of ambassadorial despatches.

Gristwood quotes Henry IV of France as saying that the subject of Elizabeth's virginity was one of the three questions all Europe wanted the answer to. It still remains one of the more intriguing questions left forever unanswerable. But there is also more than just the titillation of the queen sexual relations or lack thereof. Gristwood works to rehabilitate the reputation of a man who was a key advisor and power broker in her reign. More than just the plaything of the Queen, Leicester emerges as a historical personality with quite independent ambitions and ideas.

One of the reviewers on this site has suggested this is "one for the fans of Philippa Gregory, rather than the serious history scholar." Whilst I would agree that this is not a heavyweight academic tome (and on such a subject, it probably never would be), I disagree in it lacking merit for those interested in history. Whilst it is true that the author's opinions are stated, she is more upfront in clarifying that they are her opinions. This is more honest than many `popular' histories that simply lay down narrative as fact, despite all history being subjective.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Affair or Life-long Friendship? Or Both?, 11 July 2009
By 
gilly8 "gilly8" (Mars, the hotspot of the U.S.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Elizabeth & Leicester (Paperback)
For those who are fans of the Tudors and especially of Elizabeth I, this is an excellent, very readable look at the relationship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, her life-long friend. This relationship has been written about and also fictionalized in movies. (Most recently the fictional "Virgin's Lover" by Phillipa Gregory attempted to describe their relationship---though her books are notorious for not being very accurate historically.)

In this book by Sarah Gristwood,the accepted techniques of historical research are used: old letters, both between Elizabeth and Leicester, and also those of their contemporaries, as well as diaries and notes written by their contemporaries. Gristwood paints a picture of a true and intense friendship, and, possibly,a love affair...as an historian she cannot make the leap and state that they were definitely lovers, though the facts as known seem to lean toward that supposition.

Robert Dudley and Elizabeth had known each other since they were both about age 9 or so,and their friendship continued during the years that Elizabeth was still officially a "[...]" of Henry VIII and no one would have expected her to ever become Queen of England.

During the political confusion after the death of Henry VII's heir, Prince Edward, both Elizabeth and most of the Dudley family all were interred in the Tower of London at the same time. (Dudley's father and brothers were involved in the attempt to put Lady Jane Gray on the throne; one of Dudley's brothers was her young husband, chosen as a puppet by his father, who planned to be a power behind the throne, along with Lady Jane's parents.) Robert Dudley saw several of his brothers and his father beheaded, and waited for his own execution as well. Elizabeth did not know what her fate would be; but it is likely, as members of the nobility, they were able to communicate, and perhaps became even closer emotionally, during that time of terror and random death.

When Elizabeth became Queen,several years later, Robert Dudley was at her side, and remained so for his entire life. Her closest advisor and most trusted friend, he also took armies to war for her, and did anything requested of him in her service. Their contemporaries were sure, for many years, that they would eventually marry. But tragedy in Robert Dudley's life made that impossible....not to go into all of the details of the story, which in part reads like a novel.

Gristwood does go into greater depth about Robert Dudley, presenting him as a serious, loyal friend, and also a very devout Protestant--closer to what would become the Puritan type of Protestantism than the official Anglican form. His life was full of tragedies, and his obvious love for Elizabeth was always just out of his reach, in terms of his becoming a husband and consort. Some other interesting facts about him and his family presented by Gristwood-----On his mother's side he was descended from the Saxon kings of England, who reigned long before the advent of the Norman nobility with the conquest of William of Normandy. On his father's side he was related to the oldest, most powerful nobility in England, more ancient and more important than the Tudor family background. He was a wealthy landowner, yet spend most of his adult life at or around the Court, attending to Elizabeth, long after it was clear she would not marry him.

A postscript tells the story of Robert Dudley's descendents, which is in itself the stuff of a first-rate novel.

All in all a good book, which can't quite answer, with historical certainty if Leiscester and Elizabeth were lovers, but gives the reader all the known facts to make that decision. Highly recommended for history buffs and Tudorphiles.

Fascinating story, good thorough research and very readable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History as it should be documented!, 11 Oct 2009
By 
Kenneth J. Morris (Burton-upon Trent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Elizabeth & Leicester (Paperback)
As a school-boy, in the 1940's, history was dull and lifeless, dreary and date-infested. Gray books, grey pictures and grey lectures/lecturers. Pick up "Elizabeth and Leicester" and the late 16th century comes vividly to life thanks to the research, literary and descriptive talents of author Sarah Gristwood. A terrific read, interesting, stimulating and, above all, enlightening. Those were the days! And as a P.S. this is a "must read" for any-one who has visited or plans to visit Kenilworth Castle.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Queen's lover?, 27 Oct 2007
By 
Lynette Baines (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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It's been over 40 years since a biography of Elizabeth I focussed on her relationship with Robert Dudley. Their relationship is fascinating because of the many unanswered questions. Not only, did they ever consummate the relationship, but also did Elizabeth ever truly want to marry him? What was his real influence over events? I've always found their relationship interesting because of the contrast between Elizabeth's actions and those of Mary Queen of Scots in a similar situation. Of course, the two women were different personalities and their political situations were also very different. Elizabeth, though, weathered the scandal of Amy Dudley's death (suicide? accident? murder?) and accepted that she could never marry Robert, where Mary, after Darnley's murder, seemed to wilfully throw away the many advantages she had accrued in her years in Scotland to marry Darnley's accused murderer. The bond between them was strong and Elizabeth drew a lot of comfort from the loyalty of her closest advisors, Dudley among them. Sarah Gristwood's book is an entertaining study of the relationship and how it has been viewed over the past 400 years.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A guilty pleasure, 19 April 2007
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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If you're looking for an academic history which is methodologically sound then forget this - but if you're looking for an engrossing, witty, pleasurable read then this is perfect! This is basically a fictional treatment of Elizabeth and her relationship with Leicester dressed up as popular history. Starting with Elizabth's youth, it eschews the political for the romantic, and focuses on her intimate personal relations with Leicester amongst others. The treatment of the death of Amy Dudley admits that we can never know what really happened, and yet lays out the 'evidence' in such a biased way that we know exactly what the author both thinks and wants to have happened.

I enjoyed this book enormously, but it's definitely one for the fans of Philippa Gregory, rather than the serious history scholar.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth and Leicester, 26 Oct 2008
This review is from: Elizabeth & Leicester (Paperback)
This book has a very interesting subject but I found the read rather intense. There are so many different aspects being covered all at once and I found it a little hard to keep up at some points. It puts to bed the long held theory of the Elizabeth and Leicester's so called love affair and concludes that he was in fact simply a manipulated favourite. It also dulls down the idea that Elizabeth was ever truly in love with Robert Dudley, despite the fact that it was always going to be impossible for them to marry. It is a rather biased interpretation of the evidence. It is none the less an interesting and informative read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Go tell the court it glows, and stinks like rotten wood." (Walter Raleigh), 27 Nov 2010
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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Sarah Gristwood has written an excellent overview of Elizabeth's relationship with Robert Dudley (created Earl of Leicester in 1564) in this very even-handed and well researched book. It is not entirely the romantic story of tradition and shows the care and caution with which one should approach the stories that subsequently surrounded Elizabeth and Leicester. Gristwood deals at length with the question of whether or not they were lovers. The verdict is equivocal, rightly so I think, since no one can know at this distance. The Virgin Queen was an image propounded, created and fostered and we have no real inkling of whether it was true or false.

Robert Dudley seems to have felt a genuine passion for Elizabeth, but then he would, wouldn't he, seeing as how being her favourite brought him great wealth and patronage? Their relationship was, at times, a stormy one and it is clear that Elizabeth used him as a blind when she was urged by her Councillors to marry a foreign prince. She often humiliated him too, but in private, and often in their letters to each other, they were sometimes very free in expression. One begins to get a sense that Dudley and the Queen had *something* going on as the examples pile up.

Elizabeth watched with horror as events unfolded when Mary Queen of Scots married Lord Darnley. The message there was unmistakable - Queens marry and disaster befalls them. The chopping block awaits. Earls, however, can even marry secretly and get away with it. This book dismisses the idea that they can get away with murder, since Gristwood here makes a rather convincing case that Amy Robsart, Dudley's unhappy wife, was most likely a suicide. But that might be wishful thinking since Gristwood is quite taken with Dudley throughout and tends to think well of him by default.

This is a very comprehensive picture of passion, politics and power at the Elizabethan Court and its central relationship is one of the most fascinating in history. Gristwood writes with energy and flair and does not stint with sources and a further exploration of some of the fictional treatments of Elizabeth and Leicester. I didn't feel these were needed since one only has to see Bette Davis, (Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchette, Errol Flynn, or Joseph Fiennes), in a ruff to know exactly into which fantasy-land you've inadvertently wandered.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth the First and her favourite Leicester, 2 Jun 2014
By 
Mrs. Valerie M. King "book vale" (Sussex England) - See all my reviews
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A great story although not as easy to read as some versions i have read . Still , it never fails to thrill and i enjoyed it never-the-less .
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascintating, 10 May 2014
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This is a period in history that just fascinates me. I don't usually read non-fiction but I really enjoyed this.
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Elizabeth & Leicester
Elizabeth & Leicester by Sarah Gristwood (Paperback - 12 Feb 2008)
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