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Elizabeth: Apprenticeship Paperback – 1 Mar 2001
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Audio Download, Unabridged
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The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, Good Queen Bess; Elizabeth I holds a unique place in the English imagination as one of the nation's most powerful, charismatic and successful monarchs. Elizabeth is usually imagined as the icy, untouchable figure memorably recreated on screen by Bette Davis and Judi Dench, but that vision of Elizabeth ignores the turbulent years of her early life, from her birth as the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533, until her accession to the throne in 1558 following the death of her sister Mary. It is these early years which are the subject of David Starkey's fascinating Elizabeth I, written to accompany his television series about the life of Elizabeth.
Starkey argues that in her first 25 years Elizabeth "had experienced every vicissitude of fortune and ever extreme of condition. She had been Princess and inheritrix of England, and bastard and disinherited; the nominated successor to the throne and an accused traitor on the verge of execution; showered with lands and houses and a prisoner in the Tower". He draws on his skills as a respected Tudor historian to produce a deft account of the religious, political and dynastic maelstrom of mid-16th century England that reads "like a historical thriller". The book carefully picks its way through the finer points of contemporary religious conflict and the peculiarities of Tudor court ceremony, whilst also exploring the formation of Elizabeth's character in relation to a murdered mother, a charismatic father, a tortured sister, and a predatory guardian. Highly readable and written with verve and pace, this is a fascinating account of the young Elizabeth. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Fresh and lively... Vividly told... He sets before us not only the woman behind the throne but the girl behind the woman" (Sunday Times)
"The best account in English of the early years of Elizabeth... One of the most zestful pieces of narrative history written...a racy read and first-rate history" (Evening Standard)
"What a page turner! A white knuckle ride through history...inspired research, from the clues embedded in the portraits to court ceremonial to the often circumlocutory letters" (Time Out)
"I found myself compelled by David Starkey's vivid recreation of the hazardous uncertainty of Elizabeth's early life, her successive exclusions from the centre of power, the studiedly ambiguous answers she offered her interrogators, her inevitable implications in conspiracies and narrow escapes from execution" (Times Literary Supplement)
"Combines a relaxed and unfussy style with a thorough knowledge of the period and a sharp eye for detail. Elizabeth's life makes for a compelling story and Starkey tells it well" (Spectator)
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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
Though occasionally the author's desire to give events a more contemporary gloss to the modern audience leads him to use some jarringly anachronistic turns of phrase, nevertheless this was a wonderful effort and his insights into the role of ceremonial in king(or queen)ship were particularly enlightening.
I'd recommend this to anybody.
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