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Elizabeth's Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen's Court Hardcover – 23 May 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 462 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (23 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408808803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408808801
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 253,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Elizabeth, subtle and seductive, was also a warrior. Self-possessed, she was also owned by every gossip in Europe. Her virginity was a national asset, but a wasting asset as her reign progressed. Her body was the body politic, closely guarded but obscenely scrutinised, subject to adoration, speculation and threat. Anna Whitelock's skilful and detailed history will bring you closer than seems possible to this glittering, infuriating, fascinating woman (Hilary Mantel)

With the lively imagination of a dramatist and the rigor of an academic, Whitelock discards the chastity belt of conventional royal history and presents Elizabeth in terms of the intimate politics of her life (The Times)

Whitelock's fearless approach to Elizabeth is not like that of Essex. She, too, has burst into the bedroom and shown us the Queen in her most private state. This is an intimate history of the court and a brilliant history of intimacy (Frances Wilson, Mail on Sunday)

Whitelock brings a fresh eye to the significance of anecdotes and, in doing so, injects them with new life ... With this dazzling portrait of Mary's successor, she takes her place among the foremost - and most enthrallingly readable - historians of the Tudors (Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times)

A great story, told with wit and verve (John Gallagher, Sunday Telegraph)

An impressive and powerful debut (David Starkey on Mary Tudor)

Whitelock excels in her timely portrait of a religious fanatic (Frances Wilson, Sunday Times Books of the Year)

***** Anna Whitelock's greatest achievement is her portrait of Mary as a woman as well as a Queen ... complex and compelling (Anita Sethi, Independent)

Brilliant (Jenny Uglow, Financial Times)

A memorable portrait (Literary Review)

Dazzling and fresh (Sunday Times Summer Reads)

The fascinating story of England's first successful queen told from a unique perspective (Good Book Guide)

It's a rollicking introduction to a remarkable woman, who lived in a very weird world (The Times, Summer Reads)

Essentially a biography of Elizabeth I with a special concern for the Queen's relationship with her male favourites and the various marriage negotiations that dominated England's external relations until at least the early 1580s ... Gradually she won me over, principally by her very skilful use of contemporary quotations, and since much of the contemporary comment was extremely lively, the book became a very good read ... A readable and well-documented biography (Times Higher Supplement)

Anna Whitelock demonstrates that the ladies of the bedchamber exercised considerable power and influence in their abilities both to make suggestions to the Queen and to report on her private thoughts ... Some of the best parts are the material details of Elizabeth's domestic surroundings ... In places the book offers fascinating glimpses of Elizabeth I's life behind closed doors, and is enriched by Anna Whitelock's eye for the curious and engaging detail ... This is partly a book about gossip, and it is in these kinds of gossipy and flavoursome morsels that its chief insights and pleasures lie (TLS)

It's a great story, told with wit and verve (Sunday Telegraph)

One cannot fault Whitelock for her meticulous research (Independent on Sunday)

Whitelock makes sparkling use of the eye-witness testimonies of courtiers, who recorded their impressions of the Queen (Daily Mail)

A memorable portrait, though not one that unquestioning admirers of the Virgin Queen may find palatable (Literary Review)

The first Queen Elizabeth is examined again in this revelatory book, which seeks out the private woman behind the public image (Independent Best Winter Reads)

Fresh insightful analysis to a more general history of Elizabeth's reign ... Whitelock has skilfully pulled together a wealth of evidence, and the intimate parts of this study are wonderful (Tablet)

Book Description

The riveting inside story of the Elizabethan Court and the favoured women who tended the Queen

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent, excellent book. A detailed examination of the Virgin Queen's life, health, friendships, frailties and fears. Far from always being the Gloriana depicted in famous portraits, here was woman who inherited her throne after many trials and tribulations which clearly left their mark in her future years. Not least amongst the revelations is the fact that she began to lose her hair not long after becoming Queen, which was quite probably stress related. Biographically, we read Elizabeth's life with the benefit of hindsight, but her life was lived (as all our lives are) in real time and each new challenge that presented itself and each new pressure on her to marry and secure a Protestant succession had to be dealt with in hard circumstances, against a background of real and present dangers to her liberty and life. It is also clear that she was deeply uncomfortable with the idea of giving up personal control to a husband, nor did she wish to endure the physical dangers of childbirth.

She clearly loved male attention, but was probably also afraid of sex. I like to think that Robert Dudley, absolutely the love of her life, provided her with all the attention and support that she needed, without crossing that dangerous line and becoming a full blown lover.

At the heart of Elizabeth's story is the inescapable fact that she was two people in one: on the one hand the naturally aging woman, with thin hair, bad teeth and frequent illnesses, and on the other the crowned Queen, anointed in the name of God as the sacred embodiment of royal majesty.

The women who shared her life, who became in effect her family, knew her on a daily basis, and understood the constant pressures she was under, whilst still having to be England's beautiful and gracious Queen. A big ask!
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Format: Hardcover
Of all of England's monarchs none has been subject to such prurient and physical scrutiny as Elizabeth I. History has been obsessed with her body and chastity, from her very earliest days as first a young princess and heir to an illegitimate bastard and back again, right up to today. The gossip and scandal surrounding her physicality and sexuality came in a very real way to define her entire reign and her relations with her nobles, subjects, foreign ambassadors and fellow princes.

Elizabeth very deliberately played upon and enhanced the traditional dual image of the monarch's person, the natural body, and the body politic being one and the same. If Elizabeth's body was pure, legitimate and uncorrupted, so too was her government and right to rule. In the service of this she cast herself in a very specific role - ever-youthful, ever-beautiful, uncorrupted and incorruptible, subject to no man, the Virgin Queen. It is no coincidence that in seeking to undermine and destabilise her country, her enemies took aim not just at her physical body via poisonings and assassination attempts, but also her 'moral body', her reputation, via scurrilous rumours and gossip about lovers, orgies and illegitimate children.

Whitelock takes that dual image as the central theme of this book, exploring Elizabeth's intimate personal life with those who would have known her best - her Gentlewomen of the Privy Chamber and her varied favourites: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex; Sir Walter Raleign; Sir Christopher Hatton - and how those relationships impacted on her rule and government.

It's a lively read and an interesting approach, although with such short chapters it does take on a somewhat episodic feel at times.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a popular biography of Elizabeth which eschews high politics for the personal. Focusing on Elizabeth's ladies of the bedchamber and re-telling the stories of her various entanglements and aborted marriage plans, this doesn't reveal anything new but may be an interesting read to anyone only familiar with the queen and her court through fiction.

All the expected episodes are here: the youthful yet disturbing flirtation with Thomas Seymour, then married to Elizabeth's step-mother Katherine Parr; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Christopher Hatton; Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex; as well as the various negotiations for marriage with the royal houses of France and Spain.

The idea that Elizabeth's sexuality, body and fertility is especially under scrutiny because of her gender doesn't really stand up given the intense gossip and political concern over her father's, Henry VIII, own hectic love-life, though he didn't, of course, have to maintain an aura of chastity in the way that Elizabeth did.

So, ultimately, this doesn't do anything different with the expected sources or reveal anything new about Elizabeth. But if you only know her through popular fiction and the various TV and film treatments that abound, this is an easy and informative read that zips along breezily as it offers the historical picture behind the fiction.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beware! If you are going to read this book, make sure you can put everything aside for a while because you will not want to put it down! An excellent piece of work, and by far my favourite academic book. Literally addictive. I disagree with the other review on here that the book does not demonstrate anything new in regards to Elizabeth's femininity- this book demonstrates exactly the opposite. It enables us as the reader to discover the true Elizabeth, her limitations as female in regards to her body politic and demonstrates how Elizabeth was able to network with other women at the court, particularly through the esteemed role as 'bedfellow' of the queen.
An incredible book, there is nothing academically similar to this and I would strongly advise anyone with a historical interest in Gloriana to read this- you will NOT be disappointed!
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