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The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire Paperback – 12 Nov 2008
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Ms Ronald regales us with plenty of swashbuckling... Her grasp of the complexities of the period is impressive... Breathtaking. --New York Sun
Susan Ronald guides us masterfully through an Elizabethan world inhabited by 'colourful rapscallions' and 'indomitable sea dogs' who roam the seas seeking plunder, glory, and new lands --:
Susan Ronald guides us masterfully through an Elizabethan world inhabited by 'colourful rapscallions' and 'indomitable sea dogs' who roam the seas seeking plunder, glory, and new landsSee all Product description
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But, as with all long-established traditions, there are elements of delusion suppressed by time. In a highly-entertaining but also thought-provoking account of the Virgin Queen and her sea-faring adventurers, Susan Ronald shows us the less romantic underbelly of the dawn of empire. Hawkins was a slave-trader, Drake a chancer and the politicians of Elizabeth's court, who underwrote them, often greedy and self-serving. Ms Ronald paints a compelling picture of an insecure, bankrupt queen in the first decade of her reign, looking for sources of revenue wherever she could. In these uncertain times, Hawkins and others saw the opportunity to serve her and enrich themselves. They were true entrepreneurs.
There is, though, more to all of this than plunder, slaughter and fights on the Spanish Main. Elizabeth was determined to make her country secure and respected. Not from the moment of her accession did she countenance being dependent on her erstwhile brother-in-law, Philip II of Spain. Theirs became over the years an intensely personal rivalry, fuelled by religious differences but also by two huge egos. It is hard to imagine the story of their 40 years of confrontation being better told.
Having read a few other books on the period this book offered a more personal and intimate view on how the power balance in Europe was dangling and how England dealt with it. It is a well researched and interesting read whilst retaining an air of a good story. Well written and a certainly worth buying if you want a flavour of England in the 16th century. As implied by the title, there a large portion of the book is dedicated to Elizabeth's 'Pirates' and their adventures, which is tied into the effects of these adventurers on the politics of the nation. The section on Francis Drake is informative and engaging, although with a tendency to side with 'the legend of Drake' at times (For a superbly written and well argued biography of a more 'real' Drake I would recommend Harry Kelsey's Sir Francis Drake: the Queen's Pirate).
Overall a really good overview of the Elizabethan era which manages to inform, educate and enthrall. If you're interested in the beginnings of Britain's rise to supremacy in the subsequent centuries, this is a great place to start.
What stops it getting a higher rating is my problem with the audiobook. Currency stated every time in Elizabethan, modern US and modern UK currency (down to the last penny) became annoying, and calling Lord Burghley "Berglee" raised all my hackles. I would have enjoyed it more if I had had the paper not the audio version.
This author manages; many sentences have clumsy syntax, anachronistic expressions abound. Let me quote from ch.38:
'London jewelers clamored aboard diligences and rushed to Plymouth were the sailors disembarked'
'Clamored' not 'clambered'? 'Diligences' in the late 16th century?
Susan Ronald is an American who has lived in England for 20 years but she cannot resist using terms like 'boonswoggled' to let you know how down-home folksy she is.
Whatever was her editor thinking of?
Put simply, Ronald takes a set of rich paints to the hazy blueprints of the 16th Century.
The book is a triumph. Taste the mind and emotion of Queen Elizabeth's rule
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