on 16 August 2008
Hibbert provides a factual and rivetting narrative on the life of Queen Elizabeth I, one of England's greatest rulers, and the last of England's Tudor rulers, with emphasis on her personal life, character and personality, and particular quirks.
The prologue summarizes the reign of Elizabeth,especially relating to Elizabeth's mother Anne Boleyn right up to Boleyn's execution.
She was brought up in various households, at different times, including that of her younger half-brother Prince, Edward the son of Jane Seymour and after King Henry's death, the household of Henry's last wife Catherine Parr.
She was heard, in later life, only to refer to her mother twice. While she proudly referred to herself as the daughter of Henry VIII, she was never ashamed to be a Boleyn and kept a ring that contained a miniature of Anne Boleyn. she also, on occasion used her mother's symbol, the falcon, a bird of pray in which the female bird is larger than the male of the species.
At the time of her mother's execution Princess Elizabeth was two years and eight months old. She was a pretty child far more closely resembling her father than her mother, with her red hair as opposed to her mother's darker colouring.
She was soon stripped of her title of princess and declared illegitimate.
Elizabeth who was an incredibly bright child, did not notice that her mother was gone but she did notice the change of her name. She apparently said to her governess. "how haps it governor, yesterday my Lady Princess, today but my Lady Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth must have grown up under great trauma , her mother executed when she was three years old, on her father's orders, all but rejected by her father and declared 'illegitimate.'
Elizabeth was well educated by her governess Kat Ashley, she was an accomplished poet and writer, she was taught several languages, spent several hours a day reading history and could play several musical instruments.
At the age of 14, living in the household of the Queen Dowager Catherin Parr, Elizabeth was seduced by the Lord Admiral Sir Thomas Seymour, and the author describes something of the sexual games and romps between Elizabeth and Sir Thomas, sometimes involving Elizabeth's governess Kat Ashley. Elizabeth was only a child and certainly could not be held responsible for her involvement in this fling.
She chose a moderate path being a sincere and devout believer but rejecting both the fanatic Roman Catholicism of her sister Mary and the severe Puritanism of some fierce church reformers.
AS monarch she was to preside over an England with greater religious tolerance than it had ever enjoyed before, with both Protestants and Catholics as her chief office bearers.
After the accession to her tyrannical older sister Mary, , who had hundreds of Protestants burned to death, hence earning her name 'Bloody Mary' Elizabeth, who was then nineteen, came under suspicion of involvement in treasonable plots and kept in a state of and was closely watched.
She was for a time imprisoned in the tower of London where she wrote "Much suspected by me
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth Elizabeth, prisoner"
Queen Mary's death, in 1558, was surely a great relief for both Elizabeth and the Protestants of England.
She succeeded to the throne of an impoverished divided country, menaced b both France and Spain, and with the able assistance of William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), she overcame all her difficulties including a religious settlement, fending off England's enemies and building up England's strength including it's navy. The book describes life in Elizabeth's court, and how she gained the love and adherence of her people. Elizabeth was the greatest and the best loved of all the English monarchs. The author describes how Elizabeth was intelligent, self-willed, brave and astute, but as regards her to her marriage and her foreign and religious policies she avoided decisions as long as possible.
The author describes Elizabeth's refusal to sign the warrant for the execution of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. To the privy council she asked "Can I put to death the bird that to escape the pursuit of the hawk has fled to my feet for protection. Honour and conscience forbid."
Mary's constant plotting made the decision inevitable and Elizabeth was practically forced by the council finally to sign Elizabeth's execution warrant, but with great anguish and remorse.
Much is described here of the Queen's court favourites who she lavished attention on, such as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, but she never allowed them to influence the nation's affairs, for she kept her own council trusting no one entirely except perhaps Lord Cecil.
The author expertly describes how she rallied the nation to England's defence during the invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The book richly and beautifuly details, how above all how Elizabeth possessed a dazzling personality that won men's devotion. She expressed this to herself when she said to her last parliament, as the author recounts, "This I count the chief glory of my crown , that I have resigned with your loves".
It as a very smooth read that remains interesting throughout and brings colour and excitement to a very exciting time in England's history.