Top critical review
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An engaging and witty account of the reign of Elizabeth I
on 2 January 2012
I enjoyed reading this account on the life of Elizabeth, which deigned to cover her entire documented life from her beginnings, adolescence, to the triumph of her accession, troubles with the Catholic recusants and Mary Queen of Scots to her potential matrimonial woes and the final years of her reign.
Weir does well to cover such a complicated and long period as Elizabeth's life was, within a single volume.
In particular, I found Weir's depiction of Elizabeth's relationships with her long standing favourite Robert Dudley and later the Earl of Essex fascinating and illuminating. Similarly, her relationships with her councillors such as the loyal William Cecil and later her trusted advisor, Francis Walsingham are also scrutinised in lucid detail and the way these depictions are interwoven with unfolding events such as the speculation surrounding the death of Amy Robsart, her quest for a suitable husband and the intrigues of Mary Stuart are particularly impressive indeed. Weir also cautiously espouses some new yet very interesting theories surrounding key events of Elizabeth's reign. A few of these relate to the circumstances concerning Amy Robsart, Mary Stuart and the Earl of Essex.
There are also humorous moments throughout the book and nowhere is this more true than in Weir's vivid and engaging portrayal of Elizabeth's endless quest for a suitable husband who would serve her personal needs in the fullfilment of an heir without threatening her personal autonomy and sovereignty. As it was, none presented himself or else, Elizabeth was too fussy, nevertheless Elizabeth appeared to commit herself to several eager suitors on many different occasions before eventually, pulling back from the brink. She would refine the art of keeping her suitors, her council and her country guessing.
My only criticims with regard to this book relate to the fact that as with the Six Wives, some accounts may well be dubious and not thoroughly substantiated. Also, the book is rather short considering that it is a biography of Elizabeth's entire documented life. I also feel that Weir should have deployed a more impartial analysis of Mary, Queen of Scots, and explored perhaps Mary's side of the story.
However, on the whole, I found this to be an entertaining, readable and witty account of Elizabeth's early life and in particular, her reign.