The Life of Elizabeth I

B. Alison Weir, Author, B. Alison Weir, Preface by, Alison Weir, Author
B. Alison Weir, Author, B. Alison Weir, Preface by, Alison Weir, Author Ballantine Books $27.5 (532p) ISBN 978-0-345-40533-3
Hardcover - 656 pages - 978-0-345-43097-7
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-345-42550-8
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Weir describes herself as a social historian but admits that when chronicling the lives of the flamboyant Tudors, it's impossible to keep domestic politics and world affairs apart. One could hardly ignore the threatened depredations of the ""invincible"" Spanish Armada or pass over the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots as she struggled to seize the throne and return England to Roman Catholicism. Weir has already negotiated the complex matrimonial life of Elizabeth's father in The Six Wives of Henry VIII and the early lives of the resulting progeny in The Children of Henry VIII. After a lonely and often perilous childhood during which Elizabeth was once imprisoned in the Tower and was nearly executed at the behest of her half sister, Queen Mary, 25-year-old Elizabeth ascended to the throne when Mary died. The prevailing expectation was that she would speedily marry a strong man who would then take over as king: as Elizabeth herself admitted, it was commonly thought that ""a woman cannot live unless she is married."" Elizabeth did nothing of the kind and, as Weir details, she did quite well for herself manipulating the royal marriage mart of Europe. Weir uses myriad details of dress, correspondence and contemporary accounts to create an almost affectionate portrait of a strong, well-educated ruler loved by her courtiers and people alike. Hot-tempered, imperious Elizabeth has been the subject of innumerable biographies, many very good. But Weir brings a fine sense of selection and considerable zest to her portrait of the self-styled Virgin Queen. (Sept.)
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