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The Life of Elizabeth I


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About the Author

Alison Weir is the author of Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, The Princes in the Tower, The Wars of the Roses, and The Children of Henry VIII. She lives outside London with her husband and two children.


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.)

Royal historian Weir (The Children of Henry VIII, LJ 7/96) continues with the story of Elizabeth Tudor, concentrating on the Virgin Queen's personal (one could hardly say private) life. Weir succeeds in making Elizabeth and her subjects come to life in this clearly written and well-researched biography. All the important people and events in the queen's life are covered, and even those readers familiar with Elizabeth's story will find this an enjoyable read. Of particular interest are the author's speculations about one of the most infamous episodes in Elizabeth's life‘the mysterious death of Amy Robsart, the unfortunate wife of the man who was probably the queen's great love. Weir's take on this much-discussed subject is both fascinating and convincing. A good introduction for those unfamiliar with Elizabeth I that librarians owning Elizabeth Jenkins's classic Elizabeth the Great (1958) as well as the numerous more recent biographies will still want to purchase. (Bibliography and index not seen.)‘Elizabeth Mary Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA

YA-YAs introduced to Elizabeth I through recent motion pictures and seeking more information about her could hardly do better than to choose Weir's third book on the Tudor dynasty, following The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1993) and The Children of Henry VIII (1996, both Ballantine). Those interested in details of Elizabeth's early years could begin with Children, but this new volume stands alone. A short introductory chapter provides historical context while a one-page prologue sets the stage: the death of Mary I and Elizabeth's ascension to the throne at age 25. While Weir covers important events and issues, her purpose is biography, so she focuses steadfastly on the woman and her relationships with those who knew, served, and loved her. The question of why she never married is much discussed, and YAs may be surprised to learn how close she came to marriage-and with whom. The author shows an Elizabeth who is flirtatious and temperamental; capable, yet insecure; imperious, yet compassionate-in a word, complex. With talent, determination, able assistance, and the loyalty and love of her subjects, Elizabeth surmounted intrigues, jealousies, plots, disease, even the betrayal of a loved one to lead her kingdom in its transformation from a debt-ridden country of little influence into a major European power. It's a fascinating tale that is well told in this engrossing, articulate book.-Dori DeSpain, Herndon Fortnightly Library, Fairfax County, VA

"A riveting portrait of the queen and how the private woman won her public role."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"An excellent account of the greatest of England's remarkably great queens."
--Daily Telegraph (London)

"Weir succeeds in making Elizabeth and her subjects come to life in this clearly written and well-researched biography."
--Library Journal (starred review)

"An extraordinary piece of historical scholarship."
--The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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