Elizabeth I: The Making of a Queen
by Laura Brennan
2 out of 5
Elizabeth I is arguably one of the greatest monarchs and women of English history. Against an uncertain political and religious backdrop of post-reformation Europe she ruled at the conception of social modernization, living in the shadow of the infamy of her parents reputations and striving to prove herself an equal to the monarchs who had gone before her.
This book seeks to explore some of the key events of her life both before and after she ascended to the English throne in late 1558. By looking at the history of these selected events, as well as investigating the influence of various people in her life, this book sets out to explain Elizabeth's decisions, both as a queen and as a woman.
Amongst the events examined are the death of her mother, the role and fates of her subsequent stepmothers, the fate of Lady Jane Grey and the subsequent behavior and reign of her half sister Mary Tudor, along with the death of Amy Dudley, the return of Mary Queen of Scots to Scotland, the Papal Bull and the Spanish Amanda.
An account of the political pressures of Tudor times.
I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The title and description of this book was very misleading. I thought it would be focussed on Elizabeth, who is one of the most fascinating figures in English history.
Instead, it was a broad look at important figures during the Tudor years. Starting with Elizabeth's father Henry VIII.
I did like that it looked into the lives of his six wives, and they all had different approaches to being part of the royal court, with very different fates. The book presents that this was educational for Elizabeth, that other intelligent women use their own strengths, and show the effects of those around them. But the fact that the lesson was aimed at Elizabeth was just tagged onto the end of each piece, to make it "relevant" and in-keeping with the title.
This is followed by the reign of Edward, Jane Grey and Mary. Each fully-dissected, with heavy focus on the religious uproar this royal family caused.
There is also a lot of time spent on the courtiers and nobles who managed to gain influence, shaping the future of the English crown with their greed.
Each section is well-researched, and for the most part Brennan writes in an informative manner that does not get overly bogged down, as some non-fiction accounts can.
Brennan supports her writing with several pieces of first-hand accounts, including letters from the people she is writing about.
Most of these are interesting, but I did feel like the narrative lost its fluidity, as Brennan sometimes (but not always) includes annotations or her own thoughts; whilst at other times leaving us to read the raw material. Honestly, I preferred the unedited pieces, which could have been followed by a concise paragraph of Brennan's interpretation. Instead, I was left feeling like sections of this book were private notes taken on a History course.
I found that the narrative jumped around, both chronologically, and in the timeline of any particular movement/person.
Elizabeth I is a legend, who has been covered in books and media countless times. I commend Brennan for trying to take a new approach to describing the background influences, when Elizabeth was a shunned princess; but I felt that the execution could have been better.
Overall, I think the book lost sight at who it was aimed at, drifting between different characters and events that didn't always add to Elizabeth's history.