Sunday, October 25, 2009


A recent trip to Borders (armed with some skimpy coupon - enough to stimulate an outlay of cash) brought two books about Elizabeth, the last Tudor. "Elizabeth and Leicester" by Sarah Gristwood, and "Elizabeth - The Struggle for the Throne" by David Starkey. Together they formed a good introduction to her youth, heart, and reign.

No surprise that she eluded marriage - though for a time it was a very near thing - with her father's disastrous unions, the popular condemnation of her sister Mary's being knotted with Philip of Spain and Mary's hysterical behavior thereby, and the observation of Mary Queen of Scots letting her heart rule her head. Better to be the unattainable as a focus of courtly love affairs. Better to be in control of her status, especially since her youth held dangers, in and out of legitimacy and later the figure around which plots to overthrow the throne throve.

Elizabeth, named after her grandmother Elizabeth of York, "vain and clever", was a fascinating sovereign with a taste for the theatrical that stands alongside the great theatrical works and performances of her era. Ferociously educated, deeply thoughtful in her caution, maybe England's greatest ruler. I am glad to have met you through well written popular history.