Elizabeth's Women

Elizabeth's Women

Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen

Book - 2009
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A source of endless fascination and speculation, the subject of countless biographies, novels, and films, Elizabeth I is now considered from a thrilling new angle by the brilliant young historian Tracy Borman. So often viewed in her relationships with men, the Virgin Queen is portrayed here as the product of women--the mother she lost so tragically, the female subjects who worshipped her, and the peers and intimates who loved, raised, challenged, and sometimes opposed her.

In vivid detail, Borman presents Elizabeth's bewitching mother, Anne Boleyn, eager to nurture her new child, only to see her taken away and her own life destroyed by damning allegations--which taught Elizabeth never to mix politics and love. Kat Astley, the governess who attended and taught Elizabeth for almost thirty years, invited disaster by encouraging her charge into a dangerous liaison after Henry VIII's death. Mary Tudor--"Bloody Mary"--envied her younger sister's popularity and threatened to destroy her altogether. And animosity drove Elizabeth and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots into an intense thirty-year rivalry that could end only in death.

Elizabeth's Women contains more than an indelible cast of characters. It is an unprecedented account of how the public posture of femininity figured into the English court, the meaning of costume and display, the power of fecundity and flirtation, and how Elizabeth herself--long viewed as the embodiment of feminism--shared popular views of female inferiority and scorned and schemed against her underlings' marriages and pregnancies.

Brilliantly researched and elegantly written, Elizabeth's Women is a unique take on history's most captivating queen and the dazzling court that surrounded her.
Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, c2009.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780553806984
055380698X
Branch Call Number: 942.05 ELIZABETH I
Characteristics: xvii, 475 p., [16] p. of plates : col. ill. ; 25 cm.

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DorisWaggoner
Nov 16, 2016

Borman adds a new dimension to bios of Elizabeth by focusing on her relationships with women, though she doesn't leave out the men altogether. Elizabeth was taken away from her loving mother, and set up with her own household of, mostly, women. One of these was Kat, who adored the baby, and stayed with her until her own death. Unfortunately, Kat's judgement wasn't as strong as her love and loyalty. Better judgement could have better served Elizabeth, who returned her love. As Elizabeth came to understand what had happened to her mother (she was three when Anne was beheaded), and later Katherine Howard, and her conflicts with her half sister Mary, she decided she must never marry, or lose her virginity. If she married, she'd give up her authority and power to her husband. But she was a passionate, feminine woman, so was conflicted. She chose to pretend she wanted to marry, to keep her Council happy. She fell deeply in love with a man whose loyalty didn't match her own. Her brilliance led her to serve well, and she became popular. As her reign progressed and those who'd served her since childhood began to die, her woman were, by necessity, younger, no longer willing to sacrifice their youth for her. She didn't understand that the rules she set for her women were causing part of her own suffering. While Borman details what happens, she doesn't probe deeply enough, in my opinion, how Elizabeth undermined herself. The women weren't allowed to marry or get pregnant. If they did, Elizabeth's wrath was severe. This wrath often led couples to act in secret. Because the court was small, and gossipy, Elizabeth almost always found out (at least when pregnancy resulted). If she'd allowed for marriage and parenthood for others, even though she'd decided against it for herself, she might well have been happier. Her court would certainly have run more smoothly. This view of Elizabeth through her relationships with her women is still highly important, showing how they were important not just socially, but as part of how the court functioned politically. Elizabeth grew into functioning as both a woman and a "king," and became well loved, both in England and internationally. Well researched and written.

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