Books about Elizabeth I

by Tiggered

Elizabeth I - the greatest queen, the best book subject. Here's where you can learn more about her

Some say that Queen Elizabeth I of England was the greatest monarch that the world has ever seen. While this statement is debatable, she can surely be named one of the most fascinating historical characters. Powerful. Learned. Charismatic. Not a lady to ignore.

She definitely fascinated me and for a while I toyed with the idea of writing a longer article about Her Royal Majesty. For that, I needed to do some serious study. Wikipedia wasn't enough, I needed books, books about Elizabeth I, as many as I could find.

The article never materialised, but the books, and what I learned from them, remained.

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List of books about Elizabeth I reviewed on this page

So far, in the alphabetical order, I have read and reviewed the following books about Elizabeth I:

Queen Elizabeth I by J.E. Neale
Elizabeth: Apprenticeship by David Starkey
Elizabeth Regina by Alison Plowden
Elizabethan Renaissance by A.L. Rowse
Elizabeth I by Anne Somerset
The Life and Times of Elizabeth I by Neville Williams

I want to emphasize the fact that I have read all the books mentioned on this page. This is tremendously important to me and my integrity as a book reviewer.

I have reviewed each title in depth on my non-fiction book blog, Bookworm's Cave. Feel free to visit if you want to learn more about any particular book.

I will be adding to this list as I read more books about Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Apprenticeship by David Starkey

Elizabeth I coronation portraitDavid Starkey focuses on early years of Elizabeth the First, from her birth to accession to the throne. In true Freudian spirit, he wonders how Elizabeth's childhood may have influenced her later behaviour. Since Henry VIII (he of the six wives) could not exactly be considered a model father figure (not to mention beheading of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn), Starkey plainly has a lot of material to work with.

The early years of Elizabeth I were turbulent. From a very tender age she was a victim of (and perhaps a participant in) complex court intrigues. She may have played a part in a conspiracy to overthrow her reigning half-sister, Queen Mary - true or not, she was suspected of treason and imprisoned in the Tower, missing an early bitter end by inches (if not milimeters).

Personally, I didn't like the book very much. The book reads well, but I thought Starkey assumes too much and presents his guesswork as historical facts. Still, he's a historian and I am not so who knows, maybe he's right?

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Elizabeth Regina by Alison Plowden

Plowden focusyoung elizabeth Ied on late years of Queen Elizabeth's life, 1588-1603 (from vanquishing Spanish Armada to Elizabeth's death).

She wrote a lot about Gloriana's (yes, even great queens get nicknames) courtiers. One courtier, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex gets particularly generous amount of attention, so much that I sometimes wondered who the book is really about, the Queen or the Knight?

That minor fault aside, Elizabeth Regina paints a wonderfully lifelike picture of the elderly queen. She appears very human, victim to the all-too-ordinary traits like vanity or jealousy. Readers even get a glimpse of royal dental worries, which is pretty much as mundane as you can get.

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The Life and Times of Elizabeth I by Neville Williams

Elizabeth I in regal fineryWilliams's account covers all of Elizabeth's life, from start to finish. The book is relatively short, around 300 pages, so there's no space for any detailed analysis, but as a primer in Elizabethan knowledge, it is highly satisfactory. A little bit of everything, one might say.

A very good title for younger readers - a sketch of Elisabeth's biography and plenty of pretty pictures. Graphically, the book is fantastic. Photographs of royal mansions, authentic documents from the era and reproductions of paintings are printed in colour on high quality paper and together are a great help to reader's imagination.

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The Elizabethan Renaissance by A.L. Rowse

Elizabeth IHere's a book not exactly about queen Elizabeth herself, but about her surroundings. It is subtitled The Life of The Society and this pretty much sums up the content. If you ever wondered what everyday reality looked like in the Elizabethan England, A.L. Rowse's book is the one you should turn to for the answer. It is full of spicy details (e.g. snapshots of intimate lives of Elizabeth's courtiers), but it is not a tabloid-style publication - A.L. Rowse was one of the most famous (and serious!) British historians, so you can be sure that all the information is properly backed up.

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Queen Elizabeth I by J.E. Neale

Elizabeth INeale's Queen Elizabeth I is my favourite biography of Her Royal Majesty so far. Well-written, based on sound research, dynamic and educating - what more can you ask for?

It came as a surprise, because the book is almost a century old. When first published (1933), it was titled simply Queen Elizabeth - almost twenty years had to pass before another Elizabeth ascended to the throne and adding the number became necessary.

Well, there's nothing like the old school. Queen Elizabeth I is a masterpiece.

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Elizabeth I by Anne Somerset

Of truly brick-like dimensions, Somerset's biography is the most detailed book about Elizabeth the First that I've ever seen. After its 700 pages you will know pretty much everything there is to know about Her Majesty.

A well-balanced and rather conservative account of Elizabeth's life, Elizabeth I reads quickly despite its size. All the twisted political stuff is beautifully clarified, without boring the reader to death.

A special treat for fashion-conscious ladies: the book includes detailed analysis of the Queen's wardrobe and jewellery stand :)

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Updated: 04/08/2013, Tiggered
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Tiggered on 03/24/2013

You're likely to find some (or most) of them, I got mine from Irish libraries :) Glad you liked the review, hope you'll like the books as well

Mira on 03/24/2013

They all sound very interesting, approaching the topic from various angles. Thank you for the review. I will look for them at the local British library, see what I can find.

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