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Elizabeth's Court explored through an extremely well researched examination of her relationship with her relatives, her courtiers and her ladies in waiting. This succeeds magnificently in giving the listener a sense of the real people behind the historical figures. Doran is a research fellow at Jesus College in Oxford and one of the things that really jumps out is the enormous number of letters and other written records that she has studied to build up a picture of the personality of Elizabeth herself as well as figures like spymaster Frances Walsingham, dashing favourite the Earl of Leicester and close female confidants who knew her from childhood like Kat Astley. At the same time the author shows enormous skill in keeping the reader engaged as she recounts Elizabeth's rise to power via close brushes with execution, the high stakes diplomatic efforts required to manage her relationship with cousin Mary Queen of Scots (whose claim to the English throne was stronger than Elizabeth's but for the twin obstacles of being catholic and a Scot with close ties to France); wars with the Spanish and finally the back stairs politics that increased in urgency as she neared death and her courtiers sought to safeguard the political stability of the realm by getting a successor who would command wide spread support.
This is a wholly satisfying listen; it offers wonderful insights how smart, hard working, swashbuckling characters took England from a European backwater to an international power while also showing us Elizabeth's private life through her relations with her closest female friends. It's gone straight back on for a second listen. The production quality and narration are also excellent. If you have any sort of an interest in this period of history, buy this audiobook.
6 of 8 people found this review helpful
I didn't learn much new from this book, but it was a good review of who was who and what went on at court. I especially liked the structure of the book. It is divided into three parts: Kin, Courtiers, and Councillors, and each section is divided into chapters focused on small groups or specific persons. "Kin" has chapter on Parents & Siblings, The Suffolk Cousins, Mary Queen of Scots, and James VI of Scotland (her eventual heir to the English throne). Three favorites are the chapter subjects of "Courtiers": Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Sir Christopher Hatton; and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. The section has an additional chapter on the noblewomen who served as ladies in waiting to the queen. Part Three, "Councillors," includes chapters on William Cecil, Lord Burghley; Sir Francis Walsingham; and Burghley's son, Robert Cecil. In the course of the book, relationships between the various subjects and Elizabeth are analyzed and important events (the succession, Elizabeth's "marriage game," the Spanish Armada, the Dutch wars, religious dissent, etc.) are discussed in detail. In short, it's a nice primer or reference book on Elizabeth's reign.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The author takes a fresh look at this well studied chapter in English history. She focuses on the relationships of the various people within EI's sphere and tells each person's story through the prism of the relationship. It's a very interesting approach. She points out how a courtier had different boundaries than a Privy Councilman and argues that this forced them to use different tactics when trying to gain influence.
Unfortunately, organizing the book as sequential biographies leads to jumping around in time and main charachters from one chapter showing up as minor actors in another. This confusion is compounded by the English historical tendency for people to change names and titles several times during the course of their lives.
She jumps right into the people and events of the 16th century so you must have some familiarity with the Tudor period to avoid being overwhelmed by relations and namesakes.
I found it very enjoyable, if a little dry.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful