Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen

I was so excited when this book arrived from Amazon.com. I couldn’t wait to dive into it. After all, it promised a brand new view of Elizabeth I, “…portrayed here as the product of women….” The reader is assured that it is “…a thrilling new angle by the brilliant young historian Tracy Borman.” The author herself guarantees that she has “…focused the story upon those women who help to reveal Elizabeth the woman, as well as Elizabeth the Queen.” 418 pages later, I am still waiting for a revelation.

This book is only interesting to readers who know little or nothing about Elizabeth I. For the rest of us, it is just a tiresome rehashing of all the familiar stories. Elizabeth’s relationships with her half-sister, Mary and Mary, Queen of Scots. Her ladies in waiting, both those who served her selflessly and those who “betrayed” her with secret pregnancies and secret marriages, usually in that order.

There are no new insights into any of these women, their lives nor their influence on Elizabeth. The only original thinking in the book is a few brief pages on Elizabeth’s similarity to her mother, Anne Boleyn. Most biographers point out her similarities to her father, Henry VIII. This biographer looks at her resemblance to her mother both in looks and personality and how she used both to manipulate the men around her, again like her mother.

This single original thought could have fit comfortably into an article or academic paper. There was no reason to write a book.

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