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Elizabeth – The Virgin Queen and the Men who Loved Her: A Series of Biographical Sketches from the Elizabethan Court
By Robert Stephen Parry
Blurb: The Elizabethan golden age was peopled by a court of flamboyant and devoted men – each one unique, ambitious and talented. At its centre was a woman, Elizabeth, the Tudor princess who succeeded to the throne of England in 1558 and who vowed to her Parliament to remain unwed and a Virgin Queen for the rest of her life. How did such a diverse group of red-blooded men view their ‘Gloriana?’ What were their aims and intentions? What were their dreams? And just how did Elizabeth manage to control and manipulate them? A unique blend of fact and fiction brings the Elizabethan court and its inhabitants to life in an evocative series of biographical sketches that will inform and entertain in equal measure.
As the title suggests, the book is a series of short biographies of some of Elizabeth’s favoured courtiers and advisers, including Thomas Seymour, Robert Dudley, John Dee, Christopher Hatton, William Cecil and Robert Devereux. At the completion of each ‘biographical sketch’, Parry rates each man’s accomplishments and qualities using a cheeky Tudor Rose rating system, which imbues the work with humour and charm. I couldn’t agree more with William Cecil’s five out of five star rating or Dudley’s four out of five stars, after all, he had his faults but like Elizabeth, we love him anyway!
While I enjoyed learning about each of these men and their love for ‘Gloriana’, what sets this book apart is that each factual entry is followed by an entertaining and lighthearted fictional vignette, where Parry brings the characters and Elizabeth’s relationships spectacularly to life.
As we’re told in the preface, the story of Elizabeth and her men is delivered as a series of lectures, based on a conference the author himself attended over a weekend some years ago. So convincing is Parry, I was certain the lectures and the Elizabethan manor house where the retreat took place were real, only to be gently informed by the author that this too was part of the tale! Parry’s ability to effortlessly cocoon fact within a story, within another story, while not compromising on the integrity of the work, will not fail to impress.
A clever mix of fact and fiction, this book will inform and entertain. At 132 pages, this little Tudor treasure can be savoured slowly or devoured in one sitting.
Oh, and there’s even a haunted element to add to the originality and magic of this book, but I’ll let you discover it for yourself!
My rating: Five out of five Tudor Roses