on March 26, 2002
A biography of Anne of Denmark, wife of King James VI of Scotland and I of England, is hard to come by. Those who read this book expecting a conventional biography might well be disappointed.
The author points out, however, that this is not intended to be a biography, but a "cultural biography." What this amounts to is an extended essay arguing that Anne, far from being the shallow and flighty woman described by most historians, was actually an intelligent, ambitious woman determined to make her mark on the politics and the culture of her day. It is an interesting argument, if not an entirely convincing one.
Some of the arguments fall flat, such as the author's insistence that the hysterical temper tantrum that triggered a life-threatening miscarriage was an example of the queen's resolve and power. Despite the occasional jarring note, an interesting pattern does emerge, revealing Anne as something more than the frivolous queen who glorified herself with extravagent masques (allegorical plays with elaborate costumes, scenery, music and dancing.) Despite the stated focus on the "cultural biography," what I found most interesting was the political turmoil Anne managed to create during her years in Scotland.
The author makes extensive use of primary sources in the 170 page essay. The notes are interesting, but for some reason, the author declined to include a bibliography. Some might find the frequent intrusion of the author's voice to be irritating. Observations such as these abound: "I have saved for this final chapter..."; "I will be arguing..."; "It is apparent to me that..." But since this is consistent with the author's style and stated purpose, this pattern is easier to overlook than it would have been in a conventional biography.
Recommended for serious students of Jacobean history and culture.
on February 23, 2003
I almost gave it 2 stars but decided in all fairness it did deserve 3. After all the reason I didn't like the book is that it was very dry, a lot of facts, and Anne isn't mentioned in ways that allow you to get a lot of info on her, as herself.
However, it DOES say it's a cultural biography so my disappointment is my own fault.
I wouldn't reccomend it for anyone looking for a biography or for light reading. However if your looking for info on Anne, you'll have to make do since there are very few other resources on her.