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Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne [Paperback]

David Starkey
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 13 2007 P.S.

An abused child, yet confident of her destiny to reign, a woman in a man's world, passionately sexual—though, as she maintained, a virgin—Elizabeth I is famed as England's most successful ruler. David Starkey's brilliant new biography concentrates on Elizabeth's formative years—from her birth in 1533 to her accession in 1558—and shows how the experiences of danger and adventure formed her remarkable character and shaped her opinions and beliefs.

From princess and heir-apparent to bastardized and disinherited royal, accused traitor to head of the princely household, Elizabeth experienced every vicissitude of fortune and extreme of condition—and rose above it all to reign during a watershed moment in history. A uniquely absorbing tale of one young woman's turbulent, courageous, and seemingly impossible journey toward the throne, Elizabeth is the exhilarating story of the making of a queen.


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From Amazon

The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, Good Queen Bess; Elizabeth I holds a unique place in the English imagination as one of the nation's most powerful, charismatic, and successful monarchs. Elizabeth usually is imagined as the icy, untouchable figure, re-created memorably on screen by Bette Davis and Dame Judi Dench, but that vision of Elizabeth ignores the turbulent years of her early life, from her birth as the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533 until her accession to the throne in 1558 after the death of her sister Mary. It is these early years that are the subject of David Starkey's fascinating Elizabeth, which was written to accompany the television series about her life.

Starkey argues that Elizabeth, in her first 25 years, "had experienced every vicissitude of fortune and every extreme of condition. She had been Princess and inheritrix of England, and bastard and disinherited; the nominated successor to the throne and an accused traitor on the verge of execution; showered with lands and houses, and a prisoner in the Tower". He draws on his skills as a respected Tudor historian to produce a deft account of the religious, political, and dynastic maelstrom of mid-16th-century England that reads "like a historical thriller." The book carefully picks its way through the finer points of contemporary religious conflict and the peculiarities of Tudor court ceremony, while exploring also the formation of Elizabeth's character in relation to a murdered mother, a charismatic father, a tortured sister, and a predatory guardian. Highly readable, and written with verve and pace, this is a fascinating account of the young Elizabeth. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The Virgin Queen's posthumous retinue of admirers is threatening to outnumber the acolytes who surrounded her in life; here, in a very accessible way, Cambridge University historian Starkey (The Inventory of King Henry VIII etc.) addresses Elizabeth's young life in all of its "aching vulnerability," following her from childhood into the earliest years of her reign. Eschewing the evocative extravagance of Alison Weir's Life of Elizabeth I, this book's 44 brief chapters move crisply. Starkey's account is innocuously populist: he aspires to telling "a wonderful adventure story," in which allegations of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Elizabeth's stepfather, Thomas Seymour, remain more spicy than disturbing. Still, despite his admission that he himself has half fallen for Elizabeth, what separates Starkey from other popular historians of the reign is his resolute avoidance of sentimentality. He presents us with a hard-headed queen, quite capable of chopping off the right hand of an obstreperous pamphleteer. He steers clear of the temptation to romanticize her as a national savior, suggesting that the restored Catholicism of the preceding reign (once described by a historian as "the least English episode in our history") was no less quintessentially English than Elizabethan Protestantism, itself eventually destined to degenerate into intolerance. 16 pages of color illustrations not seen by PW. (Dec. 2)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was born on Sunday, 7 September 1533 at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By JET
Format:Hardcover
As a fan of the monarchy and a lover of British history, Elizabeth I is my favorite monarch and the Elizabethan/Tudor period is one of my favorite periods of history. This book enhanced my understanding of the period and rounded out a historical figure who is, at the very least, sometimes romanticized and idolized.
If you're looking for a book that will give you a complete picture of the virgin queen, this isn't it. This book very thoroughly explores her life prior to becoming queen. Her actual monarchy has perhaps 50 pages devoted to it. Starkey does, however, make this clear up front. This book will give you a greater understanding of the woman who later became queen.
Starkey's narrative is chock full of interesting facts, but he is careful never to make it dry or dull. He intersperses humor and unique anecdotes throughout the book. He is a talented storyteller, even if he does use the phrase "willy-nilly" a few too many times. This book also contains two sections of illustrations, mostly consisting of paintings of Elizabeth, her family, and the prominent people in her life. It is a good supplement to the story and includes many of the best portraits of the period.
Finally, I would urge anyone who has the chance to see Mr. Starkey speak to not pass it up. I saw him speak at a signing for his other book on the wives of Henry VIII and it was extremely memorable and fascinating. He is also more than willing to discuss any questions readers might have about the history or about why he did certain things in his books.
Overall, Starkey presents a fascinating, unique, seldom-seen view of one of England's most beloved monarchs.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Substance O.K., style lacking Sept. 3 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I was a little disappointed in this book. The author could not quite make up his mind about whether the book was about history or of his opinion of history. Another reviewer mentioned the author's occasional irritating use of the first person in the book. If the whole book had been about his views, the first person should have been used throughout.
I have read many books about the Elizabethan period, and tend to believe that this author's take on Elizabeth's last chance at marriage, with the Duc D'Anjou, was completely off. It appears that she knew how silly the situation looked, but strung things along to keep out of a war with France. When it looked like she was stuck, she found a way to send Anjou to the Netherlands to have a position of authority, which allowed him to "save face." This is the work of a wily politician, not a ridiculous, deluded, love-starved woman.
I think this book diminishes Elizabeth's intelligence and political savvy. I believe that she guided the events of her day far more than the author gives her credit for.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A different portrayal of young Elizabeth June 26 2002
Format:Hardcover
During her reign, Queen Mary foiled several plots to depose her and place Elizabeth on the throne. Most histories describe Elizabeth as completely separate from these revolutionaries. The plotters didn't include her, even if their plots did.
But, once she assumed the throne, Elizabeth proved herself to be a master politician. These skills did not come out of nowhere, as those who portray her as an innocent bystander might make one believe. Starkey's book shows her connections to the movers and shakers of the period, and how unlikely it was that she was unaware of everyone around her's plans.
This book focuses solely on *Elizabeth's* experiences (for example, the burning of heretics in Mary's reign gets only brief mention), so if you're looking for a broader view of what was happening in the rest of the kingdom or world, you may need other books. I recommend Alison Weir's "Children of Henry VIII" which only covers the timeperiod after Henry's death (starting when Elizabeth was 13) and splits its focus between Elizabeth, Mary and Edward.
Starkey also goes into rich details of Mary's funeral, Elizabeth's accession/coronation and the transfer of power that I haven't found in other books. Elizabeth's actual reign is given pretty short shrift -- a few chapters about religion, and another chapter summarizing international relations and dealings with Mary, Queen of Scots -- but then, Starkey acknowledges his narrow focus in his introduction. This book is primarily about Elizabeth *before* she became Queen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Addition to Your Tudor Library Dec 4 2001
Format:Hardcover
**Contains minor spoilers**
I have been a Tudor England buff since I was a small child, therefore any time something about this great royal English family comes along, I have an interest. I was unfamiliar with David Starkey, but read a review of his Elizabeth biography when I was in England in 2000. I finally located the book in the States earlier this year. While the book is not exactly the most scholarly piece in my Tudor library, it is an easy read; did maintain my interest; and perhaps would also keep that of someone not completely familiar with Elizabeth's story. However -- and this is a big HOWEVER -- he does tend to write a number of sections as if believing the reader is already familiar with the topic in great detail. This is something a writer should never assume, and that tends to be the major flaw in the book. Mr. Starkey also takes a new look at some aspects of Elizabeth's life, almost to the point of gossip with some psychology thrown in. The one part he delves into a good deal is her possible romantic relationship with her stepfather Sir Thomas Seymour, husband of her stepmother Katherine Parr. He puts a new spin on this infamous episode in a manner I'd never considered before (suspected emotional or sexual abuse). There are also some other young Elizabeth legends he attempts to dispel, including the depth of her involvement in say the Wyatt Rebellion. I do not under any circumstances consider this the definitive Elizabeth biography. I fell in love with the now out of print Mary M. Luke bios a long time ago, and there are others I would also recommend: Jenkins, Plowden, Weir. However, if you're wanting an introduction to the life of this great woman, or simply an addition to your English history library, this book is one you should have.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Young Bess
Elizabeth's political mastery was not a born characteristic. Rather, it is the constant struggle to rise about her illegitimacy into Queen that created the great Elizabeth. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2012 by Anne_Boleyn
4.0 out of 5 stars before Gloriana
This biography by David Starkey tells a story of Elizabeth during her early years, as a princess and during the first several years as Queen of England. Read more
Published on March 8 2004 by lordhoot
5.0 out of 5 stars Thumping good read
A great book. After you read this book, you will have more sympathy and respect for Elizabeth I. A neglected early childhood, loved and protected by faithful servants to whom she... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars History At Its Best
It's both a rarity and a treat to find a history book that reads like a novel. Starkey's book is an amazing view into the early life and reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and a must-read... Read more
Published on Dec 10 2003 by Amanda Giarratano
4.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth For Beginners
Starkey's enjoyable Elizabethan entry is neither biography nor traditional history, but rather a fast-moving narrative that turns Elizabeth's pre-coronation life into a suspenseful... Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2003 by schapmock
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Read
I've read many books on Elizabeth I. This is one of my favorites. Its concentrated, well-written and leaves you craving to learn more about her later years. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Good look at Elizabeth's early life
David Starkey has written a good but not necessarily great look at the early life of Elizabeth, starting from before her birth and ending (for the main part) just past her first... Read more
Published on Jan. 11 2003 by "cptned"
5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth
This is a well researched and documented book which gives appeals to the reader who wishes to be both entertained and informed. Read more
Published on July 10 2002 by Hannah
3.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist author
While this book is quite easy to read and moderatly entertaining, Mr. Starkey seems intent on bringing Elizabeth down a notch. Read more
Published on June 30 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Okay, so you know how the story ends...
...this gives some fresh insight into how it all BEGINS! Told with an obvious reverence for its subject matter, this entertaining read has offers some particularly enlightening... Read more
Published on June 2 2002 by Nelson Aspen
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