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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Young Bess Jan. 21 2012
Format:Paperback
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. Unlike many royals, Elizabeth's life was full of uncertainty and insecurity. She was born Princess, demoted to simply Lady, until one fateful day, she became Queen. Against all odds, she maneuvered her way through the court politics of her father, brother, and sister. The daughter Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth had to live with the reputation as the "whore's daughter." The unwanted reminder to her father, Henry, she was shut away in the country.

But, it was in these country houses, surrounded by faithful servants and friends, Elizabeth was tutored and trained for greatness. Her education was equal to other royal children, but her observations and experiences of survival taught her the important of self-preservation. Unlike her mother, Elizabeth learned how to mediate the contentious and shifting politics of court life, and lived out the rest of her life as Queen.

Starkey brings to life the young Elizabeth. She is far removed from the iconic Virgin Queen of Tudor legend. Here she is a child, her future uncertain. Yet, it is these trials and tribulations that make Elizabeth into the formidable woman she would become. One of the best accounts of Elizabeth's early years, and an erudite examination of the makings of a great Queen!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Informative but shallow May 23 2001
Format:Hardcover
This book concentrates on the period from the Queen's birth to her accession to the throne and then, for some unknown reason, tacks on the bare facts concerning the demise of her regime in the last few pages of the book. Why?- As an American who did not learn English history by heart, but absorbed it as part of an undergraduate European History class, my memory was jogged by the allusions to the War of the Roses, Wyatt's Revolt, iconoclasm etc. But methinks I learned more from that undergraduate textbook than from this semi-biography, which, to use one of the more precious phrases of the author's, is a "sauve-qui-peut" of styles and objectives. The text is larded with such verbal flourishes...Pretentious?....Yes, for this book covers ground already covered and is short enough to be read in a day. It is NOT a scholar's endeavor. Moreover, its entwining of the speculative, the matter-of-fact, the sentimental effects a jarring effect upon the reader from chapter to chapter (indeed, within chapters). Nevertheless, the book does manage to accomplish its basic goal and give the reader an idea of what the young Elizabeth was like and the influences upon her upbringing that were to influence her reign.-But, to my mind, this is not a book for those seriously interested in Elizabeth or her era. Go to the books recommended by the other reviewers for that.-This book is for beach readers who don't like to admit it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars before Gloriana March 8 2004
Format:Paperback
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. Some of the material have been retold already but the author writes with certain amount of clarity. Starkey made sure that the reader understand that Elizabeth had a relatively good childhood, a wealthy landowner even before she became a Queen and her powers were quite considerable, probably enough for her half-sister Mary to take into account. This proves to be a very readable book and gives us a good understanding of Elizabeth's early life and how it helped shape her as a Queen of England.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thumping good read Feb. 13 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
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 was loyal until they died. Finally accepted by her Father at heiress at the age of 10, she came to love and admire her distant father. Her mental capabilities were prodigious and her wit and learning allowed her to die an old woman beloved in memory. She may not have been perfect, but she was remarkable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History At Its Best Dec 10 2003
Format:Paperback
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 for any aficianado's of the Tudor dynasty.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Substance O.K., style lacking
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. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2003
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A different portrayal of young Elizabeth
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... Read more
Published on June 26 2002 by Elisabeth Riba
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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