20 June 2018

Book Review ~ Elizabeth I (Penguin Monarchs): A Study in Insecurity, by Helen Castor


New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Helen Castor admits this was a not an easy book to write, and is to be congratulated on fitting so much into less than a hundred pages. I like this Penguin Monarch's series, as the authors are cleverly chosen and have done remarkably well within the limitations of the format.

The subtitle 'A Study in Insecurity' offers a good clue to Helen Castor's interpretation of Elizabeth's life. Even before she was queen, it must have been worrying to have the shadow of the executioner's axe hanging over her. As queen, she had to put up with insults and whispering both at home and abroad, and threats of assassins. She is reported to have claimed she was not afraid of anything, but Elizabeth could never feel truly secure on her throne.

Dismissed by her enemies as a 'Jezebel' and a 'she-wolf', the most amazing thing about Elizabeth's life is how she managed to rise above it all. She told her advisors not to hold back secrets, but was prepared to send them to the Tower if they crossed her. This made her lonely in her later years, an insomniac with debilitating depression, yet Elizabeth ruled as Queen of England for forty-five years.

I visited Westminster Abbey and sensed a new connection with Elizabeth as I laid my hand on her tomb. I feel inspired to re-evaluate my understanding of her  life after reading this excellent little book. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Helen Castor is a medieval historian and a Bye-Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her first book, Blood & Roses, a biography of the fifteenth-century Paston family, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2005 and won the English Association's Beatrice White Prize in 2006. Her second book, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, was selected as one of the books of the year for 2010 in the Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Financial Times and BBC History Magazine. Helen is one of the presenters of Radio 4's Making History, and writes and presents programmes for BBC television, including a three-part series based on her book She-Wolves. You can follow Helen on Twitter @hrcastor

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