An Original Essay by the Author
Elizabeth I: An Endless Fascination
Elizabeth Tudor, known as Elizabeth I, has exerted an endless fascination over our imaginations, even in looking at her life before she took the throne in 1558. She was the only surviving child of the glamorous, ill-fated Anne Boleyn, whose passionate liaison with Henry VIII shattered his twenty-four year marriage to Catherine of Aragon and set off a cataclysmic upheaval that changed England forever. Elizabeth's parents believed that the child Anne carried was the long-awaited prince Henry had been denied; Anne staked her claim, and her unborn child's legitimacy, on the fact that Henry and Catherine's marriage had been incestuous due to Catherine's previous marriage to Henry's deceased brother, Arthur--a marriage which Catherine steadfastly proclaimed had never been consummated. Yet the child Anne bore was not a boy but a girl--a child of controversy, destroyed hopes, and disappointment, of chaos and uncertainty. Elizabeth came into the world with what seemed to be a curse already writ into her fate. Within three years, Henry would send her mother to the sword and remarry four more times; she would gain a younger brother, Edward, as well as an older sister Mary, with whom she would engage in a near-lethal collision of wills; she would face a daunting fight for her life that would test her mettle to its core; and she would, if the legend is true, fall madly, impossibly in love with the one man she would never fully have.
Elizabeth's struggle for survival in one of the most treacherous courts in history and the glorious, often turbulent forty-four year reign that ensued upon her accession have become fodder for our entertainment for centuries. In many ways, this brittle red-haired princess with the enigmatic eyes and spidery fingers--so reminiscent of her mother--personifies our loftiest ideals of emancipation: Elizabeth refused to marry and never bore children (despite numerous rumors to the contrary), sacrificing her body and her heart for her country; she was arguably as alluring as Anne Boleyn yet never fell prey to the pitfalls that Anne paid for in blood; she displayed the fickle, silver-tongued wit that catapulted her mother to fame, coupled with the cruel, sometimes tyrannical temperament that transformed her father into a monstrous figure. Yet unlike Anne, whose tragic destiny overshadows her intense joie de vivre, or Henry, whose golden splendor is muted by the horrors of his later years, we tend to forgive Elizabeth's foibles and her mistakes, indeed even her bloodiest blunders; we forget her carcinogenic eccentricities and look past her capricious excesses, because we recognize in her a nobility of purpose, a single-minded drive to succeed, no matter the odds. We feel that we know her, intimately.
Elizabeth excelled in a time when few women could. Though she owed a debt to those who paved the way before her--such as the formidable Isabella of Castile and the flint-hearted Eleanor of Aquitaine--and she shared her stage with such unforgettable ladies as the embattled Catherine de Medici, queen-mother of France, and her own cousin, the flighty, irresistible Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth transcended even these legends to become a mythical heroine in her own right, a figure apart from the porous mortality of her contemporaries--autonomous, instantly recognizable, inimitable, and uniquely unforgettable.
Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
The Wives of Henry VIII
The Secret People of the Palaces: The Royal Household from the Plantagenets to Queen Victoria
The Elizabethan Secret Services
Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery
Mary M. Luke
A Crown for Elizabeth
Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London
The House of Tudor
The Young Elizabeth
Edward VI: The Lost King of England
The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne
Sir Francis Walsingham: A Courtier in an Age of Terror