Saturday, 3 May 2008

The First Elizabeth

The First Elizabeth, a biography of Elizabeth I of England, starts out a bit wobbly. It starts with the story of her mother Anne Boleyn, and her downfall. One negative point stuck in my mind. During the coronation parade, Erickson refers to Anne Boleyn as bearing the marks of scrofula on her neck. I have not read this anywhere else before! And scrofula is tuberculosis in the lymph nodes of the neck. We know that Henry VIII was quite paranoid and abhorrent in regards to infectious disease, and I think it unlikely that Anne would have suffered from this condition. The comment is also not referenced. This appears on the second page of the book! Not a great start...

However, I am not one to discard a book lightly and I am so glad that I did not throw this one at the wall! The book is full of lovely details about the way of life during the Elizabethan age, telling the story of Elizabeth, but also extending it to include a great overview of some of the notable personages of the time. The last part of the book did seem a light bit rushed, with the period of Robert Devereaux Earl of Essex, being quite brief, and the time period skipping from the death of Robert Dudley directly to Essex, a period that spans some 9 years if I recall.

But having read a number of biographies of Elizabeth, it was really the details of life that shone in this book. The politics and religion of the time are nicely handled for a lay reader such as me, and the inclusion of details such as manner of dress, food, the distribution of gossip through the taverns and from the printing press, make this a recommended read in the end.

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