Elizabeth's Women

Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen. Bantam. Sept. 2010. c.512p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-553-80698-4. $28. BIOG
Another biography of Elizabeth Tudor! Historian Borman (Henrietta Howard: King's Mistress, Queen's Servant) claims a new approach by focusing on the women in the queen's life. During her perilous childhood, Elizabeth I (1533–1603) seemed more likely to lose her head than win a crown for it. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, executed in 1536, left behind a toddler—inconvenient for her father, Henry VIII, in his quest for a legitimate male heir and to the two half-siblings who proceeded her to the throne, Mary and Edward VI. After such a childhood, no wonder that the queen had peculiar relationships in adulthood with both women and men. With women she was competitive and contemptuous; with men, flirtatious but firmly virginal. Borman shies away from psychosexual analysis of this suggestive case study. Instead she novelistically recounts the mostly unhappy stories of Elizabeth's browbeaten ladies-in-waiting and other unfortunates in the queen's life, such as Mary Stuart.
VERDICT When the historical record fails to dot an i or cross a t, Borman happily corrects the lapse here in her romantic history. This gossipy book will appeal to readers of historical fiction. Because Elizabeth much preferred playing with boys, a book about her women tells less than half the story.
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