Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Alfred A Knopf 1991; Phoenix Press 1997; St Martin’s Press 1992; Anchor Books 2003

Elizabeth I ruled England in defiance of convention, exercising supreme authority in a man’s world. With courage, brilliance and style, she reigned for nearly forty-five years, preserving her kingdom from the worst of the horrors that engulfed so many countries in late sixteenth-century Europe. Anne Somerset’s penetrating biography of this complex and uniquely gifted woman is unrivalled in its analysis of both Elizabeth’s personal life and her career as leader.

Throughout her reign, Elizabeth was an object of extravagant adulation. She was likened by contemporaries to the sun, the moon and the stars, and acclaimed by an admiring french prince as ‘the rarest creature that was in Europe these five hundred years’. Even her enemy Pope Sixtus V was moved to exclaim, ‘She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France... by all’.

In private her ministers were frequently less laudatory. They deplored Elizabeth’s inconsistency, short temper and refusal to make up her mind, qualities which led one adviser to prophesy that she would prove ‘the cause of the overthrow of a noble crown and realm’. Yet they too acknowledged her shrewdness and respected her commanding intellect, and all paid tribute to her learning, eloquence and charm.

Was she a wise ruler, a cunning mistress of realpolitik or a hesitating, indecisive woman? In a vivid narrative Anne Somerset unravels the complexities of Elizabethan politics and brings alive the glamour and excitement of the Tudor court. She examines how it was that this peace-loving sovereign was drawn into conflict with imperial Spain; why a woman who was courted by the most eligible men of her day should elect to die a virgin queen; and why a ruler who prided herself on upholding the divinely ordained monarchical order should end by signing the death warrant of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots.

BOOK Reviews

‘Subtle, vivid and impressive...The fullest and best biography of the queen since the romanticized life by Sir John Neale’. Kevin Sharpe, Times Literary Supplement

‘The most balanced and impartial of all Elizabeth’s biographers... An excellent book’. Jasper Ridley, Sunday Times

‘I strongly recommend this book... The writing is a delight’. Peter Gwyn, Daily Telegraph

‘Exhilarating’. Elizabeth Jenkins, The Spectator

‘Lady Anne Somerset is an experienced biographer, a thorough researcher, admirable writer and a reliable judge of character’. A.L. Rowse, Financial Times

‘The most comprehensive, the most reliable and the most readable biography of Elizabeth...’ The New York Times Book Review

‘Finely crafted, abundantly detailed....few biographies have explored the depth found here’. The San Francisco Chronicle

‘An ample, stylish and eloquent life of the Queen’. The Washington Post Book World

‘A gorgeous tapestry... even readers unfamiliar with the dynamic personalities of the Tudor era would do well to start their quest for knowledge here’. Booklist

‘Totally captivating... A wry, convincing portrait of a complex character’. Publishers Weekly