Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Elizabeth” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  9,847 ratings  ·  225 reviews
A woman in a man's world, confident of her destiny to reign, intensely intelligent, passionately sexual yet (she said) a virgin, Elizabeth was to become England's most successful ruler. Finding her way through the labyrinthine plots that surrounded the court, she had to live by her wits, surrounded by betrayal and suspicion, not knowing who to trust with her desire to be q ...more
Paperback, 325 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2000)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Elizabeth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Elizabeth

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Erik Graff
Jan 16, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anglo-Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
Learned, opinionated and witty--this is an excellent biography of Elizabeth I's early years. While some knowledge of British and European history in the sixteenth century is presumed, this book should not be beyond the reach of a high school student. Indeed, unlike many other historians of the period, Starkey is usually careful to provide definitions--either directly or by context--of some of the more archaic terms which vividly color his portrayal of the behaviors of aristocrats and high church ...more
Jul 19, 2007 Jodi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves the monarchy!
Shelves: biography
David Starkey is the man! He really brings Elizabeth to life with a respectful depiction of her reign yet he is not afraid to point out her faults (although I don't think the beheading of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots was really a fault - that slut would not quit trying to undermine Elizabeths crown!) This book makes history fun - who would have thought it?
Just arrived from Finland through BM.

This book gives an excellent biography of Elizabeth and how the transition between Catholicism to Protestantism was made in England during the 16th century.
C.S. Burrough
Jul 27, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History readers
There's something to be said of the feministic slant common among Elizabeth's female biographers which make this sometimes-princess, sometimes-not a sympathetic young character. Just being Anne Boleyn's daughter would have been problematic for any individual regardless of character and circumstances. We recognise that these female biographers have done their job when we're compelled to empathise with the young Elizabeth. Such personal connection allows us special access into her psyche.

I was uns
I find Tudor history to be fascinating. I have always been a big fan of the Tudors. Elizabeth I is a particularly fascinating historical figure. This historical biography mainly concerns Elizabeth as a young woman. In fact it is around page 238 before Elizabeth becomes queen. Therefore we find out a huge amount about Elizabeth in the years of Edward VI’s, and Mary’s reigns. The political and religious upheaval of the time, was complex, and David Starkey shows just how attune to it all Elizabeth ...more
Wow... for a nonfiction highly scholarly biography, this is a surprisingly excellent read. Extensively and intimately researched. I am completely enraptured by this time period and the behind-the-scenes politics and personalities that steered the English ship of state this way and that. This is a fascinating portrait of Elizabeth - focusing almost entirely on her years from birth to ascending the throne (thereafter ruling for 45 years). While I have read many books on the subject, this one is th ...more
David Starkey writes with the assumption that he is always right. He never argues his point, just states it while dismissing other historian's research. I love the subject matter, but cannot bear his tone.
Rebecca Huston
One of the better,and more accessible biographies about Elizabeth I, focusing more on her life as a child and adolescent, during the reigns of her father, Henry VIII, her younger brother Edward VI, and elder sister, Mary I. Quite a bit is devoted to the scandal about Thomas Seymour, and later, Thomas Wyatt's rebellion. Recommended. Five stars overall.

For the longer review, please go here:
The author has feelings for his subject and it makes this a more interesting read, it flavors the history. There was a lot to of interesting politics that make such an impact on the children of Henry the VIII.
I've read a lot of books about Elizabeth, but I think this is the best one. It has a really strong voice, really brings out Elizabeth when faced with some conflicting depictions, and has a very strong evidential basis for the work. My favorite thing about it is how Starkey will present all the sides of an issue (whether it's about how Elizabeth reacted to a situation, if an event actually happened, if it happened like it's popularly told, etc) and then show why one view is more plausible than th ...more
Samantha Bee
Maybe actually 2.5 stars...
I had never picked up a David Starkey book before, though I had watched him on BBC shows. I figured I'd enjoy this, and for a little while I did. But every once in a while I'd come across a sentence where it was so obviously a man writing about a woman, that I'd just be put off. Something just so minutely… and I don't want to say sexist, but yeah, it kind of was. Starkey also proceeded to knock down everything other historians said that he didn't agree with, sometimes
Well, I read about as much as I want to read. Does it count if I don't finish reading a book?

If you read one biography/history of Elizabeth I, don't make it this one. Maybe this could be the fifth or sixth. The author is arguing against other historical opinions, so this book doesn't tell you a lot if you are not already very familiar with Elizabeth's life and the various interpretations of it. For example, he spends several pages explaining the conclusions we should really draw from a letter fr
A very thorough examination of Elizabeth's formative years before gaining the throne that manages, for the most part, to avoid getting tangled up in all the titles and and descendants of various nobles. (No small task or easy feat. This has tripped up some other very good writers.) An intriguing read that only goes dry near the end, once Elizabeth is Queen and Starkey is wrapping up his narrative; it seems he lost interest as soon as the crown was on her head. Fair enough, as he states point-bla ...more
Starkey's biography of the early life of Britain's greatest Queen, Elizabeth I, reads in several places almost like a historical thriller. He concentrates especially on the motivations of the central characters, why they did things as well as what they actually did. The intricacies of the religious bickering was quite difficult for me to follow, but I am now much clearer on the main arguments and how seriously the different factions felt about what in some cases seems to be trivial word differen ...more
Graveyard Sally
the author thinks very highly of himself and it comes across in his writing. slips into first person far too often - "i think" this, and "i see" that. he criticizes other biographers far too often. beyond his arrogance, it is a difficult read and his telling of courtly intrigue is dizzying at best. it is interesting to learn about elizabeth's formative years and her road to the throne, but i would have preferred to read more about her life and less about starkey's opinions on tudor life.
In his introduction David Starkey writes "Almost all her historians fall a little in love with Elizabeth." What a thing to say. I'm not being jealous or anything but it's not just historians who fall in love with Gloriana, Mr Starkey. One doesn't really have to be a scholar to be swept away by the Virgin Queen's extraordinary personality. This is evident even by contemporary sources, even before Elizabeth Tudor was crowned Queen. 'Many remarkable sixteenth-century women (and men) found themselve ...more
Jan Hayes

David Starkey has become a favorite historian /writer of mine. I find his style is approachable and he makes the characters come alive. His books are well-researched and he cites sources within the text when describing controversial actions or decisions of the character. With so many books & films on Tudors, I was surprised to learn that there are many holes in documentation of that time.
This was such a good biography of Elizabeth. Most people concentrate on her reign but Starkey concentrated on her ascension and her childhood. It was so interesting to see how she interacted with her father and her multiple mothers and even her brother. She handled a lot of persecution in her life and you realize how intelligent and bold she had to be to accomplish all that she did.
Calypso Kenney
David Starkey is a beautiful writer, and this book was engaging and treated the reader as a capable armchair historian. So the tone was great. However, this was more about the people in Elizabeth's life than it was about her. Also the author's voice comes through a lot. We see the author's own character and the modern world reflected in Elizabeth's character, when in reality the gradations of her character and emotions are not facts and never will be. Even Elizabeth's own letters were highly orc ...more
Jeni Enjaian
Once again, I wish I had reviewed this book right away instead of waiting three days. Oh well.
Having read one of Starkey's other works, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, I expected at least a decent piece of historiography. I got that and then some. I appreciated the familiarity with the topic that reading that previous book gave. I also appreciated the sense of "filling in the spaces" that this book gave to some of the events of the overlapping timelines.
While Starkey focused on Elizabeth's clear st
Overall - a very interesting book on the early life of Elizabeth I. This is one of the first historical non-fiction biographies I've read...I think. It sort of makes you realize how hard it is to glean actual, concrete information about people ~450yrs ago. For example, Starkey used event inventories and journals of other people to accurately assess where Elizabeth was and when and for how long. While it might not seem consequential, it made a lot of difference during a time when conspiracies and ...more
First, a caveat: the book that I read had only "Elizabeth" as its title on the cover. Once inside, it turns out that it is called "Elizabeth - apprenticeship" and that it deals exclusively with the early, formative years. That cheap attempt at deception wasn't necessary, though, because the story of how Elizabeth went back and forth from being a legitimate heir to a bastard and back, fearing that at any moment she might follow her mother Anne Boleyn's footsteps - up on the scaffold - is riveting ...more
Present from my Dad!

Knowing virtually nothing about the Tudors, I find myself getting up to speed quickly with Mr Starkey's book. I find Elizabeth to be a really interesting person, who seems to inhabit an innate sense of opportunity and reserve. From what I can tell she learned from everyone elses mistakes and has no fear seizing opportunity. She seems to be a natural leader even when she only leads a least at the point I am in the book where she is not queen yet. She manages to
This was a very interesting look into the early life and rise to power of Queen Elizabeth I. I found this book very easy to read, though it would be helpful to have some background on England (specifically, the geography and the aristocracy) and medieval times. The author does assume that you have a basic knowledge of the history of Europe during the 16th century as well, as he alludes to this many times when describing the powers that are tugging at the English throne between the reign of Henry ...more
The first one hundred pages of this novel focus on Elizabeth's childhood. She is the daughter of King Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn who is beheaded by the king. Elizabeth is quite intelligent. At age twelve, she translates the queen's prayer and meditation book into three languages as a gift for her father. She idolizes her father but never speaks of her mother. In her youth she may have been molested but no one knows for certain. While there are descriptions of inappropriate incidents there is no w ...more
Igor Garjón sanz
This non-fiction book covers Elizabeth Tudor's formative years, from her motherless childhood as Henry VIII's second daughter to her crowning, when she became Elizabeth I, also known as "Good Queen Bess" or "Gloriana". Starkey says that this young version of Elizabeth, not the "over-ruffed" and "over-wigged" woman of her last years, has won his heart. He tells Young Elizabeth's story in a very readable way. It's true that the author spends too long telling about Elizabeth's teachers and governes ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]This was a fortuitously good paired reading of biographies: Starkey concentrates on Elizabeth's life from her conception and birth in 1533 to her accession to the throne in 1558; he is telling a less familiar story and also challenges received wisdom (for instance he unhesitatingly puts the dying Edward VI at the heart of the Lady Jane Grey affair, where traditionally it has been seen as Northumberland's doing).[return][return]Starkey's appr ...more
Elizabeth 1 is certainly not short of a biographer or two ( or a few hundred) so much has been made of her life, her relationships, her court, the plots that centered from European Catholics to remove her from the throne, her incredible speeches ( Tilbury anyone?), the defeat of the Spanish Armada etc. She is often considered one of England's greatest monarchs- some the greatest, and her reign is thought of as 'The Golden Age', when the country began it's path to greatness, but her early life wa ...more
David Starkey is an apt biographer. He has an eye for hidden history. In this book he captures both the fascinating and bizarre and has a very natural voice for biography. Here he decides to focus on Elizabeth's upbringing (essentially her queen-making) rather than the breast-plate-toting, white-stallion-riding queen of 1500s British imperialism. Here she is, in all her un-glory, the girl before Gloriana - involved in intrigues, assassination plots, the Protestant uprising, family politics, and ...more
Katheryn Thompson
Fascinating - reads like a historical thriller. You don't realise how much of Elizabeth's early life impacted her rule - from Catherine Parr's successful rule as Queen Regent when Henry was invading France, to Edward and Mary's starkly contrasted, but equally oppressive, reigns. However, Starkey often dismisses other historians' opinions, taking away what is (for me) one of the most interesting aspects of history. After all no-one really knows for sure...not even David Starkey.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Bookworm Bitches : October 2013: Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne 15 86 Feb 18, 2014 01:54AM  
  • Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
  • Elizabeth I
  • Bloody Mary: The Life of Mary Tudor
  • Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
  • Henry VIII: The King and His Court
  • Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride
  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  • Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England
  • The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary"
  • The Tudor Chronicles: 1485-1603
  • Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London
  • Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor
  • Wives of Henry VIII
  • Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen
  • The Sisters Who Would Be Queen
  • Elizabeth the Great
  • Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford
David Robert Starkey, CBE, FSA is a British historian, a television and radio presenter, and a specialist in the Tudor period.
More about David Starkey...

Share This Book

“Elizabeth for the whole of Edward's reign, never wore the rich jewels and clothes left her by her father. Instead, she offered a more virtuous example than the writing of Saints Peter and Paul, her maidenly apparel making the ladies of the court ashamed to be dressed and painted like peacocks.” 1 likes
More quotes…