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The Queen's Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth's Court

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  399 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
Elizabeth I acceded to the throne in 1558, restoring the Protestant faith to England. At the heart of the new queen’s court lay Elizabeth’s bedchamber, closely guarded by the favoured women who helped her dress, looked after her jewels and shared her bed.

Elizabeth’s private life was of public, political concern. Her bedfellows were witnesses to the face and body beneath th
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published May 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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There are countless books on the subject of Queen Elizabeth I and/or her reign. The Gloriana is certainly glorious. However, less of these books focus on Elizabeth’s personal life in terms of her feelings, bed, and body. Anna Whitelock explores this underworld in, “The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court”.

Having read and enjoyed Whitelock’s biography of Mary Tudor; I was immediately let-down by “The Queen’s Bed”. The work begins with a prologue which feels out of place as the f
Of all of England's monarchs none has been subject to such prurient and physical scrutiny as Elizabeth I. History has been obsessed with her body and chastity, from her very earliest days as first a young princess and heir to an illegitimate bastard and back again, right up to today. The gossip and scandal surrounding her physicality and sexuality came in a very real way to define her entire reign and her relations with her nobles, subjects, foreign ambassadors and fellow princes.

Elizabeth very
Roman Clodia
This is a popular biography of Elizabeth which eschews high politics for the personal. Focusing on Elizabeth's ladies of the bedchamber and re-telling the stories of her various entanglements and aborted marriage plans, this doesn't reveal anything new but may be an interesting read to anyone only familiar with the queen and her court through fiction.

All the expected episodes are here: the youthful yet disturbing flirtation with Thomas Seymour, then married to Elizabeth's step-mother Katherine P
Dec 12, 2015 Sallee rated it liked it
This was an interesting history showing the intimate court of Elizabeth I. Some of the details were fascinating such as that her favorite bed was six square yards in size, it took several hours to dress her as she had to be pinned into them requiring hundreds of pins, and that her makeup was made from what were later to be found toxic ingredients like lead. She took a bath once a month. "Sweet bags", impregnated with perfume were sewn into dresses and gloves to keep body odors down. It seems tha ...more
Apr 07, 2016 Yooperprof rated it really liked it
Yes, reading about all the assassination attempts upon QEI does get tiring after the 7th or 8th time. And yes, an approach that more analytical and less strictly chronological probably would have improved the book. But Whitelock is a very good researcher, and there is a lot of fascinating material here on the Queen's personal household that I've seen nowhere else.
Biblio Files
Feb 11, 2014 Biblio Files rated it liked it
The Tudors are an endless source of entertainment and scholarship. I've spent many enjoyable hours reading about them. Anna Whitelock's new book is about the inner court of Elizabeth I, and as the British edition has it, "Elizabeth's Bedfellows." As a new biography of Elizabeth, The Queen's Bed is good, a detailed and readable account. But as a history of the inner court, and in particular, Elizabeth's closest advisors and servants, it falls short.

I am tempted to excuse this failing due to the l
May 23, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did Elizabeth 1 sleep with Robert Dudley? Did she fall in love with any of her suitors? Was she involved in Amy Robsart's death? Anna Whitelock covers all of these questions in her enjoyable analysis of the scandals surrounding the great Queen. She also discusses Queen Elizabeth's relationship with her 'bedfellows' - her ladies-in-waiting. These included Mary Sydney and Katherine Grey.

Queen Elizabeth was quite tough on many of her ladies-in-waiting. Poor Mary Sydney, for example, nursed the Quee
Lee Battersby
Jul 21, 2013 Lee Battersby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exhaustive and brilliant examination of the political and personal climate surrounding the reign of Elizabeth I, filtering her decisions and the behaviours of those around her through the persons of those ladies most close to her. Whitelock draws these ladies-in-waiting right into the centre of the political intrigues that plagued Elizabeth's court, and shows the parts they had to play-- both positive and negative-- in maintaining the careful balancing act Elizabeth strode between political a ...more
Paromita Bardoloi
Nov 23, 2013 Paromita Bardoloi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The private life of Elizabeth I has intrigued historians and commoners equally. This interesting biography by Anna Whitelock, tries to peep into the life of the woman who held England’s destiny for forty five years.

The word ‘Bedfellows’ in the title refers to these ladies who was closest to the queen and at times shared her bed too. The whole narrative could have been laced with in intrigues, jealousies and power-play but Anna Whitelock never loses the historian in her. Not to forget it is an ex
Lewis Smith
May 05, 2016 Lewis Smith rated it really liked it
This book is a solid addition to the library of any Tudor aficionado - lots of nice anecdotes and tidbits scattered throughout, wonderful for supplementing lectures on the reign of Elizabeth. The narrative is a bit scattered, and could be better organized, but overall I enjoyed this a great deal. And no, it's not nearly as titillating as the title might indicate . . .
Jun 29, 2016 Jodi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth’s bedfellows, her most trusted ladies-in-waiting, were obviously, in a unique position to observe all aspects of the Queen’s life. An intimate history of Elizabeth’s Court would have been interesting reading. Unfortunately, Whitelock lost sight of her own objective and relayed more information about the principal male players surrounding Elizabeth.

There were a few anecdotes that Whitelock related that were unfamiliar to this reader but generally this was a standard biography. Almost a
Mary Rose
Aug 05, 2015 Mary Rose rated it really liked it
Don't let the length of this book fool you, this is one of the most accessible histories of Elizabeth's private life I've ever read. This isn't a basic history of Elizabethan England, it's all about her. The Queen, the woman, Elizabeth. Whitelock writes beautifully and guides the reader through the myriad of conspiracies, rumors, and grey areas to put together a wonderful history of Elizabeth's court and private life. Letters and diaries from Elizabeth herself, from her court ladies and their re ...more
The perfect combination of scholarly work and popular history, Anna Whitelock's detailed book is a fresh perspective on Elizabeth's reign. An excellent treatise on the relationship between the physical body and the body politic, Whitelock does an excellent job of breaking down these sometimes weighty concepts and encourages the reader to consider how the representation of the queen influenced the political culture.

I really enjoyed the book; however, I think the title makes it easy to be mislead
Mar 08, 2016 Andrea rated it it was amazing
If you like Brit history and the Elizabethan era, but are a bit tired of a constant focus on wars and the armada, this is the book for you. The Queen's Bed is a look into Elizabeth I's court and the personalities, intrigue, and deadly game of politics and favorites that was played back then. Elizabeth is shown as a person with flaws and yet as a Queen with followers and haters. She wasn't always strong and demanding nor was she sweet and gentle, but she was a complicated intricate woman who knew ...more
Apr 26, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Fascinating book. Never dull. The title is more salacious than the well-researched and judicious content.
Generally speaking I liked the book (obviously), but I still would have liked a bit more about these bedfellows themselves - as it is this is more 'Elizabeth and her relationship with the women who were closest to her' (closest in a quite literal way too). But I suspect that in most cases this is due to the sources available.

The book offers an interesting view of Elizabeth from a young girl to her death (and beyond), both in light of historical events and personal relationships - but also rumou
May 16, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It wows me that so much first-hand documentation is available from Elizabeth I's reign. Letters, journals, and gossip-- that's what history is about! (for me.) This version of the Elizabethan era leans toward the day-to-day activities of court life, from the jewels to the chamberpots. I like that, too.

The Elizabethans seem so elegant, intelligent and advanced-- and yet, there is a fascinating anecdote about what a plot against the queen that involved what we would call voodoo dolls! I like a boo
Cheryl D
Mar 31, 2014 Cheryl D rated it really liked it
* I received this book through a Goodreads Sweepstakes win*

The personal and political intrigue of Elizabeth is examined in detail in this well researched book. Yes, upon occasion there were parts that I slogged through but for the most part I thought the book was extremely well done and satisfying. Of course, I also loved this book because I found I was often reading about my ancestors like Margaret St. John, my 9th G Aunt, which made the book even more interesting and meaningful to me. Great jo
Carole Roman
Nov 17, 2014 Carole Roman rated it liked it
Intimate picture of Elizabeth's court and the people who ran it. Anna Whitelock gives a detailed portrait of Gloriana and the constant dangers she faced. She captures the queen's angst of her childless state and her growing paranoia as her various cousins achieved what she could not. One by one, they gave birth, from her cousin Mary in Scotland, to her heir, Katherine Grey, whose two sons were born in the tower while under supposed watch.The usual speculation about Dudley is here, yet the real s ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Eve rated it liked it
A somewhat scattered history of Queen Elizabeth's reign, at its core focusing on the intrigue surrounding her eligible bachelorette-hood and attempts by pretty much everyone but her to marry her off in order to secure an heir (hence the benignly salacious title). The most illuminating and previously untold parts were mainly at the beginning and detailed her personal habits and life among her attendants. The rest has been done better by others. Three stars.
Oct 22, 2014 Joan rated it liked it
I keep swearing off reading yet more Tudor books, but then one comes along to put a different spin on things. This one deals with the reign of Elizabeth through her relationships with her favourites and her court- from her ladies to Robert Dudley to her political advisors. It was interesting, and well researched, but I would have liked a bit more on the lives of the women at court, and she spends a bit too much time on the politics. A good read, though.
Michele Runde
Jun 09, 2014 Michele Runde rated it liked it
I have read scads of biographies on Queen Elizabeth I. This book is an "Intimate History of Elizabeth's Court" and if you're a fan, you will love it. The door is unlocked and the reader steps through the door, behind the curtain & could be hiding under the bed--her fashion, her passion, her thoughts, her health, her homes and who worked there and's all here and a ton more. I hope someone will use this to make another movie about her.
Nov 20, 2015 Olivia rated it did not like it
I read 270 pages of this book and couldn't finish it. Although it was obviously well-researched and notated, it was bland, repetitive, and dull. I lost count of how many times the author told us "such and such woman was Elizabeth's favorite at court and she loved her better than all the rest." They can't all be her favorite! While this woman clearly understood the time period, she lacked the storytelling abilities to make it come alive.
Mar 27, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Superficial; little context to explain what was going on in the world / England at the same time as the events described; very little (as far as I could tell), relatively, in/on the actual words and thoughts of the women who surrounded Elizabeth, compared to the men and their writings; prefunctory notes, with citations but scant explanation. This all feels like an outline to a better book. Plus I read the English edition, so of course the grammar/punctuation threw me fairly often...that's on me, ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Samira rated it really liked it
I've always been a history enthusiast and English history has always been my favourite subject to research and read about for fun. This book gave me a different and almost complete analysis of the famous queen. Of course the wiki version is bland and we all know it's not reliable source or anything but I looked her up on it many times before and it painted her as a magnificent yet bland. In this novel I saw her as a bit arrogant, snobby, selfish at times and overall brilliant intellectually! Som ...more
Aug 26, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book seems to be aimed at the true lover of Elizabethan history who wants to read about well known events from a more intimate perspective. For the casual reader, the lack of references to specific years, major events, or descriptions of people, this book makes for harder readimg. It lacks anakysis on any of the events presented, simply reporting what was said by whatever witnesses of the day recorded. Still, interesting enough that I got to the end and very readable language.
Hallie Jackson Brackett
This is the first and only book that I have ever read about Queen Elizabeth...or any queen for that matter. I admit, I was watching Reign and I got interested in reading some nonfiction about that time period. this was a little dry at times but I found it to be thoroughly researched and interesting at the same time, which isn't always an easy thing to achieve.
Delson Roche
Dec 21, 2015 Delson Roche rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A lot of theories exists that questions the reason why QE remained unmarried- this book looks upon the personal life of the queen from a neutral perspective, not indulging in much speculation. A very through book and enjoyable for any history fan. At places it does get long and dragging, but most of the chapters are captivating.
Feb 25, 2015 Whitney rated it liked it
My takeaway lessons from this book: If you're the queen of England in the 16th century, you will be constantly pestered to marry. Once the world finally accepts you as a "Virgin Monarch," you need to disguise the fact that you are now menopausal. And if members of your court marry without your permission, feel free to punish them indiscriminately.
Sarah Wagner
Oct 17, 2014 Sarah Wagner rated it really liked it
This history of the iconic Queen Elizabeth's reign is likely one of the best such accounts I have read. Anna Whitelock places the Queen's Bedchamber and the ladies Elizabeth was most intimate with at the center of her history, including the grimy and realistic details of the make-up Elizabeth wore to preserve her appearance and the physical decay of her body over time. From this focal point, Whitelock recounts the courtly flirtations, the Parliamentary politics, the Catholic schemes, and the ass ...more
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Anna Whitelock gained her PhD in History from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in 2004 with a thesis on the court of Mary I. Her articles and book reviews on various aspects of Tudor history have appeared in publications including the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and BBC History. She has taught at Cambridge University and is now a lecturer in Early Modern History at Royal Holloway, Uni ...more
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