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Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen
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Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,456 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Elizabeth I was born into a world of women. This title explores Elizabeth's relationships with the key women in her life. Beginning with her mother and the governesses and stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley and the inspirational Katherine Parr, it focuses on her formative years.
Paperback, 450 pages
Published 2009 by Vintage
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I'm not Shakespeare's biggest fan, but the man knew how to turn a phrase, so I'll let him sum up this book.

"It is a tale told by a [redacted for politeness], full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

There are so many problems with this book that I truly don't know where to start, but what irritated me most was the ugly thread of misogyny running through it. A book about the women around England's greatest female ruler, written by a modern female historian should not take such a nasty view of
Tracy Borman took on a large scale project. Some of the women in Elizabeth's life are famous in their own right and have already been extensively studied. There had to be a lot of editorial decisions about the depth of content for these women and how to balance it so they would not crowd out space for the lesser knowns.

With less emphasis on the "big events", the book becomes a treatment of both Elizabeth's daily life and of her intimate and lasting relationships. We learn how her court functione
Excellent nonfiction study of the important women in Elizabeth I's life, including her mother, her sister, her cousins, and her servants and ladies. I found the sections on Elizabeth's various cousins (with competing claims to the throne) and on her ladies, some devoted and not so devoted, to be the most interesting.
As an avid reader of all things Tudor, I found Elizabeth’s Women to be very accessible despite some minor flaws. I was pleased with its good progression and chronology and anyone not as familiar with Elizabeth I’s life would enjoy Borman’s approach. It effectively demonstrates the influence of the women who surrounded Elizabeth I, whether in the role of surrogate mother, lady in waiting or contender to the throne. These were women who could spark her jealousy or benefit from her goodwill.

I was
Marie Z. Johansen
I loved this book! I ordered it from Britain before it's US release because I did not want to wait (check out the Book Depository or Amazon UK when you simply can't wait for a US release of a book ). This cover is the British edition cover. I liked it better so I used it here - you can see the US cover now on any book seller’s site! I think this is just about my favorite book about Elizabeth I. It's jam packed with small details and information about Elizabeth that are most often overlooked by m ...more
Jul 11, 2012 Joan rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hromance and English History fans
It wasn't the book I wanted to read. I was hoping for a study of how Elizabeth influenced politics and was influenced in politics by her women. What this was about was how Elizabeth inflluenced love matches and how those matches influenced Elizabeth. While I acknowledge that would be impossible to exclude love matches from a study of Elizabeth and her women, I also feel a large part of the story I wanted to read was not told. You mean to tell me that Bess of Hardwick's only political interest wa ...more
The thing I hate most in history books is when the author can't be bothered to get her most simple facts right. This book is a prime example.

1)The author says that Katherine of Aragon was regent when Henry was on campaign in Scotland. WRONG. She was regent when Henry was in FRANCE and she fought a war against the Scots when the Scottish army invaded England as soon as Henry left for France.

2)She refers to Anne Boleyn's famous 'A' necklace. WRONG. The famous necklace she wore was the initial 'B'
Although this book is highly readable, at times that seems to come at the expense of sound historical methodology, and occasionally even at the expense of continuity. Borman too often says that one thing [definitely] led to another, or that a certain event in Elizabeth's life made - not "contributed to," but "made" - her act in a certain way later in life. Additionally, there were times that the author contradicted herself. For instance, when discussing Mary, Queen of Scots' marriage to the Earl ...more
I love the idea behind this book, Elizabeth is always portrayed as something of a 'man's woman', so it was interesting to consider her relationships with the women around her. However, there are a lot of little inaccuracies and claims that are not backed up by any evidence, and this ruined things a bit for me. Some examples of these are:

Page 16 "Mary [Boleyn] had borne a son with mental disabilities whom Anne would not suffer to be at court." - This is not backed up by any reference and is very
I was so excited when this book arrived from I couldn’t wait to dive into it. After all, it promised a brand new view of Elizabeth I, “…portrayed here as the product of women….” The reader is assured that it is “…a thrilling new angle by the brilliant young historian Tracy Borman.” The author herself guarantees that she has “…focused the story upon those women who help to reveal Elizabeth the woman, as well as Elizabeth the Queen.” 418 pages later, I am still waiting for a revelation ...more
The hook of this biography of Elizabeth I is that it sets out to do something new—to create the queen and her society by examining the network of women who surrounded Elizabeth and who influenced her, from the memory of her mother's execution through to faithful female courtiers who attended her in her final days. Sadly, Borman fails to deliver on the promise of that hook. What could have been a very intriguing study of female networks of friendship, co-operation, education, and enmity; of the c ...more
This is the second Tudor history book I've read this month, and this was by far the more enjoyable. I've read a lot of books (fiction and non-fiction) about Elizabeth but never one like this that focused on the women who surrounded the Virgin Queen and helped shape her views on life and leadership. Though the cast of characters is huge, and many of them share names, Borman did a good job of helping the reader keep track and differentiating between the Janes and Katherines that populated Elizabet ...more
Janet Flora Corso
Wonderful history of Queen Elizabeth I and her relationships with women, family, friends and foes. A lot has been written about how she worked with men, in a "man's world" and how she loved men, yet shunned marriage. This book focuses on the women who helped her in life and in her regency as well as some historical figures we know little about. I learned a lot and it is written so well it is easy to follow. Anyone who knows Tudor and Elizabethan history knows there is plenty of intrigue and scan ...more
Melissa McCauley
I was excited to pick up a book which looks at Elizabeth I’s life from a different perspective. All the histories I have read (sorry Alison Weir – you too) seem to only treat her as a powerful monarch (which she was).

Borman explores what she might have felt as a precocious girl, a teen, a young woman – and how her life experiences shaped her psyche and her character - almost all the people in her life were women. Strong, smart women.

Unfortunately, the narrative bogged down in the second half (as

What an arduous read...there was so much information! There has been very little written about Elizabeth and her Privy if you want to really know about the other side of Elizabeth's life, I suggest that this is the book to read.

Although Elizabeth was a Great Ruler, she was no less fickle, egocentric, & vengeful than her father Henry VIII. She ruled by answering problems with "answers answerless".

The turmoil of her younger life made for a sociopath of a woman. She never kne
Rebecca Huston
Very well written, very interesting, look at the women in Elizabeth I's life, from ladies in waiting, servants, and rivals, among them Lettice Knollys, Mary Queen of Scots, the Grey sisters, and Bess of Hardwick. I was very taken by the story of Helena Snakenborg, it would be great material for a novel. A keeper.

For the longer review, please go here:
BBC Book of the Week

Emma Fielding reads from Tracy Borman's biography of Elizabeth I, which explores the relationships she had with the women in her life. These women brought out the best and the worst of Elizabeth, who could be loyal and kind but also cruel and vindictive. They all influenced Elizabeth's carefully-cultivated image as Gloriana, The Virgin Queen.

(view spoiler)
This book took me forever to finish, but I believe that is because Elizabeth I didn't interest me that much. My only two complaints about the book, which are more nitpicks, are that Borman uses the word "precocious" too often, especially in the beginning of the book, and I'd rather all the quotes be written in modern English rather than medieval English as it slowed me down trying to decipher them.
Disappointing to say the least. Had very high hopes for this book and besides not presenting any new interpretations, Borman made mistakes and would make some very sweeping statements. Guess I am a very tough audience for Elizabethan materials. This was a gentle enough read for most people but I did get a bit impatient with it.
This turns out not to specifically be about the women in Elizabeth I's life, but a generalized biography of her, from birth to death. There are a few women spoken of as you go along, but be prepared to learn all about Elizabeth, more than you ever wanted to know.
I don't exactly know what I was expecting from this book. Elizabeth was a brilliant stateswoman, but apparently, if you were prettier than her she would lose it.
An essential addition to the library of anyone who is fascinated by the Tudors, and/or Elizabeth I, and/or the history of the monarchy, and/or female history, and/or - well - anyone! I cannot believe this hasn't been written before; it was a niche waiting to be filled and Tracy Borman has created an informative, interesting and unique insight to the life of the first Queen to rule in her own right. It seems obvious now that the women who surrounded her would have the strongest impact and politic ...more
I received this book from the author as a freebie when it was still in the advance copy stage. It is a history on Queen Wlizabeth 1, and is authored by Tracy Borman who is a member of many historical organizations. I have to say it is one of the best researched books I have ever read with pages and pages of notes and bibliographies. If you like history books, you will love this. It brings a fresh new take on Elizabeth 1's life, and is done in an interesting way. You don't feel like you are just ...more
Though the subject is ostensibly the women who were important in Elizabeth's life, I suspect the Virgin Queen would be quite pleased that the narrative is firmly centered on her. It's heavy on the speculation of how various events affected Elizabeth, particularly the execution of her mother while she was still a toddler. While some of it is firmly grounded (such as the importance of the women who raised her after her mother's execution and stood with her throughout her life), other parts are mor ...more
This was an easy read but did not live up to its promise of revealing the 'hidden story' of Elizabeth. Borman told me nothing that I didn't already know and it was just another Elizabeth I bio but this time it skipped the over the big bits in favour of Borman's supposition and contradictory theories about the women around her. Some of the fact checking was also very poor which unfortunately throws the whole book into question. Borman’s description of Anne Boleyn's famous 'A necklace' was hilario ...more
C.S. Burrough
Some armchair critics have overlooked the immense task Tracy Borman undertook and successfully completed in writing and getting this published. In a literary avalanche of popular Tudor history dominated by old masters and current favourites, this comparatively unknown writer braved something extraordinary.

Like others, I turned to this after exhausting dozens of biographies on the key Tudor players and their epoch. We must keep our expectations realistic - as with any such addictive material, the
I was so excited to finally get to this book. I was intrigued by the prospect to learn a bit more about the women in Elizabeth I's life and their role in shaping the Monarch, as well as the woman.

I was aware that there would be some re-hashing of things I knew, since I am an avid "Tudor" reader. I was just not prepared to find the promised new angles and insights entirely missing. :(

Now, I don't want to sound all gruff and mean about this. There were some good things about this book!

If you have
Karen Brooks
This is a brave book. Brave because it dares to tackle one of the most popular subjects available to historians and try and breath new life or at least create a different context for understanding the remarkable, mercurial and difficult Elizabeth I, “Gloriana.”

The key to the book lies in the title – the ways in which female friendship, enemies and rivalry influenced Elizabeth’s personality, upbringing, loves, and ultimately her reign.

Commencing, as many histories of Elizabeth do, with her mother
The story of Elizabeth I of England has been told many times. These stories tend to focus on the men in her life – Robert Dudley, her father Henry VIII, Thomas Seymour, just to name a few. This new book by Tracy Borman explores the effects that the women in Elizabeth’s life had on her – starting with her mother and moving on to courtiers, cousins, stepmothers etc. Don’t get me wrong, the men are still an integral part of the story, but they are not the focus.

This book was very interesting to me
Ok. This book took me forever to read (about a month and a half) but rest-assured, it had absolutely nothing to do with the book itself. I was completely enthralled since almost the very first page. I hadn't read too much about the Elizabethan court before this book but this has definitely made me interested.
Despite my lack of background in the subject matter, it was not impossible to understand and there was a ton of information about every "character" that came into play. Granted, every now an
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Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth's Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of Hull, where
More about Tracy Borman...
Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant Witches, a tale of Scandal, Sorcery and Seduction Henrietta Howard: King's Mistress, Queen's Servant Our Reigning Queens: The History Girls. Tracy Borman ... [Et Al.]

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