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Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,557 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
A gripping account of one of history’s most fascinating of alliances–the love affair between Queen Elizabeth I and her political advisor and confidant, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

No one knows quite when and where their relationship began — though Leicester once said he’d known Elizabeth since she was eight years old. They shared an important commonality of experience
Hardcover, 407 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Viking (first published March 6th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Claire M.
Apr 17, 2009 Claire M. rated it really liked it
In my youth (god, I can SAY that, how horrible), I was an English history major. At U.C. Berkeley. I actually toyed with the idea of getting a Ph.D, applied, was accepted, and was informed in my acceptance letter that there were no jobs and if I wanted to pursue academia, go forth, but be prepared to flip burgers for a living. Which prompted me to go to cooking school instead! Yes, true story.

History remains a passion and you really can't get any more passionate than those damn Tudors. I have pu
Apr 19, 2015 Juliew. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tudor
First I would like to say that I found everything in this book very fascinating.Even though most of the info was political in nature and not so much personal.I still was captivated from page one.I found Ms.Gristwood's theories intriguing and the writing and research seemed very well done.But I was hoping for a more intimate portrayal of their relationship and I just didn't feel this was the book I was looking for.Very enjoyable read otherwise and if you happen to like reading about Queen Elizabe ...more
Danielle Reily
Mar 11, 2013 Danielle Reily rated it really liked it
I always love books about the Tudor monarchy. I really enjoyed this book. A lot of books on this subject tend to get repetitive, it's exciting to find a book from a different perspective. This book examines in detail the relationship between the Virgin Queen and her long term confidante Robert Dudley.
The subject of Elizabeth and Robert is one that creates a lot of discussion, and very divided opinions. Most historians have different ideas about who controlled the relationship. Was the Queen i
Nov 06, 2015 Sallee rated it liked it
This book gave a deeper look into the lives of the Queen and her favorite, the Earl of Leicester. The politics of the time were just as complicated as they are today perhaps much more so because of the lack of modern day technology. It was an educational look into Robert Dudley's influences on his Queen.
Mark Gaulding
Dec 27, 2008 Mark Gaulding rated it really liked it
If you're unfamiliar with the life of Queen Elizabeth I and the people who surrounded her you might find this book a little overwhelming. But if you've read a fair share of biographies about the queen you'll find this one to be illuminating, certainly an accomplishment given all that has been published. This author may do to Leicester, what Antonia Fraser did for the revision of Marie Antoinette in history. By the books end, and after a very thorough analysis of the relationship and a respectful ...more
May 08, 2008 AnneMarie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book if you're anyway interested in Elizabeth and Robert Dudley's relationship. While the first couple of chapters don't reveal much more about their relationship than any ordinary Elizabeth I biography, as it goes on it becomes increasingly fascinating.
Gristwood takes the opinion that it was Elizabeth, rather than Leicester that held the balance of power in the relationship, and the games she played are heartbreaking told and you can really sense when the couple are close and then t
C.S. Burrough
Jul 09, 2015 C.S. Burrough rated it really liked it
After thoroughly enjoying Sarah Gristwood's other historical biographies, it was with eager anticipation that I turned to this. The legendary courtship between my favourite Tudor monarch and her Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley (later knighted Earl of Leicester), has for centuries intrigued scholars and captivated the public imagination, my own notwithstanding. I have read every great biography on this iconic royal and, like others, feel a creeping dread whenever I finish another, of having ex ...more
Catherine Berry
Jul 25, 2015 Catherine Berry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Few relationships fire our imagination like that of Elizabeth I and her ‘bonnie sweet Robin’ – the Earl of Leicester Robert Dudley.’

This is taken from the back cover of Sarah Gristwood’s fascinating book about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

This non-fiction book looks solely at Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, from their childhood right up until Dudley’s death in 1588 during the victory celebrations of England’s defeat of the mighty Spanish Armada. Hi
Apr 30, 2015 James rated it it was amazing
The relationship of Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester- her "eyes" as she famously nicknamed him, has continued to fascinate historians, novelists and film and TV producers, hundreds of years after their deaths, in this book of over 500 pages, Sarah Gristwood examines the relationship between the Virgin Queen and her master of horse. The book starts with a parralel of Elizabeth and Roberts lives from early childhood- examining the difficulties of Elizabeth's early childhood w ...more
Nov 30, 2011 TrueMyths rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is getting a bit better now that I'm about a third of the way in. Early on I found the assumptions about placement difficult and a bit annoying. I would ask myself questions like "how old was Elizabeth then?" but I'd be unable to find the answer. I'd go to the beginning of the section, but there was never really an introduction to place the stories and so I'd have to go to other sources to find what I thought should be pretty basic information.

Then there are the references to information th
Dec 30, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing
With the primary documents basically known and castles and historic sites fully documented, 21st century writers are providing general readers with more focus on specific aspects of Tudor history and more interpretation. Recently I've read : "The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers", and "The Dawn of Empire, Edward VI: The Lost King of England" and "After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England". These books, like this one, are devo ...more
Aug 14, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
Being a complete Tudor era - and of course Elizabeth I - obsessive, I've already read Gristwood's very enjoyable, if slightly speculative, biography of the tragic Arbella Stuart, a minor royal of the time who was considered at one point a possible threat to the throne and suffered greatly as a result. I'm about four chapters in and so far it's interesting, although a bit of a retread of already known facts and Gristwood tends to lay the pop psychology on rather thick regarding Elizabth's attitud ...more
Oct 19, 2010 Nadine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-history
I am on the fence about this book. I feel like Gristwood glossed over some of Robert Dudley and his families actions. Perhaps there was a deep emotional connection between he and Elizabeth but the bottom line of many courtiers of that time was to get ahead. I especially take issue with the her take on the Jane Grey crisis. Gristwood says Edward VI wanted her as his replacement without any cajoling from John Dudley. Perhaps he was very precocious as she points out but he was molded by his tutors ...more
I'm a bit of a romantic at heart, so I always thought Dudley and Elizabeth were the perfect married couple, even if they never married each other. She seems to have cared about him, be it from a personal or political view. She may have known his talents and kept him near her for that reason or just enjoyed having him around. The one thing we do know is that Elizabeth trusted few people and kept many of the same advisors until they died (e.g. Cecil). The last years of her left her without her mos ...more




Aug 04, 2011 Ting rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally a book committed to telling the love story like no other -- the long, and presumably chaste, but passionate relationship between Elizabeth and her "dear Robin" the Earl of Leicester. He was her prime favorite and enjoyed an open flirtatious relationship with the Queen and proved a most loyal confidante and subject. He alone was rewarded with gifts of land and was named Protector of the Realm in the event of her death. She created him Earl of Leicester presumably to better be able to marr ...more
Aug 31, 2011 Redfox5 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a few fictional accounts of Elizabeth and tho I've found them okay, parts of them can be dull. Why didn't they just stick to the history? I really enjoyed this book. It seems this time history is more exciting than fiction. There are no answers to the question of whenever 'Elizabeth was a maid or no' but Sarah presents all the eveidence for us to examen. After reading this I think that she was a Virgin. I just don't think that she would have been able to keep something like that a secr ...more
I need to stop reading Sarah Gristwood books. She writes about fascinating topics, but she is a terrible writer. An example:

"It is hard to get much of a reading on Douglass's character; not one of any great firmness, one might hazard, surely?"

If one is writing a work of non-fiction on a topic in which there is limited archival evidence, then one, surely, should not hazard to make judgements about people out of thin air. The book is full of equivocation and guess work. It rambles to and fro throu
Jim Bronec
This book was good in many ways giving an inside look at Elizabeth's royal court and the relationship she had with Robert Dudley. It spent way too much time going round and round about the debate about if they were having a sexual relationship. It got bogged down at that point.
Aug 29, 2014 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book on the relationship of Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. This is the first book of Gristwood's that I've read. I found it to be well-researched and easy to read. I would definitely recommend it for those interested in Elizabeth I or in Tudor history.
Sep 24, 2013 Cara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a well-written analysis of Elizabeth's most important emotional relationship, as well as the most enduring one of her lifetime. Gristwood may sometimes give the Dudleys the benefit of the doubt, but she does not appear particularly biased, especially in light of the beating that Leicester's reputation has taken over time. I liked her thesis that Leicester grew apart from Elizabeth over time, and may have been largely content to do so. I wish Gristwood spent more time on the relationships ...more
Mar 30, 2016 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I ended up skimming the rest of this once I hit the half-way point. While the book was well researched it wasn't very gripping. I wanted to read about Elizabeth and Robin...instead I got the entire socio-political climate of Europe with copious footnotes. Perhaps all these asides served the greater purpose of adding context to their relationship, but I found it dull and a bit of a slog. The author even managed to squelch any intrigue that remained regarding the death of Amy Robsart. Oh well. Thi ...more
Brenda Osborne
Jul 13, 2014 Brenda Osborne rated it really liked it
I have read a lot of books about the fascinating queen, Elizabeth I and I felt this one did a good job. I have also read books that claimed Robert Dudley's wife was murdered or that her death was an accident. This book also posits the possibility of suicide. I also like how all three theories are given equal weight. Definitely a must read if you are a Tudorphile.
Jan 23, 2014 Lezley rated it really liked it
Another well researched, enjoyable read by Sarah Gristwood. This book gives us an appreciation for Robert Dudley that is beyond the self-serving Earl that we most often read about. If only Elizabeth and Dudley had married and had an heir. All the turmoil of the Stuarts would never have existed. I can't help but wonder if Elizabeth knew she was incapable of bearing a child and therefore saw no point in marrying? Did Thomas Seymour have something to do with her inability to conceive? A question wi ...more
Dec 14, 2013 Dorothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Interesting companion reading for those who are interested in the reign of Elizabeth I. I quite enjoyed this and appreciated gaining a broader and in-biased insight into Leicester. I did not realize how committed he was to Protestantism and this knowledge gave much more depth into him and his relationships with Elizabeth and her councils. He was a most loyal and serving courtier and this book did a splendid job of debunking many myths and much vilification without untoward bias or apology. Nicel ...more
Aug 01, 2015 Joy rated it did not like it
I have always loved reading about English history. I guess I had high expectations about this book. It was well researched but so boring. It was a laborious read. I was hoping for .... Just more.
Sep 26, 2009 Pattie rated it really liked it
Great book that explores the relationship between Elizabeth 1 of England & her first favorite, the Earl of Leicester. Readers should be knowledgable about Tudor history as well as Elizabeth 1's life before devling into this book. It was non-judgemental & well balanced in its theories; often looking at situations in a modern sense, then examining them in light of the events & mode of the age when they occurred. Not an easy read as some of her sentence structures could have been edited ...more
Carolyn James
Dec 20, 2011 Carolyn James rated it liked it
Shelves: true-story-bro
This book is pretty much just ok. When I read a novel like this I expect the author to use the historical evidence to pick a side, form a theory or present something new. This just rehashed the same old evidence and sat on the fence as to what the existing documents meant for if Elizabeth and Robert were together. It’s good if you know nothing about this era of history but if your looking for something new and different on Elizabeth’s reign you won’t find it here.
Sarah Wagner
A good look at the Elizabeth and Robert Dudley relationship. Gristwood does a good job of tracing the relationship through its various phases, even though the evidence is thin for their early years. Nevertheless, Gristwood takes the reader through the ups and downs, scandals and pitfalls, of Elizabeth and Dudley's relationship, giving a real sense of each of their personalities and shortcomings. A good read for those interested in Elizabethan history.
Marjorie Lecker
wonderful research - detailed - though i am not convinced she remained intact!
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 15, 2015 06:54PM  
  • Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
  • Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride
  • The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England
  • After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England
  • Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor
  • Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery
  • Henry VIII: Man and Monarch
  • A Daughter's Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg
  • Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr
  • The Lady Penelope: The Lost Tale of Love and Politics in the Court of Elizabeth I
  • The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France
  • Tudor Women: Queens & Commoners
  • Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
  • Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth, 1527-1608
  • The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius Of The Golden Age
  • Katherine Howard
  • Tudor Queens of England
Sarah Gristwood attended Oxford and then worked as a journalist specializing in the arts and women's issues. She has contributed to The Times, Guardian, Independent, and Evening Standard.
More about Sarah Gristwood...

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“Even their contemporaries felt that the relationship of Elizabeth and Robert transcended the details on practicality. There had to be some explanation for their lifelong fidelity, and those contemporaries put it down to 'synaptia', a hidden conspiracy of the stars, whose power to rule human lives no-one doubted: 'a sympathy of spirits between them, occasioned perhaps by some secret constellation', in the words of the historian William Camden, writing at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Theirs was a relationship already rooted in history and mythology. And that moment when Elizabeth heard she had come to the throne encapsulated much about their story. If our well-loved picture of Elizabeth's accession is something of a fantasy - if the reality is on the whole more interesting - you might say the same about our traditional picture of her relationship with Robert Dudley.” 2 likes
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