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Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
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Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,141 ratings  ·  54 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...more
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.
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...more
Danielle Reily
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...more
Mark Gaulding
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
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...more
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...more
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
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
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
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
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...more
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.
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
Brenda Osborne
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.
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
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
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
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.
Normally I have trouble reading factual accounts of history but this is so easy to read. There are no prejudices to any of those written about, and a variety of possible conclusions given to those actions (or lack of) which have no obvious motives or explanations given at the time.

Alison Weir is recorded as saying that this book is "Quite simply one of the most enthralling history books I've ever read." So far I am inclined to agree whole heartedly.

Aug 03, 2013 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Tudor history
Excellent and well researched book about Elizabeth and Leicester that explores their relationship in the context of the politics and the major players of the time in which they lived. While I love a good historical novel, I prefer this richer and more in depth look at what their friendship and working relationship meant to the history of England and Elizabeth's reign. I have read many books about the Tudors, and this is one of the best.
Karen E.
This is another wonderful book about the reign of Elizabeth I. Possibly because the author's main concern was the relationship between Elizabeth and Leicester, the scope remains mostly focused on local events. Reading the book about Elizabeth and Philip of Spain right after this, it struck me about how little of the events in the second book had figured into the first one. Still, I enjoyed both of them thoroughly.
Daniel Kukwa
A thoroughly-researched, well written overview of an epic relationship. That said, I'm surprised by how much of it simply confirms what I've read in other sources -- there's a bit of same-old/same-old here, considering the plethora of scholarly Tudor material available.. There are also a few moments of too much detail, bordering on trivia. But that's par for the course in many of these works of history.
Fantastic insight into the private and person life of Elizabeth I. Was there more to her relationship with the Earl of Leicester than met the eye? Did his wife commit suicide, or was she disposed of to make way for a marriage between himself and the Queen? So far, it's fascinating - but then I'm a Tudor/Elizabethan/Stuart history geek who finds any book about events during that time period intersting.
A very insightful and thorough book... it told the Elizabeth/Leicester story beautifually and realistically, with facts not fiction. After all the stories about them out there it was nice to read something that could be as close to the truth as possible.

I think it's a gem if a book for anyone who is truely interested in the life of Queen Elizabeth and the stories around her.
Feb 13, 2008 Tamara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anglophiles, Elizabethan fans
A slightly deeper look into the did-they-or-didn't-they (sleep together) relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. This author concludes they didn't. I'm not sure I'm 100% convinced, but I'm willing to go along with it for now.

It doesn't go in-depth on their individual lives, but is a look at how their relationship shaped their entire lives.
I'm reading this book now. I thought it would be historical fiction, but it is actually a non-fiction look at this odd relationship that lasted decades. Well-researched, with a post-modern / post-feminist slant that I'm enjoying. The author has enough knowledge of her subject to present a sense of humor about it. It's not a page-turner, but it is very interesting.
W.J. Gunning
I loved this book. Elizabeth and Leicester's relationship was presented in a way that continued to be intriguing. I loved the read so much I tried to just read a bit at special times to make it last. I know it is about history but the author really made you understand the characters and pressures of the time that shaped what could only be called a`a very special love.'
A fabulous book. Contains much of the same material that has been written about for centuries, of course, but assembled and analyzed in a thoughtful manner. It was interesting for me, whose interest in E and D culminates in 1578, to read on and see the stress in their relationship in the 1580s. Gristwood writes with insight and compassion.
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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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