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Elizabeth I and Her Circle

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  135 ratings  ·  38 reviews
This is the inside story of Elizabeth I's inner circle and the crucial human relationships which lay at the heart of her personal and political life. Using a wide range of original sources - including private letters, portraits, verse, drama, and state papers - Susan Doran provides a vivid and often dramatic account of political life in Elizabethan England and the queen at ...more
Hardcover, 397 pages
Published 2015 by Oxford University Press
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

Dorman’s book looks at Elizabeth though the great Queen’s relationships with various people of her court and family. Dorman’s approach is to divide the book up into Family, Courtiers, Women (servants) and councilors. The first and last sections of the book are the best.

The most disappointing section is the one about Elizabeth’s women. It is the shortest section, grouping all the women into one chapter as opposed to an individual chapter per important person as in t
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, nonfiction
This non-fiction book which focuses on Elizabeth I and the people that had close personal relationships with her is easy to follow and an interesting read. Rather than offer a chronological history, Doran presents a “thematic” structure focusing each chapter on a key individual or group or individuals who were key to Elizabeth’s life. Below I discuss my favorite relationships.

1. Chapter one focuses on Elizabeth’s relationship with her parents, King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn; also her rel
Margaret Sankey
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
To a modern eye, early modern courts seem lousy with favorites, nepotism and cronies. The actual workings of the system are far more complicated than personal inclination--at least if you wanted the government to work. Doran meticulously reconstructs the ways in which Elizabeth I (contrasted to Henry VIII and Mary I) carefully and consistently manipulated her courtiers--playing the chivalry card to allow men to serve a female ruler, allowing dangerous people she personally disliked into the inne ...more
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley.

Behind every great queen…

The Tudor Monarchs are endlessly fascinating to many people. There are countless books devoted to them and their lives are perfect for richly colourful yet often gruesome screen portrayals. But do we get the full picture of their reigns by focusing merely on the head that wears the crown? In Elizabeth I’s case we certainly don’t which is what makes this book so interesting and relevant.

Susan Doran uses her depth of knowledge
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
My copy courtesy of Oxford University Press/Net Galley; much thanks!

Probably about 3.5 stars. Recommended for those already interested in the Tudor period.

For a further review: .
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
I have always loved period movies and ones about Queen Elizabeth I in particular. These films contribute to a collision of thoughts about some of the “factoids” stated or implied: Was Elizabeth raised by The Other Boleyn Girl as implied by the ending scene of that movie? In the movie, Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, did she really take the risk of telling Bloody Queen Mary that she would use her conscience in matters of religion? Seemed a foolhardy thing to say. And how did she feel about he ...more
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, arc, ebooks
This is a well written and meticulously documented account of Elizabeth I. I confess I didn't read it straight through (I think you would have to be extremely interested in the subject to be able to do that), but I read through parts and compared them to a novel on Elizabeth I I was reading concurrently.
G. Lawrence
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very good overview of the courtiers and advisors close to Elizabeth I.
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
I received this as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I must first disclose that I am no particular fan of Elizabeth I. She was a spoiled, manipulative, whiny brat who made everyone around her suffer with her tantrums and outbursts. She could not stand to see her favorites happy with anyone but her, yet would or could not ever commit to any of them due to their varying statuses in society. However, that being said, I find the Tudor dynasty truly fascinating, and even Elizabeth
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is definitely dense, just packed with information, that requires much longer to read and absorb. That said, I liked that she included multiple views of Elizabeth and the listed personages in the book, rather than only including those sources that tend to the author’s beliefs. I liked that she clearly stated what the general consensus tended toward, what the dissent was, and what she thought. She used quotes liberally and once you adjust to the inconsistent spelling of 16th c England, they’re ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-reads
This was an extremely detailed account of Elizabeth I and those who surrounded her during her reign. This is a period I have a great deal of interest in, and so I was very pleased to be able to read this book. Unfortunately, because of the density of the subject and how it was presented, it was one that took me many months to get through. As a tome for research, I think it will be useful, but for general reading, it was a bit much. I definitely appreciated the work that went into it and wish I c ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounded up
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
On the dry side; format necessitated quite a bit of backtracking since each individual was discussed separately but were involved in common events; each event was raised again under each person.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: elizabeth-i
This is a non-fiction book that explores the relationships of Elizabeth I and the people around her, such as her family and kin, her courtiers and her councillors. I liked how each person connected and associated with Elizabeth was given their own chapters, so you were able to read and find out more about the person themselves and what sort of relationship they had with Elizabeth, but also what events they witnessed and helped to be reminded throughout history. Very informative and would recomme ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Doran's factual knowledge and research is evident throughout the text however her choice of layout severely hinders the depth of her analysis. She goes to great lengths in her introduction to justify her decision not to write the book chronologically, instead splitting it into sections by the relationship to the queen which the subjects of the book held e.g. family, courtiers, privy council members. This had great potential; I've seen it work in the past and welcomed it with celebration in my un ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although I've read a fair number of books about the Tudors, they are all of the popular history variety, Alison Weir, Tracy Borman, David Starkey, and others. Susan Doran is a more scholarly writer, and the only book I'd read of her before this one is her excellent short biography of Elizabeth I for the British Library Historic Lives series.

Elizabeth and Her Circle zeroes in on the people around the Queen and their relationships with her. Doran concentrates on the period of Elizabeth's reign, s
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about Elizabeth I, daughter to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

It's a rather quick paced read, and ends at 416 pages. It's well researched, and the author has made it as easy to get through as slicing a piece of cake, IF you are academically driven. That is very unusual to say, because most books that include sources in the passages take a bit of dedication to muddle through, and even then, you may have to read through it again to catch eve
Jun 21, 2016 added it
Shelves: history
I didn't learn much new from this book, but it was a good review of who was who and what went on at court. I especially liked the structure of the book. It is divided into three parts: Kin, Courtiers, and Councillors, and each section is divided into chapters focused on small groups or specific persons. "Kin" has chapter on Parents & Siblings, The Suffolk Cousins, Mary Queen of Scots, and James VI of Scotland (her eventual heir to the English throne). Three favorites are the chapter subjects of ...more
Hazel Weller
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway. Also the amount of time it took me to finish this book is no reflection on the book, but that I was busy with other study.

This is a 4* book, rather than a 5* book due to the plates being entirely in black and white. If you are going to talk about the symbolism in portraits of Elizabeth I, they really need to be reproduced in colour, or a lot of the detail is lost.
Otherwise this is an excellent book. It is a really interesting way of l
Sandra Guerfi
Mar 17, 2015 rated it liked it
This was an interesting look at the people that surrounded Elizabeth I from her first to last days as Queen. It does not concentrate on them as merely political figures but gives a more human touch to the people who were on an intimate footing with her. Elizabeth is shown to have been an extraordinary woman who could be ruled by her faults at times, her quick temper and stubbornness could prove dangerous obstacles to her councilors and many felt the sting of her anger. But just as she was proud ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-copy
I received this through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have always had a fascination with the Tudors so I was very eager to read this new account of Elizabeth I’s life. So many times these books can be dull and lackluster but Susan Doran’s writing brought history to life in this new book. There were so many new things I learned. One of the things that interested me the most in her account was Elizabeth’s relationship with Henry VIII. In most accounts, Elizabeth is always shown to g
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
From Netgalley for a review:

It is no surprise that I immediately grabbed this book and promptly could not put it down, I am a long time fan of the Tudors, especially Elizabeth I, one of the few people from history who I greatly admire. I say few because even though I love history and studying people's lives, I do not admire many, there are many I respect and even more that I find interesting, but it takes a lot for me to admire. I also admire this book.

It is very much so a history book and look
Jo Barton
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The inner circle of courtiers who surrounded Elizabeth I during her momentous reign is the focus of this beautifully written book, which aims to put the personal into the myth and legend which all too often surrounds this charismatic Queen of England.

Not only does the book look at Elizabeth's personal relationships with her limited family, namely her father and elder sister, but it also shines the spotlight on the interactions Elizabeth had with those courtiers who have come to symbolise the fir
Christine Rolls
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A big thank you to First Reads and Oxford University Press for sending me a copy of this book.

'Elizabeth I and her Circle' describes the various people who came in regular contact with this strong-willed Tudor queen. Divided into three sections, the book deals with family members including Mary, Queen of Scots,
some of Elizabeth's courtiers and, in the final part, her most famous councillors.

This is a well-written book with a very readable style that can be enjoyed by serious historians and the g
Carolyn Harris
Most biographies of Elizabeth I describe her life from birth in 1533 to death in 1603, covering the events of her path to the throne and reign in chronological order. In Elizabeth I and Her Circle, Susan Doran, a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, co-editor of The Elizabethan World and Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives, and author of Mary Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life and numerous books on Tudor England, instead devotes a chapter to each of the key relationships in the Que ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads, netgalley
I received this through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Doran's work really expanded my knowledge of the people surrounding Elizabeth I. I had read quite a bit about the Tudors before, but never realized what her relationship with her father and sister was really like. The section involving the courtiers wasn't as interesting for me as the other sections as it rehashed information that I had read before. Still not quite sure how I felt about Doran arranging this book by what function p
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I received a free copy in a Goodreads 'First Reads' giveaway.

I'm fascinated by Tudor history and have read plenty of books about Elizabeth, but I think that using a thematic rather than a chronological approach worked really well to mark this out as different. It does make it slightly more difficult in places to keep track of relationships between the courtiers themselves but Doran has tried to cross-reference in most cases to keep these in context.

A very well written and researched book, I wou
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Review of an ARC Copy

I had already read The Tudor Chronicles by the same author and am a fan of the Tudor period so already had a good chronological knowledge of the period and the main actors. I found the approach Susan Doran chose for "Elizabeth I and her circle" extremely interesting, especially the structure of the book, which goes through Elizabeth's relatioships with the composants of the circle, being individuals or interest groups. This book is, imho, a must read for those who already kn
Helene Harrison
Review - A very new and original way of looking at Elizabeth I - through the eyes of those around her. Including excellent sections on William Cecil, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Dudley and the Earl of Essex in particular, this book also looks at Elizabeth's relationships with her parents and siblings as well as her wider family like the Greys and the Scottish side. Definitely well-worth a read. I do wish, however, that the book had focused wider as well, looking for example, at Cecil's building ...more
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’ve previously read and enjoyed the work of Susan Doran on Elizabeth I, mainly when I was writing my BA thesis on religion under Elizabeth I. The great thing about Doran’s work is that it manages to do what many other books in the field of history fail to do, namely to be informative, entertaining and well written at the same time. This book is no exception and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has taken an interest in Tudor or Early Modern history in general.

Thanks to the publishers and N
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Dr Susan Doran is a British historian whose primary studies surround the reign of Elizabeth I, in particular the theme of marriage and succession. She has published and edited sixteen books, most notably Elizabeth I and Religion, 1558-1603, Monarchy and Matrimony and Queen Elizabeth I, part of the British Library's Historic Lives series.

She is currently a tutor and member of the history faculty at

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