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The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  515 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Extravagant, whimsical, and hot-tempered, Elizabeth was the epitome of power, both feared and admired by her enemies. Dubbed the "pirate queen" by the Vatican and Spain's Philip II, she employed a network of daring merchants, brazen adventurers, astronomer philosophers, and her stalwart Privy Council to anchor her throne—and in doing so, planted the seedlings of an empire ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 24th 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published 2007)
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Linda Harkins
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent! The Virgin Queen assumed the throne at the age of 25. Hot-tempered and intelligent, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn declared that she would never marry after witnessing what her father had done to her mother. Instead, she focused on building an empire.

Based on primary sources, including thousands of letters between merchant adventurers and Queen Elizabeth I, this rather fresh take on the times suggests that swashbuckling English pirates had everything to do with England's a
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This is an amazing book, researched in great detail, describing the reign of Elizabeth I through her foreign policy, especially when it came to her privateers. Elizabeth needed money to defend a vulnerable England against Catholic Spain, while aiding and abetting the Protestants in Spanish-owned Low Countries. Only through her relationships with Europe's Protestants could England maintain trade across the Channel. Where better to take the money than from Spanish treasure ships? This book describ ...more
I have to admit that I am sooooo glad this book is done. Omigod glad. I might be skipping.

I should have loved this book. I should have whisked it away on a long holiday with me and a pony ride, and bought it drinks.

But it was fine.

It was like going out on a date with the perfect guy, and finding out you like him as a friend.

The book tells the story of Elizabeth's pirate adventurers like Drake and Raleigh and such. It's pretty fun.

It starts out however with a super snarktastic comment from the a
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love reading anything & everything about Queen Elizabeth I. She was a trailblazer before it became posh. Fiercely loyal, uncompromising when it came to religion, herself, or the pressure to marry and produce an heir, she lead her people with an iron fist and a good heart. She was a total badass ruling knowing so many wanted to dethrone and kill her.
Nerine Dorman
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've needed a book detailing the kind of socio-political-economic environment that would support piracy, and The Pirate Queen gave me exactly the kind of background I needed for my research. As background reading to inform my own writing, this volume provides a rough history of Elizabethan times written in such a way that one isn't too overwhelmed with an info-dump of names, places and famous battles. In other words, it's perfect for someone like me who needed a basic introduction to European hi ...more
Carolina Casas
The book explores the "adventure-explorers" of the Elizabethan age. For everyone who has an image of the golden age being the age of an empire, the author deconstructs this myth and says that it wasn't so, what Elizabeth did begin however (thanks to those before her like grandfather Henry VII) was set the stage for the future British Empire. Everyone wanted to cash in on the colonies back then, it was the dream of every European country to have a settlement in the Americas, of course the country ...more
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Ronald captures the "gentleman adventurers" (read: pirates, corsairs, rovers, and the like) of the Elizabethan era flawlessly! I found it quite amazing just how dependent the little island-state of England was on plunder and booty in the mid-to-late 16th century. What's even more amazing is how these adventurers teamed up not once, not twice, but three times to defeat the Spanish Armada, and lay the groundwork for what would eventually become the United States of America. Absolutely amazing--a p ...more
Annie Brady
This book assumed too much prior knowledge on the subject of economics. For instance, in one chapter, Elizabeth stabilized the runaway inflation by recalling the old currency and minting new coins. As I read it, I kept nodding, saying to myself, "Oh, so that's how you do it." I don't know enough about economics to know whether Elizabeth's strategy was brilliant or routine, risky or sure. When I read that chapter, I merely read a list of Elizabeth's actions, without being able to put them into th ...more
Very easy read, yet covers a lot between c.1560-1600. Essentially the story of the start of the British Navy and the very start of thoughts of Empire. I enjoyed the spread of knowledge starting with out getting bogged down. The 1588 Armarda takes up a few pages. Starts with the merchant shipping expeditions that turned to plunder, to the quasi Royal assistance/acceptance of this as a means of warfare against the Spanish. It ends with the start of the East Indies Company and the birth of an Empir ...more
Jun 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Another interesting book about this female monarch. I like it when the author takes a subject an gives it an unusual twist - for example researching and portraying the queen and her adventures and all the piracy she was involved in rather than just focusing on Queen Elizabeth as the monarch. All that said, this just reinforces the fact that I think the queen was a little crazy and indecisive and prone to childish temper tantrums.
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a spectacular read! I honeaty just picked this up for random reads but I was totally blown away by the clear and illustrious descriptions of 17th century England, the cunning and brave Queen Elizabeth and of course, her raving parties of corsairs and adventurers. I have not known anything about the incredible queen until I read this marvelous book, I have learned soo much and if possible Id like a movie or series to be based off this work of excitement! 5 stars man! Whhhooooooooooo
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The piratical adventurers who laid the foundations for Britain's victory over its enemies also provided her navy with a matchless knowledge of the workings of the illicit trade that underlay the European economy. In a short period of time the British navy became peerless and directed world trade from its own shores. Queen Elizabeth used the tools at her disposal to forge an empire that was hardly foreordained. She fought for it.
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! Actually finished it a few days ago, and today started to reread it. I will say though, I feel like "The Queen's Pirates" would have been a better title for it though but that is literally my only (and very minor) "complaint". I do suspect I will forever remember this book as what I was reading before/during the Great Flood as well.
Cynthia Egbert
This book has some interesting stuff but it is extremely detailed and might bog some people down. I tried to listen to it as an audio book and found that I could not keep my attention on it and so had to move to the actual book. It does make one see Elizabeth in a new light!
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched and densely detailed account of the economics and logistics of Queen Elizabeth I using pirates to enrich and secure her country and her rule which is told mainly through the activity of the pirates.  This book would most likely be enjoyed by those with some prior familiarity with and interest in Queen Elizabeth I or England at this time.  As the title and plot summary suggests, it specifically focuses on the piracy aspect of her reign.  Although there were quite a few individua ...more
I don't know all the literature on this era, but I expect that Ronald's achievement is not in unearthing new information, but in putting it all together. The general works on Elizabeth and this period present pirates and piracy in piecemeal fashion and Elizabeth's benefits as serendipitous. This book shows that piracy was wed into her foreign policy as much or more than her marriage possibilities (which garner considerably more attention in books for the general reader and in film).

The author br
Samantha M.
It feels painfully awkward to write reviews because I am not at all qualified to judge another person's work, but I've determined that if I review it I'm much more likely to remember what the book was about.

The Pirate Queen was not a page-turner. In the midst of a reading binge like I haven't had in a while, The Pirate Queen slowed me down to the point where I don't know if I want to pick up another book for a good while. The content and pace was fine. It was interesting and informative. I lear
Connie D
This is a well-written, detailed account of Eliabeth I's reign in relation to England's maritime adventures, including all the big names on the sea and at court: Drake, Raleigh, Frobisher, Cecil, Burghley, Walsingham, Dudley, Devereux, and many more. Of course, Elizabeth's adversary, Philip II of Spain, is a big player in the game (as are the Netherlands, Ireland, and Portugal and all the barely explored lands around the world).

I really enjoyed learning about each person's mistakes and triumph
Amanda Ellison
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book a lot! It would is non-fiction, but the author writes superbly, making it a great read. I've read many books about the Tudor family, especially Elizabeth I. This book made reading non-fiction fun, something that non-fiction history authors sometimes don't do! It's about how Elizabeth I endorsed several men to go plundering & looting Spanish ships or Spanish held colonies in the New World. It's through this abundant wealth that she was able to rule her country for nearly 50 yr ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really more about the "pirates" of the title than the "queen." Those with an interest in English history, naval history, etc. should find plenty to enjoy, but anyone expecting an account of the life of Elizabeth I in detail will be disappointed. There is much more about Sir Francis Drake (who sounds like an amazing person for any age, let alone such a ruthless one as that) than there is about Her Majesty, and European politics are discussed frequently. That being said, I learned a l ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved having more of the historical background on some of the famous names we all hear about in history classes. Sometimes it was confusing, though, to keep track of names and dates while she jumped around to follow the story line. Those were times that the book became a good sleep aid. It also struggled to wrap up the story and after several hundred pages, Queen Elizabeth dies and the summary is all of one paragraph before closing. I gave it a high score just because some of the information w ...more
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As the title suggests, this book is about commerce and quite a lot of the examples are about one-sided commercial transactions. (see how I did that! haha Unsure that calling an English monarch a thief is not still treasonable). Refreshing tone and meticulously researched with sources available.
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How often can you describe a biography as a page-turner? As other reviewers have mentioned, there is a lot of time spent on Sir Francis Drake (and of course, now I want to go find a biography about him!), possibly at the expense of other important figures in the Elizabethan Court. I was hoping for some references to Shakespeare and - connected or not - to Edward de Vere. I might complain a little bit that the author seems a bit too forgiving of Elizabeth and some of her more questionable judgeme ...more
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a highly detailed non-fiction account of how during the reign of Elizabeth I "merchant-adventurers" sailed the seas of the world in search of treasure in the Americas- while participating in a contest between Spain, Portugal and England to rule Europe and trade with the East, by finding a path through North America. Of course, the epic battle for Catholic v. Protestant control of Europe was central to success.
I listened to the expertly narrated audio version.
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This provides a broad overview of Elizabethan foreign policy mixed with some more detailed narratives of specific voyages. It does seem bogged down a bit at times, and the author is clearly flirting without outright hero worship of the Elizabeth I. However, the sections about Drake's successes and the Spanish Armada provide some fairly exciting content. Overall, I learned more about this period of European and especially English history and got some entertainment while doing it.
Russell Hall
A refreshing view of the reign of Elizabeth. This book puts Elizabeth's reign in the context of the workings and history of the navel exploits of her reign; indeed a most interesting subject to Americans reading the book. Chronicling the Armada, Drake, Raleigh, and Roanoke, this book covers much hidden history of the age, not normally covered in such detail in a book about the Virgin Queen.
Honestly, I tried. The subject of this really is good, I just couldn't get through it, it's so dense and a bit on the dry side! So I'm DNF-ing it. Maybe I will pick it up again another time though and try again because as always, Queen Elizabeth is one of my favorites. I think just the focus on ONLY one aspect (anything naval, aka trade, piracy, etc) was too much for me.
Mar 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs, travelers, adventurists
This is good... Oh the high sea's of adventure. Lots of excerpts from documents of the era. Fantastic details of each "adventure" as the queen from taking the throne to passing controls the English trade and puts the first few cracks into the walls of the Spanish empire.

Heavy in the old English, so many parts were a "huh" and re-read of the chapter...but completely worth it.
Jan 15, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very informative book mostly about the pirates during the time of Queen Elizabeth. I had thought it was another biography on QE1, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how the majority of it was really about all the different pirates. It was a piece of history I don't know much about at all!! I love that now I'll be able to banter with all the grand pirates out there!!
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good overall look at Great Britain's beginnings on the high seas. Queen Elizabeth, Cecil, Frobisher, Raleigh and all the adventurers become a colorful reality instead of the dust from our history books. This was a pick up put down for me. Definitely worth the read though.
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What about the Irish? 1 3 Aug 14, 2011 10:19AM  
  • Elizabeth and Essex
  • Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
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  • After Elizabeth: The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England
  • Elizabeth the Great
  • The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age
  • Behind the Mask: The Life of Queen Elizabeth I
  • Queen Elizabeth in the Garden: A Story of Love, Rivalry, and Spectacular Gardens
  • Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
  • Death And The Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart
  • Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
  • Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor
  • The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII
  • New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485-1603
  • Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride
  • Henry VIII: Man and Monarch
  • The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne
  • The Elizabethans