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Elizabeth I: A Study in Insecurity

(Penguin Monarchs)

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  258 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In the popular imagination, as in her portraits, Elizabeth I is the image of monarchical power. The Virgin Queen ruled over a Golden Age: the Spanish Armada was defeated; English explorers reached the ends of the earth; a new Church of England rose from the ashes of past conflict; the English Renaissance bloomed in the genius of Shakespeare, Spenser and Sidney. But the ima ...more
Hardcover, 115 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by Allen Lane (first published 2018)
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Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clever and concise, with a clear authorial voice and definitive theme, this is a great intro to the varied issues and dangers faced by Elizabeth throughout her life.
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I love Elizabeth, that's all I'm gonna say. And this book
is nice whether you are novice in her story, whether you are connoisseur and you need to determine your knowledge.
Caidyn (he/him/his)
Earlier this year, I read a huge book about Elizabeth I and she's still a fascinating woman to me. She's so, so interesting. The subtitle for this book is one of those that I agree with and I don't. She was insecure, but what she did made her secure at the same time. I really enjoyed reading this and it's a great starter on her reign! ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tudor
Examing Elizabeth I through her political and personal insecurities seemed like a fascinating read to me as I have read some of the others in this series so decided I definitely needed to check this one out.This basically takes you through all the major events of her life and reign pointing out where at any given moment Elizabeth might have seen some of her insecurities come to light.Such as the circumstances of her birth,her sex,her place in the sucession,the Thomas Seymour affair,her sister's ...more
Pontus Alexander
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Concise but informative - a good little overview of Elizabeth I of England's reign. ...more
Carolyn Harris
An excellent short biography of Queen Elizabeth I. Dr. Helen Castor looks behind the Queen's confident public image as Gloriana and examines her precarious position over the the course of her reign. The fates of Henry VIII's six wives are so well known today that the probable impact of these events on Elizabeth I's sense of her own position and her attitudes toward marriage are sometimes overlooked. Elizabeth experienced a treacherous path to the throne and a series of threats to her authority o ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic portrait of a deeply unsettled yet resolute monarch in the face of overwhelming political pressures and traumatic formative experiences.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: british, nonfiction
In my personal pantheon of Great Historical Nonfiction Authors, Helen Castor sits at the tippy top, along with Stefan Zweig, whom I recently raved about in my review of his biography Mary, Queen of Scots. It was Zweig's incredible exploration of this tragic queen's life that inspired me to read the Castor's biography of Elizabeth I, the more triumphant queen who ordered the Queen of Scots' death.

Until now, Castor's limited herself to pre-Tudor medieval history. The latest she goes is the War of
Big Al
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, biography
100 pages is barely enough to scratch the surface of Elizabeth’s eventful life, but this brief introduction serves as a compelling character study of one of England’s most fascinating monarchs. Elizabeth’s action-packed reign is certainly worthy of a fuller-sized biography, so I’m thinking that the Penguin Monarchs series is better suited to lesser-known royals who I’d like to learn some more about without it being a major time commitment.
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great introduction to Elizabeth I. Such an interesting character in human history. I was afraid the size of the book (it’s only 115 pages long, and Elizabeth lived from 1533 until 1603 and reigned from 1558 until her death; quite some time to accumulate a good story) would limit the writer, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless! Would deformity recommend, and am intrigued to pick up more about Elizabeth I and from the Penguin Monarchs series.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Short and succinct are the first two words that come to mind when describing Helen Castor’s, Elizabeth I: A Study in Insecurity. Castor has covered Elizabeth’s entire life in under 100 pages. As with all teaching (a natural by-product of historical writing), knowing what to cover, what to skim and what to eliminate are key elements. Castor amazingly includes all of the major events in Elizabeth’s life giving the perfect amount of detail within broad context. Not an easy feat. The reader is given ...more
Carolina Casas
Helen Castor makes Elizabeth come alive in this intimate study of the last Tudor monarch. Whereas many biographies tend to gloss over her failures or the negative aspects of her reign, and others swing the pendulum to the other side, dismissing all her successes; Helen Castor does the opposite, reaching a much needed middle-ground. She gives us an Elizabeth who was flawed, hesitant, over-sensitive and highly arrogant. Yet, she could also be caring and reflective and aware of her surroundings -wh ...more
Boar's Head Eastcheap
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Helen Castor is - despite the title - sensibly objective in this short but useful biography of Elizabeth. Early on, she admits that the queen was almost unknowable to her subjects and rivals, let alone to us from a distance of over 300 years.

She presents the facts of Elizabeth's life fairly dispassionately, allowing us to develop our own ideas and theories about how her turbulent early years might have influenced her later policies as Queen. Similarly, the emotive is stripped out of her dealing
Tony Riches
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helen Castor admits this was a not an easy book to write, and is to be congratulated on fitting so much into less than a hundred pages. I like this Penguin Monarch's series, as the authors are cleverly chosen and have done remarkably well within the limitations of the format.

The subtitle 'A Study in Insecurity' offers a good clue to Helen Castor's interpretation of Elizabeth's life. Even before she was queen, it must have been worrying to have the shadow of the executioner's axe hanging over her
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Helen Castor is, as always, beautifully readable but so delicate when it comes to her subject matter. A really interesting portrait of Elizabeth here, and not necessarily one that we'd all recognise, but a very intriguing one nonetheless: a woman who delights in theatricality, yet exists in half-shadows and inaction. A woman who asserts one thing with her right hand, and denies it with her left. And most surprising -- the idea of Elizabeth I as dogged by mental ill health all her life as a depre ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent study into the events of Elizabeth Tudor's life that created the Queen that came to be known as Gloriana. Helen Castor describes how a deep insecurity was the defining feature of Elizabeth's life that forged her intellect and cautious intelligence that became watchful and reactionary.

I was lucky enough to attend a Tudor and Stuart Weekend in Canterbury this month where Helen Castor spoke about this book with wit and intelligence. A wonderful speaker and a fascinating book.
A very interesting look into the actions of Elizabeth I, and why she may have taken the paths she did during her illustrious reign. Her deep personal insecurities led her to behave in ways that may not have appeared as proper for a monarch but in a modern view, they are understandable and extremely relatable. Overall, a valuable read, and easy to understand and get through due to the length of the book.
Miss Amanda Stocks
Castor provides a succinct, yet detailed look at Elizabeth I’s life and reign. Very informative (will be recommending to students!) yet not too bogged down in details. It instead provides an interesting overview linking aspects of life, background, challenges, successes, love, foreign policy and governance without becoming too focused on one particular aspect.
Alistair Watson
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as a teacher to get up to speed on my subject knowledge for an Elizabeth I module.

It was absolutely brilliant!
* extremely readable
* concise, containing extensive information about key events in Elizabeth's life
* clear interpretation focused on the causes and consequences of insecurity as the formative experience of Elizabeth's reign

Highly recommended!
Stuart Cole
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent piece of history - she writes as she speaks, lucidly, and with purpose. This book is the best introduction to Elizabeth I have read, but it is more than that, providing strong context to the most important concerns of her reign, and of her life
Hanna  (lapetiteboleyn)
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
A concise, readable introduction to the life, both public and private, of Elizabeth I. My only criticism is that it suffers for the length, in places it skims through events that must have had a profound effect on Elizabeth and spends an unnecessary amount of time with Elizabeth's rumoured loves. ...more
Harriet Rix
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lovely thematic overview of the reign of Elizabeth I: accessible, without being dumbed down - I would have liked more appearance of Francis Drake/privateering, but lots of very useful extracts for GCSE (and potentially even KS3)
Charlotte Sawyer
Accessible overview of Elizabeth's reign

Easy reading, provides a good overview of key aspects of Elizabeth's life and reign. Recommended introduction to those studying Elizabeth or for general interest.
A brief but highly-engaging biography of Good Queen Bess. It is both accessible for the layman, while being scholarly enough to satisfy someone looking for more. As an introduction - or revision - to Elizabeth’s reign, it’s hard to see how this could be improved.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Short, evocative introduction to the life of Queen Elizabeth I.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It was interesting, compelling and lovely. I loved learning more about Elizabeth I, who is admittedly my favourite monarch.
old acc
Can't say I really absorbed this one, may have to reread! ...more
Amanda Witt
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A compact volume on how royalty and religion intertwined in the 16th Century.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
very good to put in with all the countless other writings about Elizabeth. Not sure I learned anything new, but reminded me of things. Makes me want to watch the Cate Blanchett movie again. Ho hum.
Alastair Savin
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant look into the mindset of Elizabeth I. I strangely hadn’t really considered the effect the unpredictable and danger of her early life will have affected style of leadership.
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Helen Castor is a historian of medieval England and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. She directed studies in History at Sidney for eight years before deciding to concentrate on writing history for a wider readership.

Her book Blood & Roses (Faber, 2004, published in revised form in the US by HarperCollins, 2006) is a biography of the fifteenth-century Paston family, whose letters are

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