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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  644 ratings  ·  55 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
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published June 26th 2007 by Harper (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Linda Harkins
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
An excellent answer to my question from my last book (A Kingdom Strange): what the hell was wrong with Walter Raleigh? Turns out Horn's book didn't take into account the finances of the British crown in critiquing the failure of Raleigh to resupply his Roanoke colony. Ronald if anything goes into too much detail of England's poverty and couches the entirety of state-sponsored piracy and the eventual birth of the British navy in terms of funding the state.

What is especially interesting to me is
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...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
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 ...more
Annie Brady
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 22, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 04, 2014 rated it liked it
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!
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Greatly detailed account of the importance of trade, religion, and control of the seas during Elizabeth's reign. The book brings all the players to life, especially Francis Drake.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Starts slow but overall a fantastic read, especially once Drake enters the scene.
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this . I went on to watch a few documentaries after reading this, very interesting
16th Century England: Elizabeth I's success in financial survival thru piracy, prevailing over Spain, avoiding marriage.
Glen Stott
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The title of the book is misleading. Queen Elizabeth I was known as the Pirate Queen, so the title would indicate it is about her. The description of the book tends to support that conclusion. I am interested in the Queen so the commitment to a 500-page book was okay. The book is not really about Elisabeth I; she appears occasionally and her pronouncements, laws, foreign policies, investments, etc. drive the story, but the person of Elizabeth is absent. The book is mostly about the lives and ...more
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
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 individuals ...more
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
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Amanda Ellison
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mac Daly
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Queen Elizabeth I is not remembered as being a pirate, and it's true, she never sailed the seven seas, but she did command a series of ship captains who had no qualms about plundering both foreign ships and colonies. Men like Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh captured Spanish ships (and their treasure) in the name of national security, but sometimes crossed the line from defense to pillage. Of course, Elizabeth never openly condoned such behavior, but did not hesitate to take her share of the ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...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 ...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.
Fate's Lady
Dec 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This felt like something u should have aborted, but the descriptions of various shops and their vittles and the amount of money (also translated into modern cash) become tedious. It was almost as if the title told me editing I needed to know about the subject as someone who already knows a bit about the Tudor era, who only needed a nudge to find this shift in perspective. It's a decent book, it just didn't blow me away.
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