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Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,514 ratings  ·  144 reviews
A source of endless fascination and speculation, the subject of countless biographies, novels, and films, Elizabeth I is now considered from a thrilling new angle by the brilliant young historian Tracy Borman.

So often viewed in her relationships with men, the Virgin Queen is portrayed here as the product of women: the mother she lost so tragically, the female subjects who
Hardcover, 482 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Bantam (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  2,514 ratings  ·  144 reviews

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BAM Endlessly Booked
This is the perfect introduction to Elizabethan female royal society. Let me stress INTRODUCTION. Having read bios on many of the women briefly discussed, I learned nothing new. However, if one is just beginning to read about this period, this book is perfect.
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Tracy Borman took on a large scale project. Some of the women in Elizabeth's life are famous in their own right and have already been extensively studied. There had to be a lot of editorial decisions about the depth of content for these women and how to balance it so they would not crowd out space for the lesser knowns.

With less emphasis on the "big events", the book becomes a treatment of both Elizabeth's daily life and of her intimate and lasting relationships. We learn how her court functione
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: hromance and English History fans
It wasn't the book I wanted to read. I was hoping for a study of how Elizabeth influenced politics and was influenced in politics by her women. What this was about was how Elizabeth inflluenced love matches and how those matches influenced Elizabeth. While I acknowledge that would be impossible to exclude love matches from a study of Elizabeth and her women, I also feel a large part of the story I wanted to read was not told. You mean to tell me that Bess of Hardwick's only political interest wa ...more
The thing I hate most in history books is when the author can't be bothered to get her most simple facts right. This book is a prime example.

1)The author says that Katherine of Aragon was regent when Henry was on campaign in Scotland. WRONG. She was regent when Henry was in FRANCE and she fought a war against the Scots when the Scottish army invaded England as soon as Henry left for France.

2)She refers to Anne Boleyn's famous 'A' necklace. WRONG. The famous necklace she wore was the initial 'B'
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent nonfiction study of the important women in Elizabeth I's life, including her mother, her sister, her cousins, and her servants and ladies. I found the sections on Elizabeth's various cousins (with competing claims to the throne) and on her ladies, some devoted and not so devoted, to be the most interesting. ...more
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, tudor, own, vine
As an avid reader of all things Tudor, I found Elizabeth’s Women to be very accessible despite some minor flaws. I was pleased with its good progression and chronology and anyone not as familiar with Elizabeth I’s life would enjoy Borman’s approach. It effectively demonstrates the influence of the women who surrounded Elizabeth I, whether in the role of surrogate mother, lady in waiting or contender to the throne. These were women who could spark her jealousy or benefit from her goodwill.

I was
Mar 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tudors
I love the idea behind this book, Elizabeth is always portrayed as something of a 'man's woman', so it was interesting to consider her relationships with the women around her. However, there are a lot of little inaccuracies and claims that are not backed up by any evidence, and this ruined things a bit for me. Some examples of these are:

Page 16 "Mary [Boleyn] had borne a son with mental disabilities whom Anne would not suffer to be at court." - This is not backed up by any reference and is very
Rebecca Huston
Very well written, very interesting, look at the women in Elizabeth I's life, from ladies in waiting, servants, and rivals, among them Lettice Knollys, Mary Queen of Scots, the Grey sisters, and Bess of Hardwick. I was very taken by the story of Helena Snakenborg, it would be great material for a novel. A keeper.

For the longer review, please go here:
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: tudor, england, nonfic
I would have liked more organization, maybe because of repeat titles and everyone having one of ten first names and one of like 5 surnames. I also wanted more information about more of her ladies, but I think too much of the book is taken up with Mary Queen of Scots and other large figures. I get that they're important in the scheme of things, but they're such large subjects that it's difficult to fit into someone else's life. ...more
Janet Wertman
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sigh. There were a bunch of small errors that in the grand scheme of things shouldn't weigh that much - except that they make you wonder whether the author was as cavalier with her primary points. It was an important concept that had never been fully addressed - but didn't feel all that fully addressed here either (Elizabeth reigned for a long time and not all of it was well-represented...or was that just because it was unimportant?). I am assembling information for my upcoming trilogy on Elizab ...more
Marie Z. Johansen
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I ordered it from Britain before it's US release because I did not want to wait (check out the Book Depository or Amazon UK when you simply can't wait for a US release of a book ). This cover is the British edition cover. I liked it better so I used it here - you can see the US cover now on any book seller’s site! I think this is just about my favorite book about Elizabeth I. It's jam packed with small details and information about Elizabeth that are most often overlooked by m ...more
Oct 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, herstory
I was so excited when this book arrived from I couldn’t wait to dive into it. After all, it promised a brand new view of Elizabeth I, “…portrayed here as the product of women….” The reader is assured that it is “…a thrilling new angle by the brilliant young historian Tracy Borman.” The author herself guarantees that she has “…focused the story upon those women who help to reveal Elizabeth the woman, as well as Elizabeth the Queen.” 418 pages later, I am still waiting for a revelation ...more
The hook of this biography of Elizabeth I is that it sets out to do something new—to create the queen and her society by examining the network of women who surrounded Elizabeth and who influenced her, from the memory of her mother's execution through to faithful female courtiers who attended her in her final days. Sadly, Borman fails to deliver on the promise of that hook. What could have been a very intriguing study of female networks of friendship, co-operation, education, and enmity; of the c ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
For my full review:

The concept behind this book was intriguing; Borman argues that Elizabeth I worked hard to be treated as a man in the public sphere and that therefore her female private circle has been neglected in biography.  This reminded me of how Hilary Clinton described how herself and other female Secretaries of State would travel to countries such as Saudi Arabia and be treated by government officials as men, since acknowledging their womanhood
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading about the women in Elizabeth’s life and their influence on her. She was clearly a demanding employer, expecting her women to put her first in all things and, preferably, to forgo any life of their own so as not to impinge on their attention to her.

A couple of people have mentioned the historical errors, two of which I picked up on myself, namely that Catherine of Aragon was regent while Henry was in France and that the woman I have always read of as Kat Ashley is referred to t
Although this book is highly readable, at times that seems to come at the expense of sound historical methodology, and occasionally even at the expense of continuity. Borman too often says that one thing [definitely] led to another, or that a certain event in Elizabeth's life made - not "contributed to," but "made" - her act in a certain way later in life. Additionally, there were times that the author contradicted herself. For instance, when discussing Mary, Queen of Scots' marriage to the Earl ...more
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the second Tudor history book I've read this month, and this was by far the more enjoyable. I've read a lot of books (fiction and non-fiction) about Elizabeth but never one like this that focused on the women who surrounded the Virgin Queen and helped shape her views on life and leadership. Though the cast of characters is huge, and many of them share names, Borman did a good job of helping the reader keep track and differentiating between the Janes and Katherines that populated Elizabet ...more
Janet Flora Corso
Jan 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wonderful history of Queen Elizabeth I and her relationships with women, family, friends and foes. A lot has been written about how she worked with men, in a "man's world" and how she loved men, yet shunned marriage. This book focuses on the women who helped her in life and in her regency as well as some historical figures we know little about. I learned a lot and it is written so well it is easy to follow. Anyone who knows Tudor and Elizabethan history knows there is plenty of intrigue and scan ...more
Melissa McCauley
Sep 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was excited to pick up a book which looks at Elizabeth I’s life from a different perspective. All the histories I have read (sorry Alison Weir – you too) seem to only treat her as a powerful monarch (which she was).

Borman explores what she might have felt as a precocious girl, a teen, a young woman – and how her life experiences shaped her psyche and her character - almost all the people in her life were women. Strong, smart women.

Unfortunately, the narrative bogged down in the second half (as
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book took me forever to finish, but I believe that is because Elizabeth I didn't interest me that much. My only two complaints about the book, which are more nitpicks, are that Borman uses the word "precocious" too often, especially in the beginning of the book, and I'd rather all the quotes be written in modern English rather than medieval English as it slowed me down trying to decipher them. ...more
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Disappointing to say the least. Had very high hopes for this book and besides not presenting any new interpretations, Borman made mistakes and would make some very sweeping statements. Guess I am a very tough audience for Elizabethan materials. This was a gentle enough read for most people but I did get a bit impatient with it.
Patty Abrams
Apr 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-tudor
This turns out not to specifically be about the women in Elizabeth I's life, but a generalized biography of her, from birth to death. There are a few women spoken of as you go along, but be prepared to learn all about Elizabeth, more than you ever wanted to know. ...more
May 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
I don't exactly know what I was expecting from this book. Elizabeth was a brilliant stateswoman, but apparently, if you were prettier than her she would lose it. ...more
Brittany Wouters
Jul 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
Slutshamed Anne Boleyn, and it went downhill from there. It wasn't gripping, interesting, or revelatory. ...more
Marie Burton
Sep 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
In a world inundated with modern biographies on Elizabeth I, historian Tracy Borman sets out to explore the world of women surrounding Elizabeth I in hopes of shedding light on Elizabeth's character and personality. Who helped shaped Elizabeth into such a formidable female ruler, something that was an anomaly in itself? This is a proficient account of the story behind the stories of Elizabeth's peers, elders and family members that helps the reader to better understand the nuts and bolts of Eliz ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Tracy Borman's "Elizabeth's Women" is an incredibly misogynistic text that demonizes women's sexualities in order to explain why Elizabeth herself chose to remain a virgin.

Compare this: “Anne [of Cleves] could neither dance nor play a musical instrument, and her ignorance and shyness rendered her an embarrassment in the sophisticated world of the Tudor court” (Borman 75). Thus, Borman argues that dance is a sophisticated, queenly activity. But in Katherine Howard’s case: “Katherine…preferred the
Karen Brooks
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a brave book. Brave because it dares to tackle one of the most popular subjects available to historians and try and breath new life or at least create a different context for understanding the remarkable, mercurial and difficult Elizabeth I, “Gloriana.”

The key to the book lies in the title – the ways in which female friendship, enemies and rivalry influenced Elizabeth’s personality, upbringing, loves, and ultimately her reign.

Commencing, as many histories of Elizabeth do, with her mother
Library of Dreaming (Bookstagram)
I'm genuinely struggling with what to rate this book. Parts of the book were totally fascinating and well-written. Other parts were based on such shoddy conclusions and tired stereotypes that I had to force myself to keep reading.

The entire book is filled with an undercurrent of venom that I find hard to explain. Anne Boleyn gets the worst treatment, in my opinion. Tracy Borman portrays her as a conniving, seductive, and cruel bitch. I was especially unnerved by the suggestion that Anne hated M
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book delves into the personal and private life of one of histories most successful and popular rulers - Queen Elizabeth I of England.

So often depicted as a 'mans woman', Elizabeth even described herself as having "the heart and stomach of a King". But this book presents another side to the story of Elizabeth, how the women around her impacted her life. From the mother she hardly had time to get to know, to the succession of stepmothers, her sister who imprisoned her in the Tower and the va
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Tudor History Lovers: July 2019 - Elizabeth's Women, by Tracy Borman 3 42 Jul 01, 2019 01:40PM  

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Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth's Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of Hull, where

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