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Elizabeth the Great

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  942 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Elizabeth Jenkins illuminates in great detail the personal and private life of Elizabeth 1. Was she bald? What precisely was her sex-life? What were her emotional attachments? No other biography provides such a personal study of the Queen and her court - their daily lives, concerns, topics of conversation, meals, living conditions, travels, successes and failures - but it ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 20th 2000 by Phoenix Press (first published 1958)
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Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I'm glad that of the shelves and shelves of books about England's first Queen Elizabeth I happened upon this one. It's a condensed read -- more than sixty years in just over 300 pages -- that prioritizes history as it must have been perceived by Elizabeth rather than how later historians have contextualized her within it. Events like the destruction of the Spanish Armada, for example, are outlined in just paragraphs, while the romantic intrigues of the royal court span chapters. And the author, ...more
Jenkins does a very nice job of detailing Elizabeth's life. Very readable and an excellent introduction to her legacy.All of those who surround her are also part of the narrative, creating a fuller picture. Mary the Queen of Scots plays a major role in Elizabeth's decision-making and it is fascinating to see how she was able to tamp down constant threats and keep control of her kingdom. The Council and her advisors spend much effort trying to arrange a marriage for Elizabeth with no success. Thi ...more
Amber Schamel
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A very interesting and thorough look at Queen Elizabeth I and her life. I loved the details that Jenkins included.
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was an awesome read! Not only did it give the feel of a fictional piece of work but it was essentially like reading a soap opera of the past. I would recommend this to people who want to become educated about the history of the world but who are just bored to tears when reading a more educational biography.
Sarah Wagner
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good overview of the life and reign of Elizabeth I of England with an emphasis on her private life. The politics of the reign (a fascinating but complex topic) take a backseat in this biography, which is an excellent starting point of someone new to Elizabeth I. I have to stop myself from comparing this short biography with others which delve into particular aspects of Elizabeth's reign with more complexity and depth, as those works also lack the conciseness of this one. This is a great book f ...more
Charlie Brown
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Rex is one of my favorite historical figures; let me put that out there so my bias is plain. Elizabeth Jenkins’ book is a wonderful tour through the fragments of primary and secondary historical artifacts that are left to us from the Elizabethan Age. Having emerged from the chaos of the Middle Ages and the torment of the fourteenth century, England and Europe in the sixteenth evolve toward a world that is recognizably similar to our world.

In her youth Elizabeth survived several nearly
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Jenkins has written several both fiction and nonfiction books, among them a biography of Jane Austen. She lived to be 105. The Guardian calls Jenkins a 'biographer of exceptional quality' and a 'biographer of strong female characters.'

This biography of Queen Elizabeth I of England was interesting, insightful and instructive! I found it easy to read and even though got a little bogged down halfway through, after a while I found my impetus again, and was able to finish it knowing a lot m
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Elizabeth had a sad childhood. Her mother was beheaded by command of her father. Her father spent much of his life ignoring her existence unless prompted by his future wives. Elizabeth dotted on her younger brother Edward and was quite saddened by his death. Her relationship with Mary was a bit more complicated. Although Mary spoiled Elizabeth with gifts and clothing she also kept her away when she was ruler of England. Mary's husband also further the wedge between sisters. Elizabeth while being ...more
Linda Hartlaub
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Although this is considered a classic and definitive book on Elizabeth I, I have to say it was boring as all get out. If you have trouble sleeping, this is a book to read. It's soporific effects led to several nights of really good sleep.

But even with the sleep-inducing effects, Elizabeth the Great is filled with facts and tidbits about the Tudor reign. I do have issues with the citations, or rather lack thereof. (You can chalk that up to my class on advanced genealogy where we are working with
Nicholas Whyte
"[return][return]I have to say this is one of the more interesting biographies of Elizabeth I that I have read. Jenkins makes a good argument that Elizabeth's determination to remain unmarried stemmed not just from the abuse she suffered in her teens from her stepmother, Catherine Parr, and Parr's new husband Seymour, but also from the childhood echoes of her own mother's execution - an event she could barely remember, but which was echoed in the beheadi ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, owned
Excellent bio of Elizabeth I. Published over 60 years ago, I'm sure this is not definitive, but it is great storytelling and well worth reading. I'm glad I got some background in the basic history before tackling this because it is definitely a very selective take. Jenkins is strongly focused on interpersonal relationships within Elizabeth's court and other circles of power, which it turns out are pretty fascinating. As another reviewer noted, the Spanish Armada is covered in about a page and a ...more
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
While many important events are glossed over or barely mentioned in this book (it's not a book on the history of England, after all), Jenkins makes an excellent study of a fascinating and complex woman. Jenkins insightfully theorizes that Queen Elizabeth never intended to marry and used the planning of marriage as a negotiating and diplomacy tool to attain the treaties and alliances she wanted, then abandoned each suitor once she got what she wanted. Manipulative, perhaps, but given her experien ...more
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
While I found the subject very interesting and the book to be fairly comprehensive in describing her life and times, there were a couple of negatives for me. First, I found the writing style to be more dry and it was more challenging to get through it. Second, the author spends and inordinate time talking about her marriage prospects and speculation on her suitors and sex life. Yes, I get that the fact she remained unmarried throughout her reign was an important part of her ability to stay in po ...more
Danielle Reily
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this biography. I always enjoy reading about the Tudors. I think this is a very complete history of Elizabeth, but it is biased towards her. I happen to agree with a lot of the opinions stated in the book, but it isn't a straight forward statment of facts.
I wouldn't recommend this book if you aren't interested in history, I believe this is a fascinating period, and an inspiring woman, but not everyone will enjoy it. Also there are a lot of people, events, places, and changing rel
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was culling my books and picked this off the shelf - an old, falling apart paperback. Because I've always been interested in Elizabeth, I thought I'd read a chapter or two before donating it or trashing it. Hmmm - I've now finished it! So much detail, evidently taken from minutes of meetings (!!) and letters. In fact, the detail can overwhelm the history. On the other hand, to be so deep in the court goings on was fascinating. As others have said, sometimes it's difficult to keep the players s ...more
Angela Duea
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
While it was a slightly dry narrative at times, the detail and clarity of writing made the historic events accessible and understandable. The reader gets a sense of just how remarkable Elizabeth was, as well as how flawed. One of the most touching take-aways from the book is an understanding of how her council and ministers worked together with her and managed around each others' quirks and habits.

This is an excellent companion to the more recent work by David Starkey, detailing the few years i
Jane Davis
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Elizabeth Jenkins approaches an understanding of Elizabeth from a psychological perspective. Death played a big part in her earlier years. Her mother was executed, as was her step-mother Katherine Howard of whom she was fond. Her brother died young as did his mother Jane Seymour in child-birth. Jenkins believes that avoiding anything that would hasten her death in any way. This was one of the psychological influence, another was violence. An interesting perspective
Aug 02, 2007 rated it liked it
I always have a hard time keeping who's who straight and a few pages in to this one I can tell I'm gonna have to reread a lot, but I'm determined. I finished! I'm so glad to have gotten that all straightened out. I watched two seperate movies on this chick and they contradicted each other. Well, suprise suprise they were both inaccurate. I guess that's why they were movies and not biographies. Anyway, I feel smarter now and can move on.
Andrew Ssempala
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Elizath the Great is a monarch every one who wants to understand England must read. Her reign was a watershed in British history and so many things are what they arer because she ruled England. Hers was something of a golden age for the kingdom, defeating the spanish Armada and establishing England as a sea power, prevailing over the powerful Catholic lobby, and so many other legacies that still run unto this day. I enjoyed the book, mu first by Jenkins.
Lynette Hague
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was jam packed with history. I enjoyed learning more about Elizabeth the Great, but I found it hard to get through each chapter. Many were lengthy discussion on who she should marry. She was a very intelligent woman. It was interesting to learn that her early objectives included paying off England's debts and trying to keep England free from conflict and civil war (to name a few).
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My response

When I read about Queen Elizabeth I who transformed England into a relatively tolerant power, I can see that it was providential that of all the European powers, the English ended up the principal colonizers of North America. Clearly not a benevolent monarch, she was one of the best ever to live on this earth. Her influence is comparable to that of Augustus Caesar.
May 28, 2015 rated it liked it
A dated but well written and researched biography. I particularly appreciated the compassionate explanation of her refusal to marry and other issues due to childhood trauma. It was a bit difficult to remember all the earls and dukes and lords since it's not part of my daily life, but maybe i'm just overloaded because i just read Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bit dated (it was written in the 1950's) as to the writing style. Interesting in that the author spent little time on the details of the political situations and more on the anecdotes that reveal the person of Elizabeth I, the "why" she did things, not just "what" she did.
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I hardly feel qualified to rate this book because it's been so long -- more than 30 years, I think -- since I read it. But I'll always be fond of it because it was the book, discovered during a boring visit to my grandparents' when I was in junior high, that ignited my lifelong Tudor obsession.
Jan 12, 2009 rated it liked it
I have to admit that I have not finished this book. It's quite dry and historical. But if you want an historically acurate book about Queen Elizabeth, I recommend this one. It goes into great detail about her life.
Nov 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Interesting look at Elizabeth the Great. I really didn't know much about her and that era of history. Even though it's a history book and not a novel, it makes her and everything that happened to her seem very real.
Apr 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Jenkins does an excellent job of making a historical biography very readable.
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-tudors
Nothing new here, just a straigtforward but highly readable account of the major incidents of the life of Elizabeth I.
A readable biography, with a good balance between the personal and political lives of the great Queen.
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
EXCELLENT biography of one of England's most amazing rulers.
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From Elizabeth Jenkins' obituary in The New York Times:

As a novelist, Ms. Jenkins was best known for “The Tortoise and the Hare” (1954), the story of a disintegrating marriage between a barrister and his desperate wife that Hilary Mantel, writing in The Sunday Times of London in 1993, called “as smooth and seductive as a bowl of cream.” Its author, Ms. Mantel wrote, “seems to know a good deal abou