Friday, April 17, 2009

Book Rec: Oi, Tudors whores!

Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics, by Sarah Gristwood

In my youth (god, I can SAY that, how horrible), I was an English history major. At U.C. Berkeley. I actually toyed with the idea of getting a Ph.D, applied, was accepted, and was informed in my acceptance letter that there were no jobs and if I wanted to pursue academia, go forth, but be prepared to flip burgers for a living. Which prompted me to go to cooking school instead! Yes, true story.

History remains a passion and you really can't get any more passionate than those damn Tudors. I have purchased every major popular history on that family and a goodly number of academic tomes on them, and they continue to fascinate.

This is another book on Elizabeth and Leicester. It's well researched, and I like how this author cites other authors' theories (this is a well travelled road and one hell of a crowded field), because a tremendous amount of this is just that: theory. She paints a much broader and interesting portrait of Leicester than I've seen in previous books (sort of the point), with less emphasis on Liz (which is good, because, yeah, I've read a lot on her). There is much sensible interpretation here with some interesting asides. I especially like her take on Cecil and Leicester, which has always been my interpretation, that once Cecil realized that Leicester had no chance of becoming her consort (and more to the point, Leicester realized it), that they could unite and concentrate on their mutual goal. Which was to keep Elizabeth on the throne.

The writing is quite engaging, and I was left with a sadness about these two. They were of a kind. The sort that took fate by its ears and wrestled it to the ground, at great personal cost, however. I didn't need the appendices on popular cinematic treatments, and, I suspect, given the quasi-academic tone of this book, her publisher probably gently insisted on it as a marketing tool. Ignore them. This is welcome addition to my burgeoning bookshelf on the Tudors.

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