In this ground-breaking biography, John Guy introduces us to a refreshingly unfamiliar Elizabeth: at once powerful and vulnerable, wilful and afraid. She confronts the challenges of a conspiracy to place Mary Queen of Scots on her throne, a ruinous war against the Catholic powers of France and Spain, and riots in London.
The authoritative new portrait, focusing on the unknown later years and based – incredibly – on new documents.
History has pictured Elizabeth I as Gloriana, an icon of strength. But it was only when she reached fifty and her advisers no longer sought to force her into marriage that she began to wield power in her own right. For twenty-five years – the period that writers have chiefly focused on until now – she had struggled to assert her authority. Now, she was determined not only to reign but to rule.
In this ground-breaking biography, John Guy introduces us to a refreshingly unfamiliar Elizabeth: at once powerful and vulnerable, wilful and afraid. She confronts the challenges of a conspiracy to place Mary Queen of Scots on her throne, a ruinous war against the Catholic powers of France and Spain, and riots in London. She reluctantly allows Sir Walter Ralegh to set up a colony in Virginia, is unpopular even with those who fight for her and wonders which of her military and naval commanders she can trust.
After years mining long-overlooked archives, and making fresh use of Elizabeth’s many letters, some newly discovered, John Guy sweeps away myths and reveals her innermost thoughts. At last we hear her in her own voice – and see the woman behind the polished veneer, racked by insecurity, often too anxious to sleep alone. Guy’s gripping narrative captures with dramatic immediacy the challenge of being both a woman and a queen.
This is the real Elizabeth, for the first time.
About the Author
John Guy is an award-winning historian, accomplished broadcaster and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. His previous books include My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, winner of the 2004 Whitbread Biography Award and the Marsh Biography Award, the highly acclaimed dual biography A Daughter's Love: Thomas and Margaret More and a history, Tudor England, which has sold over 250,000 copies worldwide.
A beautifully rounded portrait of both the woman and the queen . . . This is a masterful biography. -- Amanda Foreman
A gripping story of Queen Elizabeth's last years, authoritatively researched and engagingly recounted by the leading Tudor historian of our age -- James Shapiro, author of 1599 and 1606
One of the very best historians we have in the country . . . It is brilliant, vigorous history, and a triumph of storytelling and scholarship -- Jessie Childs * Telegraph *
Guy's careful work with documents known and unknown, scattered throughout Europe's archives, allows him to paint a novel portrait of a complex - maybe even unknowable - queen -- John Gallagher * Guardian *
The best biography ever written of the Virgin Queen - a revisionist, sensitive, compelling, majestic masterwork that you can't put down -- Simon Sebag-Montefiore * Evening Standard *
A gripping story of Queen Elizabeth's last years, authoritatively researched and engagingly recounted by the leading Tudor historian of our age. It will be of special interest to anyone interested in the political world in which Shakespeare's Elizabethan drama is steeped-from anxiety over royal succession to England's costly war in Ireland -- James Shapiro, author of 1599 and 1606
John Guy's Elizabeth presents a beautifully rounded portrait of both the woman and the queen. Thanks to Guy's prodigious use of previously untapped material, we see, for the very first time, the full panoply of ambition and insecurity, plotting and deceit that marked the middle years of her reign. This is a masterful biography. -- Amanda Foreman
As you'd expect from John Guy, this is a very good read, a vivid and fascinating warts-and-all portrait of the ageing Elizabeth, backed by meticulous research -- Claire Tomalin
One of the very best historians we have in the country. Guy is in his element prising off the myths that are barnacled to the queen. It is brilliant, vigorous history, and a triumph of storytelling and scholarship -- Jessie Childs * Telegraph *
John Guy is arguably the world's leading expert on Tudor history. When he writes a book, especially this, his first on Elizabeth's life, it should be taken very seriously as having something new to say, and so it does ... a wonderful book and a magisterial account of the latter half of Elizabeth's reign that calmly reassesses every claim and myth by simply reading all the original manuscript correspondence. The result puts the record straight, but it also allows Guy to produce a pacy and compelling story -- Jerry Brotton * Sunday Times *
Guy pored through 250,000 manuscripts in his quest to understand the ageing Elizabeth. Intimidated by that mountain of parchment, most historians have tended to recycle the myths of Gloriana and Good Queen Bess. Not Guy. Guy is no ordinary historian. Few can match his ruthless obsession for accuracy. Between every line comes whispered reassurance: "You can trust me; I touched those documents." Guy the scholar melds perfectly with Guy the storyteller. Small tales are used to illustrate big issues. Under the weight of Guy's scrutiny, familiar myths crumble. The weight of evidence suggests that he understands Elizabeth better than any historian has -- Gerald DeGroot * Book of the Week, The Times *
[A] most excellent biography. It puts a cruel but clarifying lends on the vain monarch's twilight years. She has never been more exposed than in Guy's tome. A contender for history book of the year -- John Lewis-Stempel * Sunday Express *
What emerges from the author's great efforts to mine the archives for a truer picture is a more flawed Elizabeth - but perhaps a more human one * The Economist *
John Guy, as eminent a Tudor historian as they come, has set himself the explicit task of correcting Strachey's colourful narrative of Elizabeth's old age. The result is 400 pages of outstandingly documented scholarly detail ... scholarship that should earn the respect of popular and expert reader alike -- Kate Maltby * Spectator *
Superb ... John Guy persuades us that pretty much everything we think we know about Elizabeth is wrong -- Andrew Roberts * Wall Street Journal *
There is a lot to like about this book. Energetic [in] tone... Guy is a lively guide ... Guy is especially good when describing the political machinations of Burghley and Walsingham ... [and] Guy gives us a clean sense of a man [the Earl of Essex] who was brilliant, vain, petulant and self-serving in equal measure * History Today *
Enthralling... the book is also beautifully illustrated * Editor's Choice, The Bookseller *
Guy is exceptionally good on how various myths took root -- Craig Brown * Mail on Sunday *
Outstanding. This page-turning book is history, biography, scholarship personified, and a crystal-clear look at Elizabeth in the war years that erases the myths and presents the real woman. Absolutely one of the best biographies of Elizabeth ever * Kirkus (starred review) *
With the remarkable advantage of access to long-buried and misfiled primary sources [...] the aging monarch receives a balanced treatment. [Gives] readers a fuller view of the confident, experienced, and adaptable queen * Publishers Weekly *
The dean of living Tudor-era historians * Christian Science Monitor *
Meticulously researched and highly readable revisionist biography. Recommended for lovers of British history and feminist biography * Library Journal *
A fresh, thrilling portrait -- Stacy Schiff * New York Times *
Oft portrayed as fierce, this reveals an Elizabeth I who is in fact fallible and insecure * New Day *
Significant, forensic and myth-busting, John Guy inspires total confidence in a narrative which is at once pacy and rich in detail -- Anna Whitelock * Times Literary Supplement *
The brilliance of Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years lies in the energy of its narrative, as well as in Guy's eye and ear for scene and conversation. To interweave all of this with the life of the queen is a formidable achievement. He has captured the complexity of contemporary politics. ... Most striking is Guy's portrait of Elizabeth -- Stephen Alford * London Review of Books *