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Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and…

Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin… (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Tracy Borman

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Title:Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
Authors:Tracy Borman
Info:Bantam (2010), Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:Your library

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Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman (2009)


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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 does every other book about Gloriana I have read), when her life became consumed by the great high school lunchroom that was the British royal court.
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |

What an arduous read...there was so much information! There has been very little written about Elizabeth and her Privy Household...so if you want to really know about the other side of Elizabeth's life, I suggest that this is the book to read.

Although Elizabeth was a Great Ruler, she was no less fickle, egocentric, & vengeful than her father Henry VIII. She ruled by answering problems with "answers answerless".

The turmoil of her younger life made for a sociopath of a woman. She never knew whom she could trust and therefore played mind games with her court & everyone she came in contact with. She was extremely paranoid and saw plots against here, even where there were none.

The way she treated her "ladies" was abominable...she was mean, jealous, verbally abusive, petty & downright nasty.

She refused to allow any of her Ladies to marry without her permission (which she ALWAYS refused to give), so in desperation, most of them either became someone's mistress or married behind her back. When Elizabeth found out, usually because of a pregnancy, she would fly into a rage and severely punish the woman & her husband. If/when she deigned to forgive the "transgression", it was usually the man who fared better.

She was also Extremely vain and delusional about her beauty until she was in her late sixties.....that is when she finally realized that she had become a veritable old hag (my description). At that point she basically gave up living, sequestered herself in her rooms and stopped eating.

So after reading this exhausting account of Elizabeth I, she is no longer my Idol....I found her behavior to be inexcusable for one of her rank & privilege. ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jan 18, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Elizabeth's Women" is an interesting read about the women who had an influence on Queen Elizabeth I, from her mother and other childhood caregivers to the women who attended her as queen. I did not find very much new material in it, and was a little disappointed not to find more about Dorothy Stafford, one of the women who attended Her Grace longest, but that's a personal lack, that other readers would not miss. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a different slant on Elizabeth's court, as most books on the period tend to focus on the men who surrounded the Queen.
  staffordcastle | Nov 4, 2014 |
this book dragged on a bit for me, but there was enough interesting stuff to keep me reading. ( )
  mariabiblioteca | Jun 23, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman is a biography of Elizabeth I’s life as influenced by the women who helped shaped it.

It begins before Elizabeth’s birth with a history of her mother, Anne Boleyn, then describes both Anne’s life as queen and her treatment of her daughter before her execution, which occurred when Elizabeth was almost three years old.

The biography continues on with chapters devoted to the lives of those who influenced Elizabeth when she was growing up and after she became queen. There are good mini-biographies of her female servants, friends, enemies, and relations, who include her step-mothers, her sister Mary, and cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.

Overall, the book is a well-researched biography written in an accessible manner. It tells the history of Elizabeth from a new angle – from the point of view of her interactions with the women in her life. This was something new to me, having read other, dryer biographies of Elizabeth, and was a refreshing change of perception. I recommend this book for anyone interested in this period in history and give it four stars. ( )
  janoorani24 | Jun 7, 2011 |
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To my parents, John and Joan Borman, with love and thanks for all their support
First words
Giovanni Michiel, the Venetian ambassador to England during "Bloody" Mary Tudor's reign, noted with barely concealed distaste that the Queen's younger sister, Elizabeth, "is proud and haughty ... although she knows that she was born of such a mother."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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 worshipped her, and the peers and intimates who loved, raised, challenged, and sometimes opposed her.

In vivid detail, Borman presents Elizabeth's bewitching mother, Anne Boleyn, eager to nurture her new child, only to see her taken away and her own life destroyed by damning allegations--which taught Elizabeth never to mix politics and love.  Kat Astley, the governess who attended and taught Elizabeth for almost thirty years, invited disaster by encouraging her charge into a dangerous liaison after Henry VIII"s death.  Mary Tudor--"Bloody Mary"--envied her younger sister's popularity and threatened to destroy her altogether.  And animosity drove Elizabeth and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots into an intense thirty-year rivalry that could end only in death.

Elizabeth's Women contains more that an indelible cast of characters.  It is an unprecedented account of how the public posture of femininity figured into the English court, the meaning of costume and display, the power of fecundity and flirtation, and how Elizabeth herself--long viewed as the embodiment of feminism--shared popular vies of female inferiority and scorned and schemed against her underlings' marriages and pregnancies.

Brilliantly researched and elegantly written, Elizabeth's Women is a unique take on history's most captivating queen and the dazzling court that surrounded her.

Mother -- "The little whore" -- The royal nursery -- Stepmothers -- Governess -- Sister -- The queen's hive -- The Virgin Queen -- Cousins -- Faithful servants -- "That she-wolf" -- "The bosom serpent" -- Gloriana -- "Witches" -- "Flouting wenches" -- "The sun now ready to set".
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Elizabeth I was born into a world of women. Beginning with her mother & the governesses & stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley & Katherine Parr, 'Elizabeth's Women' sheds new light on her formative years. Elizabeth's turbulent relationships with her rivals are examined in detail. Originally published: Londo.… (more)

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