Read Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen by Tracy Borman Online


Elizabeth I was born into a world of women. As a child, she was served by a predominantly female household of servants and governesses, with occasional visits from her mother, Anne Bolyen, and the wives who later took her place. As Queen, Elizabeth was constantly attended by ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor who clothed her, bathed her and watched her while she aElizabeth I was born into a world of women. As a child, she was served by a predominantly female household of servants and governesses, with occasional visits from her mother, Anne Bolyen, and the wives who later took her place. As Queen, Elizabeth was constantly attended by ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honor who clothed her, bathed her and watched her while she ate. Among her family, it was her female relations who had the greatest influence: from her sister Mary, who distrusted and later imprisoned her, to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who posed a constant and dangerous threat to her crown for almost thirty years. Despite the importance of women in Elizabeth's life, most historians and biographers have focused on her relationships with men. She has been portrayed as a 'man's woman' who loved to flirt with the many ambitious young men who frequented her court. Yet it is the women in her life who provide the most fascinating insight into the character of this remarkable monarch. With them she was jealous, spiteful and cruel, as well as loyal, kind and protective. She showed her frailties and her insecurities, but also her considerable shrewdness and strength. In short, she was more human than the public persona she presented to the rest of the court. It is her relationships with women that hold the key to the private Elizabeth. In this original chronicling of the life of one of England's greatest monarchs, historian Tracy Borman explores Elizabeth's relationships with the key women in her life. Beginning with her mother and the governesses and stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley and the inspirational Katherine Parr, "Elizabeth's Women" sheds new light on her formative years. Elizabeth's turbulent relationships with her rivals are examined: from her sister, 'Bloody' Mary, to the sisters of Lady Jane Grey, and finally the most deadly of all her rivals, Mary, Queen of Scots who would give birth to the man Elizabeth would finally, inevitably have to recognize as heir to her throne. It is a chronicle of the servants, friends and 'flouting wenches' who brought out the best - and the worst - of Elizabeth's carefully cultivated image as Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, in the glittering world of her court....

Title : Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen
Author :
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ISBN : 9780224082266
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 464 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Elizabeth's Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen Reviews

  • Katie
    2019-01-19 06:55

    I'm not Shakespeare's biggest fan, but the man knew how to turn a phrase, so I'll let him sum up this book."It is a tale told by a [redacted for politeness], full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."There are so many problems with this book that I truly don't know where to start, but what irritated me most was the ugly thread of misogyny running through it. A book about the women around England's greatest female ruler, written by a modern female historian should not take such a nasty view of women. Ms. Borman goes out of her way to portray the subjects as jealous, erratic, erotic shrews, and comments on 'voracious sexuality' and 'carnal femininity' (CARNAL FEMININITY? Seriously? Is this a non fiction book or a romance novel) at every possible opportunity. And then there are the contradictions. At times she can't get through a single page without contradicting herself, spitting out mutually exclusive conclusions left and right. Quotes out of context, events out of sequence, and generally lazy writing. Dear Ms. Borman: the women you are writing about lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. As in, not today. Their decisions probably had more to do with the culture and standards of the time than with your modern pop psychology. Congratulations for realizing that both Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth wore ermine mantles at their coronations. So did every other monarch/consort of the period, since ermine was a symbol of royalty. Viewed in context, it amounts to nothing, but in Borman-land, it represents deep seated anxiety and early childhood trauma whatever whatever. Why am I not surprised that the author is a protege of Alison Weir? They both have the amazing ability to receive magical revelations about history from reading the same documents everyone else does. Ms. Borman has not discovered any new information, yet she somehow knows the secret thoughts, feelings, and desires of everyone who ever lived during the Elizabethan period. For shame, Tracy Borman. If you want to write this crap, at least tell it like it is and market the book as fiction.

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    2019-01-14 14:06

    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.

  • Louise
    2019-01-15 14:59

    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 functioned, how she viewed and treated her female rivals for the crown, her rivals for the affections of her favorites and those who served her.The first relationship explored is that with her famous mother. Most histories speed past this noting only Elizabeth's scant mention of Anne Boleyn. Borman writes how Anne doted on her daughter, even wanting to breast feed her, an unconventional idea for its time, quashed by the king himself. Though separated, as was the custom, Anne saw to Elizabeth's welfare as best she could. Elizabeth kept a locket with her mother's likeness and at her coronation adopted her mother's emblem, the falcon, as her own. Elizabeth maintained friendships with Boleyn cousins such as Lady Katherine Howard (with whom she was raised) and many who remembered her mother. She appointed to court positions and otherwise assisted many Boleyn relatives.The book provides a personal focus on famous events. For instance, the very thorough treatment of the Thomas Seymour flirtation emphasizes what it meant emotionally over what it meant politically. Borman shows how it strained Elizabeth's relationship with mentor and mother-figure, Katherine Parr; how it was viewed by her half-sister Mary; and how it defined and solidified her relationship with her governess Kat Astley. This kind of focus provides a whole new dimension. It shows Elizabeth's courage and loyalty in regards to her governess and how the experience shaped her views.The chronological arrangement of the emotional highlights, free from other events of the time, allows for the reader to digest their intensity for Elizabeth. For instance, very early in her reign, while she was still feeling her way as a woman at the helm, threats to her reign appeared at once. The timing of the unsanctioned marriages of Katherine Grey and Mary Stewart and their subsequent male off-spring couldn't have been worse. This (and personal jealousy) may have set the pattern for Elizabeth's strong reaction to the many unsanctioned marriages that followed.This is the first good look I've had at Margaret Douglas who appears here and there in Elizabethan histories. (I've not found a full bio.) Margaret is everywhere, scheming to marry one son into a kingship, another to another high born, visiting Mary Queen of Scots in her imprisoned quarters, thrice imprisoned herself by Elizabeth, and scheming to put her granddaughter in the line of succession all the while expressing her devotion to Elizabeth.The chapter "That She-Wolf" tells of the Earl of Leicester's two secret marriages since they are the ones that most impact his relationship with Elizabeth (major editorial/space decision, I'm sure, to leave out the first wife). Robert Dudley's story is more intriguing than shown here. Those interested may want to try "Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester 1533-1588" or the more recent "Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics".Borman tells the stories of a host of staffers that have only cameos in other books. There are many from the long serving and most intimate such as Blanche Perry and Kat Astley to newer but still long termers such as Helena Snakenborg and Mary Radcliffe. There are some short termers from Lady Tyrwhit to Lady Warwick. Through their stories you learn of their living conditions and the dedication it took to serve Elizabeth. Most give up family time and some give up marriages. Some succumb to male flirtation and earn Elizabeth's wrath. Some, such as Mary Sidney are not appreciated. Many use their positions to advocate for their families and friends. All are virtual slaves.This book is a big accomplishment for its author. I don't know how much fully new material has been presented, but there was a lot new to me. This book can serve as a basis for subsequent researchers to explore more deeply the domestic and personal aspects of Elizabethan England. The concept could very well be applied to the women in the reign of Charles II or Queen Victoria, or even in the US to the life and adminstration of FDR.I recommend this book for all who are interested in this period. Tudor readers may yawn at the recounts of the "big events" (digested as they may be), but in each of them they will find new insight on Elizabeth and her most intimate relationships with the women of her age.

  • chucklesthescot
    2018-12-26 11:05

    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' around her neck as seen in many portraits of Anne.3)Elizabeth's governess is continually called Kat Astley. WRONG. Every other historian I've read who has written about Elizabeth calls her Kat Ashley! Seems this author likes to change things and the truth be damned.In the first 100 pages of the book came these glaring errors. I dread to think how many other errors and distortions there are throughout the book. I'm sorry author, but if you can't get your basic facts right, I have no interest in reading your books!

  • Susan
    2019-01-04 07:51

    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.

  • Joan
    2019-01-15 09:55

    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 was the promotion of her direct blood to the throne? Such a formidable woman had no interest in the politics of their world? I have trouble believing that. Yes, I KNOW that Mary of Scotland was an incredible idiot in how she threw away what she could have had in life through a succession of worse and worse marriages. But how did Mary affect the politics of her world? Elizabeth finally reluctantly signed Mary's death warrant because Mary was involved in treason...although one can argue it isn't treason when it isn't your country....but how did her problems with Mary, Queen of Scots, affect her relationship with Scotland? Yes, I've read other books and have an idea as to the answer. However, I was hoping for more detail on this and got none. The closest the book came to being what I wanted was in showing the impact that a few of her numerous step mothers had on Elizabeth, particularly Katherine Parr and Anne of Cleves. I felt that a lot of the book spent way too much time on the romantic partsand not enough on the actual effect these women had on their world. I know the two younger Grey sisters defied the queen and married for love. Particularly with the youngest, Mary, you'd have thought she'd have learnt something from the fates of her two older sisters and tried the one approach none of these seem to have tried: go straight to the queen, say I'm madly in love and will sign a declaration stating that neither I nor my heirs will claim the throne. Particlarly since Mary married way way below her status and her kids would be almost worse than illegitimate: low class. Hopefully somebody will do the research and produce the book I'm interested in. with all of these incredibly well educated women all over the place, I can't believe that none besides Elizabeth were interested in the political world they lived in. The book that was written was an ok book. I think a lot of the conclusions were not really thought out since the author seemed fixated on love and Elizabeth's virginity. Oh well. If one wants romance, there's plenty of it in this book. It is a scholarly book, footnoted etc. but very definitely, romantic!

  • Julie
    2018-12-30 09:04

    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 exposed to a number of characters who were imperative to Elizabeth but scarcely mentioned in histories written about her. There were some names were familiar, but many were new to me. In the chapter titled “That She-Wolf,” I learned of Robert Dudley’s controversial courting of Lady Douglass Sheffield, the mother of his son Robert, and his second wife Lettice Knollys. However, I was surprised that there was no mention of the scandalous death of Amy Rosbart, his first wife, under mysterious circumstances. Obviously Amy was not as influential in Elizabeth’s life as her other rivals for Dudley’s affections, but omitting that significant even in a chapter addressing Dudley’s consorts seemed strange. Nevertheless, I was intrigued with the courtly drama that only women can instigate. There was some repetitiveness in the book that did not go unnoticed (I couldn’t keep track of how many times Elizabeth “precociousness” as a child was mentioned), but this did not detract from the overall solidity of the work as a whole. There was no question that Elizabeth was surrounded by both loyal servants, dangerous conspirators and everything in between, and they all come to life in this comprehensive look at the Queen and her women.I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

  • Oldroses
    2019-01-18 07:50

    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.This book is only interesting to readers who know little or nothing about Elizabeth I. For the rest of us, it is just a tiresome rehashing of all the familiar stories. Elizabeth’s relationships with her half-sister, Mary and Mary, Queen of Scots. Her ladies in waiting, both those who served her selflessly and those who “betrayed” her with secret pregnancies and secret marriages, usually in that order.There are no new insights into any of these women, their lives nor their influence on Elizabeth. The only original thinking in the book is a few brief pages on Elizabeth’s similarity to her mother, Anne Boleyn. Most biographers point out her similarities to her father, Henry VIII. This biographer looks at her resemblance to her mother both in looks and personality and how she used both to manipulate the men around her, again like her mother.This single original thought could have fit comfortably into an article or academic paper. There was no reason to write a book.

  • Victoria
    2018-12-26 12:52

    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 unlikely to be true. There is no evidence that I'm aware of that Mary had a son with mental disabilities. A fuller discussion of this can be found at 167 "Although [Anne of Cleves] had been just short of forty-two years of age when she died, she had won the dubious honour of being the longest lived of all Henry's wives." - This is misleading. Although Anne of Cleves was the last of Henry's wives to dies, Katherine of Aragon had the longest life, dying at the age of 50 in 1536.Page 168 "No preparations were made for the birth... The Queen [Mary] entered her confinement shortly after her younger sister's departure." - Contradiction, preparations must have been made (even if few believed her to be pregnant) if the Queen then entered into confinement.

  • Marie Z. Johansen
    2018-12-23 12:09

    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 many authors who seem to concentrate on her relationships with men and her political acumen. This book is about Elizabeth I - the queen who has always captured my imagination and has held my interest. I wish I could time travel so that I could hear her voice - see her walk. No - not yet possible! I think that Elizabeth was so much more than we can ever know. I think she was, most likely rather officious and rude to many of her ladies and maids in waiting - but charming and gregarious when handsome men were involved! That being said said Elizabeth was an amazing female ruler in a time when it was anathema for a country to have such a strong, apt, female leader! This book is about the women in Elizabeth's close circle of trusted female confidants. It's an aspect of Elizabeth's life - a large aspect of her life, that is often overlooked in favor of the larger issues of Elizabeth's life. The book is broken into sections that cover, her mother, Anne Boleyn, her sister, Mary, her step-mothers, Jane, Catherine and Katherine, her governesses, ladies in waiting, cousins, men and the travails of being a female ruler in a country that believed no female could effective rule by herself. Although this edition was 392 pages of relatively small print it flashed by like a novel - I could not put it down!Ms. Borman's style is easy to read but she in no way "dumbs down" the information. I am off to order her first book now - if I can find one that I can afford that is! " Henrietta Howard: King's Mistress. Queen's Servant". If you love history I think you too will love this book! No disappointment here !

  • Julia
    2019-01-12 08:04

    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 of Bothwell, in one paragraph, Borman says that it is likely that Mary only married Bothwell because he had raped her and she had no other choice. In the very next paragraph, though, Borman goes on to say that actually this marriage shows how deeply conventional Mary's views on gender roles were, and that she married Bothwell because she needed a man to do the leading, etc. If that's not a direct contradiction, it is at least a discontinuity of argument, and it was not the only such one.In all, it was these little - but frequent - hitches in Borman's arguments that made me rank it as low as I did. There are equally-readable books out there on this time period, ones which have a sounder grounding.

  • Siria
    2019-01-04 07:53

    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 centrality of the female body and its display and its (mis)behaviours to Tudor politics; is instead largely a rehashing of earlier biographies, which says nothing new and frequently repeats as truth things which have previously been shown to be at best unreliable. There are also some weird factual slips—with titles; I think one or two other things as well—and some hints of depressingly familiar attitudes towards female sexuality and sexual expression. The best I can say about this is that it's not the worst biography of Elizabeth that I've read—and yes, I am aware that I'm damning with faint praise.

  • Rebecca Huston
    2019-01-08 13:53

    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:

  • Colleen
    2019-01-05 10:17

    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 Elizabeth's world. One weakness that I see is that Borman assumes a level of knowledge about the history of the time that makes it clear this book is not for the uninitiated. That said, anyone who has read a couple of books about Elizabeth will have no problem following the action. All in all, an interesting and innovative treatment of a much analyzed figure in history.

  • Janet Flora Corso
    2018-12-23 08:12

    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 scandal; to keep the story going. Well worth it for history buffs or even fans of historical fiction who may want to learn more about the minor and major historical figures who star in many recent novels.

  • Melissa McCauley
    2018-12-24 14:13

    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.

  • Sara
    2019-01-09 13:12

    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.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-01-01 15:03

    [image error]Abridged - Emma Fielding reads from Tracy Borman's biography of Elizabeth I, which explores the relationships she had with the women in her life. These women brought out the best and the worst of Elizabeth, who could be loyal and kind but also cruel and vindictive. They all influenced Elizabeth's carefully-cultivated image as Gloriana, The Virgin Queen.

  • Jodi
    2018-12-27 12:04

    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
    2019-01-19 09:11

    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.

  • Meg
    2019-01-09 08:17

    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.

  • Marie
    2018-12-28 12:07

    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 Elizabeth's mind, which was always skillfully at work.Despite the bevy of information at our fingertips regarding Elizabeth, she is still one of the most intriguing figures of the Tudor era. Born to Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, she was at first a disappointment to her parents and a kingdom by being a girl. Losing her mother at the age of 3, she was brought up in her own household under the tutelage of preferred women. It is with these women that Elizabeth begins cultivating her personality and understanding the way of the tumultuous world around her. Although we regularly hear of the men or the favorites in Elizabeth's life, rarely do we obtain as much information about the women who constantly attended her and were with her behind the scenes.. until now.Borman begins the story of Elizabeth with her mother, Anne Boleyn, and gives the standard biography of Anne. Although at first she praises Anne's intellect, she soon writes of her haughtiness and the swift fall from Henry's graces once they were finally married. Seemingly it was once they were married that Anne's and Henry's marriage fell apart. Elizabeth seems to have not had much of a relationship with Anne or Henry as a child, except for Anne sending gifts to Elizabeth.Borman explains how Elizabeth interacted with a few of the children and caretakers, such as Blanche Parry (who ended up serving Elizabeth for over fifty years), and she goes into small biographies of these secondary women as she introduces them to us. Another woman who also stayed with Elizabeth a lengthy amount and therefore gets more attention is the governess, Kat Astley or Ashley, who joined Elizabeth's household when Elizabeth was 3 and Kat was probably in her late twenties. Elizabeth was very close to her as Kat was one of the few people in her life that stayed with her in her younger years. I had not realized the extent of Kat's own learning because of the ridicule she receives by historians due to the Thomas Seymour affair. After Lady Bryan it was Kat who had continued to instill a love for learning, which was further enhanced by her last stepmother, Katherine Parr and the tutors she chose for Elizabeth.For some thirty, forty and fifty years these few women such as Kat Ashley, Blanche Parry and Anne Dudley stayed nearby with Elizabeth and were close confidantes and friends to the Queen. Borman details the relationships of the women with Elizabeth in a way that has not been done before, when before we had always heard of merely Cecil influencing Elizabeth's political decisions. We now get a look on the inside, the female perspective of jealousy, vanity and courtly appearance.One of the most interesting continuing relationships in Borman's book deals with the sisterhood of Elizabeth and Mary. Borman tells of how Elizabeth interacted with her half siblings, and I was surprised to learn that her sister Mary had eventually grown fond of Elizabeth, probably out of pity, once Anne Boleyn was executed. Knowing of the strained relationship Mary and Elizabeth had once their brother King Edward had died, I had never assumed that they were in reality ever close, yet Borman portrays Mary as once being maternal to Elizabeth. They were 17 years apart, and with Elizabeth being 3 when she lost her mother, Mary may have felt sorry for her. But soon enough for Mary's reign, Mary was calling Elizabeth the bastard, the daughter of the little whore, etc. A swift turn around for Mary's feelings towards Elizabeth, but one wonders all the different mechanisms at play, such as Mary's jealousy towards Elizabeth as Elizabeth grew into a pleasant looking young lady and Mary was soon eclipsed by Elizabeth's sharp mind and looks. Anne of Cleves favored Elizabeth over Mary, and Katherine Parr did as well. Did Mary resent this? Once Mary was queen, she did not trust Elizabeth, and denounced her right to the succession. There was a long look at Mary Tudor here, but was appreciated for the fact that we were able to glean what Elizabeth learned from Mary's reign.One of the many people who helped shaped the progress of Elizabeth's reign was her cousin, Mary the Queen of Scots. Most people know of the outcome that happened after Mary had been a burr in Elizabeth's side for nearly thirty years, and the author devotes an entire 50 page chapter to this conflict. This is where the allure of the book started to lose its luster, but it picked up its interesting pace as soon as the Queen of Scots was dealt with. I had already read enough accounts of these two Queen's relationships and there was not any new insight for me regarding the effects of their animosity towards each other. Those who are not acquainted with that story may not be as disappointed as I was to see so much time devoted to this, however.Of some of the influencers and courtiers that we read about are the Seymour family, the Sidneys, and Lettice Knollys (who married Elizabeth's favorite, Leicester, much to Elizabeth's chagrin). We also are treated to accounts regarding Bess of Hardwick, married to George Talbot, both as she was a gaoler for Mary Queen of Scots and later when Arbella was growing up into an eccentric young lady. Other characters include Bess Throckmorton who shocked Elizabeth by becoming pregnant by Sir Walter Ralegh, and the cousins Katherine and Mary Grey who posed a threat to Elizabeth's throne.Those who are looking for more insight into the characters surrounding Elizabeth during her life will not be disappointed. Beginning with Anne Boleyn and continuing with the two Queen Mary's, we are privy to the causes and effects that made Elizabeth who she was, Gloriana. This is thoroughly researched, with the footnotes to prove it, and it is put together effectively. Through the reign of Mary I, we are made to understand how Elizabeth learned from Mary's mistakes and held fast to her beliefs on how to rule exclusively without a husband or even an heir, as opposed to the hard and unbending rule of her sister. We begin to understand Elizabeth's decisions on the refusal of marriage when Elizabeth witnesses the catastrophic effects of most marriages of those in power, from her father to her sister. We learn that Elizabeth had a strict expectation of the women in her chambers and wished for them to not marry at all, and was hard on those that strayed from the virginal status.This is not just another biography of Elizabeth I or the history of Elizabethan England. In fact, Borman successfully dodges that bullet by not repeating many of the historical events that happened during Elizabeth's life, and even skips those that greatly effected her. For instance, the author does not discuss the fatal period of Lady Jane Grey's reign, nor does she go into the Dudley plot which scared Elizabeth half out of her mind as she was imprisoned when her sister was Queen and there is no mention of the burning of heretics. This is a fulfilling account of the women who definitely instilled Elizabeth's characteristics and beliefs into her heart and mind. Moreover, I would recommend reading a biography on Elizabeth I before reading this one due to the nature that this is more of a study and commentary on those surrounding her who helped to shape the character of Elizabeth. It would be hard to understand the ramifications of some of the things that Elizabeth encountered in her relationships that are discussed here without knowing any of the political and biographical history of Elizabeth I. If you do not feel intrigued by the persona of Elizabeth I, this is not the book for you. I had hoped for more of a finishing commentary as a summary on Elizabeth from the author's opinion; but overall I was sad that I had completed this book because I was enjoying my enlightened status of understanding Elizabeth as a woman, as the Virgin Queen, and why she chose that status for herself. There was the blurb about George and Jane Boleyn having a son which I disagree with, and the excessive information on the Queen of Scots negated a star for me. I enjoyed 95% of this book, being a Tudor fanatic that I am, and I definitely recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in the workings of Elizabeth's mind, and of the many supporting or bothersome women in her life.

  • Emily
    2018-12-22 14:04

    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 frivolous pastimes of dancing and gossiping” (Borman 79). So dancing is now frivolous when just four pages before the Tudors viewed it as an expected activity for their queens? This kind of bias has no place in a historical text.More appalling is this next argument. Borman writes: “She was then fourteen years old at most and had little sense of morality, for she regularly welcomed Dereham into her bedchamber, and before long they became sexually involved. Katherine was far from the corrupted innocent she is often portrayed as. The evidence suggests that she was as much a sexual predator as Dereham and knew exactly what she was doing” (Borman 79). This is horrific. A girl, “fourteen years old at most” is a sexual predator? Perhaps a girl so young doesn’t know how to refuse a man likely ten years her senior. Dereham's age was not mentioned in this passage at all, I might add. Or perhaps there was no one to protect her from such abuse. How dare Borman act as though Katherine Howard- a child- abused a man who likely raped her. And how patriarchal her argument, that a fourteen year old girl had “little sense of morality.” This passage was so sickening. I cannot believe it was published. And, excuse me, but Katherine Howard is never portrayed as a “corrupted innocent.” More often than not, Katherine Howard suffers the same slut-shaming and victim-shaming that Borman subjects her to. This is absolutely appalling “scholarship.”And finally, as if Borman hadn’t disgusted me enough, she writes this, when Henry VIII was told of her alleged affairs: “To be told that she was an arch-deceiver with the morals of a whore was too much for him to bear” (Borman 83). An "arch-deceiver?" "Morals of a whore?" How dare she write those words. Katherine Howard was a nineteen year old girl. Borman’s “morality” argument is hideously patriarchal, as if women and girls ought to ascribe to socially constructed “morals” to earn Borman’s respect. Did she read her own writing? Did she consider how patriarchal her “feminist” account actually is? This text is revolting. If you’d like to read it, read it with caution. Borman is profoundly sexist. I’ve rarely been so disappointed with a book in my life.

  • Karen Brooks
    2019-01-02 11:07

    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, Anne Boleyn, and father, Henry VIII’s relationship, Borman tries to explain how Elizabeth would have understood the mistakes and triumphs of the significant women in her life, the manner in which they handled themselves, found a place in such a patriarchal society, and learned from that. Starting with Anne, who was executed when Elizabeth was so young, and examining how her mother would have been represented to and thus remembered by Elizabeth is apt. In her childhood and adolescence, Elizabeth's fortunes were contingent on those of other women - from her mother’s rise in her father’s court, to the overturning of the Catholic Church before she was even born, to her execution. Henry's marriage to Jane Seymour and the birth of the royal prince and heir Edward, the quiet and dignified withdrawal of Anne of Cleaves after her father Henry VIII rejected her, Katherine Howard’s flightiness and deadly flirtatiousness, to the independence quiet Catherine Parr achieved as a widow would have all helped to shape the person young Elizabeth was to become.Then there were her governesses and Ladies of the Bedchamber – many who stood by Elizabeth during the fraught times when her older half-sister, Mary, reigned (and Elizabeth stood accused of plotting against the throne and worse) and again, when her brother Edward became king. These women, such as Blanche Parry, Kat Ashley and many more besides took care of Elizabeth’s emotional and psychological needs as much as her physical ones, performing the role of mother, sister and family among others. Variously wise and silly, they steered Elizabeth through and sometimes into dangerous waters, but she never forgot their loyalty and trusted many of them implicitly, rewarding them and their families when she came to power. These were her “real” friends, one senses from Borman’s words, in ways that many other women were not. In fact, historian Alison Weir (who praises Borman’s scholarliness), in her biography of Elizabeth argues that the Queen saw most women as “threat”. Borman’s book would counter that claim as well as support it – Elizabeth either adored or loathed you – and not just women either.Understanding the subservient role demanded by her sex, Elizabeth nonetheless tried to find ways to exert her authority once she came to the throne – sometimes that involved demeaning her own sex or highlighting her masculine qualities such as she did in her famous speeches – at Tilbury and, at the end of her reign, to parliament. As Borman writes, “Sixteenth-century society was shaped by the Church, which taught the misogynistic lessons of St Paul. Women were the authors of original sin; instruments of the devil. Their only hope for salvation was to accept the natural inferiority to men…” This was not to be disputed but taken as a fact that underpinned contemporary attitudes, including those towards Elizabeth for whom it was thought only a husband could provide the necessary qualities to govern England. Elizabeth’s elevation to the throne was regarded as simply the first stage in gaining England a male ruler - this she would accomplish through an auspicious marriage which would later produce an heir.The way Elizabeth staved off this compromising of her power is explored as well as some reasons for this proffered. Even the men who appreciated her intellect and cunning and were fiercely loyal to her such as William Cecil, Francis Walsingham and Robert Cecil, were also frustrated by her "weak" womanliness, her prevaricating, overt favouritism of certain men; what was regarded as the “problem” of her sex, and urged her to wed and resolve the accession issue.It wasn’t only the men of Elizabeth’s council and court such as William Cecil (later, Lord Burghley), who believed that a male ruler was essential, there were even those who sought to use Elizabeth as leverage for their own climb to power and take her as a bride such as Thomas Seymour (a scandal that nearly destroyed a teen Elizabeth and has given source to countless fictive (and factual) speculations about what really went on between them) and, later, Robert Dudley (the same can be said for his relationship with her – something the infamous Leycester’s Commonwealth – published in 1584 - fuelled with its dreadful claims). For the first twenty years of her reign, Elizabeth appeared to taunt her Privy Council by considering very respectable offers (and some not so desirable) of marriage from foreign rulers (and even the local boy, Earl of Arran) before discarding them and remaining a spinster – the Virgin Queen, a title that, twenty years after she took the throne no-one dared dispute but instead, began to embrace. When it came to husbands, the error in judgement of other women around her (in this case, her sister “Bloody Mary” and her unhappy marriage to the despised Spanish and Catholic Philip and the problems that wrought for England as well as Mary Stuart’s poor choices of men), would have been apparent to her. Borman also speculates a fear of childbirth, though that’s to be understood in this period when mortality rates for mothers and infants were high.Taking the reader through all the major stages of Elizabeth’s reign, focussing on politics, relationships, scandals, triumphs, dress and pageantry but explaining the importance of the latter to the maintenance of both a royal persona and a façade of control, Borman explores many of the queen’s intimate and not so close relationships, including the complex love/hate, friend/rival, threat/promise of Mary, Queen of Scots, Bess Hardwick, the Greys, the Knollys, making it clear that though Elizabeth was whip-smart and a politician par excellence, she was also capable of great loyalty, jealousy, pettiness and cruelty when it came to women – events surrounding her upbringing could not have her any other way.What was also interesting in terms of modern concerns was Elizabeth’s paranoia around ageing and her attempts to conceal what’s a fact of life from her courtiers and foreign dignitaries – with the exception of the women of her chamber. Wigs, heavy make-up and a rigorous exercise regime were upheld almost to the last, even when small-mindedness and in-fighting was rife throughout the court in the last couple of years of Elizabeth’s rule. Determined to demonstrate her capabilities, Elizabeth appeared to understand that for a female particularly, appearances counted as much as performance (plus ca change!). While a woman was not to be trusted and was seen as inconvenient and incapable, an old woman was worse. In the end, age was a great foe that not even Elizabeth could defeat.An interesting book that is very easy to read and highly accessible – even for those who do not know too much about Elizabeth’s reign – though a basic if not sound knowledge does enrich the book and allows the reader to critique some of the claims – which is always a fascinating exercise. It’s terrific to be offered challenges to “facts” and think about what might have been and different ways about what was. Thoroughly enjoyed this as a welcome addition to the El

  • James
    2019-01-07 12:50

    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 various cousins who she viewed with suspicion (in some cases rightly so) for their close proximity to the throne.But this book also discusses the other ladies who - while not being related by blood - were equally as important - if not more so - to the Queen. From her governesses who were pretty much her mother figures, to the ladies of her bedchamber who were her closest companions throughout her reign. These women were pretty much the only ones who saw the real Elizabeth, behind the mask of youth as she got older, without her wigs or elaborate clothing. They were her true companions whom she could discuss her private thoughts.As this book shows, Elizabeth could often be cruel to these women, and there are many accounts of her loosing her temper with them. But she was also extremely kind, treating them with much favour and even caring for some when they were ill.What I really liked about this book was how it portrayed Elizabeth as human. It shows her flaws and weaknesses as well as her strengths and achievements. You come away with a far greater understanding and respect for Elizabeth (well I did at least) seeing her as a complex figure, who could be insecure, bad tempered and selfish, but also kind, loving, and funny. I particularly enjoyed the sections discussing Elizabeth's wardrobe, the palaces and stately homes and the secret ways in which Elizabeth paid tribute her mother Anne Boleyn.

  • Leanda Lisle
    2019-01-12 10:02

    Elizabeth I valued female company. She loved childhood servants such as Kat Ashley, and as Queen surrounded herself with indulged, non-royal Boleyn cousins. They might have offered an alternative narrative to that of the disgraced dead mother and the extended sisterhood of royal relatives plotting against each other. But there was no escape for Elizabeth from the central issue of the Tudor succession into which she was born. It was not just Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, who wanted a male heir for the English throne. As Borman helps remind us, it was successive generations of the political elite. Until Lady Jane Grey (later Dudley) became queen in July 1553, England had never had a queen who ruled in her own right. And the question of how a woman, considered by nature inferior to man, could sit at the apex of society was never answered satisfactorily in the sixteenth century. This ensured that the position of the successive reigning queens and their female heirs was always unstable. Attaching herself to a man through marriage could change the fortune of a royal woman. But quite how that fortune would change was never predictable. Edward VI had bequeathed Jane Grey the throne in part because she was a married woman while his half-sisters, Elizabeth and Mary Tudor, were not. Marriage offered the possibility of male heirs and, Edward indicated, there was a danger that his spinster sisters might chose a foreign groom – in his view the wrong sort of spouse. But Jane’s husband, a son of the unpopular John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, also proved a divisive choice and the marriage that helped her to the throne later contributed to her overthrow.Elizabeth, whose great love was another of Northumberland’s sons, took due note of what had happened to Jane, whose brief, but significant, reign is virtually ignored by Borman. Elizabeth observed also the consequences of her sister Mary’s marriage to Philip II of Spain, which triggered a revolt in 1554. It is, however, going too far to say, as Borman does, that from the outset of her own reign Elizabeth had decided against marriage and projected herself deliberately as a Virgin Queen of Heaven on Earth. She would not have dared do so while the expectation that she should marry remained high. Even her beloved Kat Ashley was determined to find the young queen a husband. The term ‘Virgin Queen’ was not used until twenty years after her accession, when she was past childbearing age. Elizabeth’s position was complicated further by the fact that it was Protestants – Elizabeth own supporters – who had, during her sister’s reign, built on the ancient beliefs about the inferior place of women in society. Afraid of making a wrong choice in selecting a husband for herself, Elizabeth was terrified of what would happen if her heirs in statute, Katherine and Mary Grey, Protestant sisters of the deceased Jane, married and had sons. Elizabeth promoted instead the claims of the Catholic and foreign Mary, Queen of Scots. When the Grey sisters did marry she destroyed them. But that, in turn, raised the threat posed by the rivalry of the Queen of Scots. Having married, been overthrown in favour of her infant son, and fled to England in 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots was kept imprisoned in England until 1587. Elizabeth had wanted her increasingly troublesome prisoner murdered, but to her fury, councillors sent her cousin to the scaffold instead, with Elizabeth’s own name attached to the death warrant. For Elizabeth it was best to dispose of rivals quietly. Almost a decade later, other female royal relatives were still being kept under house arrest, or something close to it. Margaret Stanley, first cousin to the Grey sisters, died in 1596 after eighteen years of confinement. Meanwhile Mary, Queen of Scots’s English-born niece, Arbella Stuart, went half mad, shut away in Derbyshire and refused permission to marry. That was politics. But as Borman ably describes, the loveless Elizabeth had long gained a reputation for sexual jealousy that extended even to mere ladies in waiting. She was famously vain too, and the irony is that the period of the Armada and Spenser’s Faerie Queene, when her powers are supposed to have been at their height, in fact marked the beginning of a grim decline. In the 1590s the old prejudices against female rule were magnified by the commonplace contempt for old women. As Elizabeth suffered increasing bouts of depression, courtiers claimed that the poor state of public affairs was rooted in the weaknesses of Elizabeth’s sex, and that they would tolerate ‘no more Queens’. To the end, Elizabeth remained afraid that she would be overthrown. In her last weeks it seemed to the dying Queen that a recent attempt by Arbella Stuart to leave Derbyshire and marry the heir to the Greys indicated a plot. But it was to James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, that those closest to her were now looking. Even her Boleyn cousins betrayed her trust, transferring their allegiance to James. And so Elizabeth was alone, if surrounded by women, until her death. A life of Elizabeth, told through her relationship with women, could have real bite. The suffering she inflicted on women was inspired by what she endured for being one. But this is easy-access history. There is little to trouble the mind, and although there is much pleasure to be had in the rich details, a vague sense of ennui takes hold at the array of colourful, but often familiar, images, and nicely packaged anecdotes. It is particularly depressing to see the repetition of sexist myths such as those concerning the ‘wicked’ mother of the Grey sisters, and the conjecture that Elizabeth was a latter-day virago, with male chromosomes belied by her outwardly female body. Readable and fun, Elizabeth’s Women is a perfectly nice biography inspired by an intelligent idea. But where is the ‘hidden story of the Virgin Queen’? That’s what we were promised. A version of this review first appeared in the Literary Review

  • Manya
    2018-12-30 15:09

    As others have said before me, this book is a great introduction to the women that shaped Queen Elizabeth I's life. This book created a great narrative but there were a few jarring facts that I could not source. Chief among them is the claim that Mary Boleyn had a son with some sort of birth defect or mental illness. This was repeated as fact multiple times however it was never cited. A quick google search found other people confused by this statement as well. I am very curious as to the basis of this especially since I had never heard this rumor despite reading copious books on the matter.

  • Brittany Wouters
    2019-01-21 14:55

    Slutshamed Anne Boleyn, and it went downhill from there. It wasn't gripping, interesting, or revelatory.

  • Jennifer
    2019-01-08 14:49

    I would have given this 4 stars, but I felt like I was reading a biography of Elizabeth I, with a bit thrown in about the women around her.

  • Alisha
    2019-01-05 09:04