I, Elizabeth tells the story of the great Queen's reign in her own voice. Starting when she was a little girl and experiencing a closeness with her sister Mary that would later dissolve and continuing on through her girlhood-her stay with Katherine Parr after her father's death and her first infatuations with Thomas Seymour and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. This book hits all the major points in Elizabeth's reign: her imprisonment in the tower by Mary, her learning to the play the political game early on in order to survive, becoming Queen and dealing with all manner of threats to her throne from the scheming Mary of Scots to her one time brother in law Phillip of Spain. Elizabeth also tells of her loneliness as her duties as Queen war with her desire to build a life with her beloved Robert Dudley. As Elizabeth's glorious reign continues through the defeat of the Spanish Armada, we get to experience Elizabeth in old age with all of her confidants disappearing one by one as she contemplates who she will name as heir after she is gone.
This is yet another book where there was just so much in there I am absolutely positive that I missed at least a few of the important points of the story. I LOVED this sympathetic telling of Elizabeth. Obviously there were some events in her reign that were questionable but here we see a woman who is determined, witty, vain, and an astute politician (I could almost see her thinking in her head "Dance puppets! Dance!" when she was playing the courting game to appease her ministers who were constantly haranguing her about the succession and getting an heir. The language was straightforward yet beautiful and I really felt for Queen Elizabeth and the decisions she struggled with. It can't have been easy to sign the death warrant for a fellow Queen or to always wonder if the men who were paying court to her (even her true love Robert) were doing so for their own gain and not because they genuinely cared about her.
A few things made me go hmmm. For instance, her girlhood infatuation with "My Lord of Surrey". Really? I've never seen anyone take that angle before. Also she could be so vindictive at times with any personal upset illiciting a demand for said offender to be conducted to the tower immediately. Overall though I really liked this telling of Elizabeth and felt that the author did a nice job of conveying both the personal and the public life of Elizabeth. This Queen was believable. It's funny because while I was reading this, during the portion of the book that covered Elizabeth's younger years I kept picturing Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth in my head but in the latter half as the aging Elizabeth I kept picturing Helen Mirren's take on Queen E. I suppose picturing either one as I was reading would be a good thing because both did fantastic portrayals of her and if I was picturing them as I read it would be because I felt the book was capturing Elizabeth quite well.
I have heard from several people that Susan Kay's Legacy is one of the only books that gives a better telling of Elizabeth than this one. I have that one on my shelf and will have to check it out.
This book is from my own personal library