Reviewed by: Pauline Croft
Author: Richard Rex
Publisher: Amberley
Price (RRP): £9.99

First published in 2003, this short book provides a lively introduction to Elizabeth’s reign.

Rex sees the flattery of Elizabeth’s courtiers as perpetuated too often by modern historians. He argues that she showed a sustained aversion to matrimony, coldly entering into marriage negotiations to enhance her prominence on the European stage. She is repeatedly castigated for making no provision for the succession, thereby ignoring her financial support for James VI after 1586 and their personal correspondence. Rex denounces her as crueller than her half-sister Mary (who burned more than 300 Protestants), since after the northern rebellion of 1569–70, some 450 men were executed, and from the 1580s, Catholic priests caught entering England clandestinely were hanged, drawn and quartered. He rejects the vital Tudor distinction between religious nonconformity, and rebellion or active sedition, since “the victims were just as dead”. Readers may disagree but should enjoy this astringent assessment.

Pauline Croft is professor of early modern history, Royal Holloway, University of London