Elizabeth’s Women

Sarah Gristwood on a compelling look at Queen Elizabeth I's female friends and foes

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Reviewed by: Sarah Gristwood
Author: Tracy Borman
Publisher: Vintage
Price (RRP): £9.99

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Of the countless books written on Elizabeth I almost all, explicitly or implicitly, focus on her relationships with men. It’s been a long wait for a book on the women who shared her intimate moments, but Borman’s compelling study has proved well-worth waiting for.

It’s a challenge to cast fresh light on figures such as Anne Boleyn and Mary Tudor, but Borman rises to it – before examining Elizabeth’s rivalries with the women who might succeed her, and her reliance on the supportive network of attendants who helped construct her iconic public image in the morning and lay down in her bedroom at night.

Perhaps Borman’s most significant achievement is to have given us an innovative exploration of the implications of Elizabeth’s gender for her queenship, and a new perspective on this most closely studied of reigns.

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Sarah Gristwood is the author of Elizabeth & Leicester (Bantam Press, 2007)