Friday 23 March 2012

Alison Plowden, Elizabeth Regina

alison plowden elisabeth regina

I'm planning to write a big article on Queen Elizabeth I soon, hence the sudden spike in books with her name in the title.  I'll let you know when I'm finished, in the meantime get ready for a nice portion of Elizabethan age stories :). 

This, by the way, has always been my favourite way of researching any subject:

1.  Read as many books on the topic as you can, quickly, without trying to ingest too much data
2.  Once a clearer, more objective image of the person you write about has formed in your mind, plan your article/thesis/essay/whatever
3.  Go back to specific sources for quotes, figures and citations. 

Works like a dream, because you have some no-pressure time to actually get acquainted with your subject.  Once you feel you're describing an old friend, it's easy.  But I'm getting off topic.

Initially, I was disappointed in Elizabeth Regina.  I picked it in a hurry and - ok, I'll confess - mainly because of a picture on the cover:  Elizabeth in a fancy, huge, white-and-red dress (obviously, I got hold of an older edition - one available today is not as eye-catching).  My recent Elizabeth book dealt in details with times before her accession, so this time I aimed for something general, the whole life kind of biography.  And...  Drat, I missed again.  All my fault - it clearly says 1588-1603 on the cover, I should have connected the dates to Elizabeth's reign.  Shit happens.

Elizabeth Regina starts with pushing off the famous Spanish Armada and continues on to the Queen's death.  Coincidentally, this is also the period when Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, played an important role in English politics.  To be frank, I think Essex is the book's main concern and Queen Elizabeth is added only for generating interest in reading public.  I might be wrong here, but sure as hell there's a lot of Devereux on the book's pages, from his rise to the shameful fall.  I quite understand the author - who would buy a book titled Robert Dux?

Even so, there's still plenty of Elizabeth left in Elizabeth.  Plowden had a knack for bringing the Queen to life as a person, so you can catch the royal face without make up from time to time.  Obviously, court politics come first, but an observant reader can snatch some tasty human interest bites.  For example - did you know that Elizabeth I had really, really bad teeth towards the end of her life?  Seems obvious when you think about medieval dentistry and yet - I've never imagined Her Majesty with toothless smile.  What a blow to public image it must have been.

The book gets better as it progresses and overall makes a decent reading.  Nothing life-changing, but thoroughly digestible.

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