Elisabeth: Rennaisance Prince

by Lisa Hilton

The Book

A new portrait that casts the queen as she saw herself: not as an exceptional woman, but as an exceptional ruler.


Queen Elizabeth I was all too happy to play on courtly conventions of gender when it suited her “weak and feeble woman’s body” to do so for political gain. But in Elizabeth, historian Lisa Hilton offers ample evidence why those famous words should not be taken at face value. With new research out of France, Italy, Russia, and Turkey, Hilton’s fresh interpretation is of a queen who saw herself primarily as a Renaissance prince and used Machiavellian statecraft to secure that position.  

A decade since the last major biography, this Elizabeth breaks new ground and depicts a queen who was much less constrained by her femininity than most treatments claim. For readers of David Starkey and Alison Weir, it will provide a new, complex perspective on Elizabeth’s emotional and sexual life.  It’s a fascinating journey that shows how a marginalized newly crowned queen, whose European contemporaries considered her to be the illegitimate ruler of a pariah nation, ultimately adapted to become England’s first recognizably modern head of state.


Hardcover: 400 pages 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A Reader's Opinion 

An impressive insight into both the person, Elizabeth I, and the depth of the research presented in this quite remarkable and well-thought biography. This is not a light read, nor will it appeal to a reader in search of a weekend book for pleasure. This is an intensive look into Elizabeth's life, some of which fans and readers of Elizabeth biographies will be familiar. I enjoy a good biography—especially on the royals—though I do tend to prefer biographies tell a story such as The Young Victoria by Alison Plowden which was assigned reading in college, but it did not go into the same detail Hilton gives us in this book. Elizabeth is truly a well-researched history of a ruler who happened to be a woman, and the history of a fascinating period in time. Hilton moved away from the standard biography to give us insight into a remarkable ruler. 


This is not a book I would normally have chosen to read for pleasure, nor would I recommend it for such. However, for those who enjoy a complex and well-researched biography, or for those studying the time period, then this is an interesting choice. Lisa Hilton's intellect is impressive, and though she may not write for the average reader, this is book worthy of some attention.


Book Source: From the publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Format Read: Hardcover


Reviewer's Rating:

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