The Life and Times of Elizabeth I by Neville Williams (Weidenfeld & Nicolson £2.65)
frO Catholics, the Elizabeth" an age is the age of the English Martyrs, Edmund Campion and the shadow of Tyburn and the rack and rope. To most Englishmen it is the age of Shakespeare and Drake, of lute music and sea battles, and the rise of the English spirit and the English nation. The persecution and the pageantry make up a composite picture of Elizabethan times, and at the centre of the picture stands Gloriana, the Virgin, Spider Queen of the glittering web.
,Mr. Williams has drawn in a short space a succinct picture of the women Elizabeth set against the background of the complicated cat's cradle of religious politics and political religion. He plots the admirable way in which Elizabeth trod her Machiavellian path between the perils of foreign wars and foreign marriages.
Elizabeth had early learned to equate marriage with peril. and love with the shadow of the Tower. She had also seen the results of the foolish marriages of the two Marys Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart —and whatever her personal inclinations towards her favourites from Leicester to Essex, her crown always remained to her a predious gift which must be saved from personal relationships. As Mr. Williams says: "Whereas for most queens femininity was the prime cause of the weakness in their rule, she made her sex a source of strength."
This book plots Elizabeth's course with clarity and enough detail to give an excellent general picture of the .period. The admirably chosen illustrations build up the social history to amplify and round out the text.