Thursday, January 7, 2016

Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince

Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince
by Lisa Hilton
Boston: Houton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2015. 384 pp. Biography

Given the staggering number of biographies of Elizabeth I and histories of the Tudor period more generally, one would have thought there was nothing particularly new or interesting to say on this subject. Quite the contrary. Lisa Hilton, instead of the usual cradle to grave chronology of her subject, examines various aspects of her life and the various influences upon it through the lens of the lessons of Machiavelli's The Prince. While she may not have read the book, the author contends that she applied those principles of realpolitik to the challenges she had to face in Renaissance and Reformation Europe. The author presents some fascinating revisionist arguments and historical precedents about the role of women in court life, how women could wield power and royal authority on equal terms with men and how the role of sovereign could transcend normal gender categories (thus the description of Elizabeth as a prince, not a princess). This was a fascinating and enjoyable book. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys historical biographies in general or the Tudor dynasty in particular.


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