Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen

Written by Tracy Borman
Review by Kathryn Johnson

Tracy Borman, chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust and a frequent contributor to BBC History Magazine, has taken on a monumental task—writing something new about a woman who has already been explored, analyzed, vilified, and applauded in countless academic papers and biographies, as well as spirited off to play dramatic roles in popular novels. And yet, here we have a most remarkable and surprisingly fresh study of the Virgin Queen that does nothing less than take the breath away.

Borman has elected to focus on Elizabeth solely in her relationships with 30 of the women who accompanied her through life. Her premise is that Elizabeth’s personal life, and true character, are most clearly revealed through the intimate, often troubling but always intriguing, associations with the females in her world–family members, loyal friends, dangerous rivals. Included are profoundly revealing glimpses of the most influential women in her life: her mother Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, the Grey sisters, and even the “flouting wenches” such as Lettice Knollys. In addition, the author explores the riddle of Elizabeth’s sexuality through rumors and evidence. All of this is handled in an elegantly readable style that places this book on the shelf among the best biographical works being published today. Most highly recommended.