Book Review – ‘Gloriana: Elizabeth I and the Art of Queenship’ by Linda Collins & Siobhan Clarke


Thank you to The History Press for a copy of this book to review.

This book is the first one I’ve read of this type, looking at the Elizabethan age through portraiture, including the more famous Coronation, Rainbow, and Armada portraits, and the lesser-known Pelican and miniature portraits. Also includes portraits of people of the Elizabethan age like Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, and Robert Dudley.

It is divided into digestible sections covering different parts of Elizabeth’s life and reign, in largely chronological order, though with dives in and out of the lives of Elizabeth’s courtiers and favourites. There are lots of implications raised about the portraits, and what little things you might overlook could mean, whether it’s a gift from a courtier trying to curry favour through jewels, or the symbolism of a flower, hourglass, or animal that appears.

It’s not a biography of Elizabeth I but an art history, looking at the life and reign of Elizabeth through the portraiture. It clearly links the portraits to different parts of her life and reign, giving the context of how the portraits link to different periods of her life, and how the imagery changes over her life.

A must-have for any fans or academics of the Elizabethan era because it looks at the age from a new perspective and can offer plenty of insights into self-fashioning, image, and power. It was utterly fascinating and so well-researched.

Chapters:

  1. Elizabeth I and the English Renaissance
  2. Family and Survival: The Early Years
  3. ‘God Hath Raised Me High’: Accession and Religion
  4. ‘One Mistress and No Master’: Marriage Game
  5. Nicholas Hillard: The Queen’s Painter
  6. Secrets and Codes: Mary, Queen of Scots
  7. Elizabethan Arts: The Golden Age
  8. Gold and Glory: Exploration and Armada
  9. Dress, Dazzle and Display: Mask of Youth
  10. Final Years: Death and Legacy

Monarchs are often remembered for just one or two events and this paints them as either good or bad for the rest of history. Why do we do this and how do perceptions change if you examine their reigns in their entirety?


Monarchs seem to be remembered for perhaps one or two events or actions that then define them in English history. This doesn’t seem fair, as people have both good and bad inside them, and our actions are often dictated by the circumstances in which we live, and the events that take place around us. Most of our actions have good intentions when we start out, but it doesn’t always end that way. Monarchs who are seen as good have made mistakes, and monarchs who are seen as bad have also done good things. Here I will examine Richard III, King John, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

The most eponymous “bad” monarch is Richard III, most remembered for the mysterious disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, presumed murdered by Richard himself. What people don’t always remember is that the Princes were in fact his nephews, and Richard never showed any previous inclination to take the throne, unlike his brother George Duke of Clarence.[1] The Princes’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville, didn’t seem to hold Richard accountable for their deaths and she emerged from sanctuary, putting her daughters under Richard’s protection. Either that, or she was so ambitious that she didn’t care that her brother-in-law killed her sons, and just wanted some power for herself.[2] However, if this was true, she would be sadly disappointed. Richard did a lot of positive things during his reign – he strengthened the economy and ended the wars with France.[3] He also strengthened ties with the north of England, due to his marriage to Anne Neville, daughter of a northern magnate. The bad is always remembered above the good where applicable, especially where there is so much mystery surrounding an event, like the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. Continue reading “Monarchs are often remembered for just one or two events and this paints them as either good or bad for the rest of history. Why do we do this and how do perceptions change if you examine their reigns in their entirety?”

Discussion Questions – ‘The Virgin Queen’s Daughter’ by Ella March Chase


1. When The Virgin Queen’s Daughter begins, Nell is imprisoned in the Tower of London. How does this set the tone of the book? Compare Nell’s perception of the fortress as a child with her feelings about it upon her return. Contrast Elizabeth’s experience as a prisoner to Nell’s.

White Tower at the Tower of London
White Tower at the Tower of London

The tone is set because you know what will happen and what it is all leading to. It sets the tone because you know things before they happen. It is more hindsight than we have even with history, because it’s debatable. The tone at the beginning is a sense of sadness and inevitability. It makes you wonder and question what you thought you knew. The Tower of London as a child, Nell saw it as a place of wonder, magical and special. It is the place of the menagerie, creatures she is unlikely to have seen before. It is the environment which she doesn’t know but really wants to that makes it so special for her. As an adult, however, she returns to it as a prisoner, and sees it more as forbidding and a symbol of power. Elizabeth believes in destiny. Nell thinks of experiences in the past – Elizabeth has locked people up before (Katherine Grey had been in the Tower for several years). Elizabeth was a valuable prisoner to her sister, Mary I, whereas Nell was very disposable, unless the truth eventually came out.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘The Virgin Queen’s Daughter’ by Ella March Chase”

Spotlight: Elizabeth I


Names: Elizabeth Tudor / Elizabeth I / Virgin Queen / Gloriana / Good Queen Bess

Titles: Lady Elizabeth / Princess / Queen of England, Ireland and France / Supreme Governor of the Church of England

Dates: 7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603

 Spouse: None

Children: None

Parents: Henry VIII 1491-1547 & Anne Boleyn 1501-1536

Siblings: Edward VI 1537-1553 & Mary I 1518-1558 (half-siblings)

Noble Connections: Elizabeth’s father was Henry VIII, her siblings were Edward VI and Mary I. Her grandfather was the Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde, and her great-uncle was the Duke of Norfolk. Her mother was the Marquess of Pembroke in her own right.

Continue reading “Spotlight: Elizabeth I”

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