Although Elizabeth 1's reign from 1558 to 1603 is considered by many to be a Golden Age, mortal dangers were present throughout her life. When Elizabeth was two years old her mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded by her father, Henry VIII, and the young princess was brought up in the care of governesses and tutors at Hatfield House. However her life came under threat when her half-sister, Mary 1, became queen in 1553, determined to re-establish Catholicism. When Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1558 one of her priorities was to return England to the Protestant faith. The Catholic threat continued throughout her reign and a number of plots to overthrow Elizabeth were narrowly averted. The biggest danger came from Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic with a strong claim to the English throne. When Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster, obtained proof of her plots to overthrow the queen, Mary was executed in 1587. Elizabeth, torn between her own safety and the horror of executing a fellow queen, was inconsolable. The ill-fated Spanish Armada was launched by Philip II the following year. Elizabeth's speech to the troops at Tilbury succeeded in uniting the country against a common enemy.
Elizabeth always refused to marry. She had a close relationship with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and was not averse to using the promise of marriage for diplomatic purposes, but asserted her independence until the end of her life in 1603. One of her greatest legacies was to have established and secured the Protestant faith, avoiding the religious bloodshed which had caused such unrest in earlier years.
Antonia Fraser's magnificent biography of the Virgin Queen undermines many myths about this formidable monarch, and is at the same time a marvellously rich work of narrative history.
Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works which have been international bestsellers. She was awarded the Medlicott Medal by the Historical Association in 2000 and was made a DBE in 2011 for services to literature.
Her previous books include Mary Queen of Scots, King Charles II, The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeenth-Century England, which won the Wolfson History Prize, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832 and The King and the Catholics: The Fight for Rights 1829. Must You Go?, a memoir of her life with Harold Pinter, was published in 2010, and My History: A Memoir of Growing Up in 2015. She lives in London.
Visit Antonia Fraser's website at www.antoniafraser.com