Elizabeth’s Women

I’ve just pre-ordered Tracy Borman’s new book, “Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen”, after hearing an interview with Borman on BBC Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour”. If Borman’s book is as interesting as the interview, then it’s going to be a great read!

You can download the interview from iTunes – just search for “Woman’s Hour” in the podcast section of the iTunes Store and download Monday 14th September’s programme – or you can listen to it on the “Woman’s Hour” website, just click here to go straight to that programme.

Although Elizabeth is quoted as saying:

“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King.”

which many believe shows her distaste for the shortcomings that were associated with women at the time, Borman points out that the women in Elizabeth’s life had a profound effect on Elizabeth’s life and helped shape the monarch and woman she became.

In the course of the interview, Borman discusses Anne Boleyn’s tragic life and the irony that both Anne and Henry VIII were hoping for a boy:

“who would one day bring England to such glory and power that its name would echo down the centuries as one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived.”

Yet, it was the “useless” daughter who did this and who is known as one of the greatest monarchs that England has ever had, and definitely the greatest of the Tudor monarchs.

Borman goes on to discuss the affect that Anne had on Elizabeth and that far from denying her birthright and forgetting her mother, Elizabeth surrounded herself with Boleyn relatives and wore her mother’s portrait in her special locket ring – two actions that show that Anne was special to her.

But Anne Boleyn was not the only woman who had an effect on Elizabeth, Borman also talks of the roles that Elizabeth’s many stepmother’s had in Elizabeth’s life and how Elizabeth’s volatile relationship with her half-sister Mary affected her. One thing that Borman talks about is how it was Anne of Cleves who was responsible for Elizabeth I’s famous pragmatism. I had never thought about this but what a pragmatist Anne of Cleves was. She managed to come out of her marriage to Henry with her head and neck intact, an important title and with 5 great houses – wow!

The not-so-good effects that other women had on Elizabeth include the executions of her mother and stepmother Catherine Howard, which caused her to declare at the age of 8 to Robert Dudley “I will never marry”, and the hostile relationship that developed between Elizabeth and Mary I. All of these relationships and events affected the young Elizabeth deeply and, as Borman points out, there really is no great mystery surrounding why Elizabeth never married.

The interview also discusses Elizabeth’s relationship with her ladies-in-waiting, the only people who saw the “real” Elizabeth, the Elizabeth under the thick makeup and wigs, and the ladies who had to put up with her rages and bitterness as the Queen aged and saw her ladies having the life she never had and forming relationships with her favourite men. Elizabeth even broke one of their fingers!

According to the “blurb” on Amazon, Borman’s book also covers Elizabeth’s relationships with Kat Ashley, Catherine Parr, the Grey Sisters and Mary Queen of Scots, so I’m really looking forward to receiving my copy. Borman’s book is released in the UK on 17th September and is available to pre-order from Amazon UK now –click here for details. There is no release date for the US and other countries but Amazon UK will ship overseas if you can’t wait. I will definitely write a review on it when I’ve read it.

7 thoughts on “Elizabeth’s Women

  1. Wow, sounds like a fascinating book. You keep hearing about the MEN in Elizabeth’s life – her father, Leicester, Cecil, Walsingham etc. – but you never usually hear about the WOMEN…I think I’ll check it out soon!

  2. This is my first visit to your blog and I have bookmarked it right away! I have had Elizabeth’s Women on pre-order, and just got the email yesterday that it will be shipping soon. I’m off to listen to the interview now….thanks for the heads up on that! There is some great stuff on Women’s Hour….

  3. I am currently reading Elizabeth’s Women, and in the chapter “the Queen’s Hive” Tracey Borman states that Elizabeth promoted many of her relatives into roles at court including the son of George Boleyn. It was my understanding that George did not have any children before he was executed. Could anyone clarify this for me?

  4. Hi Jackie,
    Borman is referring to a George Boleyn who was made Dean of Lichfield during Elizabeth I’s reign. In Alison Weir’s “The Lady in the Tower”, she writes of how this George Boleyn referred to himself in his will as a relative of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, Mary Boleyn’s grandson. Weir does not think that this George Boleyn was a legitimate son of George Boleyn and Jane Parker due to the fact that when Thomas Boleyn died his heir was his daughter Mary. She thinks, therefore, that George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield, was an illegitimate son of George Boleyn and that is why he entered the church, as many did who did not have independent means. Weir also writes of how Elizabeth I wanted to make him Bishop of Worcester but he did not want this appointment.
    I can see why Borman and Weir think that this George Boleyn was a son of George Boleyn, brother of Anne, because Elizabeth I did favour him and George Senior was a bit of a lady’s man, but I’m not sure there is any further proof of this.
    Thanks for the comment, Jackie.

  5. Hi Claire,

    Thank you for clearing that up for me! I have just started “the Lady in the Tower” after finishing Elizabeth’s Women, maybe I should have read them the other way round!

    Thanks Again

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