After Elizabeth : The Rise of James of Scotland and the Struggle for the Throne of England
Many volumes have been written about the long reign of Elizabeth I. Now, for the first time, comes a brilliant new work that focuses on the critical year her reign ended, a time in which England lost its childless queen and a Machiavellian struggle ensued to find her successor.
December 1602. After forty-four years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth is in decline. The formidable ruler whose motto is Semper eadem (I never change) has become a dithering old woman, missing teeth and wearing makeup half an inch thick. The kingdom has been weakened by the cost of war with Spain and the simmering discontent of both the rich and the poor. The stage has been set, at long last, for succession. But the Queen who famously never married has no heir.
Elizabeth's senior relative is James VI of Scotland, Protestant son of Elizabeth's cousin Mary Queen of Scots. But as a foreigner and a Stuart, he is excluded from the throne under English law. The road to and beyond his coronation will be filled with conspiracy and duplicity, personal betrayals and political upheavals.
Bringing history to thrilling life, Leanda de Lisle captures the time, place, and players as never before. As the Queen nears the end, we witness the scheming of her courtiers for the candidates of their choice; blood-soaked infighting among the Catholic clergy as they struggle to survive in the face of persecution; the widespread fear that civil war, invasion, or revolution will follow the monarch's death; and the signs, portents, and ghosts that seem to mark her end.
Here, too, are the surprising and, to some, dismaying results of James's ascension: his continuation of Elizabeth's persecution of Catholics, his desire to unite his two kingdoms into a new country called Britain, and the painful contrast between the pomp and finery of Elizabeth's court and the begrimed quality of his own.
Around the old queen and the new king, swirl a cast of unforgettable characters, including Arbella Stuart, James's ambitious and lonely first cousin; his childish, spoiled rival for power, Sir Walter Raleigh, who plotted to overthrow the king; and Sir John Harrington, Elizabeth's wily godson, who switched his loyalties to James long before the queen's death.
Courtesy of Leanda de Lisle's keenly modern view of this tumultuous time, we are given intimate insights into of political power plays and psychological portraits relevant to our own era. After Elizabeth is a unique look at a pivotal year-and a dazzling debut for an exciting new historian.
Queen Elizabeth famously refused to marry, causing a foreign-born king to ascend to the English throne in 1603. In her first book, Lisle nimbly examines Elizabeth's waning months and the introduction of James VI of Scotland as James I of England, demonstrating that the transition was anything but smooth or preordained. The aging Elizabeth remained unwilling to name her successor for fear that courtiers would abandon her to curry favor with the next ruler. Indeed, prominent statesmen and courtiers had, years earlier, had opened channels of communication with the presumptive successor. Lisle presents a memorable cast of characters striving to mold the transition. Scots feared losing their king and their independence, while Englishmen saw a flood of key appointments and titles go to foreign favorites. Various alternative candidates to the throne were favored by Catholics and Puritans, as well as the rulers of France, Spain and Venice according to their perceived stances on religion. James's greatest desire was to mediate religious reconciliation, but in the end, he made neither side happy and Englishmen began to remember fondly their good queen Bess. Lisle uses this brief period as a lens through which to view the key issues of both reigns, while commenting subtly on the nature of historical reputations. 24 pages of color illus. (Jan. 31)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 29, 2007
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Excerpt from After Elizabeth by Leanda de Lisle
"The World Waxed Old"
The Twilight of the Tudor Dynasty
Sir John Harington arrived at Whitehall in December 1602 in time for the twelve-day Christmas celebrations at court. The coming winter season was expected to be a dull one, though the new Comptroller of the Household, Sir Edward Wotton, was trying his best to inject fresh life into it. Dressed from head to toe in white, he had laid on dances, bear baiting, plays and gambling. The Secretary of State, Sir Robert Cecil, lost up to �800 a night--an astonishing sum, even for one who, according to popular verse, ruled "court and crown." Behind the scenes, however, courtiers gambled for still higher stakes. Harington observed that Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudors, was sixty-nine and although she appeared in sound health, "age itself is a sickness." She could not live forever, and after her reign of forty-four years the country was on the eve of change.
To Elizabeth, Harington was "that witty fellow my godson." Courtiers knew him for his invention of the water closet, his translations of classical works, his scurrilous writings on court figures and his mastery of the epigram, which was then the fashionable medium for comment on court life. In the competition for Elizabeth's favor, however, courtiers were expected to reflect her greatness not only in learning and wit but also in their visual magnificence. They did so by dressing in clothes "more sumptuous than the proudest Persian." A miniature depicts Harington as a smiling man in a cut silk doublet and ruff, his long hair brushed back to show off a jeweled earring that hangs to his shoulder. Even a courtier's plainest suits were worn with beaver hats and the finest linen shirts, gilded daggers and swords, silk garters and show roses, silk stockings and cloaks.
This brilliant world was a small one, though riven by scheming and distrust. "Those who live in courts, must mark what they say," one of Harington's epigrams warned. "Who lives for ease had better live away." Harington, typically, knew everyone at Whitehall that Christmas, either directly or through friends and relations. Elizabeth herself was particularly close to the grandchildren of her aunt Mary Boleyn, a group known enviously as "the tribe of Dan." The eldest, Lord Hunsdon, was the Lord Chamberlain, responsible for the conduct of the court. His sisters, the Countess of Nottingham and Lady Scrope, were Elizabeth's most favored Ladies of the Privy Chamber. But Harington also had royal connections, albeit at one remove. His estate at Kelston in Somerset had been granted to his father's first wife, Ethelreda, an illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII. When Ethelreda died childless the land had passed to John Harington senior. He remained loyal to Elizabeth when she was imprisoned following a Protestant-backed revolt against her Catholic sister Mary I, named after one of its leaders as Wyatt's revolt, and when Elizabeth became Queen she rewarded him with office and fortune, making his second wife, Harington's mother, Isabella Markham, a Lady of the Privy Chamber. It was the hope of acquiring such wealth and honor that was the chief attraction of the court.
Harington once described the court as "ambition's puffball"--a toadstool that fed on vanity and greed--but it was one that had been carefully cultivated by the Tudor monarchy. With no standing army or paid bureaucracy to enforce their will, the monarchy had to rely on persuasion. They used Arthurian mythology and courtly displays to capture hearts, while patronage appealed to the more down-to-earth instincts of personal ambition. Elizabeth could grant her powerful subjects the prestige that came with titles and orders, and the influence conferred by office in the Church, the military, the administration of government and the law; there were also posts at court or in the royal household. She could bestow wealth with leases on royal lands and palaces, offer special trading licenses and monopolies or bequeath the ownership of estates confiscated from traitors.Those who gained most from Elizabeth's patronage were themselves patrons, acting as conduits for the Queen's munificence.