Although a historical treatment of such complexity as Elizabeth the Great often breaks chronology, Elizabeth Jenkins maintains a focus on Elizabeth and on the events and personages that figured significantly in her life and reign. Her task is difficult because, while keeping the narrative eye on Elizabeth’s personal life, Jenkins must also make clear the political, social, and religious events that molded and motivated her. The result is a pattern that moves forward with events involving Elizabeth but that occasionally leaps about to fill in background details, to make sense of events, or to connect the ongoing narrative with subsequent events.
Despite such occasional lapses in time order, the overall progression of Elizabeth the Great is basically chronological. The book begins with the personal and political complications that affected Henry VIII’s choice and rejection of wives and the place of Elizabeth in his household, moves through the difficulties of a childhood and an adolescence spent in fear of exile or execution as first Edward IV and then Bloody Mary ruled, and then studies Elizabeth as queen. She is described securing her throne and establishing her policy; defending her position against would-be usurpers, alien invaders, and ambitious men at home; and winning the love of her people by her thrift, courage, wisdom, tolerance, and struggle for peace.
While considering questions of state, Jenkins explores...
(The entire section is 546 words.)