Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

A medievalist, Carolly Erickson has written several biographies of the major figures of Tudor England, including Henry VIII and his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as Henry’s second wife and the mother of Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn. As a biographer, Erickson has been drawn to women, or in the case of Henry VIII, a figure whose power and influence directly determined the fates of six wives. Her focus in those biographies has been less on matters of state, of high diplomacy and international conflict, than upon the upbringing and the private lives of her subjects. Those issues are of greater significance to the author than the constitutional concerns so often the center of Tudor biographies. In Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England, Erickson carries her interest in English history into the early nineteenth century. Instead of a royal biography, the author tells the tale of the ten-year period from 1810 to 1820.

George III celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 1810. The king had suffered from periods of mental instability in the past, however, and in his jubilee year, he suffered another relapse. This time he did not recover, and a regent was chosen to rule in his place, until his death in 1820. It was a divided era and a crucial one for Great Britain. What concerns Erickson was the deep-seated conflicts and fissures within that British world. The opulence and riches of the royals and members of the aristocracy contrasted with the poverty of many. The immoral and amoral sexual behavior of the...

(The entire section is 623 words.)