The Virgin Queen

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Christopher Hibbert has written numerous books on subjects as diverse as AGINCOURT, EDWARD VII: A PORTRAIT, GARIBALDI AND HIS ENEMIES, and VENICE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF A CITY. His versatility is unquestionable. In the first section of this beautifully illustrated biography, Hibbert writes a series of essays commenting on different aspects of Elizabeth’s life: the organization of her household, her relationship to her Privy Council, and her policies regarding the religious settlement. The second section is organized more chronologically, but still focuses on specific events, such as the conspiracies involving Mary, Queen of Scots, and the rebellion of Robert, Earl of Essex.

Hibbert seems to have aimed this biography at readers who shy away from footnotes; even when direct quotations are given, no sources are cited. He describes Elizabeth as an old woman creeping about the Privy Chamber plunging a rusty sword into the wall hangings to be sure that no assassins were hidden there. Since no source is given for this anecdote, it is difficult to assess its veracity. This is a well-written set of perspectives on Elizabeth, but the lack of a chronological framework will bother those who are interested in history. Those who want a chronological biography of Elizabeth without footnotes will still be better served by John E. Neale’s QUEEN ELIZABETH I (1934).