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Elizabeth and Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics    by Sarah Gristwood order for
Elizabeth and Leicester
by Sarah Gristwood
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

History - like an individual's memory - has been figuratively compared to standing in the midst of an open meadow. Depending upon one's starting position and compass-alignment within the meadow, and depending upon the changing directions, durations, and intensities of one's viewings, one's perspectives and experiences - what one sees and comprehends in the world - can be singular events, unlike those of others who are similarly making observations from within their own open meadows.

And so it is that in reading multiple histories about the same subject - to take the figure of speech a bit further - a reader can enjoy unique encounters with a subject rather than tedious redundancies when willing to place himself or herself into the metaphoric meadow in the company of an experienced guide. Accomplished author Sarah Gristwood is one such guide, and no reader interested in Elizabethan history ought to miss out on the experience of joining Gristwood in the publishing world's latest account of Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley.

There has been, of course, no shortage of writing on the subject of Elizabeth's and Leicester's relationship. Always leaving many unanswered questions, studies prior to Gristwood's dual biography have too often relied upon anecdotal evidence, Elizabethan-era rumors, and modern speculation when trying to unravel the mystery of Elizabeth's and Leicester's parallel lives. Readers believe that Leicester - according to his own claim - had known Elizabeth since she was eight years old, and readers understand that Elizabeth's and Leicester's relationship was complex, stimulating, and mysterious, especially after Leicester's wife died two years after Elizabeth's accession to the throne of England. However, nagging questions persist: Were Elizabeth and Leicester ever physically intimate? Why did they never marry? How much of their relationship was based on personal affection and how much was based instead on cynical political necessity? Which of the two people gained most from and which was most endangered by the legendary relationship?

Now, in the superbly researched, well-written, and highly recommended Elizabeth and Leicester, Gristwood attempts to remove the distorting, accumulated veneer of four centuries of anecdotes and rumors, and - although some questions will always remain unanswered unless some startling new documentary evidence suddenly surfaces - Gristwood offers new and provocative perspectives, supported by evidence, on the controversial story of the two people whose zealous investments in power, passion, and politics left their permanent marks on a fascinating period of English history.

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