Acclaimed Tudor biographer Weir paints a vast canvas but maintains a sharp focus on Elizabeth’s charismatic character and her reactions to people and events around her. This volume represents the culmination of years of research by Weir (The Children of Henry VIII, 1996, etc.). Here she brings her characteristic exhaustive attention to detail, an experienced sense of narrative pace and style, and a passion for her subject. One promptly senses Weir’s intimate familiarity with Elizabeth’s private and public life, an asset when she scrutinizes the many facets of Elizabeth’s motivation. Weir begins her study by describing the scene of Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1558, providing a concise description of the new ruler’s character: “She was a mistress of the arts of deception, dissimulation, prevarication and circumvention, all admired attributes of a true Renaissance ruler.” For the book’s remainder, Weir expands on these observations, illustrating how the new queen used her formidable intelligence and cunning to stay alive and remain fiercely independent. One of the most remarkable facts about Elizabeth is that she never married; Weir vividly explores the complex causes and effects of this decision: her mother’s execution by her father, the question of her chastity, her wooing by her later rival Philip of Spain, her reliance on male advisors and friends, and her intimacy with several men (in particular the Earl of Leicester, whose wife’s murder cast suspicion on Elizabeth herself, and the Earl of Essex, whom Elizabeth executed as a traitor). Weir also weaves through the narrative the ever-present religious conflicts between England’s Protestants and Catholics, and Elizabeth’s efforts to keep them under control and remain a popular ruler. A riveting portrait of the queen and how the private woman won her public role.