ELIZABETH I: The Shrewdness of Virtue by Jasper Ridley

ELIZABETH I: The Shrewdness of Virtue

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Another Tudor biography from Ridley (Henry VIII; Thomas Cranner; Statesman and Saint: Wolsey and More, A Study in Contrast). In hailing the achievements of the first Elizabeth, Ridley stands staunchly against the usual modernist aversion to this much-maligned monarch. Yet his stance is not adulatory; he recognizes, for instance, that Elizabeth's ""brilliant successes were often achieved, not by good policy and planning. . .but by luck, by muddling through. . ."" In addition, Ridley considers as ignominious Elizabeth's failure to recover Calais, and argues that her ""hesitation, indecision, petulance, emotionalism, and petty-mindedness"" have been excused by male historians who made allowances for her as a woman. But, crucially, Ridley attempts to right history's impression of Elizabeth as shaving feigned sadness over the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots, and as having attempted a deception of Philip II and Guzman da Silva by pretending hatred of Dutch Protestants while actually aiding them both financially and militarily. Ridley turns up letters of counsellors to and acquaintances of Elizabeth that show the monarch's stated feelings, in both cases, as genuine. Ultimately, Ridley grants Elizabeth greatness for having reinstalled tolerance to the English throne--the three years prior to her reign had seen 333 people burned as heretics, while Elizabeth's subjects ""risked nothing worse than insults, slaps, or at worst a few weeks under house arrest."" Noteworthy only for its revisionism; otherwise, a plodder.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1987
Publisher: Viking