Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court
(Published in the US as The Queen’s Bed. The American PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography)
Elizabeth I acceded to the throne in 1558, restoring the Protestant faith to England. At the heart of the new queen’s court lay Elizabeth’s bedchamber, closely guarded by the favoured women who helped her dress, looked after her jewels and shared her bed.
Elizabeth’s private life was of public, political concern. Her bedfellows were witnesses to the face and body beneath the make-up and elaborate clothes, as well as to rumoured illicit dalliances with such figures as Robert Dudley. Their presence was for security as well as propriety, as the kingdom was haunted by fears of assassination plots and other Catholic subterfuge. For such was the significance of the queen’s body: it represented the very state itself.
This riveting, revealing history of the politics of intimacy uncovers the feminized world of the Elizabethan court. Between the scandal and intrigue the women who attended the queen were the guardians of the truth about her health, chastity and fertility. Their stories offer extraordinary insight into the daily life of the Elizabethans, the fragility of royal favour and the price of disloyalty.
Shortlisted for Biographer’s Club
Best First Biography Prize
Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen
published by Bloomsbury
and Random House in the US.
Mary Tudor was the first woman to be crowned queen of England. Her accession, in the summer of 1553, took place against the odds and it was, in many ways, emblematic of her life.
England’s First Queen tells the remarkable story of a woman who was a princess one minute, feted by the courts of Europe, and a disinherited bastard the next. It tells of her Spanish heritage, the unbreakable bond between Mary and her mother (Katherine of Aragon), her childhood, her adolescence, her rivalry with her sister Elizabeth, and finally her womanhood. It explores the formative experiences that made Mary the determined and single-minded queen she became. She had fought to survive, fought to preserve her integrity and her right to hear the Catholic mass, and finally she fought for the throne.
As queen of England, Mary retained her tenacity. She married Philip of Spain against much opposition and struggled passionately to restore Catholicism. Yet whilst she was brave as a queen, as a woman she was dependent and prone to anxiety. In an age when marriages were made for political and diplomatic advantage, Mary married a man she truly loved but whom did not share her passion. It is this tension between Mary’s dominance as queen and her tragedy as a woman that is crucial to understanding her reign. Her private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses and unrequited love were played out in the public glare of the fickle Tudor court. The Mary that emerges is not the weak-willed failure of traditional narratives, but a complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity.
The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth
Edited by Anna Whitelock and Alice Hunt
Palgrave Macmillan, September 2010
The essays in this volume contribute to a new understanding of the second half of the sixteenth century when England experienced the unprecedented rule of two successive queens regnant. Focusing on a diverse range of issues, from politics and personnel to ceremony and costume, and from a range of perspectives, Tudor Queenship demonstrates that thinking about both queens at the same time can be highly suggestive, and propels us to revise, develop and understand, and to contextualize, traditional interpretations. From what Elizabeth learnt from Mary, assessments of political acumen and the significance of confessional differences this is the first volume to focus on both Mary and Elizabeth, and to consider them as Renaissance monarchs a European stage.
“Recommended.” — CHOICE
“This is an excellent collection that prompts us to rethink much of what we thought we knew about both the reigns and the personalities of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.” — Greg Walker, Head of School, LLC and Masson Professor of English Literature, University of Edinburgh.
“This volume is a landmark collection of essays which draws together an exciting range of new work by many of the leading scholars currently working on the two Tudor queens. Under Mary and Elizabeth the whole nature of English monarchy itself had to be fundamentally re-thought and worked out in important new ways. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in this process and all the cultural consequences which flowed from it. Tudor Queenship is an important and wide-ranging collection which will undoubtedly find a firm place both in university syllabi and on the shelves of scholars.” — Paul E.J. Hammer, Professor of History, University of Colorado.