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Elizabeth I's Final Years (Hardback)

Her Favourites and Her Fighting Men

P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > Royal History Women of History

By Robert Stedall
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 328
Illustrations: 25 mono
ISBN: 9781399083157
Published: 11th May 2022



Star Review!

'This is a book which will delight anyone who enjoys meticulously researched history told with flair, wit, and enthusiasm.'

 - Steven Veerapen; Professor of History at Strathclyde University

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Elizabeth I's Final Years outlines the interwoven relationships and rivalries between politicians and courtiers surrounding England’s omnipotent queen in the years following the death in 1588 of the Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth now surrounded herself with magnetically attractive younger men with the courtly graces to provide her with what Alison Weir has called ‘an eroticised political relationship’.

With these ‘favourites’ holding sway at court, they saw personal bravery in the tiltyard or on military exploits as their means to political authority. They failed to appreciate that the parsimonious queen would always resist military aggression and resolutely backed her meticulously cautious advisors, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and later his son Robert.

With its access to New World treasure, it was Spain who threatened the fragile balance of power in Continental Europe. With English military intervention becoming inevitable, the Cecils diverted the likes of Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Essex, despite their lack of military experience, away from the limelight at court into colonial and military expeditions, leaving them just short of the resources needed for success. The favourites’ promotions caused friction when seasoned soldiers, like Sir Francis Vere with his unparalleled military record in the Low Countries, were left in subordinate roles.

When Spanish support for rebellion in Ireland threatened English security, Robert Cecil encouraged Elizabeth to send Essex, knowing that high command was beyond his capabilities. Essex retorted by rebelling against Cecil’s government, for which he lost his head.

Both Elizabeth and Cecil realised that only the bookish Lord Mountjoy, another favourite, had the military acumen to resolve the Irish crisis, but his mistress, Essex’s sister, the incomparable Penelope Rich, was mired by involvement in her brother’s conspiracy. Despite this, Cecil gave Mountjoy unstinting support, biding his time to tarnish his name with James I, as he did against Raleigh and his other political foes.

"A well researched and neatly written book."

A Tudor Reader

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very detailed account of Elizabeth I's Final Years that doesn't necessarily conform to traditional biographical tropes. Stedall paints an intriguing, enthralling and meticulous account that will stun any history buff.

NetGalley, Chelsea Harper

‘This account of the closing years of Elizabeth 1’s reign throw’s a fascinating light on the period and the role played by the aging queen’s ‘favourites’. With the ongoing threat from Spain and the reality of the succession looming, the author reveals the complex relationships and intrigues of the court and covers colonial and military expeditions in detail. For anyone with an interest in history this is an informative and worthwhile read.’

Pam Bruce

A masterpiece of original scholarship that includes nine pages of Endnotes, a five page Bibliography, a twenty page listing of References, and a twenty-one page Index, "Elizabeth I's Final Years: Her Favourites and Her Fighting Men" is an exceptionally informative and appreciated contribution to community, college, and university library Royal British History collections in general, and Queen Elizabeth I supplemental curriculum studies syllabus in particular.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

Robert Stedhall knows his subject, having written several books about Mary Queen of Scots.

A solid, interesting and enjoyable book which stands on its own but can be seen as a sequel to his equally readable biography of Lord Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s Secret Lover.

The Ancestor, August 2022

Having recently visited both Blickling Hall Estate and Felbrigg Hall (both in North Norfolk) I am hugely interested in late Elizabethan Britain. Robert Steadall's superb book is both educational and entertaining.

Books Monthly

An extremely detailed, yet readable, portrait of the fighters, pirates and swash-bucklers of Elizabeth I’s later reign.

The Tudor Times

This fine book is written by Robert Stedall and covers the later years of Elizabeth I’s life and in particular the men or her favourites in later life. From Walter Raleigh, to Charles Blount, to Robert Devereux and Sir Francis Vere to name a few. It was nice to read about their influences, strengths and opinions in the various situations that came up in this particular period of history. With events like the Spanish Armada, Ireland and Catholicism and more.

The way these characters were played off against each, with each one trying to get somewhere or wanting specifics. This book is very comprehensive in its details and research and so the author Robert Stedall has written an excellent book which I think compares to others very favourably against other books of a similar subject. I’m sure I read Stedall’s previous book which if I remember rightly was also a fine and detailed book. Would I recommend this book? I most certainly would, whether you were new to the subject or not.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a well researched book that deserves a spot on every Tudor armchair-historian's bookshelf. It is meticulously researched and well-written and dives deeper into the reign of Elizabeth I, and specifically her favorites, than I have ever experienced before. Names that were once vague to me are now more acquainted and their roles more appreciated. I enjoyed this immensely!

NetGalley, Kelsey Fischer

Elizabeth I famously remarked, “we princes, I tell you, are set on stages”. This was as true of her later life as her early one. Then, of course, she had been the undisputed heroine. In Elizabeth I’s Final Years, Robert Stedall turns his forensic eye on the 1590s and early 1600s, when the cult of Gloriana was at its apex but the figure behind it was crumbling. His Elizabeth is no longer the protagonist but a faded, mercurial Miss Havisham, jostled by younger, swaggering players, whilst, offstage, James VI of Scotland is waiting to ring the curtain down.

Stedall is a master of this era, having written a magisterial study of Elizabeth’s favourite, Leicester. Final Years acts as a sequel-in-spirit (though it functions as a stand-alone book). Rather than taking the approach of strict biographical study, he focuses on tracing the gripping sagas of those who brought the late Elizabethan court to life. In doing so, he develops a kind of historical pointillism: a glittering picture of the court made up of individual human stories. Here, readers will encounter the aged Elizabeth through the eyes of a cast of dozens. In less skilled hands, this structure could be confusing. As Stedall is as comfortable writing about the Privy Chamber as about a storm-tossed ship in Guiana or the marshy battlefields of Ireland, his light touch produces a tour-de-force - the scholarly equivalent of a “Who’s Who” of England’s most famous royal court.

Readers will be enthralled by the variety of figures assessed, from the Queen’s favourites and politicians (Essex and Cecil), to fighting men (Vere and Mountjoy), to enterprising courtiers (Raleigh and Sidney), to cunning court ladies (Lettice Knollys and her daughter, Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich). As Stedall demonstrates, these were not mere satellites of an authoritarian Queen; they were rich, vibrant figures who stood toe to toe with her, and who were at the same time peeking over her shoulder with a view to their futures.

Many of their futures were, of course, bound up with the Stuart succession. Robert Stedall’s experience of Scottish history ensures that Final Years is not simply a book about England. In tracing the succession crisis, the author’s previous work on the history of King James shines. Here, we see the gradual shift in attention from the fading sun of Elizabeth to the dawn of James; but James, as we see, was a nervous man, busily cultivating European contacts to smooth his path to the English throne. What’s commendable here is that the stories do not end in 1603; instead, we are treated to the years of fallout from the scheming which brought the new dynasty south. In addition to being a wide-ranging chronicle history of English personalities, Final Years thus offers a first-rate political thriller.

Stedall has produced that rare thing: a text which can serve as an introduction to a complex period. but which will also appeal to seasoned history fans who have grown weary of biographies focused only on Elizabeth and are hoping for something ambitious and wide ranging. This is a book which will delight anyone who enjoys meticulously researched history told with flair, wit, and enthusiasm.

Steven Veerapen; Professor of History at Strathclyde University - as featured in Aspects of History

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a fascinating book about the end of life and time's of Elizabeth I. The information in this book has been very thoroughly researched and is presented in a clear and readable manner.

I really enjoyed reading about Elisabeth I's history. I was always fascinated about the life of the amazing women who lived long time ago, and this book didn't disappoint.

I recommend this book for all of you history lovers, especially the ones fascinated with strong women who live long ago.

NetGalley, Adna Fazlibasic

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book tells the oft overlooked story of Elizabeth’s last years. It is well researched and well written with each scheming courtier being well portrayed. The period was extraordinarily complex but the author here makes sense of it and communicates it in a engaging way. I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

The author has gone into so much detail that it is obvious the amount of research that has been done. Having read so many books on the era of Elizabeth I , I have to ask myself a question. Did I learn anything new from this book. The answer for this one is a big yes.

NetGalley, Catherine Harrold

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Very informative and highly recommend! Great research on the author's part and would read again!

NetGalley, Heather Michael

A fascinating look at the end of the life and times of Elizabeth I.

We read about her decline in her latter years although she is still able and one step ahead. She faces decisions about the Armada, Irish problems, and unrest at home with the succession.. At the time of her demise, she is alone without her favourites and courtly love. The information has been thoroughly researched and is presented in a clear and readable manner.


About Robert Stedall

Throughout his adult life Robert Stedall has been fascinated by genealogy. He is the curator of the popular www.maryqueenofscots.net and author of The Challenge to the Crown and The Survival of the Crown, a ground-breaking two-volume history of Mary Queen of Scots and her son, James VI of Scotland. He has written Mary Queen of Scots’ DownfallThe Roots of Ireland’s Troubles and Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover for Pen and Sword.

Perfect Partner

Elizabeth I's Secret Lover Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (Hardback)

In many respects Dudley was the most significant figure of his age. As a great impresario, he showed Elizabeth off to her people to glittering effect and became the forerunner of Shakespearian theatre, combining classicism with ribaldry. He attracted the financing of Drake’s circumnavigation. He was the supporter of academic endeavour, of poetry, and of Puritan scholarship. By employing a network of his own agents, he provided information of crucial importance to Government. He built some of the finest houses and gardens of the age. As Master of the Horse, he developed English bloodstock to…

By Robert Stedall

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