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Sex, Love and Marriage in the Elizabethan Age (Hardback)

British History P&S History Social History 16th Century

By R. E. Pritchard
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526754622
Published: 26th April 2021

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Most people have always been interested in sex, love and marriage. Now, this entertaining and informative book explores the surprisingly varied and energetic sex and love lives of the women and men of Queen Elizabeth's England. A range of writers, from the famous, such as Shakespeare, John Donne and Ben Jonson, and lesser-known figures popular in their time, provide, in their witty stories, poems and plays, vivid pictures of Elizabethan sexual attitudes and experiences, while sober reports from the church courts tell of seductions, adulteries and rapes. Here we also encounter private journals and scenes from ordinary marriages, with complaints of women's fashions, bossy wives and domineering husbands. Besides this, there are accounts of the busy whores of London brothels, homosexual activity and the Court's amorous carousel of predatory aristocrats, promiscuous ladies and hopeful maids of honour. We conclude with the frustrations of The Virgin Queen herself.

This lively review of Elizabethan sexuality, in its various forms, much of it brought together for the first time, should intrigue and amuse anyone with an interest in history, and how love used to be lived, 'in good Queen Bess's golden days'.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a great nonfiction read, I enjoy the Elizabethan age and I thought it was a well-researched and well read read.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

I would recommend this book to all those interested in the sexual culture and mores of the day. It will probably be very appealing to social historians covering that period in history. It is a light hearted easy read and will broaden knowledge about the sexual goings on of that era.

Alison Wall, Local History Group

Don't you love it when the titles tell you EXACTLY what the book is about?

Well, I do. Especially when it comes to non-fiction.

This book is exactly what it says on the tin, a look at sex, love, and marriage in the Elizabethan Age. Featuring lots of primary resources and excerpts from diaries, letters, and writings of the age this book dives into what the romantic side of Elizabethan England entailed.

And honestly, it's fascinating. This isn't an era of licentiousness that is often portrayed in Puritan literature but a bright, sensual, and much more liberal world. The author shows the good and the bad and tries very hard not to make judgement calls Unfortunately, that approach sometimes backfires because there isn't enough context or explanation given -- especially considering that Elizabethan syntax, vocabulary, and writing style are very different from our own... this book is a valuable resource for an author setting their books in the time and for Tudor England scholars.

NetGalley, Michelle Louise

Well written using lots of contemporary sources. It presents a readable picture of a time when the social mores were very different from those of today.

NetGalley, Sue Andrews

Pritchard sets out to answer the question of how people in the Elizabethan age viewed sex, marriage and love. He starts of with the common people and then moves on to Queen Elizabeth the first and her court. I really enjoy reading about Tudor history and this book certainly didn't disappoint.

NetGalley, Penelope Jenkins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Interesting, informative and well written! This book grabbed my interest from the first chapter and held it through to the last chapter. A definite must read for anyone interested in the time period.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

This was a pretty fun book that was also really informative. We often hear about the art, theater and literature of this era as well as wars and politics but we never hear much about the personal and sex lives of the people, R.E. Pritchard rectifies that.

NetGalley, Joanna Pentikis

I enjoyed this book - it gave an extra level of information about attitudes to sex and marriage into the late 1500s and into the early 1600s. I was grateful for the primary sources which were quoted, sometimes at length - and liked how the author drew on different types of evidence - how lucky we are that we have a doctor's diary left from the age!

NetGalley, Jo Romero

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I have a passion for history and in particular the Tudor age so was thrilled to be able to read this and it certainly did not disappoint.

Including information from original sources, this was an exceptional read.

This was a wide reaching overview of the time and I found it fascinating.

Would highly recommend.

NetGalley, Maria Martignetti

If you want a unique look at love and marriage in the late Tudor dynasty, you should give, “Sex, Love, and Marriage in the Elizabethan Age” by R.E. Pritchard a try.

NetGalley, Heidi Malagisi

I really enjoyed this book, it was a real eye opener! Well researched, quirky and easy to read. I shall use this a a reference book whenever I read novels set in this time, as it is my favourite era.

NetGalley, Daphne Sharpe

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This delightful book covers every aspects of the English social life & customs around love and relationships during the second part of the 16th century with lots of delicious details & plenty of wit. From courtship to engagement, from marriage to childbirth from divorce to adultery the author give us a panoramic view of the emotions of the Virgin Queen's subjects. All the aspects of human love and its consequences are artfuly dissected in this wonderful book from the nitty gritty emotions of ordinary daily life to its many representations in literature & popular culture. A very sophisticated overview of the human heart and its emotions under the most sophisticated Tudor monarch, Queen Bess.

NetGalley, jean luc estrella

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Elizabethan life, literature and history is intriguing and we often wonder how people lived in other times, what drove them, what delighted them, their differences and similarities to us now, what their love lives were like. This book offers us even more glimpses into the private (and not so private) lives of all classes from the poor to royalty. We are, after all, human beings.

Along with other informational details the author includes the meanings of "halek" and "occupy", the marrying ages of both women and men, the role of politics, the reasons for marriage which often excluded love in all classes, the prevalence of syphilis (the "pox"), dowries, short lifespans which meant a high prevalence of sexual crimes, church views, propriety vs. impropriety, those blighted due to connections, seasonality of reproduction in the poor class and the hands-off approach of the upper class in raising children. Many examples were given including known and lesser known people. Important writers of the day such as Shakespeare often wrote about sex and love, subtly sometimes and less than subtle at others. You will read some of his quotes.

Wives were "kept in order" by their husbands and often all that mattered was having heirs. There were tomboys, there were plenty of affairs (always the woman's fault in adultery and other things). Fashion, believe it or not, also factors.

The illustrations at the back are useful. I had no idea that a sieve signified virginity in portraits of Queen Elizabeth! This is what is immensely enjoyable about such books...they teach and enlighten. History lovers should read this witty book. You are bound to get a lot out of it.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

A great reference full of interesting facts that made me want to read more. I found it hard to put down and finished in a weekend.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

About R. E. Pritchard

Born in India, R.E. Pritchard read English at Balliol College, Oxford, before becoming a lecturer at Keele University. He has published widely on a range of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century subjects, from Shakespeare’s England to the adventurer Captain John Smith, the witty poet Rochester and the court of Charles II. He lives in West Oxfordshire.

Perfect Partner

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England (Paperback)

The Tudor period has long gripped our imaginations. Because we have consumed so many costume dramas on TV and film, read so many histories, factual or romanticised, we think we know how this society operated. We know they ‘did’ romance but how did they do sex? In this affectionate, informative and fascinating look at sex and sexuality in Tudor times, author Carol McGrath peeks beneath the bedsheets of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England to offer a genuine understanding of the romantic and sexual habits of our Tudor ancestors. Find out the truth about ‘swiving’, ‘bawds’,…

By Carol McGrath

Click here to buy both titles for £31.98
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