Laura Brennan’s latest book, ‘Elizabeth I: The Making of a Queen’ was published by Pen and Sword last month.
Her previous book, ‘The Duke of Monmouth: Life and Rebellion’ was published in 2018.
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Many thanks to Laura for answering my questions.
Why did you choose this subject for your book?
Writing the Making of a Queen was fulfilling a dream. I had always wanted to write about Elizabeth and she was the subject of my undergrad dissertation – but I wanted to look at her from a unique angle as there are so many books about her. It struck me that even before she reached the throne she had lead an extraordinary life and realised that these experiences must have affected who she was as a woman as well as her subsequent successful style of Queenship.
What does your book add to existing works about Elizabeth Tudor?
I hope that ‘The making of a Queen’ helps the readers see Elizabeth as a woman as well as a queen. So often women who are successful in life both in the past and even still today are seen as hard, unladylike and vilified for being successful. I hope to show that she was a woman, who made difficult personal and political choices in order to survive in the 16th Century.
How did you select the events you included?
I became reacquainted with Elizabeth’s early life and looked to see if there were lessons she could have learnt from the event/person. Then I looked at her reign and looked for events that she had been decisive, had been turning points or difficult for her to make and compared them to her life before the throne. Quickly became apparent that there was potential links and explanation why she did what she did as a consequence of something in her childhood or adolescence.
What surprised you most researching this book?
I went into this with the best part of 20 years knowledge in my head. When I went back to look at the history in detail I was surprised at how my views had change about Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII. Life experience and maturity took some of rose tinted views I had of him away. In fact I came to really dislike him.
What was the biggest lesson Elizabeth learnt from each of the reigns of her half siblings?
From ‘Bloody’ Mary I’d say she learnt that an the business of being a wife as well as a queen and the pursuit of a child and heir is difficult and unpredictable.
From Edward VI Elizabeth learnt the hard lesson that family don’t always have your best interests at heart and in order to survive you need to make tough choices.
From both of them she learnt extreme views on religion should not be inflicted on your subjects. Although the head of the English protestant church, Elizabeth tried as hard as she could to be moderate in her views choosing not to meddle with men’s souls. This was a tactic later used by Charles II.
How did the brief reign of Lady Jane and her subsequent execution shape Elizabeth as Queen?
I believe that Elizabeth view on who to have around her and trust was cemented with the sad events of Lady Jane Grey. From the beginning of her reign she refused to be manipulated by her council and selected men she trusted fully to be her guides. Sadly Lady Jane was not so lucky.
Did you learn anything new about Elizabeth?
My respect for Elizabeth grew rather than learning anything specifically new. In fact I respected all the women of the 16th Century so much more. I firmly believe that Elizabeth succeeded where her step siblings failed due to her ability to adapt change and learn from others as well as her own mistakes.