10 Must Reads on the Elizabethan Age

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 3:19pm -- lwhite

     Starting  on Wednesday August 24, award winning architectural historian John Tschirch will begin his lecture series titled “The Great English House”. The series visits four remarkable homes famed for their design, collections, and legendary occupants. Each house is a time capsule of English history beginning with the Elizabethan Era.

    Becoming the last monarch in the Tudor Dynasty, Elizabeth ascended to the throne in a time of uncertainty after the short reigns of her half siblings. Her forty four year reign offered the English Kingdom stability and developed a sense of a national Identity. This era would see the likes of playwrights Shakespeare and Marlowe, explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, the beginning of English colonization of the New World, and the rise of English naval power. Learn more about the “Virgin Queen”, Elizabeth I, and the Golden Age that bears her name by checking out one of the books below


         Country house visiting is one of Britain's favorite leisure activities. For more than five centuries, historic buildings have opened their doors, inviting the tourist to step inside. Elizabethans strolled around palaces, royal and private, like Hampton Court and Hardwick Hall, while Georgians appreciated the classical refinement of properties like Kedleston Hall and Osterley Park, admiring the treasures brought back from the Grand Tour. Adrian Tinniswood takes the reader on a grand tour around the historic houses of England, and discovers how, throughout the centuries, the idea of national heritage has developed.

      Many of the great houses of the Elizabethan period, including Greenwich, Hampton Court, Richmond, Nonsuch, Whitehall, Kenilworth and Hatfield decline or disappear after Elizabeth I passes away. Ian Dunlop has collected facts and anecdotes from little-explored sources and has reconstructed, in both sketch and prose, these great houses. Having described these lovely palaces, Dunlop then follows Queen Elizabeth on some of her annual rounds to her wealthier subjects exploring not only these lovely setting but those living in them. 
   In this superb history, award-winning author Jessie Childs explores the Catholic Predicament in Elizabethan England through the eyes of the aristocratic Vauxes of Harrowden Hall. Elizabeth I had criminalized Catholicism in England; for refusing to attend Protestant services her subjects faced crippling fines and imprisonment; for giving refuge to outlawed priests they risked death. Almost two hundred Catholics were executed in Elizabeth’s reign. Ordered by the Pope to resist the Queen and by the queen to renounce the Pope, they faced an agonizing conflict of loyalty. In an age of assassination and armada, Catholica who chose faith were increasingly seen as the enemy within.
     Elizabeth I accended 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 favored women who helped her dress, looked after her jewels and shared her bed. This revealing history of the politics of intimacy uncovers the feminized world of the Elizabethan court.
     Lord Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I's lover, and Sir William Cecil, her chief political adviser, were the most powerful men in the country. As their rivalry intensified, they competed by creating ever more fabulous gardens for their queen. Dudley's aim was to woo her; Cecil's, to stop Dudley in his tracks. Dudley set out an intoxicatingly romantic garden, and threw spectacular outdoor parties for his queen; Cecil countered by building a sumptuous palace with amazing gardens overseen by the most famous gardener in the country, John Gerard. This is the beguiling story of a lifelong duel. For Elizabeth, these gardens were places for love and intrigue, power play and spectacular design.
  . I, Elizabeth : a novel by Rosalind Miles and Gilbert Khan
     Publicly declared a bastard at the age of three, daughter of a disgraced and executed mother, last in the line of succession to the throne of England, Elizabeth I inherited an England ravaged by bloody religious conflict, at war with Spain and France, and badly in debt. When she died in 1603, after a forty-five- year reign, her empire spanned two continents and was united under one church, victorious in war, and blessed with an overflowing treasury. What’s more, her favorites-William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir Walter Raleigh-had made the Elizabethan era a cultural Golden Age still remembered today. But for Elizabeth the woman, tragedy went hand in hand with triumph. Politics and scandal forced the passionate queen to reject her true love, Robert Dudley, and to execute his stepson, her much-adored Lord Essex. Now in this novel, Rosalind Miles brings to life the woman behind the myth. By turns imperious, brilliant, calculating, vain, and witty, this is the Elizabeth the world never knew. From the days of her brutal father, Henry VIII, to her final dying moments, Elizabeth tells her story in her own words.
    . A New World: England's First View of America by Kim Sloan, Joyce Chaplin, et al.
     This book reproduces in full the celebrated but rarely seen British Museum collections of watercolors made by this relatively unknown gentleman-artist. It also tells the story of his five voyages to 'Virginia' and his role as Governor of the 'Lost Colony' of Roanoke, which preceded Captain John Smith's more successful settlement at Jamestown twenty years later." "White's watercolors bring to life the complex and sophisticated culture of the coastal Carolina Algonquians. All his known work is reproduced here - maps and charts, watercolors of Florida Indians, West Indian flora and fauna, the Inuit encountered by Martin Frobisher, and an amazing and influential set of watercolors of Picts and ancient Britons. Each one is reproduced in color opposite its historical explanation, supplemented by the famous de By engravings, which were responsible for spreading his images throughout Europe, as well as other comparable works by contemporary and later artists including Mark Catesby, the eighteenth-century natural historian.
     Recounts how Britain's Royal Navy allowed one nation to rise to a level of power unprecedented in history. From its beginnings under Henry VIII and adventurers like John Hawkins and Francis Drake, the Royal Navy toppled one world economic system, built by Spain and Portugal after Columbus, and ushered in another--the one in which we still live today. Follows its history from the defeat of the Spanish Armada, through the seventeenth century, when the navy came to play a leading role as England became a world power, through the convulsions of Napoleon, the twentieth century, and the downfall of the British Empire itself, as Britain passed its essential elements on to its successor, the United States
      . The Age of Shakespeare by Frank Kermode
     In The Age of Shakespeare, Frank Kermode uses the history and culture of the Elizabethan era to enlighten us about William Shakespeare and his poetry and plays. Opening with the big picture of the religious and dynastic events that defined England in the age of the Tudors, Kermode takes the reader on a tour of Shakespeare’s England, vividly portraying London’s society, its early capitalism, its court, its bursting population, and its epidemics, as well as its arts—including, of course, its theater. Then Kermode focuses on Shakespeare himself and his career, all in the context of the time in which he lived. Kermode reads each play against the backdrop of its probable year of composition, providing new historical insights into Shakespeare’s characters, themes, and sources. The result is an important, lasting, and concise companion guide to the works of Shakespeare by one of our most eminent literary scholars.
         . The Marlowe Papers: A Novel by Ros Barber
     You're the author of the greatest plays of all time. But nobody knows. And if it gets out, you're dead. On May 30, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. That, at least, was the official version. Now Christopher Marlowe reveals the truth: that his "death" was an elaborate ruse to avoid a conviction of heresy; that he was spirited across the English Channel to live on in lonely exile; that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colorless man from Stratford--one William Shakespeare. With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this remarkable novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate, and mercurial. A cobbler's son who counted nobles among his friends, a spy in the Queen's service, a fickle lover and a declared religious skeptic, Christopher Marlowe always courted trouble. Memoir, love letter, confession, and settling of accounts, The Marlowe Papers brings Christopher Marlowe and his era to vivid life