Elizabethan Intrigue Reviews, September 15, 2012

Alford, Stephen. The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Nov. 2012. c.400p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608190096. $35. HIST

Literature regarding Elizabethan espionage often focuses a very bright spotlight on the riveting figure of Queen Elizabeth’s “spymaster,” Sir Francis Walsingham. However, Alford (history, Kings Coll., Univ. of Cambridge; Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I), who already has several Tudor histories under his belt, has given readers a more holistic view of the intelligence-gathering personnel and processes employed by the Elizabethan state in its understandable, yet merciless, quest for security. Weaving together the stories of conspirators such as Francis Throckmorton, well known to today’s readers on the subject, with those of far less documented agents such as Charles Sledd, Alford has written an exhilarating and well-researched history. He has also produced a thought-provoking volume that may lead the reader to ponder the dangerous interplay of national defense and repression. VERDICT This title should appeal to those interested in the roots of modern espionage, the government of Elizabeth I, Tudor history, or European political/religious history. Even readers more familiar with the key players in the dramatic Elizabethan security apparatus may enjoy this refreshing take on the subject.—Tessa Minchew, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston

Ronald, Susan. Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion. St. Martin’s. 2012. c.368p. illus. bibliog. index.ISBN 9780312645380. $27.99. HIST

Elizabeth I’s life and reign have been the subject of many biographies over the years. Ronald (The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventures, and the Dawn of Empire) chooses to focus on Elizabeth’s religious policies and their effects on both England and the religious conflicts in continental Europe. Ronald deftly maneuvers among the religious war in the Netherlands, the ambitions of Philip II of Spain, and the failed aspirations of Mary, Queen of Scots, all of which affected Elizabeth’s foreign policy. She also explores England’s internal religious tension and its effect on Elizabeth’s domestic policy. Owing to the large amount of material covered, much of the information is presented in a summary format, albeit highly readable. Ronald relies heavily on secondary sources and loses the opportunity for in-depth analysis. However, Heretic Queen is well written, engaging and briskly paced. VERDICT Recommended for readers with a strong interest in the life of Elizabeth I, the Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation.
—Rebekah Kati, Walden Univ. Lib., Minneapolis