Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue
by Jasper Ridley
New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1989.
Ridley can certainly summarize complex issues such as the religious conflicts at home and abroad. The authoritative manner in which he writes often camouflages the lack of extensive use of manuscript primary source materials and the absence of analysis.
Must say, it often felt as if Queen Elizabeth was a background player, albeit important. Sometimes her role seemed to be tacked on as an afterthought as Ridley extensively covers foreign affairs—fascinating in its place, as England shifted from containing France to defeating Spain—and ignores discussing insights into the Queen’s actions. Maybe it is because Ridley does not fall into the adulation one expects in a biographer. Usually biographers cannot help but convey some sympathy for their subject. Ridley does not.
This reader was surprised that the edition reviewed did not have any photographs beyond the two near the front of the book. With the publication in 1989, it was expected.
To balance this criticism out is commendation for the layout. Having the chapters arranged by topic helped with the needed background information as opposed to the arrangement being strictly chronological. Perhaps this would be confusing to a person not well-versed in the time period, but it was a refreshing approach.