Many volumes have been written about the long reign of Elizabeth I. Now, for the first time, comes a brilliant new work that focuses on the critical year her reign ended, a time in which England lost its childless queen and a Machiavellian struggle ensued to find her successor.
December 1602. After forty-four years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth is in decline. The formidable ruler whose motto is Semper eadem (I never change) has become a dithering old woman, missing teeth and wearing makeup half an inch thick. The kingdom has been weakened by the cost of war with Spain and the simmering discontent of both the rich and the poor. The stage has been set, at long last, for succession. But the Queen who famously never married has no heir.
Elizabeth’s senior relative is James VI of Scotland, Protestant son of Elizabeth’s cousin Mary Queen of Scots. But as a foreigner and a Stuart, he is excluded from the throne under English law. The road to and beyond his coronation will be filled with conspiracy and duplicity, personal betrayals and political upheavals.
Bringing history to thrilling life, Leanda de Lisle captures the time, place, and players as never before. As the Queen nears the end, we witness the scheming of her courtiers for the candidates of their choice; blood-soaked infighting among the Catholic clergy as they struggle to survive in the face of persecution; the widespread fear that civil war, invasion, or revolution will follow the monarch’s death; and the signs, portents, and ghosts that seem to mark her end.
Here, too, are the surprising and, to some, dismaying results of James’s ascension: his continuation of Elizabeth’s persecution of Catholics, his desire to unite his two kingdoms into a new country called Britain, and the painful contrast between the pomp and finery of Elizabeth’s court and the begrimed quality of his own.
Around the old queen and the new king, swirl a cast of unforgettable characters, including Arbella Stuart, James’s ambitious and lonely first cousin; his childish, spoiled rival for power, Sir Walter Raleigh, who plotted to overthrow the king; and Sir John Harrington, Elizabeth’s wily godson, who switched his loyalties to James long before the queen’s death.
Courtesy of Leanda de Lisle’s keenly modern view of this tumultuous time, we are given intimate insights into of political power plays and psychological portraits relevant to our own era. After Elizabeth is a unique look at a pivotal year–and a dazzling debut for an exciting new historian.
About the Author
Leanda de Lisle earned a master's degree in history at Oxford University before embarking on a highly successful career as a journalist and writer. After having three sons, she went on to graduate school and received a master's degree in business administration. She has since held positions as the first columnist for Country Life magazine and as a columnist for The Spectator magazine and The Guardian newspaper. She returned to her first love, history, to write After Elizabeth, her debut book.
"From the Hardcover edition."
Advance praise for After Elizabeth
“Leanda de Lisle has done what historians, to date, have overlooked. She spots the story in the seemingly uneventful handover of power to James I after Elizabeth’s death and rediscovers its thrilling drama. James’s accession was far from inevitable–de Lisle vividly recounts the uncertainty, greed, intrigue, and hypocrisy that defined the new age. We enter a slippery, twilight world where legitimacy is debased and conspiracy and corruption thrive. This is an original, informative, absorbing account, written with verve and style.”
–John Guy, author of Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart
“A deep and fascinating account of this transformative year. Leanda de Lisle’s close focus draws us into palace corridors, country houses, and city streets where the excitement, intrigue, and danger are palpable.”
–Jane Dunn, author of Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
“This masterly account recaptures superbly the edgy, wary feel of court and country at the key moment when Tudor England was transformed into Stuart Britain. In emphasizing the faults of Queen Elizabeth I and the acuity of her successor, King James I, Leanda de Lisle has brilliantly subverted the traditional story.”
–Andrew Roberts, author of Napoleon and Wellington: The Long Duel