* The Queen’s Bed by Anna Whitelock


As an established non-fan of history, I have tried valiantly to expand my reading to historical topics, always hoping that the boring, fact-based approach of my school years has been overthrown by more modern, attractive techniques, and I indeed have found a number of books I enjoyed (here and here, for instance). But The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court reminded me of those dull afternoons studying history as a child. Chapter after chapter of minute details, intrigues, reversals of fortune,  with little to show for my reading efforts. Since Queen Elizabeth lived a long time, and since every aspect of her life was chronicled, down to the presents she gave to her ladies in waiting, and the ones she received from them, as well as, sadly, every bout of diarrhea and every toothache she suffered, of which there were many, the minutiae is formidable and formidably boring!

One would think that a book that features many secret marriages, illegitimate children, cross-dressing, husbands slaying lovers on their wives’ beds, homicides dressed up as faked suicides to dispose of inconvenient wives, and a queen given to showing her breasts and belly to foreign ambassadors (at an advanced age, to boot) might be entertaining. Not so much…

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