The First Elizabeth: The Biography

Essay by mjhs_asmsHigh School, 11th gradeA+, May 2004

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Carolly Erickson's The First Elizabeth, a biography of Queen Elizabeth, covers a time from a few months before her birth to her death on March 23rd, 1603. It begins by describing the marriage of her parents and later the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. It describes Elizabeth's childhood: specifically her upbringing and relationship with those close around her, such as Kat Ashley, Tomas Seymour, and Mary, her sister. After she becomes queen, Erickson describes in particular the issues of her reign. She discusses Elizabeth's marriage situation, the conditions of the court and state, and her foreign dealings.

The impression that Erickson leaves us of Elizabeth is that inside her court she is a very manipulative, vain, hot tempered woman who refuses to be controlled, but when it comes to her subjects she is caring and wants to act in their best interests.

Erickson spends a large part of the book describing Elizabeth's childhood.

She is described as a tall young girl with red hair, milky white skin, a clear complexion, and long fingers. Elizabeth's upbringing was very much like that of an aristocratic girl described by Margaret King in Women of the Renaissance. Elizabeth was taught "filial duty, submissive self- restraint, self-improving pastimes [needlework], the solid beginnings of a classical education . . . and habits of religious devotion." (48) But Elizabeth was much more advanced in her humanist education than most women were. She had several important relationships during these years. She became very close with Kat Ashley. She also was responsible for much of Elizabeth's early education. Catherine Parr, the last wife of Henry the VIII, Elizabeth's father, encouraged her later education. Thomas Seymour who became the husband of Parr after Henry's death, supposedly courted Elizabeth, which caused her controversy.

Towards Elizabeth's late teens...