Friday, November 9, 2007

Historical and Biography: Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England

Stanley, Diane and Peter Vennema. 2001. GOOD QUEEN BESS: THE STORY OF ELIZABETH I OF ENGLAND. Ill. by Diane Stanley. NY: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN: 0688179614.

This biography follows the life of England’s passionate and strong-willed Queen Elizabeth I from her birth, through her forty-five year reign and to her death.

Authors Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema has created a wonderful biography of Queen Elizabeth I that is filled with accurate information presented in a form of story and detailed illustrations. The story of Elizabeth I is greatly detailed and at times complex; however Stanley and Vennema have taken the important information and have written it in a very clear and concise way.

The actual historical facts come in various forms. To begin the book, Stanley and Vennema provides as note about the religious movement that was happening during this period time and how it was important to the country of England, especially during Elizabeth’s reign. Elizabeth’s story begins with the account of her father King Henry VIII and is continuous desire for a male heir and introduces his six wives, who he was able to marry because he declared changed England’s religion from Catholicism to the new Church of England. The authors also use dates in their text, such as on November 17, 1558 when Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s half-sister, died and Elizabeth was crowned as the new queen, which the readers a perspective when these events happened.

The personal details of Elizabeth truly allow the readers to gain a greater understanding of how she was a person. She was highly educated, speaking five languages other than English, and was talented in many areas. Because of her education, as the readers will discover further on, Elizabeth was able to be a discuss matters with foreign governments, how to intelligently handle her own councilors, and rule her country will a tolerable but firm hand. The story also creates a window into the feelings Elizabeth had on many events that happened during her reign. For example, despite the fact that Mary, the Queen of Scots was convicted of conspiring against her and was executed, Elizabeth grieved for the Mary, who was in fact her cousin and because they had never met. Other matters that Elizabeth felt strong about was the pressures and desires on her to marry and have an heir. However, since she knew that this would involve marrying a man from another country, which would not only benefit that country but it also meant that she would have to relinquish her reins has ruler to her husband. Keeping her country in her best interest, she never married and continued to be the ruler who loved her country and her people.

Stanley and Vennema also provide accurate quotes. A wonderful example of this is seen when Elizabeth addressed her army before they fought against the Spanish Armada. She states, “I know that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart… of a king – and a king of England,” (p. 28) which as actually a direct quote from the speech that she truly did made in 1588.

The illustrations that Diane Stanley created for this book are wonderfully detailed and reflect the ornate decorations and fabrics that are seen during the Elizabethan Era. Though the overall appearance of the scenes depicting Elizabeth, other characters, and her surroundings are slightly two-dimensional in nature, the details of the clothing are remarkably accurate, the trunk hose (the puffy round pants that the men wore over tights), their doublets (the coats), and even their duckbilled shoes are accurate to the time. This is especially the case for Elizabeth. Her ornate jewelry, hair ornamentations, the farthingale-style of garments, the high lacy-collar, and even the fancy brocade fabric is accurate recreated and reflect many of her portraits scene in museums. By using the illustrations, the authors have yet another method to show the readers the years passed, which is not only seen in the different styles of clothing but also in the facial appearances of the characters. Elizabeth appearance began as a young woman and has the years passed her appearance begins to age. The end of the book the illustrations depict Elizabeth depicted wearing her unnatural red wig, white skins and red rouge, her wrinkle face.

The organization and design of the Good Queen Bess: The Story of England’s Queen Elizabeth I is executed well. The story begins with the story of Henry VIII and his search for a wife who could provide an heir and ends with Elizabeth’s death in 1603 and the crowning of James VI. There is an illustration on every page. The text is always situated on the lower portion of the page with an illustration above. At the very end of the book, author also provide their bibliography of the sources they used and they also provide a bibliography of recommended books for young readers who would like to read more about the most powerful queen that England ever had.

Complexities of politics and personality are necessarily simplified for this slim, handsome volume, but their substance is remarkably well conveyed. This is a welcome reissue of a fascinating introduction to one of history's most influential figures. Inc. All rights reserved. (April 1, 2002)

Once again available from the husband-and-wife team behind Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare, here is another biography from the Elizabethan Age: Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England (1990) by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema, illus. by Stanley. Describing the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, the authors lay the groundwork for Queen Elizabeth's greatest challenges: stopping the bloodshed and uniting her country under one faith, and keeping the peace with the rest of Europe. Intricate artwork conveys the delicate lace and accoutrements of court dress, patterned ceilings and cobblestone streets. (Aug.). (September 3, 2001)

*Read more about Queen Elizabeth I with books like Elizabeth I and Tudor England by Stephen White-Thomson and Queen Elizabeth I by Betka Zamoyska.
*Learn about other famous figures and the time period itself with books like Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age by Andrew Langley.
*Learn about the clothing worn during Elizabeth’s time with books like Elizabethan England by Kathy Elgin.
*Make lace collars like the men and women wore during the Elizabethan Era by accordion fold layers of tissue paper and paper clip it in the back of the neck.


  1. Thank you, Bluma. It was a great book to read and review.


Thank you for visiting, WP-CC! Please leave a comment!