Queen Elizabeth and the Historians

A.L. Rowse charts how three centuries of British historians have produced many different interpretations of the great Queen’s character.

Queen Elizabeth I has this in common with the Duke of Wellington—besides a hawk-nose—that she has been much exposed to authors. The most celebrated and the most brilliant figure among our sovereigns, how could it not be so? Though we can hardly say of her, as it has been said of the circulation of Macaulay’s History, that it went up and down with the figures for the annual production of coal in the nineteenth century, still her reputation has waxed and waned with movements of political feeling, varied with party bias. It may be of interest, and possibly instructive, to watch the ebb and flow of opinion about her, especially with the historians: it may tell us something about them as well as about her.

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