Together with her father, Elizabeth I is one of a handful of figures from British history whose name and likeness are widely known to non-scholars. Along with the physical image, a commonly held view exists of the queen’s personality as calculating, imperious, shrewd, vain, indomitable and ruthless. Above all, she is remembered both as the Virgin Queen, who despite numerous suitors remained unmarried, and also as the victorious monarch addressing her troops at Tilbury. This familiarity has bred admiration: in two recent polls, one of the key figures of the last millennium, organised by Radio 4, and the other of the greatest Britons, organised by BBC 2, Elizabeth was the only one of two women to be voted into the top ten.The images of Elizabeth’s appearance and character have been fostered by histories, historical novels, dramas, operas and films. Famous, familiar and admired, it is very appropriate that the first of many dramas devoted to Elizabeth was entitled If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody.
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Thomas S. Freeman
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