From the private world of a beloved English queen, a story of intimacy, royalty, espionage, rumor, and subterfuge
Queen Elizabeth I acceded to the throne in 1558, restoring the Protestant faith to England. At the heart of the new queen’s court lay her bedchamber, closely guarded by the favored women who helped her dress, looked after her jewels, and shared her bed.
Elizabeth’s private life was of public concern. Her bedfellows were witnesses to the face and body beneath the makeup and raiment, as well as to rumored dalliances with such figures as Earl Robert Dudley. Their presence was for security as well as propriety, as the kingdom was haunted by fears of assassination plots and other Catholic stratagems. Such was the significance of the queen’s body: it represented the very British state itself.
In The Queen’s Bed, the historian Anna Whitelock offers a revealing look at the Elizabethan court and the politics of intimacy. She dramatically reconstructs, for the first time, the queen’s quarters and the women who patrolled them. It is a story of sex, gossip, conspiracy, and intrigue brought to life amid the colors, textures, smells, and routines of the royal court.
The women who attended the queen held the truth about her health, chastity, and fertility. They were her friends, confidantes, and spies—nobody knew her better. And until now, historians have overlooked them. The Queen’s Bed is a revelatory, insightful look into their daily lives—the untold story of the queen laid bare.
“Whitelock’s fearless approach to Elizabeth is not unlike that of Essex. She, too, has burst into the bedroom and shown us the Queen in her most private state. This is an intimate history of the court and a brilliant history of intimacy.” —Frances Wilson, The Mail on Sunday
“Whitelock makes sparkling use of the eye-witness testimonies of courtiers, who recorded their impressions of the Queen in letters as gossipy and vivid as any tweet or Facebook post . . . The charm of Anna Whitelock’s portrait of the Queen and her times is that it shows the monarch and the woman, in all her power and pathos, through the eyes of the people who knew her best.” —Jane Shilling, Daily Mail
“A great story, told with wit and verve.” —John Gallagher, The Telegraph
“Engrossing and admirably researched . . . Taking us behind the closed doors of Elizabeth’s bedchamber, Whitelock builds up a remarkably intimate portrait . . . [Her] excellent life of Queen Mary was published in 2009. With this dazzling portrait of Mary’s successor, she takes her place among the foremost—and most enthrallingly readable—historians of the Tudors.” —Miranda Seymour , The Sunday Times (London)