John Guy’s new book is devoted to the last nineteen years of Elizabeth I’s life, but why call them ‘The Forgotten Years’? Who has forgotten them? Certainly not historians. In 1995, Guy himself edited an influential collection of essays entitled The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court & Culture in the Last Decade, which sparked off scholarly interest in the period from the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, in February 1587 until Elizabeth’s death in March 1603. Since that book’s appearance, there has been much new research into the politics, religion and culture of those years, which Guy dubbed ‘the second reign of Elizabeth I’.
Many of the events described in Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years are also a vital part of England’s national memory: who, for example, hasn’t heard of Elizabeth’s speech to the English troops at Tilbury in 1588? Guy, however, is keen to strip away myths and expose what he sees as political