November Books 24) Elizabeth and Essex, by Lytton Strachey
A short (180 pages) but colourful account of the relationship in the 1590s between Elizabeth I and the second Earl of Essex, which ended with his execution in 1601. No footnotes or much sourcing at all, which makes one a bit suspicious of its historical accuracy, though it is told in suitably dramatic terms. I knew the basics already, but Strachey catches our attention by portraying a court struggle between Cecil (the younger son of Lord Burghley, who founded the Salisbury dynasty) and Essex's supporters, with Francis Bacon playing a key role ny switching sides and ensuring Essex's doom; the queen then dies of a broken heart. I had not realised that Essex was actually the great-grandson of the "other Boleyn girl", Anne's sister Mary - indeed his grandmother was quite possibly her daughter by Henry VIII, making him the queen's great-nephew. It also hadn't occurred to me that he was much the most prominent courtier ever to be made Lord Deputy or Lord Lieutenant of Ireland - I had vaguely assumed that his father had held the post at some point before his horrible death, but I was wrong. The involvement of William Shakespeare in the whole thing is interesting but incidental (and anyway covered better by Shapiro).