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Founder of Empire
Alan Axelrod
Book Review

Elizabeth I may have been a more descriptive title, but CEO she certainly was -- for a nation.

Henry VIII assumed the throne at age 18 and set a new path for England two decades later by breaking with the Pope so that he could marry Ann Boleyn. Elizabeth came from that union. But Henry's next wife gave him a son who became king upon Henry's death. Sickly, he soon died and his half sister, Bloody Mary, daughter of Henry's first wife, assumed the throne. Mary placed Elizabeth under house arrest but left no heir of her own to the throne. When Mary herself came to an untimely end, Elizabeth assumed the throne. Her effect was immediate. She won the hearts and loyalty of her elders with her wisdom in expression born of trial and tragedy.

Unlike her lineage, Elizabeth entertained suiters at arms length -- when it suited her purpose -- but married none, reserving the unoffical title of virgin queen for life. Also, unlike her lineage, she put England's future ahead of her own fortunes. She did these things as a stateswoman who seemed never to lose her cool or be at a loss for words. She traveled extensively for her times and even visited a potential battlefield to shore up morale. Yet she fought no major war except on the high seas where she dethroned Spain.

Elizabeth quietly assembled a capable team for her court and consulted regularly with them. A very charismatic lady, she spoke and wrote with timeless wisdom. Soon she was in total command while working through others and using their best talents to the best advantage for England. The religious issue was settled when she made the break with the Pope permanent. Seamanship in the body of Sir Francis Drake was perhaps the pivotal personnel choice she made. He not only secured the new world but smashed the challenge from Spain.

In just 45 years, Elizabeth transformed England, one piece at a time. A country that was in chaos and at the mercy of European powers when she ascended the throne, became the foremost and most successful empire on earth.

Drama appears on nearly every page with Axelrod's gift for imagery in words. To read this book is to understand how a mere island of a nation had such a profound affect on the world. It was all due to Elizabeth I, at once queen, CEO, national hero. If you are looking for historical drama, you will find it here. That is why we elected to high-point Elizabeth's life instead of its storyteller.

This little book gets five stars.


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