An abused child, yet confident of her destiny to reign, a woman in a man's world, passionately sexual yet, she said, a virgin, famed as England's most successful ruler yet actually doing very little, Elizabeth I is a bundle of contradictions. In this new, lavishly illustrated biography, published to accompany a Channel 4 series presented by the author, David Starkey turns the paradox into a person. Starting with Elizabeth's own speeches and writings, Starkey lays novel emphasis on two things: her faith made her see religion as a purely personal relationship between the individual conscience and God, yet her sophisticated education led her to a smoke-and-mirrors view of politics, in which clever image-making and speech-writing could solve or postpone real problems. The result was a surprisingly contemporary approach to some very modern questions, like civil strife in Scotland and Ireland and the risk of England's absorption into a European super-state. This new approach to the enigma of the Queen's character is presented within a lively and readable retelling of her reign; her love for Robert Dudley, the tragi-comedy of her favourites and suitors, and her epic struggles with Mary queen of Scots and Philip II of Spain.