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Blood, Fire and Gold: The story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici

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'A story told with verve and passion' The Times, Book of the Week 'An alternative and engaging biography...accessible and unpretentious' The Telegraph ' A stunning portrayal of two of the most powerful women in European history' Tracy Borman 'Exciting and compelling, packed full of tantalising details of diplomacy and court life, Paranque succeeds both in bringing hist 'A story told with verve and passion' The Times, Book of the Week 'An alternative and engaging biography...accessible and unpretentious' The Telegraph ' A stunning portrayal of two of the most powerful women in European history' Tracy Borman 'Exciting and compelling, packed full of tantalising details of diplomacy and court life, Paranque succeeds both in bringing history to life, but also in putting flesh on the bones of these two extraordinary women and rival queens' Kate Mosse 'A smart and stylish portrait of two of Europe's most remarkable rulers, a compelling profile of female power and - that rarest of things - a truly original book about the Tudor period' Jessie Childs In sixteenth-century Europe, two women came to hold all the power, against all the odds. They were Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici. One a Virgin Queen who ruled her kingdom alone, and the other a clandestine leader who used her children to shape the dynasties of Europe, much has been written about these iconic women. But nothing has been said of their complicated relationship: thirty years of friendship, competition and conflict that changed the face of Europe. This is a story of two remarkable visionaries: a story of blood, fire and gold. It is also a tale of ceaseless calculation, of love and rivalry, of war and wisdom - and of female power in a male world. Shining new light on their legendary kingdoms Blood, Fire and Gold provides a new way of looking at two of history's most powerful women, and how they shaped each other as profoundly as they shaped the course of history. Drawing on their letters and brand new research, Estelle Paranque writes an entirely new chapter in the well-worn story of the sixteenth century.


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'A story told with verve and passion' The Times, Book of the Week 'An alternative and engaging biography...accessible and unpretentious' The Telegraph ' A stunning portrayal of two of the most powerful women in European history' Tracy Borman 'Exciting and compelling, packed full of tantalising details of diplomacy and court life, Paranque succeeds both in bringing hist 'A story told with verve and passion' The Times, Book of the Week 'An alternative and engaging biography...accessible and unpretentious' The Telegraph ' A stunning portrayal of two of the most powerful women in European history' Tracy Borman 'Exciting and compelling, packed full of tantalising details of diplomacy and court life, Paranque succeeds both in bringing history to life, but also in putting flesh on the bones of these two extraordinary women and rival queens' Kate Mosse 'A smart and stylish portrait of two of Europe's most remarkable rulers, a compelling profile of female power and - that rarest of things - a truly original book about the Tudor period' Jessie Childs In sixteenth-century Europe, two women came to hold all the power, against all the odds. They were Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici. One a Virgin Queen who ruled her kingdom alone, and the other a clandestine leader who used her children to shape the dynasties of Europe, much has been written about these iconic women. But nothing has been said of their complicated relationship: thirty years of friendship, competition and conflict that changed the face of Europe. This is a story of two remarkable visionaries: a story of blood, fire and gold. It is also a tale of ceaseless calculation, of love and rivalry, of war and wisdom - and of female power in a male world. Shining new light on their legendary kingdoms Blood, Fire and Gold provides a new way of looking at two of history's most powerful women, and how they shaped each other as profoundly as they shaped the course of history. Drawing on their letters and brand new research, Estelle Paranque writes an entirely new chapter in the well-worn story of the sixteenth century.

30 review for Blood, Fire and Gold: The story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gareth Russell

    An innovative and exciting way of studying the past from a brilliant historian. Blood, Fire and Gold shines a new light onto the diplomatic tensions between sixteenth-century England and France, as well as the Wars of Religion, espionage, court intrigue, and the games of power. At its heart are the fascinating figures of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici, whose tense and nuanced relationship is expertly told. Note: Based off an ARC sent to me by the publishers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Blood, Fire and Gold is a must-read for anyone interested in not only Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici, but anyone interested in studies of female power more generally! Paranque's writing style is pitch-perfect for her subject matter. She deals with wars, on global and personal scales, as well as how families (or would-be families) interact when they operate on an international stage. The dialogue that she translates and recreates is startlingly modern, not because she re-writes it as such, bu Blood, Fire and Gold is a must-read for anyone interested in not only Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici, but anyone interested in studies of female power more generally! Paranque's writing style is pitch-perfect for her subject matter. She deals with wars, on global and personal scales, as well as how families (or would-be families) interact when they operate on an international stage. The dialogue that she translates and recreates is startlingly modern, not because she re-writes it as such, but because she has a keen eye for quotes that demonstrate the personalities of her subjects. The action in the book never lulls and, by the end, you're left feeling somewhat similar to how these two queens must have felt: utterly exhausted by the constant threats to them, their families, and their rule. Speaking of Elizabeth and Catherine, Paranque treats her subjects with equal parts criticism and empathy. What I really love about this book is that they're never, ever pitted against each other. Paranque never degrades Elizabeth to uplift Catherine, or vice versa. She acknowledges both women for their strengths and their faults, pairing their ruthlessness with a deep understanding of the environment in which they lived and ruled. Those women she doesn't focus on are treated with respect and understanding and as are the men. Even Mary Queen of Scots, who Paranque asserts wasn't actually Elizabeth's ultimate rival, is treated with understanding and sympathy but also never sanctified. In an era where so much popular history written about women tends to choose one subject to laud and others to debase in order to praise the subject, Paranque completely avoids this traps. She writes about these historical women as they were: people, with personalities and strengths and faults. This deep empathy in her writing makes her book an exciting read—it's never, ever dry, because you feel like you're in the midst of the action with Elizabeth, Catherine, and their ambassadors. I really do recommend this book to anyone just wants an exciting read about real women, their lives, and how they changed the landscape of early modern Europe!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Owen Emmerson

    BLOOD, FIRE & GOLD is a breathtaking study of the competitive and conflictive relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Catherine de Medici. Estelle Paranque’s fresh and compelling narrative approach is the perfect style in which to convey this extraordinary story of the rivalry, intrigue and heartbreak which defined their reigns. Impressively balancing a cinematic approach with a rigorous scholarly lens, this glorious study breaks new ground in terms of both style and substance. Perhaps BLOOD, FIRE & GOLD is a breathtaking study of the competitive and conflictive relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Catherine de Medici. Estelle Paranque’s fresh and compelling narrative approach is the perfect style in which to convey this extraordinary story of the rivalry, intrigue and heartbreak which defined their reigns. Impressively balancing a cinematic approach with a rigorous scholarly lens, this glorious study breaks new ground in terms of both style and substance. Perhaps most importantly, it gives us unrivalled access to a landscape in which female power and agency was experienced and exercised in early modern Europe. It is an extraordinary achievement. Dr Owen Emmerson - co-author of ‘The Boleyns of Hever Castle’.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Malagisi

    Two queens; one a wife and the mother of kings and the other a virgin who had to fight for the right to rule her country independently. Two women who found friendship and a rivalry between each other with only a sea that divided them and religious discord to drive them apart. Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I would define what it meant to be female rulers in the 16th century for France and England, respectively. The tales of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici have been covered in numerous boo Two queens; one a wife and the mother of kings and the other a virgin who had to fight for the right to rule her country independently. Two women who found friendship and a rivalry between each other with only a sea that divided them and religious discord to drive them apart. Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I would define what it meant to be female rulers in the 16th century for France and England, respectively. The tales of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici have been covered in numerous books, but a joint biography of these two powerhouses is a rarity until now. Estelle Paranque demonstrates how both queens greatly affected each other’s lives in her latest book, “Blood, Fire & Gold: The Story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici.” Paranque begins her book with a short story about an encounter between Elizabeth I’s English ambassador to France, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, and Catherine de Medici, who acted as regent for her son Charles IX. It is an example of how each queen viewed diplomacy and the dance they had to do to keep their respective dynasties on the thrones of England and France. Catherine de Medici was the daughter of Lorenzo II de Medici, Duke of Urbino, and Madeline de La Tour, d’Auvergne. Her parents died when Catherine was young, leaving her to be a wealthy heiress and a powerful pawn in the marriage market. Her husband would be King Henry II, known to have several mistresses, including Diane de Poitiers, who was her husband’s, true love. Despite issues with Diane, Henry and Catherine had a huge family, including several sons, including King Francis II, King Charles IX, King Henry III, and Francis, Duke of Anjou. After the death of her husband, Catherine worked hard to be the regent for her sons until they came of age to rule and continue the Valois dynasty. In England, Elizabeth I was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and the notorious King Henry VIII; their relationship was the most infamous of the 16th century for obvious reasons. After the deaths of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Mary I, Elizabeth got her chance to rule England in her way. When the issue of Elizabeth’s marriage came into play, Catherine de Medici entered Elizabeth I’s life, starting a 30- year relationship that began as a friendship but changed into a rivalry in the end. Over the thirty years, Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I dealt with many obstacles in their relationship. Catherine had to deal with the antics of her children and her daughter-in-law, Mary Queen of Scots, who would become one of Elizabeth’s biggest rivals. The bond between the two queens started over a desire for one of Catherine’s sons to marry Elizabeth and become King of England and France, but alas, this was wishful thinking. Catherine and Elizabeth also had to deal with other nations, like Spain, getting in the way of their relationship, as well as the issue of religion; Catherine was a devout Catholic, and Elizabeth was more Protestant. Catherine had to deal with several wars of religions and the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, while Elizabeth had to deal with the Spanish Armada and what to do with Mary Queen of Scots. Catherine de Medici and Elizabeth I had to communicate through ambassadors and letters, which Paranque translated into modern English, making it easier for modern readers to understand. I cannot stress how much I loved this book and how Paranque was able to weave the stories of the two most powerful women in 16th-century Europe. “Blood, Fire & Gold: The Story of Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici’ by Estelle Paranque is a tour de force dual biography of two influential badass queens. This book is a must-read for anyone passionate about the 16th century.

  5. 5 out of 5

    BooksAmyRead

    No two women had shaped 16th century Europe as Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici. One a "bastard", the other an orphan. One a queen regnant, the other a queen mother. One died childless and the other became the grandmother of Europe. At a time when women were given no voice at all and were considered, in every aspect, as less than men, these two lead armies, squashed rebellions and shaped Kingdoms. And they also had a lasting effect on one another. Throughout the years, the would go from enemi No two women had shaped 16th century Europe as Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici. One a "bastard", the other an orphan. One a queen regnant, the other a queen mother. One died childless and the other became the grandmother of Europe. At a time when women were given no voice at all and were considered, in every aspect, as less than men, these two lead armies, squashed rebellions and shaped Kingdoms. And they also had a lasting effect on one another. Throughout the years, the would go from enemies, to friends, to potential family through marriage, and then to enemies again. And they never even met. This book was quite engrossing and never boring. Far from the usual historical books that just throw one fact after the other at you, this one brought back to life the two women and stripped them down to who they were at heart, away from the crowns and the thrones and the plots against them. I thoroughly enjoyed it and if you're curious about the two women and want to learn more about them, this book is a good start!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hermien

    It made me look at these two powerful women in a different way.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Keely

    4.5 This was different. I haven't seen a book that focused on the relationship between Elizabeth and Catherine. This also allowed me to learn more about Catherine life and what was going on at the same time in their respective lives. Both of them had very complicated things to tackle throughout their reigns. Being a woman in power effected them both differently yet the same. Just misogyny in a lot of different flavours. Some of Elizabeth's suitors were Catherine's children, which while I knew, ne 4.5 This was different. I haven't seen a book that focused on the relationship between Elizabeth and Catherine. This also allowed me to learn more about Catherine life and what was going on at the same time in their respective lives. Both of them had very complicated things to tackle throughout their reigns. Being a woman in power effected them both differently yet the same. Just misogyny in a lot of different flavours. Some of Elizabeth's suitors were Catherine's children, which while I knew, never clicked fully to me. It would've been such a complicated relationship between them to untangle and the author has done a very good job of doing this. She never makes it a competition, on who was the "better" and never degrades the other so she uplift the other one. She approaches her subjects with empathy and while criticism can be found, she also points out that it is easier to criticise them now that we know everything about the future of their lives and of course, talking about "what if she did this" results in a lot of maybes. Elizabeth and Catherine were working with a completely different tool set and while we can read all about their lives, the world they lived in, we cannot truly know what it was like to be them. It is impossible to know what their true thoughts were on certain topics as you have to do a lot of lip service as a royal and keep real feelings hidden. And even if you respect and love a person, if it's a choice between them and your country, you choose your country everytime. You have to do so as a leader/royal/Queen. You can tell that the author has put in a lot of research and time with this book. I reccomend it. I really enjoyed it. One of my favourites for this year. The author has a lot of talent and I will keep an eye on her to see if she publishes any more novels.

  8. 5 out of 5

    historic_chronicles

    Two Queens. One a virgin and Queen Regnant of England, the other a wife and Queen Mother to the Valois Kings of France. With the sea being their only obstacle they would frequently cross paths politically through friendship, rivalry, respect and distrust. Estelle Paranque succeeds in bringing a fresh narration to the complex and extraordinary lives of two incredibly powerful women. What follows is a fascinating study of the diplomatic struggles and religious tensions of sixteenth-century Europe wi Two Queens. One a virgin and Queen Regnant of England, the other a wife and Queen Mother to the Valois Kings of France. With the sea being their only obstacle they would frequently cross paths politically through friendship, rivalry, respect and distrust. Estelle Paranque succeeds in bringing a fresh narration to the complex and extraordinary lives of two incredibly powerful women. What follows is a fascinating study of the diplomatic struggles and religious tensions of sixteenth-century Europe with two of the most influential figures at its helm. Paranque highlights the personalities of her subjects masterfully through the use of modernised quotes which allows insight to the complex nature of how political leaders communicated with one another as such the situation benefited them whether it be war or even marital prospects. The author doesn't shy away from exploring the negative side of her subjects and it is utterly refreshing to see that these powerhouse women are not pitted against one another but simply respected for their importance they gained in their own right. Blood, Fire & Gold is the perfect balance between the scholarly insight and the modernistic approach and Estelle Paranque is without a doubt one of the standout authors of recent years and one to watch.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I thought it would be so much better. The book should have been entitled "The Story of Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici and Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots." Marie Stuart is such a big part of this book so I feel like it was her story as much as it was Elizabeth's and Catherine's. The good stuff really starts around chapter 12, when Elizabeth's plans to marry Catherine's son are discussed. I don't agree Catherine was Elizabeth's greatest rival; they represented two different paths to the throne. El I thought it would be so much better. The book should have been entitled "The Story of Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici and Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots." Marie Stuart is such a big part of this book so I feel like it was her story as much as it was Elizabeth's and Catherine's. The good stuff really starts around chapter 12, when Elizabeth's plans to marry Catherine's son are discussed. I don't agree Catherine was Elizabeth's greatest rival; they represented two different paths to the throne. Elizabeth was queen regnant, Catherine was a queen mother. I thought there would be more rivalry, so I was disappointed to see that their relationship was very diplomatic, with no hints of emotion. The book itself verges on boring at times, so I had to skip pages to get to the good stuff.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary Griggs

    Estelle Paranque’s Blood Fire and Gold, is the most outstanding book I have read in a long while. It explores the complex and fascinating relationship between two very powerful, but yet vulnerable women — Elizabeth 1 of England and Catherine de Medici, Queen Dowager of France. Catherine rules France, not in her own right but as a mother, while Elizabeth rules alone as the virgin Queen. This book has really changed the way I think of Catherine de Medici. Often portrayed as a vindictive, hard woma Estelle Paranque’s Blood Fire and Gold, is the most outstanding book I have read in a long while. It explores the complex and fascinating relationship between two very powerful, but yet vulnerable women — Elizabeth 1 of England and Catherine de Medici, Queen Dowager of France. Catherine rules France, not in her own right but as a mother, while Elizabeth rules alone as the virgin Queen. This book has really changed the way I think of Catherine de Medici. Often portrayed as a vindictive, hard woman, who would even resort to poison if anyone got in her way, Estelle paints a much more nuanced, sympathetic picture. This is a beautifully written, poignant and transformative book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Teoni

    Such a fantastically written book. This story of the two queens was very readable and told in such a way I did not want to put the book down! I love the fact this book was based on fastidious primary research as Dr Estelle Paranque has managed to bring her incredible research to a format which is readable for, and understood by, all. If you are interested in history, queens, politics, and powerful women then I would highly suggest you read this book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Fitzharris

    BLOOD, FIRE AND GOLD is a treasure house of historical detail that transports readers back to a time when court intrigue was quite literally a matter of life and death-especially for the women thrust into its dark heart. Spellbinding in its scope; cinematic in its rendering. Estelle Paranque is the perfect guide to this world, and an exciting, new voice in narrative history.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Addicted already! Estelle has clearly out her heart and soul into this incredible piece of work. Bringing together two female power houses, so far I’m hooked and cannot put it down. Flows with facts but reads so easily. Cannot wait to finish it and use it again in the future. A real standout star in New Historical Books!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Schiesser

    A book of deep and extensive research and a delightful combination of historical truth and beautiful language. Together with the personal touch of the author, it is a must for everybody who is either professionally interested in the topic or an amateur historian.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Abi

    This book is fantastically written and is as easy to read as an epic story, even though it is a well researched piece of non-fiction. It tells the story of these two great women and I would recommend it to anyone who knows a little or a lot about either of these two. It’s a fantastic book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    A brilliant book about the lives of Elizabeth I and Catherine De Medici. I loved every page and highly recommend it to fellow history lovers. I couldn't put it down. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A brilliant book about the lives of Elizabeth I and Catherine De Medici. I loved every page and highly recommend it to fellow history lovers. I couldn't put it down. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

  17. 5 out of 5

    Giorgia Scalise

    Affascinante.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    An insightful and colourful study of the competitive and conflictive relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici. Estelle Paranque’s fresh narrative approach is the perfect style in which to convey the extraordinary story of two of the most powerful women in 16th century Europe. Easy to read, Estelle succeeds in bringing these two extraordinary women and ultimately, rival queens to life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emma Jackson

  21. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  22. 4 out of 5

    Madelon

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennie Adlam

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

  27. 5 out of 5

    B W Graham

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meg Morby

  30. 4 out of 5

    MarinaS

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