History has pictured Elizabeth I as Gloriana, an icon of strength and power -- and has focused on the early years of her reign. But in 1583, when Elizabeth is fifty, there is relentless plotting among her courtiers -- and still to come is the Spanish Armada and the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. We have not, until now, had the full picture. This gripping and vivid portrait of her life and times -- often told in her own words (and including details such as her love of chess and marzipan) -- reveals a woman who was insecure, human ('You know I am no morning woman'), and unpopular even with the men who fought for her. This is the real Elizabeth, for the first time.