We recently reviewed Collins and Clarke’s collaboration on King and Collector, which was absolutely excellent. This second book, which focuses on the creation of the image of Gloriana can be counted another great success. Once again, the clarity of writing, the illustrations, and the smooth way in which fascinating facts about art, artists, and sitters are woven together, are all superb. On this occasion I have the hardback version, complete with colour plates, and that really makes a difference to the discussion of individual paintings.

The book itself is an attractive article: the paper quality high; the font well-suited to the topic, and the touches of contrasting colour for captions pleasing to the eye. It is small enough to take as a companion to galleries, to understand more about a picture when standing in front of it.

The structure is different from King and Collector, with a less linear progression through Elizabeth’s life. In some ways, I feel further away from the queen as an individual than I did with Henry VIII, and more a spectator of the image that she wanted to project – perhaps that can be counted a success for Elizabeth’s policy of portraying herself more as a goddess than a woman. However, I once again encountered a new and interesting fact on every page. There is also some illuminating discussion about theories of conservation, which have changed over time.

One of the most interesting, and in a sense, modern, aspects of Elizabeth’s political use of image was the requirement that every official image after the early 1590s be approved by her Searjeant-Painter, George Gower. It was important that the queen be seen as eternally youthful, lest too many questions be asked about the succession.

With regard to the political background, Collins and Clarke have taken a very traditional view of Elizabeth’s reign, seeing it, if not uniformly glorious, as generally a ‘golden age’. Current historiography is perhaps a little more nuanced, but this book is not intended to be a scholarly biography, but an introduction to the wonderful art of the Elizabethan age, and in that it succeeds brilliantly.

Tudor Times received a review copy from the publisher.