I loved the books and TV series. Schama’s great strength is revealing history by telling it as one big interlinked story. He also takes characters from history (including George Orwell) and weaves their story into the big picture (in Orwell’s case by comparing him with Churchill, whom Orwell admired, and by bringing in World War Two and its aftermath). The books are very easy to read and are fast paced (for me this is unusual in non-fiction).
The story of Elizabeth I begins with Schama quoting from someone who admired her (as a child towards the end of her reign) and then looking back at why that great lady was admired. I’ve always loved Schama’s thought that when Elizabeth wrote to Mary Queen of Scots at the time of the Babington Plot, Elizabeth wrote in a tone that implied Mary “had tried to run off with the towels”! Given I’ve always thought Mary Stuart an ungrateful cow (Elizabeth saved her life more than once), it was great to come across a historian who also is not fooled by Mary’s great tragedy (she did bring it on herself. Elizabeth’s great tragedy, the loss of her mother, was not that lady’s fault).