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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Apologies Everywhere

Okay, so I have been probably the worst blogger ever for neglecting this for so long. Apologies all around. I've realized that something like a blog can only continue when you really establish it as a routine, but unfortunately my routine kind of fell apart at the end of March and it's taken a while to get it back. But, I do promise to be posting more, and I am well on my way to new research to make this blog even more in depthand interesting. So bare with me...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ides of March

Today, March 15, is known historically as the Ides of March. This is because, as legend has it, Julius Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March." It was this day that Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times by the entire Roman senate. To commemorate this day, it would seem most appropriate to talk about Shakespeare's Julius Caesar play.
Interestingly enough, Julius Caesar (despite being the title of the play), is not the main character. In fact he only appears in three scenes and is killed in the beginning of the third act. The real central character of the play is Marcus Brutus, who was a great friend of Caesar but whom ultimately betrayed him.
Many of Shakespeare's historical plays correlate with some sort of Elizabethan sentiment or topic of the time. In this case it is a clear reflection of the anxiety within England over the succession of the crown since Elizabeth had refused to name a successor which had people worried that England might break out into Civil War similar to the one in Rome, after her death. The play was most likely premiered in 1599.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

She Was Fond of Nicknames

Good Queen Bess, The Virgin Queen, Belphoebe, Gloriana, these are many of the nicknames given to Elizabeth during her lifetime and she if often refered to by them even today. But what people may not realize is that Elizabeth not only received nicknames but also gave them to her favorite courtiers.

Elizabeth called Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester her "Eyes"

William Cecil was her "Spirit"

Robert Cecil was her "pigmy" or "elf"

Sir Christopher Hatton was her "mutton" or "lids"

Francis Walsingham was her "Moor"

Francis, Duke of Alencon, (her French suiter) her "frog"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Elizabeth's Poems

Elizabeth was a very educated woman, and took great pleasure in reading and writing poetry. While imprisoned in the Tower of London and other places such as Woodstock during Mary's tumultous reign, she spent a great deal of time not only worrying about her fate (as her poems reveal), but also writing. Below are few of her poems written during her imprisonment:

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth E
LIZABETH prisoner.

The above couplet was written on the window in Elizabeth's jail/bedroom at Woodstock. She wrote on the window by engraving it with a diamond ring she was wearing. Elizabeth was questioned often about her feelings toward Mary, Catholicism, and whether Elizabeth had taken part in any of the plots against Mary. However, Elizabeth was always successful at indirectly answering questions and so Mary and her supporters were never able to find Elizabeth guilty of any wrongdoing. The one below was also written at Woodstock, but on a wall.

O FORTUNE! how thy restless wavering State
Hath fraught with Cares my troubled Wit!
Witness this present Prison whither Fate
Hath borne me, and the Joys I quit.
Thou causedest the Guilty to be loosed
From Bands, wherewith are Innocents inclosed;
Causing the Guiltless to be strait reserved,
And freeing those that Death had well deserved:
But by her Envy can be nothing wrought,
So God send to my Foes all they have thought.
A.D. M.D.LV.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An Elizabethan Courtier

Sir Thomas Gresham (1517/18–79) served as Elizabeth's chief financial adviser, negotiating loans on the Crown's behalf and advising Elizabeth on the necessity of recoinage.

A very successful businessman, Gresham paid for the establishment of an exchange in London, the precursor to the London Stock Exchange, which was completed in 1569. After Elizabeth visited 1571 it became known as the Royal Exchange.

The Exchange was very successful with merchants from England and Europe. It provided a valuable symbol of the nation's increasing wealth as well as of its changing status from an 'island nation' isolated from power to one that was a seat of power and commerce, independent of the problems in continental Europe.

Gresham died suddenly, apparently of apoplexy, on 21 November 1579. His only son had predeceased him.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Going on Progress

From Saturday February 19 until Saturday February 26th I will be going on Progress. What is a Progress you ask? Well, during the spring and summer, accompanied by her court, Elizabeth toured southern England, the Midlands, and parts of the West Country, staying with private and civic hosts, and at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The progresses provided hosts with unique opportunities to impress and influence the Queen, and became occasions for magnificent and ingenious entertainments and pageants, drawing on the skills of architects, artists, and craftsmen, as well as dramatic performances, formal orations, poetic recitations, parades, masques, dances, and bear baiting.

The most expensive "honour" of all was that of housing Queen Elizabeth and her household. Elizabeth hit on the clever scheme of going on constant "progresses" about the country. Aside from the benefit of bringing her into closer contact with her subjects, she saved a great deal of money by making the nobles with whom she stayed foot the bill for her visit. Many nobles begged off the honour of her stay for fear of bankruptcy.

My Progress is much less ornate, as I am only visiting family in California, but I'd like to think of it as an Elizabethan Progress!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Walter Raleigh Myth

As the myth goes, the explorer (and sometimes pirate) Sir Walter Raleigh once stepped forth from a crowd, gallantly doffed his cloak, and threw it over a mud puddle to protect the feet of the passing queen. This is unfortunately pure fiction, and Sir Walter Scott repeats this old legend in his famous novel "Kenilworth"

'Accordingly, she fixed her keen glance on the youth, as she approached the place where he stood, with a look in which surprise at his boldness seemed to be unmingled with resentment, while a trifling accident happened which attracted her attention towards him yet more strongly. The night had been rainy, and just where the young gentleman stood a small quantity of mud interrupted the Queen's passage. As she hesitated to pass on, the gallant, throwing his cloak from his shoulders, laid it on the miry spot, so as to ensure her stepping over it dry-shod. Elizabeth looked at the young man, who accompanied this act of devoted courtesy with a profound reverence, and a blush that overspread his whole countenance. The Queen was confused, and blushed in her turn, nodded her head, hastily passed on, and embarked in her barge without saying a word."

Or as Thomas Fuller puts the story:

Captain Raleigh found the queen walking , till, meeting with a plashy place, she seemed to scruple going thereon. Presently Raleigh cast and spread his new plush cloak on the ground; whereon the queen trod gently, rewarding him afterwards with many suits.
Thomas Fuller's 'Worthies'.