Food, Clothes, People, Entertainment, Books/Films

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Elizabethan Public Relations

With all the buzz over Queen Elizabeth II now having a Facebook page (as well as a YouTube channel, Flickr account, and Twitter account), it got me thinking about how Elizabeth I reached out to the people of her realm. It is very well known than Elizabeth I aimed at presenting herself as a capable monarch, full of all the splendors and riches of her positions, as well as later the image of an ageless regal queen. But what about the real "grass roots" way of connecting to people? Elizabeth I was a times on unstable ground in terms of her retaining the crown, and she felt the best way to preserve her position and the future of England, was to play to the people to gain their loyalty. Let's break down some methods she used.

1. She often traveled throughout England on her progresses; this was not only because it was fiscally reasonable to do so (since the nobles she visisted would have to pay for everything) or because of sanitary issues (because there were hundreds of courtiers, and no indoor plumbing) but also so Subjects would find Elizabeth a familiar sight. Sometimes mid-travel she would stop the carriage she was in and get out to wave and greet Subjects, and thank them for their loyalty.

2. In a time when few could read, the Queen still regulated the use of printed material in order to make sure no slanderous things were said about her/her reign/or anything that would inspire rebellion. As early as 1557, Queen Mary instituted the Company of Stationers—–the printers and booksellers guild—–creating a restricted membership which had the sole right to publish books. The Crown granted itself the authority to ensure that no printed materials “should be either heretical, seditious, or unseemly for Christian ears.” Any new books were to be licensed, prior to printing, either by the Queen herself in writing, or by six of her Privy Council, (or by one of the following: the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishop ofLondon, or the Chancellors of both universities).

3. Since literacy was not obtainable by every Subject of England, they turned to plays as entertainment, and Elizabeth certainly used them as an opportunity to heighten her image while degrade her enemies. So many productions often took aim at England's key enemy Spain, that Bishop Quadra (Spanish Ambassador to England from 1559 to 1563) complained "As I was tired of complaining to the Queen of the constant writing of books, farces, and songs prejudicial to other princes, and seeing that notwithstanding her promises, no attempt was made to put a stop to it." And Elizabeth did not interfer with plays so long as they were directed against her enemies. Historian David Bevington notes that "in the 1560s and 1570s is the vogue of “mirror” plays exploring the nature of tyranny and the proper attitudes of subjects under its cruel sway: Cambises, Appius and Virginia, Virtuous and Godly Susanna, Jocasta, Promos and Cassandra, and Damon and Pythias . . . obviously dare[d] not hint at dictatorial abuses in Elizabeth herself. Instead, they implicitly or explicitly flatter Elizabeth by the contrast between her and the conventional tyrant." This is the kind of anti-foreign sentiment whichElizabeth may have influenced.

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