Friday Fun 39: Swotting up on the English Reformation (part 3: Elizabeth I)
For the time being, this is our final dip into the murky waters of Sellar & Yeatman’s classic 1066 and All That. After all, overindulgence is always wrong. Wouldn’t you agree?
Having digested the reign of Henry VIII, and then gobbled up his heirs & successors Edward and Mary, we come at last to Gloriana herself, Good Queen Bess, the Virgin Queen, the one who was to be obeyed (on pain of decapitation etc etc). These Tudors weren’t exactly a straightforward bunch. No doubt, there were post-natal attachment issues which can explain all the shenanigans.
Although this memorable Queen was a man, she was constantly addressed by her courtiers by various affectionate female nicknames, such as Auroraborealis, Ruritania, Black Beauty (or Bete Noire), and Brown Bess. She also very graciously walked on Sir Walter Raleigh’s overcoat whenever he dropped it in the mud and was, in fact, in every respect a good and romantic Queen.
Wave of Beards
One of the most romantic aspects of the Elizabethan age was the wave of beards which suddenly swept across History and settled upon all the great men of the period. The most memorable of these beards was the cause of the outstanding event of the reign, which occurred in the following way.
The Great Armadillo
The Spaniards complained that Captain F. Drake, the memorable bowlsman, had singed the King of Spain’s beard (or Spanish Mane, as it was called) one day when it was in Cadiz Harbour. Drake replied that he was in his hammock at the time and a thousand miles away. The King of Spain, however, insisted that the beard had been spoilt and sent the Great Spanish Armadillo to ravish the shores of England.
The crisis was boldly faced in England, especially by Big Bess herself, who instantly put on an enormous quantity of clothing and rode to and fro on a white horse at Tilbury – a courageous act which was warmly applauded by the English sailors.
In this striking and romantic manner the English were once more victorious.
The Queen of Hearts
A great nuisance in this reign was the memorable Scot tish queen, known as Mary Queen of Hearts on account of the large number of husbands which she obtained, e.g. Cardinale Ritzio, Boswell, and the King of France: most of these she easily blew up at Holywood.
Unfortunately for Mary, Scotland was now suddenly overrun by a wave of Synods led by Sir John Nox, the memorable Scottish Saturday Knight. Unable to believe, on account of the number of her husbands, that Mary was a single person, the Knight accused her of being a ‘monstrous regiment of women’, and after making this brave remark had her imprisoned in Loch Lomond. Mary, however, escaped and fled to England, where Elizabeth immediately put her in quarantine on the top of an enormous Height called Wutheringay.
As Mary had already been Queen of France and Queen of Scotland many people thought that it would be unfair if she was not made Queen of England as well. Various plots, such as the Paddington Plot, the Thread needle Conspiracy and the Adelfi Plot, were therefore hatched to bring this about. Elizabeth, however, learn ing that in addition to all this Mary was good-looking and could play on the virginals, recognized that Mary was too romantic not to be executed, and accordingly had that done.
Massacre of St Bartholomew
Further evidence of Queen Elizabeth’s chivalrous nature is given by her sympathy towards the French Protestants or Hugonauts (so called on account of their romantic leader Victor Hugo). These Arguenots were very much incensed at this time about St Bartholomew, a young Saint, who had been unjustly massacred for refusing to tie a white handkerchief round his arm. After the massacre the French King, Henry of Navarre, turned Roman Catholic and made his memorable confession – ‘Paris is rather a Mess'; whereupon Queen Elizabeth very gallantly sent her favourite, Leicester, to find out whether this was true, thus rendering valuable assistance to the Hugonot cause.
Elizabeth and Essex
Memorable amongst the men with beards in Elizabeth’s reign was the above-mentioned favourite, Essex (Robert Dudleigh, Earl of Leicester), whom she brought to execution by mistake in the following romantic manner. Essex was sent to Ireland to quell a rebellion which the Irish were very treacherously carrying on in a bog in Munster. Becoming fatigued with the rebellion, how ever, he dashed out of the bog straight into the Queen’s bedroom. For this Essex was sent to the Tower, where he was shortly afterwards joined by other favourites of the Queen (such as Burleigh, Sidneigh, Watneigh, Hurlingham, etc.). Essex had a secret arrangement with Queen Elizabeth that he was to give her a ring whenever he was going to be executed, and she would reprieve him. But although, according to the arrangement, he tried to get into communication with the Queen, he was given the wrong number and was thus executed after all, along with the other favourites.
‘God may forgive you,’ was Brown Bess’s memorable comment to the operator, ‘but I never will.’