Friday, October 28, 2011

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Elizabeth the Protector

BREAKING NEWS: The Act of Succession has been updated! Hundreds of years of Primogeniture has been turned on its head! Should the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter first, and a son second, the son will not precede the daughter in ascending the throne, simply due to his gender. A daughter can now inherit first, regardless if her other siblings are boys!

This is wonderful news, and while I had no doubt that the act would pass, I am delighted and I think I can safely say that somewhere, Elizabeth I is smiling...In fact, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria have been mentioned copiously in news coverage of this recent development in the monarchy. Some of the best monarch's of England where undoubtedly queens!

Think of all that Elizabeth, the Empress Matilda, and Mary Tudor went through to become monarchs, and to keep their thrones. It is a blessing no Princess shall have to struggle for the throne again!

Queen Elizabeth II rightfully announced this year's theme as "Women as Agent's of Change"! This will be a great year for British women, if it was not already!

Also, monarch's can now marry a Catholic; previously this was not allowed and could prevent an heir from inheriting the throne altogether. As Barb Alexander (@tudortutor) said on, "somewhere Mary I and Catherine of Aragon are high-fiving!"

Elizabeth the Protector

The Wanstead Peace Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, by Marcus Gheeraerts. Painted between 1580-85.Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

There are countless instances, recorded both in state records and in personal papers and letters, that demonstrate the magnanimous nature of Queen Elizabeth. While she could be temperamental and prone to outbursts, she balanced these volatile Tudor traits nicely with her genuine love for her subjects.
Today I will share with you two such instances that exhibit Elizabeth’s defense of those who could not defend themselves...

Queen Elizabeth personally intervened to protect some of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury’s Derbyshire tenants, after they made allegations of his abuses of power. The fact that the Earl of Shrewsbury was a trusted courtier of the Queen, and that their friendship did not cloud her judgement and make her biased, is commendable. Elizabeth always could tell right from wrong.

George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury was appointed to keep Mary, Queen of Scots under house arrest in 1568. This was a position he would fill for the next 18 years. Shrewsbury was also the father of Catherine Herbert by his first wife. Catherine was a good friend of the queen who was married to Henry Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, whose 3/4 length suit of armor resides in the collection at the museum where I work. The Earl of Shrewsbury would go on to marry the impressive Elizabethan matriarch Bess of Hardwick

A detail of a portrait of George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In 1590, Queen Elizabeth protected a minor customs official who had “blown the whistle” on the financial corruption of some of his superiors. Cecil and Burghley disapproved of the queen’s involvement in what they thought to be a very trivial manner. She responded to their judgment that she was ‘queen of the meanest (lowliest) subjects as well as the greatest’ in her kingdom.

A detail of a portrait of Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's Spymaster. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Queen Elizabeth not only improved lives on a grand scale, but also in more minor and personal ways. She pardoned, pitied and assisted the nobles, the tradesmen and the poor of her kingdom, and I look forward to sharing more anecdotes of her good nature on this blog.