Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Great Day for Bess-Teaching & Learning at the Museum

UPDATE: We received this heartwarming message and photo on the museum's Facebook page:

“How my girls spent the morning. I think they're going to be talking about yesterday's audience with Queen Elizabeth for a long time. Her majesty was wonderful -- and so patient with 45 minutes of incessant questioning from her under-5 subjects. Thanks for another great day.”

A depiction of Gloriana at Tilbury. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 As many of you know, today I ran two programs as Queen Elizabeth I at the museum where I work. I look forward to March all year, not only because it is Women in Armor month where I work, but because I get to run my first person interpretation program, Queen Elizabeth Addresses the Troops at Tilbury. This year I was also fortunate enough to be asked to run a bonus program, An Audience with the Queen, where (again, in first-person) I shared with museum visitors the story of my struggle for the throne and my accomplishments as queen. At the conclusion of the program, I delivered excepts from The Golden Speech and answered questions.

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, attributed to George Gower. This portrait was painted to commemorate the English Navy's defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the 30th year of Elizabeth's reign. Image public domain.

I have always maintained that if I can get just one child, one little girl, as captivated by Queen Elizabeth I and her legacy as I have been, then I can die someday knowing that I have accomplished what I feel I have been put on this earth to do. An equally important mission of mine would be to inspire children, specifically young girls, to look outside of their history textbooks to find out more about the incredible women who changed history. What Elizabeth means to me may be what Katerina von Bora means to someone else, or what Matilda of Tuscany is to another, etc.

Today I had remarkable visitor interactions with not one but many enthusiastic, interested children. I taught them all about Elizabeth and her reign, they asked me great questions, and I gave them information on different resources that would enable them to know more about her life.

But while I felt I gave a lot to the people I talked with, I truly felt that I received a lot myself as well.  I met children who I was a fan of (and I told them so!); kids who were so bright, and so talented, and they didn't even seem to know it yet! I hope these children never loose their thirst for knowledge and their impressive sense of self. I was humbled to be in their presence!

I also spoke with many wonderful adults who had either recently visited England, or who were currently reading books on Elizabeth herself. These people also asked thought provoking questions, and I enjoyed conversing with them as well. It is always a well rounded day when you can discuss history with children and adults!
I had one lady tell me twice that I had so much knowledge, and that she hoped I would find a way to share it; she said she considered herself an authority on several subjects, but she had never taken the time to get her projects just right, so she had never completed them. This moved me greatly; I consider this website and my interpretations my avenue for sharing my knowledge of Elizabeth, but this visitor certainly gave me some food for thought, and I do plan on sharing Queen Elizabeth's story through other mediums as well in the near future.

As is always the case, first person interpretation allows me to explore what works and what doesn't: what educational materials (books, portraits, replica jewelry) do people respond to best? What stories leave them wanting more? How can I improve? For instance, last year a woman told me that she really felt the black riding gloves I was wearing for my Tilbury show did a disservice to the palette of the white dress, and she suggested that I wear white gloves instead. This year, I wore white gloves! Every year, through my audience's help, I know my interpretations can only improve!

Eliza Triumphans, from 1589, by William Rogers. This was a print made to commemorate the English's defeat of the Spanish Armada. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.
 Also, it should be said that answering questions (and you can never predict what people will ask, so you always have to be prepared!) helps me to learn more about Elizabeth herself: how would she answer this question? Would she be offended? Would she make a joke? What words would she use? It also helps me to understand her choices. Speaking to the children today who followed me throughout the museum called to mind the stories I have read of Elizabeth stopping on progresses to speak with farmers and tradespeople, and to accept nosegays and other trinkets from the peasant children. I understood how she must have felt in these moments: the warm heart, the gratitude, and pride in her people.

And I also was reminded of how difficult it was for Elizabeth to have any time for herself; she usually the early mornings riding with her Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley and her evenings writing, composing, or playing cards-but every other part of her day was for her people. I took my lunch 2 hours late because it took that long to make my way to my lunch through the people who wanted to stop and chat; and I would not have had it any other way, and I know Elizabeth would not have, either!

I want to personally thank all who came "specifically to see Elizabeth" as those people  who had come to the museum after seeing the article on my programs told me. I want to thank the Worcester Telegram & Gazette  for interviewing me in the first place. My programs, this website, everything I do has never once been about fame for me, but only about Glory for Elizabeth. I want everyone who I come in contact with to become inspired by Elizabeth Tudor and her legacy.



P.S. Next weekend I play Grania O'Malley, the 16th century Irish Pirate Queen!  I will be posting an article on her and her life next week, which will also explain her special connection to Elizabeth I.