Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Queen Elizabeth's Political Aptitude

Elizabeth I in her Parliament Robes, c.1585-1590. Painting formerly attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, and is on display in Helmingham Hall, Stowmarket. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Today, I want to share an excerpt with my readers from the outstanding book The Armada by the late, great Garrett Mattingly. Mattingly's book details the causes and effects of the cold war with Spain, and the English navy's engagement and eventual defeat of the Spanish Armada. Mattingly has a gift for conveying the character of Queen Elizabeth amidst his chronology of the historical facts. It is apparent in reading Mattingly's work that he had a great admiration for Queen Elizabeth's political mastery, and he found several ways to describe her sensational gift for understanding and manipulating politics; one of these is below:

"Neither the shrewdest of her diplomatic adversaries nor her own intimate counselors ever succeeded in reading the mind of Elizabeth Tudor. No one can pretend to now. She was complete mistress of the politicians art of using words to conceal meaning on public questions and on personal relations she covered sheet after sheet with vigorous scrawl, winding her sentences like an intricate coil of serpents about her secret conclusions, hinting, alluding, promising, denying and at last gliding away from the subject with no more said than served her purpose. In council and in public negotiations she permitted herself at times the frankest outbursts, the most vehement outpourings of personal, apparently unrestrained, and those who knew her best were the least certain that they had netted from the torrent of her words the smallest fragment of her real intentions." (Mattingly, 27)

Elizabeth understood that knowledge of politics and wariness of intrigues was just as essential to governing as possessing a commanding stage presence and utilizing theatrics. She herself asserted this truth when she said,

"We princes were set as it were upon stages in the sight and view of the world."


Mattingly, Garrett. The Armada. Mariner Books, 2005. Print.