Thursday, 28 February 2013

Elizabeth



Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called "The Virgin Queen", "Gloriana" or "Good Queen Bess", Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. The daughter of Henry VIII, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, cutting his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Catholic Mary, out of the succession in spite of statute law to the contrary. His will was set aside, Mary became queen, and Lady Jane Grey was executed. In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister, during whose reign she had been imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

Elizabeth set out to rule by good counsel, and she depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first moves as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement later evolved into today's Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir so as to continue the Tudor line. She never did, however, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity, and a cult grew up around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.

In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-siblings had been. One of her mottoes was "video et taceo" ("I see, and say nothing"). In religion she was relatively tolerant, avoiding systematic persecution. After 1570, when the pope declared her illegitimate and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life. All plots were defeated, however, with the help of her ministers' secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, moving between the major powers of France and Spain. She only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. In the mid-1580s, war with Spain could no longer be avoided, and when Spain finally decided to attempt to conquer England in 1588, the failure of the Spanish Armada associated her with one of the greatest victories in English history.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Legacy and memory

Elizabeth was lamented by many of her subjects, but others were relieved at her death. Expectations of King James started high but then declined, so by the 1620s there was a nostalgic revival of the cult of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was praised as a heroine of the Protestant cause and the ruler of a golden age. James was depicted as a Catholic sympathiser, presiding over a corrupt court. The triumphalist image that Elizabeth had cultivated towards the end of her reign, against a background of factionalism and military and economic difficulties, was taken at face value and her reputation inflated. Godfrey Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester, recalled: "When we had experience of a Scottish government, the Queen did seem to revive. Then was her memory much magnified." Elizabeth's reign became idealised as a time when crown, church and parliament had worked in constitutional balance.

Elizabeth I, painted after 1620, during the first revival of interest in her reign. Time sleeps on her right and Death looks over her left shoulder; two putti hold the crown above her head.

The picture of Elizabeth painted by her Protestant admirers of the early 17th century has proved lasting and influential. Her memory was also revived during the Napoleonic Wars, when the nation again found itself on the brink of invasion. In the Victorian era, the Elizabethan legend was adapted to the imperial ideology of the day,and in the mid-20th century, Elizabeth was a romantic symbol of the national resistance to foreign threat.Historians of that period, such as J. E. Neale (1934) and A. L. Rowse (1950), interpreted Elizabeth's reign as a golden age of progress. Neale and Rowse also idealised the Queen personally: she always did everything right; her more unpleasant traits were ignored or explained as signs of stress.

Recent historians, however, have taken a more complicated view of Elizabeth. Her reign is famous for the defeat of the Armada, and for successful raids against the Spanish, such as those on Cádiz in 1587 and 1596, but some historians point to military failures on land and at sea. In Ireland, Elizabeth's forces ultimately prevailed, but their tactics stain her record. Rather than as a brave defender of the Protestant nations against Spain and the Habsburgs, she is more often regarded as cautious in her foreign policies. She offered very limited aid to foreign Protestants and failed to provide her commanders with the funds to make a difference abroad.

Elizabeth established an English church that helped shape a national identity and remains in place today. Those who praised her later as a Protestant heroine overlooked her refusal to drop all practices of Catholic origin from the Church of England. Historians note that in her day, strict Protestants regarded the Acts of Settlement and Uniformity of 1559 as a compromise.In fact, Elizabeth believed that faith was personal and did not wish, as Francis Bacon put it, to "make windows into men's hearts and secret thoughts".

Though Elizabeth followed a largely defensive foreign policy, her reign raised England's status abroad. "She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island," marvelled Pope Sixtus V, "and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all". Under Elizabeth, the nation gained a new self-confidence and sense of sovereignty, as Christendom fragmented. Elizabeth was the first Tudor to recognise that a monarch ruled by popular consent. She therefore always worked with parliament and advisers she could trust to tell her the truth—a style of government that her Stuart successors failed to follow. Some historians have called her lucky; she believed that God was protecting her. Priding herself on being "mere English", Elizabeth trusted in God, honest advice, and the love of her subjects for the success of her rule. In a prayer, she offered thanks to God that:
 when wars and seditions with grievous persecutions have vexed almost all kings and countries round about me, my reign hath been peacable, and my realm a receptacle to thy afflicted Church. The love of my people hath appeared firm, and the devices of my enemies frustrate.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Brief Film Reviews


So, I saw "The Dark Knight." It was way better than I thought it would be. It was partly an action movie and partly an ambitious psychological thriller. Heath Ledger was great. I will be sad if he gets an Oscar for this role, though, because it will only remind me of how he didn't get one for "Brokeback Mountain" due to homophobia (Hollywood isn't full of liberals). Maggie Gyllenhaal was really good too, as were Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman as always. As for Christian Bale, I don't see his appeal, but he spent most of the movie in a rubber suit with his voice distorted, so it didn't matter. I recommend seeing this film in a theater; don't wait for it on DVD.

My most recent Netflix rental was "Charlie Wilson's War" which was also better than I thought it would be. The trailer made me think the film might have dumbed down the story but it didn't, which was probably the reason why it didn't do well at the box office. I also rented another bomb that I liked, "Reservation Road," a psychological suspense story about the aftermath of a fatal hit-and-run. Before that I rented a film I thought was crap, "3:10 to Yuma." I was quite surprised as I remembered it as a critical and commercial hit. I then took a look at Netflix members' reviews and to my further surprise, found that many members agreed with me that the movie was preposterous. How could the critics have liked it? I sometimes wonder if they are taking payola.