Saturday, June 20, 2009

Understanding Queen Elizabeth I

One of the reasons I feel so drawn to Anne Boleyn is because I understand her. I get her. I read biography after biography and always come to the same conclusion: had I lived in 16th century England or France, I would have been a lot like her. Yes, faults and all. (On a silly note, I have long suspected that Anne was a Gemini although we have no record of her birthdate. Recently, I read one book that confirmed that she must have been born in late May, early June.) I don't mean for this to be some sort of tribute to me, but I have often been complemented on attributes with which Anne is credited. I have long been praised for my wit, charm, cleverness and my best friend would certainly say my self-confidence and fearlessness. Hell, I made a career out of all of that in radio and TV!
I am in no way "beautiful" but I am attractive. Yes, even though I do not see myself as beautiful, I can still be quite vain. I am not above flirting to get what I want and that has sometimes led to trouble.
On an even more negative side, I have certainly had my moments of haughtiness and many have suffered my quick temper over the years. Sadly, my first reaction to stress or a grave situation can often be panic or irrational behavior. But it passes quickly. All of this adds up to understanding Anne's behavior and reactions to her life. I can see myself in her. Which is funny considering how often she is explained as an enigma or seeming to be very contrary.

Prior to learning about Anne, I had long been a fan of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. This is the perfect person with whom to contrast my feelings about Anne. I do not understand this woman very well at all. That's not to say that I don't "know" very much about her. I have read almost as much about Elizabeth as I have about her mother, Anne but I do not get that sense of "understanding" when I read about her decisions, comments and exploits. There are a variety of events in Elizabeth's life I do not quite understand, but none more than her attitude (or lack of) toward her tragic mother and her barbaric father.

It is often reported that Elizabeth made mention of her mother, Anne Boleyn, only once or maybe twice in her lifetime. She wore a locket ring which had her initial "E" outside and portraits of her mother and herself inside facing each other but she never discussed her nor did she ever reveal any true feelings on her mother's execution when she was only three years old. Granted, she wouldn't have much memory to draw upon but surely she deeply felt the loss?
Perhaps she spoke to close friends but they never betrayed her confidence? But even this I doubt because there are no stories of it and I think that would have been quite noteworthy.
Indeed, what's noteworthy is the lack of any stories. And this I just cannot fathom. My mother was the most imperfect soul whom I still love and miss more than words can describe. Despite her faults, I would defend her to my death.

Did no one ever ask her about her mother? Did she lash out at them or simply not reply at all?
By contrast, there is the intense respect and admiration Elizabeth always showed for her father, Henry VIII - the very man who had her mother killed!? It baffles me!

As Elizabeth grew up, she was often in the company of people who liked her mother - although they probably didn't admit this openly. Did no one try to communicate to Elizabeth her mother's deep love for her? How was this received?

Upon her accession to the throne, Mary I, daughter of Henry and Katherine of Aragon, went back and had her parents marriage validated and her bastardy erased. Elizabeth made no such moves, despite her exact same status. There is speculation by historians that Elizabeth did not follow in Mary's footsteps because this would have put into question her legitimacy and claim to the throne. Understandable - to an extent.

Wasn't her claim and legitimacy already questionable with the validation of Mary's parents' marriage? There were already many other "legitimate" claimants to the throne, couldn't she have helped her cause by validating her parents' marriage? Most of all, why didn't she have her mother's Act of Attainder reversed or thrown out?

Elizabeth - it is written - concerned herself only with the future, not with the past. Again, this is where we differ dramatically because my past colors my present and future, irrevocably. In her present and future were men whom she loved. Here again, we appear to have something in common: our desire to never marry and be treated badly by a man. But I simply can't relate to Elizabeth's suffering traitorous, vainglorious fools like the Earl of Essex. Robert Dudley, I'll give her because they shared so much from childhood. But Essex was just a glory-hound who loved nothing about her but her crown. It is said she had such vanity that she would entertains affection and attention from such fools as long as they showed devotion. Well, I can tell you that I may like the attention for a short time, but they would be out of my sight the moment they behaved the way the did toward her!!!

I will continue to read and research Elizabeth and I have the utmost respect for her work as Queen of England but like her sister Mary, I may never understand this woman as I feel I understand Anne.

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