Thursday, 4 July 2013

Elizabeth- The first and only successful Tudor woman?

Now, as the more observant of you may have realized, I only tend to post around once a week, so today is a little bit of an exception. As much as I'd love to be able to tell you that I just couldn't wait to write another post, and the idea were just bursting out of my under-performing brain, i'm afraid it just isn't true. Truth is, I haven't got my glasses, so watching television (or in fact anything) is about as easy as David Cameron convincing the public that 'we're all in this together'. So, as every teenager does when confronted with the horrors of no television, I started having a good old browse through 'BBC History'. As you do. I wish I could explain why, but I was inexplicably drawn to an article about good old queen Beth, and before you know it, it's too late and I'm thinking. Thinking (unfortunately for you) leads to writing. So here we are. You incredibly lucky people.

What was it you were thinking? I hear you cry desperately. Well. The article proclaimed, quite forcefully that Elizabeth I was the best thing to happen to Tudor England, the only Tudor worth taking any note of, and the first woman monarch to seem relatively successful. Do a little of that dangerous thinking, however, and you realize that being 'the most successful Tudor woman' is not really all too difficult. It's like being crowned 'the smartest Kardashian': frankly, it's not worth a lot. I mean, actually think about the competition. You have the delightful Bloody Mary, who earned a name for herself by having a bit of a thing against protestants, taking it too far, and killing a fair few. Then there's the often-forgotten 'Nine-day Queen' - Lady Jane Grey, who was obviously so fantastic she lasted a whole nine days before being given the sack and then unceremoniously executed. And then, of course, Mary Queen of Scots. The great thinker of the lot, who actually managed to make so many bad decisions that she found herself rather out of favour with  pretty much everyone, and managed to pave herself a nice little path to the chopping block. So yeah, in that respect, Elizabeth; who didn't kill loads of protestants, made relatively average decisions, and lasted more than nine days, was better. Anyone would be. Successful as Queen? Maybe...

The days of her reign are documented as 'The Golden Age'- a time of decadence and indulgence where every Tom, Dick, and Harry loved to Queen with all their heart, and culture flourished with people such as William Shakespeare. However, it's at times like these that the belief that History is written by the victors comes through. After actually researching Elizabethan times, it turns out that life for the average bloke on the street wasn't all roses. In fact, under Elizabeth, the poor became poorer and books and media was censored widely. There were many plots to knock old Beth off her perch, but the plotters were found and many were horrifically tortured in order to gain leads to other threats on her life.

Although she was clever, quick-witted, ruthless, and all those other wonderful things required to be Queen, she was also very vain and made sure that all portraits of her were changed to make her seem more beautiful. She was also very indecisive, and often buried herself in other matters when faced with decisions, like the 'oh-so-trivial' decision of whether or not to execute Mary Queen of Scots.

Now, don't get me wrong. You may well have you're own shiny idea of Elizabeth, and I don't want to destroy that, but it just shows... History is often written by the victors, so maybe next time you should look at the flip side.

PS from Mr Coy: The image above came from a web article titled "The world's most iconic women" - it also included Murasaki Shikibu, Mary Seacole, Harriet Tubman and Aung San Suu Kyi. What do you think about these choices?

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