Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Queen Bess!

Today is the 478th anniversary of the birth of Queen Elizabeth I of England -- the longest reigning, and, some say, the greatest of the Tudor monarchs.  I've often wished I could visit that time and place, if only for a moment.

Elizabeth Tudor had a very eventful life: the drama of her parents' long, stormy courtship and its emphatic end, when her father Henry VIII beheaded her mother, Anne Boleyn, was only a preview for the tempestuous life their daughter would lead.  Elizabeth was the culmination of her father's dearest wish, and the bane of his experience of fatherhood; she was disinherited and reinstated and her ascension to the throne in 1558 was in doubt almost to the moment it occurred.  She had many suitors, but only one love of her life, a married man who became even more unavailable with the death of his wife than he had been before her mysterious fall down a flight of stairs.  She was a womanly woman who used her femininity to control the men who surrounded her, but donned armor and referred to herself as a Prince when they needed to be reminded who was in charge.  Her fits of rage were as famous to those who served her as the fits of tears she indulged in when making a difficult decision, as when she authorized the execution of her cousin and fellow queen, Mary Stuart.  She was as vivid as her red hair and as hard to pin down as a length of silk.