Today, a future queen is born. Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was born today in 1533. So sure were Henry and Anne that she would be a boy that they had already drawn up birth announcements proclaiming a Prince. They had to be hastily amended with an additional S. You can see it in the third line down, about halfway: “…deliverance and bringing forth of a Princess…” Whoops. Little did they know that Elizabeth would go on to be one of the longest-reigning British monarchs, would unite her people in ways they hadn’t been in centuries, and would usher in an age of music, art, literature, and exploration. The Elizabethan Age was rightfully called a Golden Era.
Everyone knows Shakespeare, but he wasn’t the only one who put pen to paper. There was also Christopher Marlowe, who I am convinced we would be studying instead of Shakespeare if he hadn’t been killed when he was only 29; Thomas Kyd; Phillip Sydney; Edmund Spenser; and Robert Ascher, to name a very few. There were plenty of women who wrote at the time as well. Aemelia Lanyer was the first English woman who wanted to support herself as a poet and sought out the support of prominent female patrons. One of Lanyer’s patrons was Mary Sidney, the sister of Philip Sydney, herself a famous poet. Mary Sidney influenced Shakespeare, and she completed her brother’s work on poetic meditations on the Psalms after he died. Elizabeth I herself was also a very talented writer and poet.
Some of my favorite music also came from this period. I ADORE Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, John Taverner, and Thomas Morley. I sang a LOT of these mens’ songs in chorus when I was in school, which I’m sure influenced my interest in them, but I genuinely appreciate the music for itself. I find it soothing and will put it on if I want to work on writing something. Tallis is playing right now as I write this, in fact.
Elizabeth may have had her flaws – a volcanic temper was reputed to be one of them – but she was also a huge patron of the arts and literature. She fostered diplomacy on a scale that makes my greatly missed President Obama look like an amateur. She was, in short, a shining example of what a leader is. I can think of one so-called leader who should read up on her, but alas, it seems he can’t read.