Thursday, December 5, 2002


 I'd like to thank Kevin Michael Grace for giving me a mention on his site. I had to take a mighty pull on my cigarette before I read it, because I saw my name in big red letters right underneath the headline "Future Pathetic," but it ended up being very sweet, actually.

Now for Elizabeth and Mary.

A few years ago I concluded that most people believe that one cannot admire both Elizabeth and Mary, and I don't really see why. Certainly, they were enemies for what was a very high-profile (but relatively short) period in both of their lives, and their reigns were entirely different. However, as unlikely as it may seem, I have almost unlimited respect for them both.

One only has to take the briefest scan across Mary's life in its entirety to see that forces beyond her control doomed her almost from the beginning. She was the daughter of a woman who made herself the enemy of the Court; her stunted growth made it impossible for her to be strategically married off when she was still young. However, she had much of the cleverness of Catherine of Aragon, as well as the charisma of her father Henry VIII. One can see that immediately by the way she repossessed her throne from Jane Grey and Northumberland's forces, and later, as Queen, crushed the Wyatt rebellion that threatened her rule. She was gifted at inspiring loyalty, this much is clear.

But as Julian Martin, one of Canada's foremost Tudor historians, puts forth, Mary was the foundational catalyst for the English forever associating Catholicism with foreign rule. The combination of having made an unpopular Spanish marriage with attempting to reimpose Catholicism by force in England (Philip II, for the record, considered Mary's methods quite foolhardy) was fatal to her reputation as a monarch. A decent woman, Mary would have made a far better abbess than a Queen.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a master at iconography, and held the love of her people for much of her reign. She has been called a philistine who detested change, and there certainly is some truth in that, but her gift was not for creating, but for publicizing. A man in Norwich mockingly called her the "Virgin Queen" in 1578, and she took the epithet and wore it like a badge. Certainly, some of her acts as Queen were questionable, but one must admire a woman in the sixteenth century, named illegitimate from birth, who managed not only to escape death and insignificance, but also to rule a kingdom for nearly half a century and provide it with one of its first senses of true patriotism. Consider what Pope Sixtus V, whose predecessor had excommunicated her, said of her:

She is certainly a great Queen and were she only a Catholic she would be our dearly beloved. Just look how well she governs! She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all.... Our children would have ruled the whole world.

And OF COURSE I saw the Futurama episode about the lost city of Atlanta, Kevin! That was a great episode! Did you really think I could be that clever on my own?

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