Interesting Facts About Queen Elizabeth

The Oxford Dictionary defines rivalry as “The action of rivalling; competition; the state of being rivals, an instance of this.”(Weiner)

Queen Elizabeth

I used poetry, specifically “The Doubt of Future Foes,” as a political tool against her cousin and rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, in a battle for dominance. In this paper, I am going to discuss how poetry was a well known tool for Queen Elizabeth, her cousin Mary used embroidery to send messages the same way Elizabeth used poetry, and the English Renaissance completely changed how literature was used. It was especially important to Elizabeth I, who presided over England’s greatest literary period.

Elizabeth I became queen in 1558 at the age of twenty-five. The only living child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, her early life was fraught with political drama and upheaval. As queen, she devoted her life to peace and prosperity within England, at the expense of her own personal life. (Borman) “The Doubt of Future Foes” was written sometime between 1568 – 1571 and is about Elizabeth’s relationship with Mary, the Queen of Scotland. While the poem never mentions Mary by name, referring to her as, “No foreign banished wight…” (Line 13) it appears that her subjects were aware of who it was about and the poem was made available to her subjects. Jennifer Summit supports this in her article “The Arte of a Ladies Penne” writing, “”The Doubt of Future Foes” appears to have been widely circulated, as attested by the eight manuscripts in which it survives today.” (408) One of Elizabeth’s achievements was that she made England’s official religion Protestantism. This led to anti-Elizabethan feelings in much of Catholic Scotland and England where several schemes to place Mary on the throne were formulated. Mary, however, was only directly involved in one. (Borman) “The Doubt of Future Foes” was intended for Elizabeth I’s subjects as well and how they should remain loyal and ignore Mary’s lies; “For falsehood now doth flow, and subjects’ faith doth ebb,”(3) She ends the poem saying that she will end Mary’s life if she threatens to overthrow her. The lines in question are, “My rusty sword through rest shall first his edge employ{/}To poll their tops that seek such change or gape for future joy.” (Line 15-16) Summit writes, “For all its supposed beauty, the poem also takes as its subjects a scene of unexpected violence and menace; under its thin veneer of figurative language, it advances what amounts to a death threat to Mary Queen of Scots.” (402) 16 – 19 years after the poem was written, Elizabeth does exactly that, executing Mary for her role in the Babington Plot. While “The Doubt of Future Foes” is obviously political due to her relationship with the subject, she also used her more personal love poems as political devices as well.

Natalie Mears quotes Conyers Read in her article, “Love-Making and Diplomacy: Elizabeth I and the Anjou Marriage Negotiations, c.1578–1582” saying, “Elizabeth was shrewd enough to see that rules framed for chivalrous love-making might very aptly be applied to diplomatic purposes, and very probably for that reason she always liked to mingle an element of love-making in her diplomacy.”(442) Elizabeth is often remembered as “The Virgin Queen” because she never married nor had children and any lovers she might have had were kept completely secret. (Borman) However, throughout her reign, suitors pursued Elizabeth. She often would entertain them for her own political advantage. I believe Elizabeth figured out that she could be single as long as she was actively entertaining potential husbands. “On Monsieur’s Departure” is one such poem. It describes the end of her relationship with Francois of Anjou, heir to the French throne. This part of her life is also significant because as Susan Doran writes in her article, “Elizabeth I Gender, Power, and Politics,” “The language and iconography of perpetual and powerful virginity first made their appearance during the Anjou matrimonial negotiations of 1578 – 81….” (33) He was her last serious suitor. While it seems they were fond of one another; “I grieve and dare not show my discontent,I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,” (Line 1-2) Elizabeth apparently had ulterior motives. She used him to threaten Spain with an alliance between England and France and used him as her proxy in several instances. (Mears) Mears writes, “Her purpose was to protect English foreign interests by weakening Spanish power, without incurring expense or being drawn into open war.” (443) Anjou remained in England until 1581 and he returned to France. It remains unclear if she truly was going to marry him or not. Elizabeth isn’t the only example of royalty using art and literature to convey a deeper messages though.

Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s rival, used her embroidery to quietly stand her ground against Elizabeth. Embroidery at this point wasn’t considered an art form. Nicole LaBouff writes in her article, “Embroidery and Information Management: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick Reconsidered,” “By ‘devising works,’ Shrewsbury meant designing embroideries; embroidery had become so synonymous with women’s work by this time that it was referred to simply as ‘work.’ (317) One example is the Marian Hanging. It is a tapestry full of Scottish national symbols, references to Elizabeth, and gifts for her supporters made during her time in captivity in England. However, LaBouff mentions in her article that Mary was greatly concerned during early years of internment in England with looking like the ideal prisoner. (340) While embroidery was not Mary’s only form of communication it was the one that led to her forming better relationships with her “hosts” while in England. . All of her written correspondence was inspected before it ever was given to her or reached her intended audience. However Elizabeth and Mary aren’t atypical. Women were becoming more interested in political and religious life outside of the home and poetry and embroidery were two ways in which women could participate without being ridiculed or punished by men. LaBouff writes, “And because the needlework medium was decidedly feminine and domestic, it allowed women to conduct their language and thought experiments at their leisure and without risk of censure.” (358) These activities are indicative of a larger pattern overtaking Britain and Europe. A pattern we now call the English Renaissance.

Elizabeth became queen at the beginning of the greatest literary period of English history. Summit writes, “Few would now doubt that Elizabeth played a major role in the formation of Elizabethan literature,” (396) As much as Elizabeth was an accomplished writer on her own, she patronized writers such as Shakespeare, Milton, Marlowe, etc. and they each changed how poetry was used and written. Poetry became a method for political and religious reflection. Elizabeth used her poetry to send messages within messages. Summit writes, “Renaissance discourses of secrecy, as several recent studies have established, manipulated the appearances of public and private knowledge.” (406) As much as “The Doubt of Future Foes” is a message to Mary, “The doubt of future foes exiles my present joy,”, “The dazzled eyes with pride, which great ambition blinds, “,”No foreign banished wight shall anchor in this port;” etc. (Line 1,9, 13) it is also a message to her subjects, “For falsehood now doth flow, and subjects’ faith doth ebb, Which should not be if reason ruled or wisdom weaved the web. But clouds of joys untried do cloak aspiring minds, “ etc. (Line 3-5)

I believe that Elizabeth I’s poetry was most often personal anecdotes from her daily life that she used to market herself to her friends, potential lovers, enemies, coworkers, etc. as she saw advantageous. “The Doubt of Future Foes” is such an example. It was a political message to her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots just as much as it was a warning message to her constituents. While this poem shows her as a frustrated, somewhat menacing figure her rule was marked exceptional by peace and prosperity and the beginning of the English Renaissance. Using “The Doubt of Future Foes” as an example, I have shown how poetry was used as a tool for Queen Elizabeth, how her cousin Mary used embroidery to send messages the same way Elizabeth used poetry, and how the English Renaissance completely changed how literature was used.

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