Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince. A Biography

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince. A Biography


Byline: ANNE SOMERSET BIOGRAPHY

Lisa Hilton Weidenfeld & Nicolson [euro]16.99 Elizabeth I bristled when the Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible chided her in 1570 for refusing to make an alliance with him because her parliament would disapprove. He jeered that hitherto he had assumed she exercised complete control over her 'maidenly estate', but now it was clear to him that 'other men do rule' there. Indignantly, Elizabeth responded that she alone governed her realm, 'with the honour befitting a Virgin Queen appointed by God'.

Ivan's jibe was, in fact, unfair. Elizabeth wielded power con-fidently in a male-dominated society, bolstered by what Lisa Hilton describes as 'a princely self-image not in the least circumscribed by femininity'.

Hilton quotes from an alternative version of the famous (but possibly inauthentic) speech Elizabeth gave at Tilbury when England faced invasion in 1588. Rather than boasting of possessing 'the heart and stomach of a king', she proclaimed: 'The enemy may challenge my sex, for that I am a woman, so may I likewise charge their mould, for they are but men.' Elizabeth could be ruthless, authorising torture and overseeing operations by her intelligence services. 'Believe me, I know everything that is done in my kingdom,' she told an ambassador in 1586. But she attached equal importance to maintaining the 'magnifi-cenza' that Italian Renaissance thinkers deemed essential in a prince. She understood that pageantry and display at court enhanced her prestige. …

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