England’s Queen Elizabeth and I had a pleasant chat last Sunday
afternoon in the shade of a Casa de Fruta oak glade. Let me
emphasize I’m referring to the first Queen Elizabeth
Good Queen Bess
of Tudor times.
England’s Queen Elizabeth and I had a pleasant chat last Sunday afternoon in the shade of a Casa de Fruta oak glade. Let me emphasize I’m referring to the first Queen Elizabeth – the “Gloriana,” the “Virgin Queen,” the “Good Queen Bess” of Tudor times.
When I lived in London, I did have a close encounter with Queen Liz II, England’s current monarch. She almost ran me over in her Rolls Royce limousine in Covent Gardens. (True story – I’ll save it for another occasion.)
What’s her Royal Majesty the first Elizabeth like, you ask. Well, she’s a stunning beauty with golden auburn hair, a slender waist and a regal bearing. Her enchanting smile makes her quite personable. She possesses a keen intelligence and a rather wry wit.
As we chatted, she described her “progress,” her annual summer tour through England. With a girlish giggle, she mentioned how her entourage of 400 courtiers and servants could sometimes bankrupt a nobleman putting her up for the night. She truly has a soft spot for her people.
OK. Confession time. The “Queen Elizabeth” I met last weekend was actually a nice woman named Deirdre Sargent from Oakland. Sargent majestically plays England’s greatest royal leader in the Northern California Renaissance Faire held the next six weekends at Casa de Fruta.
But of all England’s monarchs I would most like to rub regal shoulders with, the first Elizabeth would, no question, be my first choice. The extraordinary lady who sat for 44 years on the English throne would have much to teach our modern age.
She was born Elizabeth Tudor on Sept. 7, 1533, at Greenwich Palace near London. Her father was the famous Henry VIII – the gent commonly depicted as a bearded bear-man clasping a huge turkey leg in his fist.
Elizabeth was a toddler of two when Henry had her mother Anne Boleyn’s head whacked off at the Tower of London. The next day, he married Jane Seymour, his third wife. Putting it in 21st century terms, little Liz came from one hell of a dysfunctional family.
No one really expected the little girl to grow up to be England’s greatest monarch. She had a half-sister named Mary from Henry’s first wife, the Spanish Catherine of Aragon. And Seymour gave Henry the male heir he so desperately desired. That boy ruled England for a short reign as Edward VI.
At Eddy’s death at age 15, Mary Tudor received the crown. She’s gone down in history as “Bloody Mary” – and not because she fancied cocktail drinks of tomato juice mixed with vodka. A zealous Catholic, she ruthlessly persecuted Protestants. Her favorite pastime was barbequing “heretics” – alive – at the stake.
Mary, forever fearful of Elizabeth’s potential threat to her power, had her half sister taken through the notorious Traitors’ Gate and locked in the Tower of London in 1554. With her own mother’s execution in mind, Elizabeth surely feared she herself might also not get out of that wretched prison alive. Later, the royal princess was placed under house arrest in various estates.
In 1558, in the country manor of Hatfield, Elizabeth rested on the stump of an oak tree when news arrived. Her sister was dead. The 25-year-old Elizabeth was now sovereign.
During the 44 years of her rule, Queen Elizabeth served as the architect of a bold new age.
Elizabeth’s father left England’s finances in ruins from his wars, lavish palaces and court pageantry. The new queen, with aid from her wise counselor William Cecil, felt determined to straighten out the money mess.
She also quickly made a peace settlement with France. The Catholic Spanish King Phillip II, however, was determined to crush Elizabeth and her beloved England.
Things looked rather bleak for the Brits in August 1588 when Spain’s “Invincible Armada” of 130 ships sailed across the English Channel for invasion. With pluck and luck (a well-aimed storm hit the Spanish fleet), Elizabeth’s sailors beat the Spaniards at their own war game.
The victory heralded a golden age. An English Renaissance bloomed. The once-dismal island nation rose to the first rank of international power.
The Elizabethan Age created a rebirth in culture and philosophy. English language burst forth from the dramatic genius of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson.
Explorers such as Walter Raleigh and Frances Drake opened doors to the New World for England. The American colony of Virginia was named after the “Virgin Queen,” and the adventurous Drake’s voyage around the world brought him to a California beach – possibly Point Reyes.
Some men in her court believed a “mere” woman could never successfully lead a nation – especially in times of turmoil. Wielding feminine grace with skillful political cunning, Queen Elizabeth proved them wrong. Her personable style won the hearts of her people.
After my amiable meeting with “Queen Elizabeth” at Casa de Fruta, I drove home through the hills of Pacheco Pass and wondered what the real Elizabeth might say about our modern age with its blend of political intrigue and international dangers. She could show our national leaders a trick or two in achieving peace and prosperity.
I pondered the idea of a woman as savvy as Elizabeth leading America through its present times of turmoil. A female U.S. President? A lady leading our country? For our present American society, that’s a radical notion.
Maybe Elizabethans were far more advanced than we, psychologically speaking. They came to terms with the fact it’s not the reproductive organs a leader possesses, but the spirit of the human heart and mind that enables him – or her – to navigate the ship of state. Perhaps now in some South Valley school, a young girl studies hard, determined to someday be sworn in as America’s first woman president.
And, I imagine, at that historic moment, Good Queen Bess will stand beside her on the Capitol Building steps and nod her head with regal approval.