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In such a tumultuous time of England’s history, a ruler that could protect his people and also give them intellectual stimulation was no easy task. However, this is what the people expected from their ruler. This emblem is a basic representation of what the English people valued from the people that ruled them. The title says it all. “A Princes most ennobling Parts,/ Are Skill in Armes and Love to Arts.” If someone took this emblem and changed all the words from “he” to “she,” and then replaced the words “prince” to “queen,” we would have a perfect description of Queen Elizabeth I and what made her so great.
Before we go into the text, it is worth analyzing the picture of the emblem. Though the huge discrepancy is that it is a man in the picture, there are still many parallels we can draw between him and Elizabeth. Appearance wise, the man in this picture seems to have a regal robe on, but pants that look like tattered rags. Making the comparison with Elizabeth, one can point out the time that she spent in prison. She had to don rags for a while, and then when she was released, she was made queen and she got to wear royal, exquisite dresses. In the picture, the man has a sword in his right hand and a book in his left. Obviously, the sword represents the military might and physical strength. The book represents wisdom and knowledge. Though it is at an angle, it still seems that the man is holding the book higher than the sword, showing that they value a wise ruler more than a mighty one. A great ruler however, must contain both of these qualities to be successful.
After the emblem, we get a poem about qualities the people desire in their ruler. As stated earlier, from what we know of Elizabeth, this poem describes her qualities well. Before Elizabeth, England was in constant war with Protestants and Catholics fighting each other for power. In this time of constant conflict, the people looked for a ruler that would bring them tranquility.
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Another quote from the emblem is that a ruler should “drive/ all false religion, schisme, and Ignorance.” Using these words strictly, Elizabeth did just that. Though I cannot say that Catholicism is the “false religion,” the majority of the people of England favored the Protestants, and therefore she did what was necessary to ensure that there was one religion of England. Also, to drive out ignorance, she showed the value and necessity of education.
The people didn’t just want a ruler who would back down in the face of battle. In these unpredictable times, they wanted a ruler who can lead them in war. “…If of Warre a just occasion come,/ Doth nor Bellona’s Challenges refuse,/ Nor feare, to beat Defyance on his Drum;” A good ruler would not flee from war if there were no other options. Elizabeth is a good example of this. She would do whatever it takes to protect, maintain, and strengthen England. “In Military Practices delight,/ Not for a wicked, or vaine-glorious end;/ But, to maintaine the Cause that is upright,/ Or thy distressed Countrey to defend.” This quote comes to life as Elizabeth goes to try to raise the morale of the English troops that were about to fight the invading Spanish. Her speech “To the English Troops at Tilbury, Facing the Spanish Armada” exemplifies the courage she radiated to her fellow countrymen. These words show that Elizabeth would be willing to have a less-than-noble death for a good cause, such as protecting England.
“I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being at this time resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too…and think foul scorn that…any prince of Europe should dare to invade the border of my realm; to which rather than any dishonor shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field” (1091).
By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, she had turned England into a world power. With her usage of war and diplomacy, she obtained an England that few would have imagined.
As the emblem states, it is not just military might and strength that is desired by the people. In earlier times, this may have gotten by, but at this point people realize that it takes more to make a nation great. Focusing on arts and education became equally important to the citizens. The emblem states, “[The ruler] is as ready, also, to advance/ The Lib’rall Arts…” Elizabeth excels in this category as well. During Elizabeth’s reign, great authors such as Marlowe, Spenser, and Shakespeare came to be known. We know that she enjoyed the theater immensely, and she also helped to spread the appreciation for it amongst the commoners. Aside from literature, we know that Elizabeth helped to promote famous explorers such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh in spreading the English influence to the New World.
These emblems were drawn and written in the mid 1600’s. It cannot be stated that this emblem here has a direct connection with Queen Elizabeth, but it is obvious that there are many correlations. Her influence probably helped to make books such as the one this emblem is contained in possible. It is obvious to see what characteristics the people valued as being fit for a ruler. Elizabeth contained all of these. Her coupling of both military prowess and intellectual superiority helped shape England into the great nation that we know today.
Damrosch, David (Ed.). (2003). The Longman Anthology British Literature (Vol. 1B). New York: Longman
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