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Thread: An Instinctive Politician.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    An Instinctive Politician.

    An Instinctive Politician.

    It had taken the King a month to dispose of a wife on a charge of treason, sweep some of her friends to the block with her, bastardise her child, and acquire a new queen.

    Here was the power of the Tudor monarchy in action, with the King bending his Council, the Church, and the law to do his will.
    But the fall of Anne Boleyn was not quite what it seemed, and Henry was almost as much a victim of events as was his former queen. Perhaps a man nervous of his own virility was made to believe his wife had mocked him with other men.

    In the end the fate of Elizabethís mother showed the vulnerability, as well as the power of the Tudor monarchy. Factional manipulation of the King destroyed Anne Boleyn, as those about Henry had the opportunity to manage him.

    Elizabeth was said to have gloried in her father, but she was certainly not ashamed of her mother, and as queen her own symbol of the phoenix may have signified her recovery. She had to learn, and fast that a woman in politics was at risk from emotional entanglements, and that a ruler of England could be made the tool of Court intrigues. Thus it was a case of being faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself and thus make yourself indispensable.

    The fortune of royal wives was not impressive: her mother and stepmother were executed for alleged adultery and treason, two stepmothers died in childbirth, and a German stepmother was married for diplomatic convenience and divorced for lack of interest.

    But the burnt-out suns are rekindled only by the inextinguishable passions of vanished lives and in the years that followed, Elizabeth rose from bastard child of an adulterous traitress to Queen of England. She was indeed a political phoenix and instinctive politician.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Factional manipulation of the King destroyed Anne Boleyn, as those about Henry had the opportunity to manage him.
    Exactly why I prefer non-faction.

    I'm looking forward to this one, M. Hope you don't mind if I heckle you some.

  3. #3
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Heckle away old chap.

    You never disappoint in offering new insights.

    Best regards
    M.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    It always strikes me that it was almost like a scene out of a film regards the circumstances of how Elizabeth 1st was informed of her accession to the English throne.

    This tall, thin 25-year-old girl with very white skin, red-gold hair, brown eyes, and pale eyelashes had been sitting under an old oak tree in the parkland around the Palace of Hatfield, reading a book, when lords of the council led by Sir Nicholas Throckmorton disturbed her to give her the news. We are told that overcome with emotion, she sank to her knees and said in Latin “This is the Lord’s doing: it is marvellous in our eyes”, from Psalm 118.

    Throckmorton had carried with him the ring of her half-sister as proof that Queen Mary was dead. She had in fact died early on the morning of the 17th November 1558 at the age of 42, and thus as per Henry VIII’s wishes, the crown had successively passed from Edward to Mary to Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth I was proclaimed Queen at around noon at Whitehall by the Houses of Lords and Commons, who had been in session that morning, and members of Mary’s council started to make their way to Hatfield to see Elizabeth.

    The oak tree in Hatfield Park is no longer there, but the legacy of what occurred that day in a countryside town of Hertfordshire north of London was to open up, one of the most interesting stories of both; a remarkable queen, and a period of English history that in many ways, defined what the English consisted of.

    It is however important at this juncture, to place in context, the conditions that existed in England for this young queen and what challenges she faced both in governing and in how she was percieved. For Elizabeth's early reputation is far from clear, and it has not been sufficiently examined in relation to the reputation of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn's reputation in the last years of her life, is itself ambiguous. Certainly, she was detested in Catholic Europe, but it is unclear how she was perceived in England. This perception is of paramount significance in understanding the nature of Elizabeth's early reputation. In Catholic Europe, Elizabeth, simply by being Anne's daughter, was abhorred as "the concubine's little bastard", which became "incestuous bastard” following the accusations of adultery that were hailed against her mother - a legacy that haunted Elizabeth's reputation in Catholic Europe for the rest of her life. However, it is uncertain to what degree the crimes of the mother were held against the daughter in England. If Elizabeth had an infamous mother, then she had a famous father, and her paternity may have been sufficient to prevent any vehement hatred of her in England. If in fact both Anne and Elizabeth were abhorred by the people in these years, then this means that the sheer popular acceptance of Elizabeth as sovereign some two decades later, needs some consideration.

    When Elizabeth Tudor had succeeded the throne, religious strife, a huge government debt, and failures in war, had caused England to be considered a poor credit risk on the Continent.In the last years of his reign, Henry VIII had debased the coinage which meant that the proportion of gold and silver in the coins was reduced.

    When she became queen there were about 2.8 million people in England. The population rose significantly during her reign, to about 4.1 million. Many people lived in the countryside, but in the sixteenth century the town population grew at a greater rate. Prior to Elizabethan times, only about 5 percent of the population lived in cities and towns, but during her reign, about 15 percent of the rapidly growing population had become urban.

    The country was also hit by a number of poor harvests, particularly in the 1590s, which put increasing pressure on a limited supply of food. The resulting rise in food prices led, in some cases, to starvation amongst those who could not afford to pay. In 1563, wages were further affected by a government move to curb inflation. The Statute of Artificers set upper wage limits for skilled workers such as butchers or carpenters but the unfortunate result was that, as prices rose, wages could not reflect these increases. Again, the standard of living dropped for many workers.

    Towns grew in size throughout Elizabeth's reign, as changes in agriculture led to people leaving the countryside. In the years leading up to her accession, a process known as land enclosure had changed the face of the landscape. Land enclosure meant that the traditional open field system whereby individual peasant farmers could farm their own pieces of land was ended in favour of creating larger and more profitable farming units which required fewer people to work on them. As the wool trade became increasingly popular, these units were often dedicated to rearing sheep. As a result, many people who had lived and worked in the countryside their whole lives found themselves without any means of support and, in many cases, evicted from their homes. Large numbers headed for the towns in the hope of a better life.

    Illustrative of this was London. It is hardly surprising that, with so many people flocking to the towns, London was by now the biggest city in Europe with between 130,000 and 150,000 inhabitants. It was a colourful metropolis and contained the best and worst of city life. The streets were filled with alehouses, gambling dens and brothels, and the public was entertained by street performers, playhouses, and spectacles such as bear baiting.

    London was filthy but intriguing, lively but dangerous. And, in addition to its own poor, the city acted as a magnet for beggars, thieves and tricksters from across the country.Steps had been taken by previous monarchs to provide care for those who ended up on London's streets. Edward VI had supplied one of the royal palaces to serve as a house of correction for the poor, known as Bridewell. Here, rather than being punished, vagrants and criminals were given useful tasks to perform as part of their rehabilitation. This was an enlightened approach and houses of correction were established in other cities to re-integrate these individuals back into society. Unfortunately, under Mary I, it was more commonly used as a place of punishment. But during Elizabeth's reign, houses of correction once again served a useful purpose in maintaining social order and keeping vagrants off the streets.

    The city itself meant roughly what we mean today by the City of London--a crammed commercial huddle that smelt of the river. The Thames was everybody's thoroughfare. The Londoners of Chaucer's time had had difficulty bridging it; the Elizabethans had achieved only London Bridge. You crossed normally by boat-taxi. There was commerce on the river, but also gilded barges, sometimes with royalty in them. Chained to the banks there were sometimes criminals, who had to abide the washing of three tides. The river also had to look on other emblems of the brutality of the age--the severed heads of traitors on Temple Bar and on London Bridge itself.

    The streets were narrow, cobbled, slippery with the slime of refuse. Houses were crammed together, and there were a lot of furtive alleys. Chamber pots, or jordans, were emptied out of windows. There was no drainage and Fleet Ditch stank so much one gagged on the odour. And countering the bad, man-made odours, the smells of the countryside floated in. There were fresh faced milkmaids in the early morning streets, and sellers of newly gathered agricultural produce.

    It was a city of loud noises--hooves and raw coach wheels on the cobbles, the yells of traders, the brawling of apprentices. Nobody drank water, and tea had not yet come in. Ale was the standard tipple, and it was strong. Ale for breakfast was a good means of starting the day in euphoria or truculence. Ale for dinner refocillated the wasted tissues of the morning. Ale for supper ensured a heavy snoring repose. The better sort drank wine, which promoted good fellowship, or led to sword fights. It was not what one would call a sober city.

    Simplified, the more well off lived in the west part of the city while the poor lived towards the east where modern-day Fleet Street is. The poor kept themselves to themselves in London and even developed their own form of language. This was known as canting. The whole idea behind it was that no-one else would know what they were talking about – it was a form of protection against the law. A sentence such as “If you clump a cony you can cloy his peck” would mean “if you hit a victim you can steal his food,” or “A high-pad has lifts for his mort” would mean a “highway man has stolen goods for his woman“.

    Disease and crime were widespread. Labourers who came to London from the country frequently failed to find jobs. Homeless, they wandered in search of a way to feed themselves. Many turned to small crime, such as begging, picking pockets, and prostitution, simply to avoid starvation. Retribution was harsh and theft for anything over 5p resulted in hanging. Taking birds eggs was also deemed to be theft and could result in the death sentence.

    Daily life in England during the Elizabethan era was still very difficult for the majority of the subjects. Those well off ate at least two day meals, which were dinner and supper. The middle and low ranks ate vegetables and grains. The nobility class ate sweet food and meats.

    Generally, life expectancy reached until 42 years old, but of course the richer ranks lived years longer than that. Elizabethans rarely drank water because it was impure. Both classes ate bread, but not the same type. The wealthy usually ate a refined white wheat bread called manchet, while the poor were more likely to eat black or brown breads made from rye or barley.

    Most Elizabethans did not bath more than once a year. In addition, one-half of the children born during this time would not make it to adulthood.

    Housing during this time varied with the social class to which the person belonged. If the person belonged to the merchant class, they most likely lived in the upper floors of the house and had their shop in the lower floor. Most houses for the middle and lower classes were made out of timber or plaster.However, if a person was a gentleman or higher, they most likely lived in a large stone manor or, if they were very privileged, they might live in the castle. In most houses there would be rushes on the floor, which needed changing often, and at meals, people would just throw the scraps to the ground, which attracted rats and other vermin. This most likely added to the chances of disease.

    In the schools the English alphabet did not look the same as it does today. It was made up of only twenty-four letters, unlike the modern twenty-six-letter alphabet. The "i" and "j" were the same letter, with the "j" being used as the capital letter at the beginning of the word and the "i" being used as a lower-case letter in the middle of the word. Similarly, the "u" and "v" were the same letter, with the "v" used as the capital. Today there is no letter for the "th" sound, but in Elizabethan times this was represented by a letter that looks like our "y." Thus, the word "ye" was pronounced "the."

    Another interesting aspect is that of clothing. The Elizabethan Era is normally known for the elaborate outfits that men and women wore to court and elite social functions. Extremely detailed portraits of the wealthy have given us a clear idea of how they dressed. The wealthy wore furs and jewels, and the cloth of their garments featured extravagant embroidery. But theirs was not the typical fashion of the times. The poor and even the middle classes dressed more simply. In Elizabethan England one's clothing provided an observer with instant knowledge of one's social status. With a growing middle class, the rich and powerful clung to their age-old distinction of wearing clothes that made it immediately clear that they outranked others. Sumptuary laws, or statutes regulating how extravagantly people of the various social classes could dress, had been in effect for many years in England, but soon after taking the throne Elizabeth passed her own sumptuary acts, preserving the old standards and setting out in great detail what the different social ranks were allowed to wear. By Elizabeth's acts, only royalty could wear the colour purple and only the highest nobility could wear the colour red. Ermine, a type of fur, was to be worn only by the royal family, gold could be worn only by nobles of the rank of earl or higher, and fur trims of any type were limited to people whose incomes were extremely high. The amount of detail in the sumptuary acts was remarkable, as can be seen in this excerpt from the act regarding women's clothing:

    "None shall wear Any cloth of gold, tissue, nor fur of sables: except duchesses, marquises, and countesses in their gowns, kirtles [underskirts], partlets [garments, usually made of lace, that filled the opening in the front of a dress and had a collar attached], and sleeves; cloth of gold, silver, tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with gold or silver or pearl, saving silk mixed with gold or silver in linings of cowls [a draped neckline], partlets, and sleeves: except all degrees above viscountesses, and viscountesses, baronesses, and other personages of like degrees in their kirtles and sleeves."

    Elizabeth claimed the purpose of the sumptuary laws was to prohibit her subjects from wasting huge amounts of money on clothes. But the laws were also intended to preserve the existing order of social classes. As the incomes of the middle class increased, they were able to afford to live and dress like aristocrats. Thus it became increasingly important to regulate the garments of the various classes in order to maintain the established social order. The queen, as the highest-ranking person in the nation, was dressed the most elaborately, and she took this outward display of her position seriously.

    One can begin to understand how for Elizabeth the quest for stability and improved prosperity became the guiding force of her reign. Thus, she constantly avoided foreign entanglements and religious extremism which we will examine later.

    She left behind an extraordinary popular image of a dazzling era of excitement and achievement, nearly superhuman heroes and daring deeds, with the Queen, larger than life, radiating inspiration at the centre of it all. Elizabeth’s character was a mystery to most people at the time she inherited the throne. She had learned to keep her own council, control her emotions, and always behaved cautiously. But, although always dignified and stately, she could be vain, wilful, dictatorial, temperamental, and imperious. She had courage, both in her decisions, and in the face of danger, as will be seen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Henry was almost as much a victim of events as was his former queen.
    How so? He was in total power. Chance of successful rebellion was low. In order to topple his throne he would really have to go out on a limb and take entirely intollerable action such as open borders or disarmament. He would have to flip his own knighthood and army to dishonor him. Henry was safe and in firm power. Short of war, domestic events were pale in comparison.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    The fortune of royal wives was not impressive: her mother and stepmother were executed for alleged adultery and treason, two stepmothers died in childbirth, and a German stepmother was married for diplomatic convenience and divorced for lack of interest.
    I don't think that's quite right. Only Jane Seymour died in (or actually shortly after) childbirth. Who would the other have been? Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were both beheaded (no fun but better than being burned alive). Henry's marriage the ugly, smelly, German Princess Anne of Cleaves was amicably annulled. Catherine Parr, number six wife (and mentor to Elizabeth for a time) outlived him. And of course Henry's marriage to number one wife, Catherine of Aragon, was less amicably annulled. You must have counted Jane Seymour twice.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-31-2019 at 07:08 PM.

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