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Friday, January 11, 2013

Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth's Coronation

Queen Elizabeth's I reign began on 17 November 1558, but it was not until 15 January 1559 that she was crowned and anointed at Westminster Abbey.



in her coronation robes


The day before, her triumphal progress traveled through London, and she was celebrated by adoring crowds.




in her canopied litter


There were orations and pageants in her honor, with "a strong Protestant flavor" and she was considered "as saviour of the Protestant faith."

But the man who crowned her was the Catholic bishop of Carlisle!

I think this is a perfect symbol of the divided nature of the country at the time.

In Ian Mortimer's excellent "The Time Traveller's Gulde to Elizabethan England" there is a quote from a government official who describes the political situation upon her coronation:

"The queen poor, the realm exhausted, the nobility poor and decayed. Want of good captains and soldiers. The people out of order. Justice not executed. All things dear. Excess in meat, drink and apparel. Divisions among ourselves. Wars with France and Scotland. The French king bestriding the realm, having one foot in Calais and the other in Scotland. Steadfast enmity but no friendship abroad."

Indeed, it was a troubled time.

Elizabeth rose to the challenge, and in her 44 year reign, she more than made her mark on England and the history of the world.

It was a period of great achievement, and a period of terrible cruelty.

No matter what you may think of Elizabeth and the period which bears her name, it is the period in which a young man from Stratford-upon-Avon -- located at the heart of England --  rose from very humble beginnings to act and write, and freely express himself and speak on behalf of his fellow countrymen on the most public of places in all of England, a London playhouse stage.

Such a life as Shakespeare's was almost unimaginable before Elizabeth I.

She was in love with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He was very fond of players, musicians and performers, and had several in his employment. 

One of my favorite paintings is of Leicester dancing La Volta with Queen Elizabeth. It was considered a very racy dance:





In later years, he would employ James Burbage, who would request that playing companies have royal patronage. 

In time, Queen Elizabeth gave her blessing, and granted this request. Elizabethan Theatre was born.

Theatres popped up in London, like The Theatre and The Curtain in Shoreditch, and The Rose and The Globe on Bankside.


The Theatre in Shoreditch, the first theatre just for plays since the Roman times



In granting this request, she was giving an opportunity to young men across England who had ambitions to be actors and playwrights. 

One such young man was William Shakespeare, who came from Stratford-upon-Avon in the Midlands, which is geographically at the heart of England.

The period of her reign is considered a Golden Age. In my humble opinion, at the heart of that Golden Age is William Shakespeare. 

Without Queen Elizabeth's blessing, there may never have been a William Shakespeare.

For that we should all be eternally grateful to her.


Cheers,

David B. Schajer


Related Article:

Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth I


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