Monday, September 28, 2015

GLORIANA! The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Sovereign Elizabeth - C is for Cecil

Elizabeth I had trust issues.
It's little wonder, since her father (figuratively) stepped back and allowed her mother's execution, her step-mother's husband did his best to molest her, her half-sister had her arrested and held in the Tower (where the motto was, "Abandon hope, all who enter here")
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"No way out, no way out, oh, holy shit - how did I end up in the Tower of London!!"
 and even her much-loved half-brother slighted her in his order of succession to the throne.

When Elizabeth I found someone she allowed herself to trust, she seemed to compartmentalize just exactly what it was with which she placed her trust.
In the case of William Cecil, her Secretary of State, she trusted he would give her all information she required to make weighty state decisions.
At that, Cecil was brilliant.

A cautious man, Cecil's thought process allowed him to see all possibilities in different courses of action stemming from the same decision to be made.
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Able to lay out different courses of action and their potential consequences as logically as any flow chart, Cecil saw much, but decided little.
His job was not to influence, but to do due diligence Image result for due diligence

for decisions facing Elizabeth I.

Cecil's family had history serving the monarch; his father was Groom of the Wardrobe for Henry VIII; his grandfather, David, was serjeant-at-arms (provided security for and maintained order in the House of Commons) to Elizabeth I's father, Henry VIII.
Cecil was Secretary of State for Elizabeth I's half-brother, Edward VI; but when Edward VI made his 'Device for Succession' he named not his half-sisters as the next queen(s) of England, but instead, the male issue of his father's niece, Frances Grey.
Although he objected to the line of succession declared by the dying Edward VI, Cecil was pressed to endorse it, putting his signature down, saying "yup - that's how it ought to be."

No sooner was the teen-king's body cool than ambitious courtiers interpreted and re-interpreted the *actual* meaning of the document. 
Although Mary I, Edward VI's half-sister made short work of kicking that proposal to the curb as she settled herself on the throne, she didn't punish Cecil for having agreed to witness the document.
And, likewise, when Mary I died five years into her reign, her successor, Elizabeth I, let bygones be bygones. 

Cecil began secretly meeting with Elizabeth I while she was still Lady Elizabeth; before the death of her half-sister, Mary I.
That's how court careers worked; if one monarch was clearly circling the drain, their loyal courtiers didn't waste time switching allegiance to the incoming monarch.
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Got the old resume out; just need a sec to put on my current job responsibilities. Shame about the king. 

Once Elizabeth I became queen, she appointed Cecil as her Secretary of State.
Cecil's genius was seeing the possibilities and potential fallout of decisions made by nobility and politicians; it was this steadfast ability to lay out all actions that might result from choices were made - but never, ever influencing the decision-making process.
He had, perhaps more than any other person at court, an understanding of the diamond-drill mind of his queen, and a deep appreciation for the respect and sense of responsibility she felt towards her people in her service to them.

Cecil did, however, have a beef with Elizabeth I over her relationship with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
It's possible he sensed that on the topic of Dudley, Elizabeth I had the ability to behave impulsively, as one will do when the heart is involved.
A few days before Dudley's unfortunate wife went ass-over-teakettle down a steep flight of stairs, breaking her neck, Cecil repeated a rumor that Dudley was planning to off his wife through some kind of  in-home 'accident.'
Truth imitates rumor?
Although Elizabeth I immediately distanced herself from Dudley, the damage was done and to the end of her reign, she never entirely shook the stink of that still-unsolved mystery.
Was Dudley's wife helped down the stairs?
Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark.
If so, by whom?

Marriage was front-of-mind for everyone at court - everyone, that is, with the exception of the intended bride.
Elizabeth I stood strong and unmovable in her opposition to marriage.
When her councilors spoke loudly enough on the topic, she appeared to listen, to nod in agreement, to even allow negotiations to take place - but that was it. 
Cecil, like the rest of Elizabeth's advisers, wanted a secure succession, as well as a strong male to make decisions they all thought a woman incapable of making.
He believed her 'nervous outbursts' as well as her red-hot temper were curable - and the cure was to (get this) have children
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Elizabeth I's reaction to all suggestions she should marry and have children. lol. 

In 1562, Cecil was, with others, meant to set up a face to face meeting between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, it never took place.
Cecil predicted Mary Queen of Scots would become a powerful figurehead for the Roman Catholic movement once she'd been bumped off the throne; he was dead right about that.
Roman Catholics rallied around the Queen of Scots, whose political acumen spotted a mantle of martyrdom right there, ready and waiting for her to use - which she did, very effectively, on an 'as-needed' basis.Image result for martyr meme

When Mary Queen of Scots was caught dead to rights (allegedly; there is still some question as to whether the 'proof' was forged) in a plot to off Elizabeth, then to take her throne, Elizabeth I had to face facts: unless the Queen of Scots were stopped by execution, Elizabeth I was at risk of assassination. 
Reluctantly, Elizabeth I gave a conditional okay to an order of death to anyone, anyone at all, who attempted to put themselves or their heirs on the English throne - but immediately made it clear nothing was to be done until she'd agreed the time was right.Image result for shit just got real
Image result for execution of mary queen of scots

Cecil, along with a couple of other security-conscious advisers to the queen, took the signed (conditional) order of death, rustled up a jury, tried Mary Queen of Scots, and pushed hard to get the execution done a.s.a.p.

When told of the execution (and it was a messy, nasty one that took more than two strokes of the axe - use your imagination) Elizabeth I flipped out.
She raged, she screamed, she cried, she threatened, she threw things, she wouldn't speak to the men she held responsible - but she had to have known there really was no other way.
After giving Cecil and a few others the cold shoulder for awhile, she thawed out and allowed them back in her service. 

Cecil's health began to fail a few years after the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and the defeat of the Spanish Armada the following year.
He collapsed from some devastating incident, heart attack or possibly had a stroke, in 1592.
Way to be remembered with panache! William Cecil's final napping spot. 
On 4 August, 1598, after a tough career serving a tough boss and doing it admirably, William Cecil died at his house in London.

Ever the cautious and steadfast servant, though, he'd trained his son, Robert, to step in and take over for him - so that Elizabeth I would have the closest thing to a seamless transition with her new adviser.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

GLORIANA! The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Soverign, Elizabeth - B is for Bastard

Elizabeth I, whose parents either were, or weren't, in a marriage sanctified by the Catholic Church, knew the sting of the label 'bastard.' 
Bastardization for Elizabeth could have been a stumbling block for her as she made her way to the throne of England.
The only chair that counts in Westminster Abbey. 
Not necessarily a deterrent, though, as Henry VIII's bastard son, Henry Fitzroy, had he lived longer, was groomed for the job during his short life - of course, Henry Fitzroy was Henry VIII's first-born son to survive infancy.
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Elizabeth's bastardy, though, was the lowest of the low blows aimed at her throughout her life.
It was unprecedented for a king to jettison one wife to whom, in the eyes of the Roman Catholic church, the king was still married and had a child - and then claim a second wife, who also had a child on the way, as his as well.
One or the other of the marriages had to be discredited.
As it turned out, both were.

Henry VIII's mid-life crisis, 
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Henry VIII did the exact opposite. . . 
complete with trophy second wife waiting in the wings, was initially met by his starter wife as beneath her notice.
Kings philandered.
It's what they did.
Henry VIII wanted to philander with Anne Boleyn in the worst way - but she, realizing this, held out.
And held out.
And held out.
"No, I  just don't feel right about doing it without being married, Henry." 
Meanwhile, an annulment or divorce from his first marriage just sat there, a political and religious intertwined potato that was far, far too hot for anyone to handle.
 Image result for hot potato
Anne Boleyn got older.
Potato? Still hot.
Anne Boleyn got older still.

Finally, since nobody would stand up and say it for him, Henry VIII stood up and said it himself: I am not married, nor was I ever really married, to my first wife - and so I'm marrying, for the REAL first time.

Princess Mary, Henry VIII and his 'starter wife,' Catherine of Aragon's daughter, was already a teen.
She understood full well that the trophy wife was moving in on her dad, which was bad enough, but the cherry on top of the whole mess was that she, Princess Mary her whole life, was expected to agree to being marginalized as a bastard, illegitimate issue of the 20+ year relationship her mother and father shared.
Image result for "As IF"
As if.

To be bastardized at that late age was an insult that offended Princess Mary right down to the soles of her shoes.
She did what any teen-aged girl would do: she dug in her heels, refused to acknowledge any title but that of Princess (and would not hear of her mother  being called anything less than queen.)Image result for teen girl furious

In a short time, Princess (by then Lady) Mary was given the ultimate grounding - she had to wait on Anne Boleyn's daughter as subservient to this red-headed half-sister of her father's whore trophy wife.
She may have resented being appointed her half-sister's courtier, but she couldn't bring herself to hate her half-sister, who was bright, amusing, and smart as a whip. 
Lady Mary didn't have to toil long in the nursery of the Princess Elizabeth - Anne Boleyn fell spectacularly from the king's favor within three years and was executed.

Princess Elizabeth herself was then bastardized.

Being a bastard meant special accommodation had to be made before the bastard was allowed to have privileges at court; even privileges that ought have been theirs from birth.
In short, no crown in the foreseeable future for either little bastard Mary or little bastard Elizabeth.
Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, did convince Henry VIII to entertain the thought of taking the Lady Mary (sounds so Downton Abbey, doesn't it?) off punishment, un-grounding her, and allowing her to come to court.

Little royal bastard Lady Elizabeth suffered the fallout from her mother's perceived whorish ways.
Her governess, who had the child's best interest at heart, was forced to plead and clamor for the royal purse to provide money to clothe a fast-growing child.
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"Looks like my clothes shrunk, Nanny - may I have larger ones, if you please?" 
The governess also ran interference between the governor of the house where Lady Elizabeth lived and his miserly way around the funding of running a kitchen and serving nursery foods to the little girl.
The governor, in an effort to cut costs, decided the child should just join all the adults in the household for meals.
She, he had decided, could just eat what the adults ate.
Her governess stepped in and in an exceedingly proper, yet still stinging, letter to Cromwell, explained that little girls oughtn't to eat spicy food, 
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"Lady Elizabeth, that's quite enough." 
drink strong wines, 
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"I was THIRSTY!"  
or be exposed to ribald adult conversation
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"I knew a man whose . . . was this big. Oh, sorry, I forgot the kid was at the table." 
 at mealtimes.

The governess won the point; Lady Elizabeth was given allowance to have a childhood, versus being a child catapulted into the world of adult courtiers at the age of three or four years old. 

Being a bastard meant that those who had your back often had it out of a sense of decency and propriety as was owed all well-born children, and not out of love for the actual child.
Being a bastard meant a greasy film of shame over every memory of childhood.
Being a bastard meant yo momma was a ho, if you were Lady Elizabeth, and yo momma got thrown aside, if you were Lady Mary.

Before Henry VIII died, his sixth wife, Catherine Parr, had encouraged him to enjoy the company of all of his children; Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth, as well as Prince Edward.
The repairing of familial relations worked!
Henry VIII left his order for who succeeded him on the throne as:
1. Edward.
2. Edward's male children.
3. Lady Mary
4. Lady Mary's male children
5. Lady Elizabeth

The greasy film of bastard shame stayed squarely on both Mary and Elizabeth.
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When Elizabeth, in an unlikely and seemingly pre-ordained series of events, ascended the throne in 1558, having outlived her parents and half-siblings, the bastard label was still stuck to her, like gum on the bottom of your Chuck Taylors. 
No big deal, really, but damn! So annoying! 
Her position was to ignore the label, but to also steer all conversations in which it might come up directly away from the subject. 

When, as Elizabeth I, she said she'd not make windows into men's souls, she said so for a very good reason: if the men were Roman Catholic, they believed as a bastard, she was unqualified to be on the throne.
If the men were Protestant, they believed Elizabeth I was on the throne because God put her there.
It was a touchy subject. . . but allowing Catholics to pray their way in private, while reinforcing her Protestant subjects that she was the queen God Himself had selected for the job, she diplomatically skirted the topic. 

In the end, of course, Elizabeth's bastardy didn't amount to much more than a footnote to her reign. 
The circumstances of her birth, the 'is she legit, or isn't she legit?' questions didn't seem worth mentioning in the face of her formidable political and tactical excellence among her fellow monarchs in Europe.
Her glorious reign spoke for her. 
Image result for Gloriana Elizabeth I
Yup. That's my legacy, deal with it.