This is biography month, and I’m sharing some of my favorite people. People I admire, people I hope you will too. I hope you’ll share your favorites. Be sure to tell their claim to fame, and why they’re worth remembering.
I’m starting with my favorite historical hero, Elizabeth I. I was a tween in 1971 and discovered a six-part series with Glenda Jackson playing Elizabeth. Women’s rights were huge, and I was fascinated by a woman who could rule a country way back in the 1500’s. Wow!
The first picture is Elizabeth at 13. I couldn’t find earlier pictures. Boys ruled back then, literally, and it made life difficult, even for a princess. At 3, Elizabeth’s mother was executed. Her father had a new wife, and finally a son. Elizabeth wasn’t important. Her younger brother was, with pictures done at age 2 and 9.
Elizabeth did have some privileges, like great tutors. At 17, she could read and write in 6 different languages. She was one of the best educated people of her time. Being smart helped her survive long years, being out-of-favor. A clever noble convinced her brother Edward, age 15, to make cousin Jane queen. Jane, who was Elizabeth’s equal academically, was forced into a crown. 9 days later Mary imprisoned her in the Tower, later executing her. Poor Jane! She never wanted a crown. She wanted to be left alone to read and study.
Elizabeth, now 20, survived, but Protestants didn’t want Mary. They hatched plots to make Elizabeth queen. Mary put Elizabeth under house arrest, even jailing her in the Tower of London where her mother and cousin were executed. Talk about ghosts! Elizabeth chose her words and friends carefully. She survived Mary, becoming queen at age 25. The second picture shows her on Coronation Day. Queen at last!
You’d think her life would finally be easier. It wasn’t. Supporters feared for her life. English and European Catholics wanted Elizabeth dead. Her spymaster uncovered their plots and kept her alive. Councilors pushed her to marry. Elizabeth refused. She played their game, looking at Englishmen and foreign princes, taking their gifts, and making England stronger. England was Elizabeth’s true love, and she gave it a golden age.
This final portrait shows Elizabeth at the height of her power, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Catholic Spain tried to control England. Its prince married her sister Mary. He even tried to court Elizabeth. When he failed, as king he sent a fleet of ships to conquer England. Spain was a military power then, but Elizabeth’s England destroyed his navy. She made England an international power with colonies in the New World. She lived another 15 years, but friends and supporters were aging and dying. Young nobles wanted a new monarch.
Twenty years after Elizabeth’s death, people began honoring her legacy again. Evidently the next king wasn’t so golden. Movies are still made about her. A new one comes out this spring, and it’s on my schedule. I can’t wait!
FYI: As of 2013 firstborn girls can finally become queen. When Duchess Kate and Prince William were expecting that year, an act of Parliament made it possible for their daughter to become queen. It wasn’t necessary. They had a boy, then a girl.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!