Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > Some Political and Social Aspects of the Later Elizabethan and Earlier Stewart Period > Question of the Queen’s Marriage
  Dramatists and the Divine Right of Kings Her attitude towards the Religious Problem  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One.

XIV. Some Political and Social Aspects of the Later Elizabethan and Earlier Stewart Period.

§ 6. Question of the Queen’s Marriage.

Nowhere, perhaps, is the interdependence of royal will and popular sentiment in the Elizabethan age more conspicuous than in two questions which it may not be altogether incongruous to mention side by side—the queen’s marriage and the religious settlement of the country. The former issue directly included that of the security of the throne; and, notwithstanding the ruptures of dramatic and other Elizabethan poets, “Diana’s rose” 5  might have been won by a French suitor with the goodwill of many Englishmen, before the massacre of 1572 undid the effects of the treaty with France which had seemed on the eve of developing into a league of war against Spain. But, though the rose might have been won, she could hardly have been worn with the assent of the English people after the old hatred of France had, though only for a time, flared up again. 6  As a matter of fact, it may be confidently asserted that, save in passing, no thought either of a French, or of any other foreign marriage—still less of a match with a subject of her own—was ever seriously entertained by Elizabeth. So long as her marriage was still a matter of practical politics, she humoured the popular hope that the question of the succession might find this easy solution; and, in the case of Leicester (who was cordially hated outside his own party) she gratified her own fancy, long after she can have entertained even a passing thought of actually bestowing on him her hand. 7  But she knew what her subjects would approve in the end, and that the fact of her remaining unmarried must become an integral element of her unique popularity. On the one hand, marriage with a foreign prince could not but have implied the definite adoption of a particular “system” of foreign policy—a decision which Burghley and she were desirous of avoiding while it could be avoided; and, in the second place, it would have meant her subjection to the will of another—a consummation which had gradually become inconceivable to her.   7

Note 5. Greene’s Frier Bacon and Frier Bongay, ad fin. This, the most national, as it must have been one of the most acceptable, of all the classical and semi-classical similes applied to queen Elizabeth by the dramatists, recurs in a simpler, but more attractive, form in The Blessednes of Brytaine, an overflowing outpour of patriotic sentiment produced by the great outburst of loyalty in 1586—7, one of the Fugitive Tracts written in Verse, etc., 1493—1600, privately printed by Huth, H., in 1875:“Our kingly rooted rose fresh flow’ring stands.” [ back ]
Note 6. The Alençon-Anjou intrigue which followed was, as is known, very unpopular, and was denounced by representatives of patriotic protestant feeling so different as Philip Sidney and the heroic fanatic John Stubbs. The best account of both the important French marriage negotiations (for the idea of a match between Elizabeth and Henry of Navarre was little more than a happy thought) is to be found in Stählin, K., Sir Francis Walsingham und seine Zeit, vol. 1 (1898), a book of much general value. [ back ]
Note 7. Lyly’s Endimion, even if the usual interpretation of the allegory be accepted, can, at the most, be regarded as a plea, assured of a kindly reception, for the restriction of Leicester to the queen’s favour—not for anything beyond. Creizenach (vol. IV, part 1, p. 59), repudiates the supposition that any particular person was allegorised in the character of Endimion, or that there is an allusion in the same dramatist’s Sapho and Phao to Anjou’s departure from England (1582). As to Endimion, however, see a full discussion of the whole subject in Feuillerat, A., John Lyly, contribution à l’histoire de la Renaissance en Angleterre (Cambridge, 1910), pp. 119 ff. where, while Cynthia is identified with queen Elizabeth, Tellus and Endimion are identified with Mary queen of Scots and her son James. Concerning Lyly’s plays, cf. ante, Chap. VI. Leicester, though he enjoyed the confidence of many puritans, was so constant a friend and patron of the drama, that he might not unnaturally have thought “the play the thing”; but since, notwithstanding, his arrogance was tempered by the exercise of self-control, he would certainly have been very careful in his instructions, and we cannot know for certain what the queen would at any particular moment have liked to hear. [ back ]

  Dramatists and the Divine Right of Kings Her attitude towards the Religious Problem  

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