Κυριακή, 7 Αυγούστου 2016

Reign of terror


Queen Elizabeth c. 1592, after Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
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The focus of this “partial” biography is the final two decades of Elizabeth I’s reign. Elizabeth’s biographers have, John Guy claims, tended to examine these years only fleetingly; beyond the Spanish Armada of 1588 they run out of steam or merely accept unquestioningly the image of Gloriana and her enduring popularity and success. That narrative, Guy argues, remains heavily influenced by the work of William Camden, Elizabeth’s first biographer, whose hagiographical Annales (or The History of Elizabeth), completed in 1617, together with Sir John Neale’s highly influential Queen Elizabeth (1934), published more than three centuries later, represent an enduring tradition of uncritically celebrating “Good Queen Bess”. Guy’s intention is to puncture this mythmaking and build directly on the work of Lytton Strachey, whose bestselling Elizabeth and Essex (1928) sought to present a very different, emotionally tortured Queen, whose reign falls into two distinct parts. After twenty-five years of rule, Strachey observed, “the kaleidoscope shifted; the old ways, the old actors, were swept off with the wreckage of the Armada”. It is from where Strachey “blazed a trail” that Guy aims “to strike out”.