THE LIONESS WHO YEARNED TO BE A MILKMAID

Elizabeth+13“No crooked leg, no bleared eye,

No part deformed out of kind,

Nor yet so ugly half can be

As is the inward, suspicious mind.”

Your loving mistress,

Elizabeth.Joely Richardson,David Thewlis

The above poem was written in a French psalter by Princes Elizabeth (Elizabeth I) . Elizabeth inscribed these lines when she presented the psalter to a servant or friend at some time before November 17th, 1558. It is one of the first examples of her handwriting in elegant copperplate lettering; it was a pre-eminent mission in life for her father, Henry VIII, to have all of his children educated to the highest standards. They were all able to converse in several languages, debate philosophy and religion, read and write, compose verse, be mathematically adept, have an opinion on the arts, indulge, and be proficient in such sporting activities as archery and riding, and sundry other things which were considered to be of value. In short: Elizabeth was a young lady with a highly rounded, and rigorous education, who`s extreme intellect shines through in every line of her personally written correspondence. Even so, the Tudor Dynasty was probably the weirdest, and most sinister in English history: it`s founder, Henry Tudor, had usurped the crown after his victory over the last Plantagenet, King Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, and he was a deeply suspicious, devious and complex character, who passed his unpleasant personality traits onto future little Tudors. Elizabeth`s father, Henry VIII, was the greatest judicial mass murderer in English history, disposing of an enormous section of the aristocracy ( including any surviving Plantagenets he could get his hands on), because of his paranoia, and sheer pettiness of character.

 

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He was just about the first English King not to lead his armies into battle, and didn`t expect to sit on the throne because he wasn`t the first in line, and so never picked up the man management skills needed to handle people properly; consequently, he was emotionally stunted and threw his toys out of the pram every time something didn`t pan out the way he wanted it to. It has to be said, that in Elizabeth, resided the best and the worst of the Tudor character: Henry had her educated to the highest level; but like her father, she possessed a foul and violent temper which could explode upon anyone unfortunate enough to be near at the time. She once kicked a pregnant maid-in-waiting in the stomach, causing a painful, and bloody miscarriage which almost cost her life. All Tudor monarchs relied upon an extensive, and delicate network of spies to keep their national house in order; it was basically a police state of informers on every street corner, which sent an uncountable number of people to their deaths simply through arousing suspicions, or through plain personal malice. There had always been such a concept as treason, but the Tudors elevated it to automatically encompass the death penalty, and it became a catch-all against anyone the state machinery considered surplus to requirements, or too dangerous to be allowed to live. 

The Tudor monarchs were at the head of the Stalinist Soviet Politburo of their day; a merciless political machine which “disappeared” people on an alarmingly regular basis to satisfy their “suspicions”, even if they weren`t founded on any fact whatsoever. Elizabeth is using the word `suspicious` in her little poem, and it is indicative of the heightened sense of suspicion that the Tudors lived with: they had usurped the throne, not by right of primogeniture, but through illegal force of arms by a man with as slim a claim to be King as one could possibly imagine; so, their paranoia was justified to a large extent; everywhere they looked they saw people who knew they were royalist parvenus of base metal, rather than the glorious gold of the Plantagenet Dynasty. Despite her high cultural values and intellect, Elizabeth inherited her `suspicions` from the first Tudor monarch, which prevented her from ever truly trusting the motives of even the people she loved the most. It was a psychological prison from which she never escaped.

“That milkmaid`s lot is better than mine, and her life merrier.”anonymous-21


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