E.I. (Elizabeth Immaculate): Untouched, Uncensored
We Love Elizabeth: A Discussion of Our Fascination With QEI Today
by Denise A. Davis
What is it that makes a woman with power so fascinating? Even though we live in a world that professes to be more progressive than the so-called Dark Ages of the past, there are few female heads of state; England has its Queen Elizabeth II, but there still hasn’t been a female President in the United States of America, the supposedly most progressive of all the industrialized, First World countries. Queen Elizabeth I is a figure that defies even the most basic and conventional logic. She was a woman surrounded by men, but didn’t allow any of them to rule her in any aspect of her being. She is the Mistress of her palace; as a public figure, she is charismatic and willing to be among her people. However, at her most basic level, I think, she is an underdog—and audiences like when the person in last person pulls ahead by the work of his or her own will and the work of providence and wins the race. There is a certain danger present in the history of Elizabeth I amid the intrigue about her love life and the historical events that shaped her reign, and events like these draw attention.
Public figures are, and always have been, scrutinized heavily. Monarchs endure this treatment perhaps more readily. Not much unlike the manner in which Stephen king describes the obsession in our popular culture today in his Entertainment Weekly article, people in Queen Elizabeth’s time were prone to speculating—and the Queen was a meal to be devoured (or like that piece of cake that King describes in his article). After all, Elizabeth was borne of Anne Boleyn, who was known for her alleged promiscuity, and the infamous King Henry VIII. I think some of the fascination with Elizabeth stems from her origins; she had a father who would replace wives frequently and sometimes brutally, even go as far as to break with the all-mighty Catholic Church and create his own (which made him memorable in his own right), and a mother who was callously discarded when she did not produce a male heir. In a time when females were nearly worthless if they do not marry, and bear children (hopefully sons), Elizabeth is a rebel. However, she is human, and she does profess to like the attention of men—but marriage is out of the question. She plays out her life in the public eye and her people witness that act of self-preservation. The line delivered quite well by both Cate Blanchett and Anne Marie Duff in the film adaptations we have seen of Elizabeth’s life and rule sums it up: “I will have but one mistress here, and no master!”
So she is an anomaly. A woman with no one to answer to. There is still scandal surrounding her, especially with her relationship with Robert Dudley. Even though Christopher Hibbert’s biography of Elizabeth points to her chastity, the Kapur film adaptation chooses to remix the story for a newer, hipper (and highly sexualized) generation. Much to the dismay of some, sex sells. A monarch from the 16th century shouldn’t be denied that treatment. Yet, with all the gasps and eyebrow-knitting over the speculation about Elizabeth’s personal life, she still remains a fascinating person. No one can deny the genius of the Tilbury speech or even the insightfulness of her own poetry. Our history, in facet, would read differently without her. Where would the industrialized world be if the Spanish Armada hadn’t been defeated?