Britain has been blessed to have the awesome Elizabeth I and II. Both queens were a powerful female image of authority, regal magnificence and national pride. They were both a Brand and a National Treasure, intelligent and determined. Both women showed a blend of shrewdness, courage, a majestic presence, and charm.
They were dedicated to their sense of duty and displayed unflinching, selflessness for the good of the nation. They became living legends in their own lifetime and great examples to women in all walks of life.
The Two Elizabeth’s
Elizabeth I was very well-educated (fluent in five languages), and had inherited intelligence, determination and shrewdness from both parents. Her 45-year reign and is one of the most glorious eras in English history.
Queen Elizabeth II was regnant of 32 sovereign states during her lifetime and 15 at the time of her death. She was the head of the Commonwealth of 56 independent member states. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days is the longest of any British monarch, the longest recorded of any female head of state, and the second-longest verified reign of any monarch in history.
Not Born to Reign
Neither Elizabeth was born to reign, and both were said to be precociously serious as young girls, with no desire to become the monarch. Both were thrust into the spotlight when they ascended the throne at age 25, following a time of tumult and uncertainty, caused by a male relative.
Both women entered a male-dominated world because there was no male heir. They had to contend with the cultural liability of their sex, as the proper role of a woman was considered being a wife and a mother.
Both Elizabeth’s provided a reign of stability. Queen Elizabeth II’s reign came after the devastation of two World Wars and an abdication. She died at 96 after a reign of 70 years. Elizabeth is known for her unification of the Commonwealth.
Elizabeth I’s reign followed the short reigns of two of her half-siblings. She died at 69, after a reign of 45 years. During her reign England asserted itself as a major European power in politics, trade expansion and the arts. An era of colonization and discovery through major expeditions.
Awesome Elizabeth I and II Were Symbols of the Nation
Awesome Elizabeth I and II fashioned themselves as a symbol of the nation they represented as they both firmly stamped their era. They both worked with people of power during their reign. The hallmarks of both reigns are circumspection, self-control and political acumen.
Elizabeth I played a dominant role in the politics of her day. She had men such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Frances Drake. Elizabeth II kept her hand firmly on what was happening in the worldwide political arena, working with people like Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Margaret Thatcher. Winston Churchill was given a state funeral.
Expectations on Awesome Elizabeth I and II
Huge expectations were placed on awesome Elizabeth I and II. This was at extreme odds with the position of power they were thrust into. Both indisputably proved they could handle the responsibility and demands of the position. They were acutely aware the Crown is only as successful as the relationship they established with the public.
While Elizabeth I had no children, anyone in the royal line aspiring to take her place, had a long wait of 45 years. Who the successor would be, was a highly contested debate. Finally, on her death bed the queen agreed her successor would be James VI of Scotland.
The successor to Queen Elizabeth II was King Charles III. He was the longest serving heir-apparent in British history, ascending to the throne at 73. This also made him the oldest person to assume the Crown.
Elizabeth I chose not to share her throne with a husband. Queen Elizabeth II made Prince Philip her consort with the title of the Duke of Edinburgh, just as Prince Albert remained a consort to Queen Victoria. Had Elizabeth given Philip the title of king, he would have outranked her.
Queen Elizabeth was the first royal to interact with the public in a royal walkabout. The second Elizabeth revived the custom on her second tour in Australia. The royal walkabout breaks the barriers between the monarchy and the public, allowing the monarchy to avoid the appearance of being some distant figure.
Acute Dress Sense
Both queens knew the importance of an acute dress sense. Elizabeth I had a vast array of elaborate dresses and rich jewels. Both being acutely aware of their image to the public. Elizabeth I used her glorious gowns and fabulous jewels as a distraction to what she felt were her physical failings. Queen Elizabeth II was known worldwide for her deliberately chosen brightly coloured and matching outfits.
She said she wanted to stand out in the crowd. Not that there was any danger of her being mistaken for the hoi-polloi, unless she chose to go incognito on her Balmoral estate.
Both Elizabeth’s kept careful control over their royal portraits. Queen Elizabeth II saw sitting for a portrait as part of her royal duty and patiently sat for over 200 portraits, happy to work with the numerous artists. Both women were aware they were not only a political icon, but a cultural one as well. Being a support of the arts, they inserted their own ideas into their portraits.
The second Elizabeth had something the first queen did not have to contend with: the press. Queen Elizabeth II became the most photographed person on the planet, her face recognizable on a global scale. This established Elizabeth II in pop culture, as she was multi-generational.
Awesome Elizabeth I and II Family Antagonist
The awesome Elizabeth I and II had another striking similarity in that they both avoided controversy where possible, but both had an enemy in the family, that threatened to bring the monarchy down. Mary, Queen of Scots was Elizabeth I’s arch enemy and Princess Diana, the daughter-in-law of Elizabeth II. Both women enamoured the public with their charisma and both were descendants of Henry VIII.
Both queens were aware of the fragility of their position and the importance of public opinion. They were threatened by a much younger woman who was an icon of style.
Mary Queen of Scots
Mary had returned from France with a claim to the Scottish throne and appeared as a fairytale Tudor. Diana had a fairytale wedding to the heir apparent, Prince Charles. Both provided a glamourous and romantic beauty that was an alternative to the rule of power. Mary and Diana were in marriages that deteriorated.
Mary said her husband was hotheaded, arrogant, cruel and abusive. She appealed to Elizabeth to help her, but was told to stick with it. Mary’s husband was murdered, and she married the man who was believed to have been the murderer. Scotland rebelled against the couple and her new husband fled the country. Mary fled to England seeking Elizabeth’s help to restore her to the Scottish throne. The queen ignored Mary and confined her to various castles and manor houses in England.
Powerful catholic factions revolted against Elizabeth claiming Mary was the rightful queen of England. After eighteen and a half years in captivity, Mary was found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth. Under immense pressure the queen ordered her cousin to be beheaded in 1586. The queen withdrew from the public.
There was a revolution against the British monarchy, to such a point Philip II of Spain used the situation to launch an attack on England. He sent the Spanish Armada of 30,000 troops and 130 galleons to take revenge for the Catholic Mary’s death.
Elizabeth would not be beaten without a fight. She rode to the south coast and personally addressed the troops. “I come among you as your queen. I am ready to stand and fight with my army.” Miraculously, the Armada was scattered, and the attempt foiled. Mary became a highly romanticized and tragic historical character.
Moving across the centuries, Diana wanted the queen to intervene in her marital problems. Like Elizabeth I, the second Elizabeth chose to protect the House of Windsor, as the Crown had top priority. She told the couple to put a lid on their differences. Diana and Charles were sent on an official trip to South Korea trip as an opportunity to heal the marriage, but the trip had the opposite effect. The marital division became public property.
However, Diana refused to be swept aside and instigated a public hearing of her side of the story and a tell-all book. 22 million people tuned into her interview, which was a declaration of war. There was a massive public outpouring of sympathy for the Princess of People’s Heart. Charles hit back with his own public interview, in an unprecedented revelation of life behind the palace walls.
Finally, the Queen permitted another highly unprecedented event, a royal divorce. Diana was stripped of her HRH title.
Charles and Diana Moved On
Prince Charles married the woman who was at the bottom of a lot of the trouble in his first marriage and Princess Diana tried to live her own life. However, she never disappeared from the public forum, continuing with her charity work and patronage. Landmines and HIV/AIDS being her top priorities.
In 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a tragic accident. The outpouring of communal grief almost brought the monarchy down, when five days of shock and grief turned to anger, when the Queen’s lack of public reaction. Diana was no longer a member of the royal family, and the flag was not flown at half-mast. Rebellion against the monarchy was like a tidal wave. Finally, the Queen addressed the nation as your queen and a grandmother. She not only paid a public tribute to Diana, but relented and allowed Diana to have a public funeral.
The monarchy was saved from oblivion by both queens as they swayed public opinion. However, like Mary before her, Diana became a highly romanticized and tragic historical character.
Awesome Elizabeth I and II Similarities in Death
Both queens lived a long life. The first Elizabeth died at age 69, while the second Elizabeth saw her 95th birthday. Both died peacefully and quietly, after which the nation welcomed a new king. Both reigns of the awesome Elizabeth I and II were remembered with nostalgia and a deep respect. People said there would never be another like Elizabeth I, yet they were proved wrong.
Their Awesome Example
Between the two queens they had more than 140 years of dedicated service where change was a constant. They fundamentally altered the attitude towards a female on the throne. They defied the odds and ensured the stability of the Crown, leaving their heirs a huge gap to fill. They established that women have a unique voice and are as capable of dedicated service and leading a nation. Few of us will rise to that kind of responsibility, (thank goodness) but we can live in a way that will inspire others in our sphere of influence.
Every woman can look at these two queens and be inspired to live a life of quiet dignity where possible, heedless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. Life is difficult and change is a constant, but we can rise above negative circumstances with a little patience and hope for the future. Like the two Elizabeths we need to dig deep and find the inner strength that lies in each of us.
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