A – Z of Elizabethan Times

E is for:

Elizabeth I

When Elizabeth followed her half-sister Mary Tudor as Queen, the whole country rejoiced. They longed for peace and religious tolerance. Under Mary, a devout Catholic, over 300 people were burned at the stake for holding heretic views. The beautiful Princess Elizabeth was 25 when she came to the throne and 70 when she died. Although pressed by her Councillors, she never married and died a virgin. She was learned, accomplished and spoke a number of languages fluently, being superlatively eloquent in English. A superb diplomat, she used her marriage prospects to counter European diplomacy and as an incentive for her supporters at home, to serve her with their lives and wealth. She put the religious and political freedom of England above everything and could have married Philip of Spain and lived happily ever after, except for that. It turned Philip from an ardent suitor to the man who plotted her assassination and, when that failed, he despatched the Armada. Elizabeth’s England triumphed and, a from small off-shore island, went on to become a world power.

Entertainment

Elizabethans enjoyed card games such as gleek (see G is for Gleek) and primero (see P is for) and often gambled on the games. It was not usually a good idea to play against the Queen Elizabeth. She loved to gamble and won more than her fair share of hands. Lord North lost over seventy pounds to her over a four year period. Embroidery was much safer, particularly if you were a prisoner like Mary Stuart. She was very prolific and her embroideries where exquisite.

Printing presses were also producing and absolute torrent of books and ballad sheets. The Elizabethans loved to read, sing and dance. When all else failed, there was always gossip, which was a favourite pastime of the elderly. The Queen and her favourites, astronomy and when have the English not talked about the weather. Outside the home and most particularly in London, there was much to do. P The latest plays, free concerts at the Royal Exchange every Sunday in Summer. There was bear baiting, bull baiting and cock fighting and of course there was always sport. archery was going out of fashion as a weapon of war, but Elizabeth still required all male subjects between seven and sixty to possess bows and arrows and know how to use them. You could be prosecuted for not complying with the law. Small-arms shooting was perhaps more fashionable for the young. Real tennis as it is now called was also practised. There was a court at the Crutched Friars next to the glass-works that features in the Glassmaker Series. Football had no aristocratic supporters and many decriers. it was condemned by a prominent educationalist as “nothing but fury and external violence, whence proceedeth hurt and consequently rancour and malice do remain with them that be wounded” Change the English to modern language and it sounds familiar to me!

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