Today we celebrate the birth of Elizabeth, Queen of England on September 7th 1533. After a turbulent forst twenty-five years of life, she eventually inherited the throne from her sister Mary in 1558.
Elizabeth was frighteningly clever, speaking something like five languages by the time she was five, and able to read and translate on her own, texts from and into French, Latin, Greek and Italian. But she also had grreat charm, and wit, and the writings of those who owed her no favour, confirm this.
She was the 'Virgin Queen' (an image carefully managed), 'Good Queen Bess'
who at the same time, with the help of her cheif spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham (former Recorder of Colchester, tuened England into the first modern police state. Yet despite this, she is considered to be a truly great monarch, and is one of those that all britiah people know of without hesitation.
Elizabeth reigned for forty-five years, and is to my mind the greatest monarch ever to sit on the throne of England or Britian. She helped restore England as a force in the world as it was known at the time, and her reputation is confirmed by her great speech at Tilbury in 1588, on the eve of the defeat of the Great Armada.
There were many attempts to bring her down, not least by Catholics who lamented the passing of Mary (called 'Bloody Mary' by subsequent protestant historians), who wished to restore the 'old faith' to England. Elizabeth tried to guide a middle way between the two, although eventually her protestrantism won through.
There have been three great portrayals of her over the years, Glenda Jackson (MP for Hampstead) and Helen Mirren on television, and Cate Blanchett on the big screen. Elizabeth is a symbol of all that Britain was, and how we like to portray ourselves in history. A resolute, determined nation, who will not bow to anybody, and like to do things our own way.