The Poems of Queen Elizabeth I Background

The Poems of Queen Elizabeth I Background

Queen Elizabeth I was the third longest ruler of the England, reigning for 45 years. Over the course of nearly half a century of as supreme ruler of the powerful monarchy in the world, Queen Elizabeth had produced enough letters and speeches to fill volumes and had inspired poets and playwrights. Lesser known among voluminous amount of literary works related to the Virgin Queen are the fifteen poems she herself composed.

One of the poems attributed to Elizabeth is so attributed because it was found scratched on a window in the cell in which she was briefly imprisoned while at Woodstock. The provenance of this poem also gives the verse its rather telling title: “Written with a Diamond.” Another notable poem is concerned with the life-long mystery as to whether Elizabeth would ever produce an heir. “On Monsieur’s Departure” is filled with imagery that offers a glimpse into the complications of courtly love rituals that her would-be lovers faced when dealing with a figurehead of a nation on whom every eye in that nation was trained.

Worth nothing is that Elizabeth’s father—King Henry VIII—was something of an aesthete himself before spiraling into gluttony and various mental instabilities. In addition to having composed the Christmas favorite “Greensleeves” Elizabeth’s father also composed a number of poems. Thus far the scholarly opinion is that the talent of the father did not get passed onto the daughter. While Elizabeth’s poems are considered valuable for their insight into Elizabethan courtly ritual and her own unique status as a monarch, they have generally been dismissed as signs of an incipient literary genius obstructed from flowering fully due to a commitment to other duties.

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