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When I was a boy, there was something amazingly rectifying about Good Queen Bess - Elizabeth I. She was a Marie-Antoinette who knew how to rule. Both women understood the power of attire, but of course only one of them was the sovereign. I was terribly sad about MA when I was young, but I was correspondingly keen about Elizabeth. She invented Shakespeare!

As one grows up, the story becomes complicated. Elizabeth was a terrible procrastinator who hated making decisions, not because she was lazy but because she doubted her own abilities. She was, after all, a woman, in her own mind, a weak vessel. But she always rallied, and her people loved her. She was the first female sovereign to claim widespread appeal. I liked the idea of a woman in charge, even before I knew that Elizabeth was madly seeking the best advice of her male advisors.

It's utterly impudent of me to say so, but I wonder what the Virgin Queen and I would talk about were we to have a lunch date. Elizabeth is second only to Mme de Pompadour as my Fly on the Wall candidate, but when it comes to guts of actually meeting somebody, I think I'd be more comfortable with Elizabeth than with La Pomp. Elizabeth would size me up in a minute and declare me ignorant of Latin (she'd get to Greek later), and then say something perfectly anodyne: "I hope that you have been made comfortable." Ach, what have I said. That's Elizabeth Two. The first queen would have said, "I'm glad you can dance, Mr Keefe."

Dates>History Books>Elizabeth: the Young Gloriana.


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I learned the word "pusillanimous" when I was 12 reading my mother's copy of "Elizabeth and Essex." You always remember where you were when you had to look up interesting words. I'd vote for fly-on-the-wall if Essex was there too.

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