chapter  5
26 Pages

The Queen and the Court

To her own courtiers and to foreign dignitaries, Elizabeth showed herself off both as a queen and as a woman. She played both parts, and she played them for all she was worth. Edmund Spenser, in The Faerie Queene, recognised the duality and portrayed her as Gloriana, ‘a most royal queen and empress’, and as Belphoebe, ‘a most virtuous and beautiful lady’. The ritual and celebrations of the Court were built around a cult of Elizabeth in the two roles: she was both above the Court, as a sovereign claiming the fealty of her knights, and o f the Court, as the virgin lady for whose honour the knights fought at the tilt. The Court served as a splendid pal­ ace for the display of majesty, but also as a more intimate forum for romantic play-acting and political seduction. For Elizabeth attempted to control her councillors and her magnates by drawing them into a web of personal, even emotional, relationships with her, in which she was by turns queen and coquette. She expected her politicians to be courtiers, so that she politicised the Court and made politics courdy: as Sir John Davies noted:

All junerals, nuptials and like public sights, All parliaments of peace and warlike fights, All learned arts and every great affair A lively shape of dancing seems to bear?