It would appear that it is impossible for certain people to believe that a sixteenth-century Queen could, wanted to or even was allowed to live unmarried. In our own society, in which sex is all the rage, it is probably even more difficult to conceive. In the end we confuse freedom with behaving like everybody else.
Queen Elizabeth was prone to jealousy and she was not immune to flattery. However, against the wishes of her subjects and the advice of her counsellors she chose a life of celibacy. This very celibacy was the guarantee for the conservation of her power. Elizabeth, who was an excellent Queen, a regent of peace and the bride of England, did not need the interventions and the possible encroachments on power of a husband. Should she have married (and that was the only option open for sexuality) then she would have had to share her power with her husband (such was the prevalent opinion of the period). And Elizabeth’s own traumatic experience as a child is likely to have influenced her decision. At the age of three her mother Anne Boleyn was sentenced to death by her father. She was temporarily barred from the succession as a bastard. She had witnessed the execution of Lady Jane Grey, a girl as gifted as herself, an execution that was as much and perhaps even more owed to the lust for power of her relatives, her father-in-law John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk. Her virginity was both her fate and her decision; it defined her individuality and her greatness. Elizabeth wasn't simply “the first”, she was also “number one”- she was a true Queen who remained autonomous in all her actions.
To all those who would believe the aspersions cast by Mary Stuart and other enemies, that she had a secret sex life, that she was a liar, a witch, an intriguer, let it be said: There is not a shred of documentation indicating a double life, or falsehood of any kind. Mary Stuart's laundry room gossip was designed to tarnish the impeccable reputation of the Queen, but it fizzled out before any serious notice was taken. Moreover, Elizabeth was the most guarded and closely observed person in the country. As she said herself: There were witnesses to every move that she made. Most important of all, Elizabeth was the head of the Church of England. As the “defender of the faith” she had vowed to uphold the virtues of honesty and loyalty. Those who flaunted these principles behind her back (even when it was “only” in matters of the heart) were sent for a “holiday” in the Tower, so as to have time to consider the error of their ways, after which they faced months, or even years , of banishment from court. This “Diana” could be gracious and she could be vengeful, but she was never erratic or inconsistent.
The bed-room stories about Queen Elizabeth are on the one hand a foolish pack of lies and on the other hand they are a cowardly attempt to usurp her throne posthumously. The Oxfordian Prince-Tudor theory is no exception. If we are to follow the wisdom of exalted amateur historians, the Queen shared her bed with the young Earl of Oxford, just one year after she had hosted his marriage to the daughter of Lord Burghley, her chief advisor. The Earl of Southampton is supposed to have ensued from this union. The proof of this rests on the overheated fantasies of those who would believe that Oxford (alias SHAKESPEARE) wrote the sonnets for his own son.
Nothing, but nothing supports this ridiculous theory. During the time that Elizabeth and the Earl of Oxford worked together she never favoured him in any way, there were no undeserved presents. On the contrary. She kept part of the lands that he had inherited and she wouldn't let him out of the trap that her treasury department had manoeuvred him in to. Furthermore, she never treated Southampton like a son, otherwise he wouldn't have organised a rebellion with the Earl of Essex.
The sonnets to the youth do not show the faintest sign of a father-son relationship, not even in the most twisted fantasies.
The Prince-Tudor theory is devoid of substance, but such is the stuff of which many a Hollywood film is made.
Hiding behind the pretext of uncovering the truth, truth is infected by sensationalism.
Perhaps we shouldn't be so hard on fairy stories. After all, Shakespeare's Richard III didn't have much to do with historic reality. Are Schiller's dramas or Verdi's operas bad just because they show us a history that never was?
The world needs fairy stories and we need entertaining films. Surely nobody could take offence at the film “Shakespeare in Love”. It was a charming and gripping story of a farmer's boy who turned out to be a genius. It is, however offensive in the extreme when the writers of pop song lyrics and horror film scripts deliberately alter the facts about historic figures, defame their characters and, to the delight of all, drag their reputations down in the mud.
Yes, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain wrote the Shakespearian works, but he was not the lover of the virgin Queen, neither was he her son nor was he Southamton’s dad or Elizabeth Southampton’s granny-mom.