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Queen and Country

The Relation between the Monarch and the People in the Development of the English Nation

Edited By Giuseppe Brunetti and Alessandra Petrina

Focussing on the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, this collection of essays investigates the relation between the Queen and her subjects, which shapes contemporary and future politics and is actively crucial in the debate upon the divine right of kings. The book explores the ways in which political power, intensely aware of the possibilities of literature, encourages, ostracizes or manipulates the production of writing. Through the act of writing, the Queen and her country communicate: the moulding of this act of communication is no minor task for the Queen, no minor privilege for her country. The book investigates the Queen’s own writings, with particular attention to her poems and the speeches to the nation; the production of literary culture during her reign, including the presence of oppositional voices; and the treatment of her image and memory, as well as her political legacy, during the reign of James I and Charles I.


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ALESSANDRA PETRINA - Introduction - 9


ALESSANDRA PETRINA Introduction Edmund Spenser’s ‘Most peereles Prince, most peereles Poëtresse’,1 England’s most memorable Queen and a source of endless specula- tions on the part of historians and literary critics alike, Elizabeth polar- ises scholarly attention as a sovereign who lived in, was part of, and partly sparked an extraordinary era for literature and the arts.2 The Tudor kings and queens inherited a sense of the closeness and mutual dependence of politics and poetry, already consolidated under the Lancastrian régime, together with the fruits of the ongoing debate on the relation between history and propaganda, triggered by the human- istically-oriented biographies and chronicles which began to be popu- lar under the York kings. Elizabeth, presented with a formidable chal- lenge, showed herself equal to the intellectual inheritance she had re- ceived: sitting on an insecure throne after decades of political and re- ligious instability, she transformed liabilities such as her gender and her unmarried status into assets, and made active use of the surpris- 1 The Teares of the Muses, line 577. The poem appears in The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser, ed. by J.C. Smith and E. De Selincourt, London: Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1912, pp. 479-86. 2 Among the classical studies on the cult of Elizabeth, we should note at least the following: Frances A. Yates, Astraea: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Cen- tury, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975, and Roy C. Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry, London: Thames...

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