It seems that every King and Queen of this country has had their reign defined by an era. Whether it be Edwardian or Georgian to the great Victorian. Perhaps two of the greatest eras in our history are our two Elizabethan periods. It is fair to say that the two monarchs of these two periods have gone and will go down as two of the greatest Queens this country has ever seen. It did get me thinking though about just how different the two Elizabeths actually are.
1. Both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II were never born to become Queens, both never expected to take on the role due to there being relatives in front of them who would take on the role before them. In the first Elizabeth’s case, after her Father King Henry VIII died, the crown was passed to her half brother who became King Edward VI. Moments before dying, Edward bequeathed the crown to his cousin Lady Jane Grey. After the “nine days queen” was executed, Elizabeth’s half sister became Queen Mary I so in reality the likelihood of Elizabeth becoming Queen was very slim. It wasn’t until 1558 when Mary died, did Elizabeth finally become Queen. In the case of Elizabeth II, when she was born, she was third in line to the throne after her father and uncle. It wasn’t until the 1936 abdication crisis when her uncle King Edward VIII renounced the throne and her father became King George VI, did she become heiress presumptive eventually becoming Queen Elizabeth II.
2. Both Queens are the fifth Monarchs of their respective dynasties, Tudor and Windsor (formerly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha). The Tudor dynasty began with King Henry VII, succeeded by King Henry VIII, followed by his son King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and finally Queen Elizabeth I. The Saxe-Coburg / Windsor dynasty began with King Edward VII in 1901 followed by his son King George V, the short lived reign of King Edward VIII, his brother King George VI and finally our present Monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
3. Although minor similarities, both Queens were and are very popular among their subjects and their duty as monarch was and is taken very seriously by both. The two Elizabeths are also both daughters of second sons.
Although there are great similarities between the two Monarchs, there are also some obvious differences.
4. Both reigns have seen significant changes in the global power of their country. During the first Elizabethan era there was a huge rise in the global power of England, mainly down to the influence of Elizabeth herself. Compare this to the reign of Elizabeth II and there is significant retreat from empire and England isn’t the global power it once was. We must point out that this is not the fault of our Monarch.
5. Queen Elizabeth I was an absolute monarch meaning she exercised ultimate governing authority, her powers were not limited by law and in theory she exercised total power over her realm and her people. Queen Elizabeth II is a constitutional monarch meaning she acts as head of state within the guidelines of a constitution. She employs a parliamentary system where there is a Prime Minister – a Prime Minister is head of government and exercises effective political power. Elizabeth II may not have the powers of her predecessor Elizabeth I, however Prime Ministers come and go, Monarchs are there for life. (Queen Elizabeth II is currently on her twelfth Prime Minister).
6. Elizabeth I is known as “The Virgin Queen” owing to the fact that she never married or produced an heir. Elizabeth II on the other hand has been married to Prince Philip now for nearly 66 years and produced four heirs, she now has many grandchildren and even great-grandchildren ensuring the House of Windsor will survive and evolve for generations to come.
Nobody can argue that the two Elizabethan eras this country has seen, have seen this country at its best and sometimes in times of strife and nobody can argue that the two Elizabeths will go down as two of the greatest most dutiful Monarchs this realm has ever seen. My question to readers is this:
If in a thousand years time you had the chance to choose to live through one of the Elizabethan eras, which one would you choose and why?