Friday, December 23, 2011

Elizabeth I & Her Toyboy Essex

In his major new examination of the Elizabethans, historian A.N. Wilson details the passionate love Queen Elizabeth I felt for several men throughout her reign. Here, in the final part of the Mail’s exclusive serialisation, Wilson reflects on the Queen’s later years — and her disastrous infatuation with a courtier young enough to be her grandson . . .

By the time she was in her mid-60s, the Virgin Queen had grown prematurely old, with a ‘goggle throat’ and ‘a great gullet hanging out’.

But if Elizabeth was long past her springtime, so was her once dynamic country. The new French ambassador travelled from Dover to London in 1597 through a landscape he described as ‘wild and untilled’.

In her palace in Whitehall, he was taken to meet her as she sat in a low chair, all by herself and melancholy, almost as if she had been abandoned. Her long, thin face was lined. Her ‘teeth were very yellow and unequal’. On either side of her ears, two great curls hung from beneath a somewhat fantastical red wig.

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