Sunday, March 24, 2013

Admiring Elizabeth

About a year ago, I was at first intrigued, then, taken aback by the exciting and decadent life of Henry VIII, the English monarch father of the first Queen Elizabeth of England, as portrayed in The Tudors, the historical English drama fiction serialized in UK television created by Michael Hirst, filmed in Ireland, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing the character of King Henry VIII. I was totally enthralled by the character that must have been Henry VIII, how charming and vain he was, how untrammelled in his sexual appetite, how irrational in his statesmanship and in his policy-making, I was willing to be taken in for a voyeuristic ride except for the disturbing scenes which I could not accept: the senseless slaughter of peasants who questioned and opposed Henry’s policies of shutting down and ransacking of abbeys in rural England, the untrammelled use of the torture machine inside the Tower of London to extract confessions from suspected heretics; the untiring and overzealous witch hunting carried to the height of abuses that led to the death of so many innocent people. Yet, what really struck me was how accurately and astutely Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth figured out on her own how to survive as a woman in that patriarchal world: how rightfully and correctly she had guessed that her marrying someone, whether for love or for any other reason, will erode her power as a queen, and might even annihilate her as a person. And so, Elizabeth, the astute Queen Elizabeth, deemed enemy and political rival of King Philip of Spain (the monarch in whose name tributes were extracted from the Philippines) lorded it all in England, ushering in the era of English history that brought about the likes of William Shakespeare. But the reason I was struck by Elizabeth figuring out the equation of power all by herself, was because it took me years to understand that woman question myself, as it manifested itself in my life; and then, when I understood it completely, it was already too late. I could no longer do anything about it. I admire Elizabeth for holding it out, for being so tough and strong, for keeping her emotions (and affection) in check and for keeping the men at bay while she stayed in power.

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