Elizabeth Pursued and Pursuing: The Valois Marriage Stakes
The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
The story of Elizabeth’s marriage stakes is generally well known, but perhaps some of the details are not; I think of those surrounding the approaches made by France to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s responses to France. The language used in the negotiations is of particular interest; looking at what was said by the principal figures one cannot help but feel, at times, to be a spectator at a play. Their words are revelatory of their specific characters – the blunt, the worldly-wise, the diplomatic, the shrewd, the cunning, the naive. Shakespeare would need but little labour to work them onto his stage. Indeed, the crafted functionality of this language makes one feel that these historical personages perceived themselves to be actors on a stage with specific dramatic roles to serve. Perhaps what I have in mind is T.S. Eliot’s notion of “unified sensibility'?, extended from the realm of drama and poetry into that of everyday affairs. For in the various excerpts from the state papers consulted by Edith Sichel, Maria Perry and Josephine Ross which I use in this essay we will see that “feeling'?, to refer to Eliot’s term, has not become dissociated from intellect. This language is an entertainment in its own right, reason enough to present the subject to the reader, perhaps.
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