In our sexually enlightened (obsessed?) times, discovering that a female monarch was once celebrated as "the Virgin Queen" immediately calls the pronouncement itself into question. Doth the lady protest too much?
The chaste public image campaign of the (ostensibly) childless spinster Queen Elizabeth I -- selling her to English Catholic revolutionaries as something like a royal, secular Virgin Mary -- was a piece of pure agitprop. And a brilliant one at that, engineered in no small part by her political genius of a chief counselor, William Cecil, Baron Burghley.
Queen Elizabeth was a woman with her own private sexual appetites. And no doubt like anyone else, some were fulfilled, some not. But, as
The movie's director Roland Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day) has never been known to let the facts get in the way of a blockbuster storyline. The man has a track record for getting millions of butts into movie seats all over the planet. So let me not here be guilty of pettifogging a tub of popcorn.
On the other hand, the latest book that does unequivocally assert the royal incest theory of Oxford, Elizabeth and Southampton
Nowhere have I seen a more thorough consideration of SLK than in Christopher Paul's review [PDF] in the 2011 edition of the online journal Brief Chronicles. Anyone interested in the so-called "Prince Tudor" debate would be well advised to familiarize themselves with Paul's characteristically cogent analysis.
Shakespeare Oxford Society-Shakespeare Fellowship conference in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13-16, I'm going to be presenting my own take on this crucial question that Anonymous will be raising.
"Prince Tudor: The Elephant in the Room" is now slated as the Saturday (Oct. 15) keynote address from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. If the conference committee can secure a special preview screening of Anonymous (which debuts in cinemas nationwide on Oct. 28) for earlier in the day, I will also be joining a panel of authors and researchers discussing the film.
If you think Elizabeth did have children -- whether her offspring was the 17th Earl of Oxford (aka "Shakespeare") or the 3rd Earl of Southampton (aka the "fair youth" of The Sonnets) or both -- the historical documents Christopher Paul presents in his review of Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom should at least give a fair-minded reader pause to reflect. If you think the answer to the title question to this post is "No," Paul puts more arrows in your quiver for the Prince Tudor debates that Anonymous will only be stirring up.
In either case, it's important too not to lose sight of the biggest Anonymous debate: Did Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford write the "Shakespeare" works? That this question is being raised for countless television and movie viewers around the world is certainly exciting. (Remember, people don't need to see the movie to see this riddle posed. That's something the trailer itself practically asks.)
What do you think? Was Queen Elizabeth the mother to one or both of the key players in the "Shakespeare" story? If not, is Anonymous a good thing or does it muddy the waters? No such thing as bad publicity?
"We'll debate," someone once wrote, "By what safe means the crown may be recover'd."
**Aug. 9 edit: **
I am thrilled to be able to provide readers here a sneak peek at how Anonymous handles the Prince Tudor question(s). This afternoon, I corresponded with John Orloff, Anonymous's screenwriter. He said, for the record,
Oxford's parentage is handled in the film in a manner that leaves it as a mere possibility that Oxford and Elizabeth committed incest. A character-- Oxford's rival and enemy, Robert Cecil-- informs Oxford that Oxford is the bastard son of Elizabeth. But Cecil might be lying in order to crush Oxford's spirit by making Oxford think not only was he a bastard, but that he had committed the sin of incest as well. Oxford immediately replies by saying "You lie!"
John also clarified a point I corrected above: Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom was not a source text or inspiration for Anonymous. (In fact, he said, Anonymous's screenplay predates Beauclerk's book.) I'd like to publicly apologize to John for misstating such a connection and hope this clarification can help to settle some of the speculation.
(Creative Commons image by Koshyk)