To the Editor:
Queen Elizabeth I was never the male heir that King Henry VIII wanted but she started the British Empire — history’s largest — and it lasted until Queen Elizabeth II shut it down just after she heard the ‘rumor,’ while in the trees of Kenya, that her father had suddenly and unexpectantly died.
From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, the British Empire – centered in its powerhouse motherland the United Kingdom – reached the beginning of its zenith under the heavy-handed and very determined Queen Victoria when she castrated the East India Company — the world’s former wealthiest and most powerful corporation — after it mismanaged India and caused the tumultuous Sepoy Rebellion.
This EVE — Elizabeth I, Victoria, Elizabeth II — Arch of world-dominating power gave the United Kingdom unparalleled greatness which still resonates through the 56 member countries of The Commonwealth of Nations today. At her death, Elizabeth II was the head of state of 32 independent states.
Also today, the United States’ red and white striped national flag was ‘copied’ from the East India Company’s ensign (ship flag), which was created to be used by this joint-stock company after Elizabeth I chartered it in 1600. She knighted Sir Francis Drake, the first captain to circumnavigate the Earth (alive). He is also heralded as the greatest pirate/privateer. Elizabeth I chartered England’s first and second colonies in North America under the direction of Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh, but neither succeeded. However, Raleigh did name the central part of North America Virginia after her — the virgin queen. She oversaw the rising popularity of tobacco in England and pursued the famed city of gold, El Dorado. Sir Walter Raleigh gave her his great ship/ark that was renamed the Ark Royal and was the flagship of England during the war with the Spanish Armada.
Elizabeth I was the presumptive heir to the English throne at birth, but her father did all that he could to stop that from happening, even killing two of his wives.
Victoria became ruler after the death of her husband — thus becoming the “widow of Windsor.” Always wearing her mourning black and eating voraciously, she loved her power like she had her husband, and she devoured the world like she did her food. Declared the Empress of India in 1877 and ruling the empire for 63 years, she lorded over a quarter of the world’s land area during her reign.
Elizabeth II’s uncle King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 so that he could marry an American divorcee. This meant that her reluctant father would be King George VI, along with his hesitation and speech impediment. Later on, Elizabeth II was in Kenya, which was turned into one of the last of the British colonies in 1920, when she heard the word of her royal appointment from her husband Philip during a walk by their treetop resort. Ironically, Phillip heard the word both through a chain of others and a radio while Elizabeth was writing a letter to her father. Pamela Hicks, who was also there at the time, said, “She goes up [the treehouse] as a princess. The King dies that night. She comes down the ladder as Queen. We [Elizabeth and her family and friends in Kenya] were the last people in the world to hear.”
Prior to her 70-year reign as queen, Elizabeth II gave a radio announcement at the age of 14 to offer courage to children during WW II and later joined the Auxilliary Territorial Service as a driver and mechanic, the first woman in the royal family to serve as a full-time member of the armed services. Her father and mother refused to leave London during the war and the air raids, and she spent the war in suburban London at Windsor Castle and celebrated in the streets of London during VE Day while incognito in the crowds.
Elizabeth II’s first prime minister was the then old and always cantankerous Winston Churchill who famously gave his WW II “We shall fight on the beaches” speech, reminiscent of Elizabeth I’s determined and obstinate speech prior to the attack by the great Spanish Armada in 1588. In her speech to the troops of Tilbury on the Thames River of London she said, “And therefore I am come amongst you at this time … in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king, and a king of England … I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field … we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom and of my people.”
Sir Francis Drake’s heroics, antics and fireships during the battles with the Spanish Armada were myth, legend and lore all at their absolute best. It was believed that Elizabeth I was going to stay at Windsor Castle during the naval war/invasion, but it did not work out so well for the Spanish.
This ‘kingdom,’ centered in London in southwest Great Britain, was united as world history’s most expansive and at one time most powerful empire by these three great matriarchs. A true Queendom for the ages.
Teacher, Center Grove High School