Parallel lives

Elizabeth I

I can’t help marking the passing of a second Elizabethan Age here in a post, especially as I was in the crowd on the Mall as a lad of four – coincidentally the same age then as the boy who would be king Charles III – to watch the young queen drive by in her golden coach to Westminster Abbey to be crowned. And then, several hours later, back to Buckingham Palace. All this of course on 2nd June 1953.

Refreshing what I remembered from school about the first queen of that name brought to light a few inexact parallels with the late monarch, parallels which I thought I would share here while they’re fresh in my mind.

And whether you’re a monarchist or a republican – and though on the fence I lean more towards the second frame of mind – I feel it’s important to acknowledge the seven decades of her reign, especially while the UK is still in its prolonged period of enforced mourning. How does Queen Lilibet compare with Good Queen Bess?

Elizabeth II

Elizabeth Tudor was 25 when she became queen.
Elizabeth Windsor was also 25 when she became queen.

Elizabeth I. 1533-1603.
Became queen in 1558.

Her father became king because her uncle Arthur had previously died.

She lived for nearly 70 years.

Elizabeth II. 1926-2022.
Became queen in 1952.

Her father became king because her uncle Edward had previously abdicated.

She reigned for 70 years.

Elizabeth I was born 7th September ’33.
Elizabeth II died the day after, on the 8th September ’22.
I do like the almost poetic proximity in those September dates, and the numerical ‘rhyming’ of twenty-two and thirty-three, but of course there’s nothing significant to be drawn from these near coincidences …

Oh, and both Elizabethan governments had a troubled relationship with continental Europe, with Scotland and with Ireland – so nothing new, then.

Incidentally, the pan-European origins of the new king’s forenames are clear to see.
Charles (popular with the Scottish Stuart kings and deriving from German-French, meaning “free man”)
Philip (Greek “fond of horses”, after his father Philip, born prince of Greece and Denmark with the surname Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg)
Arthur (legendary Welsh king, the root of the name possibly from arth meaning “bear”, and a nod to the Tudor monarchs)
George (from Greek “farmer”, a name borne by four Hanoverian kings). 

Maybe this nominative legacy will prove auspicious in the new Carolean era when the UK could well see a rapprochement with Europe and a return to stability – and, above all, to sanity.

25 thoughts on “Parallel lives

    1. I think Ireland’s custom of choosing a largely apolitical but distinguished president (eg ex European Commissioner, Senator, Professor of Law, or Arts and Culture minister) may be a good precedent for Australia to follow. But would even that happen without controversy?

      Personally, if you’re going to have a constitutional monarch as Head of State I’d prefer it to be one which was vastly slimmed down, not one of the bloated landowning over-privileged family we have today as head of the Commonwealth.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. By all means let’s be positive, Karen! 🙂 Maybe we’ll eventually get a Commonwealth that actually lives up to its name and promise then? But yes, for the moment as an Elizabethan Age ends we can bask in a pathos that teeters mightily on a bathetic precipice …

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Parallel lives – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  2. An interesting piece. I’ve been affected more than I expected, given my strong republican leanings; I put my thoughts down in my blog the other day and I’m observing the day of mourning and not criticising people for mourning more or less than I am, if that makes sense, as there seems to be quite a lot of judging at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all react differently at moments like this, don’t we, not just to the event itself but to other people’s responses which can either move or irritate us. Like many I have mixed reactions, especially as I fear the hiatus that the coincidence of a political leadership contest and the official mourning after the passing of a monarch has distracted us all from the existential threats to our way of life.

      Having lived through the whole of the late Queen’s reign I can say I’ve never felt as fearful – the Cold War and Thatcher notwithstanding – as I do now. Pomp and queues and marmalade sandwiches are equivalent to fiddling while Rome burns; if I didn’t laugh at these excesses I would cry. Sorry to be maudlin.


    1. I saw a Clement Attlee quote the other day, Karen – “Let us hope we are witnessing the beginning of a new Elizabethan age no less renowned than the first” – and that was how I remember those early decades being described, a new Elizabethan age. Ushered in by Hope, I sense that Despair is now the doorman, and what glittered is now tarnished.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. Hah! Charles III’s hair is so much more bouffant than mine (scil I’m bald) that no wig is needed – unless he wants to look like Captain Hook!


            2. I believe Hook was modelled on the merry monarch: Barrie is quoted as declaring Hook as wearing “an attire associated with the name of Charles II,” and of course the Disney version has fixed that vision for us forever,. hasn’t it, presumably based on early pantomine roles and illustrations.


            1. “Chuck-les” for Charles III, very good! I fear the new king’s reign won’t exactly be a bed of roses as he’s inherited a tangle of crises which even his mother was unable to do anything about.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. piotrek

    I always admired Elizabeth II, she seemed to be hard working and quite skilled at her peculiar job. Monarchy in XXI century, so strange… but it gives you some stabilization in your system and someone high up who is beyond the political conflicts of the day. Perhaps, countries like Ireland are able to elect someone who performs similar role… but in Poland it’s not possible, and the current one is the worst of them all, a clownish servant of the regime.

    So, perhaps we need a monarch? No, that would be even worse, with our luck we’d get someone as mediocre, but here to stay for decades.

    I’m afraid what I envy is not one institution or another, but what remains of your political culture. Do try to preserve it 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’ll be an uphill Sisyphean struggle to restore the political culture we’ve already had taken away from us, Piotrek, let alone retain what’s left, but thanks for recognising that its positive aspects aren’t necessarily present elsewhere – which you’ll know all about of course…

      As for Elizabeth II, her legacy is what she chose to focus on: duty, moral leadership, community. There’s no guarantee those qualities will continue with her successors, especially as one of her predecessors – her uncle Edward VIII – had very dodgy political leanings.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Like you Chris “I feel it’s important to acknowledge the seven decades of her reign”. She was one of a kind and we are likely never to see her “kind” again. And that is a loss. And every loss must be mourned.

    Unlike you, I was not on the Mall on that Coronation Day. (My parents were not republican, but they certainly were never royal followers.)

    Rather, I was in a neighbouring wartime, tarpaulin-sided hut on a concrete slab in the middle of a field in Wiltshire watching my first ever television and longing to be outside playing. As I know you know, the coronation as the first experience of TV is a common one for our generation. Kate Atkinson wrote about it in “Behind the Scenes at the Museum.”

    It took another decade for my parents to rent a set.

    Thanks for the parallels. Always interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have the Atkinson to read, so I’m even more eager to enjoy it now! Television in 1953 – I have vague memories of seeing highlights of the Coronation soon after the event, but most of my experience of television in the fifties was when we returned to Hong Kong later in 1953 and had programmes relayed to the set in our flat by Rediffusion. Still, I can appreciate your boredom in that Wiltshire field – can you imagine how confused I was standing for hours in that crowd waiting for the coach to return!

      But yes, acknowledgement – every commentator has mentioned her steadfast sense of duty over those seven decades and that selfless instinct of hers should of course be acknowledged, respected and marvelled at. I shall also remember the many hints from anecdotes of her mischievous sense of humour, along with her love of animals, the last which must surely reflect an uncertainty over how genuine were the personal relationships humans sought with her as both sovereign and celebrity.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I started Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes years ago and for no particular reason never finished it. Now I too am inspired to return to it. Thanks for this piece, Chris, in which you struck just the right note at this moment of transition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked your piece on postage stamps too, Josna, a stimulating post I mean to return to and comment on. And as you say, this is a moment of transition, and ripe of some form of reflection.

      Liked by 1 person

Do leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.