Did you know that Queen Elizabeth I was a poet? I did not. I find this endlessly interesting.
Queen Elizabeth was the second daughter of King Henry VIII (you know, the one with six wives) and Anne Boleyn, who was rumored to have eleven fingers, and who was executed by her husband on charges of adultery and plotting to kill the King. Henry married Anne's lady in waiting, Jane Seymour, just ten days after Anne's execution, and then deemed his three year old daughter illegitimate. What a guy. But I digress.
Then, when Elizabeth, a Protestant, was twenty, she was thrown into prison in Woodstock Castle by her Catholic elder sister, Mary I (ever heard of Bloody Mary? Named for her ruthless persecution of Protestants). Elizabeth was held in the prison during her sister's entire reign, from 1553-1558. When Mary died, Elizabeth was brought out of prison, and as the only remaining heir to the throne, became queen at age 25.
Poor Liz had such high expectations on her to marry; not only to produce an heir to the throne, but to form a wealthy alliance with another country. Oh, the royal pressure! Sadly, things never worked out for her. Some say it was her choice, but I argue that Queen Elizabeth, like so many of us, was a woman spurned.
She had several suitors through the years, but nothing worked out. I believe she was truly in love with one man, the French Duke of Anjou. But, for some reason, marriage negotiations were broken off, and he left England in 1582. The resulting poem, "On Monsieur's Departure" is on my list of favorite poems, probably because I have felt what she feels in this poem. And really, who hasn't?
On Monsieur's Departure
I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be suppressed.
Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love e'er meant.
I don't know about you, but I'm impressed.