The social turmoil Henry VIII (and his first two crowned children) introduced would ultimately lead England into a Civil War, but two monarchs managed to maintain stability and peace despite the opposing forces.
Elizabeth I and James I/VII not only maintained English stability and fostered some of England’s greatest cultural institutions – it was their reigns that saw colonization efforts begin.
The foundations of English America were different from those of French or Spanish America. English colonists weren’t soldiers, and the English government didn’t really participate in the efforts. Instead, it was individual people who looked across the ocean and saw opportunities.
People who couldn’t buy land could get land in the New World. People who couldn’t find jobs could get jobs in the New World. People who didn’t like the direction society was taking could build societies they approved of there, and people who felt oppressed could escape that oppression.
It was a pressure valve, giving Englishmen of all classes hope where they might not have otherwise seen it.
My favorite books on this topic are:
First hand documents and articles I mentioned during the show:
Elizabeth I’s Golden Speech – The Virgin Queen’s last speech before Parliament.
We know how to prize, but Loyalty, Love, and Thanks, I account them invaluable: and though God hath raised Me high, yet this I account the glory of my Crown, that I have Reigned with your Loves. This makes that I do not so much Rejoyce, that God hath made Me to be a Queen, as to be a Queen over so Thankful a People.
Gunpowder – BBC
By the way, you know we covered the Gunpowder Plot in this episode, and if you’ve listened to future episodes, you know it comes up quite a lot in the Jamestown Series, too. If you like historical dramas, Gunpowder is a great one, depicting the plot, as well as the politics of the time (including problems faced by Catholics in the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras). Minor things were changed for the sake of translating the story to screen, but it’s remarkably accurate.
The major complaint people have about it is how brutal it is, but honestly it wasn’t excessive. I was dreading the brutality, expecting some Game of Thrones-like stylized violence, but it wasn’t there. It was appropriate to the story, no more or less than required. Plus, no sex scenes or profanity. Gunpowder was just a very accurate dramatization of a truly fascinating story, as well as characters (like James and Cecil) who appear in our own story time and time again.