Front Page Titles (by Subject) 82.: On Elizabeth of England - Judgments on History and Historians
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82.: On Elizabeth of England - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On Elizabeth of England
(I) After the battle of Bosworth the Tudors were able to base their power substantially on the nation’s repugnance for any further civil war. People were willing to put up with anything but a fight between heads of factions. They gave up parliamentary rights and safeguards against judicial arbitrariness, even the salvation of their souls, if only there was a strong government that steered the ship of state with a firm hand. Where it was going did not matter so much. In this sense, actually only Edward VI’s reign had been dangerous, because factious heads were fighting again; right after that, the absolutist Mary was again allowed to do anything she pleased.
Through the question of succession Elizabeth not only gets on the side of Western European Protestantism, but also becomes its head. With the Tudors’ system of eradicating all possible claimants to the succession in the country itself, the dynasty finally devolves on one person. Besides, the Stuarts of Scotland are undeniably the nearest heirs. But Elizabeth does not want the question of succession to be dealt with at all. Mary Stuart, who has fled to England, is arrested and eventually beheaded; James VI, however, for the time being remains but a very doubtful successor.
Then the old maid, without allies, passes the great test in the form of the Armada. To be sure, we do not know what might have happened without the helpful storm in the Channel. Now her welfare and that of the overwhelming majority of the nation were bound up together.
(II) Elizabeth, who had inherited papal hatred from Mary, was driven to defection from Rome and to the creed of Edward VI by the pope’s foolish claims to refereeship and church property.
It was to her advantage that in the name of the queen of Scotland, who was at the same time the dauphine of France and niece of the Guises, claims were laid to England, namely, immediate possession of the English throne, in which Henry II and the Guises played their daring game.
After some reflection, Elizabeth found within herself the strength and the stubbornness of her father. Yet her own religiosity was highly dubious, to say nothing of her creed. She saw through the clergy and knew that it followed her. She counted on an insular and anti-Roman frame of mind, exploited the odium of the Francophile Paul IV, and ventured to decide, although she was in favor of celibacy.
As for the religious creed, complete supremacy was enforced. Elizabeth was the sole fount of truth and every authorization. This made the Catholics who remained Roman guilty of high treason ipso facto, even if they kept perfectly quiet. The serious Calvinists, i.e., the Puritans, then realized that the noose they had helped put around the Catholics’ necks was now around their own as well. Elizabeth brooked no “deviation.” The persecutions did not stop short of the scaffold.
Her coerced Parliament went along with her, and henceforth she had nothing but devoted parliaments, although she let go at them as at a pack of dogs, and the courts and administration were violent and at times truly depraved. England prospered materially and became a great active European power, even with meager help from abroad. Her small standing army proved that even though she was not popular, she was at least safe from internal disturbances. However, it sufficed thoughtful Englishmen to have a government that was strong enough not to become the plaything of aristocratic factions.
Elizabeth’s personality was hardly tolerable. One simply was not allowed to laugh. But her main characteristic was a queenly one: strength of soul. When she trembled, at least no one was aware of it. In her one notices as little as in her father that she might have been emotionally dependent on anyone for support and consolation.
Her ministers, above all Cecil and Burleigh, were in the fortunate position of knowing their interests to be generally identical with the queen’s. At the worst they would have been destroyed together with her. There existed a veritable complicity, and Elizabeth, for her part, did change favorites, but not workers.