In the 1570s and early 1580s, English supporters of the international Protestant cause had been frustrated by Queen Elizabeth’s reluctance to support her Continental co-religionists more actively. However, by the end of the first decade of the seventeenth century they were even more anxious about James I’s pacific diplomacy, and had come, retrospectively and often unhistorically, to consider her a much more militant Protestant.1 When one such campaigner Philip Sidney wrote his Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia around 1580, the character he principally associated with Elizabeth was the weak and misguided Arcadian King Basilius, who had endangered his subjects, his state and its neighbours by the inconstancy and irresponsibility of his rule.2 A quarter of a century later, Sidney’s friend and ally Fulke Greville attributed to Elizabeth the opposite active motives and princely virtues. Greville’s Jacobean queen was ‘a mirror ofjustice’, a model of ’deep’ ’wisdom’, the epitome of ’princely wakefulness’; a ruler of exemplary resolution, ’foresight, courage, [and] might’ who ’kept both her martial and civil government entire above neglect or practice’, and pursued ‘active courses’ against her enemies.3 Greville pointedly dissociated her from Basilius, whose conduct he regarded as a reprehensible example of the way in which ’sovereign princes … unactively charge the managing of their greatest affairs upon the second-hand faith and diligence of deputies’ and ’bury themselves and their estates under a cloud of contempt, and under it both encourage and shadow the conspiracies of ambitious subalterns’.
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