National Geographic : 1968 Nov
Legacy of Elizabeth Proudof their heritage, Britons live among reminders of Her Majesty's day. At Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, London, FranciscanFatherMichael Halliday (right)holds out his finger and preaches: "This is not a sausage. It is not a bag of minced meat, all higgledy-piggledyjumbled together, but a careful combination of bones, flesh, nerves, and muscles, so marvelously coordinated it indicates the existence of a Designer." Head of the Church of England, Elizabeth did not persecute Catholics or Puritansas long as they did not threaten the security of the state. Students consult a master at Harrow (center), chartered by Elizabeth in 1572 as a grammar school for the boys of Harrow parish near London. Its graduates have included the poet Byron and Winston Churchill,who was considered a dunce for his struggles here with Latin. A grinder (farright) thins the blade of a kitchen knife at Sheffield, a center for steel cutlery since the Middle Ages and a supplier of swords for Elizabeth's courtiers. turned it into an immortal philosophic drama. In nearly every crisis in English history since Shakespeare's time, Henry V has been read and performed to remind Englishmen of their heritage. King Harry's speech to the soldiers before Agincourt still quickens the pulse of all who share in that spiritual legacy: This day is called the Feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a-tiptoe when this day is named.... We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother ... And gentlemen in England now abed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day. The world that Shakespeare described in his plays lacked perfection, but it was a cou rageous, not a whining, world. Elizabethans never cringed with fear, nor did they waste precious time in self-pity. Treatises instructed men in the art of dying with dignity. Raleigh on the scaffold ran his thumb along the edge of the headsman's ax and wryly commented: "This is a sharp medicine, but it is a sound cure for all diseases." Sir Philip Sidney (page 700), poet, novelist, courtier, diplomat, and soldier, fighting the Spaniards in the Netherlands in 1586, re ceived a wound from which he died three weeks later. Lying on the field, he demon strated his nobility of spirit by giving water offered him to another wounded soldier, say ing, "Thy necessity is yet greater than mine." T HE ELIZABETHANS showed as much zest for life as courage in the face of death. They had work to do and a world to win. Since the early Middle Ages, Englishmen had been content to trade pri marily across the Channel, but now the larger world beckoned. In 1553, a few years before Elizabeth's accession, Richard Chancellor braved the Arctic waters and reached Moscow, opening a lucrative trade in furs, beeswax, tallow, and ship timbers. In 1561 Anthony Jenkinson completed an overland journey through Rus sia to Bukhara, establishing trade with Persia. Dr. Faustus spoke for many in Christopher Marlowe's phrases: O what a world of profit and delight, Of power, of honor, of omnipotence, Is promised.... The literature of the time expressed the belief that man could reach the stars.