September 16th, 2019

pirate ship

Good Queen Bess

I am a great admirer of that eminent English politique, Queen Elizabeth I. The lessons from her leadership deserve thoughtful study.

She inherited a State with an empty Treasury and a debased coinage. Slowly, painfully, she withdrew the bad coins. She paid off the debts of her father, and her brother, and her sister. By the time England and Spain were headed into the Armada conflict, Elizabeth could borrow emergency cash from the Netherlands bankers at eight percent – while Philip II of Spain had to pay sixteen percent.

But what about all those costly gowns and court spectacles? Oh, yes, Elizabeth could spend money when she had to. But she didn’t spend money for her pleasure; the gowns and spectacles were so that she could present herself to her people. She had to look like what a queen should look like. She had to be seen governing. If she wanted to bring her people along with her in the way that she was going, she couldn’t withdraw to her tower and commune only with palace bureaucrats. In making herself available, she also made her security people tear their hair. But she had to show that she didn’t fear her people. And she used words – she was one of the greatest orators of an age stuffed with great speakers and writers – to move her people, high and low.

She decided that torture – then a routine practice of law enforcement and State security – wasn’t something she wanted to be part of. Not only that, but in the overheated times she lived through, when the Pope was literally calling for her to be murdered, she made a vital distinction between the Roman Catholic hierarchy and English Catholics. Instead of a conflict of religions, she saw a straightforward conflict between States. That made Catholic plotters traitors, but not heretics: ordinary criminals, not the Antichrist. And it meant that the plotters’ hopes that English Catholics would rise against her saw failure every time.

In her religious policy, she wanted her church to be broadly popular. She avoided extremists on both sides. Yet, she could be steely when people presumed upon her support. There were principles she would not cross, even though prudence and all the best people advised her to do so.

Whether we are talking about the government of the USA, or just the governance of The UMC, I see many comparisons to be made with the Virgin Queen in which she shows up the venality, the ineptitude, and the lack of principles of our modern leaders.