(& scroll down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Queen Elizabeth I and Elizabeth Bennet: I would not be so fastidious as you are for a kingdom!

OK, so one step keeps leading to another, every time i catch my breath.

I just recalled that Anielka made an interesting suggestion a while back about Mary Queen of Scots being represented in Pride & Prejudice. I know she's suggested it a few times publicly, here's the one I most easily find, from 4 months ago:

"Try Antonia Fraser for a biog. if all else fails. Ms. Fraser's rendition of Mary Q. of S. and the four Maries sounds a lot like Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters."

Anielka's interpretation is interesting, and I think it dovetails nicely with my now finding, via the Jane Austen Code in Letter 81, that Elizabeth Bennet is a representation of her _namesake_ Queen Elizabeth I--who was also, of course Mary QOS's first cousin, once removed!

Here's what I come up with, on first impression, vis a vis the latter:

First and foremost, there is one obvious and significant parallel between Queen Elizabeth and Elizabeth Bennet. A central issue during much of Queen Elizabeth's reign revolved around that bunch of famous powerful noblemen who wanted to marry her! Of course they wanted to, she was Queen of England! So isn't it curious that three (count 'em, three) eligible bachelors (Darcy, Wickham and Collins) all descend on Meryton within a very short amount of time from every corner of southern England, and all three of them have a go at marrying Elizabeth Bennet? (And don't forget Colonel Fitzwilliam, who also happens to fall into Lizzy's path during the novel) . And in the end of the novel, Elizabeth becomes the "Queen" of Pemberley, which would do very nicely indeed, if you think about it, as a representation of the grandeur, beauty and glory of England itself! So, it seems that both the historical and the fictional Elizabeth's were veritable man-magnets, but who however were not too quick to say yes!

And next, think about Queen Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII of course, who had six wives but very few surviving offspring---and only one of them male--Edward VI-who survived only till 16--it sounds a lot like Longbourn's entail problems. So if Longbourn is also a representation of England itself, the worry would be the same--if the Queen did not marry and conceive a male child to succeed her, who would become King upon her death? Mrs. Bennet would have made a great advisor to Elizabeth, don't you think? And by the way, any guesses as to what Mr. Bennet's Christian name was? Might it have been......Henry?

Now, consider Henry VIII's first wife Catherine of Aragon who bore him Mary. Mary, upon ascending the throne after Edward VI's death tried to turn England back to Catholicism. Cranmer annulled Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine. Of course one of the Bennet girls is named Mary, and another is named Catherine. Hmm...

Then consider Henry's second wife Ann Boleyn/Bullen, who bore him Elizabeth. Of course we have an Ann de Burgh in P&P, in addition to the "heroine" of P&P, named Elizabeth.

And then Henry's third wife Jane Seymour who died in childbirth after bearing Edward VI. Of course the eldest Bennet girl is named Jane, which also suggests that Mrs. Bennet's Christian name was _also_ Jane, right? Hmm....

Then we have the last three wives, Anne of Cleves and the two Catherines, but nothing leaps out as a parallel to P&P in their lives.

And finally, no Lydia there anywhere among the Tudors----but then, as Lydia Bennet would have been the first to announce to us all, they broke the mold when she was made.

I finish with noting the following very interesting usages of the word "kingdom" in P&P, including the one in the subject line of this message:

"I would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Mr. Bingley, "for a kingdom! Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty."

That has the unmistakable scent of a clue, pointing to a "kingdom" (Pemberley, Longbourn?) as to which a suitor for Lizzy's hand like Darcy might be fastidious.

And of course we have not one but two hyperbolic references to "the kingdom" of England courtesy of Mr. Collins:

"But of all the views which his garden, or which the country or kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house. It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground."

"My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in your excellent judgement in all matters within the scope of your understanding; but permit me to say, that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for, give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom—provided that a proper humility of behaviour is at the same time maintained.

And I think I'll stop there.....

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

No comments: