Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Good Queen Buttercup

"Her angels face
As the great eye of heaven, shyned bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place."
Edmund Spenser from "The Faerie Queene" Book i, canto iii, st. 4

(Queen Buttercup)

I know. You all are hoping this post is going to be riddled with references to The Princess Bride. As much as I adore the film (and book), I'm thinking today about a different queen. It may be really weird to compare one's children to historical figures, but I've noticed lately how regal and calm my baby daughter has become. Yes. She reminds me of Queen Elizabeth, the first Queen Elizabeth of England. Ok, not that I knew her personally or anything, much as I wish I did, but if you do even two minutes of research, you start to get a picture. "Moderate," "temperate," "tolerant," "loyal," "serene," "of good council." I know. It might be a stretch, but bear with me. I mean, look at this face.

(Doesn't she look judicious and wise of rule?)

One of the best quotes about Elizabeth I as a princess comes from her first "Lady Mistress," Lady Bryant: "as toward a child and as gentle of conditions as ever I knew any in my life." It may seem rather obvious to say that a child is "toward a child," but this line struck me as incredibly apt. There are some children who aren't child-like. My child, sweet Buttercup, is so innocently child-like. She has none of the mischievousness of her older sister. There's no cheeky in her grin. Buttercup is also very "gentle of conditions." Even as a baby, I sense how she holds herself gently in this world. She is strong, curious, and bright, but soft, tender. An affable, sweet, and tractable child. There is something to be said for a queen-like child. And the "Virgin Queen" at that.

I feel this strange connection to Queen E, I'll admit. I played her once on "stage." I hold the word loosely because it was the stage in the loft of our barn when I was about 13 years old. In terms of obscure references I'll post on this blog, this might be it. We (my sisters and I) had just watched The Sea Hawk (1940) and were so roused by it, that I wrote a theatrical version of the movie for us to perform. (a, we had no television, b, we were homeschooled.) I mean, this is a classic. Errol Flynn as "Captain Thorpe," a character loosely based on Sir Francis Drake, swashbuckling his way through glorious the black and white court of the queen and the jungles of Panama made us (ok, mostly me) quite swoony. However, his feeble love interest was not the most coveted role in our homeschoolers performance. Queen Elizabeth, played by the consummately talented but oh-so-unattractive Flora Robson, captured out hearts with her strength, wit, and grace.

(Not pretty, but pretty amazing.)

I got to be the Queen. I was the oldest and had written the play. 'Nuff said. I got to wear the huge paper collar and give the rousing speech about going to war with Spain when the Armada attacked (offstage, left). I got to inhabit this place of such power for a short time. I could actually imagine calling out the order to go to war or to stay a beheading. It interests me still that we girls all gravitated to this character. The queen, both in the movie and all the books I've read about her, was great at handling things. Queenship was thrust at Elizabeth at a tender age and she rose to the occasion with incredible grace. She never married. She was beloved of her people. She reigned for 60 years and that time was considered a golden age. She herself was a poet of some talent. She shows her education off in her writing. In many ways she was a "Renaissance Man," but importantly a woman light years ahead of her time. In her speech to the troops at Tilbury, she says, "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king." Nothing ordinary about her.

I know that all seems divergent from where I started in this post. I am a bit of a history nerd but even if I were not, I could see the connection between this extraordinary woman who lived many hundreds of years ago across the sea and my baby girl. It's amazing to think of the potential wrapped up in this gorgeously chubby twenty pounds of sweet baby flesh. There is power despite her current state of helplessness, there is wisdom despite her inability to speak. Perhaps there is a bit of Good Queen Bess in all baby girls.

I swear there is just something there. Down to the strawberry blond hair that is starting to crown her little head. She certainly already has some very loyal subjects.

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