When we think of Elizabethan England, we often think of it as the “Golden Age” of learning and discoveries. While that is true, like any age, there were good elements and bad elements. We tend to overlook the bad elements with Elizabeth’s “Golden Age” and move on to the good elements. However, we cannot get a full image of the age if we only look at the good elements. That is why A.N. Wilson wrote the book “The Elizabethans”:
In this book I hope we shall be basking together in wholehearted appreciation of all of this[the good elements]; but it is no longer possible to do so without a recognition of the Difficulty- hence my title for the opening chapter. The Difficulty is really a moral one: things which they, the Elizabethans, regarded as a cause for pride, we- the great majority of educated, liberal Western opinion- consider shameful. Things of which they boasted, we deplore.( Wilson, 2).
So what was the Difficulty that Wilson was mentioning? To Wilson, that is the issue of Ireland and the “New World” and how the English dealt with the native peoples of these new colonies. These were constant problems in this age that would affect how future generations would view the men and women who made Elizabethan England great. Of course there were the deaths of Mary Queen of Scots and Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, that would affect Elizabeth greatly.
Now that we got the bad elements out of the way, let’s dive into what made it good, the “Golden Age”. Wilson decided to break down his book into sections which corresponds with the different decades of the reign of Elizabeth I. Each different decade had elements that made it difficult like the Northern Rebellion, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Mary Queen of Scots, and of course the Spanish Armada. What made this era known as the “Golden Age” were the people who took those difficult moments and made the best of the situation. Men like Sir Francis Drake, Sir Francis Walsingham, Sir Philip Sidney, Shakespeare and Spenser. Of course there were also men like Richard Hakluyt, Robert Dudley, Robert Devereux and John Hawkins, who made the Elizabethan age a bit more interesting.
“The Elizabethans” by A.N. Wilson is the story of the age, both the good and the bad. And of course it is the story of Elizabeth and how she herself handled all the changes that were happening in her lifetime. Wilson wrote this book in such a way that it grabs your attention for the age and gives you a better understanding on what it meant to be someone who lived in Elizabethan England. I would highly suggest this book for anyone who wants a great resource into this “Golden Age” of Elizabethan England and the men and women who made this arguably one of the most complex and interesting times in English history. This is a must read for anyone who has any interests in Elizabeth, the England she ruled, and the effects that it had on the rest of the world not only in her generation, but for generations to follow.