Queen Elizabeth as Dark Lady – “The Long-Lived Phoenix”

The Phoenix Portrait of Queen Elizabeth by Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1575 - National Portrait Gallery, London

The Phoenix Portrait of Queen Elizabeth by Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1575 – National Portrait Gallery, London

Devouring time, blunt thou the Lion’s paws,

And make the earth devour her own sweet brood,

Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce Tiger’s jaws,

And burn the long-lived Phoenix in her blood. (Sonnet 19)

Elizabeth I of England had “adopted the Phoenix as an emblem of herself,” Roy Strong notes in The Cult of Elizabeth. “The Phoenix Jewel in the British Museum is a badge of gold bearing a profile image of the Queen.”  The Phoenix is the mythological bird with a life span of more than 500 years.  When its life is over, it burns itself upon a wood pile set ablaze by the sun but then rises from its own ashes.

This linkage is taken up by Shakespeare in Act Five of Henry VIII, when Archbishop Cranmer predicts that when the newly born Princess Elizabeth finally dies she will leave an heir to the throne:

“But, as when bird of wonder dies, the maiden Phoenix, her ashes new create another heir as great in admiration as herself, so shall she leave her blessedness to one.” 

(The line is ambiguous. Does “Shakespeare” really believe that James of Scotland will be “as great in admiration” as Gloriana?  Or is he referring to the hope that she will produce an heir to rise from her own “ashes” or genetic material?)

This reference to the Phoenix is just another way the author of the Sonnets refers to Queen Elizabeth – one of many ways on this list, to which I’ll keep adding, to provide more evidence that the 1609 sonnet sequence continually points to her Majesty as the third member of the triangular relationship being chronicled.

It was she, of course, who refused to settle the “succession crisis” that plagued England, most especially during the final years of her reign. Clearly the author (Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford) is furious at her for jeopardizing the country’s future.  In that regard it’s undoubtedly fitting that later in Sonnet 19 he pleads with “time” on behalf of his beloved fair youth (Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton):

Him in thy course untainted do allow

For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.

As Cranmer says of the princess in the same scene of the Shakespeare play, Henry VIII’s newly born daughter will grow to become “a pattern to all princes living with her, and all that shall succeed.”

(All italics in the Shakespearean lines are my emphases.)

The List as it now stands:

1 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

2 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

3 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

4 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

5 – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

6 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

Reason 53 (part one) Why the Earl of Oxford = “Shakespeare”: The 1601 Elegy “The Phoenix and Turtle” is Explained by Oxford’s Role in 1581 as “Knight of the Tree of the Sunne”

The famous “Phoenix Portrait” of Queen Elizabeth, created by Nicholas Hilliard in the 1570s after she had turned forty in 1573 (Rigoursly controlling her image, the Queen had herself portrayed as red-haired and fresh-faced, a wrinkle-free young woman

“But as the Bird of Wonder dies, the Maiden Phoenix, her ashes create another heir, as great in admiration as herself”Archbishop Cranmer in Henry VIII, 5.4, speaking of Queen Elizabeth as the Phoenix from whose ashes a new heir will arise.

While looking through my notes for additions to Reason 52 why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford wrote the works of “Shakespeare,” an entirely separate piece of evidence became apparent — the clear link between Oxford’s appearance in 1581 before Queen Elizabeth as “the Knight of the Tree of the Sunne” and the allegorical elegy The Phoenix and Turtle, printed in 1601 as by “William Shake-speare” in a compilation of verses called Love’s Martyr or Rosalins Complaint.

No. 53 of 100 Reasons why Oxford=Shakespeare is that the enigma of The Phoenix and Turtle in 1601 begins to dissolve, and ultimately disappears, when Edward de Vere is viewed as the author and this extraordinary link is fully realized.

The Phoenix pendant is right above Elizabeth’s hand

Edward de Vere in January 1581 depicted Elizabeth as the Phoenix, the mythical bird that consumes itself in flames ignited by the sun, but is then reborn from its own ashes.  Well before then the Queen had used the Phoenix as a symbol of her chastity and of the rebirth (through succession to the throne) of her Tudor dynasty.

In the same tiltyard performance, Oxford depicted himself as the Queen’s loyal Knight devoted to protecting “the Tree of the Sunne” — the single or sole Arabian tree in which the Phoenix had her nest, symbolic of the English throne and Elizabeth’s dynastic seat.

The Acacia Tree, which Oxford called “The Tree of the Sunne” in 1581, is “the sole Arabian tree” in “The Phoenix and Turtle” of 1601

The earl’s boy-page delivered an oration to the Queen describing how the earl had made “a solemn vow to incorporate his heart into that Tree,” adding that “as there is but one Sun to shine over it, one root to give life unto it, one top to maintain Majesty, so there should be but one Knight, either to live or die for the defense thereof.”

Oxford was symbolically merging with Elizabeth, as if they were a single entity, and pledging to protect the Queen and her dynasty with his “constant loyalty” as well as his life.

In 1601, twenty years later, The Phoenix and Turtle in Love’s Martyr opens with that same Sun-Tree or dynastic throne of Elizabeth-the-Phoenix, but now an imposter or usurper (the bird with the loudest singing voice) is calling all others (the English people) to gather in mourning at a funeral:

Cover page of “Loves Martyr” (1601)

Let the bird of loudest lay

On the sole Arabian tree

Herald sad and trumpet be,

To whose sound chaste wings obey.

In the next part it will become clear that the usurper or imposter is James Stuart, King James VI of Scotland, who, now in 1601, is being prepared behind the scenes to succeed Elizabeth on the throne when she dies.  (The Queen will die two years later, in 1603, and James will be proclaimed King James I of England, replacing the House of Tudor with the Stuart dynasty).

Oxford, previously the “Knight of the Tree of the Sunne” who had pledged to Elizabeth-the-Phoenix that his “life should end before his loyalty” to her, is now in 1601 the equally loyal bird known as the Turtle-Dove.

A Turtle-Dove (Oriental)

The Phoenix and Turtle becomes a lament for Elizabeth and Oxford, whose mutual dynastic hopes for the next Tudor succession have gone up in flames:

Here the anthem doth commence:

Love and constancy is dead.

Phoenix and the turtle fled

In a mutual flame from hence

The poem is also a funeral dirge for the imminent death of “the Phoenix’ nest” or Elizabeth’s throne, along with the disappearance of her Tudor dynasty.  The future for which Oxford and the Queen had hoped could no longer happen; no such future would be recorded in posterity:

Death is now the Phoenix’ nest,

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest.

Leaving no posterity

Part Two of this Reason will explore the deeper aspect of this amazing link between Edward de Vere’s pledge of loyalty to the Queen in 1581 and the printing of The Phoenix and Turtle as by “Shake-speare” in 1601.

[I highly recommend the website The Place 2 Be for its material on this subject and acknowledge its contribution to my posting here.]

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