The Elizabethan era came under the spotlight on the final day of the book festival, as historical biographer AN Wilson came to talk about his new book, aptly titled The Elizabethans.
“Queen Elizabeth’s reign was a definable period in history,” he said. “And had she not come to throne the world would be a very different place today.” The era is perhaps the main one able to lay claim to be so definable in Wilson’s book, the reason he wrote it, but also because of the impact that many of the events and people involved have had on history as we see it now.
From Sir Walter Raleigh to James Burbage who “as London became a honey pot in 16th Century, decided to take acting off the streets and built what was regarded as the first theatre.”
This was also the time when the “Irish problem” began and that ran for over 400 years. “The lack of property and inheritance laws in Ireland really bugged the English,” he said. “Ireland defined itself in opposition to the English until the final solution was to purge Ireland of the Irish and import Scots; granted, not the best recipe for world peace.”
It was only recently that the current British Monarch visited the Republic of Ireland in an historic event that saw her draw a line under the situation by making a speech, in which she said both sides had been to blame and the past should not be forgotten. “The Elizabethan era has come to an end with the “Irish problem” having been resolved,” said Wilson, using it as an example of the reach the Elizabethan actions have had on modern life.
On the combination of the Anglican Church in Elizabethan times, he gave as an example that “they did not have a word for homosexuality,” before adding rather humorously: “But as we now know from the newspapers Bishops and homosexuals are sometimes one in the same.”
Astrologists would have been offended by his comments that “few people of intelligence these days believe in astrology,” but left the field open when he admitted that “periods of historical strength in a country are periods where people could openly doubt themselves.”