Polari Facts raises its virtual glass this month to celebrate marriage. The planning that has gone into this is nothing less than equal to Philip II’s Armada of 1588. In that spirit the following facts are about a great marriage that came to define the age in which it occurred.
A Queen and her Throne
Queen Elizabeth I was married to the throne of England. Her father was married eight times, and she was not to follow in his footsteps in this matter. Henry VIII had remade the British Church because of marriage – or to be precise because the Pope would not grant him a divorce. His death, and the ascension of his unhinged first daughter Mary, to the throne, resulted in a time of religious insecurity and persecution. The saner second daughter Elizabeth resolved this tension in the end because she kept her mind on the matter at hand, her marriage to the throne. She instead used the prospect of marriage as a diplomatic ploy.
This transformative era in British history produced its greatest playwright, William Shakespeare. As a court writer he was required to validate the position of his sovereign. An important part of his job was to make sense of her reign. This is the reason there is so much cross-dressing in his work. As You Like It is illustrative. It was the era of the gender-bender thanks to the unwillingness of the queen to restore the patriarchal status quo by marrying.
Interestingly, a persistent rumour in historical annals is that the real Elizabeth died at the age of six, and that to prevent further political insecurity she was replaced with a boy. If she had married it may have been the first gay marriage in British history.