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The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Political Culture$
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Alexandra Gajda

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199699681

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199699681.001.0001

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Physician of the state: Essex and the Elizabethan polity

Physician of the state: Essex and the Elizabethan polity

(p.141) 4 Physician of the state: Essex and the Elizabethan polity
The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Political Culture

Alexandra Gajda

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 examines Essex’s attitudes to the structure of the Elizabethan polity, in particular in relation to the decline of his career, before and after his fall from grace in October 1599, after the earl’s failed attempt to suppress the rebellion in Ireland of Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone. The origins of Essex and his followers’ conceptualization of his political rivals as evil counsellors are assessed, as are their increasing tendency to define Elizabeth’s government as a form of weak tyranny, as the earl became alienated from Privy Council, court, and queen. The chapter also analyses the origins of Essex’s powerful identification of his own virtue and welfare with the health of the Elizabethan polity, and his engagement with renaissance debates about the nature and constitutional role of the nobility. Finally, Essex’s opaque attempts to energize the Elizabethan ‘public sphere’ are reconsidered from the surviving, often ambiguous, textual evidence.

Keywords:   earl of Essex, evil counsellor, counsel, Privy Council, tyranny, queen, virtue, nobility, earl marshal, public sphere

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