Physician of the state: Essex and the Elizabethan polity

Alexandra Gajda

in The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Political Culture

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199699681
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739057 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

Physician of the state: Essex and the Elizabethan polity

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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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

Chapter.  22114 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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