What about the herstory of Elizabeth?

The writer, with his wife, Susan, attends the Christian Church of God, Amarillo.

By Joseph R. Chiappone

AMARILLO, Texas--Well, Mr. Rhodes, you've done it again. Let's face it. You really are a qualified historian with a genuine love for his subject. But do you have to interject your own personal beliefs into an article that purports to be the truth, the whole truth, etc.?

Let us examine your last column (The Journal, Jan. 31, "Learn an Important Lesson of History: Never Say Bunk," by Melvin Rhodes) in depth. Your main premise seems to be that history is never a wasted study and that those who don't study it are bound to repeat it, as the famous Santayana quote goes. So far so good. Nothing wrong with that sentiment.

But almost from the get-go you steer into some mighty murky waters: the etymology of the word history, for example. You say the word "derives from His story, the story of Jesus Christ." The only thing is, that's not what my Webster's says. The dictionary claims that the word history is derived from the Greek root histor-, meaning "to learn by inquiry."

Your reasoning, in fact, is the exact opposite of the radical-feminist argument. They huff, inaccurately: His story, indeed; why not her story? Then what do you say? Is too his! Is too! Etymologists would tell you you're both wrong. The word history originally meant (still does, as far as I know) to ask questions about events in order to learn from them.

His story? That's your story.

Not to beat a dead horse, but still. Ancient historians like Herodotus and Xenophon must have had a pretty hard time explaining to others just what exactly they did, because, of course, His story was yet to be told. The study of history has taken place on this planet ever since man took stylus to clay: many years before the Savior's brief sojourn.

It's certainly true that, during the Middle Ages, the story of Jesus (with many embellishments, no doubt) was everywhere. But it is downright inaccurate to claim that "somewhere in the mists of time" the meaning of the word history evolved into what we know it to be today. It always meant precisely that.

Now let's get around to your subtopic: Elizabeth, "woman of the millennium."

Obviously you really believe that, had it not been for her, it is "quite possible that [we] would not be speaking English, [or] that the United States would not exist as a country."

That's pretty strong stuff. Philip's original half-baked plan had been to race for London and seize it. Had he been successful, just how long do you think the scattered remnants of the English armies, once they had consolidated, would have allowed him to occupy the throne, not to mention the nobles and the populace? The Spanish would have had to decide between leaving the fleet behind (thus leaving it vulnerable to English burning) and sending it away (thus cutting their own supply lines).

What were Philip's motives, anyway? True, Pope Gregory XIII did egg him on to "restore England to the 'true faith.'" But, truthfully, what would you have done if you were Philip? Elizabeth's decision, not only to land an English army in the Netherlands to aid the Dutch rebels you were fighting but to aid the French Hugenots as well, just might have spurred you to do something.

About six months before the Armada sailed, Sir Francis Drake, with the full knowledge of Elizabeth, had broken into Cadiz Harbor and destroyed almost 30 Spanish vessels. Plus, you (as Philip) had had to endure English harassment and piracy of your maritime trade since Elizabeth assumed the throne. Was God on her side then?

Now, as for Elizabeth's bringing England "out of religious bondage," it is true that many people lost their heads under her predecessor, "Bloody Mary" Tudor, for their religious beliefs and that Elizabeth's Act of Uniformity was extremely fair to Catholic and Protestant alike.

But to magnify Elizabeth's religious moderation into religious zeal is a big stretch, especially regarding England's race for and establishment of colonies. After all, Spain and Portugal had already claimed three quarters of the unknown world, with a hungry France close behind.

English merchants felt blocked and outmaneuvered by their rivals. As far as they saw, it was expand and get rich. Freedom of religion was not high on their list of priorities, nor on the lists of those who set English foreign policy.

Now, lastly, this "virgin queen" thing: Again, Mr. Rhodes, you are correct in stating that Elizabeth never married and claimed her "only master [was] England." But she did have quite a few suitors, "favorites" (Robert Dudley, whom she made earl of Leicester, prominent on the list), and she was top dog in the kingdom and answerable to no one as far as her personal life went. But I'm not going to speculate about her literal virginity.

There is evidence that Elizabeth, no slouch in the ego department, liked to create titles for herself. Because there was still a strong Catholic influence in her realm, Elizabeth sought to juxtapose the Virgin Mary in the minds of her subjects with the image of the Virgin Queen. Historians have stated that Elizabeth "appropriated . . . the star, moon, ermine, and pearl . . . from the iconography of the Virgin Mary . . . Many English Protestants took the coincidence of Elizabeth's birthday with the Catholic feast of the Nativity of the Virgin as an omen that in God's sight Queen Elizabeth . . . had replaced Marian Catholicism" (Reformation Europe, DeLamar Jensen, p. 306).

Look, Mr. Rhodes: I know you're an Anglophile from way back. But please do not pass off as history those opinions you are passionate about. Check your facts and leave your opinions behind.

Was Elizabeth a great queen? Undoubtedly. Historians would agree. Was she called by God as a liberator? Perhaps. Was she raised up for that purpose? I doubt it. The English were not always fault-free and God-condoned in affairs both domestic and foreign.

Would we still be around as a nation if Elizabeth had never lived? Probably. One single historical event rarely stops the great tide of history dead in its tracks. Man plans, God laughs. The only time history will be rendered irrevocable is when Christ returns to the planet.

But that's my opinion.

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