There is hardly a single history boo in the word that would not put an emphasis on famous people. Claimed to have laid the cornerstones to the further development and success, or, on the contrary, to massive devastations and chaos, these people are considered the semi-gods of this world, the Zeus-like creatures who would turn the world in ruins once throwing a temper tantrum. Thomas Carlyle, the father of the Great Man Theory, claims that “external circumstances and influences count little. The Great Man is supreme” (Carlyle 9).
We will write a custom Essay on Reality Shatters the Great Men Theory into Pieces: Analyzing Queen Elizabeth’s Biography specifically for you
301 certified writers online
However, when analyzing some of the world’s greatest people of the present days and reconsidering their impact on certain event in the history of the world. Taking the life story of Queen Elizabeth as an example, one will see inevitably that she rather used her chances than wrote the history of England.
To start with, the way in which the famous Virgin Queen actually became the Queen of England is worth considering. She did not fight for her title, nor did she make any conscious effort to become the leader of England – the role of the queen was handed to her as soon as her father passed away and there was no other heir to the throne left whatsoever. Therefore, the course of history created good premises for her to become a queen, which she, to her credit, used to the full and earned a reputation worth its weight in gold.
Whenever one speaks of Queen Elizabeth, the famous Church Settlement issue is the first argument for Carlyle’s position on the role of the great men.
Indeed, the solution which the queen came up with to solve the arguments which were constantly arising among the representatives of two confessions, the Protestants and the Catholics, was unique and rather adequate; creating the church that was supposed to tie the existing confessions together, basing the solution on a compromise, was a really clever idea, which one must give Queen Elizabeth credit for.
However, if considering the reform from a historical standpoint, one will see inevitably that the solution which the Virgin Queen suggested was actually what the entire United Kingdom had been going to. Every event in the historical record of the relationships between the Catholics and the Protestants led to the conclusion which Elizabeth provided; the idea of creating a church which would unite the existing confessions was absolutely on-the-nose, and there was no need in landing lights to the idea of the Anglican Church development.
Since numerous religious debates have spawned a lot of conflicts which led to disturbances among the people of England and confrontations among the members of different churches, it is hardly possible to claim that no one could see the development of a unified church coming.
According to the historical evidence offered by Primus, “Growing up in the reigns of Henry, Edward and Mary, the Christian religion and the Church of England was in constant turmoil” (Primus 234); hence, the prerequisites for Elizabeth’s decision had been formed before she came to the conclusion that the English Church needed a reform. The circumstances shaped the queen’s actions, instead of the Queen shaping the history. Hence, the Great Men Theory premise falls flat in the given example.
The changes in England, however, were not the only achievement to remember Queen Elizabeth for; she also had a considerable impact on the world scene, which makes Carlyle’s theory look more legit than one might give it credit for. There is hardly any need in mentioning that the Virgin Queen helped do what the entire world had failed to, i.e., to fight the Invincible Armada and wipe it off the face of the Erath – or, at least, off the international shipping lanes.
When it comes to discussing the ways in which the Invincible Armada was defeated, one would argue that there was no way in which the triumphant results were impacted by the reasons other than Elizabeth’s wise solution – there were practically no signs showing that the English fleet had any tangible advantage:
With little or no prospect of success of the combined operation which was the whole point of the exercise, the advantage was seized by the English fleet on 7 August […]. Elizabeth struck the Armada medal which sounded a note of protestant providentialism rather than triumphalism. ‘God breathed and they were scattered’ (Collinson 88).
The fact that Queen Elizabeth with her marine tactics and the fleet which was formed over the course of her reign, managed to defeat the Invincible Armada, the Spanish fleet which was supposed to destroy England, tearing its marine and economical forces asunder, adds some points to the Theory of Great Men which Carlyle offered. At certain point it seems that the queen was guided by the sixth sense which allowed her to catch the Armada in a trap, and that all credit must go solely to her and her cunning ways of ruling the state.
However, when analyzing the events in a more objective manner, one will see inevitably that there were a lot of other factors that helped the Queen take over the Spanish fleet. To start with, the existence of numerous privateers, i.e., the ships which were actually private but were hired by the government for attacking the enemy when required, under the command of such people as Drake, John Hawkins, and many others, helped to make the royal navy even stronger.
Hence, the victory cannot be claimed solely to the queen; As Collinson explains, the operation which was further mentioned in the history of England as “singeing of the king of Spaines beard” (Collinson 88) and traditionally considered as the merit of the Virgin Queen’s wise reign, belonged mostly to the privateers.
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
Hence, the queen’s victory was predetermined by the historical events to a considerable degree, because, unless the privateers emerged, the Invincible Armada would have stayed invulnerable to the attacks of the royal fleet for good. In the given example, the Theory of Great Men offered by Carlyle fails again, since, without privateers, the queen would have never been able to defeat the Spanish Armada. No matter how flattering the theory might sound for the strong of this world, it still seems hardly legit.
The last, but definitely not the least, the personal life of the queen deserves attention as well. One of the few facets of the queen’s life which can actually speak in favor of Carlyle’s theory, personal life of the Virgin Queen is actually very unique.
Despite the fact that she “was not the expected prince, she was another useless daughter” (Claire para.2), Elizabeth still managed to grow into a queen and become a respected monarch. And, though she did make a lot of effort for people to realize that she was a born queen, her role in taking her title is still debatable.
While she was not the first heir to the throne, she still did nothing to get the title, as it has been mentioned above. One of the few aspects of her life when the queen actually was able to go against the traditions was marriage: “Better beggar woman and single than Queen and married” (Marriage and Succession para.1). Nevertheless, even in her personal life, the queen’s role was practically reduced to zero.
One of the most annoying things about the theory of great men is that there is zero bite in its premise. It elevates certain people to the point where they seem to be on part with semi-gods, which is already absurd, seeing how most people have equal abilities, yet quite different opportunities from the very day of their birth. Hence, the latter is what defines one’s position in the world history.
Although one must give credit to the achievements of the world’s most famous people and their accomplishments, it is still necessary to admit that history itself is only a chain of events which a certain individual has hardly any tangible impact on. As for the conclusions which can be drawn from the example of Queen’s Elizabeth’s live, one must admit that there are a whole lot of things that this woman should be appreciated for, yet there is hardly a single turn in history which was made by her.
On the contrary, major events in the history of the world in general and England in particular empowered Elizabeth I to become what she is known to have been – one of the world’s greatest leaders and the ruler of England. What seemed to be a chaotic cadence of events fell into places to form a pattern of her life and give her the opportunity to do the things which she is now famous for.
Carlyle, Thomas. Sartor Resartus and on Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Middlesex, UK: Echo Library, 2007. Print.
Claire n. d., The Elizabeth Files. Web.
Collinson, Patrick. Elizabeth I. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Marriage and Succession, n. d. Web.
Primus, John H. Richard Graham: The Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998. Print.