Contents Copyright Maria-Luisa Minio-Paluello, 2005

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Spenser uses the name Cynthia for the Queen in Colin Clout because that is the name by which his friend Sir Walter Ralegh calls his Queen, and it is through Ocean that Cynthia is introduced into the episode at all.

In The Faerie Queen, in the cantos where Queen Elizabeth appears as the chaste moon-figure, Belphoebe, Spenser adopted that particular representation of the Queen following Sir Walter Ralegh's use of it, as he says to Sir Walter Ralegh himself, in the "explanatory" letter bearing the date of 23rd January, 1589, which introduces the first three books of The Faerie Queen:

"The most excellent and glorious person of our soveraine the Queene ...in some places I doe expresse in Belphoebe, fashioning her name according to your owne excellent conseipt of Cynthia, (Phoebe and Cynthia being both names of Diana)." [1]

Belphoebe appears in Books III and IV, where the squire Timias represents Sir Walter Ralegh, and the episode of impossible love and, later, unfaithfulness, shadows the events of the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Ralegh culminating in the extrangement of 1592.

Nashe says that Sol is "verie richly attir'de", and makes several other references to the splendour of his dress and jewellery (444, 446, 494-5 and 520), and it is well known that Sir Walter Ralegh was famous for his love of extravagant pomp and for his rich clothes and splendid jewels; his biographers tell us about this aspect of his character in legendary terms: "He could spend a king's ransom for a jewel for his shoe," [2] and his portraits too bear this out. It was in the autumn of 1592[3] that Summers Last Will and Testament was written and performed in the Archbishop's palace at Croydon. In the play Summer inveighs against Sol:

"Hypocrisie, how it can change his shape!
How base is pride from his own dunghill put!
How I have rais'd thee, Sol, I list not tell.."(448 - 450)

in bitterness and anger, without apparent justification.

But the incidents in Sir Walter Ralegh's relationship with the Queen earlier in the year, offer the explanation which cannot be found in the text. In 1592 Ralegh met disgrace; he lost favour with the Queen on account of his relationship and marriage with Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's maids of honour. It was a severe fall and the Queen would not see him again until five years later, after the Cadiz expedition of 1596. The date of Ralegh's marriage was unknown until recently, but it now seems to be certain that it was 1591 (before November 19th); it may even have been as far back as 20th February 1591 (our reckoning [4]). It was early in 1592, however, that the Queen came to know about it, and probably as a consequence of this [5] she decided not to allow him to sail on the voyage he had planned. Ralegh actually sailed with the expedition, but was recalled after having accompanied the expedition as far as North Cape of Spain. And then, on the 31st of July, 1592, the Queen had him imprisoned in the Tower, and Elizabeth Throckmorton suffered the same fate [6].

The great displeasure of the Queen at Ralegh's unfaithfulness and disloyalty accounts for Summer's charge of "hypocrisy" and for his bitterness. Ralegh, the special favourite, who had been raised from nowhere to the highest position anyone could reach at court, who professed love for the queen in every one of his poems, had been married to one of the Queen's jealously guarded maids-of-honour for possibly over a year, had had a son by her, and had kept it all a secret; as late as March 1592 Ralegh was still desperately trying to deny the rumours, as we see from a letter of his to Cecil [7]. Popular account, Spenser's interpretation, and Ralegh's justification in his poems, all point to Ralegh's unfaithfulness in love (i.e. his marriage) as the real reason for the Queen's displeasure.

The Queen's favourites always incurred her high displeasure when they married. Recent examples were Leicester and Essex; but they were noblemen, and their positions did not depend only on the Queen's favour. On the other hand Ralegh was "the best hated man in the country"[8] and his fortune rested solely on the Queen's favour. Moreover Ralegh had involved a maid of honour and this was an aggravating circumstance. The consequences for Ralegh, therefore, were very serious: although he kept most of his offices, he lost his influential position at court, and was debarred from even the sight of the Queen for many years. As Summer says:

"...for abusing ... the moone...
Long shalt thou be eclipsed by the moone,
And long in darkness live, and see no light." (576-9)

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[1] E. SPENSER, The Poetical Works, ed. by J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt, Oxford Univ. Press, 1957, p. 407

[2]Sir Walter RALEGH, The Poems, ed. by A. M. C. Latham, London, Routledge, 1915

[3]cf. C. G. HARLOW, "Nashe's visit to the Isle of Wight and his Publications of 1592-93", in R.E.S, Aug. 1963, vol. XIV, n.55, p.228.

[4]cf. A. L. ROWSE, Ralegh and the Throckmortons, London, Macmillan, 1962 pp. 160-1 and W. OAKESHOTT, op. cit., p.45

[5]Apparently, (cf. M.C. Bradbrook, op. cit., p. 508), one of the reasons given for the Queen's displeasure was that Ralegh was planning to leave on this expedition without the Queen's consent. To this also, we may take it, there is an answer in Sol's protestation:

"What I have done, you gave me leave to do." (508)

The expedition was, as a matter of fact, backed (at least financially) by the Queen (cf. OAKESHOTT, op. cit., p. 43).

[6]OAKESHOTT op. cit., p. 43.

[7]"I mean not to come away as they say I will for fear of a marriage, and I know not what. If any such thing were, I would have imparted it to yourself before any man living; and therefore I pray believe it not, and I beseech you to suppress, what you can, any such malicious report." Quoted from W. OAKESHOTT, op. cit., p. 44.

[8]A. L. ROWSE, op. cit., p. 139. Ralegh himself, in fact, in his letters from the Tower, in 1592, reveals "an underlying conviction that his enemies are taking the opportunity that has been offered finally to dispose of him." (OAKESHOTT op. cit., p. 49).


The copyright of this thesis belongs to the author Maria-Luisa Minio-Paluello under the terms of the United Kingdom Copyright Acts. Due acknowledgement must always be made of the use of any material contained in, or derived from, this thesis.