Chris Laoutaris
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‘Toucht with bolt of Treason’
The Earl of Essex and Lady Penelope Rich
in Essex
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This chapter explore the ways in which the woman known as Sidney's 'Stella' involved herself in the seismic power struggles, intervening in the court factionalism, which shaped the most volatile period in Queen Elizabeth's reign. Lady Rich was a highly active member of the coterie of scholars and politicians who became closely associated with her brother, contributing decisively to the intellectual and cultural ethos which emerged from the Essex circle. In Lady Rich's hands the world-weariness which animates conventional renderings of the melancholy courtier or lovelorn hero of Romance fiction becomes a stimulus to pointed political agitation. The collective anxieties of Essex and his associates bespeak the potential reach of Lady Rich's influence. Lady Rich's letter contains striking similarities to both the Tacitean and Aristotelian models. It offers political advice to the queen through a series of powerful and allusive sententiae which mirror the aphoristic style.

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The cultural impact of an Elizabethan courtier


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