Military deaths of the 1620s
in The daring muse of the early Stuart funeral elegy
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This chapter explores funeral elegies on English military figures who died in the 1620s, a decade of significant military failures, in conflicts with Spain and France (the Isle of Rhé, 1627), and in the struggle against Imperial forces in the Thirty Years War. The chapter recalls the elegies that marked the death of Sir Philip Sidney a generation earlier, which served as a touchstone for how the genre developed in subsequent decades. While praising the heroic dead, the 1620s funeral elegies reflect deep unhappiness with British foreign policy in general and with specific military and political leadership, especially that of the Duke of Buckingham. The deceased stand as models against which the living can be criticized, and these funeral elegies constitute a probing consideration of the conduct of the war effort. The chapter considers a manuscript sequence of poems on the death of the Earl of Southampton in late 1624 that culminates in a harsh diatribe against the failures of England’s Dutch allies, as do elegies on the death of the Earl of Oxford the next year, and an elegy on the preacher Thomas Scott, who in 1626 was mysteriously assassinated in Utrecht by an English soldier.

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