William O’Neil
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John Derricke, Edmund Spenser, and the white wand of justice and equity
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John Derricke’s The Image of Irelande and Edmund Spenser’s Book Five of The Faerie Queene participate in an ongoing Tudor debate about how best to bring Ireland into a secure British polity. With a simplifying imagery, advocates for military conquest recommended ‘the sword’, and advocates for peaceful civil reform called for ‘the white wand’. This chapter reviews the ceremonial meanings of the white wand in Tudor England – in portraits, law, broadsheets, state papers, literature, and letters – and then shows how writers appropriated those meanings to advance their preferred policy in Ireland. In The Image John Derricke reverses the traditional associations with the white wand as he celebrates Sir Henry Sidney’s policies as the Lord Deputy. In Book Five Edmund Spenser follows this same rhetorical strategy to advocate for conquest of Ireland and only then civil reform.

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