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Peter Iver Kaufman (ed.), Leadership and Elizabethan Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).  ISBN: 978-1-137-34335-2, 237 pp. £60,00.

Reviewed by Nadia T. van Pelt


[1] Leadership and Elizabethan Culture is a collection of papers that addresses government and leadership during the reign of Elizabeth I from a range of cultural, political and literary viewpoints. Aside from discussing the mechanisms of Tudor leadership, from matters of state and church rule to economic exchange, the chapters in this volume examine a number of historical sources including the Cecil papers, correspondence between Francis Bacon and his patron the first Earl of Essex, Puritan tracts, educational books on leadership and plays by William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Heywood. Interdisciplinary, sometimes cross-disciplinary in nature, the articles in this volume reconsider the mechanisms of late Tudor governance, and seek to re-evaluate public participation in rulership during, what Patrick Collinson has termed, the ‘monarchical republic’ of Elizabeth I (Collinson, 2003). As such the collection offers a fresh perspective on the distribution of leadership, as well as leadership strategies, under one of England’s most illustrious monarchs.

[2] The first essay is an appraisal of Queen Elizabeth I’s monarchical leadership by Susan Doran, who explores Elizabeth’s management capacities and acclaims her ‘proficiency at team-building’, her ‘ability to communicate effectively’, her ‘command of image and performance’, and finally, ‘her mastery of creative deceit’ (p. 13).These qualities, Doran explains, led to a relatively stable reign, in which the Queen united personal charm, Ciceronian rhetoric, a strong system of patronage, the performance of royal majesty and propaganda to her advantage. Also concerned with management tactics, Norman Jones’ contribution studies ‘Tudor management literature’, the works through which young noblemen were educated to become competent leaders (p. 24), such as John of Salisbury’s Policraticus (1159); Thomas Elyot’s The Book Named the Governor (1531) which was dedicated to Henry VIII; Humphrey Brahma’s The Institution of a Gentleman (1555) and Henry Peacham’s The Compleat Gentleman (1622). ‘Management’, Jones observes, ‘was about the skills of working together in a mannerly way, thinking wisely about the sources and solutions to problems, taking initiative, modeling behavior, and sticking with the job’ (p. 34). ‘Honour’ and ‘courtesy’ were the key concepts underlying these skills, referring to ‘a state of being rather than a particular action’ (p. 34). For courtiers seeking political power and advancement – as Charlotte Bolland observes in the next essay – it was often achieved through the workings of patronage. Bolland analyses Charles Medbury’s dedication to Queen Elizabeth which he phrased in Italian, considering the cultural context that encouraged Medbury to produce the volume and to address his Queen in a foreign language.

[3] The following two contributors address Tudor diplomacy in relation to the governance of neighbouring countries. In Chapter 4, K.J. Kesselring appraises the extent to which Mary, Queen of Scots, was involved in or supported the Northern Rebellion in November 1569, concluding that the nature of her complicity needed to remain unclear so that Elizabeth could ‘preserve the dignity and inviolability of queenship’, while at the same time being able to dispose of a rival queen (p. 67). In ‘Elizabeth’s Leadership Abroad’, Peter Iver Kaufman critically examines the diplomacy behind Elizabeth’s collaboration with Dutch Calvinists during the 1570s. Kaufman observes that Elizabeth did not share William of Orange’s desire for an ‘international Calvinist collaborative’ (p. 83), but that she employed cunning political strategies that enabled her to keep ‘wars from her shores’ by supporting Dutch rebel mariners to put off the French and the Spanish (p. 83).

[4] The next four essays explore the leadership strategies of William Cecil, Robert Devereux, first Earl of Essex, Francis Bacon and Henry Herbert. In her chapter, Janet Dickinson covers the last decade of Elizabeth’s reign, and studies the degree to which Cecil and Essex were duty-bound to cooperate as loyal servants to the Queen. In ‘Imagination and Leadership’, Todd Butler analyses the advice given by Francis Bacon in a letter to his patron, the Earl of Essex, in terms of ‘image management’ (p. 112): a means to secure political power. Bacon urged Essex to think about the competing – negative – images of himself that other courtiers presented to the Queen ‘by dismissing his merits, laughing at his fashions and manners, and pushing him toward unwanted offices and obligations’ (p. 109). In a letter, Bacon warned Essex that such competing images, in combination with Essex’ own conduct, could have harmful political consequences: ‘But I say, whensoever the formerly-described impression is taken in any King’s breast towards a subject, these other recited inconveniences must, of necessity of politic consequence, follow’ (p. 109). The following chapter, by Neil Younger, claims that Henry Herbert, the second Earl of Pembroke, who was in charge of the government of Wales, employed a type of leadership that relied on the ‘personalized rather than the bureaucratic’, and created followership by speaking to local authorities in terms that they understood and valued, such as ‘honour, credit, and fear of punishment’ (p. 135). In his chapter, ‘Swingebreeches and Schollers’, Timothy Scott McGinnis ventures into the realms of the Elizabethan puritans Anthony Gilby, George Gifford and Arthur Dent, who wrote dialogues in which they expressed criticisms towards ‘poorly qualified ministers’ and church leaders showing themselves ‘uninterested in implementing further reform’, and which expressed an urgent concern about the future of the church (p. 142). These dialogues on pastoral failings show the power of words to ‘dress down’ authority’ (p. 142). The four essays in this section give an insightful view into the hierarchies of Elizabethan rulership, and the workings of advice-giving and social and political patronage between the queen and her advisors, as well as addressing ecclesiastical and local leadership. As such these essays expand the focus of the study of Elizabethan leadership into a wider realm outside the court, opening up a new field of discussion.

[5] The final essays are concerned with various kinds of leadership expressed in drama performed during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. In ‘Commerce and Community’, Ritchie D. Kendall considers the nature of commercial leadership through a reading of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1596), Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta (1590), Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599) and Thomas Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody, or The Troubles of Queen Elizabeth (1604). These plays begin ‘to imagine the possibility of community and leadership grounded in emergent forms of economic exchange’ and explore ‘anxieties about the disruption of traditional forms of power’ (p. 171). Meg Pearson, in ‘The Perils of Political Showmanship’, studies Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great, Parts 1 and II as critiques towards the Tudor affinity with ‘the spectacular’. She suggests that we might read these plays as ‘metatheatrical cautionary tales’ (p. 175) in which Marlowe warns both the architects of political shows and playwrights that ‘spectacle cannot be routinized’ because it undermines imperial agendas (p. 186). ‘Shifting audiences and aesthetics’, as Pearson observes, could be disastrous for the long-reigning Elizabeth, whose motto ‘semper eadem’ (always the same) signals the problem that she met in the later stages of her reign, when the spectacle of her queenship no longer attracted the same kind of admiration in her spectators. The next chapter addresses ‘servant leadership’ in Shakespeare’s King John in relation to Elizabethan government. Highlighting the monarch’s reliance on loyal servants with leadership qualities, Kristin M.S. Bezio studies the character of the Bastard in King John. This character’s actions in the play indicate the ‘power and significance of the Elizabethan servant leader not only to guide the monarch in ruling (well), but also in helping to shape policy, legislation, and even the future of England’ (p. 206). In the volume’s final chapter, Karen Bruhn demonstrates that Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure (1604) offers a model for leadership in which ‘authentic leadership’ is imagined as ‘a mature and complete self-understanding and reflected in action that works for a greater good’ (p. 224). Kaufman, in his introduction, observes that playwrights, portraitists and patrons of the arts greatly influenced the way in which the queen was portrayed ‘in miniatures, on canvas, and into history’ (p. xii). Indeed, he observes that the representations of kingship, rulership or any kind of governance on stage, directly or indirectly contributed to what Louis Montrose in The Subject of Elizabeth (2006) has referred to as the Elizabethan ‘cult formation’: images collectively produced to the greater glory of the Queen. Montrose observes that these images could be employed to the material, social or political benefits of other influential Elizabethans (Montrose, p. 90). For Kaufman, quoting Montrose, this summarizes the workings of Tudor leadership: the veneration of the monarch could bring influential courtiers power and affluence, as could the patronage of writers, artists, and other makers of imagery. The construction of late Tudor leadership at national, local and ecclesiastical levels appears to have taken as its example the queen’s managements skills, as observed by Susan Doran, favouring rhetoric, the use of image and performance, effective communication, propaganda, and a strong system of patronage. Thus, while many studies have observed how the Queen demonstrated her authority, this collection of essays also shows how her subjects, at various social levels, were concerned with their own images of leadership and desire for power.

[6] There is no doubt that the well-documented and fascinating essays in Leadership and Elizabethan Culture make a valuable contribution to the fields of leadership studies, early modern diplomacy, and images of monarchy, adding to our understanding of the ideas and mechanisms behind English government of this period. The essays in this volume explore the governance by the Queen and her advisory bodies at court, but also study local, ecclesiastical and commercial leadership. The papers are well-linked and the volume is well-balanced, although the collection would benefit from further supplementary papers that study religious leadership, to balance out the papers on monarchical and governmental rule. As Susan Doran has observed, corporate strategists in recent years have used Elizabeth as a ‘model for good leadership’ (p. 13). Entrepreneurs and moguls could learn much from the management tactics examined in these essays. It is to be hoped then that this eye-opening volume will inspire its readers to expand the field, further elucidating the diverse workings and images of Tudor leadership.

University of Leiden, September 2014