Sir John Hawkins: Queen Elizabeth's Slave Trader by Harry Kelsey - review by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

Bringing Back the Booty

Sir John Hawkins: Queen Elizabeth's Slave Trader


Yale University Press 385pp £25 order from our bookshop

GLORIANA HAS LOST her glitter. Fifty years ago, Englishmen who called themselves 'New Elizabethans' anticipated a revival of their ancestors' great age of national glory. The cult of Merrie England was still celebrated at vdlage Gtes, where Lucia-like ladies affirmed patriotic enthusiasm for a queen with 'the heart and stomach of a king'. Playwrights, composers and historians spread their cloaks to save her fiom getting spattered with the mud of revisionism. The reeling, rolling road of English identity could still be traced from the playing fields of Eton back to Plymouth Hoe. The 'anvil in the vdlage smithy' beat time to 'Drake's Drum'. Englishmen's conviction of their effortless superiority over foreigners, their cults of 'pluck' and coolness in crisis, their confidence in the underdog's prospects of triumph, their deification of gifted amateurs, their espousal of a maritime vocation supposedly so strong that the nation could aspire to 'rule the waves': all these traditions were still vital and all still evoked the Elizabethan era.

Not any more. The expectations of New Elizabethanism led to disillusionment. Elizabeth's namesake watched helplessly as the achievements Englishmen ascribed to the first Elizabethan age were eroded. The Empire dissolved, the economy declined. The Royal Navy, which had resisted Hitler, succumbed to the Treasury. Anglicanism sickened, dynamism dwindled and optimism

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