Astro Riff: Queen Elizabeth I

After looking at Henry VIII, one of England's most infamous monarchs, it seems only fair to look at one of the most beloved. For centuries the reign of Elizabeth I was viewed (by the English, at least) as a Golden Age. It was the age of Shakespeare, the defeat of the Spanish armada, exploration and the earliest English settlements of North America. The roots of the Church of England's "middle way" between Protestantism and Catholicism are found here. Literacy and learning were on the rise. Elizabeth even had a court astrologer: the illustrious John Dee. 

Little is known about Elizabeth's relationship with Dee, but it is said that he tutored her. Did they work on astrology together? It's difficult to say, but we do know that she allowed Dee to choose her coronation date.

Today, historians argue about how much of a Golden Age Elizabeth's reign really was, but it's difficult to deny that she was a master at creating her own personal myth. When I looked at her chart, I wondered if there would be any astrological symbolism that might point to the possible influence of John Dee.

I was not disappointed.

The most immediately obvious thing about Elizabeth's chart was the Sun in Virgo. One of the first facts school children learn about Elizabeth was that she was called the Virgin Queen. Whether she actually died a virgin or not is debatable, but in a time when women were seen as flighty and incompetent and publicly derided as the inventors of sin, it was essential that Elizabeth send a strong message that she was grounded, moral, and able to stand alone. For a woman in that time, few things would have sent that message more strongly than a reputation for virginity.

It's easy to imagine her sitting down with Dee for a reading--how cool would that be?--and hearing that her Sun was in the sign of the Virgin. Did it inspire her? Did she think about it when she was pressured to choose a spouse?

We'll probably never know, but we do know that helping her with the task of creating a flawless image was an ascendant in Capricorn. While her Sun and ascendant were not trine by degrees, they were trine by sign. Trines are not always harmonious, but in this case the stern, paternal, driven personality of Capricorn supports the (understandable!) ego need to be perfect.

These things are further reinforced by a Pluto in the 1st house. Pluto in the 1st house is a difficult placement to get right, and it must have been even harder in Elizabeth's time, centuries before Pluto was discovered. Despite Pluto's invisibility in her chart, Elizabeth was able to use this influence to build a powerful reputation. She was like the phoenix rising from the ashes of incessant character assassinations during the reign of her father and sister. 

With these three elements, Elizabeth's image would be been impenetrable, but it would have been a little boring, too. Fortunately, there were plenty of humanizing elements in her chart. 

There is a pattern in her chart of tense relations between power and the arts. Opposite her Moon--by house but not by degree--is her Venus in Libra, the sign of the artist, and the passionate 8th house. Both Elizabeth's Venus and Sun are in the 8th house, which leads me to believe that keeping a severe and virginal image wouldn't have been easy for her.

Adding to the tension, deep in her chart, in the 3rd house, almost squaring that powerful Pluto, four degrees from the IC, was her Moon in Taurus. One of the nicknames for Taurus is "the musician." It is in that Taurus Moon that we begin to see how Elizabeth reconciled her artistic soul and her cold, iconic myth. In addition to her famous patronage of the arts, Elizabeth had a reputation for loving dancing. She was also a highly educated polyglot, and one of her hobbies was translating poetry into other languages--bringing together language and the rhythm of song. 

As always, this wouldn't be an Evolutionary reading without looking at the nodes, and Elizabeth's nodal story is extraordinary. Her south node is in the 2nd house and shares Aquarius (but not the 1st house) with Pluto. Before her ascent to the throne, she was known as a Protestant radical. She was declared a bastard by her father and under continual threat of execution from her Catholic older sister Mary I. As a girl growing up in a male heir obsessed family, her identity must have been attacked at every turn. 

Making things even more difficult, Uranus and Saturn, the rulers of her south node, were conjunct in 7th house Cancer. Even after she ascended the throne, she was under continual pressure to lose herself in a relationship and maternity, abandon her claim to power and the throne.

Her north node in Leo, however, called her somewhere else. Leo is traditionally associated with royalty. Her task in that lifetime was to learn how to be a queen. With the Sun as the ruler of Leo in Virgo, it wasn't enough for her to be royal. She had to be self-contained and stand alone. She had to become the Virgin Queen. 

I am not a historian. Even if I was, I don't feel comfortable deciding whether or not Queen Elizabeth's life was a success. As an astrologer, I can say that she came into this life with an extraordinarily difficult birth chart to get right. It would have been easy for her to be a royal basket case, lashing out at everyone around her until she finally surrendered her throne to a powerful man. No one would have blamed her if she had. In fact, she probably would have been applauded for it. But she didn't. She chose to take a harder, lonelier road, and I believe anyone who does that is worthy of respect.