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Sir Philip Sidney and the Court of Elizabeth I

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The Funeral of Sir Philip Sidney in 1587

Image source: Wikimedia

Prominent Figure of the Elizabethan Age (1554-1586)

One of the most renowned and best loved men at the court of Queen Elizabeth I was Sir Philip Sidney. He was of noble blood and was named after Philip II of Spain. His uncle was Elizabeth's favourite, the Earl of Leicester. After attending Shrewsbury School and Christ Church, Oxford, Sidney travelled in Europe and did state work until 1575. He was in Paris at the time of the massacre of St. Bartholomew (murder of French Protestants) in 1572 and was strongly Protestant. After several years at court he lost the Queen's favour by objecting to her proposed marriage with the French Duke of Anjou. Sidney left the court in 1580 and went to live in Wilton, Wiltshire, with his sister, Mary, Countess of Pembroke.

Here Philip Sidney wrote the long poem Arcadia for his sister. He also wrote a series of sonnets called Astrophel and Stella, Astrophel being himself while Stella was Penelope, the daughter of the Earl of Essex. He fell in love with her but she was later married to another man.

In 1585 Sir Philip Sidney was sent to the Netherlands, where fighting was going on between Catholics and Protestants. A year later he was wounded in a fight and rode back to camp with difficulty. Water was brought to him, but on seeing a dying soldier near by he gave it to him, saying, 'Thy necessity is yet greater than mine.' Philip Sidney died of his wound on October 17, 1586, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

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