Rulers in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used different techniques to successfully control the country that they ruled. According to Machiavelli, a fifteenth century writer, a ruler should be like a lion and like a fox. Even though no monarch precisely fits into the perfect description based on Machiavelli’s opinion, both Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia thrived as sovereigns of their nations. Elizabeth the First was the monarch of England from 1558 until 1603.
When she became queen in 1558 she was twenty-five years old and considered illegitimate to rule by most Europeans due to her mother. In addition, she inherited a nation torn by religious discord. She ruled by herself for nearly half a century without a man by her side and was known as the “virgin queen”. Her sense of duty was admirable and she was committed to preserve English peace and stability, putting politics and the well being of England before religion. Both the Protestant and Catholic religions were fighting for control through the monarchy.
Elizabeth’s predecessor, Mary the First, was a strong Catholic that executed many Protestants and wanted religious uniformity of the Roman Catholic Faith. However, Elizabeth was a Protestant and strived for religious peace. Elizabeth is an excellent example of a ruler that closely followed Machiavelli’s suggestions. As an un-married queen she dangled her marriage and put it to political use. When she became Queen proposals of marriage flooded in, however Elizabeth committed herself to none of them.
She managed to use her single state to benefit the country by using the bait of marriage to draw in enemies, or to frighten them by suggesting she would marry one of their foes. Elizabeth, using the marriage as a political leverage embodied what Machiavelli wanted; a ruler that acted like a fox. She used her unmarried status to create bonds with male rulers of other nations embodying the sly, sneaky, and clever personification of a fox’s characteristics. To stop the religious arguments throughout England, Elizabeth established the Anglican Church. This began a Church with the Roman Catholic hierarchy and Protestant doctrine.
The compromise made moderate Catholics and Protestants happy. However, extremists on both sides wanted their religion to be dominant. Elizabeth I, acting like a lion, made sure that no one and nothing came in the way of the religious serenity she created. When Mary Queen of Scotts, a legitimate queen to the throne, was a ploy in the Roman Catholics’ plot to overthrow Elizabeth, Elizabeth executed her. She was forceful, strong, and took control of the situation in Europe, just like a lion, to create a nation where there was religious toleration and superior leadership.
Catherine II was a female ruler of Russia reigning from 1762 to 1796. She was an empress that expanded, improved, and modernized Russia to the West’s standard. She helped Russia grow stronger so that it became recognized as one of the great powers of Europe. Catherine the Great understood that her country needed a change in order for it to remain a world power. In 1767 she assembled a Legislative Commission to help. To increase economic prosperity, under her reign, the exports of grain, flax, fur, and naval stores increased and the urban middle class grew.
She expanded Russia through wars and completed the conquest of the south began by Peter the Great. The Russian victories against the Ottoman Empire gave the Russians access to the Black Sea. She took no mercy on other countries and put Russia first just like with the ferocity a mother lion would have protecting her cubs. She knew what she wanted to get done and had an intuitive sense into what needed to be completed for the success of Russia. Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great, married the Grand Duke Peter of Holstein.
However, she disliked him and managed to remove Peter from the throne and place herself as empress. This behavior could be that of a fox. In Roald Dahl’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox, Mr. Fox only cared for himself and not for the emotions of the chickens. This represents Catherine the Great because she dismissed Peter, taking the leadership position of Russia for her personal gain. However, unlike either a lion or a fox and against Machiavelli’s theory, Catherine took many lovers not for political aspirations but rather for her own enjoyment.
She raised them to high positions while interested and then when her interest lagged she ameliorated the pain of removing the men from her favor by giving gifts of large estates and serfs. Although a woman of little beauty, Catherine possessed considerable charm, a lively intelligence, and extraordinary energy. Reminiscent of a lion she had a regal and powerful attitude that made her a great ruler. Both a Lion and a Fox demonstrate the ability to take control, dominate, and be clever. However, they do not represent the compassionate, political, and personal lives of rulers.
Elizabeth the First and Catherine the Great ruled as strong women who believed in the success and unity of their nations. Even though they ruled in different periods they had similar problems, goals, and achievements. No matter how much their personalities represented the stereotypical human attributes of both the Lion and the Fox, Elizabeth and Catherine were mostly human. They let emotions, histories, and brains control the way they governed their country becoming both great rulers of their nations.