Scholar of the Month: Queen Elizabeth II

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For the first Scholar of the Month for 2018, I’ve decided to deviate slightly from the habit of choosing entirely fictional characters to draw inspiration from. While this month’s choice was entirely inspired by a fictional creation, I have done my research, and separated the history from the fabrication. Queen Elizabeth II, recently popularized by her portrayal by Claire Foy in Netflix’s The Crown, was and is a surprising but incredibly strong scholar in her own right. I speak mainly of a particular episode in the first season: “Scientia Potentia Est”. Knowledge is power. In the episode, the Queen laments what she sees to be a lacking education. Queen Elizabeth was never enrolled in public or private school. She was, however, tutored by governesses from infancy, and was later taught personally by the Vice Provost of Eton College, Henry Marten. Marten mentored her very specifically, and very successfully, it seems, on constitutional law.

I discovered during my research that Professor Hodge, the tutor Queen Elizabeth hires to “fill in the gaps” in her education, was entirely fictional, a plot device dreamed up by Peter Morgan (the show’s creator) to drive home a point. But it is well-known historically that the real Queen Elizabeth often regretted the fact that she was never offered a conventional education. It should be heavily noted, though, that she was a voracious reader from childhood, and was unafraid to “fill in the gaps” in whatever way she could in order to keep up with the political figures surrounding her.

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The point that Morgan attempts to drive home in the episode is that while the Queen doesn’t think much of her education, there were, in reality, very few “gaps” to fill. She was incredibly knowledgeable in matters of the Constitution, of course, but she was also a veritable encyclopedia when it came to subjects that she had personal experience in. We see that in the show with her knowledge on horses, dogs, and cars, but as it turns out, the real Queen was exceptionally adept at many other subjects as well: French, history, geography, and more.

The conclusion I would like to draw is this: one should never be satisfied with their current knowledge, and always seek to learn more. But it is equally important to realize the knowledge one already has, and appreciate it.

So on to you: what kind of “gaps” in your knowledge would you like to fill this year? What knowledge do you already have that you should celebrate? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or directly by email at michelle@theconstantscholar.com.