Pico, Machiavelli, Castiglione, and Elizabeth I of England  Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein   The writings of such Renaissance lights as Pico della Mirandola, Machiavelli, and Castiglione were an inspiration to both the nobility of the time and to later cultural periods. It should be clear, though, that Pico and Machiavelli were polar opposites, since one idealistically believed human beings could elevate themselves to a divine status, while the other saw humans as self-serving, avaricious, grasping, and low-minded. Probably the best way to look at these extremes is to recognize Pico and those of his mind-set as idealistic, while Machiavelli can be seen as a practical politician and realist (though perhaps also cold-blooded). In his defense, it may be said Machiavelli was offering practical advice based on his own experience, and he did recommend walking a "middle road" when possible, so that on the surface a ruler might at least seem to be concerned for the welfare of his subjects. (His recommendations for practical politics are still in use and need to be recognized if not utilized by anyone seeking a political career.) Castiglione's Book of the Courtier was the first real book of manners and courtesy, and its recommendations included training or educating both men and women in the liberal arts. If we examine how all these influences came together in the Late Renaissance, they might be seen to have merged in the reign of Elizabeth I of England, who could arguably be called the greatest prince or king who ever ruled. In her 45- year reign, she learned to rule with Machiavellian skill while maintaining a velvet touch. Further, she encouraged broad learning both in her court and through the establishment of a public education system. Her remarkable reign encouraged all the arts, enhanced overseas exploration, and improved the economy through support of middle class trade and manufacturing. She walked a middle road religiously, adhering to the Church of England while nevertheless allowing Catholics and Calvinists to live peacefully in her kingdom (though they were barred from holding public office). And she maintained a strong army and established a strong navy—in effect, the British Navy became the world's greatest sea power during her reign and maintained that position until the 20th century. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily