With the reign of Elizabeth I, a vivid sense of new beginning and of new vigor came to England, and to London especially. Of this new vigor a dream of greatness was born, and men still famous for high art in words or hardihood in deeds came together to give form and substance to that dream: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Bacon and Spenser; Raleigh, Frobisher, Hawkins and Drake, with many another. In the material world, first the Renaissance and then the Reformation had each dug deeper than was immediately perceived (deeper than many people have even yet perceived), and to the bold thinker everything was thrown open to new question. At the same time, the age itself had its own mystique, derived inevitablγ, despite its new temper, from the mystique of the preceding ages. A flick of history which looked almost like chance gave a supreme symbol of this mystique to Elizabeth herself. Heiress of both the Lancastrian and the Yorkist houses, the great antagonists in the previous century's Wars of the Roses, she took as her personal badge the White and Red Rose conjoined, the great alchemical symbol of the achievement of the Work.
Of Elizabeth's personal beliefs there can be no doubt.
Her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been brought up in Provence where Gnostίc and Manιchaean beliefs had mίngled with Troubadour poetry in a high and courtly culture which Rome had decimated in the hideous "Albigensian Crusade" but could never wholly obliterate. That Anne, with her sixth finger and her intense personal magnetism, would have been considered a heretic by any church, and knew more than a little of witchcraft, has been a persistent and probable tradition from her own days onward. Elizabeth herself, on her father's side, inherited in addition the Welsh-Celtic blood of the Tudors. She was by every motive, including the question of her own legitimacy, separated utterly from Rome; but never, on the other hand, was she known to show any great faith in the Church of England which she did so much to establish. She swore at its ministers when their sermons did not please her, she said openly that they were no true priests, and it is altogether evident that her interest in its affairs was wholly political, a matter of state. At the same time, her belief in all the occult arts was a manifest reality. She feared their possible use against her as she never feared the Spanish Armada, but also she assiduously cultivated their use on her behalf. A magical Queen she was truly. Even her personal appearance was a near miracle, in which the medieval and the modern meanings of the word "glamour" were inscrutably combined. A thin, red-haired woman with an over-intelligent face and mannish figure, she was the subject of exquisite portraits showing the vision of delicate beauty in which a nation believed. Nor was she a recluse who was known by hearsay or by portraits only, for her progresses through the country and her other public appearances were innumerable. Her habitual array of jewels was fabulous, and she never appeared twice in one of her rich brocade dresses. The name by which she loved to be called was Gloriana. Her belief in herself as a figure of destiny, as the living symbol of the great age in which she lived, is not to be doubted.
From all this it follows that an alchemist-astrologer who could advise Glorίana on difficult matters would, if he were a man of discretion and of good repute, stand well to receive her considerable favor—at least, to receive as much favor as anyone could expect from an "imperial votaress" who had so many other uses for her money. Such a man was John Dee, and such, as far as ordinary affaίrs went, was his destiny. His true career, however, was concerned with far from ordinary affairs.
John Dee held no actual doctorate; he was a Master of Arts, but the title of Doctor has always been accorded to him as the just due of hίs great learning. He had attracted attention, both for his notable mathematical studies and for his suspected magical practices and unacceptable religious views, in the reign of Edward VI. Elizabeth, who was not only keenly interested in the occult but was herself a considerable scholar, took him into the service of the court immediately upon her accession. He was at that time most prudently reticent as to his occult knowledge, he was a dignified and impressive figure, and he was himself of Welsh descent. He wrote a number of books on mathematical and alchemίcal subjects, spent a few years on the Continent "in pursuit of knowledge," and on his ret