Sunday, December 4, 2011

Queen Elizabeth I: Princesshood

Elizabeth I of England

Elizabeth I, also known as "The Virgin Queen," is the most famous queen who has ever ruled England. The last of the Tudor Monarch, Queen Elizabeth I proved to be one of the smartest rulers the country has ever had. Despite the arguments on the legitimacy of her crown (some have claimed that her father, King Henry VIII, had never married Anne Boleyn), she was a tough woman who survived plots by people who tried to get rid of her, and if they didn't, were planning to marry her off.

In her time, females were regarded to be less capable to govern a country. So how did she kept her crown and won the respects of her subjects?

Elizabeth Tudor was born on the 7th of September 1533. Her father-- Henry VIII, famous for his 6 wives-- was not pleased that she was a girl. This is because he already had a daughter, Mary, and wanted a son to take over his thrown.

Background info: The Tudor Family

Elizabeth's mother is Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Before his second marriage, Henry VIII was a Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholics repudiates the idea of a divorce with his first wife, Catharine of Aragon. After years of begging the church to annul his first marriage, King Henry soon claimed that he had never been legally married in the first place. This is because Catharine of Aragon was once married to his elder brother, Arthur, who died five months after their marriage; Henry should never be allowed to marry his brother's widow. In fact, Henry VIII believed that it is because of this fact that he was cursed to have no sons with Catharine of Aragon, but with only one surviving child-- Mary Tudor (now famously known as "Bloody Mary"). Many people did not acknowledge his new marriage for they believed that it was an act of tyranny. To marry Anne Boleyn, Henry had abandoned his wife of 20 years and sacked the Pope as head of Church in England. Hence, the populace refused to change their religion from Roman Catholics to Protestants just to acclaim his second marriage. This is the pivotal point which had set off centuries of religious conflict. Over the years, many people were tortured and burned at the stake because they were in the 'wrong' religion, depending on who had ruled at that given time.

Queen Catharine was relegated from Queen of England to 'the Princess Dowager,' while Princess Mary from Princess of Wales to the lady-in-waiting for Princess Elizabeth. While Mary Tudor had a miserable life (she wasn't allowed to see her mother, even when Catherine became ill with cancer), Elizabeth Tudor had a great one. Yet, Eli soon wouldn't remain as a royal princess.    

In 1534, Henry passed a new act of succession: only children of Anne Boleyn were the legitimate heirs to the throne of England, and King Henry would become Head of Church. People who rebuked his oppressive act were put to death as an act of treason. Soon after that, King Henry felt irritated by his wife's 'flirtatious' (he claimed so) and demanding attitude. When Anne's son was stillborn, Henry decided that God was angry and he never should have left his deceased wife. He then accused Anne of adultery with her brother and not long after that, Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded.

Within a month after Anne Boleyn's death, King Henry VIII married for the third time-- with Jane Seymour.Queen Jane acted as the mediator between King Henry and Mary Tudor, and Jane was very nice to Elizabeth Tudor. Unfortunately, Jane died from childbirth: after giving birth to Prince Edward.

Elizabeth didn't know what really happened to her mother and why she had died. When Elizabeth was 6 years old, her father got himself his fourth wife, a German princess named Anne of Cleves. However, this marriage did not last either as he soon repealed the fruitless marriage and made Anne his sister instead (he was appalled by Anne of Cleves' looks!). Wife number five is Anne Boleyn's 19 year old cousin, Katherine Howard (King Henry was marrying so often because back in those days, people didn't expect all their children to survive through childhood; hence, one son wasn't enough). Yet, Queen Katharine was caught committing adultery and was beheaded. It is at this point of time that Elizabeth might have realised what really happened to her mother, and discovered that Queen Anne Boleyn had been executed by her father-- similar to Eli's biological aunt, the fifth wife Queen Katharine. Five months after that, Henry took his final wife, Katherine Parr. Katherine Parr never wanted to be married to the king, as she was in love with Thomas Seymour, the brother of Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour (mother of King Henry VIII's only son, Edward Tudor).
Young Elizabeth Tudor
Has reddish hair like her father

After King Henry VIII's death, his son became king of England. Aside from this, King Henry VIII's widow, Katherine Parr, secretly married Thomas Seymour as they both knew that their marriage wouldn't be approved by Edward Seymour, another uncle of the young king. Katherine Parr took Elizabeth to live with her in Chelsea Palace, her house by the river Thames. Even though Katherine Parr was in love with Thomas Seymour, Thomas Seymour sets his eyes on Elizabeth Tudor because he believed that Eli could bring him more power. Thus, during Elizabeth's stay, he had been flirting with Elizabeth.

Why did Thomas Seymour did all of these? He resented his brother as he believed that Edward Seymour benefited more from their sister's marriage with the king. He wanted to use Elizabeth Tudor and Lady Jane Grey (Elizabeth's cousin) to be against Edward Seymour. This is by making Elizabeth Tudor to be in love with him and King Edward to be married to Lady Jane Grey. As time progresses, Katherine Parr strongly dislikes Elizabeth and sent her away. Katherine Parr died of childbed fever not long after.

Marriage without the Lord Protector's consent was an act of treason. When it was discovered that Thomas Seymour intended to have Elizabeth Tudor as his wife, he was executed.

King Edward's reign was short, for he soon died of Tuberculosis. Before his death, he claimed that both his sisters were illegitimate and the throne should instead be passed on to his cousin Lady Jane Grey (already married ). Lady Jane Grey ruled England for 9 days, since Mary Tudor raised an army to fight for the crown. Not long after that, Queen Mary I (bloody Mary!) had Lady Jane Grey executed.

During Queen Mary I's reign, Elizabeth had one of the most difficult years of her life. Mary could not forget her bitter experiences and humiliation that she felt when her father divorced Catharine of Aragon. For that, she started by declaring Elizabeth illegitimate and saying that Elizabeth could not succeed to the throne. Mary wanted to restore the old ways of worship, but in the 20 years since England left the Catholic church, it was not easy to turn back time. Unfortunately, Mary was determined to turn the clock back and forced everyone to revert their religion-- by sentencing people to death for heresy if they were not Catholics (hence the name Bloody Mary). Elizabeth was poised between the Catholics and the Protestants. She had to please her sister by 'begging' Mary to 'put her right' on matters of religion, while acting jocular infront of the pious Protestants to show that she wasn't serious. Mary knew that the more popular Elizabeth was being sycophantic, and wanted to get rid of her. However, she needed a good reason if she were to execute her half sister; hence, the only way to ensure that Elizabeth wouldn't get hold of the crown was to have children of her own.

Mary was deeply in love with Philip, King of Spain (Mary's mother is Spanish). Yet, the English people did not like the idea of their Queen marrying a Spanish man. Lots of people wished that Elizabeth was their queen instead of Mary, so there were many conspiracies to replace their queen. All this support for Elizabeth just proved to Mary what a threat her sister was. In fact, this support had put Elizabeth in great danger: in a plot arranged by Thomas Wyatt, she had to choose between running away (a proof that she was in league to overthrow her sister) and sucking up to the Queen (would mean that she was against her ally). She was very fortunate because during such a difficult decision, she had a raging fever and had a kidney problem-- possibly due to stress. Mary didn't buy any of it, and was convinced that her sister had been plotting against her. Thus, Queen Mary signed a warrant to have Elizabeth locked in the Tower of London.

Knowing that she would be locked in the Tower of London, Elizabeth Tudor must have had felt cold in fear. She must had thought about her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn; her young and beautiful aunt, Queen Katherine Howard; her first love, Thomas Seymour; and her dear cousin who had been queen for 9 days, Lady Jane Grey; that all got executed after being locked in the Tower of London. She felt that once she was in the Tower, she would never be able to come out: she would either die on the scaffold Lady Jane Grey died on, or be poisoned by her sister anyway. Elizabeth wrote a letter, contending her innocence and claiming that she had nothing to do with the plot against the Queen. Instead of listening to Elizabeth's claim of innocence, Mary was furious that Elizabeth's trip to the prison was delayed. Elizabeth lived in terror that Queen Mary would have her killed. Besides, nobody could expect what the conspirators would say when they are being questioned and tortured.

Elizabeth was very lucky: minutes before Wyatt's execution, Wyatt made a speech to protect the princess. He confessed that lady Elizabeth knew nothing of the plot against the queen and the queen should beg her mercy. Not long after that, another suspect became acquitted as there were not enough incriminating evidence to convict the knight. Mary knew that if this knight was exculpated, there was no way she could convict her half-sister. Elizabeth was then released from the tower of London but was under house arrest.

Back to Queen Mary's love life, Mary Tudor was madly in love with Philip of Spain. Unfortunately, the King of Spain didn't reciprocate her love, but instead was anxious to meet Lady Elizabeth. Despite his insistence, Philip of Spain was not allowed by Mary to meet Lady Elizabeth. The reason Philip of Spain wanted to meet Lady Elizabeth is that by Tudor standards, Mary was considered old: if she were to get pregnant, she would die of childbirth anyway, and after Mary's death, Elizabeth is most likely to be Queen of England. When Queen Mary finally agreed to let Elizabeth meet Elizabeth's new brother-in-law, Philip of Spain facilitated Elizabeth's efforts to make the queen pardon her. Even though Elizabeth was no longer under house arrest, Mary still didn't trust her. At this time, Mary was thought to be with child. Mary's baby was due in June. By August, when she still hadn't delivered, people were laughing at her because it seems likely that she was never pregnant in the first place. Historians think that she might had a cyst or cancer which stopped her periods and made her swell up. Elizabeth was probably relieved, because no baby meant that she was next-in-line to the throne.

Philip of Spain was desperate to go abroad. He couldn't take his wife who was still madly in love with him. He left England for months-- but still protected Elizabeth from her sister's anger. Philip's main concern was to stop England from forming allies with the French against Spain. France and Spain were sworn enemies, and at that time, the heir to the French thrown was married to Mary Queen of Scots, another cousin of Elizabeth and Mary. If anything happened to Elizabeth, then Mary Queen of Scots would be Queen of England.

Mary was increasingly ill, and would soon be dying. She hated her half-sister more than ever by this time, and went round saying that Henry VIII wasn't Elizabeth's biological father but one of Anne Boleyn's many boyfriends. It looked as if Mary would override her father's will and name someone else her successor. The main candidates were Mary Queen of Scots and Lady Katherine Grey (Lady Jane Grey's sister), who were both her cousins. Mary favored Mary Queen of Scots as she was Catholic, but her husband still wanted to avoid the Queen of Scots with her French King husband to rule England.

Philip was often away from England. He didn't love Mary and only returned if he needed help for his army against France. Mary was head over heels about Philip that she agreed to his every whim. This costs the English government a fortune, and a lot of men were killed. Everything eventually fell to the French and Queen Mary I was hated more than ever.

When Queen Mary died, Elizabeth was 25 and pronounced Queen of England. She had so much to thank Philip for: if it wasn't for Mary's affection towards him, Mary Tudor would've given the crown to Mary Queen of Scots without any hesitance whatsoever.


  1. It would be funny if you were supposed to add a missing full stop to this sentence (despite introducing a grammatical error).
    "The last of the Tudor Monarch, Queen Elizabeth I proved to be one of the smartest rulers the country has ever had. "
    could have read
    "The last of the Tudor Monarch, Queen Elizabeth. I proved to be one of the smartest rulers the country has ever had. " : p


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