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Biography of Queen Elizabeth I, Virgin Queen of England
Elizabeth I (Born Princess Elizabeth September 7, 1533–March 24, 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603, the last of the Tudor monarchs. She never married and consciously styled herself as the Virgin Queen, wedded to the nation. Her reign was marked by immense growth for England, especially in world power and cultural influence.
Fast Facts: Queen Elizabeth I
- Known For: Queen of England from 1558–1603, known for defeating the Spanish Armada and encouraging cultural growth
- Also Known As: Princess Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen
- Born: September 7, 1533 in Greenwich, England
- Parents: King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
- Died: March 24, 1603 in Richmond, England
- Education: Educated by William Grindal and Roger Ascham, among others
- Published Works: Letters, speeches, and poems (collected in modern times in the volume, Elizabeth I: Collected Works
- Notable Quote: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king and of a king of England too.”
7 things you (probably) didn’t know about Elizabeth I
The daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I (1533–1603) was England’s ‘Gloriana’ – a virgin queen who saw herself as wedded to her country and who brought almost half a century of stability after the turmoil of her siblings’ short reigns. Here, historian Tracy Borman reveals seven surprising facts about her life
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Published: September 7, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Flame-haired, white-faced and always lavishly dressed, Elizabeth possessed the natural charisma of her father, Henry VIII, and was the darling of her people. Her finest hour came in 1588 when she defeated the Spanish Armada, catapulting her to legendary status.
Writing for HistoryExtra, Tracy Borman reveals some surprising facts about the famous Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I…
Elizabeth was never meant to be queen
Although Elizabeth is now hailed as one of our greatest monarchs, she should never have got anywhere near the throne. She was not only a girl at a time when the laws of succession favoured boys, but she had an elder sister, Mary. Elizabeth was also removed from the line of succession altogether when her parents’ marriage was declared invalid prior to Anne Boleyn’s execution, and was only reinstated thanks to the kindly intervention of her last stepmother, Katherine Parr.
By the time of Henry VIII’s death, therefore, Elizabeth was third in line to the throne behind her younger brother Edward and elder sister Mary. It is one of the greatest ironies of history that Henry VIII had been so obsessed with having a son, yet his cherished boy only reigned for six years, dying of tuberculosis at the age of just 15. The second in line, Mary, did not fare much better. Her brief, catastrophic reign ended after just five years.
It was up to Elizabeth to show them how it ought to be done.
Elizabeth I: a biography
Born: 7 September 1533
Died: 24 March 1603
Reigned: queen of England and Ireland for 44 years, from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603. She was the last monarch of the Tudor period
Coronation: 15 January 1559, Westminster Abbey
Parents: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Siblings: Mary I (half-sister) Edward VI (half-brother)
Cause of death: Hotly debated – possible causes include blood poisoning pneumonia streptococcus (infected tonsils) or cancer
Succeeded by: King James VI and I
Elizabeth was a mummy’s girl
There is a common misconception that Elizabeth thought little of her ill-fated mother, Anne Boleyn. The fact that she hardly spoke of her and saved all of her praise for her adored father, Henry VIII, has often led to the conclusion that Elizabeth was ashamed of Anne.
On the contrary: all this proved was what a great pragmatist Elizabeth was. She had no wish to alienate swathes of her subjects by openly voicing her love for the woman who was still reviled as the ‘Great Whore’. Instead, Elizabeth chose more subtle ways to demonstrate her affection. For example, when posing for a portrait during her teenage years, she wore her mother’s famous ‘A’ pendant around her neck – an audacious stunt that would have landed her in hot water if her father had spotted it.
As queen, Elizabeth made sure that all of her late mother’s relatives were promoted to the best positions at court, and she also wore a pendant necklace that contained a miniature portrait of her mother opposite one of herself.
Elizabeth liked to give nicknames to her courtiers
Elizabeth was as famous a flirt as her mother, Anne Boleyn. She loved to surround herself with the most handsome men at court, and also entertained various foreign princes all hoping for her hand in marriage.
Elizabeth used her femininity to bring a male-dominated court to its knees, and gave playful nicknames to her favourites. Her chief minister, Burghley, was called her ‘spirit’, and her alleged lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was her ‘eyes’. Rather more cheekily, she called François, Duke of Anjou, her ‘frog’.
Was she really a Virgin Queen?
Elizabeth I was England’s ‘Gloriana’ – a virgin queen who saw herself as wedded to her country. Or was she?
Both at home and abroad, rumours about Elizabeth’s love life – real or imagined – circulated throughout her reign. Over the years, countless books, novels, plays and films have depicted Elizabeth I’s relationships with figures such as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and the Duke of Anjou. In the absence of conclusive proof one way or another, the question ‘did they or didn’t they?’ will always linger.
Far from being the Virgin Queen, for some hostile observers Elizabeth was the ‘whore’ of Europe, says Dr Anna Whitelock.
Elizabeth used dirty tactics to outshine her rivals
Elizabeth exalted in being the queen bee at court. But although for the early part of her reign she was the most desirable bride in Europe, as her physical charms began to fade she employed dirty tactics to make sure that she kept all of the male attention to herself. Thus, while Elizabeth appeared at court bedecked in lavish gowns of rich materials and vivid colours, her ladies were obliged to wear only black or white.
No matter how attractive they might be in their own right, the plain uniformity of their dress would draw all eyes to the star of the show. To test the effect that this created, the queen once asked a visiting French nobleman what he thought of her ladies. He immediately protested that he was unable to ‘judge stars in the presence of the sun’. This was exactly the response Elizabeth required.
Elizabeth I’s war with England’s Catholics
“England’s Elizabethan Catholics were public enemy number one,” says Jessie Childs. “Their Masses were banned and their priests were executed”. Around 200 Catholics were executed, effectively for their beliefs, during Elizabeth’s reign.
Catholics in Elizabeth’s Protestant England couldn’t hold public office, they couldn’t take up arms for the monarch, and they were fined if they refused to attend Anglican services. They were also banned from observing Mass.
Get inside the mind of Elizabeth I – Helen Castor explores the psychology of the Virgin Queen on our podcast
Elizabeth I took longer to get ready than any other monarch
Elizabeth was always fastidious about her appearance, but the ritual of dressing the queen became increasingly elaborate as age began to overtake her: it took her ladies a staggering four hours a day to complete the ceremony of dressing and undressing the queen.
Elizabeth had originally worn wigs that matched her own colouring, but as she grew older these were used to conceal her greying hair. At the same time, ever more layers of makeup were applied to complete the so-called ‘mask of youth’. Her face, neck and hands were painted with ceruse (a mixture of white lead and vinegar) her lips were coloured with a red paste made from beeswax and plant dye, and her eyes were lined with kohl.
Why did she wear white make-up?
“Elizabeth I, the all-glorious queen of magnificence and spectacular display, was celebrated for her ageless glamour, her white flawless skin and sumptuous clothing,” says Dr Anna Whitelock. Yet over the 40-plus years of her rule, the young and pretty Elizabeth aged into a balding, frail woman with black, rotten and foul-smelling teeth scarred by pox, crippled by headaches and plagued by bouts of depression.
“Elizabeth’s contemporaries believed that beauty amplified female power, and so they regarded the queen’s splendour as confirmation of her claim to the throne,” Whitelock explains.
“An elderly, unmarried queen with no heir raised fears. Over the course of her reign the physical reality of Elizabeth’s weak, female and ageing ‘natural body’ had to be reconciled with the unerring and immortal ‘body politic’.”
Ironically, most of these cosmetics did more damage to the skin than ageing ever could. Ceruse was particularly corrosive, and one contemporary observed with some distaste: “Those women who use it about their faces, do quickly become withered and grey headed, because this doth so mightily drie up the naturall moisture of their flesh.”
But Elizabeth insisted that she continue to be adorned with this and other dangerous cosmetics, and only ever let her closest ladies see what lay beneath. When the impetuous Earl of Essex famously burst into her chamber before Elizabeth was dressed or made up, he was so shocked by her haggard appearance that he secretly joked about her “crooked carcass” to his friends. Elizabeth found out and it was said that she cut off his head in revenge – although his rebellion against her [in February 1601] probably had something to do with it.
Elizabeth might have been a man (!)
Although she has gone down in history as the Virgin Queen, upon her accession it was widely expected that Elizabeth would marry. But as she continued to resist pressure from her councillors to take a husband, rumours began to circulate that there was some secret reason why she was so determined not to marry.
One of the most popular was that Elizabeth had some ‘womanish infirmity’ that prevented her from conceiving. This gained such currency that a foreign ambassador bribed the queen’s laundresses to report on the state of her sheets so that they might discover whether her menstrual cycle was normal.
Elizabeth I is shown to be a feisty ruler with a scary temper. She can be rude, as she mocks her subjects and gives insulting nicknames to her advisors, but she is mostly playful with her teasing. She gets very mad, and tends to throw shoes and threaten beheading people when she's not in a good mood. She is very rude to Catholics because she was a Protestant, burning over 500 of them.
She was very suited to Shakespeare though. She really liked him! He was her pet peeve at that time, and she demanded rebuilding his play dome after it got burned down.
Elizabeth I of England’s Siblings
Elizabeth had an older half-sister, Mary Tudor, who was the king’s first child with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the only to survive to adulthood. Elizabeth also had a younger half-brother, Edward, who was the king’s first and only legitimate son with his third wife, Jane Seymour.
Elizabeth and Mary were declared to be illegitimate as their father sought to pave the way to the throne for Edward, his male heir. The girls were later reinstated as potential heirs. Upon Henry VIII’s death in 1547, Edward succeeded his father as King Edward VI.
Edward VI died just six years later, in 1553. Mary Tudor and their cousin, Lady Jane Grey, both were in line for the crown.
Edward had appointed Grey to be his successor. Her reign proved to be very short: Mary gained the support of the English people and unseated Grey after only nine days on the throne.
Even though Elizabeth supported Mary in her coup, she was not free from suspicion. A staunch Roman Catholic, Mary sought to restore her country back to her faith, undoing her father&aposs break from the Pope. While Elizabeth went along with the religious change, she remained a candidate for the throne for those who wanted a return to Protestantism.
In 1554, Thomas Wyatt organized a rebellion against Mary in the hopes of making Elizabeth queen and restoring Protestantism to England. His plot was uncovered, and Mary quickly imprisoned Elizabeth. Although Elizabeth disputed any involvement in the conspiracy, her sister was not wholly convinced.
Although she was soon released, Elizabeth&aposs life was firmly in her sister&aposs hands. Wyatt was executed, but he maintained that Elizabeth was not aware of the rebellion. Elizabeth eventually returned to Hatfield and continued with her studies. In 1558, Elizabeth ascended to the throne upon Mary Tudor’s death.
Queen Elizabeth I: Biography, Facts, Portraits & Information
Elizabeth Tudor is considered by many to be the greatest monarch in English history. When she became queen in 1558, she was twenty-five years old, a survivor of scandal and danger, and considered illegitimate by most Europeans. She inherited a bankrupt nation, torn by religious discord, a weakened pawn between the great powers of France and Spain. She was only the third queen to rule England in her own right the other two examples, her cousin Lady Jane Grey and half-sister Mary I, were disastrous. Even her supporters believed her position dangerous and uncertain. Her only hope, they counseled, was to marry quickly and lean upon her husband for support. But Elizabeth had other ideas.
She ruled alone for nearly half a century, lending her name to a glorious epoch in world history. She dazzled even her greatest enemies. Her sense of duty was admirable, though it came at great personal cost. She was committed above all else to preserving English peace and stability her genuine love for her subjects was legendary. Only a few years after her death in 1603, they lamented her passing. In her greatest speech to Parliament, she told them, ‘I count the glory of my crown that I have reigned with your love.’ And five centuries later, the worldwide love affair with Elizabeth Tudor continues.
‘Proud and haughty, as although she knows she was born of such a mother, she nevertheless does not consider herself of inferior degree to the Queen, whom she equals in self-esteem nor does she believe herself less legitimate than her Majesty, alleging in her own favour that her mother would never cohabit with the King unless by way of marriage, with the authority of the Church….
She prides herself on her father and glories in him everybody saying that she also resembles him more than the Queen does and he therefore always liked her and had her brought up in the same way as the Queen.’ the Venetian ambassador Giovanni Michiel describes Elizabeth spring 1557
Elizabeth Tudor was born on 7 September 1533 at Greenwich Palace. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry had defied the papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor to marry Anne, spurred on by love and the need for a legitimate male heir. And so Elizabeth’s birth was one of the most exciting political events in 16th century European history rarely had so much turmoil occurred on behalf of a mere infant. But the confident predictions of astrologers and physicians were wrong and the longed-for prince turned out to be a princess.
Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador and enemy of Anne Boleyn, described the birth to his master as ‘a portrait of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn great disappointment and sorrow to the King, the Lady herself and to others of her party.’ But for the next two years, Henry VIII was willing to hope for a son to join this healthy daughter. Immediately after Elizabeth’s birth, he wrote to his 17 year old daughter, Princess Mary, and demanded she relinquish her title Princess of Wales and acknowledge both the annulment of his marriage to her mother, Katharine of Aragon, and the validity of his new marriage. Mary refused she already blamed Anne Boleyn (and, by extension, Elizabeth) for the sad alteration of her own fortunes. In December, she was moved into her infant half-sister’s household. When told to pay her respects to the baby Princess, she replied that she knew of no Princess of England but herself, and burst into tears.
Henry already ignored Mary and Katharine’s constant pleas to meet now he began a more aggressive campaign to secure Anne and Elizabeth’s position. For one mother and daughter to be secure, the other pair must necessarily suffer. Most Europeans, and indeed Englishmen, still believed Katharine to be the king’s valid wife. Now old and sickly, imprisoned in one moldy castle after another, she remained a very popular figure. Anne Boleyn was dismissed in polite circles as the king’s ‘concubine’ and their marriage was recognized only by those of the new Protestant faith. Henry attempted to legislate popular acceptance of his new queen and heiress. But the various acts and oaths only cost the lives of several prominent Catholics, among them Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. The English people never accepted ‘Nan Bullen’ as their queen.
But while she had the king’s personal favor, Elizabeth’s mother was secure. And she held that favor far longer than any had expected. It was only after she miscarried twice that Henry began to consider this second marriage as cursed as the first. The last miscarriage occurred in January 1536 Katharine died that same month. With her death, the king’s Catholic critics considered him a widower, free to marry again. And this next marriage would not be tainted by the specter of bigamy. It was only necessary to get rid of Anne, and find a new wife – one who could hopefully deliver a son. The king already had a candidate in mind her name was Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting to both Katharine and Anne.
In the end, Henry VIII was not merely content to annul his marriage to Anne. She was arrested, charged with a variety of crimes which even her enemies discounted, and executed on 19 May 1536. Her little daughter was now in the same position as her half-sister, Princess Mary. However, all of Europe and most Englishmen considered Mary to be Henry’s legitimate heir, despite legislation to the contrary. No one believed Elizabeth to be more than the illegitimate daughter of the king. Also, there were already disparaging rumors of her mother’s infidelities perhaps the solemn, red-headed child was not the king’s after all? It was to Henry’s (small) credit that he always acknowledged Elizabeth as his own, and took pride in her intellectual accomplishments. As she grew older, even Catholic courtiers noted Elizabeth resembled her father more than Mary did.
Henry married Jane just twelve days after Anne’s execution and his long-awaited son, Prince Edward, was born in October 1537. Elizabeth participated in the christening, carried by Thomas Seymour, the handsome young brother of the queen. Jane died shortly after the birth of childbed fever. Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves on Twelfth Night (6 January) 1540. The marriage was a disaster, and Henry quickly divorced Anne and married Catherine Howard. Catherine was a cousin of Anne Boleyn they were both related to Thomas Howard, 3rd duke of Norfolk and perhaps Henry’s most nervous peer. The king enjoyed a brief few months of happiness with his fifth wife. But Catherine was thirty years younger than Henry and soon enough resumed an affair with a former lover. She was executed in February 1542 and buried beside Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London.
For Elizabeth, these changes in her father’s marital fortunes did not pass unnoticed. She was part of her half-brother Edward’s household her days were spent mostly at lessons, with the occasional visit from her father. As a child, no one expected her to comment upon her various stepmothers. It was only when she reached adulthood and became queen that its psychological effects were revealed. Elizabeth had a dim view of romantic love and, given her father’s example, who can blame her?
It was Henry’s sixth and final wife, Katharine Parr, who had the greatest impact upon Elizabeth’s life. A kind woman who believed passionately inPrincess Elizabeth, c1546, attributed to William Scrots education and religious reform, Katharine was a devoted stepmother. Understandably, she had far more of an impact with the young Edward and Elizabeth than with Mary, who was just four years her junior. Katharine arranged for 10 year old Elizabeth to have the most distinguished tutors in England, foremost among them Roger Ascham. As a result, Elizabeth was educated as well as any legitimate prince, and she displayed a genuine love and aptitude for her studies. ‘Her mind has no womanly weakness,’ Ascham would write approvingly, ‘her perseverance is equal to that of a man.’ And later, ‘She readeth more Greek every day, than some Prebendaries of this Church do in a whole week.’ And so she did Elizabeth’s love of scholarship never faltered and, in an age when women were considered inferior to men, she was a glorious exception.
Along with such classical subjects as rhetoric, languages, philosophy, and history, Elizabeth also studied theology. Ascham and her other tutors were famous Cambridge humanists who supported the Protestant cause. Likewise, Katharine Parr was devoted to the reformed faith. Unlike their half-sister Mary, both Edward and Elizabeth were raised Protestant during its most formative years. Yet while Edward was known for his piety and didacticism, Elizabeth already displayed the pragmatic character which would make her reign successful. She studied theology and supported the Protestant cause she had been raised to do so and knew only Protestants recognized her parents’ marriage. But she was never openly passionate about religion, recognizing its divisive role in English politics.
Most people viewed the adolescent Elizabeth as a serious young woman who always carried a book with her, preternaturally composed. She encouraged this perception, which was as accurate as any, by dressing with a degree of severity virtually absent at the Tudor royal court. But she was not so serious that she avoided all the material trappings of her position. Her household accounts, which came under the management of William Cecil (who later became her secretary of state), show evidence of a cultivated and lively mind, as well as a love of entertainment: fees for musicians, musical instruments, and a variety of books. As she grew older and her position more prominent, her household also expanded. During her brother Edward’s reign, she lived the life of a wealthy and privileged lady – and apparently enjoyed it immensely.
Elizabeth was thirteen years old when her father died. They were never particularly close though he treated her with affection on her few visits to his court. He even occasionally discussed the possibility of her marriage for, in the 16th century, royal bastards were common and often used to great advantage in diplomacy. Under the 1536 ‘Second Act of Succession’, which declared both her and the 19 year old Mary illegitimate, Parliament gave Henry the ability to determine his children’s status, as well as the actual succession. Typically for Henry, he simply let both his daughters live as princesses and gave them precedence over everyone at court except his current wife. But they had no real claim to the title of ‘princess’ and were known as ‘the lady Elizabeth’ and ‘the lady Mary’. This was often followed by the explanatory ‘the king’s daughter.’ It was an awkward situation which the king saw no reason to resolve. His will did recognize his daughters’ crucial place in the succession. If Edward died without heirs, Mary would inherit the throne if Mary died without heirs, Elizabeth would become queen. He also left them the substantial income of 3000 pds a year, the same amount for each daughter.
Did Elizabeth mourn her father? Undoubtedly so, for at least under Henry VIII she was three steps from the throne and protected by his rough paternal affection. After his death, she had good cause to wish him alive again. Ten year old Edward was king in name only. The rule of England was actually in the hands of his uncle, the Lord Protector Edward Seymour, soon titled duke of Somerset. Elizabeth was now separated from her brother’s household, moving to Katharine Parr’s home in Chelsea. This was perhaps the happiest time of her adolescence.
But Katharine married again quickly, to the man she had loved before Henry VIII had claimed her. Her new husband was Thomas Seymour, the younger brother of Lord Protector Somerset and uncle to the new King Edward. He was handsome, charming, and very ambitious. He also had terrible political instincts. Seymour was not content to be husband of the Dowager Queen of England. He was jealous of his brother’s position and desperate to upstage him. And so he inadvertently played into the hands of the equally ambitious John Dudley, earl of Warwick. Dudley wished to destroy the Seymour protectorship and seize power for himself. He allowed the feuding brothers to destroy each other.
For Elizabeth, the main problem with Seymour was his inappropriate and very flirtatious behavior. As a teenaged girl with little experience of men, she was flattered by his attention and also a bit frightened. Certainly it placed great strain on Katharine Parr, who had become pregnant soon after her marriage. The queen originally participated in Seymour’s early morning raids into Elizabeth’s room, where he would tickle and wrestle with the girl in her nightdress. But while Katharine considered this simple fun, her husband was more serious. He soon had keys made for every room in their house and started visiting Elizabeth while she was still asleep and he was clad in just his nightshirt. She soon developed the habit of rising early when he appeared, her nose was safely in a book. Edward’s council heard rumors of these romps and investigated. Elizabeth proved herself circumspect and clever she managed to admit nothing which would offend
She left the Seymour home for Hatfield House in May 1548, ostensibly because the queen was ‘undoubtful of health’. Elizabeth and Katharine exchanged affectionate letters, but they would not meet again. The queen died on 4 September 1548 of childbed fever.
After her death, Seymour’s position became more dangerous. It was rumored that he wished to marry Elizabeth and thus secure the throne of England in case Edward died young. He had already bought the wardship of Lady Jane Grey, a Tudor cousin and heir in Henry VIII’s will. He planned to marry Jane and Edward, thus securing primary influence with his nephew. Eventually, his grandiose plans unraveled and he was arrested. Perhaps the most damning charge was his planned marriage to Elizabeth. Immediately, the council sent Sir Robert Tyrwhit to Hatfield with the mission to take control of Elizabeth’s household and gain her confession. He immediately arrested Elizabeth’s beloved governess Kat Ashley and her cofferer, Thomas Parry they were sent to the Tower. Now, Tyrwhit told the princess, confess all he wanted confirmation of the charge that Seymour and Elizabeth planned to wed. If she confessed, Tyrwhit said, she would be forgiven for she was young and foolish – her servants should have protected her.
Elizabeth Signature As Princess Of England
Elizabeth did not hesitate to demonstrate her own wit and learning. Indeed, she drove Tyrwhit to exasperation ‘in no way will she confess any practice by Mistress Ashley or the cofferer concerning my lord Admiral and yet I do see it in her face that she is guilty and do perceive as yet she will abide more storms ere she accuse Mistress Ashley,’ he wrote to Somerset, ‘I do assure your Grace she hath a very good wit and nothing is gotten of her but by great policy.’ Elizabeth refused to scapegoat her loyal servants and defiantly asserted her complete innocence. She told Tyrwhit she cared nothing for the Admiral and when he had mentioned some vague possibility of marriage, she had referred him to the council. She also secured permission to write to Somerset and, upon doing so, demanded a public apology be made regarding her innocence. She also demanded the return of her loyal servants for if they did not return, she said, her guilt would be assumed. She read Ashley and Parry’s ‘confessions’ in which they described Seymour’s romps with her at Katharine Parr’s home. The details were undoubtedly embarrassing but she recognized their harmlessness. In short, she demonstrated every aspect of her formidable intelligence and determination. Poor Tyrwhit left for London with no damaging confession.
But the council didn’t need Elizabeth’s confession to execute Seymour. He was charged with thirty-three other crimes, and he answered only three of the charges. He was not given a trial a messy execution was always best passed by a Bill of Attainder. He was executed on 20 March 1549, dying ‘very dangerously, irksomely, horribly… a wicked man and the realm is well rid of him.’ Contrary to some biographies, Elizabeth did not say, ‘This day died a man with much wit, and very little judgment.’ The 17th century Italian novelist Leti invented this, as well as several forged letters long supposed to be hers.
Soon enough, Seymour’s brother followed him to the scaffold. Somerset was a kind man in private life and genuinely dedicated to economic and religious reform in England but, as a politician, he failed miserably. He lacked charisma and confidence he preferred to bully and bluster his way through council meetings. He simply did not understand how to manage the divisive personalities of Edward VI’s privy council. Meanwhile, John Dudley had been quietly manipulating other councilors and the young king to gain ascendancy. Upon Somerset’s execution, Dudley became Lord Protector he was also titled duke of Northumberland. He was the first non-royal Englishman given that title.
For Elizabeth, these events were merely background noise at first. Dudley took pains to cultivate a friendship with her, which she wisely avoided. He sent her and Mary amiable letters. Since Mary was a Catholic, and Dudley a Protestant who had benefited materially from the Reformation, he was necessarily more friendly to Elizabeth. For example, Edward VI had given Dudley Hatfield House, which was currently Elizabeth’s residence. Dudley graciously returned it to her in exchange for lesser lands in her possession. He also passed the patents to her lands, which allowed her more income. This, of course, should have been done at Henry VIII’s death. So Elizabeth at first benefited from Dudley’s rise to power. She was now a well-respected and popular princess, a landed lady in her own right with a large income and keen mind. She was also an heir to the English throne, though still officially recognized as a bastard. But she was shown every respect, and a degree of affection from Edward VI completely lacking in his relations with their sister Mary.
Their mutual faith was an important connection with the increasingly devout Edward. Elizabeth visited Court occasionally, corresponded with her brother, and continued her studies mainly at Hatfield. She had always been excessively cautious and very intelligent, qualities she displayed to great effect during the Seymour crisis. The only time in her life when she demonstrated any recklessness had been during the Seymour debacle she had learned its lesson well.
She also cultivated the image of a sober Protestant young lady. When queen, she became known for her love of beautiful gowns and jewels. But before 1558, she took care to dress soberly, the image of chastity and modesty. This was perhaps a conscious attempt to distance herself from Mary, a typical Catholic princess who dressed in all the glittering and garish finery she could afford. It is an ironic note on Mary’s character that she has become known as a dour, plain woman she was as fond of clothes and jewelry as her sister would become. It was Elizabeth who dressed plainly, most often in severely cut black or white gowns. She wore each color to great effect. She had matured into a tall, slender and striking girl, with a fair, unblemished complexion and the famous Tudor red hair. She wore her hair loose and did not use cosmetics. When she traveled about the countryside, crowds gathered to see her, a Protestant princess renowned for her virtue and learning, her appearance modest and pleasing. In this respect, she was emulated by her cousin Jane Grey. When Jane was invited to a reception for Mary of Guise, the regent of Scotland, Mary Tudor sent her ‘some goodly apparel of tinsel cloth of gold and velvet laid on with parchment lace of gold.’ Jane, a devout Protestant, was offended such apparel reflected the material trappings of Catholicism. When her parents insisted she wear it, Jane replied, ‘Nay, that were a shame to follow my Lady Mary against God’s word, and leave my Lady Elizabeth, which followeth God’s word.’
Elizabeth was honorably and extravagantly received at her brother’s court. For example, on 17 March 1552, she arrived at St James’s Palace with ‘a great company of lords, knights and gentlemen’ along with over 200 ladies and a company of yeomen. Two days later she left St James for Whitehall Palace, her procession accompanied by a grand collection of nobles. The visit was a marked success for Edward was open in his affection. She was his ‘sweet sister Temperance,’ unlike Mary who continued to defy his religious policy. The Primary Sources section of this site contains an excerpt from Edward VI’s journal in which he records a religious argument with Mary. In that matter, Elizabeth remained distant, preferring to let her siblings argue without her.
Edward’s ministers, especially after the Seymour affair, were careful with her. Dudley recognized Elizabeth’s formidable intelligence. When Edward VI became ill in 1553 and it was clear he would not survive, Dudley had a desperate plan to save himself from Mary I’s Catholic rule – place Henry VIII’s niece, Lady Jane Grey on the throne. (This is discussed in great length at the Lady Jane Grey site.) Simply put, Dudley believed he would be supported because Jane was Protestant and the English would not want the Catholic Mary on the throne. Of course, the question arises – Elizabeth was Protestant, so why not put her on the throne instead of Jane? The main reason is that Dudley was well aware that Elizabeth Tudor would not be his puppet, unlike Jane Grey whom he had married to his son Guildford. As for Edward VI, he went along with the plan because of two main reasons: Elizabeth was illegitimate so there might be resistance to her rule and, as a princess, she might be persuaded to marry a foreign prince and England would fall under foreign control. Jane was already safely wed to an Englishman.
Edward VI’s decision should not indicate any great dislike of Elizabeth. He was primarily determined to preserve the Protestant regime in England. He believed this was necessary for his personal and political salvation. He was also practical. He disinherited Mary because of her Catholicism however, it was officially sanctioned because of her illegitimacy. Like Elizabeth, Mary had her illegitimacy established by an act of Parliament during Henry VIII’s reign. Since he had ostensibly disinherited Mary because of this act, he couldn’t let Elizabeth inherit – it simply wasn’t logical. So the throne would pass to the legitimate – and Protestant – Lady Jane Grey. As most know, she ruled for just nine days before Mary became queen of England. It should be noted that Edward originally told Dudley that, though he didn’t want Mary to succeed him, he saw no logical reason for Elizabeth to be disowned. It was Dudley who pointed out the logical inconsistency – that Mary ‘could not be put by unless the Lady Elizabeth were put by also.’
Dudley attempted to place Mary and Elizabeth in his power while Edward was dying. He knew that if he imprisoned the two princesses, they would be unable to rouse popular support against his plan. But if that failed, he was determined to prevent them from seeing Edward, especially Elizabeth. Dudley feared that Edward’s affection for his sister, and Elizabeth’s cleverness, might persuade Edward to rewrite his will in her favor. Like her sister, Elizabeth would undoubtedly destroy Dudley, making him the scapegoat for Edward’s ineffectual regime. In fact, Elizabeth had suspected her brother was ill and set out from Hatfield to visit him just a few weeks before Edward died, but Dudley’s men intercepted her and sent her home. She then wrote her brother a number of letters, inquiring about his health and asking permission to come to Court. These were intercepted as well.
But as Edward’s health continued to deteriorate and death was imminent, Dudley sent a message to Hatfield, ordering Elizabeth to Greenwich Palace. She may have been warned of his intentions – more likely she guessed them. She refused the summons, taking to her bed with a sudden illness. As a further precaution, her doctor sent a letter to the council certifying she was too ill for travel. As for Mary, Dudley had told her that Edward desired her presence it would be a comfort to him during his illness. She was torn – though Dudley hid the true extent of the king’s illness, the Imperial ambassador had kept Mary informed. He was the agent of her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V Mary’s mother had been his aunt. Conscious of her sisterly duty, Mary set out for Greenwich from Hunsdon the day before Edward died.
Dudley was enraged by Elizabeth’s refusal but he could do nothing. Soon enough, events moved too quickly for the princess to be his primary concern. It was being whispered that Dudley had poisoned the king to place his daughter-in-law on the throne. Of course, this was untrue since Dudley needed Edward to live as long as possible for his plan to work. To this end, he had engaged a female ‘witch’ to help prolong the king’s life. She concocted a mix of arsenic and other drugs they worked, at least for Dudley’s purpose. The young king lived for a few more weeks though he suffered terribly. Finally, on 6 July 1553, Edward VI died. Immediately, Dudley had Jane Grey proclaimed queen, an honor she had not sought and did not want. It was only Dudley’s appeal to her religious convictions which convinced her to accept the throne.
Meanwhile, Jane’s cousin, Mary Tudor, was still on her way to Greenwich to see her brother, until a sympathizer (sent by Nicholas Throckmorton or William Cecil) rode out to meet her the summons was a trap, he told her, and Dudley intended to imprison her. Mary rode to East Anglia, the conservative section of England where her support would be strongest. Eventually she would realize the true extent of her support. Protestants and Catholics alike rallied to her cause since she was Henry VIII’s daughter and the true heir under his will. As she left for East Anglia, she didn’t know her brother was already dead but she sent a note to the Imperial ambassador Simon Renard once she knew of Edward’s death, she said, she would declare herself queen. She sent another note to Dudley, telling him she was too ill to travel.
The failure of Dudley’s ambitions is discussed at the Lady Jane Grey site. Suffice to say, he was overthrown and executed and Mary Tudor, at the age of thirty-seven, was declared queen of England in her own right. During the nine days of Jane’s reign, Elizabeth had continued her pretense of illness. It was rumored that Dudley had sent councilors to her, offering a large bribe if she would just renounce her claim to the throne. Elizabeth refused, remarking, ‘You must first make this agreement with my elder sister, during whose lifetime I have no claim or title to resign.’ So she remained at her beloved Hatfield, deliberately avoiding a commitment one way or another. When word reached her that Mary was finally queen, she sent a letter of congratulation to her sister and set off for London. On 29 July, she entered the capital with 2000 mounted men wearing the green and white Tudor colors. There she awaited Mary’s official arrival into the city. On 31 July, Elizabeth rode with her attendant nobles along the Strand and through the City to Colchester, the same path her sister would take. It was here she would receive her sister as queen. They had not seen each other for about five years.
Mary had always disliked her half-sister for many reasons, not least because she sensed an innate shiftiness in Elizabeth’s character. Elizabeth, Mary believed, was never to be trusted. Originally, this dislike was because of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn. Mary had long blamed Anne for her own mother’s tragic end as well as the alienation of her father’s affections. After Anne died and Elizabeth, too, was declared illegitimate, Mary found other reasons to hate Elizabeth, chief among them religion. Like her mother, Mary was a devout Catholic she recognized Elizabeth’s lack of religious zeal. But at her accession, the moment of her great triumph, she was prepared to be conciliatory.
Portrait of Elizabeth’s half-sister, Queen Mary I she ruled England from 1553 to 1558
Mary ordered that Elizabeth share her triumphal march through London. Their processions met at Wanstead on 2 August. There, Elizabeth dismounted and knelt in the road before her sister. Mary dismounted and raised her sister, embracing and kissing her with affection. She even held her hand as they spoke. Their two parties entered London together, the sisters riding side by side. The contrast between their physical appearances could not have been more striking. Mary, at thirty-seven, was old beyond her years. An adulthood passed in anxiety and tribulation had marred her health and appearance. She was small like her mother and thin, with Katharine’s deep, almost gruff voice. Elizabeth was nineteen years old, taller than her sister and slender. While Mary was richly attired in velvets covered in jewels and gold, Elizabeth was dressed in her usual strikingly severe style. Neither sister was conventionally beautiful but onlookers commented upon Mary’s open compassion and kindness and Elizabeth’s innate majesty. And since Mary was thirty-seven, quite old to have a child, Elizabeth was viewed as her probable heir. As such, she was cheered as much as the new queen.
On 1 October, Elizabeth rode to Mary’s coronation with Henry VIII’s discarded fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. She was once again accorded a place of honor amongst the English ladies, though not the highest position as was her due. The Imperial ambassador Renard reported that she spoke often with the French ambassador de Noailles. For his part, de Noailles reported that Elizabeth complained her coronet was too heavy and made her head ache. He replied to her that, God willing, she would soon wear a heavier crown.
This was dangerous talk, as Elizabeth soon discovered. Mary’s mood was fickle regarding her clever half-sister. For every kind word or gesture, there were public statements dismissing Henry VIII as Elizabeth’s father, or allowing distant cousins precedent at court. It was simply impossible for Mary to forget the past, etched so acutely upon her spirit. She could not like Elizabeth, nor trust her. Elizabeth responded to this emotional hostility by retreating to Hatfield. There she continued her studies and attempted to remain safe in the morass of English politics.
But however much she might wish for peace, she was not to have it. She was destined to be the focal point for all discontent over Mary’s reign. And there was soon much reason for discontent. Edward VI’s council had left the economy in shambles currency was debased and near worthless. There was a series of bad harvests. Prices rose and discontent spread. And worst of all, Mary soon decided to marry King Philip II of Spain, son and heir of Charles V. This was yet another example of her inability to forget the past. Philip represented the homeland of her beloved mother, and a chance to bring all the weight of the Holy Roman Empire to bear upon the heretics of England. Mary was determined to turn back the clock on twenty years of religious reform and make England a Catholic nation again.
Understandably, her subjects were less than thrilled. Even English Catholics did not want their country to become a powerless appendage of the Hapsburg empire. Certainly a queen had to marry, but not the emperor’s son! In this climate of rebellion and repression, Elizabeth’s life was in great danger. It could not be otherwise she was the only alternative to Mary’s rule.
Elizabeth conformed outwardly to the Catholic faith. But she could not distance herself too much from her Protestant supporters. When Sir Thomas Wyatt, the son of her mother’s great poetic admirer, led a rebellion in January 1554, matters came to an unpleasant impasse. Wyatt had written to Elizabeth that he intended to overthrow Mary but his letter was intercepted, as was a letter from de Noailles to the king of France. His letter implied that Elizabeth knew of the revolt in advance, and repeated rumors that she was off gathering armed supporters. The government was able to suppress the rebellion before it spread very far and Wyatt was arrested. Mary’s council could find no real proof that de Noailles’s suppositions were true but they decided to summon Elizabeth back to London for questioning. She was understandably frightened and ill she sent word that she could not travel. Two of Mary’s personal physicians were sent to evaluate her condition. They diagnosed ‘watery humors’ and perhaps an inflammation of the kidneys. She was ill, they reported, but not too ill to travel the 30 miles to London in the queen’s own litter. Three of the queen’s councilors – Howard, Hastings, and Cornwallis, all of whom were friendly with Elizabeth – escorted her back to London. They traveled quite slowly, covering just six miles a day.
Elizabeth kept the curtains of the litter pulled back as she entered the city, and the citizens were able to see her pale, frightened face. She had good cause for her fear the heads and corpses of Wyatt and his supporters were thrust upon spikes and gibbets throughout the city. The queen waited for her at Whitehall but they did not meet immediately. First, Elizabeth’s household was dismissed and she was told that she must undergo close interrogation about her activities. She was questioned by the unfriendly bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, but she was not intimidated. She denied any involvement in the rebellion and repeatedly asked to see the queen. But she was told that Mary was leaving for Oxford where she would hold a Parliament. Elizabeth would be leaving Whitehall as well, though at first the council could not decide where to send her. No councilor wanted the responsibility of keeping her in close confinement at their homes it was too unpleasant and potentially dangerous. And so Gardiner and Renard had their way and she went to the Tower of London. The earl of Sussex and the marquess of Winchester were sent to escort her from Whitehall.
Elizabeth was terrified. The mere mention of the Tower was enough to shatter her already fragile nerves. She begged to be allowed to write to her sister, and the men agreed. The letter was long, rambling, and repetitious – proof of her fear and trepidation:
I have heard in my time of many cast away for want of coming to the presence of their Prince…. Therefore once again kneeling with humbleness of my heart, because I am not suffered to bow the knees of my body, I humbly crave to speak with your Highness, which I would not be so bold to desire if I knew not myself most clear as I know myself most true. And as for the traitor Wyatt, he might peradventure write me a letter but on my faith I never received any from him and as for the copy of my letter sent to the French king, I pray God confound me eternally if ever I sent him word, message, token or letter by any means, and to this truth I will stand it to my death.
….Let conscience move your Highness to take some better way with me than to make me be condemned in all men’s sight afore my desert know.
After finishing, she carefully drew lines throughout the rest of the blank sheet so no forgeries could be added, and she signed it ‘I humbly crave but one word of answer from yourself. Your Highness’s most faithful subject that hath been from the beginning and will be to my end, Elizabeth’.
The letter had taken too long to write they had missed the tide. They could wait a few hours and take her to the Tower in the darkest part of night, but the council disagreed. There could be an attempt to rescue her under cover of darkness. They decided to wait until the next morning, Palm Sunday, when the streets would be nearly deserted since everyone would be in church. Meanwhile, her letter was sent to Mary who received it angrily and refused to read it through. She had not given permission for it to be written or sent, and she rebuked her councilors fiercely.
The next morning, 17 March 1554, arrived cold and grey there was a steady rain. At 9 o’clock in the morning, Elizabeth was taken from her rooms and through the garden to where the barge waited. She was accompanied by six of her ladies and two gentleman-attendants. She waited under a canopy until the barge began to slow she then saw that they would enter beneath Traitor’s Gate, beneath St Thomas’s Tower. This was the traditional entrance for prisoners returned to their cells after trial at Westminster. The sight terrified her and she begged to be allowed entry by any other gate. Her request was refused. She was offered a cloak to protect her from the rain but she pushed it aside angrily. Upon stepping onto the landing, she declared, ‘Here landeth as true a subject, being prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs. Before Thee, O God, do I speak it, having no other friend but Thee alone.’ She then noticed the yeoman warders gathered to receive her beyond the gate. ‘Oh Lord,’ she said loudly, ‘I never thought to have come in here as a prisoner, and I pray you all bear me witness that I come in as no traitor but as true a woman to the Queen’s Majesty as any as is now living.’ Several of the warders stepped forward and bowed before her, and one called out, ‘God preserve your Grace.’
She still refused to enter the Tower. After the warder’s declaration, she sat upon a stone and would not move. The Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir John Brydges, said to her, ‘You had best come in, Madame, for here you sit unwholesomely.’ Elizabeth replied with feeling, ‘Better sit here, than in a worse place, for God knoweth where you will bring me.’ And so she sat until one of her attendants burst into tears. She was taken to the Bell Tower, a small corner tower beside Brydges’s own lodgings. Her room was on the first floor, and had a large fireplace with three small windows. Down the passageway from the door were three latrines which hung over the moat. It was not as destitute or uncomfortable as she had feared, but it was still the Tower of London and she was a prisoner.
This was the beginning of one of the most trying times of her life.
Elizabeth spent just two months in the Tower of London, but she had no idea that her stay would be so brief – and it did not feel particularly brief. She truly believed some harm would come to her and she dwelt most upon the possibility of poison. She knew Mary hated her and that many of her councilors constantly spoke ill of her, encouraging either her imprisonment or execution.
However, Elizabeth had enough popular support that she would not face death at her sister’s orders. But Lady Jane Grey, the unfortunate Nine Days’ Queen, and her husband were neither so popular or lucky. They, too, had lived in the Tower under threat of execution both had been convicted of treason. But Mary had always been fond of Jane and was close friends with her mother Frances she allowed her cousin to live very comfortably in the Tower while her fate remained undecided. Mary probably intended to release Jane as soon as the country settled under her own rule. But Renard wanted both Jane and her husband executed. He warned Mary that the emperor would not allow Philip to enter England as long as Jane lived. She was a traitor, and it was only a matter of time before the Protestants tried to place either Jane or Elizabeth upon the throne. Mary was not persuaded by Renard’s arguments, but his threat carried greater force – she wanted to marry Philip and he would not come to England until it was safe. The small rebellion led by Jane’s father clearly did not help matters. And so Jane and the equally unfortunate Guildford Dudley were executed. Elizabeth herself arrived at the Tower just six weeks later, and her cousin’s fate must have weighed heavily on her mind. After all, she and Jane had lived and studied together briefly under Katharine Parr’s tutelage, and Jane’s admiration of Elizabeth had been open and obvious.
It was abundantly clear to Elizabeth that her position was precarious and dangerous. During the first weeks of her imprisonment, she was allowed to take exercise along the Tower walls but when a small child began to give her flowers and other gifts, Brydges was told to keep her indoors. Elizabeth had always been active, both physically and mentally. She chafed at her confinement and its boring routine. She was occasionally interrogated by members of Mary’s council, but she held firm to her innocence. She had faced such interrogations during Thomas Seymour’s fall from grace, and could not be easily intimidated. Still, the stress – which she handled with outward aplomb – took its toll on her physical health. She lost weight, and became prone to headaches and stomach problems.
Ironically enough, it was the impending arrival of Philip of Spain which led to her freedom. Renard had urged Mary to execute Jane and imprison Elizabeth so that Philip would be safe in England. Philip, however, was far more sensitive to the political implications of such an act. He knew the English were acutely sensitive to any shift in Mary’s policies simply because she had chosen to marry a foreigner. If she made an unpopular decision, it would be blamed upon his influence. He knew, too, that the Protestant faith was still popular in the country, and that Elizabeth embodied its greatest hope. If she were harmed in any way, his arrival in England would be even more unpopular and dangerous. And the Wyatt rebellion had merely reinforced Philip’s natural inclination to tread lightly. His intention was to wed Mary, be crowned king of England, and find a suitable husband for Elizabeth, preferably one of his Hapsburg relations. Then, if Mary died without bearing a child, England would remain within the Hapsburg sphere of influence, a willing and useful adjunct of the empire.
Accordingly, Philip wrote to Mary and advised that Elizabeth be set at liberty. This conciliatory gesture was not appreciated by Mary, always inclined to believe the worst in her half-sister, but – once again – her eagerness for Philip’s arrival made her desperate to please him. She dispensed with Renard’s advice and on Saturday 19 May at one o’clock in the afternoon, Elizabeth was finally released from the Tower incidentally, her mother had been executed on the same day eighteen years earlier. She spent one night at Richmond Palace, but it was clear that her release had not lifted Elizabeth’s spirits. That night she summoned her few servants and asked them to pray for her, ‘For this night,’ Elizabeth said, ‘I think to die.’
She did not die, of course, but she was still frightened and lonely. She had been released into the care of Sir Henry Bedingfield, a Catholic supporter of Queen Mary whose father had guarded Katharine of Aragon during her last years at Kimbolton Castle. He had come to the Tower on 5 May as the new Constable, replacing Sir John Gage, and his arrival had caused Elizabeth no end of terror. She believed he was sent to secretly murder her for, not long before, a credible rumor had reached her it was said that the Catholic elements of Mary’s council had sent a warrant for her execution to the Tower but that Sir John Brydges, the strict but honest Lieutenant, had not acted upon it because it lacked the queen’s signature. With Bedingfield’s arrival, Elizabeth lost her almost preternatural self-control and she asked her guards ‘whether the Lady Jane’s scaffold was taken away or no?’ When told it was gone, she asked about Bedingfield, and if ‘her murdering were secretly committed to his charge, he would see the execution thereof?’
From Richmond, Bedingfield took his cowed charge to Woodstock, a hunting-lodge miles from London and once favored by her Plantagenet grandfather, Edward IV. She was neither officially under arrest nor free, a nebulous position which confused nearly everyone. She could not be received at court, but she could not be set at liberty in the countryside. And so Bedingfield was essentially her jailer, but not referred to as such and Woodstock was her prison, but also not called such. The journey to Woodstock certainly raised her spirit. She was greeted by throngs of people shouting ‘God save your grace!’ and other messages of support. Flowers, sweets, cakes and other small gifts were given to her. At times, the reception was so enthusiastic that Elizabeth was openly overwhelmed. It was now clear to her that the English people loved her, perhaps as much as they did Queen Mary.
But the love of the people was small comfort when faced with the dilapidation of Woodstock. The main house was in such disrepair that Elizabeth was lodged in the gatehouse. The queen had ordered that her sister be treated honorably and given limited freedom Elizabeth was allowed to walk in the orchard and gardens. She also requested numerous books. After a few weeks, her initial fear of Bedingfield had settled into a bemused appraisal of her jailer. She now recognized him for what he was – a conscientious, unimaginative civil servant with a difficult assignment. They got on tolerably well, and Bedingfield even forwarded her numerous letters to the Council and the queen. Elizabeth was concerned that her imprisonment in the countryside would remove her too much from the public eye and her ceaseless letter-writing was an attempt to reassert her position as princess of England. Mary did not read the letters and angrily order Bedingfield to stop sending them along.
At the end of June, Elizabeth fell ill and asked that the queen’s physician Dr Owen be sent to her. But Dr Owen was busy tending to Queen Mary and told Bedingfield that his charge must be patient. He recommended the services of Drs Barnes and Walbeck. Elizabeth refused to allow their examination she preferred to commit her body to God rather than to the eyes of strangers, she told Bedingfield. Finally, on 7 July, Mary finally sent permission to Woodstock for Elizabeth to write to her and the Council about her various concerns. Elizabeth was petulant and took her time with the composition of this most important letter. When it was finally sent, written in Bedingfield’s hand from her dictation, it was a typically shrewd and pointed document. Elizabeth wanted the Council to consider ‘her long imprisonment and restraint of liberty, either to charge her with special matter to be answered unto and tried, or to grant her liberty to come unto her highness’s presence, which she sayeth she would not desire were it not that she knoweth herself to be clear even before God, for her allegiance.’ Elizabeth specifically requested that the members of the queen’s council who were executors of ‘the Will of the King’s majesty her father’ read the letter and be allowed to visit with her. It was a pointed reminder that despite her deprived circumstances, she was still next in line to the English throne. The Council heard the document uneasily.
Another portrait of Elizabeth’s half-sister, Queen Mary I
Mary, however, had other matters on her mind. Finally, on 20 July, even as Elizabeth mulled over her letter, Philip II of Spain finally landed at Southampton. The handsome, fair-haired 27 year old King was already a widow with a male heir his first wife Maria of Portugal had died in childbirth in 1545 after two years of a marriage. He was a conscientious and pious man who impressed all who met him with his discipline and work ethic. But he also had a tendency toward religious asceticism which worsened as he grew older. As a child, he had accompanied his father to the inquisition in Spain, watching impassively as heretics were burned alive. But his marriage to Mary was one of political necessity and Philip had no intention of threatening its success with unpopular religious policies. He was willing to move England slowly back into the Catholic fold faced with Mary’s impatience, it was Philip who advised moderation. He wed his cousin at Winchester Cathedral on 25 July in a splendid ceremony. On 18 August they finally entered London in triumph, its citizens plied with enough free drinks and entertainment to greet Philip enthusiastically. But there were already signs of trouble the anonymous pamphlets condemning foreigners and the queen’s marriage circulated, and Philip’s Spanish entourage were unhappy over a number of petty slights and insults from their English hosts.
Elizabeth had hoped the marriage would result in some change in her circumstances. But she was sadly mistaken. Instead she passed the months needling Bedingfield for more books, scribbling more letters, and listening to the occasional rumor from her servants. The rumors were hardly comforting. The queen was reportedly pregnant and she and Philip would open Parliament together on 12 November. From then on, the reunion between England and the papacy could begin in force. Mary was the happiest she had been since childhood, but the problem of Elizabeth remained. Gardiner wanted her executed he argued that Protestantism could not be completely eradicated until its great hope, Elizabeth herself, was gone. But Philip and most other councilors were more pragmatic. Parliament had already agreed that if Mary died in childbirth, Philip would be regent of England during their child’s minority. However, if both mother and child died, then Elizabeth once again assumed prominence. Philip, always prudent, preferred to know his sister-in-law before making an enemy of her. With his encouragement, and flush with happiness at her marriage and pregnancy, Mary finally invited Elizabeth to court.
In the third week of April 1555, almost a year since she was sent to Woodstock, Elizabeth was brought to Hampton Court Palace. Mary had gone there to prepare for her lying-in. They did not meet immediately. Elizabeth was brought into the palace through a side entrance, still closely guarded. According to the French ambassador, Philip visited her three days later but Mary never came. Two weeks later, the most powerful members of the council appeared to chide her for not submitting to the queen’s authority she was told to admit her past wrongdoing and seek the queen’s forgiveness. Elizabeth replied that she had done nothing wrong in the past and wanted no mercy from her sister ‘but rather desired the law’. She told Gardiner she would rather remain in prison forever than admit to crimes she had never committed. He went off immediately to tell Mary of her sister’s continued stubbornness. The queen was not pleased. The next day, Gardiner told Elizabeth that the queen marveled that ‘she would so stoutly use herself, not confessing that she had offended’. Did Elizabeth really believe she was wrongfully imprisoned? Gardiner asked. Elizabeth refused the bait. She did not criticize her sister explicitly, telling him only that the queen must do with her as her conscience dictated. Gardiner replied that if she wanted her liberty and former position, she must tell a different story only by admitting her past faults, confessing all sins, could she hope for forgiveness. It was a stalemate. Elizabeth again told him she would rather be unjustly imprisoned than gain freedom with lies.
The next week passed with no word from anyone. And then, around 10 o’clock one evening, a message arrived that the queen would see her. Elizabeth had begged for an interview for more than a year but now that the moment had at last arrived, she was understandably nervous. She was accompanied into Mary’s apartments by one of her own ladies-in-waiting and Mary’s close friend and Mistress of the Robes Susan Clarencieux. The queen’s bedroom was lit with flickering candlelight the queen herself was half-hidden in shadow. Without asking permission, Elizabeth immediately prostrated herself and declared her innocence. And though she and Mary sparred for a short while, the queen was willing to be generous at her own moment of triumph. It was rumored that Philip watched the sisters from behind a curtain whether or not he was there, Mary was content to make peace of sorts. She sent Elizabeth away amicably enough and a week later poor Bedingfield was relieved of his duties. Elizabeth would remain at Hampton Court, still under light guard but with her own household and permission to receive certain guests. It was the end of over a year of tiresome captivity and she was delighted.
While she enjoyed her newfound liberty, the burning of Protestant heretics began in earnest. These killings have earned Mary the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ and blighted her reputation. In truth, the roughly 300 people killed (about 60 women) was not considered excessive by Mary’s European contemporaries and in the government’s mind, Protestantism had become dangerously linked with treason, sedition, and other secular crimes. For Mary, who was perhaps the most personally kind and gentle of the Tudor rulers, the killings were necessary to save the heretics’ souls as well. It is a telling feature of her character that she could often forgive treason against herself, but would not countenance treason against God.
The burnings, coupled with the Spanish marriage, caused enough resentment but, unfortunately for Mary, famine and poverty added to her list of woes. But the greatest tragedy of all for the queen was the humiliating and heartbreaking realization that her pregnancy was not real. Mary had truly believed she was pregnant her stomach had become swollen and she had felt the child quicken. But she had always suffered from digestive and menstrual troubles. It is probable that she developed a tumor in her stomach which, combined with the lack of a cycle and her own fervent prayers, made her believe she was pregnant. All of April was spent in a state of readiness. Dozens of nurses and midwives crowded into Hampton Court, joined by a throng of noble ladies who would assist in the delivery. On 30 April a rumor reached London that a male child had been born and celebrations ensued. But it was a false alarm the next three months were spent in a state of suspended disbelief. Finally, on 3 August, the queen’s household departed to Oatlands and the pregnancy was not mentioned again.
Mary’s heartache was soon worsened by the impending departure of Philip. He had spent over a year in a country he disliked, married to a woman he pitied but did not love. He used the excuse of pressing business in the Low Countries to leave England. Mary protested passionately, begging him to stay it was clear to everyone that she truly loved her husband. But Philip was equally determined to go. It was perhaps clear to him that Mary was seriously ill and would never have children. If that was the case, he had no reason to remain in England. He left explicit instructions that she treat her sister well.
Elizabeth was sent to a small manor house a few miles from Oatlands where she played another waiting game, only this time with some measure of freedom and hope. But it was to be another three years before she would become queen of England.
Famous for being Queen of England 1558-1603
Born – 7th September 1533 – Greenwich Palace London
Parents – Henry VIII King of England, Anne Boleyn
Siblings – Mary (half-sister), Edward (half-brother)
Married – No
Children – No
Died – 24th March 1603
Elizabeth was born in 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. After her mother was beheaded she was declared illegitimate. Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London for much of Mary’s reign on suspicion of plotting with Protestants to remove Mary from the throne and take her place. She had been excluded from the succession by Edward VI due to her illegitimacy but this was overturned by the government following Mary’s death.
Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 15th January 1559.
As Queen, Elizabeth needed to win the support of her people, both Catholics and Protestants, and those who believed that a woman could not rule a country by herself. One of the best ways for a monarch to win support was by making a tour of the country and showing themselves to the people. However, Elizabeth had many Catholic enemies and it was not safe for her to travel around the country. She chose, instead, to use portraits to show herself to her people. It was, therefore, essential that the portraits showed an image of Elizabeth that would impress her subjects. At intervals throughout her reign the government issued portraits of Elizabeth that were to be copied and distributed throughout the land. No other portraits of the Queen were allowed.
From the time of her accession, Elizabeth was pursued by a variety of suitors, eager to marry the most eligible woman in the world. However, Elizabeth never married. One theory is that she never married because the way that her father had treated his wives had put her off marriage, another is that she was abused by Thomas Seymour while under the care of Katherine Parr, a third theory suggests that she was so in love with Robert Dudley that she could not bring herself to marry another man. When Elizabeth became Queen, Robert Dudley was already married. Some years later his wife died in mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth could not marry him because of the scandal it would cause both at home and abroad.
As queen, Elizabeth established a moderate Protestant church with the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Her action led to her excommunication by the Pope and also made her subject to Catholic plots to remove her from the throne and replace her with her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. This ultimately led to Elizabeth being forced to sign the warrant for Mary Queen of Scots’ execution.
Her foreign policy was largely defensive, however her support of the Dutch against Spain was a contributary factor that led to the invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Elizabeth died in 1603. Her death marked the end of the Tudor dynasty. She was succeeded by Mary Queen of Scots’ son James.
Elizabeth I’s love life: was she really a ‘Virgin Queen’?
For a queen known for her alleged virginity, Elizabeth I's love life has long been the subject of great speculation. Here, Dr Anna Whitelock, a reader in early modern history at Royal Holloway, University of London, explores what really went on behind the closed doors of the so-called Virgin Queen
This competition is now closed
Published: January 31, 2019 at 12:00 pm
Over the years, countless books, novels, plays and films have depicted Elizabeth I’s relationships with figures such as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, and the Duke of Anjou. In the absence of conclusive proof one way or another, the question ‘did they or didn’t they?’ will always linger. Yet what is clear is that, both at home and abroad, rumours about Elizabeth’s love life – real or imagined – circulated throughout her reign. Far from being the Virgin Queen, for some hostile observers Elizabeth was the ‘whore’ of Europe.
Contemporary beliefs about the ‘insatiable’ sexual appetites of women, together with Elizabeth’s failure to marry, fuelled suspicions that the queen was engaged in secret sexual liaisons. Her Catholic opponents challenged her virtue, and accused her of a “filthy lust” that had “defiled her body and the country”. The king of France joked that one of the great questions of the day was “whether Queen Elizabeth was a maid or no”. The courts of Europe were abuzz with gossip as to the queen of England’s behaviour.
From the very earliest months of her reign, rumours spread of Elizabeth’s relationship with Robert Dudley, her “sweet Robin” whom she had known since childhood. Within days of her accession, Elizabeth had appointed Dudley as master of the horse – a position that guaranteed almost daily contact. The Spanish ambassador reported to the king of Spain that “Lord Robert has come so much into favour that he does whatever he likes and it is even said that Her Majesty visits him in his chamber day and night”.
The pair’s attraction to one another was widely commented upon, and their flirtatious behaviour shocked observers. When in 1560 Robert Dudley’s wife, Amy Robsart, was found with her neck broken at the bottom of a staircase, speculation was rife as to the involvement of the queen and her favourite. In the years that followed, their close relationship continued, but any lingering possibility of a future marriage was cast aside.
Elizabeth’s councillors were determined to secure a favourable marriage for her, both as a means of consolidating England’s position in Europe and to provide an heir to succeed her. While there was no lack of suitors, including Philip II of Spain Erik XIV of Sweden and the Archdukes Ferdinand and Charles of Austria, no one managed to win the queen’s favour or the unanimous support of her council. While foreign negotiations continued, Elizabeth enjoyed the attention of young male courtiers like Thomas Heneage, Christopher Hatton and Walter Raleigh, and later Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, all of whom flirted their way into the queen’s favour.
But Robert Dudley remained the queen’s first, and probably only love. Perhaps as a reaction to Dudley’s marriage to Lettice Devereux, dowager countess of Essex in the autumn of 1578, the following year Elizabeth welcomed Francois, the duke of Anjou, brother of the king of France, to the English court to present his suit for marriage.
It was not an ideal match. Anjou was a 20-something tiny and pockmarked Catholic who was widely rumoured to be a transvestite. Nonetheless, Elizabeth had always longed to be wooed in person by one of her illustrious suitors, and for a time she seemed to be genuine in her affections and interest in Anjou, whom she affectionately named her ‘frog’.
After a few weeks Anjou returned to France and negotiations appeared to falter in the face of public opposition to the match, but in October 1581 Anjou returned to England. Since his previous visit, he had continued to write love letters to the queen in which he expressed his desire to be “kissing and rekissing all that Your beautiful Majesty can think of”, as well as to be “in bed between the sheets in your beautiful arms”.
Upon his arrival in London Elizabeth once again seemed enthralled and enraptured by Anjou’s presence, and on 22 November, when the court was assembled at Whitehall to celebrate the Accession Day festivities, Elizabeth declared in public that she intended to marry him. She proceeded to kiss him on the mouth and give him her ring. Yet overnight, Elizabeth apparently had second thoughts and announced the next day she would not marry Anjou.
It is doubtful whether Elizabeth had really intended to go ahead with the marriage given the popular hostility to it, but when Anjou finally departed she made much of being grief-stricken at the loss of her lover “with whom she so unwillingly parted”.
With the failure of the French match, hopes that Elizabeth would marry came to an end, but as she grew old and increasingly isolated she continued to seek the attention of her male courtiers. Robert Devereux, the young earl of Essex and stepson of Robert Dudley, was Elizabeth’s last great flirtation. Despite the age gap between them, the nature of the relationship was again speculated upon. He soon became master of the horse and moved into his stepfather’s apartments at court. One of Essex’s servants boasted that “even at night my lord is at cards or one game or another with her, that he cometh not to his own lodging till the birds sing in the morning.”
But this was a different kind of relationship than the one Elizabeth had had with Dudley, and was more about the desire of an ageing woman to be made to feel young and attractive by a handsome young courtier. Yet Elizabeth was never so swept away by her emotions that she lost a keen sense of political realities. In 1601, after what was seen to be an attempted coup against her, she ordered Essex’s execution.
In 1603 Elizabeth, then almost 70, died unmarried and celebrated as England’s great ‘Virgin Queen’. Yet her death served only to continue speculation about her private life. In the years that followed, the questioning of Elizabeth’s virginity was no longer confined to hostile Catholic discourse, and there was a growing sense that Elizabeth’s private feelings had compromised the integrity of her rule.
In life, Elizabeth and the ladies of the bedchamber had tenaciously defended the chastity of her body to protect her reputation and defend her crown. In death, it is surely the possibility that she was not chaste that continues to fascinate, and ensure Elizabeth’s enduring popularity and appeal.
Dr Anna Whitelock is a reader in early modern history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court (Bloomsbury, 2013).
To find out more, visit www.annawhitelock.co.uk or follow @AnnaWhitelock on Twitter.
This article was first published by History Extra in April 2015.
The Monarchs: Elizabeth I (1558-1603) – The Golden Age Queen of England
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The fifth and final monarch of the highly influential, although relatively short-lived, rule of the Tudor dynasty, Elizabeth I, was the second daughter of Henry VIII. Elizabeth’s relationship with her family was tense to say the least. Her mother was executed by her father before she was three years old, she was proclaimed a bastard, rejected by her half-brother, imprisoned by her half-sister and had Mary Queen of Scots executed for treason. Despite these Tudor complications, Elizabeth’s reign lasted a long and overall successful 44 years. Cautious in foreign affairs and relatively tolerant in matters of religion, Elizabeth I helped to stabilize the English economy and strengthened the role of parliament. Remaining unmarried, Elizabeth inspired a popular following who admired her as a virginal goddess-like figure and was known to be a charismatic, if difficult, leader. Ruling England at a time when the arts flourished and discovery was high on the agenda, the Elizabethan era is remembered as a golden age of creativity and exploration.
Key Facts about Elizabeth I
- Elizabeth I was born on September 7 th 1533 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich.
- Elizabeth ascended as Queen of England on November 17 th
- Known as the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth did not marry or have children and died on March 24 th 1603, aged 69, having reigned for 44 years.
A Brief Look at the Life of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth was the first daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. Born within wedlock and thus legitimately, Elizabeth should have automatically been third in line for the throne after her younger brother, Edward, and older sister Mary. However, the breakdown of Henry and Anne’s marriage and Anne’s subsequent execution under charges of adultery left Elizabeth both motherless and illegitimate.
Elizabeth’s childhood was difficult and her future uncertain. Although her mother was beheaded before she was three years old, Elizabeth was not expelled from the royal circle and was raised and educated at Hatfield Palace by a series of highly sought-after tutors. By the time she reached adulthood, Elizabeth was one of the best educated women in England and spoke six languages fluently.
Following Henry VIII’s death, Elizabeth’s brother Edward became King of England at an age of just nine. When he died six years later his will made clear that the Succession to the Crown Act of 1543 was not to be followed and both Mary and Elizabeth were excluded from the succession. He named Lady Jane Grey his heir, granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister. Jane was proclaimed Queen but was deposed after only nine days and Mary became Queen.
On the surface, Mary and Elizabeth were sisters, allies and friends, although Elizabeth swore to being a true Roman Catholic, her education had been a protestant one and the sisters found themselves on opposite sides of a huge religious divide. When Elizabeth was implicated in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s revolt against Queen Mary, Mary had her sent to the Tower of London and then placed under house arrest to protect her throne. Mary’s popularity waned when she married Prince Phillip of Spain, a devout Catholic, and when Mary died and Elizabeth succeeded her the protestant masses were overjoyed.
Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s cousin, questioned Elizabeth’s legitimacy while on the Scottish throne, a move that would make life difficult for her later when she was forced to abdicate to her one year old son and seek refuge in England. In order to keep Mary Queen of Scots away from her Catholic enemies in Scotland and France, Elizabeth detained her in England, a detainment that ended up lasting a total of nineteen years. The freeing of Mary and her claim to the English throne became the focus for a huge Catholic rebellion. The other claimant to Elizabeth’s throne, Queen Mary’s husband, Phillip II of Spain, was also Catholic.
Queen Elizabeth is thought to have been more tolerant than Queen Mary in her approach to religious differences in her kingdom but support for Mary was wide-reaching and deeply-felt, particularly among English Catholics who were being persecuted. Queen Elizabeth is thought to have imprisoned and executed a number of Catholic Bishops who refused to acknowledge a revised Book of Common Prayer recognizing her as the Head of the Church. International Catholic powers in Rome, Spain and France financed and assisted Mary in her plots against Elizabeth and in a 1570 bull, Pope Pius V announced that all of Elizabeth’s subjects were to be released from their allegiance to her, condoning the withdrawal of the Queen from her throne.
Elizabeth reacted by making ‘the intent’ to convert English subjects to Catholicism a treasonable offense, carrying the death penalty. Many priests were executed and a cult of martyrdom ensued. Elizabeth’s treatment of Catholic enemies in Ireland is said to have been particularly brutal and permanently affected Anglo-Irish relations. Eventually, after being shown proof of Mary Queen of Scot’s involvement in plots to assassinate her, Elizabeth signed her death warrant and she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 th February 1587.
Soon after Philip II, Queen Mary’s husband and claimant to the English throne, assembled the Spanish Armada, a navy of over 130 ships that intended to invade England, overthrow the Queen and re-establish Roman Catholicism as the state religion. After suffering dramatic losses on the coast of Ireland, the Spanish left, defeated.
Despite this success, England remained at war with Spain and was less successful in future costly campaigns. Elizabeth’s wars put a financial strain on the crown and the country, and left a huge deficit for her successor. The threat of invasion from Spain through Ireland and from France through Scotland was real and constant.
One of the Queens main allies in her ongoing sea battles with the Spanish was Francis Drake, whom she had knighted for his circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580. The exploratory work of Drake and his contemporaries Walter Raleigh and Humphrey Gilbert led to the establishment of the East India Company in 1600 and the beginning of a huge colonial empire that reached its peak in the Victorian Era.
However in the later years of Elizabeth’s reign, popular opinion of her fell. The standard of living of many of her subjects had dramatically declined thanks to the cost of ongoing wars, higher taxes and poor harvests. This economic recession coincided with a period of greater repression of Catholics in England. In 1592, Elizabeth authorized commissions that allowed her to spy on Catholic households and interrogate Catholic subjects at will.
Elizabeth died at Richmond Palace on 24 th March 1603 of complications related to old age. The date of her accession became a national holiday, one that lasted over 200 years.
Legacy of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth chose never to marry, instead using her potential to become a wife as a political tool. Known as ‘The Virgin Queen’, ‘Gloriana’ and ‘Good Queen Bess’, Elizabeth’s reign is remembered as one of triumph. She married herself to England and sacrificed her personal happiness in order to rule the country well. Popular with the majority of her subjects, for the majority of her reign, Elizabeth made a series of speeches during her lifetime that have gone down in history.
Late in her reign, she addressed Parliament as such, ‘there is no jewel, be it of never so high a price, which I set before this jewel I mean your love.’ The Elizabethan era is remembered primarily for world-changing voyages of discovery and exploration and the flourishing of the arts in England. Theatre, literature and painting thrived and Queen Elizabeth attended Shakespeare’s first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Elizabeth I: her life in buildings
The historic Kenilworth Castle, founded in Norman times and used until the Elizabethan era, now ruined Credit: VisitEngland/English Heritage
Elizabeth I survived a tumultuous childhood as the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the reign of her Catholic half-sister ‘Bloody’ Mary yet still went on to become one of Britain’s greatest monarchs. Her life is still the subject of wonder for historians and the public alike, and those majestic paintings of the red-headed queen in the resplendent attire of the age continue to fire the imagination.
Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth Tudor was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty, bringing to a close one of the dramatic and enduringly fascinating periods of British history. Here we look at some of the royal palace and other places the queen was known to have spent her time, and where we can still walk in her footsteps.
Greenwich Park with a view to the City, the area where Elizabeth’s birth place, Greenwich Palace, once stood Credit: VisitEngland/Visit Greenwich
Elizabeth was born on 7 September 1533 at Greenwich Palace in London. Under the first two Tudors this new palace became the largest and most modern in Europe. It made a fitting birthplace for the future Henry VIII, his younger brother Edmund and as well as Mary and Elizabeth. It was demolished by Charles II in 1660, to make way for a new palace nearly 40 years later, the Greenwich Hospital (now The Old Royal Naval College) was built on the spot instead.
Greenwich is a World Heritage Site packed with fascinating to explore including the Old Royal Naval College, the Prime Meridian of the World and the National Maritime Museum.
Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
A spectacular view of Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire, Elizabeth’s childhood home Credit: VisitBritain/Rod Edwards
It was at her childhood home at Royal Palace of Hatfield in Hertfordshire on November 17 1558 that Lady Elizabeth Tudor she received the news that she was Queen of England. It is believed she was sitting beneath an oak tree, reading or eating an apple.
The magnificent Hatfield House and its beautiful gardens are home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family, and is open to the public.
Westminster Abbey, London
Elizabeth was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 15 January 1559 with plenty of pomp and ceremony – elaborate sets were built for colourful pageants and crowds gathered. It was also the first time the English language was used within the previously all-Latin service.
Elizabeth died on 24 March 1603, at Richmond Palace, a royal residence on the River Thames in London, which was demolished in the 16th century. Her death was an occasion of universal mourning, and thousands of people turned out to see her funeral procession to Westminster Abbey on 28 April 1603.
The abbey is steeped in more than a thousand years of history and daily worship continues there to this day. It is also the final resting place of 17 monarchs and many other illustrious Britons, and open to the public.
Tower of London
The White Tower, the most imposing and historic building which has given its name to the entire fortress of the Tower of London. Credit: Historic Royal Palaces/newsteam.co.uk
As a princess, Elizabeth was sent to the Tower of London by her half-sister, Queen Mary I. She was suspected of involvement in a plot against the Queen, led by the traitor Sir Thomas Wyatt. “Oh Lord!” said Elizabeth, as she entered the Tower, “I never thought to have come here as a prisoner.”
In 1559, Elizabeth returned to the Tower under very different circumstances. On 14 January, after the traditional celebrations, she left the fortress to ride through the City of London to her coronation at Westminster Abbey. The Tower of London is one of London’s top visitor attractions, housing the Crown Jewels and other treasures.
Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
The historic Kenilworth Castle, founded in Norman times and used until the Elizabethan era, now ruined Credit: VisitEngland/English Heritage
From the 9 to 27 July 1575, Elizabeth I stayed at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, home of her great friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She had visited Kenilworth three times before but this was a special visit in that it lasted 19 days and was the longest stay at a courtier’s house in any of her royal progresses. Kenilworth Castle ruins and its beautiful Elizabethan Gardens are open to the public.