On this day in history, 10th September 1533, a future Queen of England was baptised in a lavish ceremony at the Church of Observant Friars in Greenwich. The little princess was the three-day-old daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and she would grow up to be Queen Elizabeth I.

The baby girl was baptised Elizabeth, the name of both of her grandmothers, and her godparents were Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; Agnes Howard (nee Tylney), Dowager Duchess of Norfolk; Margaret Grey (nee Wotton), Marchioness of Dorset; and Gertrude Courtenay, Marchioness of Exeter.

Read more…

Picture: Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn with baby Elizabeth in “Anne of the Thousand Days”.

Related Post

23 thoughts on “10 September 1533 – Anne Boleyn’s daughter is baptised”
  1. For an example of what this procession may have looked like on YouTube you can can find an hour long program called ‘Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A night at Hampton Court’ hosted by David Starkey and Lucy Worseley. Though this is a reenactment of Edward VI’s babtism it does show the the elaborateness of a royal christening.

  2. I remember that scene from the movie, Anne asks Henry if he wants to kiss his daughter and he replies when she has a brother maybe, then he left the room with a scowl, it must have been a huge disappointment and Henry must have felt a bit foolish as he had believed all the predictions from the well meaning that Anne would give him a prince, but really he and both Anne were just believing what they wished to believe, they knew that their detractors at home and abroad would be sniggering, Mary had been bastardised to give way for a prince, not for another sister, he had not risked civil war and excommunication from the pope for a mere daughter, but at least Elizabeths birth showed that Anne could give him healthy children, she was fertile and in time they would have a boy, in that age when childbirth was so precarious the birth of any child was seen as a blessing and Anne was well, the ceremony was lavish after all she was a princess of England and had nobleman and women for her godparents, one the Duchess of Norfolk her mothers relation and Thomas Cranmer a well loved friend of both the King and queen, gifts were given and the company must have been merry but the cracks in their relationship had not yet appeared, Elizabeth was said to be an engaging little girl and her father did like to make a fuss of her, but the mood was not exuberant as it would have been had Elizabeth been a boy, Anne in a sense must have felt she had failed the King but you cannot rely on Mother Nature and you have no say in the sex of your child, we have no record of Mary and Katherines reaction to Elizabeths birth but we can guess Katherine had prayed for Henry and Mary was no doubt pleased that Anne had done no better than her mother, in fact the cards were on Marys side as her position now must have looked stronger, why pass an elder daughter over in favour for a younger one? Soon Elizabeth was to be given her new household and then Marys problems were only just beginning as she was sent to pay homage to her and live under the same roof, Henry had declared Elizabeth was his legitimate daughter but she was seen by many as a bastard and Anne must have felt vulnerable, why had God not delivered her of a prince, they may never have spoken of it but in the privacy of their minds those thoughts must have been troubling Anne as well as Henry.

  3. The procession of the great and the good. Almost everyone in this ceremony hated Anne Boleyn. So why are they taking part in this beautiful and very elaborate baptism of a child who has replaced Princess Mary as the heir to the throne? They did so for a number of reasons:

    Fear of the King, they had little choice and could not really say no.
    It was a great honour and as members of the aristocracy and gentry
    they were expected to perform these public acts of loyalty and prestige.
    Most of the Court wanted to be seen supporting the King and his new Queen and to show they supported his choice of heir.
    For the same reason Thomas Boleyn played a public role in the christening of Prince Edward after the death of his children, Anne and George on Henry’s orders, personal survival and to protect their families.
    Friendship. Many of those present were the friends of the King and this proved loyalty to him.
    Adapting. Most people adapted to the new situation. Most people just accepted Anne because they had to and got on with it. This was their public show of being part of something greater and it was the King and Queen’s way of involving the traditional nobles and families in service and ceremonies they had roles in for centuries. It was part of who they were. They may resent the woman for whom this honour was for, but this was what they did, gave service and homages to the next heir, even if she was a girl.
    Christianity. These lords and ladies were part of the Catholic Christian community and this was their duty to welcome a new member of that community by sharing in the Sacrament of Baptism. The child, not the mother, was the focus of the service and the child was an innocent. Welcoming her into the community of Christ’s Church was an act of love and compassion and peace and a joyful occasion to be enjoyed by all. This new soul was being accepted and presented to her brothers and sisters and she was being made anew as a new Christian. It was the duty and honour of her Godparents to make promises of faith on her behalf and to protect her and guide her as she grew and keep her on the Righteous path and this also was an act of love. They could not abandon her to her fate and leave her to be chased by the Evil One. She was the responsibility of the entire community and that meant most of Henry’s Court.
    Everyone Enjoys A Good Party. This was both a religious and very solemn and sacred occasion with the processing in fine clothes, carrying the child, in her robes under a canopy, with candles, lanterns, silver gifts, towels, the staff of their office, the high and mighty on display, the Royal child for all to see, the High Mass, the scent and music, the baptism at the special font, but it was also a time for eating and drinking and having a good time. Sweet meats and Sweet wines were served afterwards, there was a banquet and three days of celebrating. Everyone was going so who wanted to miss out?

    Did the Duchess of Norfolk secretly wish she was elsewhere, yes, probably, but she was also very proud of her high status and role in carrying the Princess. The Duke of Suffolk had argued in public with Anne on several occasions and he wasn’t her friend, yet he swallowed his pride as his loyalty and friendship for Henry came first as did self preservation. Not everyone was as bold as Sir Thomas More who turned down the invitation to Anne Boleyn’s coronation. The Catholic Exeter Poles were present and involved and did their part without question. Anne and Henry didn’t attend but Henry would have watched from a high window and screen. Anne was not permitted into the Church as she was not yet cleansed after her labour. She must remain in her confinement and recover and then be blessed and allowed into public again. Anne was taken on a great bed and put behind a screen but received homage afterwards.

    It is always put about that Henry was disappointed at the birth of Elizabeth and this was reflected in his treatment of her. While Henry was no doubt a little disappointed and perhaps even hurt at the fact Elizabeth was not the son he had desperately wanted, there is no evidence to suggest he remained disappointed. He was probably as much shocked as anything else as all of the astronomical people and the astrological experts had predicted a son (of course) and he had been through do much only to have another daughter, divorcing his faithful first wife of 24 years and he didn’t know how to respond. He had been promised sons. All he could do was put on a brave face and be glad the child was healthy. Anne would also have been disappointed and felt as if she had failed in her one duty. However, she doted on her little daughter and there is evidence that Henry did also. All disappointments were put aside as no expense was spared in celebration of the new Princess Elizabeth. There were parties and free wine and the only thing cancelled was the tournament, only because it was for a boy. There was music and dancing and feasting and both Henry and Anne were fond of Elizabeth, they were happy and thought sons would follow. Any disappointment Henry expressed later was because sons didn’t follow, not because Elizabeth was a girl.

  4. BQ and Christine, how do you think Henry would respond to both of his daughters becoming Queen Regnant and his daughter by the ‘hated’ (by Henry) Anne Boleyn being so successful and ruling longer than any other Tudor?

    1. He would probably find a way to take credit for them. Seeing how successful they were and seeing how long Elizabeth was on the throne for, given his own reign was almost 38 years, he would be secretly proud. At the end of the day they were both well educated with an ability to rule, so despite being a typical Tudor man, who needed a son, I don’t think he would think it too bad that he was proved wrong. He might have been sad that Mary was not to reign longer, especially having seen her enemies, supporting Lady Jane Grey off. I doubt he would have approved of the Reformation being full blown either. He was still a traditional Catholic, just without the Pope.

    2. Hi Michael, that was the scenario Henry V111 had tried to avoid at all costs, he was very much a 16th c man brought to believe like others amongst him, that women were not fit to rule, the fact that he included them in the line of succession was his admission really of defeat, he had no reason to believe Edward would die without begatting an heir, he was a healthy child but as we know illness can strike swiftly, his uncle Prince Arthur had suddenly died and thus it could happen to anyone, rich or poor, what would he made of Marys rule? Good question – I do not think he would have approved of her choice of husband, being half Spanish herself he would have feared that country’s interference in England’s affairs and by marrying a Spaniard would have rubbed salt in the wounds, he knew she came from a long line of capable female rulers, Katherine and Isabella etc, but he also knew she was emotional and maybe would have found queenship rather overwhelming and/ or Queen regent, with the loss of Calais sadly I think he would have been very disappointed in Mary as for Elizabeth, he knew she was an enigma, as he had thus found her mother, she was spirited and cunning, he no doubt thought she would be found a suitable husband of noble blood, maybe a foreign prince and settled down to a life maybe of domestic harmony, she could well have moved to another country if her spouse was foreign but he no doubt did not allow himself the thought that she could one day become queen, he hoped Edward would have children and there would be generations of Tudors to continue to rule England for the next few centuries, Edward was a grave serious little boy, he had the makings of a great King, but as we all know nothing in life is certain and his untimely death brought Mary to the throne, after the failed coup of Jane Grey, this was what Henry had feared, what would he have made of Elizabeth that offspring of Anne Boleyn succeeding to the throne, he could see a lot of himself and Anne in her, both strong personalities he knew Elizabeth had a lot in her favour, did he ever ponder of the possibility that she could ever be queen, did he have faith in her capabilities albeit hampered as she was by her sex? I believe had he known of her successful rule he would have been immensely proud, especially her victory over that hated enemy Spain, if we believe there is an after life we can safely assume Henry was looking in on his daughter from time to time and applauding her very actions, and Anne too, I doubt not that both would have been immensely proud that she had given her name to a far away colony in the new land and had become the patron of many arts, Henry being a renaissance prince himself would have approved of Shakespeare and Marlowe, masques and plays had always been a feature of court entertainment and in his youth he had indulged quite freely, no doubt he would have found his daughters court highly entertaining, would he had been anxious over her refusal to marry thus making England’s succession vulnerable maybe, it certainly caused Elizabeth problems throughout her reign as in the case of Mary of Scots, her lack of an heir made Marys position stronger and the focus of Catholic plots, but I think Henry would have been secretly proud of his youngest daughters ability for statecraft, the way she handled her council, her popularity as she travelled around her kingdom was in a sense due to him, as it was said her likeness to her father brought tears to the ears of some men, the way she openly condemned her pirates yet became rich on the treasures of the spoils of Spain, all without Philips knowledge, I think he would have chuckled at that, most of all her famous tilbury speech, I think there would have been a bit of envy there for glory in war was what he had fought for all his life, he had dreamed of becoming another Henry V, yet it was to his daughter that fate had granted that wish, he had been disappointed at her birth, as he looked down on his little red faced child that long ago day in September he must have thought ‘just another useless female’ and there was Anne his wife looking exhausted and no doubt trying to reassure him that she was healthy and strong, that they would have a son soon, little did they both realise that this tiny baby would one day be a great ruler and the destruction of a mighty King, that her name would be spoken of for centuries to come and her rule would go down in history as a golden age.

      1. Perhaps after Henry VIII died he realized what he had become and though his lineage was not as he wished he was pleased that through his youngest daughter Tudor rule ended on a high note.

        Thank you very much Christine. I had always felt that Henry had been blessed with two capable heirs. He, of course being as you said a typical 16th c man didn’t see that and the first one he did irreparable damage to. If he had been able to look past gender perhaps there may be Tudor blood on the throne today or at least a few generations longer than ending in 1603.

        1. Your welcome Michael, ironically it is the descendants of Henrys hated enemy Scotland that today occupy the throne, the descendants of his sister Margaret whom he had excluded from his will, the lineage of Henry V11 and Elizabeth of York continues to this day through their eldest daughter and by a quirk of fate, Anne Boleyns sister Mary’s blood flows in the veins of the present queen through her mother, so Boleyn blood and Tudor blood still mingles together rather a droll thought and it’s rather comical to imagine what Henry V111 would have made of that, his traitorous wife, that harpy Anne Boleyn her nuisance relatives occupying the throne today what an affront to English justice eh? Ha ha.!

        2. While I agree with 90% of the assessment above, I have to say I can’t agree that Henry would be disappointed with Mary. We are often taught a false perception of Mary because her reign was short and her religious policy often overshadows her achievements. Her short reign was far more successful than the Elizabethan propaganda and some historians have made out. For one thing that she was Queen at all is yo be greatly admired, especially as she narrowly escaped arrest and only her father’s allocation of private land to her enabled her to escape and set up a base of operations. Any military leaders today would be highly impressed with Mary’s ability to act decisively and swiftly, qualities not found in her sister.

          Mary made a poor choice of husband is the usual claim. Did she or did she make the best strategic alliance available, rather than marry the pathetic, mentally retarded 21 year old English noble her pathetic Council asked her to marry because they were still frightened out of their wits after putting a usurper on the throne and thought they could control Mary? The choices were limited and Philip was her best choice. Mary made certain he kept out of English political life and she drew up a remarkable treaty which she negotiated and kept England independent.

          Mary lost Calais is the other charge from history but people forget it was right at the end of her reign and it would have been lost anyway given the circumstances. They also forget that she oversaw one of the greatest victories of the age at Saint Quentin the previous year. Also Calais was a financial burden, one we could afford to lose. The loss of Calais is often highlighted because it was the last foothold in France but it has to be more fully explored.

          Mary is also the reason that Elizabeth was accepted as Queen and although we mostly hear that Elizabeth took her choice of husband as a reason not to allow any man to rule her or with her, she also took more than that as positive examples from her sister. When Mary needed to rally the City of London when Thomas Wyatt was making a threat she pointed to her coronation ring and called the people her children and that she was the wife and mother of her country. Sound familiar? Elizabeth claimed to be married to England, following the example of her sister. Elizabeth saw her sister appeal to her Council and Parliament for help when she needed to and she learned to speak in the same way. Elizabeth made some really good speeches and rallied her troops during the Armarda but we forget that her father and sister also made memorable and remarkable speeches. Elizabeth learned self reliance from her father, mother and particularly from her sister. Mary had many qualities her father would have taken credit for.

          Both Mary and Elizabeth were determined to improve the economy and Mary took active steps to stabilise trade and the coinage and helped ordinary people to benefit, not just those who paid a fee for a franchise. She made laws. which actually helped people less well off and a number of educational reforms also came into being. Her religious laws may be considered draconian but it was not unusual for the time. However, she also encouraged a preaching campaign and education and time for people to renew their Catholic Faith. England was a majority Catholic country and the return to the faith was popular. Although it was a terrible thing which followed under Mary and Elizabeth it was not something which was disapproved of and both Queens were responsible for large scale persecution. Mary, to her credit was far more merciful when dealing with treason and rebellion and Henry would not have approved of the mercy she initially showed Lady Jane Grey and her father. Her mercy led to his second rebellion six months later. Henry would most likely have executed them all to begin with. Treason was a crime which should not be dealt with with any degree of mercy or a show of forgiveness as Mary showed, not once but twice to large number of ordinary rebels and even some of the leaders. Elizabeth was not so renowned for mercy either.

          Henry would have approved of the determination both women showed at times and their survival instincts. He would have taken credit because he ensured they had the best education. Mary had many of the warrior qualities of her mother and grandmother and although Henry probably wouldn’t have chosen Philip, he would see why she made that choice. Let’s face it, he could hardly criticise. Elizabeth made a better choice in one sense, but perhaps this is a modern interpretation. Elizabeth would decide that she couldn’t accept the authority of a man which as a woman she would be expected to do, but I don’t believe she shut out marriage altogether. She found herself the most eligible woman in Europe, but one or other political or cultural or religious complication got in the way or was raised by her advisers. Elizabeth surrounded herself with men that she saw could help her and in that she would have been praised by her father.

          Christine is quite right, this was a scenario he hoped to avoid and yet his will saw it as a real possibility. He had seriously believed only a man could rule but he had gained better insight over the years and he made unusual provisions in the Act of Succession 1544. He made his son his heir, but also named Mary, then Elizabeth, then the children of his sister Mary, although his daughters were not relegitimized. As Christine says, he was a second son and had succeeded Prince Arthur who died aged sixteen. Perhaps he feared a repeat of history and wanted to ensure stability or he faced reality ahead of time. Whatever Henry’s reasons he did make provision for all of his children to succeed and tried to avoid the sort of scenario which created the Lady Jane Grey crisis. Again, his provision of land and money ironically enabled Mary to raise an army, set up a central base and to gather enough support to push her rivals back to London and to take up her rightful throne. Unfortunately, her reign was cut short by ill health and she couldn’t produce an heir. Elizabeth was around for a long time and as a result she put down her sister’s reign in order to illuminate and elevate her own.

          I could list a number of good books but the most succinct account I would recommend is the Connell Guide to Mary I, short but balanced. There is also a comparative history which compares both Queens by Susan Doran and Anna Whitlock which is excellent.

  5. I hadn’t noticed Gertrude Courtenay being one of Elizabeth’s godmothers before. Her son Edward was suggested as a husband for the adult Elizabeth (as well as Mary); would that relationship–son of her godmother–have required a dispensation under Catholic law? How did the CofE feel about those things? I’ve never seen anything mentioning it as a hindrance in any of the bios but I know I’ve seen something about it in earlier periods.

    1. I think a dispensation for a marriage between Elizabeth/Mary and Edward Courtney, would have been needed as they would be cousins, (although I don’t have a family tree in front of me to work out the degree). Permission was normal within seven degrees of relationship. The Church of England does have a similar list of wedding restrictions in the back of the Book of Common Prayer. However, how it would work with Elizabeth’s time is hard to say as her liturgical and religious settlements took twenty years or so to formulate so it is something which would have required negotiation. Not that either woman would have considered Edward Courtney as he was considered to be mentally inept and a hot head as well as too easily influenced. He wasn’t a good match.

      1. Gertrude Courtney and the old Duchess of Norfolk as the Godmothers of Princess Elizabeth are interesting choices because neither of them cared very much for Anne and the Duchess detested her. Gertrude Courtney was a close friend of Queen Katherine of Aragon and very much still in touch with her mistress. In fact, speculation has been made by Desmond Seward that much of the news and gossip which arrived at the household of Katherine of Aragon came via Gertrude Courtney. A number of comments by Henry Pole, Marquis of Montagu to Ambassador Chapuys reported during a period of disruption in Anne’s marriage to Henry, reflect information which may have come via this circle. The company were related to each other through marriage and blood and were from the old gentry and Catholic families of England. They were also of Plantagenet blood and although, once close to King Henry, their loyalty had been tested with the banishment of their Queen and the introduction of a woman who favoured religious reform. However, the two families were also very pragmatic and adapted to the many changes in England as well as to the change of Regime and now they tried to accept both the new Queen and the Supremacy and to carry on with life as did most of the important players at Court.

        The Duchess of Norfolk represented the first noble family of the kingdom, after the King. The Howards were even more pragmatic than the Poles and Courtneys and adapted to service under the Tudors after loyal service to Richard iii and Edward iv. Anne’s mother was a Howard, the sister of Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk and his father had served at Flodden in 1513, fighting for King Henry. Norfolk remained in his service until 1547, when he and his own son fell out of favour. Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, was the widow of the second Duke and she disapproved of Anne because of her lower birth, her ideas, her status as a Lady to Queen Katherine and probably for a whole lot of other trivial reasons, but she attended her coronation because it was expected of her. A woman of noble birth would have done her duty to the King’s wife, no matter who she was. These families depended on the patronage of the King for their land, their status, their wealth, their survival and future. They gave the King service in men and in administration, military service and kept his peace, kept control of the local community and enforced his laws. In return they received rewards and trust and their family prospered. These families were represented at the coronation of a woman that they regarded as an upstart because their wealth, prosperity and future depended on them being there. Ironically, the Boleyn family, what was left of them after Anne and George were executed, carried on and returned to Court to serve King Henry, for the very same reasons of survival and self preservation as those who had seen Anne crowned to begin with.

        Agnes Tilney would unfortunately raise Kathryn Howard and faced very serious consequences after her step granddaughter was charged with adultery and presumption of treason, being imprisoned, questioned several times and her health declined soon afterwards. Gertrude Courtney would also eventually see the fall of her own household and her son along with Henry Pole were tried on trumped up charges of treason in the invented Exeter plot in 1539, when the family was rounded up in revenge for Reginald Pole and his treaties against Henry’s divorce. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, the great matriarch was also beheaded in 1541 because her sons had been accused of this plot. She also was a friend to Queen Katherine of Aragon and the Governess to Princess Margaret. She too had accepted Tudor rule and given many years in their service, despite being the daughter of George Duke of Clarence, the brother of King Edward iv and King Richard iii, and thus having a better claim to the throne than any of them. Pragmatism worked when the King appreciated those who remained loyal despite their heritage or personal faith, but once a King became paranoid, none of that mattered. Not even his own wife was safe when that happened.

  6. My how things change. It seems I read or heard somewhere that Edward I as he lay dying ordered that he not be buried until Scotland was ‘subdued’. 200yrs later a Scot will be King of England and Scotland. I believe King Edward is going to have a looong wait. These kinds of humorous twists are one of the reasons I love history.

    1. He wanted his bones carried at the head of the army, but yes it is something which Scots have often spoken of with relish, that it was their King that became King of England not the other way round, I think Elizabeth thought that leaving her kingdom to Scotland’s King was the only way – James was a man, he had a reputation for shrewdness like herself and so very different from his wretched mother, it was a way to bring unity together a chance for peace and of course from the minute James crossed the border on Berwick On The Tweed, history was made, the first time a sovereign had reigned both kingdoms and which forged the beginning of the country we now know of as Great Britain – the United Kingdom, you are right history certainly is full of humorous twists.

  7. Thank you BQ for pointing out the similarities between Mary and Elizabeth. I think people (including myself) have a tendency to focus only on the differences.

    1. Yes indeed the two sisters were similar, I had heard Marys speech and how she impressed on her subjects she was the mother of them all, I read this some years ago then Elizabeth said much the same thing when she was queen, both sisters used persuasive words to woo not only the man on the street but their council to, Henry V111 as Bq mentions was a gifted speaker, his daughters took after him in that respect, Calais it’s true was an unecessary expense but the loss of it wounded Mary, maybe its loss seemed worse coming after so many disappointments, her two pregnancys had turned out to be false, which left her feeling humiliated and her husband had left her on another of his visits overseas to see to his own affairs, his absence caused the queen misery and still the fires of Smithfield burned, her subjects who had once greeted her so enthusiastically whenever she appeared, who had greeting her accession with a burst of enthusiasm now murmured against her, her death was sad like her turbulent life and she died without ever seeing her husband again, her reign is overlooked by her sisters and she even eclipses her in death, her magnificent Tomb lies on top of Marys, but Elizabeth being the younger had time on her side unlike Mary and had Mary been allowed to live longer, I believe she could have earned the love and respect of her people again, had she produced an heir she would have made the people overjoyed, dogged by ill health for most of her life which by the very nature of them appears stress related, she caught a final sinister illness which could have been cancer, no doubt the abnormal swelling of her stomach was caused by this, I find it a shame that people tend to think of Marys only legacy as the Smithfield fires but there was a lot more to her than that, Philip himself had known her as a warm and loving wife and whilst he had not loved her, he had enormous respect for her and he expressed regret at her death, in her final hours she spoke of children singing, maybe God in his mercy had sent her angels to comfort her as she passed from this world to the next.

  8. Queen Elizabeth I rose to prominence in an era that we think of because it was a male dominated world and certainly in Europe, especially with wars and empires expanding under the control of men, this is true. However, if we view our horizons further afield, unique females all arrived on the scene as rulers and warriors all within a few decades. Now male observers may have criticised them, because they showed typical male qualities of strength and strong decision making, even ruthless in the way they dealt with opposition and of course if you read these male ambassadors, the woman only ruled because the man they took over from was weak. However, the fact is the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw such women pop up regularly. Elizabeth was the third Queen Regina to rule in her own right if we count the short reign of Lady Jane Grey who seems to me, but for her cousins determination to fight for her rights, had it within her to be as strong a ruler as any man. During the thirteen days of her reluctant grasp on power, Jane gave orders to capture and bring Mary’s forces down at all costs, refused to crown her husband and took the keys to the Tower and locked the Council in with her. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stop them finding a way out, but the signals were there that Jane had Tudor blood and would not be a puppet.

    Elizabeth learned how to handle men who quite frankly seem to have wanted one thing, to marry her. She used her sexuality to attract them and control them and then dump them for another, keeping them on their toes. However, this also made her vulnerable to manipulation and vital jobs went to inadequate men like the Earl of Essex who tried to take over. She didn’t always use the judgement that she was born with and almost fell into the same trap of the heart as Mary Queen of Scots. Her head won out because Elizabeth had programmed into herself that nobody would rule her, ever. This was something she gained from Henry and Anne, neither of whom would be told what to do. She also, ironically learned it from Catherine of Aragon, because her mother had learned from her former mistress. Elizabeth had watched in the background, making note of what was good and what was dangerous for a woman and an illegitimate Royal child. ( I am merely referring to her legal status here, because she like Mary was not given back any legitimate status and most of Europe agreed that Elizabeth remained illegitimate). Elizabeth saw four women marry her father after her mother’s execution, she saw three of them disposed of (Jane through complications after the birth of Edward) and only one take any actual interest in her afterwards. She lived on tender hooks during the Protectorate, accused twice of plotting with Tom and then Ned Seymour, the former wanting to marry her. Elizabeth may or may not have been abused by Thomas Seymour, the evidence from Blanche Parry and the male servant and even Kat Ashley is tainted because it was given under duress. Elizabeth committed treason on more than one occasion and was lucky to survive. I believe, but can’t prove as it wasn’t clear at the time, that Elizabeth accepted a promise to marry Tom Seymour but knowing the Council had found out denied it because to marry without their permission put her out of the succession and was treason. She talked her way out of it, just. I also believe Elizabeth did give the nod to Thomas Wyatt, that she was prepared if his revolt succeeded to replace Mary and she would have had her killed. Again, this is impossible to prove, because the evidence was destroyed and Wyatt did not implicate her. Mary certainly feared Elizabeth was involved, which is why she was arrested and placed in the Tower. To those who condemn Mary for this I say this, put yourself in her shoes for one moment. Mary had no reason to love Elizabeth who had been born to replace her, but she found herself in the same household and that she became fond of her. Mary had shown Elizabeth nothing but kindness and favour, especially now she was Queen. Now she was being informed by men that she trusted to give her sound advice that Elizabeth was the figurehead of a rebellion which wanted to kill her and put her illegitimate half sister on her throne. Mary had already had to fight for her crown, had already been kept from that crown by one female relative being used in a rebellion, so of course she was now suspicious by what she heard. However, Mary didn’t immediately have Elizabeth arrested. She didn’t want to just accept that she was a willing traitor. Her ministers actually did demand that Elizabeth be executed. Mary had her brought to her at Court but Elizabeth said she was ill, the journey took eight days and by then the rebellion was over. She returned to house arrest, but then she was again implicated and Mary had her arrested. We know the story that she used the tide so as she could only travel in daylight by boat to the Queens Steps. She also wrote a letter to her sister. In any event she was kept in the Royal Apartments, pretending to be ill, was questioned on several occasions but answered well, must have been terrified, yet manipulated her situation, she asked for instructions on the Catholic faith and said she would go to Mass, which of course, she never did, then on 19th May 1554 she was released. The anniversary of her mother’s death must have reminded her of danger. She was taken for one year to Woodstock, then home to Hatfield. All through this Elizabeth had watched and learned and put many lessons into her Queenship. With the luxury of time on her side due to her age, she could afford to do so.

    I suggest that Elizabeth learned from another forgotten strong woman of her age, her contemporary Marie de Guise. Marie de Guise was left a widow with a six day old baby daughter who was now Queen of Scots in December 1542. She had to keep the child safe from endless attempts from Henry Viii and then Lord Protector Edward Seymour to force Scotland into submission with border raids and warfare after initially agreeing that Mary should marry young King Edward. She gained a fearsome reputation as an able and ruthless ruler and Regent, who controlled an unruly group of nobles and her borders and expanded the country as a power abroad. She prevented a kidnap attempt of her six year old daughter and sent her to safety in France. Often attacked by Protestant detractors such as John Knox whom she sent to the galleys for sedition and treason, she ruled with a firm hand and without a man at her side. She chose an able Council at her side and Scotland flourished as a stable economy and a Renaissance Kingdom. The settlement with the Lords of the Congregation did reluctantly turn Scotland into a reformed country, one much changed when Marie Queen of Scots returned aged just eighteen in 1561, but it was also in a better stable position and England saw her as a true rival. Marie de Guise had impressed the Government of Edward vi during her state visit and Elizabeth I made overtures towards her when she first succeeded to avoid war. Marie de Guise died shortly afterwards, but she was both praised and reviled for her male like rule and iron will. Elizabeth was noted to have those same qualities.

    I wish briefly to mention another woman of prominence who was slightly later than Elizabeth, thousands of miles away, a wife and mother, but probably not much unlike her in many ways. Unlike Elizabeth, Nur Jahan, fourteenth wife of the Great Mogul, Jahangir, did actually lead her troops in battle to put down two rebellions by his sons and to rescue him when he was imprisoned. She was an architect, a designer of clothing, artist, correspondent, warrior and
    poet and the only female Emperor in Indian history, regardless of Queen Victoria. She rose from obscurity, poverty to become one of the best educated women inside the harem. Her family had fled from persecution in a previously tolerant Persia (Iran) and by a twist of fate found themselves as high officials in the Muslim Mughal Empire which ruled India from the sixteenth century. Jahangir had fallen in love with this talented beautiful widow with two children and married her. However, instead of the confines of the Harem Nur soon emerged as co ruler and was crowned as such. She was an able political leader, she ruled for her husband, constantly on campaign and eventually took over for him as he was too ill to rule. She manipulated the succession, turning Jahangir against his favourite son, the famous ruler, Shar Jahan, because she saw a better alternative in her son in law, one of his younger sons. She was an able negotiator with foreign ambassadors, including Sir Thomas Roe sent on a trade mission from Britain, under James I and despite his criticism of her political ability, she actually impressed him. She oversaw the expansion of trade and Indian territories and influence, she designed and built a tomb for her husband and parents as well as her own and her designs, despite his ill will towards his step mother we now know were incorporated by Shah Jahan into his own magnificent memorial to his beloved wife, the famous Taj Mahal. She was intellectual and she had a will of iron, even when she fell into decline and was forced into retirement after she tried to keep Shah Jahan of the throne by yet another military coup. She was actually right to do so because despite his reputation as a builder in his later years he was a disaster for India and ended his days in close confinement, facing the monument he had built and prevented from visiting by his son and grandson, who ruled an Empire in decline and torn apart by civil war. Under Nur the Empire reached briefly the same heights of literature and artistic outpouring that had flourished in Elizabethan England. Thanks to her influence that art continued to flourish despite the inadequacies of the Emperors who followed.

  9. It is true there were several strong women in the 16th c it’s just Elizabeth seems to dominate them all because of her long reign, but yes Marie De Guise was certainly a formidable woman and you are right about Mary, I forgot she had to fight for the crown which she saw as her legal birthright and Henry V111 would no doubt have admired her for that, but it’s very sad because her reign is remembered today by many historians as a failure, I have been reading David Loades book on Mary and he says that along with Richard 11 and Edward 11, her reign is largely seen as a failure but I agree time was not on her side, never having a robust constitution although she survived the perils of childhood, her troubled adolescence caused by her warring parents I feel turned her into a slightly bitter angry woman, hardly surprising also when we consider in the reign of her brother he harangued her about her Catholic beliefs and she was banned from attending mass and so forth, Edwards obsession with the reformation must have been very hard for her and no wonder when he died, and excluded her from his will, after she had won the crown, she was determined to stamp out those whom she believed were heretics, the reformation she believed was a canker in the heart of English politics and all started with that hated woman, Anne Boleyn, now long dead she must nevertheless have seen her in her daughters face and it did not help that Elizabeth resembled her mother, fond of her sister when she was a baby and no doubt very adorable then, when Elizabeth grew up she began to regard her with suspicion, there could have been some envy there also for this woman who was not only younger than her but also taller and more attractive, Nur Jahan sounds incredible id like to add I have a great admiration for Florence Nightingale – I think she was fantastic.

    1. I encountered Nu Jahan a few years ago while researching more about the Taj Mahal and the Great Moguls after a fantastic series on India. There was also a series on the art and buildings of these Muslim conquerors who came from Persia but are descendants of Genghis Khan and Nur Jahan’s tomb was featured. Her relationship with Shah Jahan was strained because she didn’t believe he would keep her in power as most women at this time were sequestered behind walls in the Harem. That doesn’t mean they had no power or role and the real political scheming came out of the Harem. Many of the women were not even wives or concubines either as all of their female relations lived there. The importance of Nur Jahan was that merely thirty years after Akbar the Great put all noble and royal women in the private world of the Harem here she was ruling in public. She ruled as co ruler, she ruled as sole ruler and she ruled in a way others had been denied. Yes, she tried to hold onto power as a widow and was criticised for that but she believed her step son was far too much of a hot head for stability. It is debatable but modern researchers give her credit as an astute politician. I was delighted, therefore recently to find a modern biography of Nur which doesn’t focus mostly on the romantic and passionate love between her and Emperor Jahangir, for which she is also noted, and brings into the light this remarkable woman. Professor Ruby Lahl “Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan” is well worth reading and highly accessible and recommended.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *