24 March 1603 – Queen Elizabeth I dies at Richmond

Posted By on March 24, 2017

Elizabeth I, Ermine Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard

On this day in history, 24th March 1603, the sixty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth I died at Richmond Palace. She had ruled for over 44 years.

Here is an excerpt from my book Illustrated Kings and Queens of England on Elizabeth I:

Elizabeth I was born on 7 September 1533 at Greenwich Palace. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. Her mother was executed for alleged adultery and treason in May 1536 and within two months of her mother’s death, Parliament had confirmed that Elizabeth’s parents’ marriage was invalid and that Elizabeth was illegitimate.

In 1547, following her father’s death, Elizabeth moved in with her stepmother the Dowager Queen Catherine Parr, and her husband Thomas Seymour. There, she became involved in a scandal with Seymour, who would visit Elizabeth’s chamber, dressed only in his night-gown, and proceed to tickle and stroke the teenaged girl. Eventually, Catherine arranged for Elizabeth to go and live with her good friends, Sir Anthony Denny and his wife at Cheshunt. Catherine died in September 1548, following the birth of her daughter, and Seymour was executed in March 1549 for allegedly plotting to control his nephew Edward VI and to remove his brother, Edward Seymour, Lord Protector, from power.

Although Elizabeth supported her half-sister Mary when she claimed the throne in July 1553, she was taken to the Tower of London on 18 March 1554 after being charged with being involved in Wyatt’s Rebellion . She was released on 19 May 1554 and placed under house arrest at Woodstock. In April 1555 she was summoned to court to attend Mary I who was, allegedly pregnant. After spending a few months with Mary, she was finally given permission to leave court for Hatfield, her own estate, on the 18th March 1555.

Elizabeth inherited the throne from her childless half-sister on 17 November 1558. She ruled England for 44 years and made a huge difference to the country. England was in a depressing state when she inherited it from Mary I, yet when Elizabeth died England was a strong and prosperous country, a force to be reckoned with, and that is why her reign is known as “The Golden Age”. Her main achievements include defeating the Spanish Armada, following on from her father’s work on the navy and turning England into a strong and dominant naval power, defending England from Scotland and actually turning the Scots into a permanent ally, increasing literacy in England, expanding England overseas by encouraging explorers like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir John Hawkins to discover new places and form colonies, founding the Church of England as we know it today, raising the status of England abroad, surviving and defeating plots and uprisings against her, helping the poor by her poor laws, ruling England in her own right as Queen without a consort, and promoting the Arts – her love of arts led to theatres being built and great poets and playwrights like Shakespeare, Spenser and Marlow emerging.

Elizabeth I died on 24 March 1603 and was buried at Westminster Abbey in the vault of her grandfather Henry VII. She was moved in 1606 to her present resting place, a tomb in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey which she shares with her half-sister Mary I. King James I spent over £11,000 on Elizabeth I’s lavish funeral and he also arranged for a white marble monument to be built. The tomb is inscribed with the words “Consorts both in throne and grave, here we rest two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in hope of our resurrection.”

She is known as the Virgin Queen, Gloriana and Good Queen Bess.

Picture: The Ermine Portrait of Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard.

31 thoughts on “24 March 1603 – Queen Elizabeth I dies at Richmond”

  1. CB says:

    I attended a conference run by the Gloriana Society recently, which was very fascinating. One of the speakers delivered a lecture about the 1590s, Elizabeth’s last decade as queen, a time of widespread social and political unrest, poor harvests and rising crime. No other time in English history saw as many felonies committed. There was a rising in Oxfordshire and increasing poverty, vagrancy and hardship, caused by famine and failed harvests.

    Elizabeth’s reign has been seen as a Golden Age, but who was it a Golden Age for? Certainly not the poor, as the above paragraph makes clear. Certainly not the majority of Catholics, with increasingly harsher laws being enacted and almost two hundred individuals executed as traitors to the realm. Was it a Golden Age for women? I don’t think so; Elizabeth I was not a feminist (it is anachronistic to use such a term) and she herself seems to have regarded herself as an exception to the rule that women could not successfully govern. Her sister’s memory was forgotten, every aspect of her reign swept under the carpet in a stunningly successful Elizabethan cover-up, and Mary Queen of Scots was portrayed by the English government as a Jezebel, a murderess, an adulteress and a poisoner.

    Was it a Golden Age for wealthy Protestant men, the nobility, the courtiers, the councillors? Perhaps so, but even here, there is much evidence that the court was becoming restless during Elizabeth’s final years, they yearned for a king, they were fed up with queens. Robert, earl of Essex, led a rebellion against the queen and was executed for his treason. Perhaps if Elizabeth had married and given birth to heirs the country would have been left in a more peaceful, less troubled, situation by the time she died in 1603.

    But Elizabeth never married. I have recently read a fascinating book by Ilona Bell that I would recommend to anyone interested in the queen. It disproves the notion that Elizabeth always identified herself as the Virgin Queen; no, she only did so from the 1580s onwards. For the first decade of her reign, Elizabeth was demonstrably interested in marrying. She courted proposals from Archduke Ferdinand and his sons Ferdinand and Charles, she was receptive to the idea of marrying Francois of Anjou, she also considered the king of Sweden and several of her own noblemen, including the earl of Arundel. Perhaps she loved Robert Dudley and wished to marry him, but political circumstances meant that she could not.

    Anyway, it is a myth that Elizabeth never considered marriage – she did. When Francois eventually left England in the 1580s, Elizabeth was devastated. She surely knew it had been her last chance to marry and perhaps bear children. She had considered his proposal carefully but had been met with stiff resistance from her councillors and nobles. One poor soul had his hand sliced off for writing a tract against the French marriage.

    There are so many myths about Elizabeth and it is time they were dispelled as nonsense. She did not always identify as the Virgin Queen; she only did so for the last two decades of her rule. She was not seen as Good Queen Bess until the seventeenth-century, during the English Civil War. She was not Gloriana to many; certainly not to the poor and certainly not to the Catholics. She was regarded as a bastard and a heretic queen by most of Catholic Europe, who believed that Mary Queen of Scots had the superior claim to the throne.

    And it is a myth that Elizabeth never wanted to marry. It is a myth that she gave her speech under an oak tree on 17 November 1558 proclaiming that her accession was the Lord’s doing. It is a myth that she never spoke about her mother, but it is also romantic speculation to write that Anne would have been proud of her daughter – we do not know if she would have been and writers should refrain from projecting their own private fantasies onto historical individuals who died nearly five hundred years ago.

    There are many myths about Elizabeth. Perhaps the greatest myth is that she was England’s greatest monarch. For many, she was not. For many, there was widespread celebration and relief when she passed away. Catholics, in particular, were hopeful that the new king would grant toleration and repeal the harsh laws enacted against them. They flocked to James, including Thomas Tresham, promising their loyalty and their allegiance. But they were to be disappointed.

    Indeed, it was only during the mid seventeenth-century troubles, during the reign of Charles I, that the cult of Elizabeth flourished and her memory was revered. The Stuart regime was increasingly criticised during a time of rising anti-Catholicism and people looked back with nostalgia to their Protestant queen, Elizabeth. But for the first fifty years or so after her death, Elizabeth was not revered nor was she widely loved. Her death was greeted with relief and even joy in some quarters.

    Today we can celebrate Elizabeth as a great queen, but it is time to strip away centuries of myth and legend to view the real woman. As someone at the conference pointed out, it is almost viewed as sacrilegious to dare criticise or question Elizabeth even today, but we need to. We need to understand that she was not a mythical figure, she was not saintly, she was not Good Queen Bess to many people, she was a woman capable of mistakes and errors, and to many, she was not England’s greatest monarch.

    1. Helen Davis+ says:

      That is well stated. The pendulum has been pro Elizabeth for so long that its time to look at her objectively. She was a good match but not the best, that honor should be her sister’s.

      Anne would not be remembered as well if Elizabeth did not have this reputation. We need to remember Anne wrecked a home and destroyed innocent Mary. Tudor life. Anne was really only queen from,

      Katharine and Mary werw rhe heroines of this era. I believe both women are long overdue for sainthood.

      Katharine of Aragon the true queen of England! Saint Mary Tudor

      1. Christine says:

        I wouldn’t go that far Helen, Mary was no saint who is? I suppose in the eyes of her Catholic contemporaries she was hailed as such, she prevailed against all odds to become Queen and did her best yet she did make quite a few fatal errors, monarchs rely heavily on their advisers and they are not solely responsible for what happens in their kingdom as parliament has to have a say also, and Elizabeth was lucky in that she had the astute William Cecil as her right hand man, yet she also made quite a few mistakes monarchs are only human like the rest of us though they were revered like gods in olden times, Henry V111 believed God spoke through him as indeed the pharoahs believed they were descended from their gods and everything they did was right, however I do agree with you about Katherine being the true queen of England she was indisputably the rightful queen there, and it did not matter how many times Henry grumbled to the pope about his convenient conscience could not alter that fact, it was remarkable indeed that Elizabeth herself became queen certainly in the dark days after her mothers death it must have seemed well nigh impossible, Henry had remarried his third queen and she gave birth to a son, thus she was then pushed back from first place to third place, that of course came several years afterwards when Henry decided to write his will and included both his daughters in the line of succession, Elizabeth herself must have thought her brother would marry and have a son or daughter as he was in good health and his sudden death after just five years of being on the throne must have taken them all by surprise, he had not been a sickly child but in those days it did not matter, a lot of illnesse’s that today can be cured by just a course of antibiotics were fatal in an age before the advancement of medical knowledge, then Mary took the throne after effectively ousting Jane Grey and entered into marriage negotiations with King Philip, she hoped to have a baby but here the odds of her having a healthy child were stacked against her, she had a history of menstrual problems and she was considered a little old to be having her first baby, then the path to glory must have seemed more visible to Elizabeth to whom the common people looked to as their saviour after the burnings at Smithfield, sadly Mary died pining for her husband her dreams of having a child had evaporated and Calais had been lost to the French, so she died as she had lived unhappily and few mourned her death, except those she had been close to her servants and friends who all knew her as a kindly generous and pious woman, and her Catholic subjects, her reign has been overshadowed by her younger sisters yet as I have mentioned before had she lived longer she could well have gone down in history as a much loved monarch, it was the Smithfield fires which blackened her image,( no pun intended ) and she had married Philip who was a Spaniard instead of marrying an Englishman, her council were dismayed as he was not popular with Marys English subjects but unfortunately Mary had fallen in love with him and had to have him, that was the first mistake she made but she had only followed her heart, her own mother had been from Spain and she had been much loved and she probably thought Philip would prove to be just as popular but in fact he was blamed for influencing her over the Smithfield burnings where in fact he cautioned Mary to be more merciful, but it did no good, Mary was rather narrow minded when it came carrying out the burnings and did not realise her popularity was diminishing because of it, when Elizabeth became queen she inherited a country that had suffered religious strife and she was determined to be seen as not fanatical about this or that religion and it was said she did not care how her subjects worshipped behind close doors, it was when her cousin Mary of Scots was imprisoned in her kingdom she became wary and uneasy about her Catholic subjects as Mary was proving to be a focal point for their rebellion, they were thus persecuted and priest holes were made as a safe haven for those large households who wished to hear mass and pray in safety, Elizabeths reign has been seen as a golden age for the rise of playwrights such as Marlowe and Shakespeare and for the discovery of new lands and also the common potato which we enjoy so much today, also tobacco which has proved to be not such a great find as was previously thought, and for the defeat of the armada which history as credited her with her greatest triumph, yet many of the sailors who had so valiantly defended their country from invasion did not live long enough to enjoy it, some dying of disease and poverty afterwards, their families were not compensated and in fact it was our wonderful weather of which we complain about so much, that actually helped in the destruction of the largest fighting fleet in the world, Elizabeth had commissioned the Armada portrait which regales her as being the saviour of the Protestant world and another painting depicts the three goddesses Juno Minerva and Venus meeting this glorious paragon of virtue and being overawed by her splendour, thus was the legend of Gloriana borne, God like and revered by her subjects, that is the myth, to those who knew her she was hot tempered and could be vindictive, she would often box her ladies in waiting ears and give them a slap if she was displeased over something really petty, she was quite unkind to her tragic cousin the Queen of Scots, something which Queen Victoria remarked upon, ‘so unkind to my ancestress’ were the words she used, but it was politically motivated, she refused to marry yet hated it when any of her courtiers and ladies did and she was the subject of dreadful gossip when she was said to be having an affair with her married master of horse, the Earl of Leicester, his wife’s untimely and suspicious death put a stop to any dreams of marriage she may have harboured with him even though in time the rumours died down, they never completely went away and at home and abroad it was said she had been murdered so her husband could marry the queen, when he later married her cousin Lettice Knollys she banished her from court and he was out of favour for a considerable amount of time, she never received her again and spoke of her with such vitriol referring her as the ‘she wolf’, this behaviour is typical of a woman who was I think suffered from many insecurities and, she would question her Scots ambassador about her rival Mary of Scots appearance, how tall she was, did she play music as well as Elizabeth, who had the fairer complexion etc, and didn’t like it when she didn’t get the right answer, typical feminine curiosity is normal and yet she had to be seen as the most beautiful woman at court and this vanity she inherited from both her parents, Henry V111 had been exceedingly vain from the days when he had towered over his subjects and had been referred to as ‘the most handsomest prince in Christendom’, he loved to deck his muscular body in the finest jewels and had a huge codpiece to declare his virile masculinity to the whole world, her mother Anne had also possessed a vain nature and had the wit and style to carry it of, thus was Elizabeth an exceptional product of two such exceptional beings, possessing all of their characteristics and some of their not very nice ones, from Anne she had inherited her flirtatious nature and the way she led some of her suitors a merry dance is indicative of how her mother had once led her father one also, she also inherited their hot tempers and love of finery, she was musical a gift from her Welsh ancestry no doubt, though Anne herself could play the virginals and lute very well and had a beautiful singing voice, she had an academic mind and could speak several languages, Thomas Boleyn her grandfather was bi lingual also and her father could read and write Latin as well as French, a good education was something all the Tudors were lucky enough to have and in fact Edward V1 has been hailed as a child prodigy, along with her astute mind she was also prone to outbreaks of hysteria and could be very cruel, in her youth she had indulged in what was possibly to her an innocent flirtation with her stepfather all at the tender age of 14, she was too naive to know that her stepfather was in fact gravely overstepping the mark and his execution for high treason was a lesson she learned all too quickly, her childhood experiences had moulded her into a cautious wary nervous and slightly hysterical woman and her succession must have seemed surreal to her when it finally happened, at school we learnt about the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Good Queen Bess and it is portrayed in Elizabeth The Golden Age starring Cate Blanchett, yet when I think of Elizabeth the image I like to have in my mind is the one when her most trusted minister Cecil Lord Burghley was ill in bed, and the great queen herself paid him a visit and fed him soup from his dish and, it was something Cecil’s descendant Lady Victoria Latham herself remarked upon, how she imagined this glittering god like figure sitting on her ancestors bed among the eiderdown and putting the spoon to his mouth, a lovely endearing image indeed!

      2. Tidus Jecht says:

        Mary was not Saint. None of them were. As far as true Queen, like it or not, all 6 of his wives were true Queens at one point.

      3. Banditqueen says:

        I don’t believe Anne, Katherine, Elizabeth or Mary would qualify for official sainthood. (A saint is actually just a member of the Christian family by the way….Official Saints are above and beyond that somehow and the modern process is very complex. It was a simple matter of a local cult and later recognition not by Rome but the local Bishop before the 12th century). All of these ladies have good qualities to commend them, but they like everyone were flawed human beings and certainly made errors.

        Anne Boleyn didn’t wreck a happy marriage. Henry was obsessed by worry as he had no male heir and questioned the validity of his marriage before going for Anne. He merely wanted a mistress but Anne said no, made Henry want her more as men do, but then she became a candidate for marriage as they fell in love and Henry now seriously wanted a divorce. Yes Anne could have treated Mary better but to be fair, at first she did try. Mary couldn’t deny her mother by acknowledging Anne as Queen, especially as in her eyes her father was still married to her mother. Anne could have risen above this and treated her better, but Henry was also to blame. Henry allowed all this and probably encouraged this. He wanted to appear the loving father so he removed Mary back home, when she was ill. But who kept Mary and Katherine apart and banished Katherine? Henry. After Anne was beheaded on trumped up charges by her loving husband, who sent a delegation to bully his daughter into submission? Henry. I can’t understand why some people put all the blame of the failure of Henry Viii and his first marriage on Anne Boleyn. Like with any man who leaves his family and wife to commit adultery with another woman, the man is as much to blame as the other woman, more probably as he has more to lose, unless she also has a family….therefore, he should excuse himself as he is married. Even if unhappy….surely you can end one relationship before starting another? O.K Henry couldn’t do that and had to get his own annulment in the end, but he was as much to blame for this mess as Anne….more in fact….he had more power.

        1. Banditqueen says:

          My reply was to Helen, but seems I have hit the wrong reply button. Apologies.

        2. Tidus says:

          No apology necessary. And I agree.

      4. Carol Thomas says:

        I agree.

      5. Carol Thomas says:

        I agree!

      6. LadyWicca says:

        Helen Davis, You must believe that Bloody Mary was justified to burning all those Protestants to death. Mary Tudor doesn’t qualify Sainthood
        Henry the VIII placed Elizabeth back in the of succession after King Edward VI, his heirs, Mary and her heirs, and then Elizabeth and her heirs.

        1. Banditqueen says:

          While Mary doesn’t qualify for sainthood, although I found that amusing, she does not deserve to be called ‘Bloody Mary’ either and has been unfairly treated by later history. In her own time it was not used and although we cannot accept how both Elizabeth and Mary used capital punishment to deal with people they regarded as deviant religiously, but it was not only accepted at the time, but expected. I doubt believe Helen is promoting persecution, but Mary certainly does not deserve her posthumous reputation any more than Elizabeth was Gloriana. Most modern writers take a more balanced view and we must remember both women were human beings, with flaws, shaped by their age, struggling in a male dominated society and the fact they ruled at all was more down to their determination to succeed than the Third Act of Succession of Henry Viii, which was thrown out of the window by their brother, who barred both of his half sisters in favour of Jane Grey.

    2. Tidus Jecht says:

      “Perhaps if Elizabeth had married and given birth to heirs the country would have been left in a more peaceful, less troubled, situation by the time she died in 1603.”

      This ^^ I don’t agree with. With all due respect, it sounds sexist to me. As in she needed a man by her side.
      “Mary Queen of Scots was portrayed by the English government as a Jezebel, a murderess, an adulteress and a poisoner.”

      This ^^ I totally agree with.
      IMO, While there were plenty of other things, Among pros and cons, 2 of her her major cons were Mary Queen of Scots and another was how she treated those on the ships who defeated the Spanish Armanda afterwords. Movies, etc never show the after effects of the Spanish Armada.

      1. CB says:

        I did not mean it in a “sexist” way, I meant that many of Elizabeth’s problems during the latter half of her reign, including political unrest and religious troubles, stemmed from her failure to name a successor. If she had married and given birth to an heir, Mary Queen of Scots would not have loomed as a menace, with the support of the Catholic powers, and the Greys would not have had a leg to stand on.

        However, it is also a matter of who Elizabeth could have married. Her council were resolutely opposed to the idea of a foreign marriage, given what had happened in Mary’s reign, and wanted Elizabeth to marry an Englishman. William Pickering, the earl of Arundel, and Robert Dudley were all suggested as possible husbands. However, an English husband would cause resentment and fear among the nobility and would breed faction.

        Elizabeth herself, as I noted earlier, seems to have genuinely desired to marry Francois of Anjou and was upset when her councillors adamantly refused to countenance the idea. In 1579, the pamphleteer John Stubbs lost his hand for writing a tract against the marriage. By that point, however, Elizabeth probably would have been too old for childbearing.

        1. Christine says:

          I agree her council were forever trying to get Elizabeth to marry as that would have brought stability to the realm, safely married and with an heir on the way the Tudor succession would be secured, the rebellions which occurred in Mary of Scots name would not have happened and Elizabeth herself would have slept easier at night, as it was she became like her father who in his day was ever wary of those with Plantaganet blood, Elizabeths insecurity arose from the fact that many believed she was not the true heir to the crown, her parents hasty marriage whilst Henry was still legally married to his first wife meant that her legitimacy was called into question, at least by her Catholic subjects and the whole of the Catholic world, France for one who was just 21 miles away across the channel and who was an ally of Scotland and Elizabeths Scottish cousin who happened to be half French also, indeed when Mary Tudor had died King Henri had proclaimed his son and daughter in law the rightful king and queen of England and they had displayed the arms of England, a deed which Elizabeth never forgot nor forgave and it soured her relations with her cousin forever, why Elizabeth was so against marriage we will never know, it is one of the mysteries about this enigmatic woman, she said that she was wedded to her people and that she feared the marital state was not for her, the Scots ambassador said ‘ she would not suffer a commander’ just as her parents were both bold and reckless Elizabeth also was of the same mould, she was very much her own woman, she did not want to be under the dominance of a husband, modern in her outlook she felt that she could rule well enough on her own and in fact she proved the world right, one contemporary ruler said of her ‘it is a pity Elizabeth and I could not marry our children would have ruled the world’, it is rumoured that she had sexual relations with Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester as she would flirt outrageously with him and her apartments were next door to his at court and whenever they travelled around the country, it was a situation which exasperated Cecil and he feared he would be the undoing of the queen especially after the death of his young wife Amy, Robert Dudley was the son of the convicted traitor John Duke of Northumberland and Cecil feared his ambition, he was believed to be the reason Elizabeth would not marry any of her other suitors and indeed her untimely death did exactly that, had Elizabeth married him she would have caused outrage and she could well have lost her crown, as she would be seen to be implicated in her alleged murder, but Elizabeth after years of having to watch her back was cautious and did nothing of the sort, it was an example her tragic cousin the Queen of Scots should have followed after the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, she married his alleged murderer and lost her throne and country because of it, Elizabeth knew as a wise monarch that you rule by the love of the people, and she made a great show of travelling throughout her kingdom stopping at various houses and the common people would run out to cheer her, she was delighted when people said of her how like her father she was, and she loved to draw comparisons between them, on her death as her funeral cortège wove its way through the streets to Westminster it was said men wept openly as the image on her coffin was so life like and there was more national mourning at her passing that has never been rivalled, before or since.

        2. LadyWicca says:

          Francois was not Duke of Anjou but Duke of Al econ, Henry the III was the Duke of Anjou.

  2. Susan says:

    I totally disagree Katherine taught Henry a lot being the older partner but I would not go as far as her being the true queen ! Ann got blamed for a lot of things but the treatment of Mary was conducted by Henry which Mary found out after the death of Ann none of them where saints we cannot judge what they did through 21 st century eyes what we think is cruel was vieved very differntly back then . We all have different opinions about Henry and his queens i do think Ann is giving a hard time over the treatment of Katherine and Mary they both made life very difficult for themselves because they where both strong women and outrageously religious !!!

  3. Janet Rapoza says:

    Excellelt piece and comments..

  4. Janet Rapoza says:


  5. Helen Davis says:

    I probably did go too far, I am sorry.

    I think we can all agree that Henry’s wives and daughters were wronged by him,and it’s amazing Mary and Elizabeth did as well as they did

  6. Banditqueen says:

    Elizabeth I is believed to be in charge of a glorious golden age because she was the mistress of image making. Look at her portraits. They create a fantastic and wonderful illusion. They are bright, beautiful, full of symbolism, full of grand backgrounds, sumptuous clothing, and the Queen appears alloof and like a goddess. The beautiful palaces, miniature paintings, the carefully controlled appearances of the Queen, her progress, the theatre, drama and literature all served a purpose to present a glorious golden image of a successful, triumphant and secure, confident monarch. There were also coincidental advancements in her reign…..adventure and people took more risks in making business work for them. For a rising middle and merchant class it probably was something of a golden age, but don’t forget a lot of treasury wealth was stolen from the New World and gained via English piracy. Through the granting of franchises and monopolies to these same privateers she created wealth for the crown but economic problems for everyone else. There were constant complaints about crown controlled monopolies. The working class did alright but the growing armies of poor were not seeing a golden age. For poor people, there is no such thing as a golden age…in fact for the majority of people there is no such thing as golden age. When we talk about a golden age our memory is not correct. When we read about the Elizabethan Age as a Golden Age we are reading it being beefed up as propaganda by those writers who want to present it that way. Elizabeth definitely did a lot to help through poor relief but the end of her reign still revealed many things were still wrong. There was a problem with the expensive wars in Ireland, which have left a terrible legacy, famine and failed harvests, war with Spain, plus a lot of people still lived in dirty, dark, cramped, disease ridden conditions and would continue to do so for the next three centuries. She may have had good intentions with regards to religion, but hundreds of Catholics and non Conformist Puritans either died or were imprisoned in her reign for just disagreeing with Elizabeth. For the theatre it may have been a golden age or at least the beginning of a golden age with Shakespeare and others. Many historians have unfortunately gone with the Glorianna myth and Virgin Queen myth but in more recent times a number of things have been questioned. In the 1960s a book called Bad Queen Bess questioned her image of Good Queen Bess and used a number of critical sources written by ordinary people for whom the Golden Age was none existent. Elizabeth was also heavily criticised, not surprisingly by foreign ambassadors and their monarchs. One of the reasons she used mythology to create her image as a goddess was in response to the fact that the Catholic world saw her as illegitimate and a heretic. Discontent was shown in the form of northern rebellions, which Elizabeth put down pretty hard, in true Tudor style. I doubt the 700 people executed in the aftermath thought they were living in a Golden Age. A number of adoring courtiers who shared in her success and glory at court may have thought it was a golden age and prospered by the stability her long reign created by and large, but the ordinary people, struggling to live from day to day are more likely to have seen Elizabeth as no different to any other over pampered monarch.

    1. CB says:

      By going on progress and by interacting with the crowd at her coronation procession, Elizabeth certainly fostered a closer relationship between monarch and people, compared to her predecessors. Neither Edward nor Mary were interested in creating such a relationship; indeed, Elizabeth could be likened to the merry monarch Charles II in terms of her popularity with the common man. But indeed, in the north and in the west, in particular, areas distanced from central authority, poverty and unrest characterised everyday life, and riots could occur from time to time. Mary Queen of Scots was much loved in the north and the west was feared as a gateway to Ireland, where the rebels held sway.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Yes, Elizabeth and Henry knew how to make a good bond and court the public, maybe play to the audience on a progress or public appearance. It was all theatre but it had a message for the adoring on lookers. You had to be seen and look good. You had to be magnificent and they certainly were. I just hope that they didn’t really carry the Queen as in that famous portrait….imagine if you dropped her…oops. No being serious…it was expected to put on a show but it also created better relationships with your people as well as showed everyone whose in charge.

        I agree that Elizabeth probably did think about marriage early on, even if she had been put off earlier in life as back then she probably had no real notion that she would be Queen. She certainly had good reason to be cautious now as well and her council were in disagreement over whom she should marry. A foreign marriage brought obvious problems as you are lining up with one power against another, plus England could become a satellite state. Should she marry one of the Catholic powers and upset everyone or could she risk war if she chose France rather than Spain. English nobles were suggested but that creates resentment as you say and faction. Who is the most eligible and whose permission does she seek if she married her cousin? Dudley is out of the question anyway. He was married. I’m certain she loved Dudley but the man was a nobody, a traitor, brother, son and grandson of traitors….not the best choice for a Queen. There are all kinds of problems…but if she wanted to do her dynastic duty, then yes she has to listen to her council, who in the end vetoed Francoise of Anjou, who was probably harmless politically and broke. However, Philip of Spain, French Dukes and English suitors were not her only offers. Offers came from Sweden and Denmark, even bizarrely from Ivan the Terrible and even from Istanbul. Now obviously she couldn’t realistically consider the last two but Denmark was a real contender. There is of course the question of logistics. Would Elizabeth have to leave England? As a consort of a King she may need to but she would also need a treaty as her sister had and ensure no interference in England or our life. Had Elizabeth seriously decided to marry, her council would have to come to terms with it. You only make peace with your enemies, so if you want a dynastic marriage the problems have to be worked out and you and your subjects get on with it. Kings had done it for centuries. Why should a Queen not make a grand foreign match? Isabella of Castile chose her own husband out of political need when she married Ferdinand of Aragon. Elizabeth would have found a way around her council had she really decided to marry or to nominate an heir in liue of marriage. I can’t recall all the candidates Elizabeth could have named but there were several in the Howards and Greys, Courtney relations, Earls of Essex and Holland, Marie Queen of Scots, Lord Darnley and his mother Margaret Douglas, at the end of her reign, Arbella Stuart and Isabella of Spain. Philip himself had a good claim via his Lancastrian ancestors, his children were considered just before James of Scotland was agreed…plus there were claimants in the Clifford family as well.

        Just why Elizabeth gave up we can’t know for certain, but maybe the fact that she didn’t made her convey even more of a mystic. Elizabeth almost took on a goddess type persona and in the end to her subjects and herself she at least left the image that she could rule without a man. This may have caused some of her problems, but it’s the grand myth that people believed because of the way she controlled her image and conveyed that message within her own portraits, propaganda and spectacular magnificent use of clothing and drama. In other words Elizabeth put on a good show and gave us the illusion that it was all real.

    2. Tidus says:

      I agree with this.

  7. Tidus says:

    “why Elizabeth was so against marriage we will never know”

    I have read and tend to agree that the reasons she was against marriage was due to her father’s treatments of his wives along with Jane Seymour’s death shortly after giving birth.
    Her father executed 2 of his wives. One died after childbirth. He divorced 1 for not giving him a son. Executed her mother on trumped up charges. Had Elizabeth been a son, some feel her mother would have been safe.etc. She’d pretty much be giving a lot if not all of her power away. It’s pretty apparent why Elizabeth never married.

    1. CB says:

      I think the example of her sister Mary was also of great importance to Elizabeth. She expressly stated that she could not wed a foreigner because of what happened when Mary married Philip of Spain. Elizabeth also observed the marital problems of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. She probably believed that singlehood was the safer option. Perhaps she did love Robert Dudley, but as the son of a traitor and an unpopular man at court, who was rumoured to have been involved in his wife’s suspicious death, she knew that she could never marry him. Elizabeth always put politics before passion.

    2. Christine says:

      I agree Henry V111’s marital adventures were not a particularly good example to Elizabeth of the wedded state however, we cannot know for certain if they were the reason she stayed unmarried, one theory is she could have been afraid of the dangers of childbirth, it was extremely dangerous for both the mother and child, and yes as you mention both of her stepmothers died because of it, when very young she is recorded as saying after the execution of Catherine Howard that she would never marry, it was something Robert Dudley remarked on years later, another theory is maybe she feared being dominated by a man, maybe she was phychogically damaged and her mothers execution affected her more than we realise, maybe she feared having sexual relations because she felt vulnerable, who knows? It’s all just speculation, her laundresses are known to have said that her periods were scant and maybe she herself felt she would be unable to bear a healthy child, she had seen her sister go though the agony of a false pregnancy and must have heard about the miscarriages her mother had endured, when her rival Mary Stuart had given birth to a son she fell to her knees and declared she was of barren stock, knowing the agonies her parents went through to have a son and her mother dying because of it, knowing her father had gone through another four marriages to achieve that goal, is it any wonder Elizabeth possibly felt she would rather be single, she placed much emphasis on her unmarried state and declared that after her death as her epitaph she would be known as the virgin queen, she would live and die a virgin she declared, knowing what had happened to her fathers wives maybe she felt it was for the better.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        I was just wondering if her experience with her stepfather, Thomas Seymour, while in the Parr household, where he tried to molest her as a young girl, aged fourteen or fifteen. This may have made her even more weary of men. Coupled with her father’s terrible treatment of her mother and Katherine Howard, who herself was only twelve or thirteen when she was groomed and assaulted by Mannox and no more than 18 or 19 when she was executed, this would be more than enough to put Elizabeth off sexual activity, let alone marriage. Elizabeth knew she had to overcome all of those fears as Queen and perhaps her love for the fun loving Robert Dudley made her see not all men were total numb skulls. Even a married Dudley turned out better than her own father, at least until his wife fell down the stairs. He had given Elizabeth a taste of fun, of love and been a sweetheart for a time, made her feel confident and joyful. However, Dudley was married and he married again, so he must have added to her mistrust. It’s only one theory among others but it is known that people who are sexually assaulted are very mistrusting of future partners and have difficulty with sexual relationships or commitment. All of this plus the many complex political realities and poor examples may well have contributed to her eventually finally remaining unmarried. I don’t necessarily believe that Elizabeth actually remained a virgin, but she was certainly symbolically a virgin. Perhaps Elizabeth saw herself as a replacement for the Virgin Mary or some mystical Goddess, rather than an actual virgin, but it was the powerful image that she was both which endured. One of the most ironic and upsetting incidents of Elizabeth’s life helped to shatter the illusion of mystery and immortal beauty her white face and wigs hid. Due to her liking for much younger men she fell for the young Earl of Essex, but he wanted more. One night when he fell from grace he burst into the ageing Queen’s bedroom and found her in her nightgown in bed. She also had removed her wig and make-up and looked old and bald. Essex was horrified and it was soon afterwards that he led his rebellion. Essex was one very bad example of an overly ambitious young courtier who thought he could use his relationship with the Queen to grab power for himself and exactly why she never let any courtier go to far and rule her. They may share her interests, may share her heart for a time or even her bed during her early reign, but none of them would ever share her power. Essex was probably overly obsessive….the same deadly fault found in Thomas Seymour. It’s only a theory but it is possible that the more Elizabeth became involved or came close to marriage that the terrible experiences with her stepfather may have triggered a flashback which stopped her from committing to the relationship fully. As a means of escape there was her council to object and withdraw from the alliance or her power to dismiss an over mighty lover.

        1. Christine says:

          Your right Banditqueen, women who are subject to sexual abuse when young do find it difficult to trust men completely and some find it hard to have relations with them, as Elizabeth was only fourteen when Seymour started molesting her we can safely assume her young unprepared mind could not cope with that and the situation he put her in was totally unacceptable, he was in a position of trust and married to her stepmother, the newly widowed queen of the late King Henry V111, for such an immature irresponsible man to have the wardship of the daughter of a King, a princess of England is truly worrying, Thomas Seymour was handsome and fun loving and when his name was mentioned Elizabeth was said to blush, she could have had a crush on him and he was possibly the first man she had developed feelings for in the first stages of adolescence, she was too young to hide her budding feelings and Seymour being a womaniser and almost twice her age knew of her attraction for him and he in turn found it amusing, it no doubt added some piquancy to a somewhat pleasant though dull life in the country removed from the heady atmosphere of the court and especially while his wife was pregnant and growing increasingly tired and resting more often, he was an admiral which only added to his appeal and no doubt probably spun his wife and young stepdaughter and anyone who listened a yarn or two, after Catherine Parr found Elizabeth with her husband she had to dismiss her from her household and all sorts of rumours abounded, Elizabeth was said to have been pregnant during the summer when she was barely seen and being whisked off to an anonymous household where she gave birth in secret, rumours like these tarnished her reputation and the old stories about her mother must have been enacted, she was questioned by the council and her friends and faithful servants Kat Ashley and Tom Parry were both questioned also, it was a dangerous frightening time for a girl barely in her teens, Seymour’s slippery slope to the block was inevitable and Elizabeth decided to retire to the country where she spent the next few years studying and living quietly, keeping her head down was the sensible thing to do, those years must have been very peaceful for her but that all changed when her sister became queen and once again she found herself in quite a precarious position, Mary had great affection for her baby sister when she was young and had just lost her mother, but as she grew older and facially looked more like Anne Boleyn and had her caustic tongue to Mary found herself growing apart from her and year by year affection was placed by distrust and dislike, possibly there was a certain amount of envy too for this sister who was much younger than her and more attractive, as she hated the mother it was too difficult for Mary to love the daughter and Elizabeth found herself under suspicion once again, Mary tried to impose the catholic religion on her and ordered her to attend mass but here Elizabeth used illness as an excuse, she would have a migraine or a stomach upset just when she had to leave yet Mary was not fooled and despaired of this younger sister of hers who she believed was full of wiles and deceit and worse, of the wrong religion! The tale of when Essex burst into the queens bedchamber and found her divested of her garments and wig is quite comical yet it must have been horrendous to the ageing queen who used her image to portray an almost god like aura, without her rouge and wig and glittering jewels she appeared as she really was, an old woman with grey sparse hair and saggy skin, there was no divine being at all, I have a fascinating book called ‘Londons strangest tales’, one chapter tells the story of a foreign ambassador who arrived in London to meet the queen, she was an old woman at this time and the ambassador relates how she kept him waiting for quite a long time and when he was finally admitted into her presence he was shocked to find she was all made up as usual with a bright red wig and pearls and ruff yet her bodice was open nearly down to her waist and nearly all her breasts were exposed, he said it was a truly dreadful sight as her skin was so white and wrinkled, I think at this point Elizabeth could have been in the early stages of dementia?

        2. Tidus says:

          “I was just wondering if her experience with her stepfather, Thomas Seymour, while in the Parr household, where he tried to molest her as a young girl, aged fourteen or fifteen”

          I forgot about that one. Yes I agree, I think that had something to do with it also.

    3. LadyWicca says:

      Elizabeth was against marriage because she saw what Henry the VIII did to her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and almost to Catherine Parr.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Both experiences would have contributed to Elizabeth’s decision, although she did show positive signs of wanting to make an alliance, but she found that she couldn’t accept any man ruling her and a variety of political changes and objections arose, so in the end her decision to not marry stood. She also saw the husband of Mary Queen of Scots and Philip were not ideal for Mary, plus all four step mothers, one stepfather, all had an influence. She also probably fell in love with the wrong man, who she could never have, that is Robert Dudley, so there was certainly a lot to go put her off marriage. I think that finally, she knew a woman was considered below a man in status and may seek to ruler her, and that wasn’t happening. The problem was her decision left the succession problem wide open and encouraged rival families to view themselves as possible heirs, especially Mary, Queen of Scots, her son James, who did succeed and even Philip Ii, who had an older claim to the crown. Katherine Grey was regarded as a successor before her death as were Margaret Stanley and her daughter, Anne, but James was preferred and nobody pressed at the point of her death.

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