24 March 1603 – Queen Elizabeth I dies at Richmond Palace
Posted By Claire on March 24, 2020
On this day in Tudor history, 24th March 1603, sixty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth I, the only daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, “departed from this life, mildly like a lamb” at Richmond Palace.
Elizabeth I had ruled England for over forty-four years, since 17th November 1558, and her reign has gone down in history as a “Golden Age”.
Here’s the video I did on Elizabeth I’s death:
If you prefer reading articles, then you can click here to read a primary source account of Elizabeth I’s last hours.
6 thoughts on “24 March 1603 – Queen Elizabeth I dies at Richmond Palace”
A sad day. 417 years gonee. The longest reigning Tudor monarch. On the throne for longer than many people lived. She is still having a worldwide impact. I live in the US and she sent some of the earliest expeditions to North America that eventually became English colonies and then the US. After Elizabeth’s passing people must have been a bit on edge as a new monarchs came to the throne. I don’t know how well known James was in England but being Scottish I’m sure many saw him as coming from the ‘enemy’ camp and didn’t know what to expect.
Yes she did indeed give her name to Virginia, she was most interested in these new lands that her seamen were exploring and claiming for the crown, of course America was discovered by the Spanish but Elizabeth was always keen on these new territories, it was said that Raleigh discovered the potato but wether that’s true I am unsure, Elizabeth’s ending was quite sad really she was old depressed and had lost many of her dear companions from her youth, she had a somewhat schoolgirl crush on the wayward Earl of Essex and after a failed attempt to depose her had found himself clapped in the Tower, the video mentions her dear friend Robert Cecil Lord Burghley, this reminds me of a documentary I was watching about Cecil some time ago, they interviewed his descendant Lady Victoria Latham, she said she loves the story of how when Cecil was sick the queen visited him and fed him soup on his sick bed, Elizabeth was loyal to her friends, unlike her contrary fickle father who would be dining with you one minute, than signing your death warrant the next, Elizabeth was not like that, she was I think more like her mother who was known for great loyalty amongst her friends, the Earl of Essex overstepped the mark and Elizabeth had no choice but to execute him, I have heard many accounts of the old queens final days, I have read that she would stand for hours with her finger in her mouth just staring in front of her, then she decided to sit on the floor on cushions and Cecil tried to get her to bed, he told her she sat unwholesomely, I know what he meant, this old lady was Queen of England and she chose to sprawl on the floor not a very dignified position for the queen, I think she feared going to bed as she thought she may not wake up again? One must know when one is about to breath ones last, but it was a luxury her wretched mother had never had, there could have been many things wrong with her, the fact is she had survived to nearly seventy a good age for the times, as Claire relates it is said she could have had a touch of bronchitis that turned to pneumonia, I think it is more than likely that she had that because death will claim you in a most gentle fashion, and her death is described as thus mildly as a ripe apple falling of the tree, there are other theories that she died from lead poisoning but surely that would have been a most painful ending for her? She is said to have uttered the odd words ‘ I am tied and the case is altered with me, ‘ there is a painting showing the old queen on her deathbed it rather reminds me of the death of Nelson, both heroic iconic figures surrounded by their adoring friends and servants, Elizabeth did allow herself to be carried to bed at the end and as what happens in the very ill, the power of speech goes and her council were ushered into her bedchamber, she knew what they wanted, they needed to know to whom would she leave her beloved kingdom, at her execution Mary Queen Of Scots had declared it was always her wish to see England and Scotland United, maybe this was Elizabeth’s secret wish to, according to the law of her fathers will it was the Grey sisters who were next in line, but both Katherine and Mary had offended her, she left the crown to James of Scotland and I feel it was a wise choice, I have heard the story of how the queens ring was so imbedded in her flesh it had nearly to be sawn of, James coming to the throne was greeted with some excitement actually Michael, as Elizabeth had ruled for so long, to have a king again bright fresh interest amongst the masses, I to love the way Elizabeth put Cecil in his place, she was still the queen she reminded him, no matter if she was sick and old, she could still send him to the Tower! But of course she adored the little humpbacked Cecil, he was the son of her beloved first minister who had served her so faithfully for so long, his son would show the same unswerving devotion to King James, Elizabeth really is an icon larger than life like her notorious father, she was an enigma, she had her mothers vivacity and flirty nature and her fathers great gift for statecraft, she resembled both of them but never grew large like her father, she was up early as she loved long brisk walks and could ride hard and dance long into the hours, like all the Tudors she was an academic and when a young girl gave her father a book with the words written in Latin, she could also speak in French and Greek, she was supposed to have born a boy, and quite possibly she felt a certain amount of guilt towards her unknown mother, as her gender meant so much to her very existence and position of queen, she never married and although when young she did toy with the idea, as she grew older she came to maybe accept the idea that the married state as she told her council was not for her, she had a long standing affection for the Earl of Leicester whose wife’s sudden mysterious death killed any hopes of wedlock for the pair of them, as the years went by she became evermore iconic and her many portraits show her looking auguste and regal she was compared to a goddess and her relished her status of the virgin queen, adored by many of her subjects she loved to go on rides through the country, she was often compared to her father which delighted her no end, she was not really loved however by her catholic subjects as they believed Mary of Scots should be their queen, and she had to often suppress rebellions in Mary’s name, she could also be quite a difficult mistress, she seems to have inherited Anne Boleyn’s highly strung nature and would slap and curse her ladies and men if they displeased her, a lot of her achievements were mostly propaganda like the victory over the Spanish Armada, but really for a woman on her own she didn’t do too badly I think, her name is set in legend and she somehow represents this little island, along with William Shakespeare fish and chips and Devon cream teas, an iconic figure and really she was a very strange woman indeed, but then she was half of Henry V111 and half of Anne Boleyn, both conflicting genes there made Elizabeth who she was, RIP Good Queen Bess!
She may have also given her name to the first English child born in North America: Virginia Dare. She and herother were part of the lost Roanoke colony in what is now Virginia.
That’s very interesting Michael I’m glad you shared that with us.
You are very welcome. That questionable word in my post is MOTHER.
Elizabeth I was a great woman and Queen but she was far from Glorianna, although the legendary image is part of her legacy. She was still a flawed human being and she showed those flaws personally in so many ways. Elizabeth also watched and learned from others as she was growing up in order to both emulate them and to try and avoid their mistakes. Believe it or not, much of what Elizabeth did, her way of approaching matters and the speeches she is associated with, she adopted from her sister, Mary. The famous association of Elizabeth as being wedded to England, straight out of Mary’s speech at the Guildhall in 1554 when she rallied her people in London to hold the city against Thomas Wyatt the Younger and his men. Mary showed them her coronation ring and called them her children. And before someone attacks me and says I am putting Mary over Elizabeth, this was recorded by John Fox, the man who wrote the Book of Martyrs. Elizabeth also learned from her father, a man she admired and brooked no opposition or criticism. However, the influence of her mother, Anne Boleyn or the idea of her mother, is clear in a number of ways during her reign. For example Elizabeth mingled the arms of her mother and her own at a great banquet on the linen and hangings at the Guild Hall.
Elizabeth had flaws, yes, but she also achieved much. She was a pragmatist, she played both sides and kept her real intentions to herself, she recognised the fact that men were fascinated by her and her power but she withdrew her affection and protection when they went too far. She was a survivor and as with Mary one may look at her succession as an achievement in itself as was the length of her reign, which is generally regarded as being successful. She was a patron of the arts and exploration, she was a master at projecting her image and showed herself to the people on a number of grand progresses. She enjoyed the theatre and she enjoyed putting on a good show. She reshaped the Navy and this was essential in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. However, in a reckless show of revenge the following year she also saw a heavy defeat on land and sea of the English Armada and of several subsequent expeditions to attack Spanish holdings in the New World. With the investment in private enterprise and adventure, however, Elizabeth saw the earliest colonies in new lands emerge. Her sea hawks were pirates, rogues and slave traders, but they were also adventurers, explorers and patriotic heroes. We must remember Drake and Hawkins were products of their time and unfortunately, the evils of the slave trade were part of the commercial success of most nations. Elizabeth encouraged attacks on Spanish gold convoys and ships but we must remember that gold was stripped from South American and Central American people. No nation can have any pride in its behaviour during these centuries in expanding its powers on new lands. Elizabeth was made extremely wealthy through these ventures and her age flourished because of it. However, the cost was to the people who were exploited and the war with Spain which followed. The more positive outcome was the planting of colonies in the New World and the growth of English influence abroad.
Although not necessarily an achievement to everyone, Elizabeth attempted to find a compromise in her religious settlement which would be acceptable to Catholics and radical Protestants alike. She was reputed to not wish to make Windows into men’s souls but in an age when everyone was required to follow the state in religious practice, this was never going to become a reality. Elizabeth enjoyed the ceremony of the old Catholic high Church and beautiful decorations and elaboration, mixed with the reforms she had grown up with. Her Act of Uniformity aimed to reconcile the two sides. However, the older Catholic families wanted the Mass as restored by Queen Mary, the beautiful solemnity of 1500 years and many either heard Mass in their own homes or refused to attend their parish Church altogether. Heavy fines were imposed and imprisonment for not paying the fines. Things changed in 1569 when the northern Lords of Northumberland and Westmoreland were forced into open rebellion and Mary Queen of Scots who had crossed the border the previous year was the aim of that rebellion. With Norfolk their was also a plot to release her and marry her to Norfolk. In any event Elizabeth met the rebels and several hundred were killed and 700 executed. The new Pope issued a Bull of Excommunication against Elizabeth I because of this behaviour by the government of Elizabeth I. It put Catholic families, loyal to the crown in a difficult position as they could not be loyal to Queen and Pope and this was a question they were constantly asked if arrested. Young men fled the country to train as missionary priests and returned to strengthen and reconcile the faithful in England. A network of safe houses and priest holes was formed allowing these zealous and brave men to go around the country bringing the comfort of the true Catholic Faith to the men and women who believed the Queen had abandoned her people and who were still just wanting to practice in peace. Unfortunately, some went further and a number of plots, real and imagined came out of this Excommunication with the aim of getting rid of Elizabeth and replacing her with her cousin, Mary Q of Scots. Elizabeth was surrounded by paranoid but able men of state whose spy networks hunted and sought out anyone who hid a Catholic priest, was reconciled to the Catholic Faith or reconciled another to the Faith. As a result persecution led to hundreds of deaths and imprisonment. England was under a police state.
Elizabeth achieved a high sense of individual self and academic standards, the grammar schools of her time delivered a standard of education even we could only dream about, more literacy, a boom in literature and entertainment, commerce and industry and she had great fashion sense. Her image kept alive the mystery of a great Queen with magical powers, a lady to be worshipped and adored and gave us a template for official royal portraits. The Age of Shakespeare was born alongside the Elizabethan Age and it was also a reasonable time for a growing merchant and middle class. However, alongside that the poor continued to suffer and those who were injured attacking the Spanish Armada were left to die in poverty and ill health. The Irish wars were extremely destructive and costly in men and money. Famine and disease stalked the last years of her long reign because of failed harvests and her granting of monopolies was destructive to the wider economy. However, Elizabeth formed the Great Poor Law in 1601 which helped to end some of that suffering. To some historians this was a Golden Age, but to most modern historians, her age has to be balanced against stark realities. Grand architecture was another achievement of the age, but the poor lived in filthy tenements and were shipped across the river in Southwark in cramped conditions out of the way. Like most ages that are known for splendour and advancement or adventures, this one too was known for its darker side.
In her personal life also Elizabeth displayed contrasting affections and outbursts of terrible rage and personal jealousy, especially if crossed by a relative, lover or friend. On the other hand she didn’t allow her heart to rule her head, most of the time, she imprisoned several people who defied her royal prerogative to forbid them to marry without her consent. On other occasions she was delighted by marriage and was a godmother several times to the children of her ladies or courtiers. She may or may not have wanted to marry, the jury is out on that one. She had several serious courtships but she couldn’t commit because of the political or religious difficulties or the division on her council. Elizabeth had clearly seen the worst example of marriage commitment and harmony going in her own father and later, her stepfather going and wasn’t able to marry the man she wanted. We don’t know for certain if or when she determined never to marry or why but Elizabeth would not accept a man’s authority over her, as her marriage vows would have dictated. She remained childless and endangered the succession until she certainly made a secret pact to recognise James of Scotland as her heir. Elizabeth was a woman and Queen of contradictory talent, achievement and in fact failure, glory and poverty and her reign was as mixed in fortunes and definition as any other. It is to her praise, that her propaganda machine has created the myths around her Age and her person and to her infamy that she did so at the expense of the reputation of her predecessor. But, hey, these are the Tudors, what was new?