24 March 1603 – The Death of Queen Elizabeth I

On this day in 1603, in the early hours of the morning, Queen Elizabeth I died at Richmond Palace. The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had lived to the age of sixty-nine and had ruled for over forty-four years. Diarist John Manningham recorded the Queen’s last twenty-four hours: “I dyned with Dr. Parry in the Priuy Chamber, and understood by him, the Bishop of Chichester, the Deane of Canterbury, the Deane of Windsore, &c. that hir Majestic hath bin by fitts troubled with melancholy some three or four monethes, but for this fortnight extreame oppressed with it, in soe much that shee refused to eate anie thing, to receive any phisike, or admit any rest in bedd, till within these two or three dayes. Shee hath bin in a manner speacheles for two dayes, verry pensive and silent; since Shrovetide sitting sometymes with hir eye fixed upon one obiect many howres togither, yet shee alwayes had hir perfect senses and memory, and yesterday signified by the lifting up of hir hand and eyes to heaven, a signe which Dr. Parry entreated of hir, that shee beleeved that fayth which shee hath caused to be professed, and looked faythfully to be saved by Christes merits and mercy only, and noe other meanes. She tooke great delight in hearing prayers, would often at the name of Jesus lift up hir handes and eyes to Heaven. Shee would not heare the Arch[bishop] speake of hope of hir longer lyfe, but when he prayed or spake of Heaven, and those ioyes, shee would hug his hand, &c. It seemes shee might have lived yf she would have used meanes; but shee would not be persuaded, and princes must not be forced. Hir physicians said shee had a body of a firme and perfect constitucion , likely to have liued many yeares. A royall Maiesty is noe priviledge against death.

This morning about three at clocke hir Majestic departed this lyf, mildly like a lambe, easily like a ripe apple from the tree, cum leue quadam febre, absque gemitu. Dr. Parry told me that he was present, and sent his prayers before hir soule; and I doubt not but shee is amongst the royall saints in Heaven in eternall joyes.

I find his words so poignant and I’m glad that Elizabeth appears to have died peacefully. If you’re interested in Elizabeth I, you’ll find lots of articles over at The Elizabeth Files.

Notes and Sources

  • Diary of John Manningham of the Middle Temple, and of Bradbourne, Kent, Barrister at Law, 1602-1603, (1838), London, Longmans, p146

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