On this day in Tudor history, 21st March 1603, a dying Queen Elizabeth I finally took to her bed.

Elizabeth I had been queen since November 1558, but now she was dying. She had deep-rooted melancholy, couldn’t sleep and was refusing to eat. She spent her days lying on cushions in her withdrawing chamber. But on 21st March, she was finally persuaded to go to bed.

Find out more about these last days in this talk…

Also on this day in Tudor history, 21st March 1556, Thomas Cranmer, former Archbishop of Canterbury, was burnt at the stake for heresy in Oxford.

Cranmer had served Henry VIII and Edward VI as Archbishop of Canterbury and had played a leading role in the Reformation, but he was, of course, seen as a heretic in the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I.

Find out more in this video…

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One thought on “March 21 – Elizabeth I takes to her bed and The end of Thomas Cranmer”
  1. I think many know when they are dying, maybe a certain lassitude creeps in a desire for peace, made all the more urgent when one has lost a loved one, in this case Elizabeth’s dearest friend Katherine the Countess of Nottingham, all she had loved had gone before her, Robert Dudley who had been the love of her life, Catherine Parr who had been the one stepmother she had been truly close to, her lovable rogue of a husband Thomas Seymour, Catherine Knolly’s her dearest cousin, William Cecil who had been with her at the start of her reign, Blanche Parry her old nurse who remembered rocking her in her cradle, Katherine Ashley, certainly the queens behaviour was one of depression, which was called melancholia in the olden days, her refusal to eat is a symptom of the illness, she had been feverish which is the symptom of a virus possibly it was only a little cold but in her depressive frail state she could not shake of, the picture of her as she lay on her cushions surrounded by her ladies weeping is very poignant, towards the last she could not speak which does happen when one is nearing death, she gazed towards the heavy drapes in her chamber and must have seen the ghosts of those who had departed years before, maybe she saw her father the great King Henry V111 and her mother, the mercurial gay yet so tragic Anne Boleyn, she had been about two and a half when she lost her yet she could well have had a brief memory of her which was imbedded in the unconscious, when her sister Queen Mary lay dying she said she could see children singing like choirs of angels, did Elizabeth see angels lifting her up and carrying her to heaven?, as in Shakespeare’s tragic play Hamlet, the words come to mind may flights of angels carry you to your rest, certainly Elizabeth did deserve a place in heaven, she had been compared to her father and sister, a most merciful monarch, loved by her Protestant subjects she had been abhorred by her catholic ones yet had been most lenient with them in the beginning, the glorious November day in 1558 when she was proclaimed queen forty five years before had seen the start for many as a time of hope of salvation, the stench of the fires of Smithfield still hung in the city, the blackened charred bones of Thomas Cranmer a man much loved by Henry V111 must have made many a Londoner shudder as they walked by, now it was the youngest daughter of Henry V111 who was queen, a tall slender woman of twenty five, she had translucent ivory skin and golden red hair inherited from her father, she also had his long aquiline nose yet her mother’s long oval face and those bewitching dark eyes, she had long elegant fingers which she also inherited from her mother and her character was a combination of both fiery personalities, she had inherited both their notoriously bad tempers, her flirtatious manner and vanity was a product of both parents, her hysteria was Anne Boleyn’s yet her gift of kingship and statesmanship was from her father, it was a fascinating mixture, highly intelligent like all the Tudors she was a Renaissance woman, she could speak several languages and had been educated to a high standard, she had been raised in the Protestant doctrine as her mother had wished and her policy was one of peace, all through her long reign she steered her country towards its course to a more peaceful realm, there were troubles in Ireland and her imprisonment and execution of the Scottish queen was seen as a black mark on her reign, yet her defeat of the Armada and the support she gave to the Netherlands, her colonisation by her subjects of the new world of which bore her name, the colony of Virginia her patronage of the arts which flourished under her reign all these events gave rise to a new title, the golden age of Elizabeth, it was a great achievement and many paintings were done of this strange queen who never married, who declared the married state was not for her, she was wedded to her people she said, as the years passed she became ever more god like, more remote and just like her father, used the power of dress to uphold that image, glittering with rubies pearls and other precious gems and the largest ruffs topped with lace, as the years passed she wore wigs some golden some dark red, after the deadly small pox ravaged her skin she wore thick white lead and rouge and must have appeared startling to her contemporaries, in fact her behaviour appeared to border on the eccentric, one foreign ambassador said she greeted him with her bosom exposed right down to her stomach, she was all smiles and graciousness towards her people when she went on travels throughout her kingdom, yet to her servants she could be quite difficult, they bore the brunt of her bad temper and tantrums, her legacy lives on today, the name Good Queen Bess is still thought of with affection, just as her mother is remembered as the bewitching temptress who won a crown and lost her life by the sword, so her father is remembered as the iconic king who had six wives and beheaded two of them, his portrait by Holbein the younger once seen is never forgotten, legs apart with his huge shoulders, jewelled hilt and cap with the feathers resplendent with kingship very much resembles his daughters painting, the great Elizabeth after the defeat of the Amarda, she stands on the map of the world dressed all in white satin threaded with pearls, her huge ruff a sign of high status, both portraits symbolise the strength of the power of majesty, on this day in the year 1603 as Elizabeth felt her soul soaring to the heavens she must have had a smile upon her lips, she must have told herself she had done her best and was well satisfied.

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