“Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours! She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built! Yes – MY Elizabeth SHALL BE QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!”
These are the prophetic words spoken by Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn when Henry VIII, played by Richard Burton, comes to visit her in her prison in the Tower. Of course, they are fictional words and there is no evidence that Henry ever visited Anne in the Tower or that Anne uttered any words like this, but I like to think that Anne Boleyn was smiling down on her daughter, Elizabeth, on this day in history, the 17th November 1558, as Elizabeth received the news that she had been proclaimed queen.
As Anne Boleyn waited to die in May 1536, she could have had no inkling that her daughter would grow up to be one of the greatest monarchs England has ever seen. In the days leading up to Anne Boleyn’s execution on the 19th May 1536, Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was annulled and her daughter was made a bastard. Anne died thinking that her daughter had been denied any right to the throne of England, but she protected her daughter’s life and future to the very last, choosing to curb her usual hot-temper and sharp tongue on the scaffold and, instead, say:-
“I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord.”
Anne did not put her daughter’s future at risk by fighting at the end or by abusing her husband, she submitted to the will of the King and to death, but she also made arrangements for Elizabeth to be looked after. If you have read author Robert Parry’s “Cambridge Connections” article over at The Elizabeth Files, you will know that on the 26th April 1536, before Anne was even arrested, she asked her chaplain, Matthew Parker, to ensure that her daughter was looked after if anything happened to Anne. Now, Matthew Parker was not just Anne Boleyn’s chaplain, he was also a member of a group of wise Cambridge men, men like John Cheke, Roger Ascham, John Dee, William Grindal, Anthony Cooke and William Cecil, so Anne was not just ensuring that Elizabeth’s spiritual needs would be met, she was also making sure that Elizabeth would have the connections she needed to become a formidable woman and queen.
On the 17th November 1558, Mary I died and Elizabeth was proclaimed queen – “all London sung and said Te deum laudamus in every church”. The bastard daughter of Anne Boleyn had overcome the odds and become Queen Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudor monarchs. Anne Boleyn’s blood had been well spent and I’m sure that she would have been immensely proud of her daughter on that day. Henry VIII would also have been proud. Although he made her illegitimate, he did restore Elizabeth, with Mary, to the succession and it is clear that he loved his intelligent and precocious daughter. From my research into Elizabeth I’s life and reign, I can see how she was “the lion’s cub”, but she was most definitely her mother’s daughter too.
You can read more about what happened on the 17th November at The Elizabeth Files in “The Death of Mary I and the Accession of Elizabeth I”.