Just who was the real Elizabeth I?

As you know, I’ve been rather disappointed in the Starz series, “Becoming Elizabeth”, as I don’t feel it’s really shown what shaped Elizabeth in her youth, what made her the woman and queen she became.

It’s made me determined to ensure that my online event “Elizabeth I: The Life of Gloriana, the Virgin Queen” does Elizabeth I justice. I want to peel back the many layers that have built up over the centuries and look at Elizabeth I’s life, her reign, what shaped her, who she relied on, her achievements, her relationships (both personal and diplomatic), and the many myths that surround her.

I can’t do that alone, so I’m joined by Christine Hartweg, Dr Elizabeth Norton, Dr Owen Emmerson, Dr Tracy Borman, Dr Estelle Paranque, Dr Elizabeth Goldring and Dr Linda Porter for talks and live Q&A sessions.

Find out more and register at https://claireridgway.com/events/elizabeth-i-the-life-of-gloriana-the-virgin-queen-online-event-7-16-september-2022/

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One thought on “Just who was the real Elizabeth I?”
  1. Elizabeth really was an icon like her father and it is said that experiences in youth do mould people into the person they become, once pampered and the darling of both parents, she then lost her status as heir apparent and was then no more than her fathers bastard, she was not quite three when her world changed overnight and I feel that she lucky for her, did not suffer the trauma as her half sister Mary did when Henry V111 abandoned her mother Henry’s first queen, Elizabeth like all royal children bastards or not, grew up only knowing the world of the nursery and yet she noted the changed in her status immediately when she remarked on her title ‘how come I was my lady princess and today only my lady Elizabeth? Her perplexed governess must have been at odds how to answer her, we do not know how or when she found out about her mother and her fathers role in her death, but it must have made her determined not to trust too much in the expressions of devoted love from would be suitors, and her fathers four marriages after her mother, also must have only served to heighten her suspicions that maybe all the male species were not capable of lifelong commitment, as she grew older she was aware of the primeval atmosphere of the Tudor court with its plots and hankering for power from the ambitious courtiers, she was dazzled by her father and inordinately proud of him, and he in turn was also proud of her, in fact Henry V111 loved all his children and Mary’s siding with her mother had hurt him deeply, she was ‘his Pearl’, no matter that he bastardised her it was nothing personal, he still loved her as much as he ever did, and even though Anne Boleyn died in shame he never doubted that Elizabeth was his, Edward was a gorgeous little boy, serious and highly intelligent and he feared deeply that one day he would die like so many of his brothers and sisters, Elizabeth to was fond of both brother and sister, but as she grew older she clashed with Mary over religion and it is thought that Mary once fond of her, began to resent her for being Anne Boleyn’s offspring, children are enchanting but when they shake babyhood of then their true character emerges, and Elizabeth was a lively girl, clever imperious and very vain, and as her dimpled round face began to grow into Anne’s long oval one with her hooded dark eyes, Mary began to dislike her, she was very much a Boleyn as well as a Tudor, yet Mary once commented that she resembled Mark Smeaton the dead queens musician, a dreadful insult and one that must have rankled in Elizabeth’s mind, also she never forgave Mary for her incarceration in the Tower, and her year long seclusion in Henry Bedingfield’s Manor House which lasted a whole year, she knew that family loyalty could not be trusted, it is said Elizabeth never mentioned her mother’s name in public, the deep hurt she must have felt when hearing about the awful charges against her must have made her determined to never mention Anne’s name, it cannot have been easy for her, she could have heard sniggering behind closed curtains kitchen gossip, gossip has a way of circulating very easy, all it takes in one indiscreet tongue, her early household of Hatfield had some relatives of her mother, there was Katherine Ashley and her husband, there was Blanche Parry who used to rock her cradle, they had all known Anne Boleyn and there was her cousins, Catherine and Henry, so even though she may have heard criticism of her mother, she would have heard good reports from those who had loved her, she may even have known her great aunt Lady Sheldon and there was her Howard relatives to, they were all present at court, her devotion to Anne was evident when she was presented as a life size effigy at her coronation along with Henry V111, she used her falcon emblem and arms on many of her personal linen and it is in these personal tributes that show us she held Anne in high regard, also many years later she had a ring commissioned with her own portrait opposite that of Anne, there has been a debate about wether the lady in the picture is Anne, but it is highly likely that it would be the woman who gave her life then anyone else, she also had her jewellery made into other pieces and in some of her portraits she is wearing Anne’s pearls without the famous B initial, we do not know if she ever blamed her father for sending her mother to her death, but a much less stronger minded person would have suffered trauma all their life, some would have had mental health issues and it is proof of Elizabeth’s steely persona that she overcame this tragedy, but she did experience panic attacks all her life which could have been caused by Anne’s shocking death, but in all she did emerge stronger because of it, it is said, the harder we are hit, the stronger we become, Elizabeth certainly had known terrible danger and when in the Tower, she declared she would have only a French sword to sever her head not the English axe, she had experienced all the fear of every other person who had entered those dread walls, she had known her fifth stepmother to lose her head, Lady Jane Grey also and she asked nervously if her scaffold was still on the green, she knew life was cheap and it was unlikely she would ever rule her country for now Mary was hopeful of bearing a son, no wonder when she did become queen she was determined to hold onto that position at all cost, she had all her parents courage and never let her head rule her heart, maybe she never intended to marry but like Anne Boleyn, she loved to flirt she loved the company of handsome men, and she was supreme ruler, she would never lose her head like those she had loved and lost, because she was subservient to no man and this she told Robert Dudley once in a fit of temper, the strange death of his wife Amy Robsart ruined her reputation at home and abroad, and it was never known if it was accidental suicide or murder, she sent Dudley from court and an enquiry was conducted into her death, it was a scandal but Elizabeth knew eventually it would die down, astute as she was she was aware her throne could be toppled if she ever married her lover, it was something her tragic cousin Mary Stuart did not comprehend and as a result, she lost her crown, Elizabeth growing up in the shadow of her mother’s disgrace, the ever changing affections of her fickle dangerous father, the stain of her bastardy knew how easy it was to go Princess to prisoner from queen to outcast with one ill judged move and so Dudley after waiting long for the glory he hoped would be his, joined in wedlock with her seductive cousin Lettice Knolley’s, something which sent her into spasms of rage and which ended in the banishment of Lettice from her court forever, Elizabeth certainly was as iconic Queen and a very strange woman, unpredictable and contrary, she baffled the European court for many years as well as her own ministers over her refusal to marry, but it is hardly surprising she learnt of the fickleness of men from her own father, he had once loved her mother enough to break with Rome only to kill her after just three years of marriage, our parents are our role models, their actions impress upon ours the way we think and feel, Elizabeth the product of two such dazzling individuals was bound to be larger than life herself, and although she could be very spiteful and bad tempered and sometimes downright mean, she could always be very kind and merciful and her people adored her, she was a great queen in her own day and still inspires affection and gratitude and admiration today nearly half a century later.

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