The two major religions in Elizabethan England were the Catholic and Protestant religions. The convictions and beliefs in these different religions were so strong that they led to the executions of many adherents to both of these Elizabethan religions.
PROTESTANT OR CATHOLIC RELIGION?
PROTESTANT VERSUS CATHOLIC RELIGION
ELIZABETHAN CHURCH SERVICES & THE BIBLE
RELIGION IN ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND
The above explanations detail the differences between the Catholic and Protestant religions providing a greater insight into the major religions in Elizabethan England. Queen Elizabeth I - Jews and Catholics
Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. She preserved stability in a nation rent by political and religious dissension and maintained the authority of the Crown against the growing pressures of Parliament.
Born at Greenwich, on Sept. 7, 1533, Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Because of her father's continuing search for a male heir, Elizabeth's early life was precarious. In May 1536 her mother was beheaded to clear the way for Henry's third marriage, and on July 1 Parliament declared that Elizabeth and her older sister, Mary, the daughter of Henry's first queen, were illegitimate and that the succession should pass to the issue of his third wife, Jane Seymour. Jane did produce a male heir, Edward, but even though Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate, she was brought up in the royal household. She received an excellent education and was reputed to be remarkably precocious, notably in languages (of which she learned Latin, French, and Italian) and music.Edward VI and Mary
During the short reign of her brother, Edward VI, Elizabeth survived precariously, especially in 1549 when the principal persons in her household were arrested and she was to all practical purposes a prisoner at Hatfield. In this period she experienced ill health but pursued her studies under her tutor, Roger Ascham.
In 1553, following the death of Edward VI, her sister Mary I came to the throne with the intention of leading the country back to Catholicism. The young Elizabeth found herself involved in the complicated intrigue that accompanied these changes. Without her knowledge the Protestant Sir Thomas Wyatt plotted to put her on the throne by overthrowing Mary. The rebellion failed, and though Elizabeth maintained her innocence, she was sent to the Tower. After 2 months she was released against the wishes of Mary's advisers and was removed to an old royal palace at Woodstock. In 1555 she was brought to Hampton Court, still in custody, but on October 18 was allowed to take up residence at Hatfield, where she resumed her studies with Ascham.
On Nov. 17, 1558, Mary died, and Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. Elizabeth's reign was to be looked back on as a golden age, when England began to assert itself internationally through the mastery of sea power. The condition of the country seemed far different, however, when she came to the throne. A contemporary noted: "The Queen poor. The realm exhausted. The nobility poor and decayed. Want of good captains and soldiers. The people out of order. Justice not executed." Both internationally and internally, the condition of the country was far from stable.
At the age of 25 Elizabeth was a rather tall and well-poised woman; what she lacked in feminine warmth, she made up for in the worldly wisdom she had gained from a difficult and unhappy youth. It is significant that one of her first actions as queen was to appoint Sir William Cecil (later Lord Burghley) as her chief secretary. Cecil was to remain her closest adviser; like Elizabeth, he was a political pragmatist, cautious and essentially conservative. They both appreciated England's limited position in the face of France and Spain, and both knew that the key to England's success lay in balancing the two great Continental powers off against each other, so that neither could bring its full force to bear against England.The Succession
Since Elizabeth was unmarried, the question of the succession and the actions of other claimants to the throne bulked large. She toyed with a large number of suitors, including Philip II of Spain; Eric of Sweden; Adolphus, Duke of Holstein; and the Archduke Charles. From her first Parliament she received a petition concerning her marriage. Her answer was, in effect, her final one: "this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a Queen, having reigned such a time died a virgin." But it would be many years before the search for a suitable husband ended, and the Parliament reconciled itself to the fact that the Queen would not marry.
Elizabeth maintained what many thought were dangerously close relations with her favorite, Robert Dudley, whom she raised to the earldom of Leicester. She abandoned this flirtation when scandal arising from the mysterious death of Dudley's wife in 1560 made the connection politically disadvantageous. In the late 1570s and early 1580s she was courted in turn by the French Duke of Anjou and the Duke of Alençon. But by the mid-1580s it was clear she would not marry.
Many have praised Elizabeth for her skillful handling of the courtships. To be sure, her hand was perhaps her greatest diplomatic weapon, and any one of the proposed marriages, if carried out, would have had strong repercussions on English foreign relations. By refusing to marry, Elizabeth could further her general policy of balancing the Continental powers. Against this must be set the realization that it was a very dangerous policy. Had Elizabeth succumbed to illness, as she nearly did early in her reign, or had any one of the many assassination plots against her succeeded, the country would have been plunged into the chaos of a disputed succession. That the accession of James I on her death was peaceful was due as much to the luck of her survival as it was to the wisdom of her policy.Religious Settlement
England had experienced both a sharp swing to Protestantism under Edward VI and a Catholic reaction under Mary. The question of the nature of the Church needed to be settled immediately, and it was hammered out in Elizabeth's first Parliament in 1559. A retention of Catholicism was not politically feasible, as the events of Mary's reign showed, but the settlement achieved in 1559 represented something more of a Puritan victory than the Queen desired. The settlement enshrined in the Acts of Supremacy and Conformity may in the long run have worked out as a compromise, but in 1559 it indicated to Elizabeth that her control of Parliament was not complete.
Though the settlement achieved in 1559 remained essentially unchanged throughout Elizabeth's reign, the conflict over religion was not stilled. The Church of England, of which Elizabeth stood as supreme governor, was attacked by both Catholics and Puritans. Estimates of Catholic strength in Elizabethan England are difficult to make, but it is clear that a number of Englishmen remained at least residual Catholics. Because of the danger of a Catholic rising against the Crown on behalf of the rival claimant, Mary, Queen of Scots, who was in custody in England from 1568 until her execution in 1587, Parliament pressed the Queen repeatedly for harsher legislation to control the recusants. It is apparent that the Queen resisted, on the whole successfully, these pressures for political repression of the English Catholics. While the legislation against the Catholics did become progressively sterner, the Queen was able to mitigate the severity of its enforcement and retain the patriotic loyalty of many Englishmen who were Catholic in sympathy.
For their part the Puritans waged a long battle in the Church, in Parliament, and in the country at large to make the religious settlement more radical. Under the influence of leaders like Thomas Cartwright and John Field, and supported in Parliament by the brothers Paul and Peter Wentworth, the Puritans subjected the Elizabethan religious settlement to great stress.
The Queen found that she could control Parliament through the agency of her privy councilors and the force of her own personality. It was, however, some time before she could control the Church and the countryside as effectively. It was only with the promotion of John Whitgift to the archbishopric of Canterbury that she found her most effective clerical weapon against the Puritans. With apparent royal support but some criticism from Burghley, Whitgift was able to use the machinery of the Church courts to curb the Puritans. By the 1590s the Puritan movement was in some considerable disarray. Many of its prominent patrons were dead, and by the publication of the bitterly satirical Marprelate Tracts, some Puritan leaders brought the movement into general disfavor.Foreign Relations
At Elizabeth's accession England was not strong enough, either in men or money, to oppose vigorously either of the Continental powers, France or Spain. England was, however, at war with France. Elizabeth quickly brought this conflict to a close on more favorable terms than might have been expected.
Throughout the early years of the reign, France appeared to be the chief foreign threat to England because of the French connections of Mary, Queen of Scots. By the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560, Elizabeth was able to close off a good part of the French threat as posed through Scotland.
The internal religious disorders of France also aided the English cause. Equally crucial was the fact that Philip II of Spain was not anxious to further the Catholic cause in England so long as its chief beneficiary would be Mary, Queen of Scots, and through her, his own French rivals.
In the 1580s Spain emerged as the chief threat to England. The years from 1570 to 1585 were ones of neither war nor peace, but Elizabeth found herself under increasing pressure from Protestant activists to take a firmer line against Catholic Spain. Increasingly she connived in privateering voyages against Spanish shipping; her decision in 1585 to intervene on behalf of the Netherlands in its revolt against Spain by sending an expeditionary force under the Earl of Leicester meant the temporary end of the Queen's policy of balance and peace.
The struggle against Spain culminated in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Queen showed a considerable ability to rally the people around herself. At Tilbury, where the English army massed in preparation for the threatened invasion, the Queen herself appeared to deliver one of her most stirring speeches: "I am come amongst you … resolved in the midst and heat of battle, to live and die amongst you all…. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king and of a King of England too."
That the Armada was dispersed owed as much to luck and Spanish incapacity as it did to English skill. In some ways it marked the high point of Elizabeth's reign, for the years which followed have properly been called "the darker years." The Spanish threat did not immediately subside, and English counteroffensives proved ineffectual because of poor leadership and insufficient funds. Under the strain of war expenditure, the country suffered in the 1590s prolonged economic crisis. Moreover, the atmosphere of the court seemed to decline in the closing stages of the reign; evident corruption and sordid struggling for patronage became more common.Difficulties in Ireland
The latter years of Elizabeth's reign were marked by increasing difficulties in Ireland. The English had never effectively controlled Ireland, and under Elizabeth the situation became acute. Given Ireland's position on England's flank and its potential use by the Spanish, it seemed essential for England to control the island. It was no easy task; four major rebellions (the rebellion of Shane O'Neill, 1559-1566; the Fitzmaurice confederacy, 1569-1572; the Desmond rebellion, 1579-1583; and Tyrone's rebellion, 1594-1603) tell the story of Ireland in this period. Fortunately, the Spaniards were slow to take advantage of Tyrone's rebellion. The 2d Earl of Essex was incapable of coping with this revolt and returned to England to lead a futile rebellion against the Queen (1601). But Lord Mountjoy, one of the few great Elizabethan land commanders, was able to break the back of the rising and bring peace in the same month in which the Queen died (March, 1603).Internal Decline
The latter years of Elizabeth also saw tensions emerge in domestic politics. The long-term dominance of the house of Cecil, perpetuated after Burghley's death by his son, Sir Robert Cecil, was strongly contested by others, like the Earl of Essex, who sought the Queen's patronage. The Parliament of 1601 saw Elizabeth involved in a considerable fight over the granting of monopolies. Elizabeth was able to head off the conflict by promising that she herself would institute reforms. Her famous "Golden Speech" delivered to this, her last Parliament, indicated that even in old age she had the power to win her people to her side: "Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your loves…. It is my desire to live nor reign no longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving."
The words concealed the reality of the end of Elizabeth's reign. It is apparent, on retrospect, that severe tensions existed. The finances of the Crown, exhausted by war since the 1580s, were in sorry condition; the economic plight of the country was not much better. The Parliament was already sensing its power to contest issues with the monarchy, though they now held back, perhaps out of respect for their elderly queen. Religious tensions were hidden rather than removed. For all the greatness of her reign, the reign that witnessed the naval feats of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins and the literary accomplishments of Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and Christopher Marlowe, it was a shaky inheritance that Elizabeth would pass on to her successor, the son of her rival claimant, Mary, Queen of Scots. On March 24, 1603, the Queen died; as one contemporary noted, she "departed this life, mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from the tree."Further Reading on Elizabeth I
The standard biography of Elizabeth is J. E. Neale, Queen Elizabeth (1934), which is sometimes eulogistic. Neville Williams, Elizabeth, Queen of England (1967), although interesting, is not likely to replace Neale. Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958), has been highly praised but contains little new information. B. W. Beckinsale, Elizabeth I (1963), is a useful study that indicates a cautious break from the traditional Neale view. Hilaire Belloc's well-known Elizabeth: Creature of Circumstance (1942) is a biased study written from the Catholic viewpoint.
Frederick Chamberlin, The Private Character of Queen Elizabeth (1922), is useful in some respects, such as the queen's medical history, but should be used with caution. More useful on Elizabeth's medical history is Arthur S. MacNalty, Elizabeth Tudor: The Lonely Queen (1954). Mandell Creighton, Queen Elizabeth (1899; repr. 1966), though dated, repays careful study for its assessment of the Queen. Joel Hurstfield, Elizabeth I and the Unity of England (1960), is a highly compressed, valuable study stressing Elizabeth's concern to achieve unity in England. Joseph M. Levine, ed. Elizabeth I (1969), is an able compilation of writings on Elizabeth by her contemporaries; Levine contributes an introduction, a chronology of the life of Elizabeth I, and a bibliographical note.
Important studies of aspects of Elizabeth's reign include J. E. Neale, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments, 1559-1581 (1952) and Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments, 1584-1601 (1957), the best works on parliamentary politics and the role of the Queen in government; Conyers Read, Mr. Secretary Cecil and Queen Elizabeth (1955) and Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth (1960), which is useful on diplomacy as well as the partnership with Burghley; Mortimer Levine, The Early Elizabethan Succession Question, 1558-1568 (1966); and Wallace MacCaffrey, The Shaping of the Elizabethan Regime (1968), a major new study of the early years of the reign.
Elizabeth figures prominently in many of the surviving documents of the period and in nearly all secondary accounts. Two useful bibliographies are Conyers Read, ed. Bibliography of British History: Tudor Period, 1485-1603 (2d ed. 1959), and Mortimer Levine, Tudor England, 1485-1603 (1968).
Recommended for general historical background are J. B. Black, The Reign of Elizabeth, 1558-1603 (1936; 2d ed. 1959); S. T. Bindoff, Tudor England (1951); A. L. Rowse, The England of Elizabeth: The Structure of Society (1951) and The Expansion of Elizabethan England (1955); James A. Williamson, The Tudor Age (1953); and G. R. Elton, England under the Tudors (1955; repr. with a new bibliography, 1962).
Posted By claire on November 3, 2010
In the final scene of Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth”, starring Cate Blanchett, we see Kat Ashley cutting Elizabeth’s hair off and Elizabeth making a dramatic entrance in front of her court dressed as a bride in an elaborate white gown, pearls (which symbolise purity), a red wig, a huge ruff and a whitened face.
When Elizabeth sees her new short hair, she says to Kat, “Kat, I have become a virgin”, and when she appears at court she says to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, “Observe, Lord Burghley, I am married to England.”
It is an amazing final scene. It is incredibly dramatic and emotional and really makes you think about Elizabeth and how she changed into the iconic queen of her later portraits, the Gloriana and the Virgin Queen. In the movie, Elizabeth I is not a virgin. She has an affair with her childhood sweetheart, Robert Dudley, and so the scene at the end is about Elizabeth transforming herself by assuming this new persona and stating her commitment to England by “marrying” England. It is this new stronger Elizabeth who heralds in the country’s Golden Age. So, it is a persona rather than the real Elizabeth.
But what about the real Elizabeth? Whatever your thoughts on Elizabeth’s virgin status, it is clear that she considered herself married to her country and that she made a conscious decision not to marry – but why? Surely it was her responsibility to carry on the Tudor line, to secure the succession and to provide England with an heir, so why would Elizabeth make such a huge decision? Here are some possible reasons but please do share your thoughts in the comments section below:-
I’m on the run, so I will be as efficient as possible in my response. None of the theories about Elizabeth losing her virginity, having some “defect,” or being a boy have any merit whatsoever:
(1) Elizabeth was an extremely healthy, strong child from birth onward.
(2) Henry VIII had Elizabeth brought into court, completely naked, at the age of 2 or 3 to show foreign dignitaries that she was a beautiful, completely normal little girl (to interest them in a future marriage alliance). There is no way the presence of testicles of any size (much less the lack of female genitalia) could have been disguised.
(3) The queen’s body belonged to the Crown. In essence, it was state property. As such, all her “proper bodily functions” were documented. Historical records show that she was a normal woman with an irregular menstrual cycle. There is absolutely no way, surrounded as she was by ladies-in-waiting and serving women 24 hours a day, that a “female defect” or other issue could have been concealed. The Spanish and the Vatican, among others, would have paid dearly for such information.
(4) When Elizabeth was in her 40s, she went through a complete gynecological examination in order to prove to the French court (marriage negotiations with her then-suitor, the Duc d’Anjou, were proceeding very well) that she was still fertile. The physicians who performed the exam pronounced her completely normal, healthy and capable of still bearing a child.
(5) When Robert Dudley, the only man she ever loved enough to have been tempted to yield her virginity to, returned from a campaign in the Netherlands to find that the “marriage negotiation game” with the Duc d’Anjou had become extremely lovey-dovey, he was livid, and asked Elizabeth angrily in public, “Are you still a virgin?!” Elizabeth’s response was equally livid. Elizabeth was in her mid-40s when this angry exchange took place between them.
(6) Anne Boleyn knew that her daughter was destined to rule — which is why, when Henry offered to spare her life if she would go into permanent exile in France with Elizabeth — she refused (a little-known fact, but a fact nonetheless). All her life, Elizabeth surrounded herself with Boleyn and Howard cousins — and she surely knew what her mother sacrificed for her.
(7) Elizabeth was brilliant, disciplined (except for her famous Tudor/Boleyn temper, that is), extremely well educated, and wise. She knew she had to forgo marriage and sex in order to avoid the pitfalls that would have accompanied “yielding” in that era. She was a normal woman — but like a number of normal women who will not settle for second-best or relationships that would compromise the work they feel called to do — she knew how to sublimate her personal life to her state responsibilities. She gave her life for England.
Elizabeth, a boy? Seriously? Where on earth do people come up with these things? I do suppose it’s good to have myths so we can investigate further but…whaaa?
Anne Barnhill says:
The eternal question–why did Elizabeth choose virginity over wedded bliss and motherhood? I think most of the reasons are well-listed by Claire–well, except for the testicles and her being a male imposter–and I think her reasons were a combination of those already mentioned. I do not doubt that she loved her Sweet Robin but I think she suffered from psychological trauma in losing her mother and cousin through marriages gone sour. She also saw Jane Seymour die after childbirth and her beloved Katherine Parr. She witnessed, first-hand, the inconstancy of men after wedding and bedding their beloved. I think she did not want to relinquish her sexual power over me, nor her political power–she was, herself, a political tool as well she knew. SHe kept France and Spain, the Austrian states, etc. all on tenderhooks, waiting to see whom she would marry. She played it like a genius, which I think she was in many ways. So, while she might have enjoyed the courtships of many men, she knew that would always be the best part of the male/female relationship. And, she was doing what she thought best for England. Plus, she wasn’t crazy about having an heir–she did not think a ruler could trust her offspring–all grasping at the crown. She is such an enigma in so many ways. As fascinating as her mother. I did not know about Henry’s offer to Anne B about France, going and taking Elizabeth. Where is this information?
Thanks, Claire–another great piece!
Points 1,2 and 3 above should be enough to sway her decision not to marry. I believe she truly did love Robert Dudley from a very young age. Later in life they were imprisoned in the Tower together and throughout his remaining life he was dedicated to her in all ways. They were as good as man and wife and this bond between them caused much jealousy throughout the court. So other then having actually having children and the infamous piece of paper that states that you are married in the eyes of God and before witnesses they were “married in their hearts” Although she toyed with others throughout her life, no one could take the place in her heart that was owned by Robert Dudley. I find it extremely romantic actually! I especially like point number 6 above by Carol. I would also like to believe that Queen Elizabeth I did in fact respect her mother and understood her, otherwise, Anne’s death would in ALL ways seem a senseless killing. She kept her mother alive with those around her, she even wore her mother’s portrait in a ring I believe. Had the so called love affair between her and the Duc d’Anjou, well lets call that a lovers quarrel. That was stemmed from pure jealousy.
After all, did not Robert himself marry flirt around court…..it was a game they played but bottom line, they loved each other. Carol’s 7th and final comment, “She gave her life to England.” Yes she did completely and that is one of the reasons she went down in world history as one of the best Monarchs to live. Might I just add, one of the most colorful and beautifully adorned.
All of them, except the last are reasons enough. Her mother died, her sister was humiliated, her last stepmother died in childbirth…it all spelled that women and men were a dangerous combination.
Kerry Bindon says:
My understanding is that a fusion of the first five reasons given above are the true grounds for her refusal to publicly acknowledge her marriage to her lover Robert Dudley in the Tower under Mary’s imprisonment, and then subsequent concealed pregnancy to him when as Master of her Horse he had the chambers with adjoining door to hers, during his marriage to Amy Robsart. This is the key to all the difficulties surrounding their love match. He was already in an arranged loveless marriage to a passive aggressive old maid that may have suited him when an impoverished nobleman under Mary’s oppression. But now as Elizabeths favorite; the world was his oyster, the only grit was Amy.
Into this stew nefarious interests bacame involved and amidst a swirl of rumours of her arranged death by Lord Robert, she is found dead at the foot of the stairways at her family home with a broken neck.
Suspicion which never left him immediately fell upon Lord Robert, from this moment the decision was made to never marry. From then on confirmed by the disastrous reign of Mary Queen of Scots, who proceeded to make the same fatal mistakes in full public view.
Now I do not believe that Lord Robert killed or arranged for Amys death despite what Greenparson wrote that I suspect was a pseudonym for Francis Bacon, who you would think would know, being the first issue of Elizabeth and Lord Robert, and insinuated into the household of her chief lady in waiting the sister to Robert Cecil and husband to Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of her seal and known as a hidden poet and Author that paid others for their name under which to publish.
Using the Sherlock Holmes criterion to solve crime mysteries that the prime benificiary is the most likely culprit, then there is no way that killing his wife in any way helped Lord Robert then or in the future ever. It was forever a blot on his name.
To the finger points directly towards Robert Cecil, he benefitted directly by keeping Lord Robert and his issue Francis and later Lord Essex another even more complicated plot but neccessary to understand the last years of Elizabeth, on the sidelines, for all his life, and the life of his dwarfish son, who while they were alive made Francis’s life hell.
But we must be gratefull, the blocks he presented were overcome in the most sublime way as the English renaissance the Rose of England flowered into eternal beauty of the immortal works and words of Bacon the SpearShaker.
I’ll address your points in sequence:-
1) Yes, Elizabeth was a healthy child.
2) Testicular feminization syndrome – As R Bakan pointed out, sufferers of this syndrome can have completely normal looking female genitalia and also a vagina can be present so Elizabeth as a naked baby would have looked like any other normal female baby – the testes are internal and so are not visible. He also says that menstruation can occur in some cases. I don’t believe that Elizabeth had this syndrome, I’m simply playing Devil’s Advocate!
3) As I said in 2) there would be no outward signs that Elizabeth had testicular feminization syndrome. If she had a vagina then even a rudimentary internal examination would have shown her as “normal”.
4) See 3)
5) Yes, I believe that Elizabeth was a virgin.
6) Although it is clear that Anne Boleyn made plans to make sure that Elizabeth was surrounded by people who could help her in the future (see http://www.elizabethfiles.com/the-cambridge-connections/3853/ ), I don’t believe that she could have known that Elizabeth would one day rule over England. I also have found no evidence in the primary sources that Anne was offered exile in France. On the 16th May 1536 Archbishop Cranmer visited Anne in the Tower to get her to confess to an impediment to her marriage and to obtain her consent to dissolve the marriage and to disinherit and bastardise her daughter Elizabeth, and I think it is likely that she was offered some type of deal in exchange for this BUT this could have been a more merciful death (death by sword) or the opportunity to join a convent. Sir William Kingston reported to Cromwell “Yet this day at dinner the Queen said she would go to “anonre” [a nunnery], and is in hope of life”. LP x.890 I’m sure that if Anne had been offered exile in France with Elizabeth then she would have jumped at the chance, after all, she had spent many years in France and could have bided her time there and then supported Elizabeth in claiming the throne at a later date.
7) I completely agree with you.
By the way, the reasons I cited in my post were “possible reason”, reasons that have been cited by historians and academics, not my own opinions. If I had to choose I’d choose a combination of the first eight.
Thanks for your comment and thoughts!
Thanks for your comment but I just can’t agree with your theories:-
1) There is no evidence to support the idea that Dudley and Elizabeth secretly married or that they had a child. Elizabeth had many enemies and there is no way that she could have kept a pregnancy and child secret. People were just waiting for Elizabeth to make a mistake so that they could dethrone her.
2) Amy Robsart was not an old maid. Both Dudley and Amy were 17 when they married in 1550 and the marriage was a love-match, or a “carnal marriage” as William Cecil described it, rather than an arranged union. The couple were sweethearts and very much in love. Obviously the marriage deteriorated as Dudley spent more and more time at court with Elizabeth but the couple were originally happy. Amy was only 28 when she died, far from an old maid, and I can’t find any evidence that she was “passive aggressive” although she was depressed in the months leading up to her death because of the fact that she was in pain and she was dying.
3) Robert Cecil was not even born on 1560 so he cannot have murdered Amy or organised her death, he was born c1563. Do you mean William Cecil? If so, Alison Weir does believe that he may have had something to do with Amy’s death, in that he wanted to frame Dudley so that Elizabeth would not marry him. I cannot agree. I don’t believe that Cecil would have chosen to implicate the Queen in such a scandal.
4) Francis Bacon was born in January 1561. This is the month when Elizabeth appointed Cecil Master of the Wards and in the winter of 1560/1561 Elizabeth was active at court and so I can’t see how she could have given birth or been pregnant without people noticing and the news getting out, afterall, this was a time when everyone was worried that she would marry Dudley.
Of course a man would explain the reign of a strong woman, the strongest ruler EVER, by stating she was really a man. Too hard to accept that Elizabeth was just that smart and successful.
I was too caught up with the boy comment to properly state my feelings, so forgive me for a second post. If Anne Boleyn’s treatment during marriage didn’t sway her, Kathryn Howard’s probably did. Maybe Anna of Cleves’s harsh rejection also stung, considering how fond of her Elizabeth was. Jane Seymour and Katharine Parr both died suffering deaths due to childbearing, and Queen Mary I agonized over trying to make her husband love her. With such an extensive and well-known family history, I can’t blame her for not marrying.
I realize I’m very late to the debate, but have to laugh at the thought that Elizabeth was deformed or really a man. Lynn has it right, I think, when she says the nay-sayers were trying to ‘explain’ a queen regnant who was not just competent, but brilliant. They didn’t think women were capable and here is Elizabeth proving them wrong – so ‘obviously’ she can’t be a ‘normal’ woman! It’s just an irritatingly condescending form of misogyny.
And yes, all the examples of marriage she had observed would have put anyone off, even without the obvious drawback of sharing or losing the power to control her own country and fate. If she truly made her decision not to marry after Kathryn Howard’s death, everything after that must have just confirmed that she’d made the correct decision. After all, you don’t have to make the mistake yourself to absorb the lesson; you can watch the mistakes of others and file it away in the back of your mind not to do THAT.
Katherine Parr nearly losing her life to the mercurial whims of her husband, Elizabeth’s father, only to lose her life anyway with her next husband in a frighteningly common way for a woman then – through childbirth; that same man then wanting to be HER husband; her cousin Jane losing her life due to the actions of the men she was expected to defer to: her husband, father, and father-in-law; her sister’s disastrous and humiliating marriage; that same man then wanting to be HER husband; her cousin, Mary, QOS, and her disastrous marital history and all of the things she lost because of that… I’m finding it difficult to think why she WOULD want to marry!
Having made that decision, of course she used that to her political gain. It was brilliant of her to turn what was considered a weakness into an advantage. By dangling herself as bait to this power or that, she neatly avoided long-term ties with any of them, which ties might well have dragged England into endless and expensive wars and skirmishes. It’s really amusing to me how she used the societal expectations of how she should behave as a woman (to be a compliant wife and mother) to avoid doing exactly that by endless prevarications of exactly WHICH man she should marry, until oops, it was too late due to her age. And even then, she spins it that she made this great sacrifice for her country by not marrying, when she never wanted to marry in the first place! She was truly ahead of her time by instinctively understanding the importance and having an effortless mastery of image, PR, and spin control.
That still really does’nt help me. Could you tell me what she thought of the optional options for why she liked and didnt like themm. Pleassee helppp mee. ((
Ok in my opinion, I think she secretly wanted to end the Tudor dynasty with her. I think she saw her father as the tirant he was and the cruelty of several wives and her rise to the throne at the bottom… I think she might of just said screw it, Tudor’s have gone long enough and didn’t want any heirs fighting for her crown or turning tyrants themselves…just a theory 🙂
Like your idea Kara! If she did think that, then she was so much wiser than the rest of her relatives.
An intellectually brillant young girl surrounded by women who died as a direct result of getting married, either through losing their heads or childbirth.would seem to have every reason to want to never marry. Elizabeth was that young girl who witnessed a parade of intelligent and beautiful women destroyed by the realities of married life. Accordingly, at her coronation she put on a wedding ring and stated that she was married to England and thus would never marry a man. For almost fifty years I believed that she never married as a result of watching all of her father’s women die because they were married. I also believed that she used her unmarried status to bewitch and entice the european royal men who wanted to marry her as a means of diplomatic intrigue. I now hold a very different view, which surprises me greatly, but I think it is the answer is the result of medical knowledge discovered in the past 20 years –especially in view of the fact that Elizabeth I was a woman whose political decisions and ability orchestrate high level intrigue have long been recognized as very unique for women throughout history, until the modern era. Testicular Feminization actually fits perfectly with much of what is known about Elizabeth. People who have this syndrom often have very long fingers, are very slender and athletic, The effect of testosterone on the brain, even in only slightly higher amounts, masculinizes the brain and its thinking, and it seems that Elizabeth I had ideation more characteristic of a man than a woman — even by the standards of the modern “liberated” woman. There is some evidence that she recognized that she was ‘different’ in that she left no heir in her will, but she did specify that her body could not be examined after death. It is entirely possible that she discovered as a young woman that she had a level of which resulted in the development of a partial vagina — perhaps Dudley helped her make this discovery! By the time she was crowned she had reached an age where she may have had an intense relationship which led to the discovery. It is also possible that Thomas Seymour, with the apparent help of his wife Katherine Parr, made the discovery about a genital anomaly, afterall it is well known that his attentions were inappropriate. He was conveniently executed for his behavior toward Elizabeth, although many other reasons were also given at his indictment. The entire incident also increased Elizabeth’s experiences of the danger of marriage for women. Katharine Parr, her stepmother, in order to please her new husband, Thomas Seymour, aided and abetted his pursuit of Elizabeth, episodes of tickling, surprise visits to her bedroom and inappropriate sexualized behavior toward Elizabeth. The events were sufficiently notorious and well know amongst King’s (Elizabeth’s brother) closest ministers and the regent that Elizabeth was removed from the Parr-Seymour household for her protection. A short time late Katherine Parr died in childbirth with Seymour’s child. Seymour was then free to embark on intrigues and conspiracies with a goal of marrying Elizabeth, and of course he would have keep secret any physical anomalies he knew about in order to be able to marry her and gain power. So Elizabeth, at this time still a teenager, experienced first hand how valuable she was to an ambitious man and also how to intrigue to achieve what she wanted. Since Seymour was executed she was able to conceal any knowledge she had about her anatomy she may have discovered with him; afterall, she would not be the first or last young teenage girl to be sexually abused by a powerful male family member. The final piece of the puzzle falls into place when Elizabeth’s sister Mary married Philip of Spain who wanted to acquire England for the inexpensive price of a wife. When Mary did not conceive an heir in the first year of marriage, Philip returned to Spain abandoning her. I am sure that this lesson was not lost on a young woman about to enter her 20’s. After a return visit by Philip, Mary appeared to be pregnant, exhibiting all the typical signs of pregnancy which continued for months beyond a total of 9 months. Philip left again in disgust and Mary ended up dying, probably of an ovarian or uterine cancer. As a 23 year old woman, 25 when Mary died, Elizabeth clearly had little personal knowledge of a woman who benefited from marriage; they all had to do as their husbands wished, or ended up dying. At 25, with a superior education and intellect, Elizabeth took the throne and married England at her coronation as a means of survival. She surrounded herself with wise and loyal ministers who advised her but for the remainder of her life she never had to concede to a man and she used her marriagability and feminine wiles to keep those powerful men, her ministers and advisors, attentive and willing to please her. When she aged, she had accrued sufficient experience and power in her own right, so that as her marriagability womanly charms faded she able to continue to keep the men of her court interested in pleasing her. Her story is endlessly fascinating and a major turning point in history and culture.
Thanks for your very detailed comment. I’m afraid I don’t put much store in the testicular feminization theory. Elizabeth’s slender fingers and slender frame were inherited from her mother and I think her characteristics and attitude were down to her knowing that she had to act like a man, a King, to rule successfully. She could not be a typical submissive Tudor woman and be a good queen. I think she simply chose to be married to her country, as choosing a husband and marrying would complicate things too much, and she could also use her single status for diplomatic reasons, entering into marriage negotiations with different suitors/countries. I believe it was a choice and not something she did for medical reasons.
Sorry forsomewhat late response to this post but thisis something I gave some thought to.
I agree that part of the reason was pschological. Her mother and Katherine Howard were executed for marital troubles. As was younger Seymour for sexual advances toward her at young age. Then there were always problems elsewhere with marriages and people easily lost their heads over it or marriage sparked a revolt.
Death at childbirth.Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr were two close to her. also she saw it happen to others and it was quite common. So it’s not surprising that she would subconciously equate marriage with death.
Who to marry? Marry a Spaniard and p/o French. Marry a Franchman and p/o Spain. Marry somebody else and p/o both. Marry an Englishman coughdudleycough and have country in revolt. By staying single she kept her options openand everybody wanted to be on her good side. And she saw what foreign marriage did to her sister and her reign. Maybe she even took note that Henry’s foreign marriages were not happy ones.
Plus she enjoyed the whole courting game. Once she married it would be gone.
And don’t forget she never named a successor.The whole “who would succeed me but a king?” may or may not have happened and her rule was for all purposes over at that point anyway. She knew that a named successor would be a focal point for any plot her overthrow (specially a son). She saw this first hand with Mary and saw it happen elsewhere. and she took great care to prevent people from creating marriages that would merge several potential claimants. A husband and a child would be a threat to her rule so it makes sense she tried to avoid creating such threat.
I don’t think it was some sort of concious decission (she came close to marriege after all) but IMO she played the potential bride game to get England through rough times and keep foreigners at bay. Once that danger has passed so did her “good marriage” years and she was for practical purposes off the marriage market.
I don’t buy into whole deformity theory. She lived under lots of eyes, manyof them unfriendly. Anything like that would be discovered and trumpeted by her foreign enemies. I think this is just continuation of reasoning why Elizabeth shouldn’t have ruled. she was smart, courageous and ruledcountry well. Obviously that’s impossiblefor a woman so she had to been a man! She didn’t marry as was expected of women at that age so obviously something was wrong with her body. etc.
All the reasons listed above – from the possible, to the probable via the completely outlandish, have been long debated among historians and history lovers.
However, nobody has, yet. thought of this one possibility: Elizabeth was probably asexual.
Asexuality is defined, by those who live it (and I am one of them), as another type of sexual orientation whereby, whilst often developing strong affections for other people, an asexual would never be interested in engaging in a physical relationship and could even be repelled by the very idea.
In the world of an asexual, sex does not occupy any place at all. i know, many sexual people find that hard to believe. Asexuals have recently ‘come out’, mostly on the web and you can find out more using Google and YouTube.
My point here is that Elizabeth had many of the behaviours that asexual people currently associate with their orientation: strong resistance to societal pressure to get married/have sex, declarations such as ‘I’d rather be a poor maid and single than queen and married’, occasional questionning of one’s orientation followed by attempts to conform…which attempts are quickly terminated (Elizabeth’s behaviour during the development of the alencon courtship follows that pattern). Some asexuals even talk of having very emotional one to one friendships of the type Elizabeth / Leicester.
Interestinlgy, I could always relate to Elizabeth’s refusal to get married and could never understand why so many people found her choice ‘strange’ and had to find explanations for it. In my mind, even long before I understood anything about my orientation, Elizabeth’s choice has always been normal and the strangeness was with those who questionned it. I know that is not a proof that Elizabeth was asexual, but it is a very strong point in favour of that theory.
She would not of course have thought of herself as ‘asexual’. The word did not exist. But, like many of us before the arrival of asexual websites, she could have been asexual witohut ever being able to understand what made her different from most people.
Also sorry for late response, but how about Elizabeth just liking power. She was Queen of England-who wouldn’t want that? As much as she bemoaned not being able to choose friends, confidents, lovers, etc, I think she, like others with power, didn’t want to give it up. The other reasons for her not marrying, what she saw her father do to 2 of his wives (including her own mother) and seeing 2 of her stepmothers die after childbirth are good justifications but I think ultimately it was being the Queen that kept her from marrying and having children. Why do you think Queen Victoria never stepped down or why the current Queen Elizabeth II hasn’t stepped down? Even though they married and had children, theirs were love matches and not necessarily done to keep the dynasty going. Elizabeth I’s wouldn’t have been-she would have to give up a lot of power and control. I think they all like(d) being Queen too much. I would too.
realize this comment is a bit late…I love this site and consider myself a bit of a stalker; always reading never posting…but I wanted to share a thought with Elizabeth lovers everywhere…
Even if Elizabeth were intersex it doesn’t change the fact that she was England’s greatest monarch. I consider the theory a theory and therefore credible even if extremely unlikely… one thing we know is that she was NOT replaced by a male!!
But whether or not Elizabeth suffered such a condition changes nothing. From the moment of birth she was destined for greatness and narrowly cheated death throughout her childhood and reign. I believe it was Devine Providence that gave England the leader they needed at that point in time… and I think all the events of Elizabeth’s early life are evidence of that. And if some one showed me proof tomorrow that my favorite lady in history was intersex I would still think of her as a great lady…
Again I love reading the articles and comments here…. very fun and informative!
I agree, AbbieJean, Elizabeth being intersex would not change how I viewed her either, I just don’t get why people have to make up these theories though, very odd. Thank you for commenting, it’s great to hear your thoughts. Have you seen the new film “Anonymous”?
I haven’t seen it…. isn’t it about the identity of the shakespear play write? I did a paper in college supporting the Bacon theory but now that I’m older and wiser I like to think that Shakespear wrote Shakespear….lol
has anyone else seen it?
Yes, it promotes the Oxfordian theory and of course the idea that Elizabeth had an illegitimate son etc. It has caused quite a stir!
Hi – sorry to come late into this, but I’ve just discovered the site – well done, Claire, so much information on here.
I think the reasons for Elizabeth not marrying are probably mixed. I have some sympathy with the psychological view of her association of marriage and death, and it seems clear that the love of her life was Robert Dudley, whom she could not marry.
Too often I think historians equate the idea of Elizabeth and Dudley’s affair with the assumption of intercourse and children. As we all know, that route would have raised huge problems for the queen. And as we also all know, it is possible to have a very close sexual relationship short of intercourse, which is what I suspect they did, certainly in the early years. Remember when Elizabetth thought she was dying of smallpox in 1563 (? need to check that date I’m going from memory), she left the kingdom to Dudley as Protector and left a large sum of money to the manservant who kept his chamber. Now, why on earth would she do that – what did he know? There is no evidence of course……
I also think the idea of losing power to a husband was a problem for her – although I doubt it would have been allowed (see the marriage treaty drafted for Alencon). Shakespeare says ‘uneasy lies the head which wears the crown’ and her treatment of her potential heirs makes it clear that throughout her reign Elizabeth felt insecure over her succession.
One related aspect no one has mentioned I think is that at no time would her Council agree to support her choice of consort. The furthest they got was a rather tepid ‘if you choose to marry X we will support you’ which is hardly a ringing endorsement to an insecure queen. Neither Dudley nor Anjou/Alencon had their whole support. So her problems were not just personal, they were political. Just a thought.
PS – On Anonymous, the Prince Tudor theory does the Oxfordians no favours, I think. It is outlandish to suggest Elizabeth could have had a child in secret. That doesn’t mean Oxford didn’t write the plays or that Stakepeare did; we have no primary evidence on that one way or the other.
Could it be possible that Elizabeth’s “marriage to England” was fueled by religious reasons?
In what way, Kandace?
Wow–I’m currently doing an essay on Liz. I did not expect to read her name and Vagina in the same sentence. HA! Oh well, as interesting as it is to read about the Queen’s Vajayjay, I’m not too sure my History teacher would appreciate it. Love the article though great points. Thank you 🙂
I have just discovered this website! How wonderful! As a student of history, and holder of more than one credential, I find it highly amusing, and at the same time intensely infuriating, that Elizabeth’s gender should be questioned. Strong women have always been feared and slandered, so I guess I can say that it doesn’t surprise me that ‘Good Queen Bess’ would fall victim to such discussion. To say that Elizabeth’s abilities were an anomaly in a pre-modern world is to misspeak. One only has to look at the example of Theodora. Had it not been for her, Justinian would have surrendered his throne. She was a most remarkable woman, and there were many more! But, back to Elizabeth. I suspect many women, today, who have become wiser AFTER years of being expected to “yield to the head of the house” (“I make the decisions here, not you!”), and having their identity, their very personhood, ripped from them, and have made the decision to leave such marriages, can understand why Elizabeth might have taken in all that befell the women in her family and would have chosen to tread that minefield carefully. I’m sure Elizabeth was astute enough to understand that she would be forced to submit to the husband in any marriage, INCLUDING one with Robert Dudley. My favorite quote from Elizabeth is “There will be only one mistress in this house, and no master!” I have it on the wall in my classroom. She will always be my primary heroine, warts and all!
I think multiple factors come into play when figuring out why Elizabeth I didn’t marry. Almost everyone on this board has hit the nail on the head at least once, and I agree on many counts. I believe Elizabeth was born into a family that would make anyone fearful of marrying. Her father beheaded her mother, most likely bore children with her aunt, she witnessed her father go through multiple marriages for the sake of a male heir, yet *Elizabeth I* was queen so all his destruction was in vain. Elizabeth was also her mother’s daughter. I believe she was part Anne and part Mary. With the part of Anne, Elizabeth I would do anything to keep power, yet with the part of Mary, Elizabeth I knew what she was not capable of and what must be surrendered in order live a life as free of danger as possible. She was a Boleyn, no doubt about it. Elizabeth I also saw what childbirth could do to a women as many women of that time died shortly after childbirth or their children didn’t live long. Multiple pregnancies were required most of the time and this led to more likelihood of dying in childbirth. Also, there was the factor that if Elizabeth I did have a child, with all the political danger around her, who isn’t to say that her child would not be kidnapped or killed in order to destroy her reign? If she bore a child, her she would have been that much more vulnerable as queen. In order for Elizabeth I to have had a child though, she would have had to wed and that was a huge problem in and of itself. After witnessing what marriage did to her sister and the country, it was pretty much off the table. I think she knew that marrying would not be successful and would hurt the country after seeing what her sister went through. Marrying for political gain would be so problematic, even if it were a love match, as the other country would look to her to produce a male heir and that pressure, on top of her loss of power as a single woman ruler of her own country, would have driven her to realize it was too much of a plight. It couldn’t be done. I believe, though, that the single most important reason Elizabeth I didn’t marry was because of Robert Dudley. She knew she would never successfully be able to marry, and on top of that childbirth was too risky, so she found love in a simpler way. If Robert Dudley were not available to keep her company, I think there is a chance that Elizabeth I might have tried to marry and her life and the world as we know it would be different. It was almost as if Robert Dudley were her common-law husband and she gained all the affection, support, care, and dependence that one would gain from a spouse, it is just that it was never legal. Robert Dudley gave up many of his marrying days for this role, however I am sure he gained much pleasure from his priviledged lifestyle. I don’t think it matters if their relationship was ever consummated, they did love one another. Robert Dudley was a Cancer man and Elizabeth I was a Virgo woman…so many longstanding romances are found with this astrological match. It is one of the most successful matches, only topped by the match of Cancer man and Scorpio woman, and Robert Dudley did go on to marry a Scorpio woman, his second wife Lettice. I think Robert Dudley’s role in keeping Queen Elizabeth I occupied long enough for her to not feel the need to marry is one of the single most important aspects of history.
Claire, thank you for the wonderful website! I am a huge admirer of Elizabeth I and find her to be one of the greatest examples of female strength and intelligence in the history of the world. I am happy I stumbled upon your website so I can sink my teeth into even more theories and stories about her.
I am outraged at the theory that suggests Elizabeth was actually a man. Like others that have posted here, I find it almost darkly comical that our world can’t comprehend how a figure like Elizabeth could have successfully reigned without being a man. One of the pieces of “evidence” for this theory is a quote that is completely taken out of context. It is argued that Elizabeth was alluding to her “true” gender by saying: “I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.” The quote, when provided in its entirety, renders this “evidence” as complete garbage. The full quote begins with: “I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but…” While I can’t rule out the possibility of a medical defect or an asexual orientation, I think the theory that Elizabeth was actually a man is nonsensical. Surely, someone would have discovered this hidden truth and been rewarded dearly by providing it to the right person (which could have been just about anybody in Elizabeth’s time).
I have always loved the story of Robin and Elizabeth. To me, they are the quintessential story of impossible love. So many things in life kept them from the relationship I’m sure they actually wanted with each other, and yet, they still found a way to have something, to be something for each other.
I, too, loved the movie “Elizabeth” and its magnificent ending. I thought Cate Blanchett was a perfect fit for the monarch, and the story is relatively accurate. Elizabeth was a personable, energetic, social creature that thrived on the exchange of wits, dancing and games. And yet, she had to come to the realization that her life was first and foremost the property of her people. I think the image of her changing her appearance is a somber yet brilliant way to show her acceptance of the weight of the crown. She couldn’t forever be the girl prancing in fields with Robin, but I’m confident that she was happy with her life and the role she played in bringing about a Golden Age for Britain.
Lady Hearn says:
I honestly feel that Elizabeth got twisted in her ways of thinking about marriage. After seeing what her father did. I can’t blame her. I think she wanted to control her own life and never give her power to a man.
Plus, she wanted unity in religion. So, I doubt she would jeopardize her reformers.