Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth Tudor was born on Sept. 7, 1533 to Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Anne was the second wife of the Tudor monarch. Henry had spent many years trying to divorce his first wife to marry Anne in order to produce a son and heir. It is no surprise that Elizabeth's birth was greeted with a less excited attitude by the King. However, he was determined to insure her legitimacy and the validity of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth was titled Princess and christened in a grand ceremony. 

Elizabeth was given her own household at Hatfield House. Even after the demise of her mother in 1536, Elizabeth remained at the sunny palace. However, she was stripped of her title Princess and declared a bastard, just like her elder half sister Mary. 

Elizabeth had a great talent with languages and became fluent in French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Greek, and was of course fluent in English. She also had a great talent for music, much like her father.

In 1540, Henry married his fifth wife, Katheryn Howard. She was a cousin to Anne Boleyn, and very young (about 18-20 years old). She was kind to Elizabeth and the two became close. It is no surprise that Elizabeth was scarred by her step-mother's demise in 1541. It was said that Elizabeth told her close friend Robert Dudley "I shall never marry" after Katheryn Howard was executed.

Henry VIII's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, did the most to reconcile the King with his daughters. Both Mary and Elizabeth were restored to the succession before their father's death. With his death in 1547, Elizabeth joined Catherine Parr's household. There were rumors that an affair began with she and Catherine's new husband, Thomas Seymour. This is doubtful, however, though Seymour's conduct was not proper towards a teenage girl (such as entering her room while she was in bed, hugging and tickling her often). Seymour was arrested in 1549 and executed for treason. Elizabeth, when questioned about the affair, refused to say anything.

In 1553, Elizabeth's half brother Edward VI died and a struggle for the throne ensued between his "heir" Jane Grey and his sister Mary. Elizabeth remained in the background, but joined her sister Mary for her triumphant entrance into London.
Elizabeth did not remain in favor long. Mary I faced uprisings and discontent among her people because of her marriage to Prince Phillip of Spain. Elizabeth was held in the Tower of London for a time, and then kept close to Mary during the last stages of her "pregnancy." When it became clear she was not pregnant, everyone assumed Elizabeth would succeed to the throne.
Mary died on Nov. 17, 1558, and Elizabeth was declared Queen. She was crowned at Westminster Abbey on Jan. 15, 1559. 

Almost immediately, the question of Elizabeth's marriage came up. It was key she produced an heir, for her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots was Catholic and next in line for the throne. She posed a real threat, claiming to be the true Queen of England, and raised doubts about Elizabeth's legitimacy.
Elizabeth never married, but had many suitors and "favorites." Two of the most famous of these were Robert Dudley and Robert Devereux. Dudley and Elizabeth had been close friends since childhood. Though the two fell in love, Elizabeth refused to marry him. After his death, Elizabeth took an interest in his stepson, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Though the Queen gave him much wealthy and good military positions, the young Earl was irresponsible and strong willed. After he deserted his post in Ireland, he was placed under house arrest. He attempted to start a rebellion, but failed and was arrested and beheaded.

Elizabeth faced many hard decision during her reign. Perhaps one of the most difficult was the Mary, Queen of Scots affair. After Mary was forced to abdicate the throne in favor of her son, she fled Scotland to England in hopes of gaining support from her cousin, Elizabeth. However, Elizabeth placed Mary under house arrest to keep her from falling into the hands of the French who she feared would invade England and place Mary on the throne.

After a plot was uncovered by Elizabeth's advisors, Mary was brought to trial for treason against the Queen. Apparently Mary had been plotting in the murder of Elizabeth in order for her to gain the throne. After much anxiety, Elizabeth signed the death warrant and Mary was executed in 1587.
Mary's execution brought a new crisis for Elizabeth; the invasion of the Spanish Armada. The Spanish sent a massive invasion force to England, however after a great storm and an attack by English fire ships, the armada was defeated.

In 1603, Elizabeth finally succumbed to depression and ill health. She died on March 23, 1603. Though it is unsure if she named him her successor or not, James VI of Scotland, Elizabeth's cousin, became King of England and Scotland. Elizabeth was buried at Westminster Abbey beside her half sister Mary I.

Contemporary Highlight

Elizabeth's speech to her troops before the invasion of the Spanish Armada:

"My loving people, we have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people.
Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust.
I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.
I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble and worthy subject; not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valor in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people."

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