Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth, the only child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was born on 7th September, 1533. Henry expected a son and selected the names of Edward and Henry. While Henry was furious about having another daughter, the supporters of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon were delighted and claimed that it proved God was punishing Henry for his illegal marriage to Anne. (1)

Retha M. Warnicke, the author of The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989) has pointed out: "As the king's only legitimate child, Elizabeth was, until the birth of a prince, his heir and was to be treated with all the respect that a female of her rank deserved. Regardless of her child's sex, the queen's safe delivery could still be used to argue that God had blessed the marriage. Everything that was proper was done to herald the infant's arrival." (2)

Although Anne Boleyn visited her daughter, for most of the time she was cared for by a large staff. Lady Margaret Bryan was Lady Mistress (the governess with day-to-day control of the nursery). Lady Margaret had also cared for Princess Mary, Elizabeth's elder half-sister. Elizabeth's earliest portraits suggest that she resembled her father in the shape of her face and her auburn hair, but had inherited her mother's coal-black eyes. (3)

The 17-year old Mary was declared illegitimate, lost her rank and status as a princess and was exiled from Court. She was placed with Sir John Shelton and his wife, Lady Anne. It has been claimed that "Mary was bullied unmercifully by the Sheltons, humiliated, and was constantly afraid that she would be imprisoned or executed." (4) Alison Plowden has concluded that the treatment Mary received "turned a gentle, affectionate child into a bigoted, neurotic and bitterly unhappy woman." (5)

Catherine of Aragon died on 7th January, 1536. Ambassador Eustace Chapuys reported to King Charles V: "The King dressed entirely in yellow from head to foot, with the single exception of a white feather in his cap. His bastard daughter Elizabeth was triumphantly taken to church to the sounds of trumpets and with great display. Then, after dinner, the King went to the Hall where the Ladies were dancing, and there made great demonstrations of joy, and at last went to his own apartments, took the little bastard in his arms, and began to show her first to one, then to another, and did the same on the following days." (6)

Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII continued to try to produce a male heir. Anne Boleyn had two miscarriages and was pregnant again when she discovered Jane Seymour sitting on her husband's lap. Anne "burst into furious denunciation; the rage brought on a premature labour and was delivered of a dead boy." (7) It has been claimed that the baby was born deformed and that the child was not Henry's. (8) In April 1536, a Flemish musician in Anne's service named Mark Smeaton was arrested. He initially denied being the Queen's lover but later confessed, perhaps tortured or promised freedom. Another courtier, Henry Norris, was arrested on 1st May. Sir Francis Weston was arrested two days later on the same charge, as was William Brereton, a Groom of the King's Privy Chamber. Anne's brother, George Boleyn was also arrested and charged with incest. (9)

Alan Turing
Anne Boleyn, copy of a portrait painted in about 1534

Anne was taken to the Tower of London on 2nd May, 1536. Four of the accused men were tried in Westminster ten days later. Smeaton pleaded guilty but Weston, Brereton, and Norris maintained their innocence Three days later, Anne and George Boleyn were tried separately in the Tower of London. She was accused of enticing five men to have illicit relations with her. (10) Adultery committed by a queen was considered to be an act of high treason because it had implications for the succession to the throne. All were found guilty and condemned to death. The men were executed on 17th May.

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Anne went to the scaffold at Tower Green on 19th May, 1536. The Lieutenant of the Tower reported her as alternately weeping and laughing. The Lieutenant assured her she would feel no pain, and she accepted his assurance. "I have a little neck," she said, and putting her hand round it, she shrieked with laughter. The "hangman of Calais" had been brought from France at a cost of £24 since he was a expert with a sword. This was a favour to the victim since a sword was usually more efficient than "an axe that could sometimes mean a hideously long-drawn-out affair." (11)

Anne Boyleyn's last words were: "Good Christian people... according to the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it... I pray God save the King, and send him long to reign over you... for to me he was always a good, a gentle, and sovereign Lord." (12)

When her mother was executed Elizabeth was only three years old. Patrick Collinson has argued: "Elizabeth can have had few memories of her mother... There is no profit in speculating about the psychological damage which Anne's terrible end might have had on her daughter, although many of Elizabeth's biographers have found significance in the fact that she never in adult life invoked or otherwise referred to her mother." (13)

Shortly after Anne was executed Archbishop Thomas Cranmer annulled her marriage to Henry VIII. A second Act of Succession, passed in June, excluded Elizabeth, like Mary before her, from the succession. However, Henry did not disown Elizabeth, and she received a good education. Richard Fetherston was hired as her tutor. "Elizabeth, like her sister before her, was to benefit from as good an education as the sixteenth century could provide." John Belmayn taught her French and Roger Ascham made sure she was a "gifted Latinist and competent in Greek". (14)

Jane Seymour

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issued a dispensation from prohibitions of affinity for Jane Seymour to marry Henry the day of Anne's execution, because they were fifth cousins. The couple were betrothed the following day, and a private marriage took place on 30th May 1536. Coming as it did after the death of Catherine of Aragon and the execution of Anne Boleyn, there could be no doubt of the lawfulness of Henry's marriage to Jane. The new queen was introduced at court in June. "No coronation followed the wedding, and plans for an autumn coronation were laid aside because of an outbreak of plague at Westminster; Jane's pregnancy undoubtedly eliminated any possibility of a later coronation." (15)

Historians have claimed that Jane Seymour ignored Elizabeth but treated Henry's first daughter, Mary, with respect. "One of Jane's first requests of the King was that Mary be allowed to attend her, which Henry was pleased to allow. Mary was chosen to sit at the table opposite the King and Queen and to hand Jane her napkin at meals when she washed her hands. For one who had been banished to sit with the servants at Hatfield, this was an obvious sign of her restoration to the King's good graces. Jane was often seen walking hand-in-hand with Mary, making sure that they passed through the door together, a public acknowledgement that Mary was back in favour." (16) In August, 1536 Ambassador Eustace Chapuys reported to King Charles V that "the treatment of the princess Mary is every day improving. She never did enjoy such liberty as she does now." (17)

Jane Seymour gave birth to a boy on 12th October 1537 after a difficult labour that lasted two days and three nights. The child was named Edward, after his great-grandfather and because it was the eve of the Feast of St Edward. It was said that the King wept as he took the baby son in his arms. At the age of forty-six, he had achieved his dream. "God had spoken and blessed this marriage with an heir male, nearly thirty years after he had first embarked on matrimony." (18)

Edward was christened when he was three days old, and both his sisters played a part in this important occasion. In the great procession which took the baby from the mother's bed-chamber to the chapel, Elizabeth carried the chrisom, the cloth in which the child was received after his immersion in the font. As she was only four years old, she herself was carried by the Queen's brother, Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford. Jane was well enough to receive guests after the christening. Edward was proclaimed prince of Wales, duke of Cornwall, and earl of Carnarvon.

On 17th October 1537 Jane became very ill. Most historians have assumed that she developed puerperal fever, something for which there was no effective treatment, though at the time the queen's attendants were blamed for allowing her to eat unsuitable food and to take cold. An alternative medical opinion suggests that Jane died because of retention of parts of the placenta in her uterus. That condition could have led to a haemorrhage several days after delivery of the child. What is certain is that septicaemia developed, and she became delirious. Jane died just before midnight on 24th October, aged twenty-eight. (19)

Prince Edward

Mary reacted with relief to the birth of Prince Edward. As her father now had a male heir she was at last safe. Mary happily accepted the decline in her political importance. Henry VIII now attempted to find a husband for Mary. However, he was unable to find a suitable candidate. Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves was too brief to alter Mary's circumstances, but after Henry married Catherine Howard in 1540, Mary frequently resided on the queen's side of court, even though the two women were not particularly friendly. When Catherine was arrested and her household dissolved late in 1541, Henry sent Mary to Prince Edward's household. Mary had another serious illness in May 1542 with a strange fever and heart palpitations. During this period Mary described herself as the "unhappiest woman in Christendom". (20)

Alan Turing
Mary Tudor by Master John (1544)

Catherine Howard was said to be poorly educated, selfish and foolish. It appears that she got on badly with Mary, who, she said, failed to treat her with the same respect as her two predecessors, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves. It did not help that Mary was three years older than her stepmother, and that she "was well-educated, beautifully mannered and the daughter of Spanish royalty." Catherine, however, got on very well with Elizabeth and gave her presents of jewellery and invited her to sit opposite her at table. It is clear that Catherine's beheading for infidelity on 13th February 1542 had a lasting impression on the eight-year-old Elizabeth. Catherine's death was of course very similar to the death of her own mother. It was reported that the death of her stepmother resulted in her telling Robert Dudley, who was the same age as Elizabeth and working as a page boy to Henry VIII, that "I will never marry". (21)

Katherine Ashley had worked for Elizabeth since 1536 and by 1542 she was working as her governess. It was the beginning of a long and important relationship. She never lived with her father and the loss of her mother at an early age, meant they were essentially both unknown to her. In Katherine (she always called her Kat) she had the "most loyal, if limited, of mother figures who had been with her all her life, and was to remain, until her death, the woman Elizabeth cared for most." (22)

Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr was on the verge of marrying Thomas Seymour when she met Henry VIII. He was immediately attracted to Catherine. Susan E. James has argued: "Print and film alike have represented Katherine as an ageing, plain-faced, pious widow with few attractions, selected by the king for her talents as a nurse. This is a misleading image that does not hold up beneath the weight of contemporary evidence. She was of medium height, with red hair and grey eyes. She had a lively personality, was a witty conversationalist with a deep interest in the arts, and an erudite scholar who read Petrarch and Erasmus for enjoyment. She was a graceful dancer, who loved fine clothes and jewels, particularly diamonds, and favoured the colour crimson in her gowns and household livery. Katherine also conveyed a sense of her own value, independent of the marital relationship, which was rare for a woman of this period." (23)

Henry VIII
Henry VIII by Hans Holbein (1542)

Henry asked Catherine to become his sixth wife. She was in a difficult position. Although she was deeply in love with Thomas Seymour, it was made clear to her, that her reluctance to accept the king as her husband was to defy God's will. Catherine wrote to Seymour "my mind was fully bent the other time I was at liberty to marry you before any man I know". However she decided to marry Henry. Jane Dunn, the author of Elizabeth & Mary (2003) has pointed out: "In marrying the King rather than this love, Catherine Parr had sacrificed her heart for the sake of duty." (24) It has also been suggested that Catherine accepted his proposal for religious reasons: "She was marrying Henry at God's command and for His purpose. And that purpose was no less than to compete the conversion of England to Reform." (25)

Catherine Parr married Henry VIII on 12th July, 1543, at Hampton Court with eighteen people in attendance. A few days later, the King and Queen left on what turned out to be a protracted honeymoon that kept them away from London for the rest of the year. First they travelled into Surrey to visit some of Henry's favourite hunting parks at Oatlands, Woking, Guildford and Sunninghill. They spent several months at Ampthill Castle, the former home of Thomas Wolsey. The plague was particularly virulent in London that summer and autumn and they did not return to the capital until December.

Catherine inherited three step-children, Elizabeth (9), Mary (27) and Edward (6). Queen Catherine became an excellent step-mother. Antonia Fraser, the author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) points out: "It is greatly to her credit that she managed to establish excellent loving relations with all three of her step-children, despite their very different needs and ages (the Lady Mary was twenty-one years older than Prince Edward). Of course she did not literally install them under one roof: that is to misunderstand the nature of sixteenth-century life when separate households were more to do with status than inclination. At the same time, the royal children were now all together on certain occasions, under the auspices of their stepmother... But the real point was that Catherine was considered by the King - and the court - to be in charge of them, an emotional responsibility rather than a physical one." (26)

Catherine Parr
Catherine Parr by William Scrots (c. 1547)

Elizabeth did not see very much of her father. On 31st July 1544, she wrote to Catherine asking if she could spend time with the royal couple at Hampton Court. "Inimical fortune, envious of all good and ever revolving human affairs, has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious presence, and, not thus content, has yet again robbed me of the same good; which thing would be intolerable to me, did I not hope to enjoy it very soon. And in this my exile I well know that the clemency of your Highness has had as much care and solicitude for my health as the King's Majesty himself. By which thing I am not only bound to serve you, but also to revere you with filial love, since I understand that your most illustrious Highness has not forgotten me every time you have written to the King's Majesty, which, indeed, it was my duty to have requested from you. For heretofore I have not dared to write to him. Wherefore I now humbly pray your most excellent Highness, that, when you write to his Majesty, you will condescend to recommend me to him, praying ever for his sweet benediction, and similarly entreating our Lord God to send him best success, and the obtaining of victory over his enemies, so that your Highness and I may, as soon as possible, rejoice together with him on his happy return. No less pray I God that he would preserve your most illustrious Highness; to whose grace, humbly kissing your hands, I offer and recommend myself." (27)

During the summer of 1544 Henry VIII led a military expedition to France. "During his absence Henry appointed his queen regent-general, together with a regency council dominated by the queen's fellow religionists.... This assumption of power, not merely by a woman but by a woman who only a year before had been a Yorkshire housewife, made the queen enemies, particularly among the religious conservatives who resented her evangelical beliefs." (28) While he was away Catherine wrote him several letters about events at home. According to Antonia Fraser they were "remarkably well-written." (29) Catherine took this opportunity to bring Princess Elizabeth back to court. From the middle of July until the middle of September she kept the royal children with her at Hampton Court.

Henry VIII formed an alliance with Charles V. In 1545 a treaty between the two kings included the proposal that Prince Edward marry Charles V's daughter, Maria and that Mary would marry Charles V himself. Elizabeth's future was also discussed and it was suggested that she should marry Charles V's son and heir, Philip of Spain, although that failed to go beyond the initial stages of negotiation. It is claimed that during discussions "Charles was polite, but not encouraging." (30)

Henry, who was in poor health (although it was treason to say so), had agreed a new Act of Succession that stated that in the case of his death the throne would pass to his son Edward and his heirs, but, if Edward died without children, Princess Mary would succeed to the throne. If she, too, died without heirs, the throne would pass to Princess Elizabeth. He excluded his elder sister, Margaret Tudor (she had died in 1541) and her heirs, who were the royal family of Scotland. This included her granddaughter, Mary Stuart.

Catherine Parr and Religion

Catherine Parr wrote several small books on religious matters. It has been pointed out that Catherine was one of only eight women who had books published in the sixty-odd years of the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. These books showed that she was an advocate of Protestantism. In the book, The Lamentation of a Sinner Catherine describes Henry as being "godly and learned" and being "our Moses" who "hath delivered us out of the captivity and bondage of Pharaoh (Rome)"; while the "Bishop of Rome" is denounced for "his tyranny".

Catherine also criticised legislation that had been passed in May 1543 that had declared that the "lower sort" did not benefit from studying the Bible in English. The Act for the Advancement of the True Religion stated that "no women nor artificers, journeymen, serving men of the degree of yeomen or under husbandmen nor labourers" could in future read the Bible "privately or openly". Later, a clause was added that did allow any noble or gentlewoman to read the Bible, this activity must take place "to themselves alone and not to others". Catherine ignored this "by holding study among her ladies for the scriptures and listening to sermons of an evangelical nature". (31)

In February 1546 conservatives, led by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, began plotting to destroy Catherine. Gardiner had established a reputation for himself at home and abroad as a defender of orthodoxy against the Reformation. (32) On 24th May, Gardiner ordered the arrest of Anne Askew and Sir Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, was ordered to torture Askew in an attempt to force her to name Catherine and other leading Protestants.

The Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and his assistant, Richard Rich took over operating the rack, after Kingston complained about having to torture a woman. Despite suffering a long period on the rack, Askew refused to name those who shared her religious views. According to Askew: "Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen, to be of my opinion... the Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was nearly dead. I fainted... and then they recovered me again. After that I sat two long hours arguing with the Lord Chancellor, upon the bare floor... With many flattering words, he tried to persuade me to leave my opinion... I said that I would rather die than break my faith." (33) On 16th July, 1546, Askew "still horribly crippled by her tortures but without recantation, was burnt for heresy". (34)

Bishop Stephen Gardiner had a meeting with Henry VIII and raised concerns about Catherine's religious beliefs. Henry, who was in great pain with his ulcerated leg and at first he was not interested in Gardiner's complaints. However, eventually Gardiner got Henry's agreement to arrest Catherine and her three leading ladies-in-waiting, "Herbert, Lane and Tyrwhit" who had been involved in reading and discussing the Bible. (35)

Henry then went to see Catherine to discuss the subject of religion. Probably, aware what was happening, she replied that "in this, and all other cases, to your Majesty's wisdom, as my only anchor, Supreme Head and Governor here in earth, next under God". He reminded her that in the past she had discussed these matters. "Catherine had an answer for that too. She had disputed with Henry in religion, she said, principally to divert his mind from the pain of his leg but also to profit from her husband's own excellent learning as displayed in his replies." (36) Henry replied: "Is it even so, sweetheart? And tended your arguments to no worse end? Then perfect friends we are now again, as ever at any time heretofore." (37) Gilbert Burnett has argued that Henry put up with Catherine's radical views on religion because of the good care she took of him as his nurse. (38)

The next day Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley arrived with a detachment of soldiers to arrest Catherine Parr. Henry told him he had changed his mind and sent the men away. Glyn Redworth, the author of In Defence of the Church Catholic: The Life of Stephen Gardiner (1990) has disputed this story because it relies too much on the evidence of John Foxe,, a leading Protestant at the time. (39). However, David Starkey, the author of Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) has argued that some historians "have been impressed by the wealth of accurate circumstantial detail, including, in particular, the names of Catherine's women." (40)

Henry's health continued to cause concern. Dr. George Owen, the royal physician, who was paid £100 a year to treat the king, told the Privy Council in December, 1546, that he was dying. The Privy Council, now under the control of religious radicals such as John Dudley, Edward Seymour and Thomas Seymour decided to keep the news secret. On 24th December, Catherine took Mary and Elizabeth to stay at Greenwich Palace for the holidays. On their return they were told that Henry was too ill to see them. (41)

Henry VIII died on 28th January, 1547. The following day Edward and his thirteen year-old sister, Elizabeth, were informed that their father had died. According to one source, "Edward and his sister clung to each other, sobbing". Edward VI's coronation took place on Sunday 20th February. "Walking beneath a canopy of crimson silk and cloth of gold topped by silver bells, the boy-king wore a crimson satin robe trimmed with gold silk lace costing £118 16s. 8d. and a pair of ‘Sabatons’ of cloth of gold." (42)

Thomas Seymour

Edward was only nine years old and was too young to rule. In his will, Henry had nominated a Council of Regency, made up of 16 nobles and churchman to assist him in governing his new realm. His uncle, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, emerged as the leading figure in the government and was given the title Lord Protector. He was now arguably the most influential person in the land. (43)

His brother, Thomas Seymour, although he was in his late thirties, proposed to the Council that he should marry the 13-year-old, Elizabeth, but he was told this was unacceptable. He now set his sights on Catherine Parr. At the time he was described as "being gifted with charm and intelligence... and a handsome appearance". (44) Just a few weeks after Henry's death Catherine wrote to Seymour: "I would not have you think that this mine honest good will toward you to proceed from any sudden motion of passion; for, as truly as God is God, my mind was fully bent, the other time I was at liberty, to marry you before any man I know. Howbeit, God withstood my will therein most vehemently for a time, and... made that possible which seemed to me most impossible." (45)

The historian, Elizabeth Jenkins, believes that the "Queen Dowager, released from the sufferings of her marriage to Henry VIII, behaved like an enamoured girl." (46) Seymour wanted to marry Parr but realised the Council would reject his proposal, as it would be pointed out that if she became pregnant, there would have been uncertainty about whether the child was Seymour's or Henry's. (47) Seymour married Parr in secret in about May 1547.

Seymour visited Parr in her home in Chelsea before the news of their marriage was announced. This created extra problems as Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey were also living with Parr at this time. (48) It has been pointed out that "Elizabeth was still only thirteen when her stepmother, of whom she was most fond, married for love. The young Princess remained in her care, living principally with her at her dower houses at Chelsea and Hanworth. Ever curious and watchful, Elizabeth could not fail to have noted the effects of the sudden transformation in Catherine Parr's life. From patient, pious consort of an ailing elderly king she had been transmuted into a lover, desired and desiring." (49)

Catherine Parr, who was now thirty-five, became pregnant. Although she had been married three times before, it was her first pregnancy. It came as a great shock as Catherine was assumed to be "barren". (50) Thomas Seymour now began paying more attention to Elizabeth. Katherine Ashley, Elizabeth's governess, later recorded: "Seymour... would come many mornings into the Lady Elizabeth's chamber, before she were ready, and sometimes before she did rise. And if she were up, he would bid her good morrow, and ask how she did, and strike her upon the back or on the buttocks familiarly, and so go forth through his lodgings; and sometime go through to the maidens and play with them, and so go forth... If Lady Elizabeth was in bed, he would... make as though he would come at her. And he would go further into the bed, so that he could not come at her." On one occasion Ashley saw Seymour try to kiss her while she was in bed and the governess told him to "go away for shame". Seymour became more bold and would come up every morning in his nightgown, "barelegged in his slippers". (51)

Thomas  Seymour
Thomas Seymour by Nicolas Denisot (c. 1547)

According to Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) claims that the evidence suggested that the "Queen Dowager took to coming with her husband on his morning visits and one morning they both tickled the Princess as she lay in her bed. In the garden one day there was some startling horse-play, in which Seymour indulged in a practice often heard of in police courts; the Queen Dowager held Elizabeth so that she could not run away, while Seymour cut her black cloth gown into a hundred pieces. The cowering under bedclothes, the struggling and running away culminated in a scene of classical nightmare, that of helplessness in the power of a smiling ogre... The Queen Dowager, who was undergoing an uncomfortable pregnancy, could not bring herself to make her husband angry by protesting about his conduct, but she began to realize that he and Elizabeth were very often together." (52)

Jane Dunn has controversially argued that Elizabeth was a willing victim in these events: "Although not legally her step-father, Thomas Seymour assumed his role as head of the household and with his manly demeanour and exuberant animal spirits he became for the young Princess a charismatic figure of attraction and respect. Some twenty-five years her senior, Seymour in fact was old enough to be her father and the glamour of his varied heroic exploits in war and diplomatic dealings brought a welcome worldly masculinity into Elizabeth's cloistered female-dominated life.... Elizabeth was also attractive in her own right, tall with fair reddish-gold hair, fine pale skin and the incongruously dark eyes of her mother, alive with unmistakable intelligence and spirit. She was young, emotionally inexperienced and understandably hungry for recognition and love. She easily became a willing if uneasy partner in the verbal and then physical high jinks in the newly sexualised Parr-Seymour household." (53)

Sir Thomas Parry, the head of Elizabeth's household, later testified that Thomas Seymour loved Elizabeth and had done so for a long time and that Catherine Parr was jealous of the fact. In May 1548 Catherine "came suddenly upon them, where they were all alone, he having her (Elizabeth) in his arms, wherefore the Queen fell out, both with the Lord Admiral and with her Grace also... and as I remember, this was the cause why she was sent from the Queen." (54) Later that month Elizabeth was sent away to stay with Sir Anthony Denny and his wife, at Cheshunt. It has been suggested that this was done not as punishment but as a means of protecting the young girl. Philippa Jones, the author of Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) has suggested that Elizabeth was pregnant with Seymour's child. (55)

Queen Elizabeth
Princess Elizabeth by an unknown artist (c. 1544)

Elizabeth wrote to Catherine soon after she left her home: "Although I could not be plentiful in giving thanks for the manifold kindness received at your highness' hand at my departure, yet I am something to be borne withal, for truly I was replete with sorrow to depart from your highness, especially leaving you undoubtful of health. And albeit I answered little, I weighed it more deeper when you said you would warn me of all evils that you should hear of me; for if your grace had not a good opinion of me, you would not have offered friendship to me that way that all men judge the contrary. But what may I more say than thank God for providing such friends to me, desiring God to enrich me with their long life, and me grace to be in heart no less thankful to receive it than I now am glad in writing to show it. And although I have plenty of matter, here I will stay for I know you are not quiet to read." (56)

Catherine Parr gave birth to a daughter named Mary on 30th August 1548. After the birth, Catherine developed puerperal fever. Her delirium took a painful form of paranoid ravings about her husband and others around her. Catherine accused the people around her of standing "laughing at my grief". She told the women attending her that her husband did not love her. Thomas Seymour held her hand and replied "sweetheart, I would do you no hurt". Seymour is reported to have lain down beside her, but Catherine asked him to leave because she wanted to have a proper talk with the physician who attended her delivery, but dared not for fear of displeasing him. (57)

The fever eventually went and she was able to dictate her will calmly, revealing that Thomas Seymour was the "great love of her life". Queen Catherine, "sick of body but of good mind", left everything to Seymour, only wishing her possessions "to be a thousand times more in value" than they were. Catherine, thirty-six years old, died on 5th September 1548, six days after the birth of her daughter. (58)

Katherine Ashley later claimed that Elizabeth took the news very badly. She refused to leave her bed and for the next five months she was unable to go more than a mile from the house. (59) Elizabeth wrote to Thomas Seymour thanking him for sending the physician, Dr. Thomas Bille, to attend to her. However, rumours began to circulate that the reasons that Elizabeth was housebound was because she was pregnant and that those around her were protecting her by alluding to her illness. (60)

Reign of Edward VI

Thomas Seymour sought to win Edward's affection and gain acceptance as his intimate adviser. He regularly visited Edward's bedchamber. Antonia Fraser has claimed: "He showed no greater greed than the rest of the nobility round him. Seymour's real weakness was his morbid jealously of his elder brother Somerset, whose military victories had first marked him out before his position as Protector raised him up." (61)

When his brother, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, discovered what was happening he "put a special watch on all doors leading into the king's privy chamber in order to prevent Sudeley's clandestine entry". One night Thomas found the door to Edward's bedchamber bolted; enraged, he shot dead the king's barking dog. Somerset was given copies of letters that Sudeley had been passing to Edward. "Somerset found such correspondence intolerable" and ordered his brother's arrest in January, 1549. (62)

Elizabeth's governess, Katherine Ashley, and Sir Thomas Parry, the head of Elizabeth's household, were also arrested and interviewed by Sir Robert Tyrwhitt. They both provided accounts of Thomas Seymour's relationship with Elizabeth. On 22nd January, 1549, Tyrwhitt had a meeting with Elizabeth. He reported to Edward Seymour "all I have gotten yet is by gentle persuasion, whereby I do begin to grow with her in credit... this is a good beginning, I trust more will follow." (63)

On 28th January, Elizabeth wrote a letter to the Lord Protector denying that she was pregnant: "Master Tyrwhit and others have told me that there goeth rumours abroad which be greatly both against my honour and honesty, which, above all other things, I esteem, which be these, that I am in the Tower, and with child by my Lord Admiral (Thomas Seymour). My lord, these are shameful slanders, for the which, besides the great desire I have to see the king's majesty, I shall most heartily desire your lordship that I may show myself there as I am." (64)

The Lord Protector wrote back to her to say that if Elizabeth could identify anyone who uttered such slanders against her, the Council would have them punished. Elizabeth replied that she was unwilling to accuse specific people but suggested a better plan of action: "It might seem good to your lordship, and the rest of the council, to send forth a proclamation into the countries that they refrain their tongues, declaring how the tales be but lies, it should make both the people think that you and the council have great regard that no such rumours should be spread of any of the King's majesty's sisters (as I am, though unworthy) and also that I should think myself to receive such friendship at your hands as you have promised me, although your lordship showed me great already." (65)

Sir Robert Tyrwhitt attempted to discover if Elizabeth, Katherine Ashley, and Sir Thomas Parry were involved in what was described a "marriage plot" with Thomas Seymour. However, they all refused to confess and Tyrwhitt reported, "They all sing the same song and so I think they would not do, unless they had set the note before." However, without confessions, Tyrwhitt was forced to release Ashley and Parry but Seymour was charged with 39 articles of treasonable activities, including that he "had attempted and gone about to marry the King's Majesty's sister, the Lady Elizabeth, second inheritor in remainder to the Crown." (66)

Thomas Seymour was examined on 18th and 23rd February but refused to answer unless his accusers stood before him. (67) Seymour demanded an open trial to face his accusers but this was denied. To prevent his brother, Edward Seymour, from showing leniency, the Council gained permission to act without the Lord Protector's authorization. On 20th March, 1549, Seymour was beheaded on Tower Hill. Even on the scaffold, Seymour refused to make the usual confession. Bishop Hugh Latimer commented: "Whether he be saved or no, I leave it to God, but surely he was a wicked man, and the realm is well rid of him." (68)

When she heard the news, it is claimed Elizabeth commented: "This day died a man of much wit and very little judgment." Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) has pointed out: "If the words are apocryphal their tenor shows the effect of her beating. No one who saw her doubted the intensity of her emotion: they merely admired the fortitude with which she restrained it." (69)

Execution of Edward Seymour

Edward Seymour was blamed by the nobility and gentry for the social unrest such as the Kett Rebellion. They believed his statements about political reform had encouraged rebellion. His reluctance to employ force and refusal to assume military leadership merely made matters worse. Seymour's critics also disliked his popularity with the common people and considered him to be a potential revolutionary. His main opponents, including John Dudley, 2nd Earl of Warwick, Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton and Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton, met in London to demand his removal as lord protector. (70)

Seymour no longer had the support of the aristocracy and had no choice but to give up his post. On 14th January 1550 his deposition as lord protector was confirmed by act of parliament, and he was also deprived of all his other positions, of his annuities, and of lands to the value of £2000 a year. He was sent to the Tower of London where he remained until the following February, when he was released by the Earl of Warwick who was now the most powerful figure in the government. Roger Lockyer suggests that this "gesture of conciliation on Warwick's part served its turn by giving him time to gain the young King's confidence and to establish himself more firmly in power". (71) This upset the nobility and in October 1551, Warwick was forced to arrest the Duke of Somerset.

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. He skillfully conducted his own defence and was acquitted of treason but found guilty of felony under the terms of a recent statute against bringing together men for a riot and sentenced to death. (72) "Historians sympathetic to Somerset argue that the indictment was largely fictitious, that the trial was packed with his enemies, and that Northumberland's subtle intrigue was responsible for his conviction. Other historians, however, have noted that Northumberland agreed that the charge of treason should be dropped and that the evidence suggests that Somerset was engaged in a conspiracy against his enemies." (73) Although the king had supported Somerset's religious policies with enthusiasm he did nothing to save him from his fate. (74)

As he was such a popular figure the authorities feared that Somerset's execution would cause disorder. On the morning of 22nd January, 1552, people living in London were ordered to remain in their houses. For added protection, over a 1,000 soldiers were on the streets of the city. Despite these measures large crowds gathered at Tower Hill. (75) He showed no sign of fear and he told those assembled that he died in the knowledge that he was "glad of the furtherance and helping forward of the commonwealth of this realm". (76) He also urged those present to follow the reformed religion that he had promoted. Edward wrote in his journal: "The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine in the morning." (77)

John Dudley, 2nd Earl of Warwick, now became Edward's main adviser. It has been claimed that the secret of Warwick's power was that he took Edward seriously. To be successful he "knew that he must accommodate the boy's keen intelligence and also his sovereign will". By this time the king clearly "possessed a powerful sense that he and not his council embodied royal authority". However, foreign observers did not believe that Edward was making his own decisions. The French ambassador reported that "Warwick... visited the King secretly at night in the King's Chamber, unseen by anyone, after all were asleep. The next day the young Prince came to his council and proposed matters as if they were his own; consequently, everyone was amazed, thinking that they proceeded from his mind and by his invention." Dale Hoak agrees and suggests that "Warwick was skillfully guiding the king for his own purposes by exploiting the boy's precocious capacity for understanding the business of government." (78)

Christopher Morris, the author of The Tudors (1955) believes that by the age of fifteen he was exerting control over his kingdom: "There were sporadic rebellions, but they were less dangerous than the risings against Henry, and they were all put down. The machinery of government was monstrously misused but it did not come to a standstill. England was to have a corrupt and an unjust government but not an ineffective government. There was a seemingly untroubled point of rest in the very centre of the storm. It was the mind of a small orphan boy who was the last Tudor king of England. And yet we know his mind better than that of any other Tudor, for we have his own full journal of his reign. It might be called the first of all English diaries. On certain matters, notably the trial of Somerset, the boy's journal is much the best surviving evidence. It is arguable that potentially Edward was the ablest of all the Tudors." (79)

The Death of Edward VI

In April 1552 Edward fell ill with a disease that was diagnosed first as smallpox and later as measles. He made a surprising recovery and wrote to his sister, Elizabeth, that he had never felt better. However, in December he developed a cough. Elizabeth asked to see her brother but John Dudley, the lord protector, said it was too dangerous. In February 1553, his doctors believed he was suffering from tuberculosis. In March the Venetian envoy saw him and said that although still quite handsome, Edward was clearly dying. (80)

According to Philippa Jones, the author Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010): "Early in 1553, Dudley... began working to persuade the King to change the succession. Edward VI was reminded that Mary and Elizabeth were both illegitimate, and more importantly, that Mary would bring Catholicism back to England. Dudley reasoned that if Mary were to be struck out of the succession, how could Elizabeth, her equal, be left in? Furthermore, he argued that both the princesses would seek foreign husbands, jeopardizing English sovereignty." (81)

Under the influence of the Lord Protector, Edward made plans for the succession. Sir Edward Montague, chief justice of the common pleas, testified that "the king by his own mouth said" that he was prepared to alter the succession because the marriage of either Princess Mary or Princess Elizabeth to a foreigner might undermine both "the laws of this realm" and "his proceedings in religion". According to Montague, Edward also thought his sisters bore the "shame" of illegitimacy. (82) Coming under the influence of the Lord Protector, Edward selected Lady Jane Grey to succeed him. A few days later she married Guildford Dudley, the fourth son of the Lord Protector.

At first Jane refused to marry Guildford on the grounds that she had already been promised to Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, the son of Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset. However, her protests were overcome "by the urgency of her mother and the violence of her father, who compelled her to accede to his commands by blows". (83) The marriage took place on 21st May 1553 at Durham House, the Dudleys' London residence, and afterwards Jane went back to her parents. She was told Edward was dying and she must hold herself in readiness for a summons at any moment. "According to her own account, Jane did not take this seriously. Nevertheless she was obliged to return to Durham House. After a few days she fell sick and, convinced that she was being poisoned, begged leave to go out to the royal manor at Chelsea to recuperate." (84)

King Edward VI died on 6th July, 1553. Three days later one of Northumberland's daughters came to take her to Syon House, where she was ceremoniously informed that the king had indeed nominated her to succeed him. Jane was apparently "stupefied and troubled" by the news, falling to the ground weeping and declaring her "insufficiency", but at the same time praying that if what was given to her was "‘rightfully and lawfully hers", God would grant her grace to govern the realm to his glory and service. (85)

On 10th July, Queen Jane arrived in London. An Italian spectator, witnessing her arrival, commented: "She is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in colour." (86) Guildford Dudley, "a tall strong boy with light hair’, walked beside her, but Jane apparently refused to make him king, saying that "the crown was not a plaything for boys and girls." (87)

Jane was proclaimed queen at the Cross in Cheapside, a letter announcing her accession was circulated to the lords lieutenant of the counties, and Bishop Nicolas Ridley of London preached a sermon in her favour at Paul's Cross, denouncing both Mary and Elizabeth as bastards, but Mary especially as a papist who would bring foreigners into the country. It was only at this point that Jane realised that she was "deceived by the Duke of Northumberland and the council and ill-treated by my husband and his mother". (88)

Mary, who had been warned of what John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, had done and instead of going to London as requested, she fled to Kenninghall in Norfolk. As Ann Weikel has pointed out: "Both the earl of Bath and Huddleston joined Mary while others rallied the conservative gentry of Norfolk and Suffolk. Men like Sir Henry Bedingfield arrived with troops or money as soon as they heard the news, and as she moved to the more secure fortress at Framlingham, Suffolk, local magnates like Sir Thomas Cornwallis, who had hesitated at first, also joined her forces." (89)

Mary summoned the nobility and gentry to support her claim to the throne. Richard Rex argues that this development had consequences for her sister, Elizabeth: "Once it was clear which way the wind was blowing, she (Elizabeth) gave every indication of endorsing her sister's claim to the throne. Self-interest dictated her policy, for Mary's claim rested on the same basis as her own, the Act of Succession of 1544. It is unlikely that Elizabeth could have outmanoeuvred Northumberland if Mary had failed to overcome him. It was her good fortune that Mary, in vindicating her own claim to the throne, also safeguarded Elizabeth's." (90)

The problem for Dudley was that the vast majority of the English people still saw themselves as "Catholic in religious feeling; and a very great majority were certainly unwilling to see - King Henry's eldest daughter lose her birthright." (91) When most of Dudley's troops deserted he surrendered at Cambridge on 23rd July, along with his sons and a few friends, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London two days later. Tried for high treason on 18th August he claimed to have done nothing save by the king's command and the privy council's consent. Mary had him executed at Tower Hill on 22nd August. In his final speech he warned the crowd to remain loyal to the Catholic Church. (92)

Queen Mary told a foreign ambassador that her conscience would not allow her to have Lady Jane Grey put to death. Jane was given comfortable quarters in the house of a gentleman gaoler. The anonymous author of the Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary (c. 1554), dropped in for dinner, finding the Lady Jane sitting in the place of honour. She made the visitor welcome and asked for news of the outside world, before going on to speak gratefully of Mary - "I beseech God she may long continue" and made a fierce attack against John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland: "Woe worth him! He hath brought me and our stock in most miserable calamity by his exceeding ambition". (93)

Jane, together with Guildford Dudley and two more of his brothers, stood trial for treason on 19th November. They were all found guilty but foreign ambassadors in London reported that Jane's life would be spared. Mary's attitude towards Jane changed when her father, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, joined the rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt against her proposed marriage to Philip of Spain. Based at Rochester Castle, Wyatt soon had fifteen hundred men under his command.

When Mary heard about Wyatt's actions, she issued a pardon to his followers if they returned to their homes within twenty-four hours. Some of his men took up the offer. However, when a large number of the army were sent to arrest Wyatt, they changed sides Wyatt now controlled a force of 4,000 men and he now felt strong enough to march on London. On 1st February, 1554, Mary addressed a meeting in the Guildhall where she proclaimed Wyatt a traitor. The next morning, 20,000 men enrolled their names for the protection of the city. The bridges over the Thames within a distance of fifteen miles were broken down and on 3rd February, a reward of land of the annual value of one hundred pounds a year was offered to the person who captured Wyatt.

By the time Thomas Wyatt entered Southwark, large numbers of his army had deserted. However, he continued to march towards St. James's Palace, where Mary Tudor had taken refuge. Wyatt reached Ludgate at two o'clock in the morning of 8th February. The gate was shut against him, and he was unable to break it down. Wyatt now went into retreat but he was captured at Temple Bar. (94)

Execution of Lady Jane Grey

Although there is any evidence that Jane had any foreknowledge of the Thomas Wyatt conspiracy, "her very existence as a possible figurehead for protestant discontent made her an unacceptable danger to the state". Mary, now agreed with her advisers and the date of Jane's execution was fixed for 9th February, 1554. However, she was still willing to forgive Jane and sent John Feckenham, the new dean of St Paul's, over to the Tower of London in an attempt to see if he could convert this "obdurate heretic". However, she refused to change her Protestant beliefs. (95)

Jane watched the execution of her husband from the window of her room in the Tower of London. She then came out leaning on the arm of Sir John Brydges, Lieutenant of the Tower. "Lady Jane was calm, although. Elizabeth and Ellen (her two women attendants) wept... The executioner kneeled down and asked for forgiveness, which she gave most willingly... she said: "I pray you dispatch me quickly." (96)

Jane then made a brief speech: "Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day' and therewith she wrung her hands, in which she had her book." (97) Kneeling, she repeated the 51st Psalm in English. (98)

Paul Delaroche, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (c.1840)
Paul Delaroche, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (c.1840)

According to the Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary: "Then she kneeled down, saying, 'Will you take it off before I lay me down?' and the hangman answered her, 'No, madame.' She tied the kercher about her eyes; then feeling for the block said, 'What shall I do? Where is it?' One of the standers-by guiding her thereto, she laid her head down upon the block, and stretched forth her body and said: 'Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!' And so she ended." (99)

Stories circulated as to the piety and dignity on the scaffold, however, she did not receive a great deal of sympathy. (100) As Alison Plowden has pointed out: "The judicial murder of sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, and no one ever pretended it was anything else, caused no great stir at the time, not even among the militantly protestant Londoners. Jane had never been a well-known figure, and in any case was too closely associated with the unpopular Dudleys and their failed coup to command much public sympathy." (101)

Mary's Religious Policies

Mary was the first woman to rule England in her own right. In November 1554, Mary's distant cousin, Reginald Pole, returned from exile, to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He shared Mary's devotion to the Catholic Church and wished to see England restored to full communion with Rome. (102) Pole persuaded Parliament to revive former measures against heresy. These had been repealed under Henry VIII and Edward VI.

An unmarried woman of thirty-seven, small in stature and near-sighted, appeared older than her years and often tired, because of her generally poor health. Her first parliament reinforced the Act of Succession of 1543 by declaring the validity of the marriage of her mother, Catherine of Aragon, so that the issue of "Mary's legitimacy could not be associated with the abolition of the royal supremacy and the restoration of papal authority." (103)

Almost from her infancy Mary had "hawked around Europe and offered to every prince from Portugal to Poland". As she had been described by her own father as illegitimate, she did not obtain a husband. She felt humiliated and now she was Queen of England, she had much more to offer. Mary also needed an heir. The Protestant attempts to overthrow Mary had also made her feel insecure. To protect her position, Mary decided to form an alliance with the Catholic monarchy in Spain. This gave her the "prospect of a Catholic heir, reunion with Rome, her martyred mother's Spanish dynasty." (104)

In deciding to marry Philip of Spain, the only son of Emperor Charles V, Mary made her first and most serious political error. "She either failed to comprehend or chose to disregard the depth of an English xenophobic sentiment which was made all the more powerful for being combined with anxiety about the potential power of a male consort. The prospect of a foreign ruler created considerable opposition in parliament and throughout the realm." When the speaker of the House of Commons suggested she marry an English subject, not a foreign prince, Mary angrily told him that she would not subject herself in marriage to an individual whom her position made her inferior. (105)

Philip arrived in England on 19th July, 1554. Their first meeting turned out fairly well in spite of the obvious age difference (Mary was 38 and Philip was 27). The couple married on 25th July. Soon rumours began circulating that Mary was pregnant. In April 1555, Elizabeth, who was held under house arrest, was summoned to Court to witness the birth of the expected child that summer. However, no child was forthcoming and Mary still did not have an heir. (106)

The Death of Queen Mary I

In the summer of 1558 Mary began to get pains in her stomach and thought she was pregnant. This was important to Mary as she wanted to ensure that a Catholic monarchy would continue after her death. It was not to be. Mary had stomach cancer. Mary now had to consider the possibility of naming Elizabeth as her successor. "Mary postponed the inevitable naming of her half-sister until the last minute. Although their relations were not always overtly hostile, Mary had long disliked and distrusted Elizabeth. She had resented her at first as the child of her own mother's supplanter, more recently as her increasingly likely successor. She took exception both to Elizabeth's religion and to her personal popularity, and the fact that first Wyatt's and then Dudley's risings aimed to install the princess in her place did not make Mary love her any more. But although she was several times pressed to send Elizabeth to the block, Mary held back, perhaps dissuaded by considerations of her half-sister's popularity, compounded by her own childlessness, perhaps by instincts of mercy." On 6th November she acknowledged Elizabeth as her heir. (107)

Queen Mary
Elizabeth I, portrait by unknown artist (c. 1558)

Mary died, aged forty-two, on 17th November 1558. Pope Paul IV was unhappy that a Protestant monarch was once again in power. However, he suggested that if Elizabeth begged for his permission to be queen he would consider the matter. When she refused, the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth and ordered her subjects not to obey her.

Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley

Robert Dudley soon emerged as one of Elizabeth's leading advisers and was given the post of Master of the Horse. He was described as "splendid in appearance and a promptness and energy of devotion". (108) He was allotted official quarters in the palace. He encouraged her to go riding every day. Unlike most of her officials, Dudley was of her own age. "Although Elizabeth did have some women friends, she much preferred the company of men, and it soon became apparent that she preferred Robert Dudley's company to any other." (109)

According to Dudley's biographer, Simon Adams: "It was only in April 1559 that Robert Dudley's peculiar relationship to Elizabeth began to attract comment. This relationship - which defined the rest of his life - was characterized by her almost total emotional dependence on him and her insistence on his constant presence at court.... It also helps to explain his separation from his wife, who came to London from Throcking in May 1559, but spent only a month or so there." (110) In 1559 Elizabeth gave Dudley land in Yorkshire, as well as the manor of Kew. She also gave him a licence to export woolen cloth free of charge. (111) It is estimated that this was worth £6,000 in 1560.

David Starkey has pointed out that in many ways Dudley was similar to Thomas Seymour. "Dudley was strikingly similar to Seymour - in looks, physique and temperament. But whereas Seymour's seduction had involved the threat and perhaps the reality of force, Dudley was all soft words and whirlwind charm. It was the more attractive for that. Did Elizabeth surrender and have sexual relations? She denied it absolutely - just as she had denied it with Seymour. On the other hand, powerful rumour accused her." (112)

Robert Dudley
Robert Dudley by unknown artist (c. 1560)

In April 1559, Spanish Ambassador Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba reported to King Philip II that Amy Dudley had "a malady in one of her breasts". (113) Another letter at the time from Paolo Tiepolo, the Venetian Ambassador, suggested that she had "been ailing for some time". It has been suggested that Amy was suffering from cancer and according to her maid, Mrs Pirto, her illness resulted in severe depression. However, on 24th August, 1560, she sent a letter to her tailor in a tone that was considered to be "cheerful" and shows her "looking forward to the pleasure of a new gown". (114)

Death of Amy Dudley

On Sunday 8th September, 1560, Amy Dudley insisted that everyone in the house attend a local fair in Abingdon. (115) When her servants returned that evening, they found her lying dead at the foot of the staircase, her neck broken. According to several sources, as soon as he heard the news, Robert sent his household officer, Thomas Blount, to investigate. (116)

Philippa Jones has argued: "Robert acted quickly, with an eye to his own interests. His feelings for Amy were now largely irrelevant: he needed to minimize the damage that his wife's unnatural death might have on his chances of marrying Elizabeth. It was important that he remain in London, partly to be near the Court and partly to stem any accusations that he had rushed to Cumnor to orchestrate a cover-up or to intimidate the jury at the inquest. He counted on Blount to handle things at Cumnor without interfering personally. He was insistent that the jury should be composed of local men of good standing, even if they were hostile towards Forster or himself, as this would count for their impartiality. He knew that there had to be a full and honest appraisal of events, resulting in a finding that Amy's death had been an accident, in order for him to be free to marry Elizabeth after a suitable period of mourning." (117)

Thomas Blount reported that he spoke to several people in Abington and the general feeling seemed to be that Amy's death had been accidental. Others suspected that she had committed in suicide but there was a minority who thought it was possible that she had been murdered. Blount told Dudley he hoped it was an accident, but feared it was suicide, "My Lord... The tales I do hear of her make me think she had a strange mind as I will tell you at my coming." Robert replied, "If it fall out a chance or misfortune, then so to say; and, if it appear a villainy as God forbid so mischievous or wicked a body should live, then to find it so." (118)

Robert Dudley did not want a verdict of suicide as people would have claimed that his relationship with Queen Elizabeth had driven her to take her own life. Dudley was also concerned about the impact of this verdict would have had on her reputation. During the Tudor period suicide was considered a grave sin. "If she had taken her own life, she would have been denied a Christian burial and would have been laid to rest in unhallowed ground, although her rank would have saved her from the fate of being buried at a crossroads with a stake through her heart. In any case, her soul would still be damned for eternity." (119)

Dudley wanted a verdict of accidental death. However, there were problems with this theory. The records show that there were only 8 steps on the part of the staircase where she fell. Some experts have said such a small fall was unlikely to have caused a broken neck. Others have suggested that this also rules out suicide as such a fall would have resulted in injury rather than death. Professor Ian Aird believes the broken neck might be related to her illness. He has pointed out that breast cancer can cause secondary deposits in the bones, making them brittle (the deposits occurred in 50 percent of fatal cases studied; 6 percent of these showed deposits in the spine). If in a fall down a flight of stairs, as Aird explains, that part of the spine which lies in the neck suffers ... the affected person gets spontaneously a broken neck. Such a fracture is more likely to occur in stepping downstairs than in walking on the level." (120)

Robert Dudley
William Frederick Yeames, The Death of Amy Robsart (1877)

Rumours began to circulate that Dudley had murdered his wife so that he could marry Elizabeth. It was suspected that these were being promoted by the enemies of Elizabeth. Mary Stuart, who believed she should be queen of England, was quoted as saying: "The Queen of England is going to marry her horsekeeper, who has killed his wife to make room for her." (121) It was now politically impossible for Elizabeth to marry Dudley. It has even been suggested that Dudley's main rival, William Cecil, might have arranged Amy's death and "thus wrecking any chance of marriage and damaging the reputation of Dudley himself." (122)

At the inquest Amy's servant, Mrs Pirto, testified that her mistress suffered from severe depression and admitted the possibility that she had committed suicide. Anka Muhlstein is someone who supports this view. (123) However, the jury found it difficult to believe that Amy would have chosen such a method to kill herself. After weighing up all the testimony and evidence, the jury formally determined a verdict of accidental death. The foreman wrote to Robert to let him know, who in turn wrote to Blount, stating that the verdict "doth very much satisfy and quiet me." (124) Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) has pointed out: "The verdict at the inquest was accidental death, but in the general opinion it should have been murder, either at Dudley's instigation, or without his connivance but in his interest. The question, all-important though hardly to be framed, was whether the Queen had been accessory before the fact." (125)

The most convincing evidence against Elizabeth and Dudley appeared in a letter sent by Alvaro de la Quadra, the Spanish Ambassador, to King Philip II, that recorded conversations with Elizabeth and her leading government officer, William Cecil: "He (William Cecil) told me the Queen cared nothing for foreign princes. She did not believe she stood in any need of their support. She was deeply in debt, taking no thought how to clear herself, and she had ruined her credit in the city. Last of all he said that they were thinking of destroying Lord Robert's wife. They had given out that she was ill, but she was not ill at all; she was very well and taking care not to be poisoned. God, he trusted, would never permit such a crime to be accomplished or so wretched a conspiracy to prosper.... Certainly this business is most shameful and scandalous, and withal I am not sure whether she will marry the man at once, or even if she will marry at all, as I do not think she has her mind sufficiently fixed. Since writing the above, I hear the Queen has published the death of Robert's wife." (126)

It seems the Spanish government definitely believed that Elizabeth and Dudley were involved in Amy's death. Philippa Jones, the author of Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010), clearly disagrees with this judgement: "If Amy was murdered, the most logical question to ask would be who would have benefited from the timing and manner of her death? It is hard to argue that Robert and Elizabeth did. Had Amy lived a few weeks or months longer and died of natural causes, Robert would have had a real chance of becoming King of England. They had no reason to rush; Elizabeth had successfully held off her various suitors for two years and showed few signs of giving in to any one of them. She and Robert had waited so long; a little longer would not have mattered. Furthermore, if Robert had genuinely wanted his wife out of the way, he had another option. He and Amy had no children and, with her ill health, were not likely to. A lack of children was a lawful reason for divorce at that time, and it was held to be the wife's fault unless she could prove otherwise. If Robert had wanted his freedom at any cost, he could have divorced Amy at any time." (127)

Christopher Hatton

In 1564 Christopher Hatton came to the attention of Queen Elizabeth in a play that was performed for members of the Royal Court. He was seven years younger than the Queen, "tall, large-framed, solid but graceful". (128) It was claimed that the queen's eye had been drawn to this "mere vegetable of the court that sprang up at night" solely by his talent for dancing. (129)

In 1571, Hatton became Member of Parliament for Higham Ferrers. By this time he was seen as a rival to Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) has pointed out: "Hatton was thirty-one and Elizabeth thirty-eight. He had not displaced Leicester as confidential favourite, but he had overhauled him, and while every year showed gifts of leases, wardships, lands, buildings, offices to Leicester and Hatton, during the years 1568 to 1571 the Queen gave Leicester four benefactions only and Hatton eight. No-one would ever entirely supplant Leicester in her affection, but Hatton's newness as an adorer and the vehemence of his passion made a strong appeal to her feelings, and for some years the relationship between them was one of the kind that was Elizabeth's nearest approach to sexual passion." (130)

Peter Ackroyd has argued that when Hatton told Queen Elizabeth that he desired some land owned by Richard Fox, the Bishop of Ely, she approached him about it. When he initially refused Elizabeth wrote him a letter stating: "You know what you were before I made you what you are now. If you do not immediately comply with my request, I will unfrock you, by God. Elizabeth." (131)

In 1572 Hatton was made one of the Gentlemen Pensioners, the fifty picked men who were chosen, among other attributes, for height and appearance, and formed the Queen's ceremonial bodyguard. (132) Hatton sent love notes and poems to Elizabeth. In one letter he wrote, "Your heart is full of rare and royal faith, the writings of your hand do raise me to a joy unspeakable." (133) Elizabeth was now romantically linked with two men. Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, was nicknamed her "eyes" and Hatton her "lids".

Rumours continued to circulate about Hatton and Elizabeth. A man named Mather was arrested for saying that "Mr. Hatton had more recourse to Her Majesty in her Privy Chamber than reason would suffer if she were so virtuous and well-inclined as some noiseth her". Archbishop Matthew Parker wrote to William Cecil about a man who had been examined before the Mayor of Dover for speaking against the Queen, "uttering most shameful words against her, as that the Earl of Leicester and Mr. Hatton should be such to her, as the matter is so horrible", the Mayor would not write down the words, "but would have uttered them in speech to your Lordship if ye had been at leisure". (134) Alone among the queen's male circle, Hatton refused to marry. "As he saw it, that would have been a betrayal of his love for her, which he never tired of expressing in letters whose fervent language sometimes takes the modern reader aback." (135)

Mary, Queen of Scots

In the opinion of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, and Mary Stuart, as the senior descendant of Henry VIII's elder sister, was the rightful queen of England. Henri II of France proclaimed his eldest son, François, and his daughter-in-law king and queen of England, and in France the royal arms of England were quartered with those of Francis and Mary. (136)

On 10th July 1559, King Henri was killed by Gabriel Montgomery during a tournament. Mary's fifteen year old husband became king of France. This development caused concern in England and urged on by William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth ordered an English fleet to cut the sea link between Scotland and France. She also issued instructions for assembling an army and after they invaded in the early months of 1560, negotiations between the countries took place. Under the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed in July, both France and England agreed to withdraw their forces from Scotland and leave the religious question to be settled by the Scottish Parliament. The body met in August and imposed the Reformation upon Scotland and the celebration of mass was forbidden. (137)

The following year François developed a middle ear infection which led to an abscess in his brain. He died on 5th December 1560. His mother, Catherine de Medici, became regent for his ten-year-old brother Charles IX, who inherited the French throne. She spent her period of strict mourning with her grandmother Antoinette. In January 1561, attempts were made to arrange a marriage with Don Carlos, eldest son of Philip II, but in April this was blocked by her mother-in-law.

John Leslie invited Mary to return to Scotland to restore Catholicism to the country. He promised that George Gordon, the 4th Earl of Huntly, would raise 20,000 men to help her gain power. Lord James Stewart, Mary's illegitimate half-brother and one of the protestant leaders, promised her that she could retain a private Catholic mass if she were to work with the regime. Mary accepted Lord James's offer and James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, as lord high admiral, went to France to escort her home. She arrived at Leith on 19th August 1561. Five days later she heard mass in her chapel at Holyroodhouse, protected by Lord James from the threats of more militant protestants encouraged by John Knox. She governed with the aid of her privy council, that included Lord James and William Maitland. (138)

Alan Turing
Mary Queen of Scots by François Clouet (c. 1559)

Soon after arriving in Scotland. Mary sent Maitland, her Secretary of State, to England to ask Elizabeth for the succession. Elizabeth told him that she knew no better right than Mary's, but that she did not want to nominate a successor because it would undermine her own position. Guided by Maitland, Mary presented her demands to Elizabeth as a simple clarification of the Treaty of Edinburgh. She would renounce the English throne in return for a clear promise of the succession.

In March, 1563, William Maitland met with Queen Elizabeth to discuss the situation in Scotland. Elizabeth believed that Mary, Queen of Scots, posed a threat to her throne. She argued that it would be a good idea if Mary could be persuaded to marry Robert Dudley. He was, she said, a model of everything that was manly, noble and fine. "Maitland, presumely not sure if Elizabeth was joking or not, responded that, as Robert was so much to her taste, the Scottish Queen could not deprive Elizabeth of such a jewel; she should marry Robert herself." Elizabeth was indeed serious and sent Thomas Randolph, the English Ambassador to Scotland, to discuss the matter with Mary. He passed on Elizabeth's own thoughts that "being determined to end her life in virginity, she wished that the queen her sister should marry him." (139)

Queen Elizabeth wanted Dudley to marry Mary because she thought she could control him. (140) Mary agreed to the idea but Randolph had more difficulty persuading Dudley. He still had hopes of marrying Elizabeth, and feared that if he agreed to accept Randolph's suggestion, she would turn on him for betraying her. Randolph reported back to Elizabeth, "Now that I have got this Queen's goodwill to marry where I would have her, I cannot get the man to take her for whom I was a suitor." (141)

Mary met Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, on Saturday 17th February 1565, at Wemyss Castle in Scotland. Both Mary and Henry were grandchildren of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII of England, and the widow of James IV, king of Scots. Soon afterwards, arrangements were made for the two to marry. Queen Elizabeth was totally against the match because it would unite two claims on the throne. Any children of the marriage would inherit an even stronger, combined claim. At first Elizabeth was confident that she would block it because Darnley was an English subject, and his parents were her dependants with lands in England. (142) However, they married at Holyrood Palace on 29th July 1565, even though both were Catholic and a papal dispensation for the marriage of first cousins had not been obtained. (143)

Mary's marriage to a leading Catholic resulted in her half-brother, James Stewart, the Earl of Moray, to join with other Protestant lords in open rebellion. Mary and her forces and Moray and the rebellious lords roamed around Scotland without ever engaging in direct combat. Mary's numbers were boosted by the return of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, from exile in France. Mary's forces were greatly superior, and unable to obtain sufficient support, Moray left Scotland for asylum in England. (144)

Mary became pregnant. However, the marriage was not a happy one. According to Elizabeth Jenkins: "Marriage with a Queen and one of the most beautiful of women had been too much for Darnley's weak head. His brainless arrogance had been so much increased that he did not treat even his wife with courtesy. Mary's passion was soon extinct, and her coldness and dislike roused him to the fatuous self-assertion that had been fostered by his mother." (145)

Darnley became jealous of David Rizzio, who had replaced him as her most important political advisor. According to his biographer, Rosalind K. Marshall "he was an ugly little man, full of his own importance, with an expensive taste in clothes... but Mary evidently felt that she could trust him. As her secretary he was constantly in her company... At the same time he did everything he could to enhance his own position, and the courtiers soon came to realize that if they wished for favours, they would have to bribe Seigneur Davie, as he was known." (146)

Thomas Randolph, the English Ambassador to Scotland, reported to William Cecil that Rizzio was a growing influence on Mary. It was decided to spread rumours that Riccio was having an affair with the Queen of Scots. It was even suggested that Rizzio was the real father of Mary's unborn child. (147) Darnley decided to join forces with a group of protestant lords who shared a dislike of Rizzio.

On 9th March 1566, about seven o'clock in the evening, Mary was at supper with Riccio in the little room adjoining her bedchamber at Holyroodhouse. "Suddenly Darnley marched in, sat down beside Mary, and put an arm round her waist, chatting to her with unaccustomed geniality. She had scarcely replied when the startling figure of Patrick Ruthven, Lord Ruthven, appeared in the doorway, deathly pale and wearing full armour... The queen rose to her feet in alarm. Terrified, Riccio darted behind her, to cower in the window embrasure, clinging to the pleats of her gown. The royal attendants sprang forward to take Ruthven, but he pulled out a pistol and waved them back. At the same moment the earl of Morton's men rushed into the supper chamber, the table was overturned... While Andrew Ker of Fawdonside held his pistol to the queen's side, George Douglas, Darnley's uncle, snatched Darnley's dagger from his belt and stabbed Riccio. According to Mary's own description of events, this first blow was struck over her shoulder... On Darnley's orders his body, with fifty-six stab wounds, was hurled down the main staircase, dragged into the porter's lodge, and thrown across a coffer where the porter's servant stripped him of his fine clothes." (148)

It is claimed that when Mary was told the news that Riccio was dead, she apparently dried her eyes and said "No more tears now. I will think upon revenge". Riccio was buried hastily in a cemetery outside Holyrood Abbey. However, later, Mary had his body exhumed and placed in the royal vault in the abbey. She then appointed his young brother Joseph Riccio to take his place as her French secretary.

Mary, Queen of Scots, now joined forces with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. She pardoned Lord Moray and the other exiles, and the people involved in the assassination of David Rizzio fled to England. Mary was now back in charge. In April 1566, Mary took up residence in Edinburgh Castle in order to await her child's birth, and on 19th June, after a difficult labour, Prince James was born. Queen Elizabeth was furious when a poet based in Paris, described James as prince of Scotland, England, France, and Ireland. (149)

After the birth of their son the couple lived apart. Lord Darnley was taken ill (officially with smallpox, possibly in fact with syphilis) and was convalescing in a house called Kirk o' Field. Mary visited him daily, so that it appeared a reconciliation was in progress. In the early hours of the morning on 10th February, 1567, an explosion devastated the house, and Darnley was found dead in the garden. There were no visible marks of strangulation or violence on the body and so it was suggested that he had been smothered. Rumours began to circulate that Bothwell and his friends had arranged his death. Elizabeth wrote to Mary: "I should ill fulfil the office of a faithful cousin or an affectionate friend if I did not... tell you what all the world is thinking. Men say that, instead of seizing the murderers, you are looking through your fingers while they escape; that you will not seek revenge on those who have done you so much pleasure, as though the deed would never have taken place had not the doers of it been assured of impunity. For myself, I beg you to believe that I would not harbour such a thought." (150)

One of Mary's biographer's, Julian Goodare, claims that the murder was an "abiding historical whodunnit, generating a mass of contradictory evidence, and with a large cast of suspects since almost everyone had a motive to kill him." He points out that historians are divided about Mary's involvement in the killing. "The extreme anti-Mary case is that from late 1566 onwards she was conducting an illicit love affair with Bothwell, with whom she planned the murder. The extreme pro-Mary case is that she was wholly innocent, knowing nothing of the business. In between these two extremes, it has been argued that she was aware in general terms of plots against her husband, and perhaps encouraged them." (151)

According to the depositions of four of Bothwell's retainers, he had been responsible for placing the gunpowder in Darnley's lodgings and had returned at the last moment to make sure that the fuse was lit. According to his biographer, that there is little doubt that Bothwell played a principal part in the murder. (152) Mary's critics point out that she made no attempt to investigate the crime. When urged to do so by Darnley's father, she replied that Parliament would meet in the spring and they would look into the matter. Meanwhile she gave Darnley's clothes to Bothwell. The trial of Bothwell took place on 12th April, 1567. Bothwell's men, estimated at 4,000, thronged the streets surrounding the court-house. Witnesses were too frightened to appear and after a seven-hour trial, he was found not guilty. A week later, Bothwell managed to convince more than two dozen lords and bishops to sign the Ainslie Tavern Bond, in which they agreed to support his aim to marry Mary. (153)

On 24th April, 1567, Mary was abducted by Lord Bothwell and taken to Dunbar Castle. According to James Melville, who was in the castle at the time, later wrote that Bothwell "had ravished her and lain with her against her will". However, most historians do not believe that she was raped and argue that the abduction was arranged by Mary. Bothwell divorced his wife, Jean Gordon, and on 15th May, he married Mary at a protestant ceremony. (154)

People were shocked that Mary could marry a man accused of murdering her husband. Murder placards began appearing in Edinburgh, accusing both Mary and Bothwell of Darnley's death. Several showed the queen as a mermaid, the symbol for a prostitute. Her senior advisors in Scotland claimed that that they were unable to see the queen without Bothwell being present, and alleging that he was virtually keeping her prisoner. Rumours circulated that Mary was bitterly unhappy, repelled by her new husband's boorish behaviour, and overcome with remorse at having contracted a protestant marriage. (155)

Twenty-six Scottish peers, turned against Mary and Bothwell, raising an army against them. Mary and Bothwell confronted the lords at Carberry Hill on 15th June, 1567. Clearly outnumbered, Mary and Bothwell surrendered. Bothwell was driven into exile and Mary was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle. While in captivity Mary miscarried twins. Her captors discussed several options: "conditional restoration; enforced abdication and exile; enforced abdication, trial for murder, and life imprisonment; enforced abdication, trial for murder, and execution". (156) On 24th July she was presented with deeds of abdication, telling her that she would be killed if she did not sign. She eventually agreed to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son James. Mary's illegitimate half-brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, was made regent. (157)

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth (c. 1575)

The Earl of Moray had no desire to keep the 24-year-old queen in prison for the rest of her life. On 2nd May 1568, she escaped from Lochleven Castle. She managed to raise an army of 6,000 men but was defeated at the Battle of Langside on 13 May. Three days later she crossed the Solway Firth in a fishing boat and landed at Workington. On 18 May, local officials took her into protective custody at Carlisle Castle. (158)

Queen Elizabeth was in a difficut position. She did not want the Catholic claimant to the English throne living in the country. At the same time she could not use her military forces to reimpose Mary's rule on the protestant Scots; nor could she allow Mary to take refuge in France and Spain, where she would be used as a "valuable pawn in the power game against England". There was no alternative but to keep the Queen of Scots in honourable captivity and in 1569 she was sent to Tutbury Castle under the guardianship of the George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. (159) Mary was permitted her own domestic staff and her chambers were decorated with fine tapestries and carpets. (160)

Roberto di Ridolfi, an Italian banker living in London, became a strong supporter of Mary. By the late 1560s Ridolfi's commercial interests had been eclipsed by politics, and he soon became obsessed with returning England to the Catholic fold by means of foreign assistance. He developed contacts by supplying information to the French and Spanish ambassadors in London. He became an official agent when he accepted money for his efforts. In 1566 Ridolfi became a secret envoy for Pope Pius V. He asked Ridolfi to distribute 12,000 crowns to those in the northern regions opposing the rule of Queen Elizabeth.

Sir Francis Walsingham, became suspicious of Ridolfi and in October 1569 he brought him in for questioning. He also carried out a search of his house but nothing incriminating was found and he was released in January 1570. Ridolfi's biographer, L. E. Hunt, has suggested he may have become a double-agent during this period: "The leniency of his treatment at the hands of Elizabeth and her ministers has caused some scholars to suggest that during his house arrest Ridolfi was successfully ‘turned’ by Walsingham into a double agent who subsequently worked for, and not against, the Elizabethan government." (161)

Ridolfi now attempted to develop a close relationship with John Leslie, Bishop of Ross and Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, a cousin to the queen and the highest ranking peer in England. Mary Queen of Scots encouraged Norfolk to join the plot by writing to him on 31st January 1571 suggesting marriage. Robert Hutchinson, the author of Elizabeth's Spy Master (2006) has commented: "One can imagine Norfolk's incredulous expression when he read her wholly unrealistic letter, its contents, if not the stuff of daydreams, certainly of rampant self-deception." (162)

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth by by Nicholas Hilliard (c. 1585)

According to Norfolk's biographer, Michael A. Graves: "An extensive, overmanned, and vulnerable conspiratorial network, including the servants of the principal participants, planned the release of the Scottish queen, her marriage to the duke, and, with Spanish military assistance, Elizabeth's removal in favour of Mary and the restoration of Catholicism in England. The success of the plan required Norfolk's approval and involvement. An initial approach by the bishop of Ross, forwarding ciphered letters from Mary, failed to secure his support. However, Norfolk reluctantly agreed to meet Ridolfi, as a result of which he gave verbal approval to the request for Spanish military assistance." (163)

Roberto di Ridolfi eventually convinced Howard to sign a declaration stating that he was a Catholic and, if backed by Spanish forces, was willing to lead a revolt. "The plan, later to be known as the Ridolfi plot, was soon in place: a Catholic rising was to free Mary and then, with zealous Catholics as well as Spanish forces joining en route, bring her to London, where the queen of Scots would supplant Elizabeth. The English queen's ultimate fate was purposely left unclear for the benefit of those with tender consciences. Mary would then secure her throne by marrying Norfolk." (164)

Ridolfi received through Ross a paper of detailed instructions agreed on by Norfolk and Mary. This empowered him to ask the Duke of Alva for guns, ammunition, armour and money, and 10,000 men, of whom 4,000, it was suggested, might make a diversion in Ireland. Ridolfi went to Brussels, where he discussed the plan with Alva. He then wrote to Philip II warning against a serious war against England: "But if the Queen of England should die, either a natural or any other death" then he should consider sending troops to put Mary on the vacant throne. (165) The Ridolfi Plot was ill conceived in the extreme and has been called "one of the more brainless conspiracies" of the sixteenth century (166).

It would seem that Francis Walsingham and William Cecil became aware of the Ridolfi Plot and they "grasped the opportunity to remove Norfolk, once and forever, from the political scene". (167) A servant of Mary Stuart and the bishop of Ross named Charles Bailly had been arrested upon his arrival at Dover on 12th April, 1571. A search of his baggage revealed that Bailly was carrying banned books as well as ciphered correspondence about the plot between Thomas Howard and his brother-in-law John Lumley. Bailly was taken to the Tower and tortured on the rack, and the information obtained from him led to the arrest of the Bishop of Ross and the Duke of Norfolk. (168)

Walsingham also arrested two of of Norfolk's secretaries, who were carrying £600 in gold to Mary's Scottish supporters. (169) At the sight of the rack Robert Higford told all he knew. The second secretary, William Barker, refused to confess and he was tortured. While on the rack his resolution failed and he revealed that secret documents were hidden in the tiles of the roof of one of the houses owned by Norfolk. In the hiding-place Walsingham found a complete collection of the papers connected with Ridolfi's mission, and nineteen letters to Norfolk from the Queen of Scots and the Bishop of Ross. (170)

On 7th September, 1571, Thomas Howard was taken to the Tower of London. He eventually admitted a degree of involvement in the transmission of money and correspondence to Mary's Scottish supporters. He was brought to trial in Westminster Hall on 16th January 1572. His request for legal counsel was disallowed on the grounds that it was not permissible in cases of high treason. The charge was that he practised to deprive the queen of her crown and life and thereby "to alter the whole state of government of this realm"; that he had succoured the English rebels who fled after the failed northern rising of 1569; and that he had given assistance to the queen's Scottish enemies. (171)

It has been claimed that a "state trial of the sixteenth century was little more than a public justification of a verdict that had already been reached". (172) The government case was supported with documentary proof, the written confessions of the bishop of Ross, his servant Bailly, the duke's secretaries, and other servants, and his own admissions. It is claimed that "Norfolk assumed an air of aristocratic disdain in his responses to the mounting evidence against him". This was "reinforced by what appeared to be a disbelief that the greatest noble in the land, scion of an ancient family, could be treated in this way". He was also dismissive of the evidence against him because of the inferiority of those who provided it. At its end he was convicted of high treason, condemned to death, and returned to the Tower to await execution. (173)

Execution of the Duke of Norfolk

Queen Elizabeth was reluctant to authorize the execution of the Duke of Norfolk. Warrants were repeatedly signed and then cancelled. Meanwhile he wrote letters to her, in which he still endeavoured to persuade her of his loyalty, and to his children. He wrote: "Beware of the court, except it be to do your prince service, and that as near as you can in the meanest degree; for place hath no certainty, either a man by following thereof hath too much to worldly pomp, which in the end throws him down headlong, or else he lieth there unsatisfied." (174)

Elizabeth eventually agreed to execute Norfolk but at the last moment she changed her mind. William Cecil complained to Francis Walsingham: "The Queen's Majesty hath always been a merciful lady and by mercy she hath taken more harm than by justice, and yet she thinks she is more beloved in doing herself harm." (175) On 8th February, 1572, Cecil wrote to Walsingham: "I cannot write what is the inward stay of the Duke of Norfolk's death; but suddenly on Sunday late in the night, the Queen's Majesty sent for me and entered into a great misliking that the Duke should die the next day; and she would have a new warrant made that night for the sheriffs to forbear until they should hear further." (176)

On 8th May, 1572, Parliament assembled in an attempt to force Queen Elizabeth to act against those involved in the plot against her. Michael A. Graves points out that Elizabeth finally yielded to pressure, perhaps in the hope that, by "sacrificing Thomas Howard to the wolves, she could spare a fellow queen". Elizabeth refused to take action against Mary but agreed that Norfolk would be executed on 2nd June, 1572, on Tower Hill. (177)

Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) has argued: "Since she came to the throne, Elizabeth had ordered no execution by beheading. After fourteen years of disuse, the scaffold on Tower Hill was falling to pieces, and it was necessary to put up another. The Duke's letters to his children, his letters to the Queen, his perfect dignity and courage at his death, made his end moving in the extreme, and he could at least be said that no sovereign had ever put a subject to death after more leniency or with greater unwillingness." (178)

Queen Elizabeth and the Puritans

Christopher Hatton joined the Privy Council and was involved in negotiations about the possible marriage of Queen Elizabeth to the Duke of Alençon. Hatton was against the match "but joined with the rest of the council in a sullen acquiescence, offering to support the match if it pleased her." (179) However, there was a great deal of opposition to the proposed marriage. In 1579 John Stubbs, a Norfolk squire with Puritan sympathies, wrote a pamphlet criticizing the proposed marriage. Stubbs objected to the fact that Alençon was a Catholic. He also argued that, at forty-six, Elizabeth was too old to have children and so had no need to get married. Hatton, under instructions from Elizabeth, led the prosecution of Stubbs. (180)

Circulation of this pamphlet was prohibited, and Stubbs, his publisher, William Page, were tried at Westminster, and found guilty of "seditious writing" and sentenced to have their right hands cut off. The punishment was carried out on 3rd November 1579. William Camden points out in The History of Queen Elizabeth (1617): "Stubbs and Page had their right hands cut off with a cleaver, driven through the wrist by the force of a mallet, upon a scaffold in the market-place at Westminster... I remember that Stubbs, after his right hand was cut off, took off his hat with his left, and said with a loud voice, 'God Save the Queen'; the crowd standing about was deeply silent: either out of horror at this new punishment; or else out of sadness." (181) However, by January, 1580, Queen Elizabeth admitted to Alençon that public opinion made their marriage impossible.

Francis Throckmorton Plot

Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's Principal Secretary, became convinced that King Phillip II of Spain, who had been Queen Mary's husband, wanted to make England a Catholic country. He therefore set up a network of spies and agents to prevent this from happening. One of the men who Walsingham was very concerned about was Francis Throckmorton, one of England's most prominent Catholics. In April 1583 Walsingham received a report from Henry Fagot, his agent inside the French embassy, that Throckmorton had dined with the ambassador. A month later Fagot wrote again with the information that "the chief agents for the Queen of Scots are Throckmorton and Lord Henry Howard". (182)

In November 1583, Walsingham ordered the arrest of Throckmorton in his London home. He just had time to destroy a letter he was in the act of writing to Mary, but among his seized papers was a list of the names of "certain Catholic noblemen and gentlemen" and also details of harbours "suitable for landing foreign forces". At first Throckmorton denied they were his, saying they must have been planted by the government searchers. He later admitted that they had been given to him by a man named Nutby who had recently left the country. (183)

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth (c. 1585)

Walsingham had Throckmorton put on the rack. During the first two sessions he courageously refused to talk. He managed to smuggle a message out to Bernardino Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, written in cipher on the back of a playing card, saying he would die a thousand deaths before he betrayed his friends. However, on the third occasion he admitted that Mary Queen of Scots was aware of the plot against Elizabeth. He also confessed that Mendoza was involved in the plot. When he finished his confession he rose from a seat beside the rack and exclaimed: "Now I have betrayed her who was dearest to me in this world." Now, he said, he wanted nothing but death. (184) Throckmorton's confession meant that Walsingham now knew that it was the Spanish rather than the French ambassador who had been abusing his diplomatic privileges.

At his trial Francis Throckmorton attempted to retract his confession claiming that "the rack had forced him to say something to ease the torment". Throckmorton was executed at Tyburn on 10th July 1584 and was reported to have died "very stubbornly", refusing to ask for the Queen Elizabeth's forgiveness. (185)

The Babington Plot

In October 1585, Gilbert Gifford went to Paris, where he got in touch with Thomas Morgan, an agent of Mary Queen of Scots. In December he crossed over to England, landing at the port of Rye. Walsingham, had a spy in the camp of Morgan, and on his arrival he was arrested. It is claimed that Gifford told Wasingham: "I have heard of the work you do and I want to serve you. I have no scruples and no fear of danger. Whatever you order me to do I will accomplish." Gifford's biographer, Alison Plowden, has argued: "Gifford may or may not have already been employed by Walsingham's secret service, but from this point there can be no doubt about his double dealing." (186)

Gifford was released and immediately approached the French Embassy in London. He told them that he had several letters for Mary. (At that time she was being held at Chartley Castle. Gifford was told that if they forwarded the letters by the formal route, Mary would never see them. Gifford then suggested that he would try to find a way of smuggling the letters into Chartley Castle. With the help of Walsingham he arranged with the man who provided Chartley Castle with beer, to smuggle the letters to Mary. The letters were wrapped in leather and hidden inside a hollow bung used to seal a barrel of beer. The brewer delivered the barrel to Chartley Castle and one of her servants would open the bung and take the contents to Mary. The same process was used to send messages to Mary's supporters. (187)

In March 1586, Anthony Babington and six friends gathered in The Plough, an inn outside Temple Bar, where they discussed the possibility of freeing Mary, assassinating Elizabeth, and inciting a rebellion supported by an invasion from abroad. With his spy network, it was not long before Walsingham discovered the existence of the Babington Plot. To make sure he obtained a conviction he arranged for Gifford to visit Babington on 6th July. Gifford told Babington that he had heard about the plot from Thomas Morgan in France and was willing to arrange for him to send messages to Mary via his brewer friend. (188)

However, Babington did not fully trust Gifford and enciphered his letter. Babington used a very complex cipher that consisted of 23 symbols that were to be substituted for the letters of the alphabet (excluding j. v and w), along with 35 symbols representing words or phrases. In addition, there were four nulls and a symbol which signified that the next symbol represents a double letter. It would seem that the French Embassy had already arranged for Mary to receive a copy of the necessary codebook. (189)

Gilbert Gifford took the sealed letter to Francis Walsingham. He employed counterfeiters, who would then break the seal on the letter, make a copy, and then reseal the original letter with an identical stamp before handing it back to Gifford. The apparently untouched letter could then be delivered to Mary or her correspondents, who remained oblivious to what was going on. (190)

The copy was then taken to Thomas Phelippes. The copy was then taken to Thomas Phelippes. "In the ciphers used by Mary and her correspondents the letters of each word were encrypted using a system of substitutes or symbols which required for their decoding the construction of a parallel alphabet of letters. To establish such cipher keys Phelippes employed frequency analysis in which individual letters were identified in the order of those most commonly used in English and the less frequent substitutes deduced in the manner of a modern crossword puzzle." (191) Eventually he was able to break the code used by Babington. The message clearly proposed the assassination of Elizabeth.

Walsingham now had the information needed to arrest Babington. However, his main target was Mary and he therefore allowed the conspiracy to continue. On 17th July she replied to Babington. The message was passed to Phelippes. As he had already broken the code he had little difficulty in translating the message that gave her approval to the assassination of Elizabeth. Mary Queen of Scots wrote: "When all is ready, the six gentlemen must be set to work, and you will provide that on their design being accomplished, I may be myself rescued from this place." (192)

Walsingham now had enough evidence to arrest Mary and Babington. However, to destroy the conspiracy completely, he needed the names of all those involved. He ordered Phelippes to forge a postscript to Mary's letter, which would entice Babington to name the other men involved in the plot. "I would be glad to know the names and qualities of the six gentleman which are to accomplish the designment; for it may be that I shall be able, upon knowledge of the parties, to give you some further advice necessary to be followed therein, as also from time to time particularly how you proceed."

Simon Singh, the author of The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes & Code-Breaking (2000) has pointed out: "The cipher of Mary Queen of Scots clearly demonstrates that a weak encryption can be worse than no encryption at all. Both Mary and Babington wrote explicitly about their intentions because they believed that their communications were secure, whereas if they had been communicating openly they would have referred to their plan in a more discreet manner. Furthermore, their faith in their cipher made them particularly vulnerable to accepting Phelippes's forgery. Sender and receiver often have such confidence in the strength of their cipher that they consider it impossible for the enemy to mimic the cipher and insert forged text. The correct use of a strong cipher is a clear boon to sender and receiver, but the misuse of a weak cipher can generate a very false sense of security." (193)

Francis Walsingham allowed the letters to continue to be sent because he wanted to discover who else was involved in this plot to overthrow Elizabeth. Eventually, on 25th June 1586, Mary wrote a letter to Anthony Babington. In his reply, Babington told Mary that he and a group of six friends were planning to murder Elizabeth. Babington discovered that Walsingham was aware of the plot and went into hiding. He hid with some companions in St John's Wood, but was eventually caught at the house of the Jerome Bellamy family in Harrow. (194) On hearing the news of his arrest the government of the city put on a show of public loyalty, witnessing "her public joy by ringing of bells, making of bonfires, and singing of psalms". (195)

Babington home was searched for documents that would provide evidence against him. When interviewed, Babington, who was not tortured, made a confession in which he admitted that Mary had written a letter supporting the plot. At his trial, Babington and his twelve confederates were found guilty and sentenced to hanging and quartering. "The horrors of semi-strangulation and of being split open alive for the heart and intestines to be wrenched out were regarded, like those of being burned to death, as awful but in the accepted order of things." (196)

Gallows were set up near St Giles-in-the-Field and the first seven conspirators, led by Babington, were executed on 20th September 1586. Babington's last words were “Spare me Lord Jesus”. Another conspirator, Chidiock Tichborne, made a long speech where he blamed Babington "for drawing him in". (197) The men "were hanged only for a short time, cut down while they were still alive, and then castrated and disembowelled".

The other seven were brought to the scaffold the next day and suffered the same death, "but, more favourably, by the Queens commandment, who detested the former cruelty" They hung until they were dead and only then suffered the barbarity of castration and disembowelling. The last to suffer was Jerome Bellamy, who was found guilty of hiding Babington and the others at his family's house in Harrow. His brother cheated the hangman by killing himself in prison. (198)

Trial of Mary Stuart

Mary's trial took place at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on 14th October 1586. A commission of thirty-four, consisting of councillors, peers and judges, was convened. She was charged with being an accessory to the attempted murder of Elizabeth. At first she refused to attend the trial unless it were understood that she did so, not as a criminal and not as one subject to English jurisdiction. Elizabeth was furious and wrote to Mary stating: "You have in various ways and manners attempted to take my life and to bring my kingdom to destruction by bloodshed.... These treasons will be proved to you and all made manifest. It is my will that you answer the nobles and peers of the kingdom as if I were myself present... Act plainly without reserve and you will the sooner be able to obtain favour of me." (199)

During the trial Mary Stuart accused Walsingham of engineering her destruction by falsifying evidence. He rose to his feet and denied this: "I call God to witness that as a private person I have done nothing unbeseeming an honest man, nor, as I bear the place of a public man, have I done anything unworthy of my place. I confess that being very careful for the safety of the queen and the realm, I have curiously searched out all the practices against the same." (200)

Julian Goodare has argued that the plot was a frame-up: "A channel of communication with Mary was arranged, with packets of coded letters hidden in beer barrels; unknown to the plotters, Walsingham saw all Mary's correspondence. The plot was thus a frame-up, a point of which Mary's defenders sometimes complain. It is not, however, obvious that the English government was obliged to nip the plot in the bud to prevent Mary from incriminating herself. The frame-up was directed almost as much against Elizabeth as against Mary." (201)

The trial was moved to Westminster Palace on 25th October, where the 42-man commission, including Walsingham, found Mary guilty of plotting Elizabeth's assassination. As Walsingham had expected, Elizabeth proved reluctant to execute her rival and prevented a public verdict being decided after the trial. Christopher Morris, the author of The Tudors (1955) has argued that Elizabeth feared that Mary's execution might precipitate the rebellion or invasion which everybody feared. "To kill Mary was also foreign to Elizabeth's accustomed clemency and to her native fear of drastic action." (202)

Parliament petitioned for Mary's execution. Elizabeth hesitated and as always she hoped to shift the responsibility for action on to others and "hinted that Mary's murder would not be displeasing to her". (203) However, her government ministers refused to take action until he had written instructions from Elizabeth. On 19th December 1586, Mary wrote a long letter to Elizabeth arguing that she had been unjustly condemned by those who had no jurisdiction over her, and that she had "a constant resolution to suffer death for upholding the obedience and authority of the apostolical Roman church." (204)

Parliament devised two bills: one to execute Mary for high treason, the other to say she was incapable of succession to the English throne. The first of these she rejected and the second she promised to consider. William Cecil told Walsingham that the House of Commons and the House of Lords were both determined on the only sensible course "but in the highest person, such slowness... such stay in resolution." Elizabeth stated to Walsingham and Cecil "Can I put to death the bird that, to escape the pursuit of the hawk, has fled to my feet for protection? Honour and conscience forbid!"

Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) has pointed out that she had ordered no execution by beheading since that of Thomas Howard, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, in 1572: "Since she came to the throne, Elizabeth had ordered no execution by beheading. After fourteen years of disuse, the scaffold on Tower Hill was falling to pieces, and it was necessary to put up another. The Duke's letters to his children, his letters to the Queen, his perfect dignity and courage at his death, made his end moving in the extreme, and he could at least be said that no sovereign had ever put a subject to death after more leniency or with greater unwillingness." (205)

On 1st February 1587, Elizabeth finally signed the long-prepared warrant authorizing Mary's execution. She gave it to William Davison, Walsingham's recently appointed colleague as principal secretary, with vague and contradictory instructions. She also told Davison to get Walsingham to write to Amyas Paulet asking him to assassinate Mary. Paulet replied that he would not "make so foul shipwreck of his conscience as to shed blood without law or warrant". However, it has been argued that Paulet refused, either on principle or fearing that an assassin would become a scapegoat. "The episode reveals much about Elizabeth: most relevantly, it shows that she was no longer aiming to keep Mary alive, merely to preserve her own reputation. Elizabeth was genuinely distraught by the execution; her claim that it had been against her wishes was not strictly true, but may be understandable when it is recalled how long and how hard she had resisted the pressure for it." (206)

Davidson took the execution warrant and on 3rd February, he convened a meeting of the leading councillors. William Cecil urged its immediate implementation without further reference to the queen. However, on 5th February she called in Davidson. According to Davidson, smiling, she told him she had dreamed the night before that Mary Stuart was executed, and this had put her "into such a passion with him". Davidson asked her if she still wanted to warrant to be executed. "Yes, by God," she answered, she did mean it, but she thought it should have been managed so that the whole responsibility did not fall upon herself. (207)

Mary was informed on the evening of 7th February that she was to be executed the following day. She reacted by claiming that she was being condemned for her religion. She mounted the scaffold in the great hall of Fotheringhay, attended by two of her women servants, Jane Kennedy and Elizabeth Curle. The two executioners knelt before her and asked forgiveness. She replied, "I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles." (208)

Mary's last words were "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit". The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head. The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew, which the executioner cut through using the axe. He held her head aloft by the hair and declared, "God save the Queen." As he did so the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had been wearing a wig had actually had a very short, grey hair. (209)

According to the account written by Robert Wynkfield: "Then one of the executioners, pulling off her garters, espied her little dog which was crept under her cloths, which could not be gotten forth by force, yet afterward would not depart from the dead corpse, but came and lay between her head and her shoulders, which being imbrued with her blood was carried away and washed, as all things else were that had any blood was either burned or washed clean, and the executioners sent away with money for their fees, not having any one thing that belonged unto her. And so, every man being commanded out of the hall, except the sheriff and his men, she was carried by them up into a great chamber lying ready for the surgeons to embalm her." (210)

Elizabeth and Parliament

Elizabeth held fewer Parliaments than her father. On average, she held a Parliament once every four years. Elizabeth made it clear that members of the House of Commons had complete freedom of speech. However, she believed that certain issues such as religion or foreign policy were best left to her and her Privy Council.

On thirty-six occasions Elizabeth vetoed laws passed by Parliament. For example, in 1585 Parliament passed a bill that banned hunting, cock-fighting and bear-baiting from taking place on Sunday. Elizabeth believed that people had the right to enjoy themselves on their one day of rest and refused to allow the bill to become law.

After the death of his wife, Mary Tudor, King Philip II of Spain asked Queen Elizabeth to be his bride. Philip was upset when Elizabeth refused. He also became angry when Elizabeth did nothing to stop English sea captains from robbing his ships bringing gold back from his newly acquired territories in South America.

Elizabeth and Philip were also in conflict over religion. Elizabeth disagreed with the way Philip persecuted Protestants who lived under his control. Philip objected to the way Elizabeth had forced English Catholics to attend Protestant church services.

When Philip began persecuting Protestants living in the Netherlands, Elizabeth sent English soldiers to help protect them. In February 1587 Elizabeth agreed to the execution of Mary Stuart. Philip had hoped that Mary would eventually become the Catholic queen of England. Philip now decided to conquer England and bring an end to Elizabeth and her Protestant government.

The invasion took a lot of preparation and it was not until July 1588 that the 131 ships in the Spanish Armada left for England. The large Spanish galleons were filled with 17,000 well-armed soldiers and 180 Catholic priests. The plan was to sail to Dunkirk in France where the Armada would pick up another 16,000 Spanish soldiers.

On 6 August the Armada anchored at Calais Harbour. The English now filled eight old ships with materials that would burn fiercely. At midnight, the fire-ships were lighted and left to sail by themselves towards the Spanish ships in Calais Harbour. The plan worked and the Spanish ships fled to the open sea.

With their formation broken, the Spanish ships were easy targets for the English ships loaded with guns that could fire very large cannon balls. The Spanish captains tried to get their ships in close so that their soldiers could board the English ships. However, the English ships were quicker than the Spanish galleons and were able to keep their distance.

The English bombardment sank many Spanish galleons. Those that survived headed north. The English ships did not follow as they had run out of gunpowder. After the Armada rounded Scotland it headed south for home. However, a strong gale drove many of the ships onto the Irish rocks. Thousands of Spaniards drowned and even those that reached land were often killed by English soldiers and settlers. Of the 25,000 men that had set out in the Armada, less than 10,000 arrived home safely.

Queen Elizabeth
George Gower, Elizabeth (1588)

Philip II spent the next ten years supporting a series of plots to overthrow Elizabeth. All these schemes ended in failure and when Philip II died in 1598, Elizabeth was still queen of England.

When Elizabeth died in March, 1603, the Tudor dynasty came to an end and the throne was passed to James VI of Scotland.

Primary Sources

(1) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958)

The King's obsessive desire for the son whom his first twenty years of marriage had not given him was the source of the energy with which he shouldered through the breach with Rome; its immediate inspiration was his passion for Elizabeth's mother. Thin, black-eyed, excitable, tart and witty, Ann Boleyn made gentleness and amiability appear insipid. The French Ambassador Du Bellay said that the King's infatuation for her was such, that only God could abate his madness. For six years she refused to gratify his passion, keeping the lustful and domineering King in a white heat of desire. When the divorce was all but accomplished she yielded to him, and the marriage was performed secretly that the coming child might be the heir to its father's throne.

The marriage was celebrated in the dark of a winter's morning, but the coronation procession was made in brilliant weather on the last day of May. In her ruby wreath and her robes of glittering silver, "a woman clothed with the sun", Ann was borne on her way, the King's wife, to be crowned Queen and five months gone with child. Her long-sustained effort had resulted in an enormous triumph.

Her child proved to be a girl, and from that hour her influence began to wane. Two miscarriages diminished it further. The shrewishness, verging upon hysteria, to which she was driven by the dreadful sense of failure, paved the way for a successor of meek, adoring tenderness. The situation grew rapidly worse and alarm only sharpened her overbearing temper. When she discovered the King making love to her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, she burst into furious denunciation; the rage brought on a premature labour and she was delivered of a dead boy. In Sir John Neale's words, "she had miscarried of her saviour".

Her reckless behaviour had provided ample means to destroy her. She was at Greenwich after the fatal miscarriage, where she was suddenly arrested and brought to the Tower in the month of May. The only description of the Queen with her child Elizabeth belongs to the days immediately before the arrest....

The Queen was charged with having committed adultery with five men, of whom one was her brother, and condemned on a verdict of high treason to be beheaded or burned alive at the King's pleasure. The Lieutenant of the Tower reported her as falling into fit after fit, alternately weeping and laughing. Some mercy was shown to her by the bringing over from Calais of a notably skilful headsman who used a sword instead of an axe. The Lieutenant assured her she would feel no pain, and she accepted his assurance. "I have a little neck," she said, and putting her hand round it, she shrieked with laughter.

On May 19 she was beheaded on Tower Green, a few minutes before noon. The guns of the Tower were fired to mark the act and the King, who was hunting in Richmond Park, paused beneath an oak tree to catch the sound. That night he was at the Seymours' house in Wiltshire, whence he married Jane Seymour the next morning. Meanwhile the head and body of Ann Boleyn had been put into a chest made for arrows and carried a few paces from the scaffold into the, chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where she was buried in a grave beside her brother's. Her daughter was not three years old.

The child was a lively little creature with reddish golden hair, a very white skin, and eyes of golden-brown with brows and lashes so fair as to be almost invisible. Though headstrong, she was remarkably teachable. Her excellent governess, Lady Bryan, said that she was spoiling the child at present because she was in pain with cutting her double teeth, but once this was over, Lady Bryan meant to have her behaving very differently.

The question of how the King would now regard her was an anxious one to those in charge of Elizabeth. Lady Bryan wrote with pathetic eagerness to the great minister Cromwell, saying she was sure that when the Princess had got over her teething, the King would be delighted with his little girl. Meanwhile, she was in dire need of clothes.

Her mother had dressed her beautifully, and in the mercer's account for the last year of Ann Boleyn's life, included in the lists of the Queen's dresses, are the kirtles made for "my Lady Princess": orange velvet, russet velvet, yellow satin, white damask. One of the last items was green satin for "a little bed". But the account had been closed in April 1536, over a year previously, and Elizabeth had outworn and outgrown almost everything she had; she wanted gowns kirtles, petticoats, smocks, night-gowns, stays, handkerchiefs, caps. "I have driven it off as best I can," Lady Bryan wrote, "that by my troth I can drive it off no longer; beseeching you, my Lord, that ye will see that her Grace hath that which is needful for her."

(2) Elizabeth, letter to Catherine Parr (31st July, 1544)

Inimical fortune, envious of all good and ever revolving human affairs, has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious presence, and, not thus content, has yet again robbed me of the same good; which thing would be intolerable to me, did I not hope to enjoy it very soon. And in this my exile I well know that the clemency of your Highness has had as much care and solicitude for my health as the King's Majesty himself. By which thing I am not only bound to serve you, but also to revere you with filial love, since I understand that your most illustrious Highness has not forgotten me every time you have written to the King's Majesty, which, indeed, it was my duty to have requested from you. For heretofore I have not dared to write to him. Wherefore I now humbly pray your most excellent Highness, that, when you write to his Majesty, you will condescend to recommend me to him, praying ever for his sweet benediction, and similarly entreating our Lord God to send him best success, and the obtaining of victory over his enemies, so that your Highness and I may, as soon as possible, rejoice together with him on his happy return. No less pray I God that he would preserve your most illustrious Highness; to whose grace, humbly kissing your hands, I offer and recommend myself... Your most obedient daughter, and most faithful servant, Elizabeth.

(3) Elizabeth, letter to Catherine Parr (May, 1548)

Although I could not be plentiful in giving thanks for the manifold kindness received at your highness' hand at my
departure, yet I am something to be borne withal, for truly I was replete with sorrow to depart from your highness, especially leaving you undoubtful of health. And albeit I answered little, I weighed it more deeper when you said you would warn me of all evils that you should hear of me; for if your grace had not a good opinion of me, you would not have offered friendship to me that way that all men judge the contrary. But what may I more say than thank God for providing such friends to me, desiring God to enrich me with their long life, and me grace to be in heart no less thankful to receive it than I now am glad in writing to show it. And although I have plenty of matter, here I will stay for I know you are not quiet to read.

(2) Letter from Philip II to Count Feria, the Spanish ambassador in England (12 February, 1559)

Tell her (Elizabeth) from me that... I must warn her to consider deeply the evils which may result in England from a change in religion... if this change is made all idea of my marriage with her must be broken off.

(2) Letter from Count Feria to Philip II (19 March, 1559)

Queen Elizabeth... said that so much money was taken out of the country for the Pope every year that she must put an end to it... she kept repeating to me that she was a heretic and consequently could not marry your Majesty.

(3) Sir William Cecil, letter to Queen Elizabeth (16 October, 1569)

The Queen of the Scots is and shall always be a dangerous person to your estate. Yet there are degrees of danger. If she is kept a prisoner... it will be less, if at liberty, greater.

(4) Pope Gregory XIII, letter to his ambassador in Spain (1580)

Since that guilty woman (Elizabeth) ... is the cause of so much injury to the Catholic faith... there is no doubt that whosoever sends her out of the world... not only does not sin but gains merit... And so, if those English gentlemen decide actually to undertake so glorious a work, your Lordship can assure them that they do not commit any sin.

(5) John Hayward, The Reign of Elizabeth (1612)

None knew better (than Elizabeth) the art... of commanding men.

(6) Roger Ascham, Elizabeth's tutor (c. 1550)

No one's mind is quicker than hers, no memory more retentive... French and Italian she speaks like English; Latin with fluency.

(7) In 1570 Pope Pius V issued a statement about Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, Queen of England... is the servant of wickedness... This woman, having seized the kingdom of England and... has reduced it into a miserable and ruinous condition.

(8) Giovanni Michiel, Venetian ambassador, report (May 1557)

She is tall with a good skin... she has fine eyes and above all, beautiful hands... Her intellect and understanding are wonderful.

(9) William Camden, The History of Queen Elizabeth (1617)

Stubbs and Page had their right hands cut off with a cleaver, driven through the wrist by the force of a mallet, upon a scaffold in the market-place at Westminster... I remember that Stubbs, after his right hand was cut off, took off his hat with his left, and said with a loud voice, "God Save the Queen"; the crowd standing about was deeply silent: either out of horror at this new punishment; or else out of sadness.

(10) Sir James Melville, Scottish Ambassador to England in conversation with Elizabeth (1564)

You will never marry... the Queen of England is too proud to suffer a commander... you think if you were married, you would only be Queen of England, and now you are king and queen both.

(11) Count Feria, report to Philip II of Spain (1559)

I understand that she (Elizabeth) can not have children.

(12) In March 1579, William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth's chief minister, reported to other members of the Privy Council.

By judgement of physicians acquainted with her Majesty's body... she can have children. The investigation... proves that her Majesty to be very apt for the procreation of children.

(13) Hugh Oakeley Arnold-Forster, History of England (1898)

Who was the queen's husband to be, and what power was he to have over the government of the country? ... If he were a foreigner there was no knowing what power he might get over the queen, power which he would very likely use for the good of a foreign country, and not for the good of England. On the other hand, if he were an Englishman, he must be chosen from among the queen's subjects, and then it was certain that there would be jealousy and strife among all the great nobles in the country when they saw one of their number picked out and made king over them.

(14) Queen Elizabeth, comments to Lord Maitland in April 1561.

As long as I live, I shall be Queen of England. When I am dead they shall succeed me who have the most right... I know the English people, how they always dislike the present government and have their eyes fixed upon that person who is next to succeed.

(15) Paul Hentzner, a German visitor, met Elizabeth in 1598.

Her face was oblong, fair but wrinkled; her eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked, her lips narrow... her hair... an auburn colour, but false.

(16) In 1595 the French Ambassador sent a report on Elizabeth to the French king.

On her head she wore a great reddish-coloured wig... As for her face, it is very aged. Her teeth are very yellow and irregular... Many of them are missing, so that one cannot understand her easily when she speaks.

Student Activities

Poverty in Tudor England (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Francis Walsingham - Codes & Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)

Why did Queen Elizabeth not get married? (Answer Commentary)

References

(1) Patrick Collinson, Queen Elizabeth I : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989) page 168

(3) Patrick Collinson, Queen Elizabeth I : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(4) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 23

(5) Alison Plowden, The Young Elizabeth (1999) page 45

(6) Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, report to King Charles V (January, 1536)

(6) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 12

(7) Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989) page 191

(8) G. W. Bernard, Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions (2011) pages 174-175

(9) Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989) page 227

(10) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 254

(11) Anne Boleyn, statement on the scaffold at Tower Green (19th May, 1536)

(12) Patrick Collinson, Queen Elizabeth I : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(13) Richard Rex, Elizabeth: Fortune's Bastard (2007) pages 23-25

(14) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 14

(15) Barrett L. Beer, Jane Seymour : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(16) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 27

(17) Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, report to King Charles V (August, 1536)

(18) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 278

(19) Barrett L. Beer, Jane Seymour : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(20) Ann Weikel, Mary Tudor : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(21) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 34

(22) David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) page 83

(23) Susan E. James, Catherine Parr : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(24) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) page 84

(25) David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) page 710

(26) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 371

(27) Elizabeth, letter to Catherine Parr (31st July, 1544)

(28) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 371

(29) Susan E. James, Catherine Parr : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(30) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 38

(31) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 378

(32) C. D. C. Armstrong, Stephan Gardiner : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(33) Anne Askew, letter smuggled out to her friends (29th June, 1546)

(34) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 378

(35) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 553

(36) David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) page 763

(37) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 554

(38) Gilbert Burnett, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1865) page 540

(39) Glyn Redworth, In Defence of the Church Catholic: The Life of Stephen Gardiner (1990) page 233-234

(40) David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003) page 760

(41) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 393

(42) Dale Hoak, Edward VI: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(43) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 46

(44) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 236

(45) Catherine Parr, letter to Thomas Seymour (February, 1547)

(46) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 25

(47) G. W. Bernard, Thomas Seymour: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(48) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 32

(49) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) page 85

(50) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 236

(51) Katherine Ashley, The Robert Tyrwhitt Commission of Enquiry (February, 1549)

(52) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 27

(53) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) Page 84

(54) Sir Thomas Parry, The Robert Tyrwhitt Commission of Enquiry (February, 1549)

(55) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 46

(56) Elizabeth, letter to Catherine Parr (May, 1548)

(57) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 53

(58) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 407

(59) Katherine Ashley, The Robert Tyrwhitt Commission of Enquiry (February, 1549)

(60) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 53

(61) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 397

(62) Dale Hoak, Edward VI: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(63) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 61

(64) Elizabeth, letter to Edward Seymour (28th January, 1549)

(65) Elizabeth, letter to Edward Seymour (2nd February, 1549)

(66) The Robert Tyrwhitt Commission of Enquiry (February, 1549)

(67) G. W. Bernard, Thomas Seymour: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(68) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 61

(69) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 43

(70) Barrett L. Beer, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(71) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 92

(72) Jennifer Loach, Edward VI (2002) pages 101-102

(73) Barrett L. Beer, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(74) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 37

(75) John Guy, My Heart is my Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004) pages 212-215

(76) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 92

(77) Edward VI, journal entry (22nd January, 1552)

(78) Dale Hoak, Edward VI: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(79) Christopher Morris, The Tudors (1955) page 97

(80) Dale Hoak, Edward VI: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(81) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 86

(82) Thomas Fuller, The Church History of Britain: Volume IV (1845) pages 138-9

(83) Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Tudor Princesses (1868) page 136

(84) Ann Weikel, Mary Tudor : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(85) J. M. Stone, The History of Mary I, Queen of England (1901) page 497

(86) Richard Davey, The Nine Days' Queen: Lady Jane Grey and her Times (1909) page 253

(87) Alison Plowden, Lady Jane Grey : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(88) J. M. Stone, The History of Mary I, Queen of England (1901) page 499

(89) Ann Weikel, Mary Tudor : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(90) Richard Rex, Elizabeth: Fortune's Bastard (2007) pages 35-36

(91) Christopher Morris, The Tudors (1955) page 113

(92) S. J. Gunn, Edmund Dudley : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(93) Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary (c. 1554)

(94) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) pages 134-136

(95) Alison Plowden, Lady Jane Grey : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(96) Rowland Lea, diary entry (9th February, 1554)

(97) Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary (c. 1554)

(98) Alison Plowden, Lady Jane Grey : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(99) Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary (c. 1554)

(100) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) page 137

(101) Alison Plowden, Lady Jane Grey : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(102) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 101

(103) Alison Plowden, Lady Jane Grey : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(104) Christopher Morris, The Tudors (1955) page 127

(105) Alison Plowden, Lady Jane Grey : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(106) Richard Rex, Elizabeth: Fortune's Bastard (2007) page 45

(107) Ann Weikel, Mary Tudor : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(108) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 64

(109) Anka Muhlstein, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (2007) pages 99 and 100

(110) Simon Adams, Robert Dudley : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(111) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 160

(112) David Starkey, Elizabeth (2000) page 315

(113) Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, letter to King Philip II (April, 1559)

(114) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 163

(115) Anka Muhlstein, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (2007) page 102

(116) Simon Adams, Robert Dudley : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(117) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 164

(118) Robert Dudley, letter to Thomas Blount (12th September, 1560)

(119) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 165

(120) Ian Aird, English Historical Review 71 (1956) pages 69-79

(121) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 84

(122) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 304

(123) Anka Muhlstein, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (2007) page 102

(124) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 167

(125) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 84

(126) Alvaro de la Quadra, report to King Philip II (11th September 1560)

(127) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 170

(128) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 165

(129) Anka Muhlstein, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (2007) page 303

(130) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 165

(131) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 369

(132) Wallace T. MacCaffrey, Christopher Hatton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(133) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 211

(134) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 215

(135) Anka Muhlstein, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (2007) page 303

(136) Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots (1994) page 83

(137) John Guy, My Heart is my Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004) page 119

(138) Julian Goodare, Mary Queen of Scots: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(139) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 194

(140) John Guy, My Heart is my Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004) page 193

(141) Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots (1994) page 220

(142) Julian Goodare, Mary Queen of Scots: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(143) Alison Weir, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley (2003) page 82

(144) Jenny Wormald, Mary, Queen of Scots (1988) pages 151-154

(145) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 123

(146) Rosalind K. Marshall , David Riccio : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(147) Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots (1994) page 239

(148) Rosalind K. Marshall, David Riccio : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(149) Julian Goodare, Mary Queen of Scots: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(150) John Guy, My Heart is my Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004) page 312

(151) Julian Goodare, Mary Queen of Scots: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(152) Rosalind K. Marshall, James Hepburn: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(153) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 132

(154) Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots (1994) pages 314-317

(155) Rosalind K. Marshall, James Hepburn: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(156) Julian Goodare, Mary Queen of Scots: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(157) Jenny Wormald, Mary, Queen of Scots (1988) pages 165

(158) John Guy, My Heart is my Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004) page 369

(159) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 176-177

(160) John Guy, My Heart is my Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004) page 439

(161) L. E. Hunt, Roberto di Ridolfi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(162) Robert Hutchinson, Elizabeth Spy Master (2006) page 54

(163) Michael A. Graves, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(164) L. E. Hunt, Roberto di Ridolfi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(165) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) pages 176-177

(166) Lacey Baldwin Smith, The Elizabethan Epic (1969) page 216

(167) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1985) page 179

(168) L. E. Hunt, Roberto di Ridolfi : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(169) Stephen Budiansky, Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage (2005) page 78

(170) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) pages 176-177

(171) Michael A. Graves, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(172) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) pages 179

(173) Michael A. Graves, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(174) Neville Williams, Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk (1964) pages 241-242

(175) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 180

(176) William Cecil, letter to Francis Walsingham ( 8th February, 1572)

(177) Michael A. Graves, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(178) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 182

(179) Wallace T. MacCaffrey, Christopher Hatton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(180) Anka Muhlstein, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (2007) page 303

(181) William Camden, The History of Queen Elizabeth (1617) page 270

(182) John Bossy, Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair (1991) page 200

(183) Alison Plowden, Francis Throckmorton: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(184) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 253

(185) Alison Plowden, Francis Throckmorton: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(186) Alison Plowden, Gilbert Gifford: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(187) Bruce Norman, Secret Warfare: The Battle of the Cyphers (1973) page 32

(188) Alison Plowden, Gilbert Gifford: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(189) Simon Singh, The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes & Code-Breaking (2000) page 38

(190) Bruce Norman, Secret Warfare: The Battle of the Cyphers (1973) page 32

(191) William Richardson, Thomas Phelippes: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(192) Mary Queen of Scots, letter to Anthony Babington (17th July, 1586)

(193) Simon Singh, The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes & Code-Breaking (2000) page 42

(194) Penry Williams, Anthony Babington: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(195) William Camden, Annales Britannia (1615) page 303

(196) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 271

(197) Penry Williams, Anthony Babington: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(198) William Camden, Annales Britannia (1615) page 309

(199) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 273

(200) Francis Walsingham, speech in court (14th October 1586)

(201) Julian Goodare, Mary Queen of Scots: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(202) Christopher Morris, The Tudors (1955) page 157

(203) Roger Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1964) page 180

(204) Mary Queen of Scots, letter to Queen Elizabeth (19th December 1586)

(205) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 182

(206) Julian Goodare, Mary Queen of Scots: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(207) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958) page 278

(208) Jayne Elizabeth Lewes, The Trial of Mary Queen of Scots (1999) page 118

(209) Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots (1994) page 539

(210) Robert Wynkfield, description of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (February, 1587)