Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part VII
Elizabeth had the common touch, the ability to ‘work a crowd’. Many rulers including, Mary and Philip, did not. It is interesting that all three had classical educations and they used those foundations completely opposite. Mary and Philip’s studies prepared them to be patriarchal, Catholic monarchs: Elizabeth’s studies prepared her to be a humanist Protestant monarch. Philip entered his inheritance viewed as the king and his subjects were literally subject to him. He also did not have to assure anyone that he could rule. Mary and Elizabeth entered their inheritance in a world where Catholic and Protestant interests were in competition after several altering successions and, as women, they were forced to prove themselves as a leader of men.
Elizabeth certainly held an emotional sway over her peoples; she inspired them to her vision of England via her propaganda and her imagery and provided intellectual stimulation by supporting and encouraging the arts. No one can deny that Elizabeth instilled loyalty in her civil servants, something at which her sister was less successful.
The Roots of Mary’s Problems
King Henry VIII’s will and that of his son, Edward VI, were problems for Mary. She could not countenance Elizabeth inheriting her throne. According to Mary, Elizabeth was the daughter of a concubine, from an unlawful union. Yet, Henry’s will and his Act of Successions stipulated Elizabeth as a successor while Edward’s will eliminated both of his half-sisters. Mary was in a difficult position as she had declared Edward’s will ineffectual based on her father’s legal provisions; obviously, this was convenient for her at the time of her accession to solidify her position. Her brother had declared that because of acts of parliament stating their illegitimacy “the said lady Marye as also the said ladie Elizabeth to all intents and purposes are and be clearly disabled to aske, claime, or challenge the said imperiall crowne… as also for that the said lady Mary and lady Elizabeth be unto us but of the halfe bloud, and therfore by the auntyent lawes, statutes, and customes of this realme be not inheritable unto us, although they were legitimate, as they be not indeed” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 92-93).
If Mary were to ignore her brother’s will using the right and statutes of her father acts, she then was bound to Henry’s last will and testament. Below is a contemporary’s summary of the will of Henry VIII (this was written by ‘A Resident in the Tower of London’ and edited by John Gough Nichols).
“In conformity with the enactment of his 35th year,
king Henry the Eighth made a will, and by that will
the crown was to devolve, 1. on his son Edward and
the heirs of his body 2. on his own heirs by queen
Katharine (Parr) or any other future wife; 3. on his
daughter Mary; 4. on his daughter Elizabeth;
5. on the heirs of the body of his niece the lady Frances;
6. on those of her sister the lady Eleanor; 7. to the
next rightful heirs. In the event of either the lady Mary
or the lady Elizabeth marrying without the consent of the
privy council, they were respectively to be passed over
as if dead without lawful issue” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 85-86).
To honor these provisions, there is urgency for Mary to gain the permission of the Privy Council for her marriage contract to Philip of Spain. She knew it was not popular and there was a fear of his taking over England and not respecting its customs. This was even seen as an argument by her brother’s heightening the fear that if either Mary or Elizabeth married a foreign prince “the same stranger, havinge the governemente and the imperiall crowne in his hands, would rather adhere and practice to have the lawes and customes of his or their owne native countrey or countreyes to be practised or put in ure within this our realme” rather than English laws and customs which would lead to the utter subversion of the comon-welth of this our realme, which God defend” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 93).
A union between Mary and Philip was not universally accepted and she expended some effort to convince her subjects all would be well. In a speech to Parliament she setdown assurances. “I am already married to the Common Weal and the faithful members of the same; the spousal ring whereof I have on my finger: which never hitherto was, nor hereafter shall be, left off. Protesting unto you nothing to be more acceptable to my heart, nor more answerable to my will, than your advancement in wealth and welfare, with the furtherance of God’s glory” (Loades Chronicle of Tudor Queens 36). It took some convincing people to see the marriage “presented as not only for the comfort and benefit of this entire realm, but universally of the entire Christendom” (Hunt 152).
Mary Acknowledges Succession—Elizabeth Becomes Queen
Another main purpose of the union between Mary and Philip was to provide a Catholic heir to succeed in England. Of course, this was not to transpire. Although Mary had not formally acknowledged Elizabeth as her heir until the autumn of 1559, Elizabeth had been laying the groundwork for her succession throughout that summer. Mary had to be aware of what was happening as Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador to King Philip’s Court reported that Elizabeth “may be said never to have been at liberty, for although she is allowed to live at a house of hers called Hatfield, 12 miles from London, the Queen has nevertheless many spies and guards in the neighbourhood who keep strict watch on all persons passing to and fro, nor is any thing said or done that is not immediately reported to the Queen, so she is obliged to act very cautiously” (Brown VI May 1557 884).
Regardless of what was perhaps being reported, Elizabeth began to employ talented political and military men of the Court, who willingly flocked to her side. Men were already in place with Elizabeth by the time Mary sent “a message to her half-sister, acknowledging Elizabeth’s right” (Loades Mary Tudor 196). Mary sent her Comptroller Sir Thomas Cornwallis and her Secretary John Boxall on behalf of the Council to visit Elizabeth with the news that she could succeed if she fulfilled two requests: “one, that she will maintain the old religion as the Queen has restored it; and the other that she will pay the Queen’s debts” (Tyler XIII November 1558 498). According to the Memoirs of Jane Dormer, Mary’s trusted companion who married Count de Feria and returned with him to Spain, Elizabeth, when implored by Mary’s Councilmen to maintain the orthodox religion, declared vehemently “that she prayed God that the earth might open and swallow her alive, if she were not a true Roman Catholic” (Queen Elizabeth I 244).
Jane’s memoirs imply that Elizabeth was at Court when Mary died and owed her succession to Mary’s appointment. As far as we know, Elizabeth did not respond by letter to the visit by the Council’s representatives nor did the two sisters meet. Elizabeth was at Hatfield. In contrast to the passionate declarations from Jane Dormer, the ever-popular story that has been relayed down through history is that Elizabeth was seated under an oak tree in the grounds of Hatfield when she learned she was Queen. Elizabeth quoted a psalm in Latin: A Dominium factum est illud, et est mirabile in oculis notris – “It is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” immediately upon hearing the news. Shortly thereafter, Articles of Parliament proclaimed her Queen to the rejoicing of the people of England. Mary had done what was necessary: she had ensured a peaceful transfer of power.
Wallace MacCaffrey, in his book Elizabeth I, noted the manner in which, and the extent to which, Elizabeth was able to illicit strong emotions in her supporters and identification with her people. Common purposes with her people were religious stability and economic security. “She had imposed her will on her people as effectively as her father ever did. He had ruled by fear; she had won her people’s loving devotion, and achieved a degree of personal popularity unequalled by her predecessors or successors” (MacCaffrey 445).
Philip—As a Person not a Politician
Through the diplomatic dispatches, the paper portrait of Philip is of a rather cold, calculating politician with only one focus and that is the promotion of his dynasty and its interests. Yet, there is a person hidden within who was a caring father and master.
A series of letters he wrote to his daughters in Spain when he was in Portugal, reveals Philip’s more human side. For instance it is revealed how when an old beloved servant Magdalena teased him for travelling on horseback like a child instead of in a carriage he replied “I feel so lonely in the carriage without you both and the days are so beautiful that it would be a shame to miss them” (Ravencroft 28). Is this the man who stated upon the death of his wife, “I felt a reasonable regret for her death”?
His letters covered many topics: fashion, he compared the styles in Portugal to those “worn in Madrid”; teething, he commented that his youngest child’s first teeth “must be in place of the two that I am about to lose”; and, pride, he warned his daughters who were angling to be praised for being taller than their cousin not to “be conceited about this as I believe it is because she is very short rather than you being tall” (Ravencroft 26). Moreover, a poetic Philip expressed that the servant Magdalena “has a great desire for strawberries and I of nightingales, although they can sometimes be heard from one of my windows” (Ravencroft 27).
These fatherly comments are a window through which we can see the man who one could believe was truly “not only popular and universally beloved, but even longed for…by good men and by all who know the good effect produced by his presence” (Brown VI May 1557 884). Count Michiel, the Venetian Ambassador to England, explained how Philip gained this devotion from those men in positions of power close to him.
By respecting the authority of the Queen and Cardinal Pole, Philip “won the whole Court, especially the chief nobility, by so much the more as he has made no alteration whatever in the style and form of government, nor has he departed a hair’s breadth from the marriage contract” (Brown VI May 1557 884). He was reported to have “behaved in line with English customs….” In addition, by altering some of the ceremonies subtly there was no need for the English to “fear that their queen would be dominated by her Habsburg husband….” Even after Mary’s death, “it was still stated that he had managed to convince the English that they did not need to fear foreign domination” (Hunt 151).
Count Michiel described the difficulty that would arise from Philip staying in England mainly that “the customs there and the mode of governing differing so much from what he has been used to” (Brown VI May 1557 884). Michiel speculated that having subjects from such diverse nations from Burgundians to Italians, makes them all “indifferently his subjects” but the English “do not brook being treated as their companions” (Brown VI May 1557 884). If the King were to remedy the situation, it would “turn the English constitution topsyturvy and perhaps revolutionize the kingdom completely.”
Another positive action, or lack of action, taken by Philip was that he did not replace officials nor force his countrymen into government positions and “he rendered himself yet more popular, not only by purposely dispensing with many pecuniary advantages and prerogatives, to which he had a personal right, but also because during his stay in England, …he showed that he had not come from ambition to be King, he having so many crowns, he always paid his own expenses” (Brown VI May 1557 884). Beyond these righteous moves, the Ambassador stressed that Philip was not in England to act as sole sovereign. King Philip acted more “as mediator and intercessor with the Queen (towards whom he shows deference in everything), rather than from any wish to be considered either master or lord-paramount” (Brown VI May 1557 884).
Philip—Widower, Friend, Enemy
Upon Mary’s death and Elizabeth’s ascension, Philip’s policy toward England did not take much of a change. As seen in the previous blog postings in the series, “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd,” https://elizregina.com/ Philip proposed marriage to Elizabeth and when that bid was not successful, he promoted his nephew. She exclaimed that even though they could not marry they could continue their friendship. In later years Elizabeth knew she could count on Philip “exerting his powerful influence in her favour at Rome” (Neale 56) and even as late as 1577 diplomats wrote to Philip that “the Queen did not forget the favour he had showed her in her sister’s time” (Allan 1236). Unfortunately, friendship could not be maintained as the international scene shifted. Spain’s treaty with France, the power of the Hapsburg empire, England’s assistance to the Low Countries, the position of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the treatment of Protestants in Catholic countries (the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre) are just samples of the churning diplomatic world which culminated in the Spanish Armada.
Giovanni Gritti, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, quoted Pope Sixtus V in a dispatch to the Doge and Senate on 19 March, 1588. The Pope stated that he had heard from Spain that the Armada was ready. He exclaimed that the English were ready, also giving credit to Queen Elizabeth: “She certainly is a great Queen, and were she only a Catholic she would be our dearly beloved. Just look how well she governs; she is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the empire, by all” (Brown VIII 641).
For references, please refer to the blog entry “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I.”