Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I

Many of Elizabeth Regina’s international affairs were intertwined with those of Philip II.  Most students of history understand his connection as King of Spain and the adversary who lost The Spanish Armada.  Many forget his role as ruler of the Netherlands and Elizabeth’s opposition to his sovereignty there.  Even more do not realize his role as her brother-in-law, Philip was married to Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary for several years.  What was the basis of their relationship?  Did Elizabeth feel any allegiance to Philip for the contribution he made to her relationship with her sister and her position at Court? How did this association influence both countries’ foreign policies?  These questions and several others will be addressed in a series of blogs entitled “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd”.

Philip II 

Who was Philip II of Spain?  Born 21 May 1527, his parents were Charles I of Spain (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) and Isabella of Portugal.  Given a classical education, he was also given practical instruction.  Philip spent much time as interim ruler of Spain while his father traveling through his domains and much of Philip’s time was spent in the 17 Provinces of the Spanish Netherlands (territories of modern day Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg) where he became nominal ruler from 1549.

Married four times, he was created King of Naples upon his marriage to his second wife, Mary I of England, in order to share equal rank as a ruling sovereign with his new bride.  Philip arrived in Winchester on July 19, 1554, where he met with Mary for the first time prior to their marriage held in the cathedral on 25 July 1554.

philip-ii
  Philip II

As King of Naples and England, Philip’s main concern at all times was for Hapsburg interests.  Leaving England for Flanders in late August of 1555, he attempted to impose the will of the Holy Roman Empire in central Europe.  He returned to his wife 18 March 1557 to request her support in the war against France.  He left again four months later never to return.  Mary did embroil England in a war with France on behalf of his interests and lost Calais January 7, 1558.

Philip’s royal rank was secured when his father abdicated in 1556 and he became ruler in the Spanish Netherlands, Burgundy and Spain. Besides titles in many European territories that had once been part of the Holy Roman Empire, Philip became King of Portugal in 1580 through his mother’s claims.

Referred to accurately as the “secretary-king” or the “king of paper”, Philip ruled “through the written word rather than through personal contact and debate.” As a young king he was a “shy, passive, sedentary man” resolving perfectly to rule his “far-flung dominions with pen and ink alone” (Boyden 66).  Words to describe Philip would be pious, frugal in dress and at table, hard-working, and conscientious.  This blogger believes his dominate trait was loyalty—to the Hapsburg interests.  Politically, this trait overshadowed his religious scruples; religiously, this trait overshadowed his politics. Regardless, from the time of his father’s abdication until his own death at the age of 71 in 1598, Philip ruled absolutely. On one occasion, he wrote “I don’t know if [people] think I’m made of iron or stone. The truth is, they need to see that I am mortal, like everyone else” — but he seldom had qualms about exercising his absolute power (Parker).  Surprisingly, the cautious almost hesitant Philip of his early reign morphed into a more reckless, imprudent ruler in his later years as he struggled with his country’s relations with the Low Countries and England.

bloody mary
  Mary I

England’s military and financial assistance to the Dutch rebels, the seizure of Spanish bullion ships and lack of cooperation with Spain—as perceived by Philip—led to deteriorating relations between the two countries.  Whereas Elizabeth ruled in a time of change, ironically in the face of her motto Semper eadem, he was seen to hold to tradition.  While she did try to keep things familiar, he had to innovate in response to the needs of his vast empire and the shifting international scene.

Despite four marriages and the births of many children, Philip constantly contended with inadequate heirs who were sickly or mentally unstable.  He exclaimed once in frustration, “God, who has given me so many Kingdoms to govern, has not given me a son fit to govern them” (Philip II of Spain).

Mary I

Upon the death of Edward VI and the proclamation of Jane Grey as Queen, there was confusion and anger from the London masses.  Many landowners favored the ‘old religion’ and thus supported Mary when she came to call on the magnates to rally troops for her cause.  She stunned the foreign ambassadors (most likely thinking she couldn’t succeed without foreign troops and intervention) with a following of thousands at Framlingham in Suffolk.

The rationale included in Jane’s proclamation was set to instill fear in the country.  It was a warning that if Mary were to take over the throne and eventually marry “any stranger born out of this realm…to have the laws and customs of his … country …practiced and put in use within this realm, rather than the laws, statues, and customs here… of long time used, …to the peril of conscience and the utter subversion of the common weal of this realm” (Castor 409).

ladyjayne
  The “Streatham” portrait believed to be Lady Jane Grey

Mary’s sex and the traditional role of wife were against her but the people knew her to be the rightful heir.  When she was set to marry Philip of Spain and the people expressed their concern, she gave a rousing speech to ease their fears.  Mary proclaimed, “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).  This assertion that she was married to her kingdom was a smart political move.

Many people in the country could not fathom that as a woman she did not need a husband to carry out “the offices which do not properly belong to woman’s estate” (Castor 428). Linked to this was the belief that Mary would not hand over the power of England to her husband.  The marriage treaty solved this fear.  Philip would have little to do with the running of the country.  He could assist and that was about it. Mary would do all in her power to appear to include him yet there was no doubt that she, who had been trained as a sovereign Princess of Wales, would be ruler of England.  In the Council Register two days after their marriage it was noted that “At Winchester, 27th July, This daye it was ordered by the boarde that a note of all such matteres of state as should passe from hence should be pute into Latten and Spanyche from henceforth.  It was also ordered that all matteres of estate passynge in the kinge and quenes names should be signed with both their handes” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 135). So he could read documents in Spanish, he could sign them, but he would be greatly restricted in his formal influence.

Philip mary
Mary and Philip 

Did Mary need a husband to help rule England.  No.  She needed one for an heir though. She had misread her people.  They opposed the foreign match with Philip.  Yes, he was Catholic, the choice of the advisor she so admired (Charles V), and he was from her mother’s homeland.  These emotional elements were also supported by the more practical and political merits of his being a good choice from a limited selection.  It is well-known that Mary fell head-over-heels in love with Philip.  With a restricted formal influence, his informal influence was close to boundless. Giovanni Michiel, Ambassador to England for Venice reported to the Doge and the Venetian Senate that Queen Mary’s representative, Francesco Piamontese, was sent in June 1556 to Brussels because “it being credible that nothing is done, nor does anything take place, without having the King’s opinion about it, and hearing his will” (Brown VI June 1-15 505).

charles
Charles V

Simon Renard, Ambassador to Spain in England was instructed to feel Mary out about the union.   Charles also inquired about his son’s view.  Dutifully, he responded “I very well see the advantages that might accrue from the successful conclusion of this affair.”  Philip assured his father, “ If you wish to arrange the match for me, you know that I am so obedient a son that I have no will other than yours” (Patterson 42-43).  Mary, showing as much filial loyalty as Philip assured Renard that she wanted to please Charles “in the same way she would wish to please her father” (Patterson 43).  The marriage was inevitable despite Mary’s need to have the Privy Council’s approval.  Charles V was aware of this and worked hard behind the scenes to get members on his side.  The importance of this marriage, uniting England and Hapsburg territories, was discussed in many contemporary writings; all agree that the purpose was for “temporal and spiritual peace and unity among Europeans” (Hunt 152).  Quite a mission.

Simon_Renard
 Simon Renard, Spanish Ambassador to England

John Elder shared many details about the ceremonies which marked the marriage between Mary and Philip in the summer of 1554.  Philip had “landed  at Southampton in Hamshire, within ten mile of the citie of Winchester, on Friday the xx day of July at iii of the clocke at afternone” and was met by “the lords of the counsel and diverse other noble men” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 137-138).  Philip rode through Winchester “on a faire white horse, in a riche coate embroidered with gold, his doublet, hosen, and hat suite-like” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 139).

Mary stayed at Wolvesey Palace (the Old Bishop’s Palace) and Philip was housed in the Dean’s house. They met on July 23rd for the first time at Wolvesey Palace and while some reports say Mary spoke French, most sources agree they conversed “in the Spanishe tongue” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 140).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ruins of Wolvesey Palace, where Mary and Philip met for the first time

The wedding, held on 25 July 1554 the feast day of St. James, patron saint of Spain, was very sumptuous with many sources describing decorations of the churches and palaces and the splendor of the clothes and jewelry of the participants.  We know Philip was attired “in brocade, covered with white velvet, rich in gold and pearls, with a very rich brocade collar, a ruby robe, richly decorated with gold and pearls  and diamond buttons” (Hunt 148).  Mary was dressed “in silver cloth with a cloak …a very rich collar and hair decoration…a belt in the richest gold, with jewellery on the breast with a diamond in the center” (Hunt 148).

At the Cathedral Philip was met by the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner Lord Chancellor and five other bishops all “mitred, coped, and staved” where he knelt, kissed the crucifix, prayed and then entered “upon a skafholde which was made for the solomnizacion of his marriage” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 139).  Remarkably, throughout the ceremony Mary was placed on the right and Philip on the left, the opposite of the conventional set-up.  Perhaps to placate her English subjects or her own feelings of triumph, Mary showed herself as the ruling sovereign with Philip as consort.

StephenGardiner
Stephen Gardiner, Lord Chancellor and Bishop of Winchester

Regardless of who was seen as sovereign and consort, the royal titles are impressive.  John Elder, with relish, gives the list in the “stile in Latin” and the “stile in Englishe” which will be recreated below:

"Philip and Marie, by the grace of God king and quene of England, 
Fraunce, Naples, Hierusalem, and Irelande, defenders of the faith, 
princes of Spain and Secy, archdukes of Austria, dukes of Millan,
Burgundy, and Brabant, counties of Haspurge, Flaunders, and Tiro” 
(Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 142).

After the ceremony Philip “addressed the Spanish lords who were about him, and told them they must at once forget all the customs of Spain, and live in all respects after the English fashion” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 139).  Post wedding celebrations were then held at Wolvesey Palace where there was much “triumphing, bankating, singing, masking, and daunsing, as was never seen in Englande heretofore” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 136).

WinCathi
Winchester Cathedral

Two days later, in the Council Register it was noted that “At Winchester, 27th July, This daye it was ordered by the boarde that a note of all such matteres of state as should passe from hence should be pute into Latten and Spanyche from henceforth, and the same to be delyvered to such as it should please the kinges highnes to appointe to recave it.  It was also ordered that all matteres of estate passynge in the kinge and quenes names should be signed with both their handes” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 135).

Elder was beside himself exclaiming the joy after “this moste noble mariage” of seeing dual sovereignty with “the kinges magestie and the queen sitting under the cloth of estate” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 143).  We know this did not come to pass without problems.  In January of 1554, after hearing the rumors of a possible match between Mary and Philip, a group of gentlemen organized an uprising known as the Wyatt Rebellion.  This will be further discussed in the blog entry, “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part II.”

References

Acton, Lord, comp. The Cambridge Modern History Planning by the Late Lord Acton. Ed. A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, and Stanley Leathes. The Reformation  Vol. II. New York: Macmillan, 1904. Google Books. Web. 27 July 2013.

Alford, Stephen. The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I. London: Allen Lane, 2012. Google Books. Web. 9 Aug. 2013.

Allan, James Crosby (editor). “Elizabeth: February 1577, 1-15.” Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 11: 1575-1577 (1880): 501-518. British History Online. Web. 17 July 2013.

Boyden, James M. The Courtier and the King: Ruy Gómez De Silva, Philip II, and the Court of Spain. Berkeley: University of California, 1995. Google Books. Web. 20 July 2013.

Brown, Rawdon (editor). “Venice: January 1556.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6: 1555-1558, 1877. British History Online. Web. 21 July 2013.

Brown, Rawdon (editor). “Venice: June 1556, 1-15.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6: 1555-1558 (1877): 472-484. British History Online. Web. 26 July 2013.

Brown, Rawdon (editor). “Venice: June 1556, 16-30.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6: 1555-1558, 1877. British History Online. Web. 21 July 2013.

Brown, Rawdon (editor). “Venice: March 1556, 16-31.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6: 1555-1558 (1877): 377-395. British History Online. Web. 28 July 2013.

Brown, Rawdon (editor). “Venice: May 1557, 11-15.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6: 1555-1558 (1877): 1041-1095. British History Online. Web. 08 August 2013.

Brown, Rawdon and G. Cavendish Bentinck (editors). “Venice: February 1559.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 7: 1558-1580 (1890): 24-41. British History Online. Web. 21 July 2013.

Brown, Rawdon and G. Cavendish Bentinck (editors). “Venice: March 1559.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 7: 1558-1580 (1890): 41-59. British History Online. Web. 21 July 2013.

Brown, Rawdon (editor). “Venice: June 1556, 1-15.” Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8: 1581-1591, 1877. British History Online. Web. 17 July 2013.

Castor, Helen.  She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth. London:  Faber and Faber. 2010. Print.

Erickson, Carolly. The First Elizabeth. New York: Summit Books. 1983. Print.

Foxe, John.  The Unabridged Acts and Monuments Online orTAMO.  Book 5. Sheffield: HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011.  Humanities Research Institute. Web. 21 June 2013.

Hume, Martin (editor). “Simancas: December 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1: 1558-1567 (1892): 7-21. British History Online. Web. 16 August 2013.

Hume, Martin (editor). “Simancas: January 1559.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1: 1558-1567 (1892): 21-26. British History Online. Web. 11 August 2013.

Hume, Martin A. S. (editor). “Simancas: March 1559.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1: 1558-1567 (1892): 37-46. British History Online. Web. 18 July 2013.

Hume, Martin (editor). “Simancas: April 1559.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1: 1558-1567 (1892): 46-64. British History Online. Web. 11 August 2013.

Hume, Martin (editor). “Simancas: May 1559.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1: 1558-1567 (1892): 64-78. British History Online. Web. 13 August 2013.

Hume, Martin (editor). “Simancas: July 1559.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1: 1558-1567 (1892): 81-91. British History Online. Web. 14 August 2013.

Hume, Martin (editor). “Simancas: January 1561.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1: 1558-1567 (1892): 178-180. British History Online. Web. 16 August 2013.

Hunt, Alice and Anna Whitelock (editors). Tudor Queenship:  The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. New York: Palgrave MacMillian, 2010.  Print.

Kamen, Henry. Philip of Spain. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1997. Print.

de Lisle, Leanda.  “King Henry’s Niece” History Today 63.8 (2013): 42-46. Print.

Loades, David. The Chronicles of the Tudor Queens.  Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 2002. Print.

Loades, David.  Mary Tudor:  The Tragical History of the First Queen of England.  Kew, Richmond: The National Archives, 2006. Print.

MacCaffrey, Wallace. Elizabeth I. London: E. Arnold. 1993. Print.

Marcus, Leah S. et al., eds. Elizabeth I: The Collected Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Print.

Nichols, John Gough. The Chronicle of Queen Jane, Two Years of Queen Mary, and Especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyat.  London: J. B Nichols and Son, 1822. Google Books. Web. 17 June 2013.

Nichols, John. The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth. Among Which Are Interspersed Other Solemnities, Public Expenditures, and Remarkable Events during the Reign of That Illustrious Princess. Collected from Original MSS., Scarce Pamphlets, Corporation Records, Parochial Registers, &c., &c.: Illustrated with Historical Notes. New York: B. Franklin, 1823. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Norton, Elizabeth.  England’s Queens. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley, 2011. Print.

Parker, Geoffery. “The Grand Strategy of Philip II.” Books. New York Times on the Web, 1999. Web. 22 July 2013. 

Patterson, Benton Rain. With the Heart of a King: Elizabeth I of England, Philip II of Spain, and the Fight for a Nation’s Soul and Crown. New York: St. Martins, 2007. Google Books. Web. 17 July 2013.

Perry, Maria.  The Word of a Prince: A Life of Elizabeth from Contemporary Documents.  Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1990.  Print.

“Philip II of Spain.” – Wikiquote. 13 April 2012, n.d. Web. 22 July 2013.

Plowden, Allison.  Marriage with My Kingdom:  The Courtships of Elizabeth I.  New York:  Stein and Day, 1977. Print.

Porter, Linda.  The First Queen of England:  The Myth of “Bloody Mary”.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007. Print.

Pryor, Felix.  Elizabeth I, Her Life in Letters.  Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2003.  Print.

Queen Elizabeth I, Frank Mumby, and R. S. Rait. The Girlhood of Queen Elizabeth: A Narrative in Contemporary Letters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909. Google Books. Web. 9 May 2013.

Ravenscroft, Janet. “Philip II: A Pen Portrait.” History Today 60.10 (2010): 25-28. Print.

Ridley, Jasper. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue.  New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1989.  Print.

Ronald, Susan.  Heretic Queen:  Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion.  New York:  St. Martin Press, 2012.  Print.

Sitwell, Edith.  The Queens and the Hive.  Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966. Print.

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Print.

Starkey, David.  Elizabeth:  The Struggle for the Throne. New York:  HarperCollins Publishers. 2001. Print

Strickland, Agnes, Elisabeth Strickland, and Rosalie Kaufman. The Queens of England, Abridged and Adapted from Strickland’s “Queens of England” Chicago: Werner, 1895. Internet Archive. Web. 4 May 2013.

Strype, John.  Ecclesiastical memorials, Relating Chiefly to Religion, and The Reformation of It, and the Emergencies of the Church of England, Under King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, and Queen Mary I with Large Appendixes, Containing Original Papers, Records, &c. Historical memorials, Ecclesiastical and Civil, of Events Under the Reign of Queen Mary I Wherein Are Brought to Light Various Things Concerning the Management of Affairs, During the Five Years of Her Government.  Vol. III Part I. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1822.  Google Books. Web. 17 June 2013.

Thoroton Society. Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, Volumes 11-13. Ed. John Standish. Vol. XI. Nottingham: Thoroton Society, 1907. Google Books. Web. 28 July 2013.

Turnbull, William B., ed. Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the Reign of Mary, 1553-1558, Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Office. Vol. II. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1861. Google Books. Web. 28 July 2013.

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: March 1554, 21-31.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 12: 1554 (1949): 164-180. British History Online. Web. 28 July 2013.

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: June 1555.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 207-226. British History Online. Web. 30 July 2013. 

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: February 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 349-365. British History Online. Web. 17 July 2013. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=88625

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: June 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 394-402. British History Online. Web. 24 July 2013.

Tyler, Royall (editor).  “Spain: July 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13:  1554-1558 (1954): 402-405.  British History Online.  Web. 14 July 2013. 

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: May 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 378-393. British History Online. Web. 17 July 2013.

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: November 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 435-442. British History Online. Web. 24 July 2013.

Waller, Maureen. Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice, and Power : The Six Reigning Queens of England. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. Google Books. Web. 24 July 2013.

Wart, Thomas. The Life of Sir Thomas Pope, Founder of Trinity College Oxford, Chiefly Compiled from the Original Evidences, with an Appendix of Papers, Never Before Printed. 2nd ed. London: Thomas Cadell, n.d. Internet Archive. Web. 30 July 2013.

Weir, Alison.  The Life of Elizabeth I.  New York: Ballatine Books, 1998. Print.

Whitelock, Anna.  Mary Tudor:  Princess, Bastard, Queen. New York:  Random House, 2009. Print.

Advertisements

Why Do Today…?

Why Do Today…?

Both Henry VII and Elizabeth I have had the word temporise used to describe their behavior.  Will historians ever know positively if their irresolute actions were procrastination due to personal reasons or reluctance due to political reasons; oscillation or genius?  As usual, it depends on who is writing the history. 

“As a new man, Henry had to secure his place.  He did this by a compromising approach:  by marrying Elizabeth, but only belatedly…” (Bacon and Weinberger 238).  In December 1483 he had pledged to marry Elizabeth of York and had obtained the papal dispensation needed.  It was left to Parliament to encourage the marriage on December 10, 1485, by proclamation to the King “that he would please take the noble Lady Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward the IV, as his wife and consort” (Bacon and Lumby 239).

parl to use
Parliamentary Directive for King Henry to marry Elizabeth of York, in Latin

On January 18, 1486, the greatly anticipated marriage took place to great joy on the part of the peoples of England.  Henry had to realize that the ceremony “was thought by some to have been too long delayed, and historians have declaimed against Henry on this account” (Bacon and Lumby 239).

According to Jerry Weinberger, many of Henry’s early troubles stemmed from the fact that he slighted Elizabeth and the House of York. He postponed their marriage and delayed her coronation.  The coronation occurred most likely, as with other things, because events forced his hand.  Henry learned that by not crowning Elizabeth and “vouchsafing her the honour of a matrimonial crown” (Bacon and Lumby 22) it “did rankle and fester the affections of his people” and therefore, “he resolved at last to proceed” (Bacon and Lumby 39).

eyork
Elizabeth of York

When he returned to London after traveling north, “the Queen was with great solemnity crowned at Westminster, the twenty-fifth of November, in the third year of his reign, which was about two years after the marriage…” (Bacon and Vickers 37).  His “strange and unusual distance of time made it subject to every man’s note, that it was an act against his stomach, and put upon him by necessity and reason of state” (Bacon and Lumby 40).

francis bacon
Francis Bacon

Although it is not the purpose here to relay the history of the country of Ireland, suffice to say that the issues were complicated and Henry was “obliged to temporize.  After long hesitation …” the king instituted his policy in Ireland (Morris 24).

Irelandca1500
Map of Ireland in 1500

Other international situations, such as in France, “precipitated the kind of decision which Henry had striven to avoid since his accession…” (Griffiths 172).  When dealing with Ferdinand of Aragon, the Hapsburg Empire and Burgundy “Henry hesitated, drew back…” (Mattingly 77).  Likewise, it appears to be déjà vu all over again with his actions concerning events in Flanders where the “the King was obliged to temporise” (Fletcher 61). At least he was consistent as Raimondo di Soncino, the Milanese envoy to Ludirio Sforza, Duke of Milan, reported of Henry VII that “he well knows how to temproise…” (Pollard 160).

Was it personality?  Was it policy?

Ten years into his reign, it was thought that policies and events that unfolded positively we accredited to his foresight and skill.  The King would “cunningly put off…” decisions and revelations of his plans until favorable conditions arose (Bacon and Vickers 37).  Amazingly, while Henry VII appears skillful in his vacillating, Elizabeth Regina was scoffed at as displaying womanly indecision.  Historians, I believe, have not been able to remove the sexism of her time period in their interpretations.  Understandably, the evidence which is left is the letters between her advisors or dispatches between diplomats and their home countries–written by men in that traditional time period.  Can Elizabeth not be credited for having the wisdom to allow events to unfold, to await natural solutions and to weigh possible options?

In general Elizabeth had her secretaries “fuming by her time-wasting ploys” (Somerset 279).  Once she had ordered letters to be written, she often would not sign them or allow the letters to be sent until she had thought things over some more.  Sir Thomas Smith writing to Lord Burghley said, “I had somewhat ado to get to the Queene, and more to get anything signed” (Wright 448) and “the letter already signed, which your Lordship knoweth, permitted to be sent away, but day by day, and hour by hour, deferred till anoe, sone, and to-morrow” (Cecil 1).

thomas smith                      cecil william
Sir Thomas Smith                                            William Cecil, Lord Burghley

The letters between these two men displayed “her peculiarities, her caution, her love of procrastination…her fondness for reiterated considerations of matters which every one thought to have been determined upon…” (Sylvanus 346).  Elizabeth did temporize and she was notorious for ignoring decisions.  Often these courses of action (or inaction) worked in her favor, as it did for her grandfather, because events would unfold and either resolve themselves or reveal a clearer path.  Nevertheless, while Henry VII is touted as exuding cunning, she is condemned as exuding “weakness” (Carruthers).

“Her hesitation, indecision, petulance, emotionalism and petty-mindedness are vices which men throughout the ages have been pleased to regard as typically feminine” (Ridley 335).  Yet, in 1569 the failure of the northern Earls’ rebellion was “due to the cautious and temporising policy for which Elizabeth has been so severely blamed by heated partisans” (Beesly).

Mary, Queen of Scots, had been a troubling issue for Elizabeth from the moment Mary returned to Scotland.  After many years as a political prisoner in England, Elizabeth was still unsure of how to handle the situation.  Once “proof” (many would interpret the evidence-gathering by Walsingham and his operatives as entrapment) had been collected to prove Mary was plotting with Catholics for the overthrow of Elizabeth, her conviction was a foregone conclusion.

mary scots
Mary, Queen of Scots

Judgment was handed down in October of 1586 yet Elizabeth wavered until February of 1587 before signing the death warrant.  The story is well-known of how William Davison, a privy councilor, bore the brunt of Elizabeth’s wrath once the execution was carried out.  Elizabeth had given him the signed warrant with the intention, so she later said, that it would not be delivered.  The seasoned Davison recognized the dangerous position he was in and “fearing she should lay the Fault upon me…” he had eventually taken the signed warrant to Cecil (The Life and Reign … 243).  Burghley called a meeting of the Privy Council and all agreed to send the warrant off without delay (Froude, Hibbert, MacCaffrey, Neale, Ridley, Somerset).

Her vacillation and unclear directives can be interpreted as genuine indecision of putting a fellow monarch to death or as brilliant political maneuverings to avoid the blame and placate the French and Spanish. If one acknowledges the emotions Elizabeth was experiencing concerning the death of a fellow monarch and family member plus the pressures of domestic and international politics, it is easier to recognize her indecision.

As an interesting aside at his trial for disobeying his sovereign, William Davison testified that “I perceived that she wavered in her Resolution, I asked her whether she had changed her Mind?  She answered, No: but another Course, said she, might have been devised…” (The Life and Reign …244). Like her grandfather, she held out waiting for another means; in this case it was her hope that Mary could be quietly done away with by some other method besides execution.  This came to light when Mary’s custodian at the time, Sir Amyas Paulet, asserted in a letter to Walshingham that he would do much for his Queen but would not “make so foul a shipwreck of my conscience, or leave so great a blot to my poor posterity, to shed blood without law or warrant” (Paulet 362).

amyaspaulet         walsingham
Sir Amyas Paulet                                        Francis Walsingham 

Determining the path to take concerning the Netherlands proved another area of discontent between Elizabeth and her advisors. Sir Thomas Smith wrote to Burghley that “…nothing resolved, and therefor, such number of things unanswered, whereupon her Majestie’s ministers lie still in suspense” (Cecil 1). Many of her councilors sided with Leicester very early to support William of Orange’s rebellion against the Spanish.  Her view was different from her councilors as she did not relish supporting ‘rebels’ against their sovereign; even if in this case the sovereign was her adversary Philip II.  “After long oscillation Elizabeth’s policy finally gravitated towards Philip and peace” (Froude 409).

This was not the policy that was eventually carried out.  As the political situation changed, military intervention on behalf of the Prince of Orange would become the official policy.  Secretary of State Sir Thomas Wilson stated “Temporising hath been thought heretofore good policy.  There was never so dangerous a time as this is, and temporising will no longer serve” (Archer 136).
WilliamOfOrange     philip-ii
William of Orange                                      Philip II

England’s neighbor, Scotland, proved another trouble spot for policy.  Support for rebels against the state was never an easy path for Elizabeth.  She would not give aid even though there were French troops landing on Scottish shores then agreed to do so because of the intervention of Spain.   Was she irresolute or facing realpolitik?

Walsingham boldly wrote in January 1575 to the Queen concerning her procrastination over policy in Scotland, “For the love of God, madam, let not the cure of your diseased state hang any longer on deliberation.  Diseased states are no more cured by consultation, when nothing resolved on is put into execution…” (Halser).  Would he have done this if his sovereign had been Henry VII?  Obviously, that is one of those unanswerable questions.

Elizabeth’s oscillating about marriage is so well-known there is no need to go into great detail.  She changed her mind not only per candidate, but even to marry, many times based on the international situation of the balance of power in Europe and perhaps her thoughts of having a chance at romantic happiness.  “The Queen skittishly shifted her ground, consistent only in her unwillingness to commit herself” (MacCaffrey 208).

Elizabeth came closest to marrying the Duke of Anjou (also referred to as the Duke of Alençon), even becoming ill at one point over her indecision.  The lengthy negotiations could be interpreted solely to “gain time and to keep the peace” (Hibbert 202).  Her purpose was served as she kept England out of the troubled Netherlands for longer, she lead Philip II to believe there was a chance for an Anglo-French alliance, and she dispensed Anjou out of the country on good terms.

dukeanjou

Duke of Anjou

Perhaps diplomatic and romantic reasons were not enough and James Melville, the Scottish diplomat, found the most precise reason for Elizabeth never marrying when he declared “Ye think gene ye wer married, ye wald be bot Quen of England, and now ye ar King and Quen baith; ye may not suffer a commander” (Melville 122).

The hesitations and changes of policy were genuine, and often due to the change in political climates both domestic and international rather than due to a character flaw.  Elizabeth herself wrote to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, on April 11, 1572,  “Methinks that I am more beholding to the hinder part of my head than well dare trust the forwards side of the same …” (Marcus 131).

Throughout her reign, Elizabeth’s goals were consistent –to keep England at peace and prosperous.  One can understand how hard it would be to make these decisions as there would be no way to see all eventualities.

Maybe in modern day parlance it would be that she had a fear of failure.  Elizabeth wanted so much to make the right decisions that she was often incapable of making one.  The issues discussed above were complex even if one did not include the factors of a monarch with obligations to her state and a woman with personal preferences.

Works Cited

Archer, Jayne Elizabeth et. al., ed.  The Progresses, Pageants, & Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Bacon, Francis, and J. Rawson Lumby. Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry VII,. Cambridge: University, 1902. Internet Archive. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

Bacon, Francis.  The Major Works.  Ed. Brian Vickers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.  Google Books. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

Bacon, Francis. The History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh a New Ed. with Introduction, Annotation and Interpretative Essay. Ed. Jerry Weinberger. Ithaca (N.Y): Cornell UP, 1996. Google Books. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.

Beesly, Edward Spencer. “Chapter V.” Queen Elizabeth. London: Macmillan and Co, 1892. EnglishHistory.net. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

Campbell, William, ed. Materials for a History of the Reign of Henry VII. From Original Documents Preserved in the Public Record Office. Vol. I. London: Longman &: etc., 1873. Google Books. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

Cecil, Lord Burghley, William, Sir. Queen Elizabeth and Her Times: A Series of Original Letters Selected from the Inedited Private Correspondence of the Lord Treasurer Burghley, the Earl of Leicester, the Secretaries Walsingham and Smith, Sir Christopher Hatton and Most of the Distinguished Persons of the Period : In Two Volumes. Ed. Thomas Wright. London: Colburn, 1838. Google Books. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

Carruthers, Robert. “Queen Elizabeth I of England.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 10th ed. Edinburgh: Scotland. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1902. 1902 Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2005. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

Fletcher, C. R. L. An Introductory History of England from Henry VII to the Restoration. With Maps. Vol. II. New York: Dutton, 1908. Google Books. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

Froude, James Anthony. History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada. London: Longman, Green, 1908. Google Books. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

Hasler, P. W. “WALSINGHAM, Francis (c.1532-90), of Scadbury and Foots Cray, Kent; Barn Elms, Surr. and Seething Lane, London.” The History of Parliament: British Political, Social and Local History. The History of Parliament Trust 1964-2013, Web. 10 Mar. 2013. .

Hall, Edward, Henry Ellis, and Richard Grafton. Hall’s Chronicle; Containing the History of England, during the Reign of Henry the Fourth, and the Succeeding Monarchs, to the End of the Reign of Henry the Eighth, in Which Are Particularly Described the Manners and Customs of Those Periods. London: Printed for J. Johnson and J. Rivington; T. Payne; Wilkie and Robinson; Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme; Cadell and Davies; and J. Mawman, 1809. Archive.org. Web. 2 Jan. 2013. 

Hibbert, Christopher.  The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age.  New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1991.  Print.

The History of the Life and Reign of That Excellent Princess Queen Elizabeth from Her Birth to Her Death: As Also the Trial, Sufferings, and Death of Mary Queen of Scots. With the Whole Proceedings of the Divorce of King Henry VIII. from Queen Catherine; His Marriage with the Lady Anne Bullen, and the Cause of Her Unfortunate Death on the Scaffold. London: Printed, and Sold by the sellers in Town and Country, 1739. Google Books. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

MacCaffrey, Wallace. Elizabeth I. London: E. Arnold. 1993. Print.

Marcus, Leah S. et al., eds. Elizabeth I: The Collected Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.

Melville, James. Memoirs of His Own Life: M.D.XLIX.-M.D.XCII : From the Original Manuscript. Ed. Thomas Thomson. Glasgow: G. Brookman, 1833. Google Books. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

Morris, William O’Connor. Ireland, 1494-1868, with Two Introductory Chapters.. Cambridge: University, 1898. Google Books. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Print.

Paulet, Amias Sir.  The Letter Books of Sir Amias Paulet, Keeper of Mary, Queen of Scots. Ed John Morris.  London:  Burns and Gates, 1874.  Internet Archive.  Web 9 March 2013.

Pollard, Albert Frederick. “Full Text of “The Reign of Henry VII from Contemporary Sources”” Full Text of “The Reign of Henry VII from Contemporary Sources “Google Books, 1914. Internet Archive.  Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

Ridley, Jasper. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue.  New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1989.  Print.

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Print.

Sylvanus, Urban, Gent. Gentleman’s Magazine … Vol. IX. London: William Pickering; John Bowyer Nichols and Son, January to June Inclusive 1838. Google Books. Web. 2013.