Elizabeth Regina: Her Mother’s Memory

Elizabeth:  Her Mother’s Memory

Elizabeth at the age of two years and eight months upon the death of her mother, probably never had concrete recollections of her mother Anne Boleyn.  There is no evidence that Anne Boleyn was mentioned by any of Elizabeth’s household members during her childhood.  It is pure speculation as to which adults told the youngster about her mother and when she would have possibly learned about Anne’s execution and the scandalous reasons for it.  There are plenty of assumptions that Henry had placed a moratorium on the subject of Anne Boleyn which would not be implausible, but what is conjecture is based on the fact that Elizabeth was confined to her estate because Henry could not bear the sight of her and wanted no remembrance of her or her mother.  We know Sir John Shelton assured Cromwell on Wednesday 16 August 1536 from Hunsdon that he would ensure “the King’s pleasure that my lady Elizabeth shall keep her chamber and not come abroad, and that I shall provide for her as I did for my lady Mary when she kept her chamber” (Gairdner XI 312).  We know Elizabeth remained secluded at Hunsdon; we just do not know why—it could have been Henry trying to protect her from court gossip.

thomas cromwell
Thomas Cromwell

Lady Bryan, in August 1536, had already questioned Cromwell on the status of her charge.  “Now, as my lady Elizabeth is put for that degree she was in, and what degree she is at now, I know not but by hearsay, I know not how to order her or myself, or her women or grooms” (Gairdner XI 203).  Obviously, there was some confusion in her household.  Even Elizabeth was confused; when a gentleman of her household, often identified as either Sir John Shelton or Sir Thomas Bryan, referred to her by the demoted title of Lady Elizabeth, she responded “how haps it, Governor, yesterday my Lady Princess, and today but my Lady Elizabeth?” (Hibbert 20).  An astute child such as this would have understood the danger of asking questions about her mother or even mentioning her.

There are only two recorded times when Elizabeth mentioned her mother in public.  One was when she was 20 and hinted to the Spanish ambassador that she was disliked by Mary because of the distress her mother had caused. The second was when she informed the Venetian ambassador that her mother would never have cohabitated with the king without the ties of matrimony (Weir The Children of Henry VIII 7).  Is this anemic display evidence that she did not have any feelings for her mother or that she did not want to be associated with Anne?  Probably not.  It would not have been politically wise for Elizabeth to be linked too often and too closely with Anne Boleyn so one can understand the lack of mention by an aware and intelligent child.  This did not mean complete elimination of connections and when she was more secure as queen, several examples are in evidence of her identification with her mother although the earliest example comes when she was about ten.

elizabeth 1 by scrouts
Princess Elizabeth 

This early example was when she wore the ‘A’ necklace in the painting,The Family of Henry VIII.”  Supposedly this was “one of Anne Boleyn’s initial pendants” that was inherited from Elizabeth’s mother (Weir Lady in the Tower 306).

Jewelry was one way that Elizabeth showed her relationship with her mother.
Anne Boleyn was said to have three pendants of initials; an “A”, a “B”, and an “AB”. The “B” necklace is the most famous and is in portraits displayed at the National Portrait Gallery and Hever Castle more readily validated as representative of Anne. The “AB” is perhaps in a less famous painting; one not completely authenticated as Anne, and is referred to as the Nidd Hall portrait.

Anne Boleyn B necklace
Anne Boleyn, National Portrait Gallery

Anne Boleyn Hever
Anne Boleyn, ‘Hever Castle Portrait’ a copy of the lost original painted in 1534
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Anne Boleyn, ‘Nidd Hall Portrait’ with the pendent of ‘AB’ hanging upon her gown
It is claimed that Elizabeth was wearing the “A” necklace in “The Family of Henry VIII” painting that hung in Hampton Court. (Weir Henry VIII: The King and His Court 187).  This blogger must disagree with some reports that she was wearing the necklace in defiance of her father.  He had full control of all of his public imagery.  I cannot imagine the artist risking his life, quite literally, by painting in the “A” if it was not sanctioned by Henry.   It is hard to imagine that Elizabeth would so blatantly wear this piece of jewelry without Henry’s permission.  This blogger could start an unsupported theory that this could be the cause of Elizabeth’s exile from 1543 to 1544 (see blog entry “The Fourth Step-Mother of Elizabeth, Katherine Parr” at https://elizregina.com/2013/06/04/the-fourth-step-mother-of-elizabeth-katherine-parr/).  This is clearly on a weak foundation considering the painting, according to Roy Strong, was completed between 1543 -1547. If Henry became incensed enough to banish his daughter for wearing an inherited item of jewelry from her disgraced mother, surely he would have ordered it painted out of the completed picture.  Perhaps allowing Elizabeth to display this necklace was a kind gesture on the king’s part or it was a tactic wanting everyone to associate the girl with her mother and her illegitimacy, in contrast to the legitimate heir next to him.
H8 Family
The Family of Henry VIII
BLow up M and E try this one
An enlargement obtained by Flickr of the princesses 

Apart from the wearing of one of Anne Boleyn’s necklaces, another piece of jewelry associated with Elizabeth and her mother is the Chequers ring.  Dated to around 1575 the Chequers Ring, thus named as it is now in the possession of that estate, clearly has a diamond encrusted ‘E’ and ‘R’ on the face. The locket opens to reveal a portrait of Elizabeth and an unidentified woman, usually and logically identified as Anne Boleyn; although, speculation ranges from it being a younger Elizabeth to Katherine Parr.  The history of the ring is too sketchy for this blogger to comfortably say that Elizabeth commissioned it as opposed to a courtier.  It is also difficult to agree with Weir, and many other writers who claim the ring “was only removed from her finger at her death, when it was taken to her successor, James VI of Scotland, as proof of her demise” (Weir Lady in the Tower 306). There is no definitive proof that Elizabeth constantly wore the ring or that it was the particular jewel taken to Scotland by Robert Carey.

Chequers ring to use
Chequers ring–this blogger was fortunate to see this locket ring at “Elizabeth:  The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum” in Greenwich on August 8, 2003.

Another way Elizabeth linked to her mother was the use of her mother’s heraldic badge the crowned falcon upon a tree stump, surrounded by Tudor roses.  Although this was not implemented consistently as Elizabeth’s badge, there are several places it is displayed and on several items such as her virginal. The spinet “bears the royal coat of arms and the falcon holding a scepter, the private emblem of her mother, Anne Boleyn” (“The Queen Elizabeth Virginal”).  It is also speculated that Elizabeth adopted one of Anne’s mottoes, Semper eadem.  This is discussed on the blog “Said it, Believed it, Lived it” at https://elizregina.com/2013/06/25/said-it-believed-it-lived-it/.

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Virginal of Elizabeth I, the Boleyn badge is on the left.

Elizabeth continued her links with her mother by promoting members of Anne’s household staff, Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury and relatives; notably the Careys, Knollyse, Sackvilles and even Howards until their alliance to Catholicism made it politically impossible.  Anne was also commemorated in a biography by William Latymer and in an unfinished treatise by George Wyatt (Weir, The Lady in the Tower 307-308).

A way in which Elizabeth kept her mother’s influence alive was in her understanding of the benefits and necessity of display. “Between Anne and Elizabeth there was an uncanny similarity of attitude towards the projection of monarchy, and of themselves as chosen by God to rule” (Ives 218).  It is estimated Anne spent £40* a month mostly on clothes for herself and Elizabeth (Ives 217).  Had Anne lived, her wardrobe would have “rivalled the 2000 costumes which tradition assigns to that most fashion-conscious of monarchs, her daughter Elizabeth” (Ives 253).  Catholic chronicler, Nicholas Sander, no friend of Anne’s, conceded that she “was always well dressed, and every day made some change in the fashion of her garments” (Sander 25).

Anne has been criticized for having such an active interest in her daughter’s wardrobe; one wonders if this was an area in which she could direct her wishes and so she did.  Taking an inordinate amount of care in the purchase of materials and the ordering of garments for her child was perhaps the method of bestowing attention that was socially and politically acceptable for Anne.

We have a dispatch that Sir William Loke, mercer and merchant adventurer who supplied the king with clothes of gold, silver and other luxurious fabrics and performed diplomatic missions on his buying trips abroad, wrote personally to the king in February 1534:  “The sale of cloths by your subjects has been good, but money is scarce.  I trust I have done my best to provide such things as the Queen gave me commission for” (Gairdner VIII 197). Loke kept extensive account records (published in the text, An Account of Materials Furnished for Use of Queen Anne Boleyn and the Princess Elizabeth, by William Loke ‘the King’s Mercer’ Between the 20th January 1535 [27th year of Henry VIII], and the 27th April 1536.  Communicated by J. B. Heath) which reveal clothing being sent to the princess.  It was  obvious that the “king’s heir, who was not yet three years old, was quite properly to be dressed in fashionable and expensive clothing”  (Warnicke 170).

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An example of elaborate clothing worn by Elizabeth in the ‘Armada Portrait’.

In Anne’s account books of May 19, 1536, are entries for payment for “boat-hire form Greenwich to London and back to take measure of caps for my lady Princess, and again to fetch the Princess’s purple satin cap to mend it.”  Anne, apparently, was especially fussy about her daughter’s caps: this particular one required at least three journeys to Greenwich to get it right” (Ives 253). Included in the accounts was “an ell of ‘tuke’ and crimson fringe for the Princess’s cradle head.”  Added to this finery was “a fringe of Venice gold and silver for the little bed.” Included were more assorted caps, white, crimson, purple and a “cap of taffeta covered with a caul of damask gold for the Princess” (Gairdner X 913).

Queen Anne Boleyn never had a full say in her child’s upbringing. That was the business of the king and his council. Famously, when it came to decide if Elizabeth should be weaned, her governess wrote to Thomas Cromwell for permission (Warnicke 170).  We do know from William Latymer, chaplain to Anne Boleyn who wrote Chronickille of Anne Bulleyne during the reign of Elizabeth, reported that Anne “had wanted her child, as her elder half-sister had been, trained in classical languages” (Warnicke 171).  When Anne realized that she was in serious danger of losing her life she gave unto Matthew Parker, her devoted chaplain and later Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth, the care of her child.  This move can be seen as her wish for Elizabeth to have not only a classical education but also a more evangelical religious upbringing.

Matthew_Parker
Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth 

Besides directing Elizabeth’s wardrobe and directing her education, how else did Anne bestow attention on her daughter?  This is impossible to know. Following standards of the day, Elizabeth was removed from her parents’ household when she was three months old.  She was sent to her own residence, Hatfield, with a wet-nurse and her governess, Margaret Bourchier, Lady Bryan.  “Here and at Hunsdon in Hertfordshire the princess spent much of her childhood although, like her parents, she traveled from house to house, staying in such places as Richmond, Eltham, Langley,and the More” (Warnicke 170).  Contemporary records indicate that Anne did visit regularly as we see from a letter written by Sir William Kyngston, courtier and Constable of the Tower of London, to Lord Lisle, Arthur Plantagenet on 18 April 1534.  “To day the King and Queen were at Eltham, and saw my lady Princess, as goodly a child as hath been seen and her grace is much in the King’s favour as goodly child should be, God save her”  (Gairdner VII 509).

The visits were not always private, as we would assume between a mother and her child as Eustace Chapuys mentions in a dispatch to Charles V on 24 October 1534. “On Thursday, the day before yesterday, being at Richmond with the little lass (garce) the Lady came to see her said daughter, accompanied by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and others, including some of the ladies, which was a novelty” (Gairdner VII 1297).  Besides these visits, Anne was in contact with Lady Bryan through letters concerning the care of Elizabeth (Ives 256).  A response to a request from Elizabeth’s household officers to the Council was sent in a packet with “letters to them, and one from the Queen to lady Brian” (Gairdner IX 568).

Richmond 1562
Richmond Palace, 1562

Speculation is futile regarding the feelings both mother and daughter felt for each other; no written records exist.  Anne, following the social dictates and court etiquette of the day, rarely saw her daughter.  Not only was Elizabeth reared by people other than her parents, she was physically removed from them, as was her siblings so some people placing emphasis on the fact she was taken to Hatfield at the age of three months was proof her mother was as disappointed as her father in her birth.  Henry’s treasured heir, Edward, was also reared in a separate household.  Evaluation of those persons surrounding the infant Elizabeth does lend itself to assume a strong influence of Anne.  Many had Boleyn connections: Lady Margaret Bryan was not only Princess Mary’s former governess but related to Anne as they shared a maternal grandmother; Lady Shelton, also from Princess Mary’s household and given charge of the combined establishment of Mary and Elizabeth was Anne’s Aunt; and Kat Ashley nee Champernowne was married to Anne’s cousin. After Anne Boleyn’s execution, Henry did not alter the positions of these people closest to Elizabeth.  He too must have trusted them and was not worried about how Anne would be portrayed to their daughter by ‘Boleyn’ servants.  Elizabeth would later comment that “we are more bound to them that bringeth us up well than to our parents… our bringers-up are a cause to make us live well in [the world]” (Marcus 34).

*£40 from 1535 would be £19,000.00 using the retail price index or£266,000.00 using average earnings based on calcualtions from the “Measuring Worth” website.

References:

Brewer, J. S. (editor). “Henry VIII: November 1517.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 2: 1515-1518 (1864): 1183-1198. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013.

Burnet, Gilbert. The History of the Reformation of the Church of England. Vol.I Part I. London:  W. Baynes and Son, 1825.  Google Books.  Web.  3 July 2013.

Gairdner, James. (editor). “Henry VIII: April 1534, 16-20.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 7: 1534 (1883): 199-210. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013. 

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: February 1535, 11-20.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 8: January-July 1535 (1885): 75-98. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013.

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: October 1535, 6-10.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9: August-December 1535 (1886): 181-195. British History Online. Web. 29 June 2013.

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: February 1536, 1-5.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536 (1887): 82-98. British History Online. Web. 01 July 2013.

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: August 1536, 16-20.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 11: July-December 1536 (1888): 130-138. British History Online. Web. 28 June 2013.

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

Ives, Eric.  The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print.

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

“The Queen Elizabeth Virginal.” V&A Images Collection. Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.

Ridgway, Claire.  The Fall of Anne Boleyn:  A Countdown.  UK:  MadeGlobal Publishing, 2012. Print.

Sander, Nicholas, and Edward Rishton. Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism. Trans. David Lewis. London: Burns & Oates, 1877. Google Books. Web. 28 June 2013.

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

Warnicke, Retha.  The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Print.

Weir, Alison. The Children of Henry VIII.  New York:  Ballantine Books, 1996. Print

Weir, Alison.  Henry VIII:  The King and His Court.  New York:  Ballatine Books, 2001. Google Books. Web. 30 June 2013.

Weir, Alison.  The Lady in the Tower:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn.  London:  Jonathan Cape, 2009.  Print.

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Rest in Peace

It is not the purpose here to debate whether or not a person can be completely prepared for death when it comes.  Each person’s preparation must be unique and based on his or her views and life-choices.  This preparation is most often done in private, but what if the person is a public figure—a sovereign? Now the natural process of death becomes a public experience. The deaths of both Henry VII and Elizabeth Regina were witnessed by a multiple people and recorded as part of the historic chronicle.  Their foibles and quirks exposed and also their immense courage.

h7 death mask   e1 death mask

Death mask of Henry VII                Replica death mask of Elizabeth I

Henry VII’s health was never robust and after he suffered the deaths of his son Arthur and his Queen, Elizabeth of York, in childbirth along with the baby he became more delicate and more frequently experienced bouts of ill-health.  The Spanish ambassador, Pedro de Ayala, declared in a letter to Ferdinand and Isabella that “the king looks old for his years, but young for the sorrowful life he has led” (Bergenroth 178).

Pedro de Ayala

Pedro de Ayala, Spanish Ambassador

In early March of 1509 Henry became unwell at Hanworth, about six miles from Richmond to where he ordered the Court to move.  By early April he was unable to eat and struggled for breath.  Some historians believe he suffered from quinsy, complications to tonsillitis.  Henry “lay amid mounds of pillows, cushions and bolsters” throughout the month of April (Penn 339).

Henry’s deathbed illness is not well-documented by narrative although we know several men who attended based on the scene depicted by Garter Herald Thomas Wroithesly.  There are 14 figures placed around the bed with three doctors identified by occupation by the flasks in their hands including Giovanni Battista Boerio and two clerics, including Thomas Wosley. The other nine had their coats-of-arms painted above their heads; they were Bishop Richard Fox, Lord George Hastings, Richard Weston, Richard Clement, Sir Matthew Baker, John Sharp, William Tyler, Hugh Denys and William Fitzwilliam.

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Henry VII on his death bed

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Henry’s eyes being closed by Fitzwilliam 

Henry lingered for some days until “having lived two and fifty years, and thereof reigned three and twenty years, and eight months, being in perfect memory, and in a most blessed mind, in a great calm of a consuming sickness passed to a better world, the two and twentieth of April 1509, at his palace of Richmond, which himself had built” (Bacon and Lumby 211).  Most of his Court was residing there and upon his death ministers went to great lengths (those maneuverings could fill another blog entry) to keep his death secret or at least unannounced, as they worked to decide who should control the realm.  Although the transfer of power was not immediate or completely smooth, enough preparations were in place for councilors to solidify their positions and to rally around the 17-year-old Henry VIII, securing the Tudor dynasty. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, assured the kingdom that Henry had handed over the throne to his son by  “wisely consyderynge this noble prynce ordred hymselfe therafter, let call for his sone the kynge that now is our governour. He called unto hym and gave hym faderly and godly exhortacion, commyttynge unto him the laborious governaunce of this realme…” (Fisher 285-86).

Henry’s will was published, luckily, in 1775 by Thomas Astle as the original is severely damaged. Only a small section of it remains.  The will is dated for March 31, 1509, three weeks before the King’s death. Scholars are sure that the will was written in real-time as the place, location and the date were written continuously with the main body of the text indicating that they were not placed in separately (Condon 107).

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Fragment of the Will of Henry VII

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 Published in 1775 by Thomas Astle

The document “captures the king’s authentic voice” and the overall tone is one of contrition and remorse”  (Condon 103).  Henry VII greatly repented during his final days. Some observers wondered if he felt remorse at the stringent economic measures that were instituted during his rule. Henry requested that his Executors listen to complaints “And in caas by suche examinacion it can be founde, that the complaint be made of a grounded cause … we wol then that as the caas shall require, he and thei bee restored and recompensed by our said Executours, of such our redy money and juelx as then shall remayne…” (Henry VII 12).  Here was a man conscious of the financial hardships he imposed on many of his subjects.

Perhaps, as his life drew to a close, he realized money was not the answer to all life’s questions or he was fearful of eternal punishment.  Whichever reason, he wanted to ensure that “also if any psone of what degree foevir he bee, shewe by way of complainte to our Executours, any wrong to have been doon to hym, by us, oure commaundement, occasion or meane, or that we helde any goodes or lands which of right ought to apperteigne unto hym; we wol that every such complainte, be spedely, tenderly and effectually herde, and the matier duely and indifferently examyned…” (Henry VII 11).

Besides the King’s preoccupation with righting possible wrongs, the other main provisions of his will were to complete the Lady Chapel, build the Savoy hospital and complete King’s College, Cambridge.  Added were the stipulation for alms to be given between the time of his death and burial…” (Condon 104).  Contemporaries believed that he was “a great almsgiver in secret; which shewed, that his works in public were dedicated rather to God’s glory than his own” (Bacon and Lumby 212).  Furthermore, he gained praise for granting a general pardon for less Earthly rewards “expecting a second coronation in a better kingdom” (Bacon and Lumby 211).  To ensure he covered all his bases, Henry stipulated for a “continual and continued edifice of prayer” for his soul (Condon 104).

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Illustrated document (and enlargement) of Henry VII requesting prayers and giving alms for the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey

Edward Hall was confident that, because of Henry’s “noble acts and prudent policies”, when he died “he has the sure fruition of the godhead, and the joy that is prepared for such as shall sit on the right hand of our savior, for ever world without end” (Loades 97). Although as previously mentioned, Henry appeared repentant, perhaps he was fearful of final judgment for evidence of his religious devotion in his final days included hearing several Masses a day and taking the sacrament when “he was of that feblenes that he might not receive it again”, saying confession and kissing the crucifix “not the selfe place where the blessed body of our lorde was conteyned, but the lowest parte of the fote of the monstraunt, that all that stode aboute hym scarsly might conteyn them from teres and wepyng” (Fisher 274).

Henry’s concern was reflected in the Reverend John Fisher’s funeral sermon in which he claimed that, while awaiting his death, Henry “was not without drede” in the face of God’s judgment even though he received “sacraments of crystes chyrche whiche with full grete devocyon…” (Fisher 277).

john fisher

Bishop of Rochester, John Fisher                      

After his death 22 April, the ex-king’s body was laid in state at Richmond until 9 May when it was taken by barge as far as London Bridge.  From here the casket was processed, in a carriage drawn by horses draped in black velvet, to St. Paul’s Cathedral on 10 May.  Atop the coffin was a life-sized effigy worked from Henry’s death mask and draped in parliamentary robes with the scepter and orb.  Heraldic banners and flags displaying Henry’s titles and dominions decorated the hearse and route.  Inside St. Paul’s, the coffin was laid at the high altar where a Mass for the dead was sung and a vigil kept throughout the night.  The funeral service was held on 11 May with the sermon given by Bishop Fisher.  Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother, was so pleased with the sermon she ordered it to be printed and distributed around the country.

From St. Paul’s the body was again taken in procession, this time to Westminster Abbey for burial to join Queen Elizabeth of York who was already laid to rest there.  Several more Masses were sung with the requiem led by Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham.  Once the services were completed, the body was interred at Henry’s stipulation “in the Chapell where our said graunt Dame laye buried, the which Chapell we have begoune to buylde of newe, in the honour of our blessed Lady” (Henry VII 4).  The ex-king’s household officers broke their staves of office and threw them in the tomb before it was sealed.

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William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury

Posthumous reflections stressed the final days of Henry’s life when he showed remorse for some of his administrative policies.  Bishop Fisher revealed that worldly pleasures brought Henry unease that “al his goodly houses so rychely dekte & appareyled, his walles & galaryes of grete pleasure, his gardyns large … were paynfull to hym” (Fisher 278).  Not to be outdone, Bacon let us know that he was “born at Pembroke castle, and lieth buried at Westminster, in one of the stateliest and daintiest monuments of Europe, both for the chapel, and for the sepulcher.  So that he dwelleth more richly dead, in the monument of his tomb, than he did alive in Richmond, or any of his palaces” (Bacon and Lumby 221).

Richmond 1562

Richmond Palace 1562

Founding the Lady Chapel had been an ambition of Henry VII for some time.  His last will and testament is the central text for the creation of the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey (what is now referred to as Henry VII Chapel).  For a detailed explanation of the creation and building of the chapel please refer to the text, Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII edited by T. W. T. Tatton-Brown and Richard Mortimer.

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Exterior of the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey, known as the Henry VII Chapel

From the onset, there was going to be no doubt who was the benefactor of the building of the Chapel; starting at the gates the King’s arms, badges, emblems would be shown and repeated throughout the chapel (Condon 64). Pietro Torrigiano was commissioned in 1512 to create Henry VII’s tomb. Seven years later the chapel was completed.

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Fan-vaulted ceiling of the Henry VII Chapel

His tomb was in the place of honor as his will decreed “And we wol that our Towmbe bee in the myddes of the same Chapell, before the High Aultier…” (Henry VII 4).  Yet, despite imploring his Executors to “full and entrie perfourmyng and executing of this our present Wille, and every thing conteyned in the same,” the tomb was moved to the side (Henry VII 27).  Henry VIII moved it behind the altar, “reserving the more prominent space for his own tomb…” (Penn 377).

henry 7 chapel tomb     henry 7 tomb

Tomb of Henry VII & Elizabeth of York, placed behind the altar rather than in the middle to allow space for the monument of Henry VIII

As things in life do happen, Henry VII’s son was not buried at Westminster in the carefully planned testimonial to the Tudor dynasty but his granddaughter, Elizabeth Regina, famously was.

Like her grandfather, Elizabeth grew depressed after the deaths of several people close to her: the Earl of Essex’s execution was a severe blow; the deaths of several of her women, Lady Peyton, Lady Skolt, Lady Heyward and in late February 1603 her cousin Katherine, Countess of Nottingham, granddaughter of her aunt Mary Boleyn and one of her closest attendants.

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Katherine Carey Howard, Countess of Nottingham

Her melancholy increased causing attendants (and later historians) to speculate upon the continual causes.  Was it the political losses in Ireland?  Was it the neglect of Courtiers who were lined up to offer services to James VI of Scotland? Was it the physical ailments which curtailed her activities such as riding and hunting? Was it the deaths of many from her council members? Was it the care and worry of the kingdom?  Was it insomnia?

Elizabeth-I-Allegorical

Allegorical painting of Elizabeth I done after 1620 during a revival of interest in her reign

Elizabeth had caught cold in early January which had turned to bronchitis.  On January 21 the Court moved to Richmond. The records we have from this time period are pretty extensive from contemporaries’ writings.  William Camden was given the Queen’s Rolls, Memorials and Records by William Cecil to use in compiling an historical account of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  He wanted to do her justice, he wanted to obey Cecil and he wanted to tell the truth as he attested on the third page of ‘The Author to the Reader’ note.  A noble ambition and one that is hard to argue against.  We have from him that in the beginning of Elizabeth’s illness the “Almonds in her Throat swelled, and soon abated again; then her Appetite failed by degrees; and withal she gave herself over wholly to Melancholy, and seemed to be much troubled with a peculiar Grief for some Reason or other” (Camden 659).

william camden

William Camden

Her godson, John Harington, tried to cheer her up with verses and light-hearted talk but, according to a letter he sent his wife, Elizabeth told him, “When thou dost feel creeping Time at thy gate, these fooleries will please thee less; I am past my relish for such matters; thou seest my bodily meet doth not suit me well; I have eaten but one ill-tasted cake since yesternight” (Sitwell 453).

johnharington

John Harington  

Her kinsman, Robert Carey, the son of her cousin Lord Hunsdon, also visited her at Richmond and he found her “in one of her withdrawing chambers, sitting low upon her cushions.  After greetings he wished her in health and she said ‘No, Robin, I am not well’; and then discoursed with me of the indisposition; and that her heart had been sad and heavy for ten or twelve days; and in her discourse she fetched not so few as forty or fifty great sighs.  I was grieved at the first to see her in this plight; for in all my lifetime I never knew her to fetch a sigh, but when the Queen of Scots was beheaded” (Carey 116).  Carey continued that “I used the best words I could to persuade her from this melancholy humour but I found by her it was too deep rooted in her heart and hardly to be removed” (Aikin 523).

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Robert Carey, surrounded by his wife and children

Carey reported that in late-March on a Sunday Elizabeth had expressed her wish to go to chapel in her closet but she could not make it.  Cushions were laid for her on the floor near the closet door and she listened to services from there. “From that day forward she grew worse and worse.  She remained upon her cushions four days and nights at the least.  All about her could not persuade her either to take any sustenance or go to bed….” (Carey 119).  Her coronation ring had to be cut off of her finger as it had grown into the flesh—perhaps hard for her to accept as she had always prided herself in her long, tapered fingers.  The removal of the ring “was taken as a sad Omen, as if it portended that her Marriage with the Kingdome, contracted by the Ring, would now be dissolved” (Camden 659).

Some reported that she was losing her mental faculties but John Nichols assured that  “there was no such matter; only she held an obstinate silence for the most part, because she had a persuasion, that if she once lay down she should never rise; could not be got to go to bed in a whole week” (Nichols 604). She did not speak for several days “sitting sometimes with hir eye fixed upon one object many howres together, yet shee always had hir perfect senses and memory” (Manningham 146).

death-of-queen-elizabeth-1

Final days of Elizabeth 1 by Paul Delaroch, 1828

The Queen would take no medicines, but she would not go to bed to die either.  Maybe we could say it was another example of her trying to see both sides of an issue, trying to compromise, or simply trying to wait-out the events.

The Lord Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, was brought in to persuade her to go to bed. He was successful yet all knew “there was no hope of her recovery, because she refused all remedies” (Aikin 524).  Not long after, she had herself pulled to her feet and stood for 15 hours before returning to her cushions.  Elizabeth was fighting death with her usual tenacity.

charles howard nottingham

Lord Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham

The Venetian Ambassador, Giovanni Scaramelli said she had rallied a little 21 March.  Most speculate it was after the abscess in her throat burst allowing for her to feel better for a while.  Around this time there occurred the famous incident involving Robert Cecil.  He approached the Queen and said “Madam, to content the people you must go to bed” and the Queen rebuked him with “Little man, little man, the word must is not to be used to princes” (Perry The Word of a Prince 317).

(c) National Trust, Hardwick Hall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Robert Cecil

Carey provided that “on Wednesday the 23rd of March she grew speechless” (Aikin 524).  John Manningham, a diarist and lawyer, went to Richmond Palace on that date after the rumors of Elizabeth’s health had reached London and even stories that she was already dead.  He was acquainted with Dr. Henry Parry, Bishop of Gloucester and Elizabeth’s favorite chaplain.  Manningham dined in the privy chamber with Dr. Parry and several others learning about the Queen’s illness how “for a fortnight she had been overwhelmed with melancholy, sitting for hours with eyes fixed upon one object, unable to sleep, refusing food and medicine, and …still retained her faculties and memory” (Manningham 14).

henry parry

Henry Parry, Chaplain to Elizabeth Regina

When it appeared as if there would be no recovery, the councilors became anxious to officially secure the succession.  Therefore, when she was asked if James VI of Scotland would be her heir, she made a gesture that was taken as assent.  Many witnesses relayed with drama that she placed her hands above her head in the shape of a crown, others that she merely motioned with her hand agreement.  Regardless of the true action, the movement was taken as her sanction and preparations were made for the ascension of James Stuart. Unlike her grandfather, she left no will.  Her treasury was intact and her possessions available for James to inherit as he would her throne.

During her final days Dr. Parry, her chaplain, administered to her when she “tooke great delight in hearing prayers, would often at the name of Jesus lift up hir hands and eyes to Heaven” (Manningham 146).

The Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, came at about six in the evening of the 23March to pray with her.  He knelt at Elizabeth’s bedside and prayed until he became sore and tired and when he “blessed her, and meant to rise and leave her” she gave indication that she wanted him to continue.  He did so with “earnest cries to God for her soul’s health, which he uttered with that fervency of spirit, as the Queen to all our sight much rejoiced thereat, and gave testimony to us all of her Christian and comfortable end” (Carey 122).  The Archbishop stayed quite late until everyone but a few of her women and, according to some reports, Dr. Parry departed.

WhitgiftJohn2

John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury 

She died between two and three in the morning of Thursday March 24, 1603. Manningham recorded Dr. Parry’s words when he made the death announcement.  “This morning about three at clocke, hir Majestie departed this lyfe, mildly like a lambe, easily like a ripe apple from the tree”(Manningham 146).  He continued that Dr. Parry reported he “sent his prayers before hir soule” … and concluded that he, Manningham, “doubt not but shee is amongst the royall saints in Heaven in enternall joyes” (Manningham 147).

Upon her death, Elizabeth’s body was tended at Richmond Palace by her ladies, specifically Anne Russell, Countess of Warwick, and Helena Snakenborg, Marchioness of Northampton.  Five days later, at night, it was taken along the river in a black-draped barge to Whitehall.  There it lay in State in a withdrawing chamber attended continuously by lords and ladies of the Court.  Many days later, the body was moved to Westminster Hall to await the King’s orders for the funeral.

anne russell      helena snakenborg

       Anne Russell,                                     Helena Snakenborg
Countess of Warwick                        Marchioness of Northampton

The funeral was held 28 April 1603.  Elizabeth’s body was processed to Westminster Abbey.  Four horses, hung in black velvet, pulled a hearse carrying the coffin which was covered in purple velvet upon which lay the life-sized wax effigy—remade in 1760.  Although spectacularly covered in Parliamentary robes, holding the scepter and orb, no hint of Elizabeth’s carefully controlled image of Gloriana remained in the true-to-life likeness from the death mask. When the effigy was seen by the tens of thousands of people along the procession route, it was responded to as emotionally as if it were the Queen in life.  John Stowe who attended the funeral left this description of “all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man” (“History”).  Even Scaramelli, the Venetian Ambassador thought the effigy was depicted “so faithfully she semmes alive” (Doran 249).

e1 funeral procession 2

Funeral procession of Elizabeth Regina, first pictorial record of a funeral of an English monarch

The funeral was organized by Robert Cecil with an estimated cost ranging between £11,305 to £25,000 (in 2010 values that would be £30,800,000 to £68,100,000*) a remarkable sum (Doran 248-249).

The impressive procession of nobles (six earls in no less, in mourning dress, supported the canopy of estate under which was the coffin) with councilors, clerics, courtiers, heralds, gentlemen, servants and 276 poor people filed behind.  Over a thousand people took their place with the peeresses of the realm, who were led by the chief mourner the Marchioness of Northampton.  Archbishop Whitgift officiated at the service which saw the interment of Elizabeth under the main altar of the chapel of her grandfather, Henry VII.  Following tradition her officers broke their staves and threw them atop the coffin before the tomb was sealed.

Three years later, Elizabeth’s body was relocated, along with her sister Mary’s to a chapel James I had created on the north aisle. This blogger had contacted Westminster Abbey to confirm via primary source evidence that Elizabeth was first buried in Henry VII’s tomb.  Miss Christine Reynolds, Assistant Keeper of Muniments, verified that there is a document in the Abbey archives, reference W. A. M. 33659 of 1605-06,  that authorized the removal of the Queen’s body from Henry VII’s vault to the present tomb. The effigy of the newer monument was sculptured by Maximilian Colt and painted by John de Critz according to some reports it too was worked from the death mask at a cost of £1485 (£4,040,000 in 2010 values*).

e1 tomba

Tomb of Elizabeth Regina

The Latin inscription on her tomb would have pleased her.  Below is a portion of it translated:
“Mother of her country, a nursing-mother to religion and all liberal sciences, skilled in many languages, adorned with excellent endowments both of body and mind, and excellent for princely virtues beyond her sex” (“History”).

ElizabethTomb

Monument to Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth had gained the love and devotion of her people and had ruled with great popularity.  William Camden’s biography was to prove prophetic when he said: “No Oblivion shall ever bury the Glory of her Name: for her happy and renowned Memory still liveth, and shall for ever live in the Minds of men to all Posterity” (Camden 661).

Once the proclamation was made for James I, the crowds were not exuberant as “sorrowe for hir Majesties departure was soe deep in many hearts they could not soe suddenly showe anie great joy” (Manningham 147).

That sorrow manifested itself 10 years later in comments made by Edward Hall.  “Such was the sweetness of her government and such the fear of misery in her loss, that many worthy Christians desired that their eyes be closed before hers” (Aikin 529).

e1 tombd

It was the “new men and new manners brought in by James I served to teach the nation more highly to appreciate all that it had enjoyed under his illustrious predecessor…” and the “despicable weakness of her successor caused her decease to be regretted and deplored” (Aikin 529).

Many people saw the significance of her death date with William Camdon explaining:  “On the 24 of March, being the Eve of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, she (who was born on the Eve of the Nativity of the same Blessed Virgin) was called out of the Prison of her earthly Body to enjoy an everlasting Country in Heaven, peaceably and quietly leaving this Life after that happy manner of Departure… having reigned 44 Years, 4 Months, and in the seventieth Year of her Age; to which no King of England ever attained before” (Camdon 661).

e1 tomb effigy

Stanza 21 and 22 of a poem written by Queen Elizabeth

Regret for my fault
Delivered me from sin,
For it afflicted me so
That this alone was my care—
That I did not have care enough;
Knowing better, that in joy
I had to suffer,
I turned myself to so many tears
That a thousand times my comfort
Renewed my pains.

To increase the grief
Of my follish past,
Contemplating my Creator,
I remember the making
Of me, a sad sinner;
I saw that God redeemed me,
Beign cruel against Him,
And considering well who He was,
I saw how He made Himself me,
So that I would make myself Him.
Queen Elizabeth (Marcus 419)

*Values for pounds were figured using the Measuring Worth website at http://www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/

References

Aikin, Lucy. Memoirs of the Court of Elizabeth, Queen of England. London: G. P. Putnam, 1870. Kindle.

Bergenroth, G. A., and, Pascual De. Gayangos. Calendar of Letters, Dispatches and State Papers, Relating to the Negotiations between England and Spain, Preserved in the Archives at Simancas and Elsewhere: Published by the Authority of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury under the Direction of the Master of the Rolls. Henry VII 1485 – 1509. ed. Vol. 1. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1862. Google Books. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.

Borman, Tracy. Elizabeth’s Women:  The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen.  London:  Jonathan Cape.  2009. Print.

Camden, William, and Robert Norton. Annals, Or, The Historie of the Most Renovvned and Victorious Princesse Elizabeth, Late Queen of England.: Containing All the Important and Remarkable Passages of State, Both at Home and Abroad, during Her Long and Prosperous Reigne. 4th ed. London: Printed by Thomas Harper, for Benjamin Fisher, and Are to Be Sold at His Shop in Aldersgate Street, at the Signe of the Talbot., 1688. Google Books. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.

Carey, Robert Sir, Earl of Monmouth. The Memoirs of Sir Robert Carey. Edinburgh: James Ballantyne and Co. and Archibald Constable and Co.. 1808. Google Books. Web. 15 Apr. 2013

Condon, Margaret. Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII. Ed. T. W. T. Tatton-Brown and Richard Mortimer. Rochester, NY: Boydell, 2003. Google Books. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. 

Doran, Susan, ed. Elizabeth:  The Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. London: Chatto & Windus, 2003. Print.

Doran, Susan.  The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603.  New York:  Metro Books, 2008. Print.

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

Fisher, John, and John E. B. Mayor. “Sermon Sayd in the Cathderall Chyrche of Saynt Poule within the Cyte of London the Body Being Present of the Moost Famous Prynce Kyng Henry the VIII, 10 May MCCCCCIX. Enprinted by Wynkyn De Worde 1 H. VIII.”The English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. London: N. Trübner for the Early English Text Society, 1876. 268-88. Google Books. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.

Frye, Susan.  Elizabeth I:  The Competition for Representation. Oxford:  Oxford Univseity Press. 1993. Print.

Griffiths, Ralph A. and Roger S. Thomas.  The Making of the Tudor Dynasty.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Print.

Henry VII. The Will of King Henry VII. London: Printed for the Editor: and Sold by T. Payne; and B. White, 1775. Google Books. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.

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

“History.” Elizabeth I. The Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

Jones, Michael K. and Malcolm G. Underwood.  The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret

Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.

Levin, Carole.  The Heart and Stomach of a King:  Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power.  Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1994. Print.

Loades, David, ed. The Tudor Chronicles: The Kings.  New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990.  Print.

Manningham, John, and John Bruce. Diary of John Manningham of the Middle Temple and of Bradbourne, Kent, Barrister-at-law, 1602-1603. London: Camden Society, 1868. Open Library, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.

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

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

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.  Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty.  Stroud: Amberley, 2010. Print.

Penn, Thomas.  Winter King; the Dawn of Tudor England.  New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Print.

Perry, Maria. The Sisters of Henry VIII.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. Print.

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

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

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

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

Strachey, Lytton.  Elizabeth and Essex: A Tragic History.  New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1969. Print.

Starkey, David, ed. Rivals in Power. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990. Print.

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

Heir Unapparent

Heir Unapparent
Looked at with a cursory glance, the roads to succession for the heirs to Henry VII and Elizabeth I was without challenge and smooth.  Looked at with greater scrutiny, those roads to succession were troubled with opposition and rough.  Although many other royal houses had issues, the House of Tudor developed unique situations.

The Oxford Dictionary lists the earliest use of the identification of the House of Tudor as the “Tudor Dynasty” to 1779 with it becoming much more prevalent around 1906. According to C. S. L. Davis, the name “Tudor” was not widely used in the sixteenth century. Davis continued to explain that the contemporary publications did not use the surname until 1584, speculating that the monarchs wanted to distance themselves as descendents from non-royal, actually lowly-born, origins.

Until the Yorkist view of legitimacy based on primogeniture, the law of succession was not clear.  The dynastic struggles of the War of the Roses had continued the beliefs that the ruling king was such by divine right (having won the victory to place him there) and was cemented through the oaths of allegiance.  Obviously, legitimacy was not in Henry VII’s favor but it is a doctrine which he embraced once he became king  (Elton 18-19).  Henry had the succession registered in Parliament.  His purpose was to get his dynasty clearly declared.  He had parliament issue forth “that the inheritance of the crown of England, with every right and possession belonging to it, should remain and abide with our now sovereign lord king Henry and his heirs” (Elton 19-20).

Upon his death, Henry VII’s throne did not move automatically to his son.  Power brokers concealed his death for two days while they consolidated their positions.  Henry VIII was proclaimed, but not given full sovereignty under the guise of his being shy of 18 years of age.  Despite this, it cannot be denied that it was a smooth transition with no elaborate power plays.  Henry VII may have thought this impossible at various stages of his reign.

Edward Hall claimed in the title of his history, “The Union of the two Noble and Illustrious Families,” that the children born to Henry VII and Elizabeth of York brought this about.  There were claimants to the throne that had to be dealt with in various degrees of severity.  The remaining daughters of Edward IV were married to supporters. John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, was a nephew of Edward IV and had been nominated as successor by Richard III.  His oath of allegiance to Henry VII mitigated his claim.  Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, was handled less gently by being thrown in jail to dilute his dynastic claims.  Henry realized “There had to be an end to dynastic war before any dynasty could set about rebuilding the kingdom” (Elton 10).

john pole heraldry                                        edward warwick heraldry
Heraldry of John de la Pole,                Heraldry of Edward Plantagenet,
Earl of Lincoln                                            Earl of Warwick

Also early in his reign Henry VII faced dangers to his less-than-stable throne in with not one but two pretenders as Duke of York.  The first, Lambert Simnel, was quickly dealt with while the second, Perkin Warbeck, gained substantial support.  William Stanley, brother to his own step-father, deserted the Tudor cause to support Warbeck as did the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret of York.  Her support proved so threatening that Henry was compelled to exclaim, “That stupid brazen woman hates my own family with such bitterness … she remains bent on destroying myself and my children” (Hutchinson 17).

lambertsimnel                 Perkin warbeck

   Lambert Simnel                                       Perkin Warbeck

Once the rebellions were stopped, Henry declared his second son Henry as Duke of York in order to claim the title and cement the succession of Lancaster and York. Preserving the Tudor succession continued to be in the forefront of Henry’s mind.  Henry wanted to leave no inheritance pretenders to endanger his son’s position on the throne of England” (Ross 36).  At the end of his reign he could know that the “threats of the dynasty had faded away; he could pass on a safe inheritance to his son” (Morrill 314).   Although the throne was passed to the second son rather than the eldest (due to the early death of Prince Arthur) Henry VIII was the first sovereign in many years to inherit rather than win it by conquest. The crown that Henry VIII inherited was as strong as the one that James VI succeeded to from Elizabeth Regina.

Astoundingly it could be argued that the greatest issues of Elizabeth Regina’s reign, from Parliament’s perspective, were her marriage and the succession.  Once Elizabeth passed the childbearing age, the question of her marriage took care of itself; and, obviously, affected the matter of the succession.

William Cecil tried to convince her that if she did not have children she would be in danger as people of “devilish means might be tempted to desire her end” as they tried to gain the throne and “she would have perpetual torment in life” (Froude 127).

Elizabeth’s perception was that settling the succession would not necessarily bring safety and stability.  “I know that my people have no other cause for regret than that they know me to be but mortal, and therefore they have no certainty of a successor born of me to reign over them”  (Sitwell 269).  Debate would begin immediately, those slighted would be angry and it could still create a struggle for power upon her death. So, with her skill in statecraft, Elizabeth maintained her silence understanding the wisdom of this better than her advisors or her people.

Although in 1559 at her first Parliament Elizabeth assured the members that “the realm shall not remain destitute of an heir” she had no intention of clarifying who that person would be (Perry 100).  She learned during her sister Mary’s reign that a monarch’s heir presumptive automatically becomes the center of dissent.  “I have good experience of myself in my sister’s time, how desirous men were that I should be in place, and earnest to set me up.  And if I would have consented, I know what enterprises would have been attempted to bring it to pass” (Marcus 66).  Every person who had declared for her would have expected rewards when she became queen.  They surely would have been disappointed in what had been meted out and would look around for someone else to put in place who would better reward them.  “No prince’s revenues be so great that they are able to satisfy the insatiable cupidity of men” (Marcus 66).

Throughout her reign, various contenders took their turn leading the short list of possible heirs.  Early on Katherine Grey held the prime spot.  It was well-known that Elizabeth did not care for Katherine and when Katherine married in secret to Somerset’s heir, Elizabeth had no compunction about tossing her in the Tower.  Katherine gave birth to two sons while confined who, despite their lineage, were never true contenders for the throne.  Included in the list early in her reign would be Henry, Lord Hastings and Mary, Queen of Scots, who styled herself as Queen of England much to Elizabeth’s dismay, and never could be discredited as a true heir.  Mary’s role will be discussed later.

Katherine Grey      henry hastings

  Lady Katherine Grey                 Henry, Lord Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon

As Elizabeth grew older the attention focused on the following claimants: Lady Arbella Stuart; Isabella, the Infanta of Spain; Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex; and, James VI of Scotland. She never could escape the political pressures to name an heir although she assured Sir William Maitland, Lord Lethington, a Scottish politician that “When I am dead, they shall succeed that have most right” (Neale 110).

Arbella Stuart                 isabella infanta of spain
 Lady Arbella Stuart                Isabella Clara Eugenia, Infanta of Spain

earl of essex

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

King James VI of Scotland
 King James VI of Scotland

Small pox, that feared scourge of the 16th century became even more so when Elizabeth contracted it.  She survived with minimal effects, but the fear instilled in her ministers of the possibility of her dying without an heir did not fade as quickly as her symptoms.  During the 1563 Parliament petitions from both the House and the Lords were presented to her begging her to marry and to name an heir.

The House of Commons saw “the unspeakable miseries of civil wars, the perilous intermeddlings of foreign princes with seditious, ambitious and factious subjects at home, the waste of noble houses, the slaughter of people, subversion of towns … unsurety of all men’s possessions, lives and estates:  if the sovereign were to die without a known heir, and pointed out that “from the Conquest to this present day the realm was never left as now it is without a certain heir, living and known” (Plowden  Marriage with my Kingdom 130).

Elizabeth certainly gave a refined response on January 28, 1563. This short speech gave no concrete answer regarding the succession although she assured her listeners that she understood the gravity of the situation while letting them know that it was her concern for “I know that this matter toucheth me much nearer than it doth you all” (Marcus 71).  She told them that it needed consideration, that she would let them know later and ‘so I assure you all that, though after my death you may have many stepdames, yet shall you never have a more natural mother than I mean to be unto you all” (Marcus 72).

The Lords sent an equally bloodcurdling petition about what would happen when Elizabeth died as they all knew that “upon the death of a prince, the law dieth” (Plowden Marriage with my Kingdom 131).  Elizabeth’s response to the Lords was read out by Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper on April 10, 1563.  As with the Commons she recognized that the succession was a grave matter and she would give it close attention.  It was another brilliant example of an “answer, answerless” (Seaward).

1563

1563

Draft of Elizabeth Regina’s Speech Given to Parliament in April 1563

Elizabeth was not pleased when in 1566 members of Parliament brought up her marriage and the succession again.  She told them they could not discuss it and they replied that they had a right to do so.  Once more they received an adamant ‘no’ and a comment that “it is monstrous that the feet should direct the head” (Marcus 98).

Wrapped up very eloquently and fancily, Elizabeth replied to both the Commons and the Lords and, although the style of each response differed, the message was clear: when it was convenient for her to determine a successor she would and not before.

Elizabeth assured the members that she would marry when it was convenient and they were not to be concerned about that.  She explained: “I will never break the word of a prince spoken in public place for my honor sake” (Marcus 95).  As for the succession in no uncertain terms she reminded them that it was her decision and hers alone.  Parliament had no business even discussing it and if the issue was debated it would be useless as “some would speak for their master, some for their mistress and every man for his friend…” (Marcus 97). One can imagine how incensed Elizabeth was as she had spoken that the Parliamentarians did not understand nor concern themselves with the peril she placed herself in by naming an heir.  She believed “nothing was said for my safety, but only for themselves” (Marcus 96).

Next she derisively questioned if the named heirs would be able to go above their own personal interests for the good of the country.  Would they “be of such uprightness and so divine as in them shall be divinity itself.  …they would have such piety in them that they would not seek where they are the second to be the first, and where the third to be the second, and so forth” (Marcus 96). She made it clear that “at this present, it is not convenient, nor never shall be without some peril unto you and certain danger unto me” to name a successor so she would not (Marcus 97).

These admonishments did not silence the members and she had to threaten any Parliamentarian who brought up the issue of the succession with examination by the Privy Council and possible punishment which in turn led Paul Wentworth, on behalf of the House, to assert the right of freedom of speech.

This power struggle did not end there.  Guzman de Silva, the Spanish ambassador whom she liked, learned about Parliament’s attempt to blackmail Elizabeth into naming a successor by placing in the preamble of the subsidy bill the necessity of the Queen to name her heir.  Elizabeth caught this request while reading the draft of the subsidy bill and let it be known via annotations to the document, that she would not have her word questioned by being put into law form.  “Shall my princely consent be turned to strengthen my words that be not themselves substantives?  Say no more at this time; but if these fellows were well answered, and paid with lawful coin, there would be fewer counterfeits among them”  (Mueller 40).

guzman de silva
Guzman de Silva, Spanish Ambassador

In her speech to dissolve Parliament on January 2, 1567, she let the members have it again about the inappropriateness of bringing up the succession question as it was a concern only for her.  She did not cloak her pique with Parliament.  She had replied that “not one of them that ever was a second person, as I have been, and have tasted of the practices against my sister… I stood in danger of my life, my sister was incensed against me. …and I was sought in divers ways.  And so shall never be my successor” (Marcus 96).

1566

1566

Draft of Elizabeth Regina’s Speech Given to Parliament on January 2, 1567

Mary, Queen of Scots plays a dominate role in the succession question under Elizabeth.  At first it was as a thorn in the side of the English Queen because Mary, even when she was the Dauphine of France, styled herself “as heiress-presumptive to the English throne” (Fraser 118). Elizabeth was trying to establish herself as sovereign and Anglicanism as the Church and did not relish such threats to her country’s stability.   Later, Mary conspired to overthrow Elizabeth and take over the crown of England—leading to her execution.

mary as dauphine
Mary, Queen of Scots as Dauphine of France

In between times, where does Mary fit?  Many believed Mary was Elizabeth’s true choice as heir.  It was reported by Sir William Maitland that Elizabeth compared the contenders to her throne alongside Mary.  “You know them all, alas; what power or force has any of them, poor souls? It is true that some of them has made declaration to the world that they are more worthy of it than either she or I…” (Dunn 189).  Yes, indeed.  Elizabeth felt the succession question greatly, was concerned about the pool of contenders, and feared naming any one of them.

william maitland
William Maitland, Lord Lethington

Maitland was certainly given every reason to believe that his Queen could obtain the throne of England as Elizabeth felt Mary had a legitimate right to it (even if she was angry at Mary for her self-declaration as heir and her use of Elizabeth’s arms in her heraldry) but she did couch her consideration in a warning. “For so long as I live there shall be no other queen in England but I, and failing thereof she cannot allege that ever I did anything which may hurt the right she may pretend” (Marcus 62).

Mary’s rights seemed to be overshadowed by all the reasons why she should not be heir:  She was Catholic; Henry VIII’s will had excluded that branch of the family; and Scottish relations could deteriorate if the independent minded Scots felt threatened.

Yet, the greatest deterrent to actually naming Mary would be that as long as she thought she was in the running, she had to toe the line.  Once declared, it would be harder for Elizabeth to control her.  Elizabeth was convinced “it is hard to bind princes by any security where hope is offered of a kingdom” (Marcus 67). The risks of naming a successor were too great. Once Elizabeth gave the succession to someone, it was theirs.  They had a right to keep it and it could not be taken back.  One must see why the granting of it must be weighed so carefully.

The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots does not make this a moot point as the logical successor became Mary’s son, the Protestant James VI. For many years, Elizabeth maintained a correspondence with James which are available and well-worth checking out –one source, Letters of Queen Elizabeth and King James VI of Scotland: Some of Them Printed from Originals… edited by John Bruce.   Historians have interpreted these letters to be in the line of a mentor and mentee.  Obviously, her intentions were for him to succeed although she never would declare that because “to have done otherwise would have been to invite all rivals and enemies to set about forestalling his succession, thus jeopardizing both his rights and her domestic peace” (Neale 403).

Elizabeth astuteness understood the reality as she asserted “I know the inconsistency of the people of England, how they ever mislike the present government and has their eyes fixed upon that person that is next to succeed; and naturally men be so disposed:  ‘Plures adorant solem orientem quam occidentem’ [More do adore the rising than the setting sun]” (Dunn 187 or Marcus 66).

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