Reigned With Your Loves

Reigned with Your Loves

Connections and service, be they within personal or formal relationships, create loyalty.  Loyalty which can be demonstrated in many ways.  Both Henry VII and Elizabeth Regina developed heightened abilities in sensing gifted allies to serve them.  Perhaps the skills were honed during their times of confinement (Henry in Brittany and Elizabeth at Hatfield) or they were innate.  Regardless, each surrounded themselves with talented, loyal councilors. 

Henry knew that if England was to recover and the throne was to become stable, the War of the Roses would have to end and healing would have to take place.  What was required now was for the king to be resolute and to act with “judicious mercy, the mercy of head not heart.”  Henry VII was to display clemency and firmness by his “reluctance to proceed to extremes and his readiness to accept old enemies into the fold.”  Actions which “display his determination to show that the wars were over” (Elton 16).

Henry not only utilized Lancastrian loyalists, gentry from his native Wales, and fellow exiles, he also incorporated the Yorkist faction in his new government.  He knew he must not further antagonize the opposition.  Therefore, he pardoned men who had fought at Bosworth against him, and allowed them to enter government positions, even granting them property, if they took the oath of allegiance.  He approached the many Woodville Yorkists cautiously as he did not want to be indebted to them nor to give the impression he reigned in any name but his own– meaning he did not want to appear to have need of Elizabeth of York’s family ties to strengthen his claim. “As a new man, Henry had to secure his place.  He did this by a compromsing approach” (Bacon and Weinberger 238).

Henry had little knowledge of England and its government workings as he had been in exile for so many of his formative years.  He was even unprepared for the responsibilities and life of a king. He thus relied heavily on the associates of his youth and those men who had joined him in exile along with many advisors from his mother’s household.

margaret beaufort

Margaret Beaufort

Henry and his mother, Margaret Beaufort, recognized the need for experienced men to provide council.  Therefore, her household became a basis for Henry to draw officials from such as Christopher Urswick and Reginald Bray.  Many of his contemporaries recognized that service his mother could easily lead to a royal appointment.  Henry viewed service to his mother almost as those who served him “during his period of exile, as a debt of honour” (Jones 80).

Needing men of experience also meant he had to appoint those who had been in England and not exiled—people familiar with the ways of England.  Therefore, a mix of noblemen, gentry, lawyers and clerics were used to comprise Henry VII’s Council (Loades 30).  Henry did not want to give too much power to the men with governmental experience. He kept the nobles contained and “chose rather to advance clergymen and lawyers, which were more obsequious to him…” (Bacon and Lumby 217). These men recognized for their talents were more grateful to the king.

Henry was adamant about allegiance and service.  The men he appointed were “loyal and ardent servants of an exacting but worthy master” (Elton 17).  Despite his harshness, “Henry showed himself capable of attracting men to his side and retaining their loyalty…”  (Griffiths 168).

Star Chamber H7 seated

Henry VII, seated in the Star Chamber

“Like all his family he had an uncanny gift for picking men to serve him, and not even the great Elizabeth surrounded herself with a brighter galaxy of first-rate ministers than did her grandfather” (Elton 17). It is not the purpose here to list every member of Henry’s Privy Council, the focus will be on those he relied upon early in his reign.  Below, in chart form, are listed the pertinent advisors and servants.

Councilors Serving Henry VII

Councilor / Servant

Role

Miscellaneous

Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford Military advisor and commander paternal uncle to Henry, took him into exile
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford Military advisor and commander shared exile and influntial as nobleman
Sir Giles Daubeney Chancellor shared exile and very influential
Cardinal John Morton—Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Chancellor financial advisor/innovator dare we say exploiter
Bishop Richard Fox Lord Privy Seal shared exile, very influencial after Morton’s death
Bishop Peter Courtenay Keeper of the Privy Seal shared exile
Bishop William Warham Master of the Rolls and later Lord Chancellor performed many diplomatic missions
Sir Reginald Bray Courtier acquired from Margaret Beaufort’s advisors,very influential and architect of Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor
Christopher Urswick Courtier acquired from Margaret Beaufort’s advisors
Sir John Heron Treasurer of the Chamber shared exile and one of the most trusted advisors
Sir Edward Belknap Surveyor of the King’s Prerogative could confiscate anyone’s land that overtook the King’s prerogative
Richard Empson Carried out Cardinal Morton’s financial policies arrested under Henry VIII for unpopular financial activities
Edmund Dudley Carried out Cardinal Morton’s financial policies executed under Henry VII for unpopular financial activitiesGrandfather to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Sir Thomas Lovell Treasurer of the Chamber shared exile and one of the most trusted advisors
Sir Richard Guildford Chamberlain of the Receipt shared exile and one of the most trusted advisors
Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York Lord Chancellor experience in previous reigns, did not serve Henry very long
John Alcock, Bishop of Worcester Lord Chancellor experience in previous reigns, bridge between Edward IV, Richard III and Henry’s rule
Sir Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby High Constable of England Henry’s step-father
Sir Edward Woodville Courtier brother to the Queen Dowager, military leader
Sir William Stanley, Lord Chamberlain brother to Henry’s step-father, executed for treason over Perkin Warbeck

jasper tudor           gilesdubeney

Jasper Tudor                                          Giles Daubeney

Cardinal_John_Morton               Richard Fox       

John Morton                                                           Richard Fox

    Peter Courtenay     williamwarham

                 Peter Couetenay                                William Warham

chrisurswick              thomas lovell

Christopher Urswick                                     Thomas Lovell  ThomasRotherham             John Alcock

Thomas Rotherham                                          John Alcock

Thomas-Stanley

 Thomas Stanley

“Henry became practiced in awarding empty honours and rewards to the deserving, which gratified the receivers and heightened their loyalty to him without increasing their actual strength” (Ross 19). Minor merchants or officials who had helped him in one way or another were rewarded as well—prudently. Henry was not a man to throw money around and, although he was generous, it was not beyond his means or beyond what was suitable. e rewarded people who had served his father and other Welsh followers, had helped his mother and even those who had served his revered uncle, Henry VI. (Griffiths 175). 

Machiavelli wrote that a prince should be feared over loved although it would be ideal to be able to be both. In Henry VII’s case it appears as if he did not manage fear and love.  Down the ages we have Edmund Dudley’s treatise, Tree of the Common Wealth, written in defense of absolute monarchy as applied to Henry VI.  Dudley defended Henry’s actions (and maybe reflecting Henry’s views) by stating that if the King was lenient to his subjects “in all cases let them … psume to take it of theire owne authoritie, for then it will surelie choke them” (Dudley 28). 

Henry did set the path for his administration although Bacon proclaimed that Cardinal Morton and Sir Reginald Bray not only reflected Henry’s views but “did temper them” (Bacon 214).  Whereas Empson and Dudley, middle-ranking servants who rose to prominence by being men who “best content the king” (Penn 33), did not moderate his policies, especially financial, “but shaped his way to those extremities, for which himself was touched with remorse at his death….” (Bacon 214).

It is well-known that many of Henry’s financial practices were disliked by his people.  Bacon proclaimed that ” of the three affections which naturally tie the hearts of the subjects to their sovereigns, love, fear, and reverence; he had the last in height, the second in good measure, and so little of the first, as he was beholden to the other two” (Bacon and Lumby 218). Financial acts were not popular with anyone but the benefits of his stable rule, his courts of law and justice did benefit everyone and they knew it too.

EmpsonHenryDudley

Henry VII, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley

By implying to the people that civil war would happen if they lost him, Henry maintained stability.  Another method he consciously employed to control his ministers was in the journal he kept of his thoughts. It included notes he wrote while in conversation with ministers, diplomats and advisors about whom to reward and whom to watch—this was similar to his granddaughter.  Elizabeth Regina kept mental notes of conversations and events she engaged in with her ministers to utilize if necessary in future dealings.

Elizabeth “kept her advisers off balance and perpetually astonished them by the range and mutability of her passions.  Beyond this, they came to know that, with Elizabeth, nothing was ever what it seemed.  Beneath her surface emotions were layer upon calculating layer of secondary reactions, ploys and schemes” (Erickson 173). She enjoyed laying traps for her ministers, throwing back at them their own words.  Yet, they were devoted to her, perhaps because of her political, intellectual and interpersonal skills.  An example could be from the way she handled the ex-ministers of Mary’s reign.  Elizabeth greatly reduced the number of advisors and assured those that had served Mary that they were not retained because she wanted a smaller group to make it more manageable and less open to faction, not because of any deficit on their part (Neale 55).

Battles for Court positions were based on “loosely structured groups focusing on family, household, and master-servant connections…” (Warnicke 135).   Some men were ambitious seeking power and money, others were honored to serve.  Or, as Mervyn James has shown, “the ties of blood were liable to assert themselves with a particular power” (James 325). 

As Queen, Elizabeth did not forget those who were still alive and had served her mother, Anne Boleyn. William Barlow was created Bishop of Chichester; William Latymer, became Dean of Peterborough under Elizabeth and author of Chronickle of Anne Bulleyne; and Matthew Parker appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.  Parker had been chaplain to Anne Boleyn.  Although he did not want to take the Archbishopric, he did so based on a promise he had made to Anne shortly before her death to watch out for the spiritual needs of her daughter.

Like her grandfather, Elizabeth kept her beloved servants of her childhood and youth.  She knew the Privy Council, the body that held up the authority of the Crown and was key to forming royal policy, should be conciliatory to the previous reign and diverse.  In respect to the first consideration, Elizabeth retained 10 ministers from Mary’s reign. Taking a page from her grandfather, she kept members of the opposing faction in her council. Whereas his were Lancaster and York, hers were Catholic (Marian) and Protestant (Elizabethan). 

For diversity, as did Henry, she promoted gifted men of the professions, many who had never held high office before, while keeping a balance of nobles and clergy.  Her main criteria appeared to be efficiency, talent and loyalty.  She wanted advisors who would give good counsel and ones she could trust.  

It is not the purpose here to list every member of Elizabeth’s Privy Council, the focus will be on those she relied upon early in her reign.  Below, in chart form, are listed the pertinent advisors and servants.

                                    Councilors Serving Elizabeth Regina 

Councilor / Servant

Role

Miscellaneous

Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby High Chamberlain served Mary, kept due to prominent role in nobility
Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewbury Courtier and Privy Council Member served Mary, kept due to prominent role in nobility—died within 2 years, son George famously married Bess of Hardwick and was custodian of Mary, Queen of Scots as 6th Earl
Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel High Constable and Lord Steward served Mary, kept due to prominent role in nobility as relative to Woodvilles and Percys.
Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke Lord Lieutenant served Mary, kept due to prominent role in nobility as husband to Lady Katherine Grey
William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham Lord Admiral and Lord Chamberlain served Mary, Elizabeth’s great-uncle and defender in Marian court
William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester Treasurer and Speaker of the House served Mary, great administrator
Edward Clinton, later Earl of Lincoln Lord Admiral andAmbassador to France served Mary, he was Lord Admiral and capable
Sir John Mason Diplomat and Chancellor of Oxford University served Mary, was knighted as public servant
Sir William Petre Secretary of State served Mary, lawyer & tutor to George Boleyn rose rapidly and was knighted
Sir Nicholas Wotton Diplomat served Mary, commoner and cleric
Sir Thomas Parry Comptroller of the Household Elizabeth’s steward since childhood, relative to Cecil,  in household at Hatfield and later knighted
Sir Richard Sackville Chancellor of the Exchequer Elizabeth’s relative as his mother was cousin to Anne Boleyn, had experience during Edward’s time
Sir Francis Knollys Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household Elizabeth’s relative as he married her cousin the daughter of Mary Boleyn, served Edward and a staunch Protestant
Sir Nicholas Bacon Lord Keeper of the Great Seal an attorney—very capable and had been in Edward’s Court, father to Francis
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley Secretary of State later Lord High Treasurer served Elizabeth during Mary’s reign while maintaining a position at CourtBacon’s brother-in-law
Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford Diplomat created into Peerage, staunch Protestant and collector—Armada Portrait at Woburn Abbey—godfather to Francis Drake
William Parr,1st Marquis of Northampton Courtier created into Peerage, brother to Katherine Parr
Sir Edward Rogers Comptroller served Edward and was in Elizabeth’s household at Hatfield
Sir Ambrose Cave connection of Cecil’s, and was in Elizabeth’s household at Hatfield
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester Master of the Horse later Privy Council Member known to Elizabeth since childhood, held in Tower concurrently, became principle favorite
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon Courtier later Privy Council Member Elizabeth’s cousin (son of aunt Mary Boleyn) given many positions
John Ashley Courtier husband of her governess, Kat Ashley
John Fortescue Courtier relative of Thomas Parry
Sir William St. Loe Courtier accused at time of Wyatt rebellion
Sir James Crofts Courtier accused at time of Wyatt rebellion, was a practicing Catholic
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford Lord Great Chamberlain at 12 his wardship was handed over to Cecil from Elizabeth, inclined toward Catholicism, some believe he is “Shakespeare”
Sir Francis Walsingham Principal Secretary known as ‘spy master,’ loyal, yet very out-spoken
Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex Courtier and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland distantly related to Elizabeth, served Mary
Sir Christopher Hatton Courtier later Privy Council Member rose to prominence after Elizabeth saw him dance at Court, called “the Dancing Chancellor”, very devoted
Sir Thomas Wilson Diplomat and Judge later Secretary of State associate of the Dudleys, wrote Arte of Rhetorique which set English style

edstanley          Henry FitzAlan 19thEarlOfArundel

Edward Stanley                                                     Henry FitzAlan

Henry Herbert EarlOfPemboke         HOward of Effingham

Henry Herbert                                              William Howard

NPG 65,William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester,by Unknown artist       edclinton

William Paulet                                               Edward Clinton

WilliamPetre           Nicholas_Wotton

William Petre                                                     Nicholas Wotton

Thomas Parry    francisknollys

Thomas Parry                                              Francis Knollys

bacon nicoholas     cecil william

Nicholas Bacon                                             William Cecil

Russell,Francis(2EBedford)01       william parr

Francis Russell                                                   William Parr

robertdudley       henrycarey1

Robert Dudley                                                   Henry Carey

johnfortseque          Edward-de-Vere-1575

John Fortesque                                            Edward de Vere

walsingham       Thomas_Radclyffe_Earl_of_Sussex

Francis Walsingham                               Thomas Radclyffe

chrishatton       thomas wilson

Christopher Hatton                                  Thomas Wilson

At the beginning of her reign, Elizabeth proclaimed “I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel” (Marcus 52).  I believe this does not mean she meant to bend to the will of her ministers.  She had received a humanist education similar to many of her advisors and she knew she ruled.  In her speech to her councilors shortly before her Coronation she assured them she would take advice from them and knew what a good team they would all be: “I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to almighty God…” (Marcus 52).

Personal relationships between monarchs and their council members were a big part of the appointments more than just political views—thus the factions that could emerge and the debates. Lord Burghley helped set the tone for the Privy Council as reported by Francis Peck: “He would never deliver his opinion in council, but when he might freely debate it” (Peck 43). 

Elizabeth did permit differences of opinion and allowed council members to make comments. She respected independent thought (look at the type of men she appointed).  Her council became more fiery and diverse in later years (especially the final 15 years of her rule as many of the early advisors died) but this conciliatory, initial one proved effective and wise under the leadership of the experienced William Cecil.  While teaching Elizabeth the art of statecraft, Cecil devoted himself to her, England and the Protestant cause. Once when he offered to resign after a disagreement, he requested that he be able to “serve her Majesty elsewhere, be it in kitchen or garden” (Brimacombe 63). 

She did consult her advisors but she also knew her own mind.  One has to give her credit for appointing such able councilors.  Yet, how did she hold their loyalty?  Similarly to her grandfather, she did not give excessive rewards, she was often harsh, she could be unkind, yet they were devoted to her. She had courage, subtlety, intelligence and charisma.  

Elizabeth loved a crowd and performed well in front of one.  She always had a rejoinder for the comments made by the people when she was out in public.  She seemed friendly and approachable while still retaining her dignity. Throughout her entire reign, when she went on progress the countryside filled with people eager to catch a glimpse of her on the road.  This was devotion above and beyond fear of majesty and her relatively tolerant rule. “When she smiles, it was a pure sunshine that everyone did choose to bask in if they could” said Sir John Harington (Hibbert 117).

johnharington

John Harington

John Hayward, a contemporary, wrote of her entry into London and her first few weeks as queen that “if ever any persone had eyther the gift or the stile to winne the hearts of people, it was this Queene; and if ever shee did expresse the same, it was at that present, in coupling mildnesse with majesty as shee did, and in stately stouping to the meanest sort” (Hayward 6).

progress1

Elizabeth on Progress

The feeling was mutual.  She commented to a French diplomat late in her reign concerning her people’s affection that “it seems incredible, and I love them no less, and I can say that I would rather die than see any diminution of it on one side or the other” (Sitwell 75).  As she famously exclaimed in her Golden Speech, “…though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves” (Marcus 337).

References

Bacon, Francis. The Works of Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam, Viscount of St. Albans, and Lord High Chancellor of England. Vol. 5. London: Printed for M. Jones, 1818. Google Books. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.

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.

Brimacombe, Peter.  All the Queen’s Men: the World of Elizabeth I.  Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2000.  Print.

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.

Doran, Susan and Norman Jones. The Elizabethan World. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.

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

Dudley, Edmund. The Tree of Common Wealth: A Treatise. Manchester London: C. Simms & Co., 1859. Google Books. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.

Elton, G. R. England Under the Tudors. Third ed. London:  Routledge, 1991. Print.

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

Hayward, John, and John Bruce. Annals of the First Four Years of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. London: Printed for the Camden Society by J.B. Nichols and Son, 1840. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

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

Hutchinson, Robert. Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011. Google Books. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.

James, Mervyn. Society, Politics, and Culture: Studies in Early Modern England. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire: Cambridge UP, 1986. Web. 6 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.

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

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

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

Nichols, John. Gentleman’s Magazine … Vol. 163. London: William Pickering; John Bowyer Nichols and Son, January to June Inclusive,1833. Google Books. Web. 2013.

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

Peck, Francis. Desiderata Curiosa:  Or, a collection of divers scarce and curious pieces relating chiefly to matters of English history; Consisting of Choice Tracts, Memoirs, Letters, Wills, Epitaphs, & Transcribed, Many of them, from the Originals Themselves, and the Rest from Divers Antient MS. Copies, or the MS. Collections of Sundry Famous Antiquaries and other Eminent Persons, both of the Last and Present Age: the whole, as Near as Possible, digested into an Order of Time, and Illustrated with Ample Notes, Contents, Additional Discourses, and a Complete Index.  By Francis Peck, M..A. Rector of Godeby Near Melton in Leicestershire.  Adorned with Cuts.  A new edition, greatly corrected, with some memoirs of the life and writings of Mr. Peck.  Vol. 1. London: Thomas Evans in the Strand, 1732. Google Books. Web. 30 Mar. 2013. 

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

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

Ross, Josephine.  The Tudors, England’s Golden Age.  London: Artus, 1994.  Print. 

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

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

Warnicke, Retha M. The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Print.

Wilson, A. N.  The Elizabethans.  London: Hutchinson, 2011. Print.

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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.

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