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

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

To understand the relationship between Elizabeth Regina and Philip II, a study must be made of the events of their association and the outcomes.  These include two attempts to place Elizabeth on the throne during Mary’s reign; the role Philip played in how Elizabeth was treated in the aftermath of each rebellion; and Mary’s view of her sister’s place in the succession.

Wyatt Rebellion, 1554
Sir Thomas Wyatt was the leader of a rebellion instigated in early 1554 by Mary’s proposed marriage to Philip of Spain.  Once she became queen, Mary repealed the act which declared her parents’ marriage invalid and herself illegitimate.  She was, as queen, a highly eligible match even though she was 37, certainly middle-aged in that era.  She assured Charles V she would be guided by him in her selection of husband, and low and behold his son, Philip, a widower at 26, was the most eligible prince in Catholic Europe.  Mary was determined to marry him.

thomas wyatt
Sir Thomas Wyatt

The Wyatt Rebellion caused her to take decisive action.  She went to the Guildhall and gave a speech to the populace assuring them that she married Philip only with the consent of her councilors and that she was firstly married to her kingdom.

Wyatt did enter London; Mary sent her troops after him.  She did not flee and, while she was praying for her country’s safety, Wyatt was captured.  The rebel said he took action being “persuaded, that by the marriage of the Prince of Spain, the second person of this realm, and next heir to the crown, should have been in danger; and I, being a free-born man, should, with my country, have been brought into bondage and servitude of aliens and strangers” (Strype 132).  Rebellion was saving England from the Catholic scourge by ‘the second person of this realm.’  Thus, Elizabeth was implicated although Wyatt never named her during his interrogations or on the scaffold.  Elizabeth was sent to the Tower for two months where she was held prisoner, questioned and intimidated.     

bloody mary     elizabeth 1 by scrouts
  Mary I                                           Princess Elizabeth 

Simon Renard, Ambassador to Spain, wrote to his sovereign, Charles V, 22 March 1554 that there was disagreement in the Council when “it was proposed to throw the Lady Elizabeth into the Tower, the Council expressed a wish to know exactly the reason, and the upshot was that the heretics combined against the Chancellor, and stuck to it that the law of England would not allow of such a measure because there was not sufficient evidence against her, that her rank must be considered and that she might perfectly well be confined elsewhere than in the Tower.”  Renard relayed that no one would “accept the responsibility of taking custody of her.”  Because of the councilors shying away from taking charge of Elizabeth, they “decided to conduct her to the Tower last Saturday, by river and not through the streets; but it did not happen that day, because when the tide was rising Elizabeth prayed to be allowed to speak to the Queen, saying the order could not have been given with her knowledge, but merely proceeded from the Chancellor’s hatred of her. If she could not speak to the Queen, she begged to be allowed to write to her. This was granted, and while she was writing the tide rose so high that it was no longer possible to pass under London bridge, and they had to wait till the morrow” (Tyler XII March).

Simon_Renard    charles v
  Simon Renard                                    A Youthful Charles V

Elizabeth had achieved her purposes: she had postponed her imprisonment in the Tower and had written to her sister.  This letter of March 16, 1554, one of Elizabeth’s most famous, was a marvel how she handled her sister and logically argued her innocence while writing under distressing circumstances. 

Elizabeth beseeched Mary to remember her agreement to Elizabeth’s request “That I be not condemned without answer and due proof.” Elizabeth wanted her sister to know that “I am by your Council from you commanded to go unto the Tower, a place more wonted for a false traitor than a true subject.”  Although she bravely declared that she will go and be proved innocent, she pledged to her sister “I protest afore God that I never practiced, counseled, nor consented to anything that might be prejudicial to your person any way or dangerous to the state by any mean.”  Elizabeth appealed for an opportunity to meet with the Queen to tell her in person of her innocence and asked her sister to pardon her boldness, excusing her actions “which innocency procures me to do, together with the hope of your natural kindness.…”  The evidence of a letter written by Wyatt is addressed by logically stating “he might peradventure write me a letter, but on my faith I never received any from him.”  Elizabeth completed the letter by making diagonal lines across the bottom so that nothing could be inserted and signed herself “Your highness’ most faithful subject that hath been from the beginning and will be to my end, Elizabeth”   (Marcus 41-42). 

diagonal letters 001
   The letter Elizabeth wrote to Mary in March of 1554

Her collaboration in the rebellion was never proven.  Renard suggests that Gardiner “held documentary evidence of her [Elizabeth’s] active interest in the plot, but that he destroyed this because it also involved young Courtenay” (Queen Elizabeth 110).  Not having direct proof of her sister’s guilt, Mary was reluctant to condemn Elizabeth and so  released her to house arrest.  John Foxe informed “The xix daye of Maye, the Ladye Elizabeth, Sister to the Queene, was brought oute of the Tower, and committed to the kepyng of Syr Henry Benifielde… shewed himself more harde and strayte unto her, then eyther cause was geven of her parte, or reason of his owne parte.”  Foxe showed the surprise not in Bedingfield’s  bad treatment but in the benevolence shown by Elizabeth once she came to the throne.  Praising her for not taking revenge as other monarchs “oftentimes requited lesse offences with losse of life,” Foxe explained that Elizabeth did not deprive Bedingfield of his liberty “save only that he was restrained  for not comming to the court” (Foxe V 1072).

StephenGardiner    John_Foxe
  Stephen Gardiner                                               John Foxe

When she was released from Woodstock, it was to come to Court to witness the birth of Mary’s heir.  Sources differ on when Mary’s pregnancy was officially announced with some historians, such as Jasper Ridley, claiming it was in the spring of 1555 while we have an official document from January.  The Doge Francesco Venier of Venice did send his Ambassador Giovanni Michiel instructions 5 January 1555 to congratulate the King and Queen on the “certainty now obtained of the Queen giving an heir to the realm” (Brown VI January 5).  Further exclamations were extended for this “auspicious and desired event” concluding this was a “great gift conferred on the whole of Christendom” (Brown VI January  6). 

venier doge
Francesco Venier, Doge of Venice

Regardless of when it was officially announced, the impending event did affect Elizabeth.  On 29 April 1555, Michiel reported to the Doge, “that day or on the morrow Elizabeth Tudor was to arrive at Hampton Court from Woodstock.” Then on the 6th of May he informed the Venetian officials that when Elizabeth “appeared she was neither met nor received by anyone, but was placed in the apartment lately inhabited by the Duke of Alva, where she lives in retirement, not having been seen by any one, save once or twice by their Majesties, by private stairs” (Brown VIPreface 16).  

Elizabeth was housed with a “certain Sir Thomas Pope, a rich and grave gentleman, of good name, both for conduct and religion; the Queen having appointed him Miladi’s governor. I am told …they also assigned her a widow gentlewoman, as governess, in lieu of her own who is a prisoner, she herself likewise may be also said to be in ward and custody, though in such decorous and honourable form as becoming” (Brown VI June 514). No ifs, ands or buts about it, Elizabeth was still under house arrest.   Elizabeth’s release is credited to Philip’s influence on Mary.  Philip realized without an heir born of Mary, Elizabeth would be the successor.  To preserve Hapsburg interests, Philip realized Elizabeth had to be married to a Catholic prince: the intended bridegroom was Emmanuel Philibert, Prince of Piedmont and titular Duke of Savoy. 

Philip had plans for Elizabeth.  Antoine de Noailles wrote to the Queen-Dowager of Scotland in September 1555 informing her of Elizabeth’s popularity and the fact that “his Grace, the said Lord King, has shown a friendly disposition for her, and he has written several letters to the Queen, his wife, commending the Princess to her care”  (Queen Elizabeth I 200).

Dudley Conspiracy, Late 1555 -1556

Another rebellion against the reign of Queen Mary began in December 1555.  In a letter to Sir William Petre, Secretary of State, dated January 21, 1556, Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury and English Ambassador to France, wrote of information he had gleaned from an informant.  There was a “plot against the Queen which he said was devised by some of the best in England, and so many were agreed thereupon that it was impossible but that it must take effect; that the matter had been in hand about a year ago.”  The conspirators’ intentions were not to kill her Majesty “but to deprive her of her estate…” Wotton “did not think it necessary to write thereof to her Majesty lest she might suddenly be troubled with it, and conceive some greater fear of it than were good for her to do.”  Petre was to inform the Queen when “it shall not disquiet her Majesty” (Turnbull 285-286).  Mary was disquieted though and fearful for her life. 

WilliamPetre       Nicholas_Wotton
    Sir William Petre                            Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury

Called the Dudley Conspiracy for the main instigator, Sir Henry Dudley (a distant relative to John Dudley, the executed Duke of Northumberland and Robert Dudley, the future favorite of Elizabeth), its purpose became clearer as the investigation continued.   Mary and Philip were to be deposed and replaced by Elizabeth with her consort being Edward Courtenay. 

Imprisoned during the time of Henry VIII, Courtenay spent 15 years in confinement.  Released upon Mary’s ascension to the throne, he was created 1st Earl of Devon and sent on several diplomatic missions.  His hopes of marriage to Mary fell flat when she espoused Philip.  Courtenay then turned his attention to Elizabeth obviously seeing marriage as his way to the throne.  After serving more time in the Tower for the Wyatt Rebellion, the Earl of Devon was exiled to Europe until his death in September of 1556.  He found acceptance in Venice where he became the focal point for further conspiracies such as the Dudley Rebellion.

EdwardCourtenayD1556
Edward Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon

Several prominent supporters of the rebellion were Lord Thomas Howard, Sir Peter Killigrew, Henry Peckham and several members of the Throckmorton clan.  One cannot underestimate the organization of Dudley and his fellow conspirators.  They raised money, attempted to gain powerful allies such as the King of France and landed gentry, approached Courtenay and saturated England with anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish writings. It was subversive writings such as these that were found in the London residence of Kat Ashley, governess to Princess Elizabeth. 

Giovanni Michiel, Ambassador to England for Venice kept the Doge and the Venetian Senate informed of what was occurring.  Michiel reported on 2 June, “The number of persons imprisoned increases daily… Mistress [Katharine] Ashley was taken thither [to the Tower], she being the chief governess of Miladi Elizabeth, the arrest, together with that of three other domestics, having taken place in the country, 18 [Venetian] miles hence, even in the aforesaid Miladi’s own house [Hatfield], and where she at present resides, which has caused great general vexation.  I am told that they have all already confessed to having known about the conspiracy; so not having revealed it, were there nothing else against them, they may probably not quit the Tower alive, this alone subjecting them to capital punishment. This governess was also found in possession of those writings and scandalous books against the religion and against the King and Queen which were scattered about some months ago, and published all over the kingdom” (Brown VIJune 505).

katahsley
Kat Ashley

People close to Elizabeth knew about the plot — that has been well established.  How involved was Elizabeth? The only written link between her and the rebels occurred in February 1556 when Anne, Duke de Montmorency, Constable of France wrote to the French Ambassador, Antoine de Noailles that “above all restrain Madame Elizabeth from stirring at all in the affair of which you have written to me, for that would be to ruin everything” (Queen Elizabeth I 203).  Can this letter be seen as proof of Elizabeth’s willing cooperation with the Dudley plot?  Although it is damaging, it is not conclusive.  This could be a misinterpretation of information gathered by the Constable or wishful thinking. 

Constable of France
Anne, Duke de Montmorency, Constable of France

Noailles and King Henri II were implicated in the Dudley plot.  Because the international diplomatic scene had changed with the Vaucelles truce, Henri did not want to antagonize Charles and Philip so he “advised the conspirators to defer the execution of their plans” which they ignored (Acton 544).  The success of the plot depended on too many people and too many variables (this blog will not relay the details there are many sources available including contemporary diplomatic dispatches in the Calendar of State Papers-Venice Volume VI).  A conspirator, Thomas White, on staff at the Royal Exchequer was to ensure the robbery of funds to finance the conspiracy (Whitelock Mary Tudor 303).  Ambassador Michiel wondered if White came forward “either from hope of reward, or to exculpate himself… revealed the plot to Cardinal Pole” (Brown VI March 5 434).  White was rewarded as shown in the Originalia Roll (the fine roll sent to the Exchequer) for Mary and Philip because “of good and faithful service by our beloved servant, Thomas White, gentleman, in the late conspiracy against us, our crown and dignity attempted not long since by Henry Dudley and his accomplices” (Thoroton Society 52).  A known conspirator rewarded: what of Elizabeth? 

henri ii
King Henri II of France

Convinced that Elizabeth was aware of the plot, Mary sent her trusted courtier, Francesco Piamontese, to Brussels to consult with Philip on how to handle the situation.  Venetian Ambassador Michiel went further to explain that this issue was very sensitive because of Kat Ashley’s involvement “by reason of her grade with the “Signora,” who is held in universal esteem and consideration” (Brown VI June 505).  So not only is a trusted servant of Elizabeth’s in possession of seditious materials, it appears to be universally acknowledged that Elizabeth is very popular. Would it be wise to move against her too aggressively?  A tricky situation for Mary.

In June Michiel wrote to his superiors in Venice, “Finally, at the very hour when persons were departing, her chamberlain and the courier Francesco Piamontese returned” from Brussels to the Queen’s relief.  “As for many months the Queen has passed from one sorrow to another” (Brown VI June 525). 

So what was to become of Elizabeth?  What guidance had Philip given his wife concerning the suspicions of her sister?  What Mary received was pro-Hapsburgian advice. Despite Michiel’s predicitons, none of Elizabeth’s household members were executed nor was she punished. Although there was strong evidence that those around her were involved in treasonous activities (Kat Ashley being in posession of the seditious materials was enough cause for punishment beyond time in the Tower) and questions concerning what Elizabeth knew, any action against her would threaten her succession.  “There is little doubt that it was the King’s influence which prevented Elizabeth herself from being again arrested on this occasion and sent to the Tower with the four other members of her household.  It is difficult otherwise to account for Mary’s leniency” (Queen Elizabeth I 209).

tower of london
Tower of London

Hapsburg interests demanded that Elizabeth be heir to the throne of England over Mary, Queen of Scots.  Mary had the surest position of inheritance after Elizabeth and as the fiancé of the dauphin of France, could unite Scottish, French and English dominions and interests which would threaten the power of Spain. Hapsburg interests prevailed.  “Piamontese returned to London with an unequivocal message from the king: no further inquiries should be made into Elizabeth’s guilt, nor any suggestion made that her servants had been implicated in the plot with her authority” (Whitlock 307).  Philip was more than willing to be lenient with Elizabeth.  By 1556 few people believed that Mary would produce an heir and looked toward Elizabeth to be the next queen.  It probably was wise on the part of the councilors not to antagonize Elizabeth.  She was considered the preferred heir, and her smooth succession could halt potential civil conflict or French interference to place Mary Stuart on the throne—both good enough reasons to leave well-enough alone.

So, astoundingly, Elizabeth remained free.  Protestations of ignorance about her household’s activities were enough.  Mary probably did not believe her but allowed the stories that Elizabeth’s name had been used without authority to be circulated.  This blogger cannot help but feel for the position in which Mary was placed.  Her motto, ‘Truth, Daughter of Time,’ seemed to be jeopardized as she did her husband’s bidding; although, with most of Mary’s submissiveness it was up to a point. 

According to Michiel, in June of 1556 Mary sent two of her gentlemen, Sir Henry Hastings, and Sir H. Francis Englefield, to Elizabeth with a “message of good will…with a ring worth 400 ducats, and also to give her minute account of the cause of their arrest, to aquaint her with what they had hitherto deposed and confesssed, and to persaude her not to take amiss the removal from about her persons of similar folds, who subjected her to the danger of some evil suspicion; assuring her of the Queen’s good will and disposiiton, provided she continue to live becomingly, to Her Majesty’s liking.  Using in short loving and gracious expressions, to show her that she is neither neglected nor hated, but loved and esteemed by Her Majesty.  This message is considered most gracious by the whole kindom, everybody in general wishing her all ease and honour, and very greatly regretting any trouble she may incure; the proceeding having been not only necessary but profitable, to warn her of the licentious life led, especially in matters of religion, by her household” (Queen Elizabeth I 210).

henry hastings
  Henry Hastings 

Ambassador Michiel let on that Elizabeth’s household would be made up of persons the Queen believed to better serve her.  It is assumed Mary thought her sister guilty and urged Elizabeth “to keep so much the more to her duty, and together with her attendants behave the more cautiously” (Queen Elizabeth I 210).

Mary feigned that she believed Elizabeth had been in danger of “being thus clandestinely exposed to the manifest risk of infamy and ruin.” So, the solution was for the Queen to remodel Elizabeth’s household “in another form, and with a different sort of persons to those now in her service, replacing them by such as are entirely dependent on her Majesty; so that as her own proceedings and those of all such persons as enter or quit her abode will be most narrowly scanned” (Brown VIJune 505).

Assigned to Elizabeth’s household was “Sir Thomas Pope, a rich and grave gentleman, of good name, both for conduct and religion; the Queen having appointed him Miladi’s governor, and she having accepted him willingly, although he himself did his utmost to decline such a charge. I am told that besides this person, they also assigned her a widow gentlewoman, as governess, in lieu of her own who is a prisoner, so that at present having none but the Queen’s dependents about her person, she herself likewise may be also said to be in ward and custody, though in such decorous and honourable form as becoming” (Brown VI June 514). 

tpope
  Sir Thomas Pope

Pope was commissioned by Mary’s Council in July of 1556 to keep Elizabeth informed of the activities confessed by the Dudley conspirators “how little these men stick, by falsehood, and untruth, to compass their purpose; not letting, for that intent, to abuse the name of her Grace, or any others” (Queen Elizabeth I 213). 

Elizabeth did write to the Queen in careful phraseology about the information she had received from Pope.  “Of this I assure your majesty, though it be my part above the rest to bewail such things though my name had not been in them, yet it vexeth me too much …as to put me in any part of his [the devil] mischievous instigations.  And like as I have been your faithful subject from the beginning of your reign, so shall no wicked persons cause me to change to the end of my life.  And thus I commit your majesty to God’s tuition, whom I beseech long time to preserve … from Hatfield this present Sunday, the second day of August. Your majesty’s obedient subject and humble sister, Elizabeth” (Marcus 43-44).

For references, please refer to the blog entry “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I.”

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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.

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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