Elizabeth’s Heiress

Guest Article by Moniek

previewWhen Henry VIII of England died in 1547 his will and the Third Succession Act dictated who should follow him on the throne. His son Edward VI and his heirs would be first in line. However, Edward would die childless at the tender age of 15 without heirs. Although Henry’s eldest daughter Mary had been declared a bastard in 1533 upon Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn she had been returned to the line of succession by the Third Succession, as was her half-sister Elizabeth who was likewise declared a bastard in 1536. Thus when Edward VI died, his sister Mary followed him on the throne. Mary married and wished to produce heirs, perhaps so badly she possibly had two phantom pregnancies, but heirs never came and she died childless in 1558. Elizabeth then followed her on the throne and a stabilizing reign of over 44 years brought England closer together.

Burghley House Collection, Lincolnshire, UK
Queen Elizabeth I

Though Elizabeth was only 25 when she ascended the throne, she never married and never produced heirs and for most of her reign she would be hounded by her advisers to marry or name an heir. She never named an heir to perhaps save them from the dangerous situations she was in when she was the heir. There were not a lot of options. Either her father’s will or primogeniture would decide who the heir was. Most probably favored her father’s will as primogeniture left the throne to the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, who was a descendant of Henry’s elder sister Margaret. Henry’s will left the throne to the descendants of his younger sister Mary, completely cutting of Margaret’s line as she had married a foreigner (the King of Scots).

Mary’s descendants proximity to the throne cost them a lot. Mary’s first marriage was to Louis XII of France, but he died after only a few months of marriage. Her second marriage was to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and was not approved by her brother. After paying a hefty fine, they were finally officially married. They would have four children, of which two would live to adulthood, Frances and Eleanor.

Frances Brandon, Charles' daughter with Mary Tudor.
Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk
Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland
Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland









Francis was the mother of the Grey sisters. Lady Jane, who would become known as the Nine Day Queen, Lady Catherine, whose unapproved marriage would land her in the Tower and her children illegitimate and Lady Mary, who also married without approval and was held under house arrest. Francis’ line would end there.

Mary’s second surviving child Eleanor married quite honorably to Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland and she had three children of which only the eldest survived and it is through this daughter we finally get to Elizabeth’s heiress. Lady Margaret Clifford married Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby and had four children with him. Two would die young. Her eldest surviving son was Ferdinando Stanley, who also became the 5th Earl of Derby, but both he and his mother would not survive Elizabeth’s reign and by the time Elizabeth was near death in 1603 her heiress according to Henry VIII’s will was Ferdinando’s eldest daughter Lady Anne Stanley. At the time Anne was an unmarried and she was probably never truly considered a serious claimant to the throne as all eyes had been focused on Mary, Queen of Scots’ son James VI.

Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby
Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby

On 28 February 1607 Anne married Grey Brydges, 5th Baron Chandos of Sudeley and they had five children. Her husband died in 1621 and Anne remarried three years later to Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven and they had a single daughter, who died young. She was later involved in a trial against her husband where his manservant testified that she ‘was the wickedest woman in the world, and had more to answer for than any woman that lived’. In the end her husband and his manservant were executed for sexual crimes upon Tower Hill.

Anne survived him for 16 years, she died in October 1647. Anne’s legacy and her claim to the throne lived on until 1826, when no more descendents of her were recorded living. It is quite possible that her line lives on, but if her line did die out, her succession rights are considered to have passed on her sister Lady Frances Stanley, whose line still lives on today.

It’s an interesting what-if of history. We might have had a Queen Anne instead of a King James I!

About the Author:


My name is Moniek (please call me Mo!) and I live in Arnhem in the Netherlands. I have a very British heart and I hope to live there one day. My interest began with Anne Boleyn and the Tudor times, but it greatly expanded over time as I found more and more admirable women in other countries and kingdoms. I enjoy visiting the places where these women lived and died and I love reading about them.

WEBSITE: History of Royal Women

I am not a historian and this is just a hobby!

If you wish to contact me, you can do so here. You can also find me on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook.

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9 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I find it interesting that all the Tudor boys died young in their teenage years, Henry VIII illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, and Edward VI, Mary Tudors two boys but the women were all extraordinary, Henry’s daughters, Margaret’s daughter Mary’s girls.

  2. History of Parliment records that Sir Robert Dudley 1532 and the Queen spent many happy hours together at court with a young boy, age 5 or 6 in 1567, Meaning that if was their son sir Francis Bacon would have had special recognition from the crown. Since he was raised by the keeper of the great Seal: Edmund Bacon and his well educated wife catherine Cook it was presumed by them that Sir Francis would be looked after by the crown. He was not. His father did not provide for he and his brother William and both took up residence at Grey’s Inn. When he was left without an estate of inheritance he ran up huge debt and King James Paid them, 40,000 lbs sterling but only in return he not seek the crown. Bacon complied and married a 13 year old heiress and had a long career in law.

    He compiled the inductive method of investigation setting the stage for the scientific method of observation. What world would have emerged from his stewardship as King? His sister is said to be Mary Dudley-Herbert born 1561. He was born 1563, and an unknown male born Nov. 22, 1565 was placed with a Puritan with high connections….See Sir John Perrot 1528. DCR

  3. Yes, I think Ferdinando should have been king, but the powers that be in the Elizabethan government were suspicious of his religion or lack of it. He died in mysterious circumstances. Thanks to Julie Harris for mentioning my novel Many Kinds of Silence. It includes parts about Ferdinando that are fictionalised but based on contemporary historical accounts, particularly the account of his death written by his doctor.

  4. I am a descendant of Lady Frances ,so her line lives on.I am related to Prince William and Prince Henry ,through their mother and father.
    Ferdinando Stanley was married to Lady Alice Spencer,of Althorp,and ,as you say ,he is a descendant of Henry Tudor.
    Thankyou for this,I’ve been reading a few fictional accounts of Ferdinando ‘s life,mixed with truth,in Rory Clements book Traitor and Elizabeth Ashworth’s Many kinds of silence.Well worth a read.Who knows we could have had a King Ferdinando.

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