Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Three)

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Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England (Part Three)

The last article in this series on Elizabeth was two weeks ago because of Christmas, and since then my research and writing has been at a minimum. As I discussed on Facebook I’ve been having a difficult time with this part of her life. The purpose of this series on Elizabeth was not only to share with all of you but to open my own eyes on the woman, the Queen, that I’ve had little interest in. My interest has always been with her father, Henry VIII. I’ve never been a big fan of Queen Elizabeth, only Princess and Lady Elizabeth Tudor. This series on her is a selfish one – one that will show me something about the adult Elizabeth that I was unaware of.

At the end of our last podcast we ended with Elizabeth under house arrest at Woodstock. At Woodstock Elizabeth was allowed to keep six of her own servants. Three men and three women. The women were with her constantly while the men could come and go. This made it easy for messages to be delivered.

Bedingfield was housing a woman who could easily outsmart his rules and there wasn’t much he could do about. While he was doing a job for the crown, Bedingfield understood that one day Elizabeth would be Queen and he would have HER to answer to.

As a prisoner at Woodstock it was Elizabeth’s responsibility to pay for her jailer, Bedingfield, and his staff. She had to pay for their food and drink – so they were dependant on Elizabeth for sustenance.

While Woodstock was better than the Tower, Elizabeth hated her time there – If she had wished to escape her jail, there were a couple of options at her disposal: A coup d’etat was an option but that wouldn’t be as easy as one would think. It was imperative to Elizabeth not to dethrone Mary or have her killed. Her biggest concern was the impact of repeated usurpation on the monarchy. First Lady Jane Grey and then Mary – an aggressive act on the part of Elizabeth could have caused doom for the Tudor dynasty.

The only other way out of her jail would have been to negotiate with her sister, the Queen. When Elizabeth told Bedingfield that she wished to send a letter to her sister he denied her request. As per the rules she was not supposed to communicate with anyone, including the Queen.

Bedingfield the smart man he was mentioned her request to write the Queen to the council. Their response, which obviously came from the Queen, was that she was pleased that Elizabeth should write.

The actual letter did not survive history but author David Starkey states that we know a broad outline from Mary’s response. Starkey states that Elizabeth professed her innocence. The Queen said that she was ‘most sorry‘ for having been suspicious of her sister but copies of letters had been found in the French ambassador’s bag that appeared to implicate Elizabeth. Not only that’s but the fact that she had been used as a figurehead for Wyatt’s Rebellion did bode well for Elizabeth’s cause.

Queen Mary had been quoted as saying, ‘Conspiracies be secretly practised, and things of that nature be many times judged by probably conjectures and other suspicions and arguments, where the plain direct proof may chance to fail.’

It was the actions of Elizabeth’s that showed her sister her guilt. The Queen was tired of her sister’s ‘disguise and colourable letters’. She informed Elizabeth through a letter to Bedingfield that she must behave properly toward God which would eventually improve her behaviour toward the Queen herself.

When Elizabeth heard the contents of her sister’s letter to Bedingfield her reaction was one of regret – she wished her letter would have had a better reaction from her sister. Just because she had a way with words did not ensure her safety and freedom. This had become obvious to her.

Eventually Elizabeth was given permission to approach the Council through the means of Bedingfield. Her plea to the Council was the she should be put on trial for the charges against her – and she wanted a face to face meeting with her sister. If both requests were denied than she requested the Council come to Woodstock to hear her case.

Elizabeth was an excellent lobbyist. The benefit for Elizabeth was that the Council was divided. There were those who understood that she could one day be queen herself, this meant the members of the council had to look out for themselves and their futures.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth would spend nearly a year at Woodstock. That is until she was summoned to court by her sister who was now married to Philip of Spain and believed to be with child. It was the 17 of April when Bedingfield received the letter. He was told by the Queen to bring Elizabeth at once.

Elizabeth arrived at court, which was being held at Hampton Court Palace sometime between the 24th and 29th of April. She did not have the grand entrance of a princess but was essentially snuck in the back door.

Mary had brought her sister to court to be there when she gave birth to her heir and to be present at the christening. Of course the heir would never come because she was not pregnant, only believed to be. But we’ll get back to that a bit later.

During Elizabeth’s time at court, Prince Philip saw an opportunity to keep Elizabeth under his thumb and essentially the Queen’s as well. He wished for Elizabeth to marry his friend the Catholic prince, the Duke of Savoy. Elizabeth refused to be a pawn and the marriage never happened. Instead the Duke of Savoy married the daughter of King Francis I of France.

The first week of May brought more fear into Elizabeth’s life when she was summoned to the pregnant Queen’s rooms at ten at night. Elizabeth feared an assassination attempt. At this point she was aware that death could be around every corner awaiting her. This late night meeting with her sister was the first time in a year that Mary and Elizabeth had seen one another.

Little did Elizabeth know at the time but her new brother-in-law, Prince Philip was listening in on the conversation from behind a tapestry on the wall, he was very interested in how this all played out. You see, Philip’s interest was with Elizabeth- the much younger and prettier sister who could still provide an heir for England and Spain. His wife, Mary, the Queen of England had not yet given birth and many believed she had not been pregnant at all. But they dare not say it to the Queen.

Philip’s attitude toward the Protestant princess had recently changed. His eyes had turned from one sister to the other. Elizabeth…compared to her aging and less attractive sister was very appealing to Philip – he was a man nonetheless.

Philip had wed Mary to bring England on his side with Spain’s ongoing struggles with France and it had become obvious to Philip that his wife was not with child after all and that her womb only carried disease.

These were the things that made Elizabeth attractive to Philip. His fear was that if Mary died that the Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scots would inherit the Catholic throne of England. The Scottish Queen had extreme ties to the French throne through her engagement to the dauphin.

Elizabeth was fully aware of how the tide was changing in her favor and she took full advantage of the situation. While Elizabeth saw the events of the time turning in her favor, she also felt pity on her sister. The woman who once cared for her so much.

As the Queen’s pregnancy continued even her doctors believed she was still with child, they believed they had merely miscalculated her due date. This reminds me of her mother, Katherine of Aragon’s miscarriage when doctors believed she had been carrying twins and had miscarried one.

Even while her doctors continued to assume the pregnancy was valid, the women closest to the Queen knew that she was not with child at all. They had known her since childhood and had seen how Mary suffered during her monthly courses.

The Queen’s midwife and servant had witnessed her recently and were quoted as saying, ‘that the Queen’s state was by no means of the hopeful kind generally supposed, but rather some woeful malady, for several times a day she spent long hours sitting on the floor with her knees drawn up to her chin’. As we understand today that is not normal behavior for a pregnant lady. I could not imagine when I was at the end of my pregnancy bringing my knees to my chin. My belly was too firm and too big to do so.

We know that Mary’s womanly courses had never been normal and that she had suffered from a retention of her menstrual fluids and a strangulation of her womb. In my opinion, I believe Mary suffered from Endometriosis.

During her supposed pregnancy her body had swelled and her breasts had become swollen and produced milk – no wonder the doctors of the time believed her pregnant.

Four months after she had taken to her chamber Mary realized all was lost. At the beginning of August she snuck out of Hampton Court and slipped away to Oatlands Palace – the place her father had married Katheryn Howard…surely she was embarrassed that she had not been with child after all. She had let down England, Philip and herself.

Throughout all those months at Hampton Court while the Queen was lying-in, Elizabeth was by her sister’s side. She had witnessed the heartache of her pain and the sadness of her mental state. Not only had this broken the Queen’s spirit but it had also done great damage to the Queen’s reputation in public.

On the 18th of October 1555, Elizabeth was finally given permission to leave court and head back to Hatfield. As she traveled through London on her way out the crowds cheered loudly for her. Elizabeth understood the danger of the crowd’s reaction to her and instructed her men to quiet them for fear of the Queen finding out.

Once at Hatfield her life was indeed better than it had been while at Woodstock. Bedingfield was no longer her jailer and only a month later Kat Ashley was allowed to rejoin Elizabeth.

In the meantime, Philip was summoned by his father, Charles V to attend to business in the Netherlands. When Queen Mary found out about the summons she wrote Charles asking Philip to stay – she needed him. Her appeals fell on deaf ears. When no child appeared Philip prepared to leave England. He had requested that his beautiful sister-in-law be present to bid him farewell – something that upset the Queen dearly.

In July 1556, Elizabeth had been informed that her former stepmother and great ally, Anne of Cleves had died. Anne’s will declared that the sisters should receive her best jewels. She was the last of Henry VIII’s wives to die. Her death would have affected Elizabeth deeply.

Around this time Philip had reluctantly returned to England – Mary was beside herself with happiness. The following summer he left once more and Mary once again believed herself with child.

In February 1558, Elizabeth visited her sister at Richmond Palace to give her sister well wishes on a safe delivery and probably to see for herself if Mary was indeed with child. Elizabeth presented the queen with baby clothes that she had made herself. A week later Elizabeth left Richmond to return to Hatfield.

Near the end of her life, Queen Mary once again reached out to her sister. Elizabeth returned to court per her sisters request. At court it had become obvious to everyone that the Queen was dying. She needed to name an heir and Elizabeth was the obvious answer, however, she was Protestant and this was difficult for Mary to acknowledge. Her husband even sent his confessor to Mary to persuade her to name Elizabeth as her heir. After much resistance she eventually gave in and told Philip that she was much pleased with his suggestion. While she agreed with Philip she did not formally acknowledge her choice.

On the 28th of October 1558, Mary updated her will and finally acknowledge that she would have no child and that crown should transfer to the next heir by law. She had not directly named Elizabeth but all knew who she meant. It wasn’t until a week later that Mary finally relented and named Elizabeth her heir. Mary’s favorite lady, Jane Dormer was sent to deliver the Queens final wishes to Elizabeth. That she was to uphold the Roman Catholic faith, to be good to her servants and to pay her debts.

Elizabeth, being as evasive as ever was careful not to promise to fulfill all her wishes – in particular religion.

On the 17th of November 1558, at four or five in the morning, Queen Mary I died. Elizabeth was now Queen of England.

So that’s where we’ll end this show…Queen Mary was dead and Elizabeth was now Queen of England.

Read Part Four: Click Here / Listen to Part Three: Click Here


Borman, Tracy; Elizabeth’s Women (2009)
Johnson, Paul; Elizabeth I – A Study in Power & Intellect (1974)
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne (2001)

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