The Glory Of My Crown (Guest Post)

Guest article by Lindsey Wolf


November 30, 1601.

140 members of the House of Commons collected unceremoniously in the Council Chamber of Whitehall. Kneeling in respect of their sovereign who had ruled them for these past forty three years, they both heard and recorded what was to go down as Elizabeth’s “Golden Speech.” Additionally, it was to be her last address to Parliament at the age of sixty eight. Within its “Letters of Gold”, one could not only better understand the political and diplomatic aptitude of Her Majesty, but also her vivacious talent. She was an astute public speaker, knowing how to  rally her soldiers in defense of both the country and her crown. She was the figurehead of a cult-like following in homage to her as the Virgin Queen, solely wedded to her Kingdom. Elizabeth was also equally adept at striking the sentimentality of her populace. A people whose average lifespan was around forty two years meaning that many of her subjects had only known her as Queen. Long forgotten were the days of turmoil in the reign of her predecessor and sister and furthermore her brother. An even fewer amount could recall the reign of her notorious father who had died over 50 years prior to that fall day of 1601. It was a speech that would perfectly wrap up an incredible, unprecedented and productive reign. A reign which began in an old world and seemed to end in a new one. Inheriting a country whiplashed by religious wars and financially unstable, owing some £227,000 or £100,000 modern equivalent. Additionally, she had all the eyes of Europe upon her who saw her Kingdom as ripe for the picking.



Surely Elizabeth’s accomplishments could never be overstated. History often prefers  to recount the peaceful, triumphant and perfect patch of time under Gloriana rather than the truth of it. Elizabeth’s reign, like any other, had its highs and lows. Naturally it is only to be expected in such a lengthy lapse of time. Sadly, the great lows of Elizabeth reigns found themselves in the final decade of her rule. The 1590s had been beset with struggle at every turn; politically, economically and even personally. The sun had risen and was now falling in the reign and life of the Virgin Queen, but was that to reflect the state of her England? Without the blessing of historical retrospect, it must have surely seemed that way. Without further adieu, let us enter the world in which Elizabeth had delivered her “Golden Speech.” Let us examine how politically advantageous it was of her to reform her policies after years of economic struggle. Furthermore, how truly needed it was to remind her subjects of her love for them from past to present. A notion which sealed and capped her legacy in such a way that the modern audience has all but forgotten the landscape of when and why this speech was given.

Politically:

The Nine Years’ War or Tyrone’s Rebellion began in 1593 and ended in 1603. The rebellion was led by a man called Hugh O’Neill. The O’Neill clan is an ancient Irish family descended from the High Kings of Ulster in Northern Ireland. They held great political sway over both Ulster and all of Ireland as a result. They were well-respected and thought to be something like the King of Kings in their native Tyrone, all while England struggled to keep their foothold. Ireland had been left somewhat alone in the wake of the dynastic wars wreaking havoc through England. As a result, Henry VIII sought to reclaim what he felt was his just historical inheritance. This set the scene for the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 which allowed hereditary Kings and clans to trade in their former titles, recognize Henry’s supremacy and be given new Earldoms in return. At the risk of full out extermination, many complied. Including the O’Neill clan who surrendered their kingship of Tyrone for the Earldom of Tyrone. Of course it was never to be that easy. In addition to recognizing Henry as their liege lord; the Irish were also obligated to renounce their ties to Catholicism and embrace Henry’s new church. The Irish could no longer practice tanistry for passing on titles had to adopt primogeniture. Irish customs including dress and language were to go by the wayside as well. Needless to say, it was a little too much too soon.



Hugh O’Neill had become a ward of the crown after the assassination of his father. Hoping to foster loyalty to the crown, he had been held in court at London before returning home to claim his inheritance as Earl of Tyrone. He took advantage of his relationship with the crown to find his power but soon gained too much of it. All in all, the Irish wars were not only pricy and drained the royal treasury but also humiliating for the country who seemed unable to put it down all together. The Pope in Rome offered his support of the Irish cause against the Protestant Queen. Worse yet, The Spanish offered aid in troops and were determined to land a strategic grip on the land just 58 nautical miles from Dublin to the coast of Wales. Needless to say, it was an absolutely daunting concept which Elizabeth would not live to see the conclusion of. Hugh O’Neill and his forces surrendered on March 30, 1603. Six days after Elizabeth’s death.

In addition to the Lopez Plot in 1594 which saw Elizabeth’s own physician charged with high treason and executed accordingly, her court was dense in political strife. Cliques dominated and waged war against one another in the privy council and beyond. Elizabeth was known to be a great judge of character and much of her success is owed to this fact. Yet, she also became slower to recognize new courtiers to high positions and preferred to replace fathers with sons. After the death of William Cecil, he was replaced by his son, Robert Cecil in his father’s seat of principle advisor. In much the same, Francis Bacon earned his place at Elizabeth’s side due to his father’s position as Lord Keeper. However, this created a tide of dissension amongst the younger courtiers who felt themselves ripe for the picking but not being recognized for their talents. The leader of this opposing faction would be none other than the stepson of the late great Robert Dudley, Robert Devereux.



Additionally, in 1595, England was attacked for the first time by hostile forces in form of the Spanish. Years prior, Spanish forces had taken root in Northern France and constructed a power base. They’d make landfall along the coast of Cornwall where three towns were sacked and burned. The Spanish were a constant threat. They did not merely go away to lick their wounds following the defeat of the Armada as that was but the first of two. Those latter attempts would ultimately be wrecked by storms at sea.

Economically:

In Elizabeth’s reign, the population of England rose from three million to four. Simply put, there were more children being produced and those children were living longer. Additionally, this required vast resources to feed a growing population though the harvest failed each year from 1594 to 1597. This lack of goods drove up the prices of what did exist which in turn drove inflation. William Cecil, Lord Burghley would remark “the lamentable cry of the poor who are likely to perish by means . . . of the dearness and high price of corn.” From 1595 through 1597, there were riots across the country. In Somerset, Kent, Norfolk and most notably London. In 1595, approximately 1,000 apprentices collected in what was to be the biggest riot in London in 80 years. Amongst their complaints were rising food prices and the behavior of the wealthy in the wake of their despair. Five of the apprentices were charged with high treason and hung, drawn and quartered. Ironically, it is around this time that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was being penned with the possible reflection of London’s violent street brawls in its pages.

It is due to this economic decline that the populace began to take notice of the monopolies that made their lives even more difficult. During this period, The Queen would reward those around her with these taxes. From wine to playing cards to salt and starch. The monopolies ranged from creature comforts to downright necessities. Parliament reflected those worries in cutting some of the cumbersome tax from the back of English citizens but outrage amongst the remainder remained. Unknowingly, these monopolies were held as royal prerogative. Thus, when Good Queen Bes dismissed her own personal monopolies in her final speech to parliament, it was hardly an unprovoked or charitable act. It was an absolute necessity that had taken years upon years to conclude. Yet, you could still see it as an act of good faith considering the estate of her own personal finances due to the weighty decade. Elizabeth had previously climbed her way out of the debt left to her only to be rolled back into it due to factors far out of her control.

Additionally, The Black Death would return in 1592. Its presence would render 10,675 London inhabitants dead in all but one year. Its effect can be best seen when it caused a halt to one of Elizabethan England’s most favorited activity; the theatre. The globe was shut down for almost two entire years as the plague swept.

Personally:

Last but certainly not least, the matters of personal effect that plagued England’s Queen. Elizabeth’s long life was indeed admirable and great politically but not all those around her were to be so fortunate to share in its longevity. It was in the last decade of her reign that she’d see tragedy after tragedy, death after death. From her ladies including Margaret Radcliffe and Blanche Parry to her favorite courtiers. Sir Francis Drake, Francis Walsingham, William Cecil, Christopher Hatton, Henry Carey and of course, her last court favorite who died by the stroke of her own pen; Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.



Robert was the son of Walter Devereux and Lettice Knollys (the daughter of Catherine Carey, she herself being the daughter of Mary Boleyn and allegedly the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII) making him Elizabeth’s cousin. He was introduced to court by his stepfather, Robert Dudley and quickly made an impression. An expert courtier, Robert was handsome, charming, well spoken and ambitious. However, his ambition made him self-seeking, overly-confident and defiant. He was a soldier but his military campaigns often led to little to no productivity. He spent the better part of his time attempting to triumph over the Cecil family as the leader of his own faction. His grasp would extend his reach again and again as did his burden triumph over his usefulness. In 1596, he and his forces sacked and seized Cádiz, Spain and put him at the height of his fame with mostly the common people. A fame which threatened Elizabeth’s success with her own people. However, he’d fail during further campaigns against the Spanish and all eyes were turned towards the warfront in Ireland.

Despite his lack of respect for her, Elizabeth favored him. Be it his youthful and naive nature or his relation to her long lost Dudley, no one will ever know for certain. Yet, it seems this was the one man who threatened Elizabeth’s jurisdiction and prospered while doing it. Essex even went as far once to half draw his sword on his Queen in the privy council. Yet, instead of earning himself a free trip to the tower, he was sent to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It was there that he led a subordinate and utterly disastrous campaign of his own making. Armed with 16,000 troops and orders to confront the rebellion in Ulster, Essex ordered his men to Southern Ireland. Furthermore, he met with O’Neill. Not on the field of battle but to negotiate a truce that was the humiliation of the crown. Hearing of the Queen’s displeasure, he abandoned his post and burst in upon the Queen undone in her private chambers. Once again, Bess took mercy upon him. Sentencing him to house arrest and revoking his monopoly, Essex was led into financial ruin. In defiance, he attempted to use his popularity against the Queen and lead a revolt of London. Like most other things to do with Essex, it failed and he was brought up on charges to high treason to later be executed.

It is well documented that Elizabeth’s own health had begun to fail her during this period. Bouts of melancholy plagued her. No doubt a result of deep self reflection upon her life, reign and decisions as a whole. One can only imagine the things that hung in the conscience of the elderly Queen. The execution of her royal cousin Mary Queen of Scots, the hardships of ruling which caused one to revolt against their own private morality, maybe even the possibilities of what could have been. Love, marriage, children. All exchanged for the love and longevity of her Kingdom which had left the fate of her country in the hands of a virtual unknown. A seemingly odd act of karma that the son of the woman whose death warrant she had signed, was now to succeed her most precious station beyond her.

 

In conclusion, the Golden Speech might have been the end of a golden reign but hardly a golden decade. One upon which surely the Queen was grateful to hand back to the ages. Despite her struggles and disappointments that would have hardened the hearts of so many, she remained the Queen that history records her as being. “Semper Eadem” or “always the same.” Despite wars, betrayal on both public and private fronts, age and tragedy; it was always this. This 68 year old woman was the same who had looked down the Armada and declared she too had  “the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England.” The same who had defied all odds placed against her from the very beginning and succeeded to a throne that was never meant to become hers. The same whose name rides triumphantly through the chronicles of history. Who gave her namesake for a period of time known for its national pride, literature, pomp and triumphant. While Elizabeth’s final parliamentary speech might not have been as innocent as many portray it to be, that does not weaken it. Neither in sentimentality or political value. So let us all hope to be as wily as Bess at the age of 68 with a little less to do with the stepsons of our deceased sweethearts.

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Sources:

SEA-DISTANCES.ORG – Distances, sea-distances.org/.

PLOTS AND REBELIONS, hfriedberg.web.wesleyan.edu/engl205/wshakespeare/plotsandrebelions.htm.

“Daily Life in the Elizabethan Era.”. “Daily Life in the Elizabethan Era.” Gale Library of Daily Life: Slavery in America, Encyclopedia.com, 2018, http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/daily-life-elizabethan-era.

Briscoe, Alexandra. “History – British History in Depth: Poverty in Elizabethan England.” BBC, BBC, 17 Feb. 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/poverty_01.shtml.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone.” Encyclopædia

Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 July 2018, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Hugh-ONeill-2nd-Earl-of-Tyrone.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 Feb. 2018, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Devereux-2nd-earl-of-Essex.

Donnchadha, Pádraig Mac. “Introduction of the Crown of Ireland Act 1542.” Your Irish Culture, Your Irish Culture, 21 Mar. 2017, http://www.yourirish.com/history/16th-century/introduction-of-the-crown-of-ireland-act-1542.

“Elizabeth I and Finances.” History Learning Site, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/tudor-england/elizabeth-i-and-finances/.

“Elizabeth I’s ‘Golden’ Speech.” History Today, http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/elizabeth-golden-speech.

Hull, Eleanor. “Home.” Maria Edgeworth, 1 Jan. 1970, http://www.libraryireland.com/HullHistory/Henry2.php.

“Rebellion by London Apprentices in 1595.” The British Library, The British Library, 26 Jan. 2016, http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/rebellion-by-london-apprentices-in-1595.

“Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Aug. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Devereux,_2nd_Earl_of_Essex.

 

The Secret Lives of Elizabeth’s Ladies (Guest Post)



Guest Post by Sarah Clement

If the ladies of the Elizabethan court thought her accession would provide them with rare opportunities to involve themselves politically, they would be disappointed. Whereas, while male courtiers had traditionally found themselves at the centre of political life, it was now the ladies who controlled access to the monarch and naturally surrounded her. In theory, they could put across their opinions on the state of the realm, advise the Queen on what to do, and determine whose cases should be presented to her, for some reward of course. The reality, however, was quite different. Elizabeth forbade her ladies to discuss politics with her. While they were able to assist their friends at court (through small acts of patronage or by reporting on their mistress’ moods), they played a minute role on the English political stage, though Elizabeth was not above using them as pawns for her own political ends.

Elizabeth’s treatment of her ladies was not much better beyond the political scope. Those appointed to salaried positions found their income lower than might have been expected, though this was supplemented with gifts of clothing or jewellery from the Queen when she saw fit to bestow them. Although they received bed and board as well as their wages, their living conditions were often cramped and unpleasant. This was especially true when on progress, finding themselves in hastily arranged accommodation; sometimes this could extend to temporary beds in a recently cleared barn. As well as this, Elizabeth could be a difficult mistress who would berate or even beat her ladies when they riled her. Despite all this, competition for a position in the Queen’s retinue was fierce, encouraged by the scarcity of available positions.

Elizabeth encouraged long service and initially rewarded the loyalty of those who had supported her during her sister Mary’s reign. Once in her service, Elizabeth was loath to lose an attendant (particularly her favourites) for any reason. Permission had to be sought for absences, and ladies who left to have a child were expected to return shortly after the birth, leaving the baby with a wet-nurse. Over her forty-five year reign, only twenty-eight women would be appointed to salaried positions within the Queen’s household. Beyond Elizabeth’s retinue, women were largely barred from court unless they had specific business with her. Wives of courtiers, however prominent, were discouraged from accompanying their husbands and their husband’s lodgings were not extended to them. As a result, the Queen’s household was the most obvious option for a woman wanting to be seen at court.



Perhaps the greatest source of conflict between Elizabeth and her ladies was the issue of marriage. The Queen’s aversion to marriage was well-known, apparently even beyond the prospect of her own. Her permission was notoriously hard to gain, and even when it was granted she was known to delay the nuptials for the smallest reasons. She was reticent to allow marriages for her attendants, for fear of losing their services, and her perceived antagonism towards romance among her court meant that many of her ladies conducted their dalliances in secret. Thus, scandals of secret marriages or illegitimate children were fairly commonplace. In 1591, half of Elizabeth’s ladies would be dismissed due to such behaviour and the disrepute they subsequently brought to the court. On one hand, it was Elizabeth’s role as monarch and head of her ladies to ensure their conduct and make good marriages. On the other, she doesn’t seem to have made it easy for them to do so.

The first scandal of its kind broke within just a few years of Elizabeth’s accession. As Queen, Elizabeth was obliged to give her cousins Catherine and Mary Grey positions at court. Their sister, Jane, had been the ill-fated nine-day Queen and for as long as Elizabeth had no children they were her likely heirs. Within two years, however, Catherine had forfeited her potential claim to the throne when she secretly married Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. When Seymour was dispatched abroad, he left his new wife written proof of their marriage, which Catherine later claimed she had lost. When their only witness died soon after, the now-pregnant Catherine realised her marriage was impossible to prove and her geographically distant husband unable to support and guide her. After a failed and hasty attempt to secure another husband whom she could pretend was the baby’s father, she was forced to seek help from the Queen’s favourite, Robert Dudley. Fearful of implication in her behaviour, Dudley not only refused to help but revealed the situation to the Queen the following day. Catherine was consigned to the Tower of London, and her husband recalled to join her in imprisonment while the validity of the marriage was investigated. Even after the marriage was pronounced invalid, the two remained in prison. Only to be separated when a second child was born to Catherine.



Catherine’s sister Mary at least made sure that there were witnesses to her marriage to Thomas Keyes, a minor gentleman in the Queen’s employ. Elizabeth found out just a week later and had the two imprisoned, but this time separately. The couple would never see each other again, for even after their release their separation was enforced.

While Elizabeth’s imprisonment of her cousins was understandable given their proximity to the throne and the political implications of their marriages, she would frequently resort to imprisonment when her ladies behaved improperly. Anne Vavasour, who had been a maid of honour for just a year, found herself in the Tower after becoming the mistress to the Earl of Oxford and bearing him a son. Another, Bess Throckmorton, was imprisoned there for having fallen pregnant by and then marrying the Queen’s favourite Walter Ralegh. In these instances, the offending husband would also find himself imprisoned, but it would not always be as comfortable in the Tower. For marrying in secret after falling pregnant, Elizabeth Vernon and her new husband the Earl of Southampton were placed in Fleet Prison, the conditions of which had led Mary Grey’s husband Thomas Keyes to a premature death through ill-health. The Earl of Pembroke also found himself in Fleet Prison after an affair with Mary Fitton, who fared somewhat better, being placed in a noble household to birth their child.

Time served, however, was no guarantee that the Queen would be appeased and many found themselves barred from her presence. Banishment could last anywhere from a few days to a lifetime, though often a husband would be welcomed back to court long before his wife, if she ever was. Elizabeth was also prone to banishing her favourite ladies who had liaisons without her knowledge, possibly because she was too well-disposed toward them to imprison them. Initially enthusiastic over the courtship of her favourite, Helena Snakenborg, and her suitor Thomas Gorges, Elizabeth stopped short of giving them permission to marry. When she discovered that they had married anyway, both were banished from court. Later, Helena would be welcomed back, restored to favour and given a permanent residence near court so she and her husband could serve with their family close by.

Elizabeth had clearly demonstrated the low regard in which she held these secret liaisons between her ladies. As she was considered notoriously unreasonable when it came to marriages, her ladies felt they had little choice but to resort to secrecy. Especially brave were those ladies who involved themselves with the Queen’s favourites.



When Robert Dudley married his pregnant mistress Lettice Knollys, the fallout (for Lettice at least) would last the Queen’s lifetime. Lettice remained on the fringes of court life and the subject of Elizabeth’s enmity even after Leicester had died. Walter Raleigh had thus been fully aware of the implications of his marriage to Bess Throckmorton. He went to great efforts to protest it when it became rumour, and continued his normal routine even as she gave birth to his son. After their release from the Tower, Bess would remain banished from court ,while Raleigh returned to court. Providing he didn’t mention his wife.

But it was Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex and ironically son of the banished Lettice, who would scandalise the court with his romantic entanglements. In 1590, he married Frances Walsingham, and she soon fell pregnant. Eager to keep his marriage a secret, he managed to find reasons for Frances to remain away from court and hide the pregnancy. Elizabeth discovered the event later that year, but although initially furious, her reaction was comparatively muted and Essex was restored to favour within a fortnight.

Even though he had run a great risk by marrying Frances, Essex did not remain faithful, and risked further controversy by conducting affairs with several of the Queen’s ladies.

He took Elizabeth Southwell as his mistress and had a son by her. Southwell must have feared the repercussions after she returned to court, for she pretended the father was Thomas Vavasour when the baby was discovered. The pretence was maintained for four years (even after Vavasour had been imprisoned for the offence) before the Queen discovered the truth, by which time Southwell had already been permanently banished from court.

Elizabeth was quick to reprimand any of her ladies that attempted to attract the Earl’s affections. When Elizabeth Brydges (supposedly having an affair with Essex) and Elizabeth Russell (also rumoured to be having an affair with Essex) stole away to watch him playing tennis, both found themselves expelled from court for three days. The Queen was similarly riled when Lady Mary Howard attempted to catch the Earl’s eye by wearing a particularly extravagant dress. When Mary next attended the Queen, she found her wearing the same gown, having had another lady steal it from Mary’s closet. Elizabeth paraded the gown, despite the spectacle it must have caused given the difference in their statures, before declaring it too fine for the girl.

By now, Elizabeth was an old woman and wearied by the scandalous lives of her young attendants, even though the scandals were less numerous after the Earl of Essex’s execution and the dissolution of his particularly wild circle. Elizabeth might have been gratified (or more likely horrified) to learn that the declining standards did not end when her reign did. The court of her successor, James I and his wife Anne, was notorious for its sexual immorality and extravagance. The scandals of Elizabeth’s court seemed tame by comparison to daily life under James which seemed to be dominated by heavy drinking and sex; described by one observer as, a nursery of lust and intemperance.

About the Author

Shwmae! Im Sarah. I pursued my interest in History to university where I specialised in Anne Boleyn, the role of mistresses and the hagiography of women. With a masters degree under my belt, I returned to my natural habitat to write about women in history. I can now be found somewhere in South Wales running a business, attempting to parent and when I can manage it, plonked in front of a games console to unwind.]

You can find more of my work atwww.thehistoricalnovel.com



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Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Five)

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Elizabeth, Queen of England – Elizabeth’s Ladies

By mid-January 1559 Elizabeth had her household set, rightfully so, she was officially crowned Queen of England. Her group of tightly knit ladies were referred to as the old flock of Hatfield.

Instead of the Catholic ladies in Queen Marys household like Wharton, Waldegrave, Cornwallis, Babington, Dormer and Southwell, Elizabeth replaced them with her cousins, the ladies Carey, Knollys and Ashley; As well as the daughters and wives of those men who served her, such as the ladies Cecil, Throckmorton, Warner, Cheke and Benger.

Loyal Servants

Of course, those ladies who had served her throughout her life would stay involved now that she was Queen. Kat Ashley and Blanche Parry to name two. Blanche has been reported to have served Elizabeth from the time she was in the cradle until she died in 1590.

Ashley was almost immediately appointed her Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber – this position was the most prestigious post within Elizabeths household because it gave her complete access to the sovereign. Kat was nearly always by the Queens side, even at night she was right there sleeping on a pallet bed in Elizabeths bedchamber. Not only was she responsible for the care of the Queen but she was also responsible for overseeing all the other ladies of the privy chamber.

Blanche Parry was appointed second Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber and was also (due to her fondness for literature) the keeper of the Queens books.

There were two other ladies from Elizabeths time at Hatfield that found a place in her household as Queen, they were: Lady Elizabeth Fiennes de Clinton, who was appointed Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber and Elizabeth St. Loe or Bess of Hardwick. Hardwick, who, at the age of thirty-one was one of the oldest member of the Queens household.

Lady Anne Russell was one the youngest ladies to serve the Queen, she was merely ten years old when she was appointed Maid of Honor.

Elizabeth didnt only show favor to the women who had served her in the past but also some of the women who had served her stepmother, Kateryn Parr. Mrs. Eglionby was appointed mother of the maids and Elizabeth Carew was also given a noteworthy position as well.

No Women Allowed

Interestingly enough, if you were a woman and were not a member of the Queens household you were not welcome at court. Male courtiers were discouraged from bringing their wives to court because this would ruin the image that Elizabeth wanted as the most attractive and desired woman at court. This would explain why Amy Robsart was not at court with her husband Robert Dudley – it wasnt only that the Queen was jealous of her relationship with her favorite, she felt that way about all the ladies except for the ones who were her servants.

Elizabeth even decreased the number of women who normally served the queen from twenty to only eleven. There were now only six maids of honor – the lowest number of female attendants in nearly forty years.

Various Positions in the Queen’s Household

Ive had a few of you ask me on Facebook about the different positions that women held in the Queens household and what they were responsible for – here is an idea:

The ladies of the privy chamber attended the queens daily needs such as washing, dressing and serving at the table.

The queens chamberers would perform more menial tasks such as arranging bedding and cleaning the queens private chambers.

If you were a maid of honor to the Queen this meant that you were unmarried and attended the Queen in public and would carry her long train. A maid of honor was also responsible for entertaining her by singing, dancing and reading to her. These girls were supervised by the Mother of Maids.

The ladies in waiting to the queen were women who were sometimes connected to the privy chamber and held their position due to their experience or their husbands position at court.

When these women joined the queens office they had to swear the ceremonial oath. This oath was used to form a bond of allegiance between the ladies and their queen.

Queen Elizabeth was very concerned about matters of personal cleanliness by the standards of the day. She was known to take regular baths in a tub that was specially made for her. This tub would travel with her from palace to palace – Elizabeth clearly liked to be clean. If for some reason her tub was unavailable, or time did not allow for it, her ladies would clean her with wet cloths that were soaked in pewter bowls. As far as dental hygiene I covered this in an article once and author Tracy Borman states that Elizabeth would clean her teeth with a concoction of white wine and vinegar boiled up with honey which would be rubbed on with fine cloths.

The duty of preparing the Queen each day would take hours – from bathing to dressing and hair, all had to be just right.

Elizabeth, like her father Henry VIII, did not handle illness well. In her lifetime, it had been noted that stress caused Elizabeth to suffer from headaches, breathlessness, stomach aches and insomnia. She was also known to rail against her ladies and doctors insisting she was fine because she perceived illness as weakness. This must have been hell for Elizabeth when she contracted smallpox in 1562.

It was at Hampton Court Palace on the 10th of October 1562 that Elizabeth began to feel unwell. After immersing herself in a bath and taking a walk outdoors (which resulted in a chill) Elizabeth took to her bed with a fever. A German physician by the name of Dr. Burcot was summoned to examine the queen. His diagnosis was smallpox even though she had no tell-tale spots on her skin. Elizabeth called him a fool and dismissed him.

Smallpox and Sickness

By the 16th of October the Queen was gravely ill. She was incapable of speech and would appear to pass out for stretches up to twenty-four hours. The royal doctors feared she would die and sent for Cecil.

The Queens cousin, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon persuaded the humiliated Dr. Burcot to return (some reported by dagger) to the Queens side. The doctor ordered that Elizabeth be wrapped in red flannel, laid on a pallet bed by the fire and be given a potion that he had created. Merely two hours later Elizabeth was alert and speaking. Clearly Dr. Burcot was no fool.

By her side through it all (until she became ill herself) was Robert Dudleys sister, Mary Sidney. Sidneys case was much worse than the Queens and she was badly disfigured by her illness. Her husband, Sir Henry Sidney said:

When I went to Newhaven I left her a full fair lady in mine eye at least the fairest, and when I returned I found her as foul a lady as the smallpox could make her, which she did take by continual attendance of her majestys most precious person (sick of the same disease) the scars of which (to her resolute discomfort) ever since hath done and doth remain in her face, so as she liveth solitary like a night-raven in the house more to my charge then if we had boarded together as we did before that evil accident happened.

Mary Sidney is listed a one of Queen Elizabeths Gentlewomen of the Privy Chamber and makes one wonder if she was the one who attended to the Queen because of her closeness to Robert. Surely, in the big picture, this did not benefit Mary at all. She and her husband served the Queen for many, many years and felt this deserved more rewards than they received.

The Queen’s Activities

When Elizabeths health was good her favorite past time was dancing. She loved to show off her skills by performing such beautiful and complicated dances such as the galliard and volta. Elizabeth would spend long hours with her ladies rehearsing the steps until they were performed to perfection.

In the evenings, when Elizabeth retired to her private apartments, her ladies would attend to her every need. They would carefully unpin her hair, undress her and remove her makeup. The Queen undone was something only her ladies were allowed to see. This is why it was such a big deal years later when the Earl of Sussex (Lettice Knollys son) burst into the Queens bedchamber to witness her in this state.

Compensation and Treatment of her Ladies

To serve the Queen was not a lucrative career – it was mostly for the prestige and favor by the Queen. Their pay was considered moderate. Maids of honor and ladies of the presence-chamber were seldom paid at all, while ladies of the privy chamber and bedchamber receive an annual salary of roughly 33 pounds or the equivalent of around 7,000 pounds today.

Not only did they lack pay, or receive very little pay, but their meals usually consisted of leftovers from the Queens meals.

While most of the women in her household were unpaid or little paid they were regularly receive clothing, jewelry and other gifts from their mistress.

Their living quarters were also very cramped and uncomfortable. While sanitation was poor there were no bathrooms or flushing toilets available to them like there was to the Queen. The court, as a result, would have had a foul smell. When this would happen the Queen and her entourage would regularly move or travel to allow for a thorough cleaning of the palace to have the human waste disposed of before they returned.

Elizabeth was also noted as treating her ladies very similarly to how her mother had – if any of her ladies failed to perform any of their duties properly the Queen would fly into a rage and punish them with slaps or blows. Author Tracy Borman says in Elizabeths Women, When one poor lady was clumsy in serving her at table, Elizabeth stabbed her in the hand and that one foreign visitor to court observed: She is a haughty woman, falling easily into rebuke…She thinks highly of herself and has little regard for her servants and Council, being of opinion that she is far wiser than they; she mocks them and often cries out upon them.

Elizabeth had the temper of her father and all the charm and charisma of her mother.

Going Against the Queen

The downside of being a close servant to the Queen was that she controlled your fate. Ive discussed this several times – that I find it completely selfish and unnecessary for Elizabeth to hate when her ladies married. One of the ladies who served Elizabeth learned the hard way to not cross the Queen – Elizabeth Throckmorton.

In 1584, at the age of 19, Elizabeth Bess Throckmorton went to court and became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Eventually she became Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She was responsible for dressing the Queen. A very intimate job, indeed.

Bess and her younger brother, Arthur were both courtiers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Bess had been described by her contemporaries as “intelligent, forthright, passionate, and courageous.

After six years at court (roughly 25 years old) the still single Bess met Walter Raleigh who was quickly becoming one of the Queen Elizabeths favorites. As a lady to the Queen it was necessary for Bess to get permission to be courted. The Queen must also give her approval of any man who wished to court one of her ladies because they were supposed to be seen as extremely virtuous women. Throckmorton and Raleigh clearly believed they would not get permission and began a secret and intimate relationship.

By July 1591, Bess Throckmorton was pregnant she secretly wed Raleigh and understood the seriousness of getting married without permission from Elizabeth. If she did not marry then her child would be considered a bastard. So really, at that point, she didnt have a choice.

Bess must have been aware of the danger in having the Queen discover she was pregnant AND married that she somehow obtained permission to leave court to stay at her brother Arthurs home in London. It is there that she gave birth to a son in March 1592.

Not long after she returned to court only to have the Queen discover all that had happened behind her back. Both Throckmorton and Raleigh were thrown in the Tower of London. In October, at only six months old, the couples son died of the plague and Queen Elizabeth chose to release the couple from the Tower. She never forgave Bess Throckmorton for her betrayal and Raleigh was ordered not to be seen at court for one year.

The fate of Bess Throckmorton mirrors that of Lettice Knollys after her secret marriage to Robert Dudley. Both women fell in love with the Queens favorite, married secretly and fell from favor. However, both women appear to have found love despite the loss of favor from their Queen. This is something that the Queen would never have.

Anne Vavasour was Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth and the mistress of the Earl of Oxford, by whom she had an illegitimate son Edward. Both Anne and the Earl of Oxford, for their offences, were sent to the Tower by the Queens orders. Later she became the mistress of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, by whom she had another illegitimate son Thomas. This affair happened shortly after she had married her first husband, John Finch, a sea-captain. The Queen apparently was not as displeased with this affair as Anne and Lee entertained the Queen together at Ditchley.

Interestingly enough, Anne was charged with bigamy when she married John Richardson after she had already married (in c.1590) John Finch, who was still living. Her fine was 2,000 and she was spared from performing a public penance.

Frances Walsingham was Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth and the wife of Sir Philip Sydney. She was the daughter of Francis Walsingham, who was a trusted adviser of Queen Elizabeth. He is best known as Elizabeths spymaster.

In 1590, Frances married her second husband, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The match caused great displeasure to the Queen Elizabeth, partly because Essex was the son of Lettice Knollys and partly because Elizabeth herself had a crush on Robert Devereux herself.

Then we look at Catherine Carey, cousin (or possibly sister) to the Queen. Catherine and her husband Francis Knollys were both loyal servants to the Queen. Francis was always at the will of the Queen, even when his wife was on her deathbed and he begged to be by her side – the Queen would not allow him to come home. Even Catherine requested her husband to be by her said, to no avail.

My Opinion of the Queen

Throughout my years of researching the Tudors Ive always said that Elizabeth is my least favorite Tudor monarch and this article, in my opinion is the perfect example of why. I understand those of you who love her because she was a strong female ruler, or because she brought peace and prosperity to England. My response to that is: Sure, yes, she was all those things, but that does not mean she was a nice person. In my opinion, she was just like her father. She was selfish, moody and unjust.

The next article on Elizabeth will be my last in this series and I havent quite figured out where Im going to go with that one yet. Stay Tuned!

Read Part Six HERE / Listen to Part Six Here


Sources:

Borman, Tracy. Elizabeths Woman (Bantam Books, 2009)
MacCaffrey, Wallace T. The Shaping of the Elizabethan Regime – Elizabethan Politics, 1558-1572 (Princeton University Press, 1968)
Weir, Alison. The Life of Elizabeth I (Ballantine Books, 1998)


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Book Review: “Elizabeth’s Rival” by Nicola Tallis

Jane Seymour (11)

Elizabeth’s Rival by Nicola Tallis

When I was asked to review this book by Michael O’Mara Books I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about Lettice Knollys, cousin to Queen Elizabeth of England. You see, most of you probably know that my favorite monarch to study is Henry VIII, and so stepping outside my comfort zone into the world of Elizabethan England was a little scary. Was I going to like it? Would there be something that would draw me in? In this review I’ll go into the basis of the story and what it is I enjoyed about it.

Cousin to Elizabeth I and grandniece to Anne Boleyn, Lettice had a life of dizzying highs and pitiful lows. Entangled in a love triangle with Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I, banished from court, plagued by scandals of affairs and murder, embroiled in treason, and finally losing her family to war, sickness and the executioner’s axe. Lettice lived to the astonishing age of ninety-one; her tale gives us a remarkable, personal lens on to the grand sweep of the Tudor Age. – Michael O’Mara Books

Lettice Knollys was the daughter of Catherine Carey and Francis Knollys, her grandmother was Mary Boleyn, making her a first cousin (once removed) to Queen Elizabeth. Now, if you believe the stories that Catherine Carey was the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn then she would instead be Elizabeth’s niece. The resemblance between the two women had often been stated and so it, in my opinion, is highly likely that Lettice’s grandfather was indeed the King of England.

Lettice married three times, the first was to a man by the name of Walter Devereux. She was seventeen years old when she became Viscountess Hereford and in 1572, after his promotion, she became Countess of Essex. By all accounts it appeared the couple had a strong relationship, they even had five children together.

Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex as in great favor with the Queen of England. Elizabeth liked him very much and Devereux was not afraid to speak his mind with the Queen – something not many around her were brave enough to do. Devereux spent a lot of time in Ireland trying to subdue uprisings. He was looking for fame within the Queen’s court and offered to fund the campaign through his own pocket – something that would later cause him and his family much grief.

It was during one of Walter’s campaigns in Ireland that rumors began to spread that she was having an affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Kenilworth Castle and Chartley were not too far from one another and Lettice was known to make trips to Leicester’s estate to hunt. This was something many other nobles did as well. Often Leicester was at court and so they would not even see one another.

After many years away, Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex died of dysentery in 1576. Lettice mourned the loss of her husband and two years later secretly married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester without the Queen’s permission. While she once was one of the Queen’s favorite things turned quickly for Lettice when Elizabeth found out about the marriage. Their relationship would never be the same again.

When Robert Dudley died in 1588 there was the hope that Lettice would once again be welcomed back to court and into the Queen’s favor. Unfortunately for Lettice that would not happen. In 1589 she married a Catholic by the name of Christopher Blount. While the marriage appeared to be a happy one he would eventually be executed for treason.

This book was wonderfully written and researched. It was a quick read for me because the story was told so well – I couldn’t put it down. Tallis does a wonderful job of laying the foundation of Lettice’s life before court, including that of her mother, Catherine Carey. Catherine and her husband were ever-loyal to the Queen and died without her husband by her side. Francis Knollys was not granted permission to come back to England to be with his wife. Tallis shows the side of Lettice Knollys that many don’t know – the doting mother who until their last days smothered her children with love and support.

Most articles I’ve read about her life focus solely on her scandalous relationship with Robert Dudley, but this book gives the full picture of who she was as a person. I now have a whole new respect for Lettice Knollys. If I had half of her courage I would be happy.

If you’d like to read this book you can purchase it on Amazon:

Amazon – US
Amazon – UK

The Boleyn Girls of Clonony Castle: Elizabeth and Mary

boleyn-girls

Boleyn Girls:

portraits at colnony castle
Image credit: Tales of Irish Castles / Netflix

In Ireland, at Clonony Castle, there is a story of two Boleyn girls. No, not the Anne and Mary Boleyn we all know so well but the Irish Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn – possible descendants of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.

Wait. Did she just say George Boleyn, Lord Rochford? But he didn’t have any children, you say. Indeed, you heard me right. However, there are no records that indicate Jane Boleyn every had children, let alone a child. Is it possible that George Boleyn had an illegitimate son who grew up in Ireland?

IMG_ClononyCastle5782w
Clonony Castle

I recently watched episode three of Tales of Irish Castles on Netflix. In it, they talked about Clonony Castle and the story of two Boleyn girls who died there. The girls were Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn. In this TV series they called the girls cousins to Anne Boleyn who fled England after the execution of Anne and George and lived out their days in Clonony Castle. Their relationship to Anne Boleyn is currently uncertainand I’m truly surprised that this TV series says that they fled England for Ireland, when in fact they were most likely born in Ireland.

Let’s start off by taking a look at the portraits from Birr Castle that were used of Elizabeth and Mary in the TV series. First off, their clothing in the portraits do not fit the Henrician period as suggested. To me (and I’m not expert on clothing), the two women shown in the two portraits are dressed more in the Elizabethan style of clothing since they are wearing ruffs, or collars. In a book by Claire Ridgway and Clare Cherry called, “George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat” that came out in 2014, they point out that they believe the women portrayed in the portraits are not Mary and Elizabeth Boleyn at all. Which would make sense since I also believe the portraits are from the wrong period.

mary boleyn colnony
Alleged Mary Boleyn; Image credit: Tales of Irish Castles / Netflix

Supposedly, as told in Ireland, Thomas Boleyn (Mary, Anne & George’s father) was given Clonony Castle by Henry VIII after it was given to the king by John g MacCoghlan. In 1536, when Anne and George were executed, George’s apparent illegitimate son was moved to Clonony Castle to be kept safe.

Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn were descended from this illegitimate son. So, the idea that the girls left England for a safe haven in Ireland is out of the question, if this is the case. They would have been born in Ireland, not England.

As the story goes Elizabeth Boleyn died young and Mary was devastated by the loss of her sister. She is said to have committed suicide by throwing herself from the tower. Both girls were buried together near the castle.

Their grave was found in 1803, approximately 300 feet from the castle. The inscription on their stone read:

“HERE UNDER LEYS ELIZABETH AND MARY BULLYN DAUGHTERS OF THOMAS BULLYN SON OF GEORGE BULLYN THE SON OF GEORGE BULLYN VISCOUNT ROCHFORD SON OF SIR THOMAS BULLYN EARLE OF ORMONDE AND WILTSHIRE.”

elizabeth boleyn colnony castle
Alleged Elizabeth Boleyn; Image credit: Tales of Irish Castles / Netflix

It has been said that Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn were the granddaughter’s of George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield — the man who is believed to be the illegitimate son of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. We do not have a date of birth for the Dean of Lichfield, but we can assume he was born no later than March 1537. I say that because Lord Rochfordwas executed in May 1536 – if he was conceived (at the very latest) just prior to his father’s execution he would have been born no later than March 1537.

The Dean of Lichfield had also referred to himself as kinsman of the Carey and Knollys families, which as you probably already know are descendants of Mary Boleyn. He also named Mary’s son, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon as an executor in his will — however, he never once claimed to be the illegitimate son of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.

In conclusion, after reading George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat, I have to agree with the authors. There is no evidence that points towards Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn of Clonony Castle being descendants of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. On the other hand, I truly want to believe that George Boleyn did have an illegitimate son who lived on after his downfall and death. It is most likely that the residents of Clonony Castle were indeed Boleyn relatives but not the ones suggested in the TV series.

Even though I don’t believe these women in the portraits are Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn, I can’t help but see a resemblance to other Boleyn relatives, especially Catherine Carey. Here I put their images next to Catherine Carey and Lettice Knollys:

Clockwise: Catherine Carey, Elizabeth, Mary, Lettice Knollys
Clockwise: Catherine Carey, Elizabeth, Mary, Lettice Knollys

Lettice Knollys: Cousin vs Queen (Part 4 – The Conclusion)

Guest article by Karlie aka History Gal

Lettice Knollys portrait housed at Longleat House photo attained from: http://www.thepeerage.com/p257.htm
Lettice Knollys portrait housed at Longleat House photo attained from: http://www.thepeerage.com/p257.htm

Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, was known throughout the court for his military prowess, good looks and charisma. These qualities made him popular with the Queen and with the English people.

The titles and adulation that was heaped on Essex undoubtedly inflated the young Earls massive ego and made him hungry for more power and glory.

More than anything else, Essex wanted to be the head of a great and victorious army. So much so that in 1589, he defied Elizabeths orders to join Francis Drakes navy in a counter attack against the Spanish Armada. Unfortunately for Essex, the quest was a complete disaster that resulted in a massive defeat for the English.

The year of 1589 was also an eventful year for Lettice Knollys. In a low-key ceremony, Lettice married Christopher Blount (she was 46 and he was 12 years her junior.)

Although Blount was a distinguished soldier he was much lower on the aristocratic scale than Lettice, having served as Dudleys Gentleman of the Horse.

Lettices marriage caused a sensation at court. Not only was Lettice on her third marriage, she married Blount only a year after her second husbands death.

According to William Haynes (Dudleys gentleman of the bedchamber) Dudley discovered that Blount and Lettice were in love shortly before his departure to the Netherlands. He was so infuriated that he tried but failed to have Blount killed. When Blount found out about the attempt made on his life, he conspired with Lettice to do away with Dudley.



Haynes then relays that The Earl (Dudley) not patient of his great wrong of his wifes, purposed to carry her off to Kenilworth and leave her there until her death, by natural or violent means, but rather by the last. Lady Leicester (Lettice) had secret intelligence of his scheme, and before setting out on the journey provided herself with a poison which she had no opportunity to administer until they came to Cornbury. Here the Earl after his gluttonous manner, surfeiting with excess of eating and drinking fell so ill that he was forced to stay there. Haynes added that he saw her (Lettice) give that fatal cup to the Earl which was his last draught and an end of the plot against the Countess and of his journey and of himself. [1]

The story is cementedbut with an added twist in Notes of Ben Jonsons Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden (circa 1842). Jonson writes that Dudley gave Lettice “a bottle of liquor which he willed her to use in any faintness, which she, not knowing it was poison, gave him, and so he died”.

The events that Haynes (and later Jonson) recounts is certainly fascinating, but very unlikely to be true. Furthermore, Dudleys autopsy concluded that no malicious substances were present in his system.

II

(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Another marriage was to follow Lettices: in 1590 Essex secretly married Frances Walsingham (the daughter of Elizabeths secretary and spy master, Francis Walsingham).

It was dj vu for the Queen who was used to seeing her courtiers marring without her knowledge or consent. She promptly upbraided Devereux for his marriage and demanded he leave court.

Sir John Stanhope reported to Gilbert, Lord Talbot that Queen Elizabeth considered Essexs marriage more temperately than was thought for, and God be thanked doth not strike all she threats. [2] In the end, Elizabeth forgave Essex and lifted his ban.

In 1591-1592 Essex was made commander of a military sent to aid the French King in his war against Spain. The mission turned out to be a disaster but it did not curtail Devereuxs influence over the Queen.

In 1593 Elizabeth appointed Essex as a member of her Privy Council. This position caused great animosity within the council. Robert Cecil particularly resented Essexs elevation, which was hardly surprising since the two rarely agreed on anything. One thing in which they disagreed on was the amount of money needed to fund an expedition to Cadiz. However, Essex won the argument and was subsequently made one of the commanders of the naval army sent to thwart and attack Spains counter strike against England.

With a fleet of 150 ships and over 6,000 soldiers, Essex and his men left Plymouth in early June 1596. While Essex attacked the town by sea, Howard [Lord of Effingham] landed his troops and completed the capture of the city.[3]

The capturing of Cadiz marked Essexs biggest military achievement, and he relished in the adulation of the English people.

However, Essexs popularity and increasingly haughty demeanor incurred the displeasure of the Queen.

The strain on their relationship grew when in 1597, acting as master of the ordnance in an expedition against Spain, known as the Islands or Azores Voyage. Essex returned having only gained some trifling successes… [4]

Philip II of Spain portrait housed in Madrid, photo attained from http://www.historytoday.com/geoffrey-parker/philip-ii-spain-reappraisal
Philip II of Spain portrait housed in Madrid, photo attained from http://www.historytoday.com/geoffrey-parker/philip-ii-spain-reappraisal

Essex was forced to reside at Wanstead Hall until Elizabeths disappointment and anger finally abated. His failure in the Islands not only put a damper on his political and military career but it also weakened his chances of reconciling his mother and the Queen.

But Essex never gave up and when his banishment came to an end, his friends eagerly informed Lettice that the Queen was willing to grant her anaudience.

On Shrove Monday [1588], Lettice sent a jewel worth 300 to Elizabeth, who had promised to visit with her that day at her brother, Sir William Knollyss house, but despite Essexs pleads, Elizabeth refused to keep the appointment. On March 2, the Queen finally received her at court. [5]

For the first time in 9 years the two cousins and rivals were to meet. But when it finally happened their exchange was brief and awkward, to say the least. The Queen could not bring herself to forgive Lettice no matter how much the latter flattered and cajoled her. And after having greeted her and permitted her to kiss her hand and her breast and embrace her. Elizabeth returned the kiss but denied a second visit. [And Lettice] subsequently withdrew to Drayton Basset (her country estate.) [6]

Lettice could be in doubt that her cousin was still her bitterest of enemies and would always remain so.

Queen Elizabeths affection for Lettices son was beginning to wane. His mother advised him on how to manipulate the Queen by reiterating the practices Dudley would use to get back into royal favor.



At his insistence (and against her better judgement) the Queen agreed to Essexs appointment as Lieutenant and Governor General of Ireland.

In 1599 Essex and abt. 17,000 soldiers set out for Ulster to suppress the Irish uprising (with aid from Spain) led by the Earl of Tyrone. Tyrone and his men wanted to see the English driven out of Ulster in order to establish their own independence and government. If successful, Tyrone would rule over Ulster; but what England feared most was that Ireland would fall into the hands of Spain.

Essexs instructions were explicit. He was to march directly to the North and bend all his strength against Tyrone, who was only to be admitted to mercy on making a simple submission without conditions. [7] But when word reached Essex that Tyrones clans had attacked English supply lines and the Pale [ancient English territory] itself. Essex ordered his troops south instead of north.

It was a disastrous start to Essexs campaign, and after delivering the town of Marlborough from siege, Essex left a large garrison in Carlow and an even larger one in Athy depleting his force by more than 1,000 men. [8]

After a series of battles and a minor victory for Essex in Tipperary, the English forces began to dwindle from disease and from the bloody attacks by Tyrones clans. Essex was then forced to make a peace treaty with Tyrone.

After abandoning his post to return to England, the Queen upbraided Essex for knighting men without her permission and failing to effectively put down Tyrone.

For his treachery and insolence, Elizabeth placed Essex under house arrest. This vexed him greatly, whereby he petitioned Queen Elizabeth with letters explaining how he was wonderfully grieved at her Majestys displeasure towards him; and drew up a detailed explanation of what happened in Ireland and the arrangements he had put in place when he left. [9] When that didnt work, Essex complained of illness until the Queen sent a doctor to attend to his ailments.

In 1599 Lettice traveled to London to plead for her sons release. The following month she sent a gown for Elizabeth that was presented by Mary Scuda

The Earl of Essex housed at the National Portrait Gallery, photo attained from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Devereux,_2nd_Earl_of_Essex#/media/File%3ARobert_Devereux%2C_2nd_Earl_of_Essex_by_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger.jpg.
The Earl of Essex housed at the National Portrait Gallery, photo attained from Wikipedia

more, one of the Queens favored women who was sympathetic to Lettices cause and had known her from the time of the Queens service. Elizabeth sent back a message that she did not recognize the gift but that Things standing as they did, it was not fit for her [Lettice] to desire what she did, which was to come to her Majestys presence. [10]

Eventually, Essex was released from confinement but was barred from court and Queen Elizabeths presence indefinitely. What made Essexs dilemma more challenging was that his main source of income was from his positions at court.

The final straw came in 1600 when Elizabeth wouldnt renew his monopoly on the import of fortified wine. Essexs wine venture was his main and last source of income, it was enough to make the most patient of mens blood boiland Essex was not a patient man.

With the help of a few of his closest friends and familywhich included his sister Penelope, his step-father Blount and Henry Wriothesley aka the Earl of Southampton Essex planned a rebellion to overthrow Robert Cecil, seize the Queen and force her to agree to his terms.

In February 1601, Essexs rebellion began but it was crushed soon after. Essex was forced to surrender he was later brought before a council of his peers, where he was summarily tried and found guilty of treason. [11]

One can only imagine that if Lettice had not been at her country estate during the time her son and husband were in the midst of the rebellion, that the Queen wouldnt have hesitated to have her imprisoned in the tower or condemned to death.

III

Essexs only request was to be executed privately, not in front of a mob on Tower Hill. This was granted and on the Wednesday morning he was taken out to the courtyard of the Tower, acknowledging with unaccustomed humility that he was thus justly spewed out of this realm. [12]

On February 25th 1601, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex was beheaded. He was only 35 years old. When Elizabeth was informed of Essexs death she became silent, then resumed playing the virginals.

Despite her initial reaction, Queen Elizabeth was devastated at having to condemn Essex to death, so much so that she often retired to her bedchamber and wept.

If the Queen felt grief about the Earl of Essex, Lettice was completely heartbroken. Since 1569 Lettice had experienced one death after the other. First it was her mother Catherine, her husband Walter, then her son Lord Denbigh, followed by Dudley, her other son Walter, her father Francis, Essex and her husband Blount. (The latter was convicted of treason and beheaded on Tower Hill on March 18th 1601.)

Like Dudley before him, Blount amassed a great deal of debt at the time of his death. As his widow, the task of paying off those debts, once again, fell on Lettices shoulders. Unfortunately, Lettice no longer had a significant source of income because Blount sold off many of her precious jewels and estates

Though Lettice was deeply in debt, and her reputation was tarnished as the wife and mother of two traitors, she still had her health. An observer noted, in 1632, that Lettice could walk a mile a day. [13]

Good health was not something Queen Elizabeth could boast of. In the winter of 1602, the Queen who just a short time before was taking a leisurely stroll in the gardenssuddenly caught (what appeared to be) a cold. In early 1603, Elizabeths aches and pains were significant enough for her to retire to her rooms at Richmond palace.

With each passing day, the Queens health and melancholy worsened. She was deteriorating before everyones eyes and there was nothing anyone, (least of all her ladies in waiting) could do about it. Indeed, how could they force the Queen of England to eat or drink when she refused? Or see a physician when she expressed that she did not wish it? And how could they order her to rest when she preferred to stand (often for hours on end)? Not even her secretary, Robert Cecil could persuade her to retire to bed. Elizabeths response to him was: The word must is not to be used to PrincesLittle man! Little man! if your father had lived, ye durst not have said so much; but ye know I must die and that makes ye so presumptuous.

Elizabeth l of England
Elizabeth l of England

Eventually, Queen Elizabeth became so weak that she was forced to lay resignedly on her cushions in her private apartments, and could not be persuaded to leave them for the comfort of her bed. Then delirium set in and the Queen began to be plagued by ghostly visions of people she had previously known, including the late Scottish queen [14]

In the early morning hours of March 24th 1603 Elizabeth, Queen of England died, aged 69. She was buried at Westminster Abbey in the vault of her grandfather, Henry VII, until she was moved in 1606 to her present resting place, a tomb in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey which she shares with her half-sister Mary I. [15]

The official cause of her death is unknown. But favored theories include a lung infection and/or blood poisoning (from the mixture of lead and vinegar that was used in her makeup).

IV

The feud between Lettice and her cousin was over. But a new feud for Lettice was just beginning, this time with: Douglas Sheffield.

Lettice had been vindicated by King James (the new King of England) when he pardoned the debts she owed to the royal treasury. But Douglass son Robert was raking up the past by insisting that Dudley and his mother had been married and that he was the legitimate son and heir to his father and uncles titles and their estates. If Douglas and Robert were successful in their claim, then Lettice would stand to lose the jointure left to her as the legal wife and widow of Dudley.

Lettice refused to go down without a fight, and in 1605 she petitioned the courts to hear her case against Roberts. The court decided in Lettices favor because neither Douglas nor Robert could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Robert was entitled to his father and uncles earldoms and any additional estates.

V

Tomb effigies of Dudley and Lettice at the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick.
Tomb effigies of Dudley and Lettice at the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick.

After the Queens death in 1603, Lettice lived for another 33 years at her at estate at Staffordshire. Until finally, on December 25th 1634, Lettice died. She was 91 years old.

At her request, she was interred in a magnificent tomb beside her husband at the Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St Mary. Warwick

Lettices great grandson, Gervase Clinton wrote a verse about his grandmother that hangs beside her tomb that reads .she was in her younger years matched with two great English peers, she that did supply the wars with thunder, and the court with stars.

Lettice experienced several great triumphs and defeats during her 91 years on earth, as did her cousin and nemesis Queen Elizabeth. But between the two, who won the war? Lettice or Elizabeth?

Some might say Elizabeth won because she vindicated Lettices marriage to Dudley by crippling the former financially, humiliating her in public, forcing her to reside (often in disgrace) in estates far away from court and executing two people who were very dear to her.

In my opinion Lettice won because she married Dudley and was with him until the very end, she outlived the Queen to enjoy a long and healthy life, she also regained many of rights and dignity.

References:

[1] Hamlet’s Secrets Revealed: The Real Shakespeare, Volume 2 by Marilyn Gray

[2] Illustrations of British History, 2: Biography and Manners in the Reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Elizabeth & James I Exhibited in a Series of Original Papers Selected from the Mrs. of the Noble Families of Horvard, Tallot and Cecil with Numerous Notes Observations

[3], [13] Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1 by John A. Wagner, Susan Walters Schmid

[4] The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Volume 9 by Hugh Chisholm

[5], [6] Wicked Women of Tudor England: Queens, Aristocrats, Commoners by R. Warnicke

[7] A History of Ireland by Eleanor Hull

[8] http://www.yourirish. com

[9], [10] The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court by Anna Whitelock

[11] http://www.britainexpress.com/History/tudor/essex-rebellion.htm

[12] http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/execution-earl-essex

[14] http://www.elizabethi.org/contents/death/

[15] https://www.tudorsociety.com/28-april-1603-elizabeth-funeral/

About the Author:

kL16loFoIm Karlie (also known as History Gal on Twitter)! Im a pre-med student from the U.S. I have many interests including reading, writing, drawing and painting but my passion is History. I have read and love to read just about every period in history but I am most interested in the Tudor period. Im intrigued, not just by the Tudor dynasty, but also by the world in which they lived: the people, the religion, the politics, the conflicts, the events, the castles, the beautiful clothes, just overall their way of life.

It should go without saying that I love England and its rich history. My dream is to go there and see as many Tudor related places as I can!

Follow on Twitter: @HistoryGal_

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