Queen Mary’s False Pregnancies

false pregnancies

On the 19th of July 1553, Mary Tudor was declared Queen of England. From that moment (and obviously prior to it) she understood the importance of having an heir. For if she did not produce an heir her sister Elizabeth would keep England Protestant. It was very important for Mary to return England to Rome and resume the Catholic faith to her country.

Philip and Mary

It wasn’t until the 25th of July 1554, that Mary and Philip were married. Her biological clock was already ticking – Mary was born in 1516, making her thirty-eight years old by the time she was married. Not impossible for a woman of that age to conceive a child but surely she understood it would be an uphill battle. I feel Mary was optimistic that God would grace her with a son, especially if she returned England to the Catholic faith…and Rome.

By September 1554, Mary believed herself pregnant for the first time. At this point in history, medical advances were minimal and doctors were unable to tell the difference between a false pregnancy and a real one. They also believed that Mary was with child. The only way to know if the pregnancy was real is if it produced a child, and if it was false, well time would tell. Mary had even claimed that by the end of the month that she felt the baby move in her womb. How was anyone to know that this was a false pregnancy?

Even Mary’s father-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V was reporting the Queen’s pregnancy in a letter he wrote to Francisco de Eraso (a prominent secretary of his) he is quoted as saying: “she is now considered certainly to be with child and that people in general are pleased with the King and all…”¹

A couple of days later, Charles V writes to his son Philip saying, ” I only wish to say how overjoyed I am to hear of the condition of the Queen, my good daughter, and that there is hope that God will give us successors by her. She had no need to excuse herself for not writing in her own hand, for my desire is that she should be careful of her health and take things easily, especially in her present condition.”¹

Hopes were high that an heir was near. This news was as important to England as it was to Spain. Philip was the heir to his father, Charles V and to have a son was indeed a top priority for Spain as well.

The pressures of producing an heir for Mary were so great that it may have assisted in the creation of the false pregnancy, or, as some have speculated, Mary may have been suffering from an ailment. Possibly ovarian cancer. Which at the time doctors/physicians would not be necessarily aware of.

In November (6th) 1554, the Spanish ambassador reported to the Emperor that, “There is no doubt that the Queen is with child, for her stomach clearly shows it and her dresses no longer fit her.”³

Written November 14, 1554 –  Luis Vanegas to Charles V: “The Queen is in excellent health and three months with child. She is fatter and has a better colour than when she was married, a sign that she is happier, and indeed she is said to be very happy.”.³

By February 1555, Philip wished to travel to Spain to speak with his father (Charles V) – the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard reported in a letter to the Emperor that the Queen was very melancholy “these last three days, because she had heard that the King wished to visit your Majesty before her confinement.”

As per custom of the time, Mary would be required to go into confinement six weeks before the birth – she had believed the child would arrive in May, so preparations began in April. At the time it was considered improper for any men, other than the husband, to attend the Queen this late into her pregnancy. By the middle of April preparations were complete. Mary’s doctors became nervous regarding their responsibility involved in the birth of the child. Privately they were pessimistic for a positive outcome. Mary was older and her mental state was unstable. It appears that her appetite had decreased so much so that the doctors worried the child was not receiving the nutrition it needed to survive.

On 30 April 1555, there was a similar rejoicing over the birth of a royal infant: bells rang, bonfires were lit and there were celebrations in the street, following news that Mary I had given birth to a healthy son.6

800px-Mary1_by_Eworth_3Another letter written by the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard to Charles V on the 5th of May 1555 states, “A few days ago there was a rumour that the Queen had given birth to a child, whereupon the people of London and several other places held great rejoicings, with bonfires, true evidence of joy. It is said that the same thing happened when the late King Edward was born.”²

On 8 May 1555, Ruy Gómez de Silva (Portuguese noble) sent a message to Francisco de Eraso (a prominent secretary of Charles V) that stated, “Your letter of 6 May written from Antwerp reached me this morning and told me about the false news that had arrived there of the Queen’s deliverance. I am writing to Spain with a messenger who is going over-land, excusing you for sending the tidings and explaining how it happened. As I have already said, the same false news were circulating here in London.”²

By June there was still no news of a royal baby and before they knew it it was July and still no child had arrived. Mary had convinced everyone that her timing was off and that a child was near.6  The Queen issued a statement that God would not allow her child to be born until all the Protestant dissenters were punished, beginning another round of executions.

Mary had clung to hope much longer than her doctors, and many around her amused her by holding out hope for a child, but behind her back pitied her for her delusions. It seems everyone understood there would be no child except for Mary. But was she really that delusional? I find it hard to believe that she, at this point, hadn’t figured it out. Yes, the symptoms she showed would indicate a pregnancy but it had not progressed to the point of labor.

By the time July came around hopes were certainly dashed of a child ever being born. Simon Renard wrote Charles V -“the Queen’s deliverance is delayed and it is doubted whether she is really with child, although outward signs are good and she asserts that she is indeed pregnant.”4

During many false pregnancy rumors there included some that she was never pregnant at all and that the fetus had been a pet monkey or a lap dog. There were also rumors of a plot to pass along another’s baby as the queen’s own – they said that Lord North was the agent to try to procure a suitable child.6

On August 13, 1555 –  Philip Nigri to Jehan Carette, President of the Emperor’s Court of Accounts  -  ”We still have hopes that a child will be born to England by the end of this month. We shall see what God sends us. . . .”5

In August, the 11th month of her false pregnancy, Mary emerged from her confinement chamber at last. She was impossibly thin, utterly silent and completely humiliated. No word of her “pregnancy” was mentioned at court again, at least officially.

In the end, it is believed that Mary suffered from pseudocyesis, which is sometimes called a “phantom pregnancy.” It is still something today that is not completely understood and appears that between one and six out of every 22,000 pregnancies turn out to be phantom, or false.10  It just so happens that Queen Mary I became one of those stats.

It has been said that from youth Mary suffered from a retention of her menstrual fluids along with a “strangulation of her womb”. This time, her body had swelled to give the appearance of pregnancy and her breast had enlarged and even sent out milk.11  All pointed towards pregnancy.

Mary’s midwife and an old maid who attended her since childhood were both pessimistic of the pregnancy being real – they had been there in the past when she suffered so greatly from menstrual pains and now, several times a day, the Queen spent long hours sitting on the floor, with her knees drawn up to her chin.11  If this account is true then they indeed had predicted correctly. They were women as well, they understood that a pregnant women (in most instances) would be unable to draw her knees up to her chin. It would be nearly impossible.

If we look at the symptoms that Mary had and compare them to those of ovarian cancer you’ll see the similarities.

Mary’s symptoms: Lack of menstrual bleeding, swollen and tender breasts which sent out milk, her body swelled.

Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer that also coincide with Mary’s pregnancy include: Bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, fatigue, back pain, changes in menstrual cycle, abdominal swelling.12 

Again, towards the end of her life Mary thought she was with child. This time it seemed highly unlikely from the get-go because Philip had been away at the estimated time of conception. This was again a phantom pregnancy and Mary would die without an heir to her Catholic throne.


¹ http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp71-76   ’Spain: October 1554, 16-31′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 71-76. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp71-76 [accessed 17 May 2016].

² http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp168-170    ’Spain: May 1555, 1-10′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 168-170. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp168-170 [accessed 13 May 2016].

³ http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp76-95      ’Spain: November 1554, 1-15′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 76-95. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp76-95 [accessed 17 May 2016].

4 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp226-239    ’Spain: July 1555′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 226-239. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp226-239 [accessed 13 May 2016].

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp239-249  ’Spain: August 1555′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 239-249. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol13/pp239-249 [accessed 13 May 2016].



 Weir, Alison; The Children of Henry VIII (Children of England)

The History of Mary I, Queen of England as found in Public Records, page 350; https://archive.org/stream/historymaryique00stongoog#page/n420/mode/2up

10 http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/false-pregnancy-pseudocyesis?page=2

11 Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne

12 http://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovariancancer/detailedguide/ovarian-cancer-signs-and-symptoms

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,054 subscribers.

A Kingdom in Crisis: Queen Mary I of England

Guest article by Alan Freer 

Queen Elizabeth I

It was mid-morning on Palm Sunday in the year of Our Lord 1554. A young woman of 20 sat in a barge at the Watergate of the Tower of London. Under this dark, forbidding, stone portal so many had passed to end their lives on Tower Green at the executioner’s block. Her own mother had made the same journey some 18 years before. At first she refused to alight on the landing-stage but was informed by the Marquess of Winchester that she had no choice in the matter. As she stepped ashore she stated, “Here landeth a subject, being a prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs, and before Thee, O God, I speak it, having none other friend but Thee alone.” She turned to the assembled Tower Wardens and said, “O Lord, I never thought to have come in here a prisoner, and I pray you all, good friends and fellows, bear me witness that I come in no traitor, but as true a woman to the Queen’s majesty as any is now living; and thereon will I take my death.” Some of the Wardens broke rank and knelt before her saying, “God preserve your Grace!”

The evening before, Princess Elizabeth had managed to delay her journey down the Thames by writing to her sister, Queen Mary. By the time she had completed the letter the tide had risen to a height that made it impossible to go under London Bridge. She was pleading for her life.

The previous year had seen the death of her Protestant half-brother, Edward VI and Mary’s accession to the throne. Being half Spanish and the first female ruler of England, Mary turned for advice and support to Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. She had received the Emperor’s ambassador, Simon Renard, and installed him as one of her closest advisors. Charles proposed a match between Mary and his recently widowed son, Philip. This would bring England into the orbit of Spain and sink any prospect of an alliance with France. The marriage was very attractive to Mary as it provided her with a partner in the burden of rule and the hope of producing a Catholic heir to the throne. The visage of Spanish rule in England was far from popular with its people.

King Edward VI
Queen Mary I

As a Catholic monarch, Mary re-established the Catholic Mass at Court. Conscious of her unwelcome position as a figurehead for Protestant hopes, and therefore the danger of her situation, Elizabeth complied with her sister’s wish that she attend Mass. Renard was skeptical of Elizabeth’s sudden change in religious sentiment and urged that she be confined to the Tower. Parliament  was persuaded to reverse the statute that made Mary illegitimate (passed at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from her mother). Although, by law, Elizabeth was also illegitimate, she was, by statute, next in succession to the throne should Mary die childless. Mary was tempted to have the line of succession changed to exclude Elizabeth but Sir William Paget advised her that Parliament would refuse. The House was relatively compliant, but not that compliant. The only other legitimate candidate to take Elizabeth’s place would be Mary, the child Queen of Scots. Spain was whole-heartedly against such a move as the child was betrothed to the heir of the French throne. Mary was stuck with Elizabeth, the only alternatives being the production of an heir or Elizabeth’s death.

Queen Mary I

Elizabeth was staying at Ashridge at the time. Mary ordered her to Court, presumably to keep a closer eye on her. Elizabeth replied on about the 23 January 1554 declaring ill-health as excuse not to attend. Two days later Sir Thomas Wyatt, with a small force from Kent, raised rebellion against the Spanish marriage. The London militia were sent to oppose them but promptly joined the rebels, taking Southwick on the south bank of the Thames. London Bridge was closed and Wyatt’s men were forced to march to Richmond Bridge to cross the river; by which time a force, loyal to Mary, had been organised and the rebels were easily defeated. It was this action that so endangered Elizabeth’s life for Wyatt had intended to place her on the throne. The prejudice against Elizabeth made it impossible, in the eyes of Mary’s councillors, for her not to have had knowledge of the plot. Despite Wyatt’s denial that she was innocent of any involvement, Mary was determined to bring her sister to book. She sent physicians to Ashridge to ascertain Elizabeth’s state of health. She had indeed been ill, her body all swollen – a complaint she suffered throughout her life at times of extreme stress. Despite her condition, Elizabeth was brought to London by litter and lodged at Whitehall behind guarded doors. Her household and anyone connected with her were examined in an effort to incriminate her. Elizabeth, herself, was interrogated by the Council and Bishop Gardiner encouraged her to place herself at the mercy of Queen Mary and ask for pardon. She replied that to do so would be a confession of crime – let them prove her guilty, then she would seek a pardon! No direct link could be established between her and Wyatt, or none that stood up to close scrutiny. Despite a lack of firm evidence both Mary and Renard were convinced of her complicity. The Queen felt she had no alternative but to confine her sister to the Tower.

Elizabeth’s incarceration failed to alleviate Mary’s problems. London, ever the Protestant city, began to voice its protest in favour of their martyred Princess. There is the strange story of the “Spirit in the Wall.” Thousands flocked to a particular wall where they cried “God save Queen Mary,” to which it replied nothing. They then cried, “God save the Lady Elizabeth,” to which it said in reply, “So be it.” When Parliament met on 3 April, the streets were strewn with handbills and pamphlets in support of Elizabeth. Three days later Wyatt was executed, protesting Elizabeth’s innocence from the gallows. On 17 April a London jury acquitted Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, an associate of Wyatt’s, of treason and on the same day, Wyatt’s head was stolen from the gallows on which it had been staked. A few days later a paper was discovered in the Queen’s kitchen threatening both Mary and Bishop Gardiner, and stating that Philip of Spain must look to his life when he landed in England for the proposed marriage.

Nicholas Throckmorton
Nicholas Throckmorton
Thomas Wyatt the Younger

Mary was at her wit’s end. She could not keep her sister locked in the Tower indefinitely nor could she set her free. The only course of action was to place her under house arrest outside London. It was decided to keep her at the royal manor of Woodstock under the custodianship of Sir Henry Bedingfield. On Saturday, May 19, after two months imprisonment in the Tower, Elizabeth left by boat for Richmond and her journey north. As she traveled under escort, crowds gathered to cry, “God save your Grace.” Cakes and tokens of affection and support were handed to her and at Wheatley and Stanton St. John the  whole village turned out to cheer her.

Woodstock was well guarded and no one had access to her without the express permission of Bedingfield. Elizabeth’s servant, Thomas Parry, was given the duties of feeding and paying the household staff, though he was not permitted to stay in the house. He established himself at the Bull Inn at Woodstock and the place became a miniature Court – adding to Bedingfield’s problems. Sir Henry, a conscientious though slow-witted man, found his duties a great burden. He eventually found it safer to refer all matters to the Council; even to the extent of what books Elizabeth should be allowed to read.

Philip of Spain landed at Southampton in July 1554 and he and Mary were married at Winchester five days later. With the new king came a vast retinue. One Londoner noted, “At this time there was so many Spaniards in London that a man should have met in the streets for one Englishman above four Spaniards, to the great discomfort of the English nation.” Tempers were short and affrays frequent and there was even a rumour that the archbishopric of Canterbury was to be given to a Spanish friar.

Phillip ll
Phillip II of Spain

With the Queen and her new King established in London, the full force of a counter-reformation began. Heresy laws were passed and the stake and faggots were soon in use. This holocaust of religious fervour soon brought the Queen the epithet “bloody” and even disgusted the Imperial, Venetian and French ambassadors – Catholics all.

November saw the return of Mary’s religious mentor, Cardinal Reginald Pole, and she took the opportunity to announce her pregnancy. All was going in Mary’s favour – a husband, the hoped for Catholic heir and a compliant Council to reinstate the True Faith. She felt safe enough to allow her sister to be moved to Hampton Court. The two of them met, Elizabeth protesting her innocence, Mary ever suspicious.

Months passed and the time came for Mary to give birth. At one point rumours circulated in London that the child had been born and the church bells were set ringing. April became May, and May, June and still nothing happened. The “pregnancy” became a sick joke. The Polish ambassador arrived in London, complete with a speech of congratulations on the new child. Unfortunately nobody warned him and he read the speech out at Court, adding to the comic farce. At the end of August 1555 Mary and Philip traveled down river to Greenwich, Mary’s favourite palace. In early September Philip left England for Flanders on Spanish affairs.

In the meantime, Elizabeth had also been moved to Greenwich. She was now in a much stronger position. With Mary’s phantom pregnancy and the religious persecution, Elizabeth’s enemies knew of her popularity. Her greatest danger now was being married off to serve Spanish interests. In October Mary returned to London for a meeting of Parliament and Elizabeth moved her household to her manor at Hatfield.

In the course of the winter Elizabeth had to face a new danger. A party was founded in the House of Commons to resist all Catholic legislation. The Council placed a bill before Parliament against Protestant refugees abroad.

Queen Elizabeth I: c. 1560

The Protestant hot-heads, who met at an eating-house in London called Arundel’s, managed to gain the keys to the House, locked the Catholic supporters of the bill out, forced a vote and defeated the measure. A number of Elizabeth’s servants and supporters were arrested and placed in the Tower but no evidence was found to connect her to the action and no charges were brought. For three months Elizabeth was kept under house arrest in the congenial care of Sir Thomas Pope. Sir Thomas was the opposite of Bedingfield in that he was a man of intelligence and wit and the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. Elizabeth and Sir Thomas, prisoner and jailer, became friends and passed the time discussing plans for the development of the college.

Mary longed for the return of her husband for her biological clock was in overdrive and hopes of an heir were fast disappearing. Philip was in no hurry to occupy the bed of his prematurely aged wife.

By the spring of 1557 Elizabeth was released from restriction and visited her sister at Whitehall. The two women seem to have declared a truce and there was a brief period of reconciliation. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s greatest fear was being realised. Philip was actively trying to find her a husband. The prime candidate was his kinsman, Emmanuel Philibert, heir to the Duke of Savoy. Elizabeth refused. Others were suggested and all refused. There was even a proposal that she marry Philip’s 11-year-old son, Don Carlos.

In March 1557, after an absence of nineteen months, Philip returned to his wife. He stayed long enough to get England involved in a war with France that ended with the loss of Calais.

The beginning of 1558 saw Mary failing in health, probably from cancer of the ovaries. Once more she thought herself pregnant, but it was wishful thinking. By the end of the summer her time was fast running out. The country was divided over religion, the treasury was empty and England’s only overseas possession had been lost. At Hatfield Elizabeth was quietly building her own Court. Men of skill and intellect gravitated to her, among them a man of thirty-eight named Sir William Cecil. He was to prove her anchor through much of her reign – a true servant of his beloved Queen.

Mary l
Queen Mary I
Elizabeth I: The Coronation Portrait, c1600, unknown artist; copy of a lost original
Elizabeth I: The Coronation Portrait

On November 6th Mary bowed to the inevitable and recognised Elizabeth as her successor. At seven in the morning on 17 November Queen Mary died, with few tears shed at her passing..

According to tradition, Elizabeth was at Hatfield, walking in the park. The members of the Privy Council found her sitting under an oak tree. They knelt on the grass before her and presented her with Mary’s coronation ring. She cast her eyes to heaven and spoke the words, “A domino factum est et mirabile in oculis nostris” (“God has done it and it is marvelous in our eyes.”). Thus the reign of Gloriana began.

Elizabeth became Queen of an impoverished, divided minor kingdom on the northern edge of Europe; she left it, forty-five years later, a world power and on the edge of greatness!

About the Author:

CaptureI am Alan Freer and live in the small village of Byfleet, Surrey, England. Edward, the Black Prince, spent much of his final years in Byfleet. I have been an amateur “historian” since the age of seven, when I purchased my first history book in 1955. Indeed, it was anticipated that I would become a history teacher, but a brief conversation just before I was due to go to university directed me to the banking industry – more lucrative but, perhaps, not so satisfying! History lead me into genealogy and I have my own website detailing the Descendents of William the Conqueror (www.william1.co.uk ). A never-ending project! When I retired from the bank in 1999 I started to write and have had a number of articles published in US history magazines or on magazine websites. Primarily I wrote for the amusement of my colleagues in my second occupation as a civil servant. I count myself most fortunate to have been born in England and would not wish it otherwise – except, possibly, Italy!!

Website: The Descendants of William the Conqueror

Queen Elizabeth’s Marriage Prospects



For Queen Elizabeth to find a husband seemed critical to those in her council. On the other-hand, we here at Tudors Dynasty feel that Elizabeth came to the conclusion well before becoming queen that she would not wed – especially when she saw what it did to her sister Mary’s reign. The biggest factor for Elizabeth was that she did not want a foreign ruler, nor any man to rule her kingdom over herself. She was, after-all Queen of England.

In this article we touch base on some, if not most, of the men who were considered a marriage prospect for Queen Elizabeth. All too often we only see a list of names but do not learn anything more about the men themselves, or what Elizabeth thought.

Most believe that the only man Queen Elizabeth would have trusted enough to wed was Robert Dudley. Dudley was a lifelong friend and someone who most believe would not have tried to rule over her. Unfortunately, that union would not happen for Elizabeth. Dudley was married to Amy Robsart at the time and the only way to wed Queen Elizabeth is if Amy was not in the picture – well, we know what happened there.  If not, see our article that explains more: Why Queen Elizabeth I Never Married

Queen Elizabeth’s marriage prospects, in no particular order:

Phillip ll
Philip II of Spain

Philip II

Philip was married to Elizabeth’s sister, Mary. As we know, Mary was Queen of England from 1553 – 1558. After her death Philip continued to support England and even attempted a union with his dead wife’s sister.

Elizabeth delayed making a decision on the proposal and had learned that Philip was also considering a marriage with the Valois family in France. Elizabeth, we believe, would not have married a Catholic.

The problem with this marriage stemmed with Elizabeth’s legitimacy and her faith. In the eyes of the Catholic church Elizabeth was illegitimate since the Pope did not recognize the divorce of Katherine of Aragon and her father, Henry VIII – thus the marriage of her mother Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII was invalid and she was illegitimate.


James Earl of Arran
James, Earl of Arran

James, Earl of Arran

James was a Scottish nobleman whose father was a short-lived regent of Scotland, after the death of King James V. Mary Queen of Scots was queen at only 6 days old and required a regent.

James’ father proposed marriage between Elizabeth and his son in 1558 to cement the relationship between Scotland and England.

In 1559, both James and his ex-regent father declared themselves Protestants – James seems like he would’ve be an attractive choice to the Protestant Queen Elizabeth. The Earl of Arran made a visit to England (and presumably Elizabeth) and when he went back to Scotland he was joined by English escorts who recorded that he had signs of mental instability.

Elizabeth formally declared her rejection of his suit on 8 December 1560.


by Unknown artist,painting,1560s
Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

Henry Fitzalan was born around 1512, in London. He was a prominent Lord during the reign of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

In January 1559,  Henry was elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford. After only four months as Chancellor, Henry resigned the office – most likely due to religious motives.

Elizabeth visited him at Nonsuch Palace in August 1559. For five days she was entertained as any monarch would be, with banquets, masques, and music. She visited Nonsuch and Henry many times after. Was Elizabeth deciding if a marriage with Henry was suitable?

As a widower Henry Fitzalan was named as a suitor who might aspire to the queen’s hand.  Apparently in 1561, this news led to a fight between himself and Robert Dudley. At this time Dudley’s wife had died a year earlier and Dudley was free to marry again. Was he jealous?


Sir William Pickering
Sir William Pickering

Sir William Pickering

Sir William Pickering was born in 1516, and was an English courtier and diplomat (ambassador).

…being ‘a brave, wise, comely English gentleman,’ was seriously thought of as a suitor for Elizabeth’s hand. In 1559 ‘the Earl of Arundel … was said to have sold his lands and was ready to flee out of the realm with the money, because he could not abide in England if the queen should marry Mr. Pickering, for they were enemies’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1559–1560, p. 2).

At one point it was reported that William had secret visits with the Queen and he had taken up residence at court. He was known to entertain lavishly and showed great tastes. The Earl of Arundel was said to be jealous of William, as his rival suitor, and challenged the 2nd Earl of Bedford to a duel for having spoken ill of him. The truth is probably that Pickering never considered himself a suitor. He was recorded as telling ambassadors that the Queen (Elizabeth) ‘would laugh at him and at all the rest of them as he knew she meant to die a maid’.


Eric XIV of Sweden
Eric XIV of Sweden

Eric XIV of Sweden

Eric was born 13 December 1533, to Gustav I of Sweden and his wife Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg at Tre Kronor castle in Stockholm, Sweden. Eric ruled as King of Sweden from 1560 until he was eventually deposed in 1568.

He had sought to improve his reputation by securing a marriage with Queen Elizabeth. Eric courted Elizabeth for years – he even sent her love letters written in Latin. He also went so far as to send his brother to English court, where he “scattered silver like a shower of falling stars in the London streets, and told the crowds that whereas he scattered silver, his brother would scatter gold” (according to John Sitwell).

Eric XIV, the King of Sweden, sent Elizabeth a portrait of himself, making his interest for her hand in marriage known.

Elizabeth seems to have slowed her courtship with Eric intentionally, but King Eric was never deterred. He was determined to wed Elizabeth. It wasn’t until the rumors of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley that the King started to became upset and challenged Dudley to a duel. The duel never happened as King Eric was “talked off the ledge” by his envoy.

Eric gave up in 1560 when he had to return to Sweden, from a trip to England, because his father had died.

“Eric was prone to sending the Queen letters containing passionate declarations of love, which greatly entertained her.”***


Adolphus of Gottorp, Duke of Holstein

Adolphus of Gottorp, Duke of Holstein

Adlolphus of Gottorp was born the third son of King Frederick I of Denmark and his second wife Sophie of Pomerania in 1526.

Adolphus of Gottorp, Duke of Holstein was thought of highly enough in England to be made a Knight of the Garter.

24 August 1560, Elizabeth received a letter from Adolphus that thanked her for the order of saint George of the Garter which was communicated to him by the letter of Henry Carey.*


duke of anjou
Henry, Duke of Anjou

Henry, Duke of Anjou

Henry was the son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici, born in 1551.

In 1570, Catherine de Medici wanted her son with to marry the Queen of England. However, Henry would hear nothing of it. He insisted that Elizabeth was too old for him, plus she was the daughter of a Protestant – not to mention the fact that he considered her illegitimate. In addition to those objections he wanted to steer clear of the drama regarding Elizabeth and Robert Dudley’s “affair”.


archduke of austria
Archduke Charles of Austria

Archduke Charles of Austria

In 1559, and again from 1564–1568, there were negotiations for a marriage between Charles and Queen Elizabeth. His father, Emperor Ferdinand I expected Elizabeth to be okay with Charles of Austria to rule England if she died childless.

As with all of her other suitors Elizabeth dragged out the negotiations – most likely knowing all along that she would not agree to marry. As with many of her suitors religious beliefs were an issue with the Catholic Archduke.

Negotiations lasted many years as Elizabeth played suitors off against each other and tried to keep everyone happy.

Alison Weir in “Elizabeth the Queen”: “She [Elizabeth] had acknowledged that the Archduke was the best foreign match for her, but she waxed alternately hot and cold over the matter.”

The Queens answer to the Emperor:

Thanks for his good will and the offer of his son in marriage. Can only speak with her mouth as she finds in her heart, “which is truly no certain inclination or disposition to marriage, but rather a contentation to enjoy and continue in this unmarried life.” Yet as the nobles and other states of the realm are therein somewhat importune, she will not therefore make any precise determination or vow to the contrary. Should she hereafter like of marriage and alter her mind, she trusts, by God’s favour, to make no choice but of such one as shall be both very honourable and not unlike to her own estate, nor unmeet for these her kingdoms. Is not better affected to any house or family in Christendom than to the house of Austria.**

Francis, Duke of Anjou

Francis, Duke of Anjou

Francis was the son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici, born in 1555.

In 1579, Jean de Simier arrived in England (on 6 January) to negotiate a marriage between Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou. Council members took in all factors as to whether or not the marriage would be beneficial to England or not. They were divided.

The Duke of Anjou had courted Elizabeth of 1578-1581 without success. Elizabeth seemed very interested in Francis and even called him, ‘her little frog’. Even though they were separated in age by two decades (he was only 24) the two became very close. Unfortunately the opposition of some of her Councillors and concerns from her subjects over a french takeover led her to end the courtship – she would have no more suitors.

On his departure she penned a poem, “On Monsieur’s Departure“:

I grieve and dare not show my discontent;
I love, and yet am forced to seem to hate;
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant;
I seem stark mute, but inwardly do prate.
I am, and not; I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun —
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands, and lies by me, doth what I have done;
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be suppressed.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, Love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low;
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die, and so forget what love e’er meant.



*State Paper Office, Royal Letters, vol. VIIII p. 228
**’Elizabeth: June 1559, 26-30′, in Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 1, 1558-1559, ed. Joseph Stevenson (London, 1863), pp. 337-346 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/foreign/vol1/pp337-346 [accessed 9 December 2015].
***Quote about Eric of Sweden - Alison Weir “Elizabeth the Queen”