Elizabeth I.jpeg

Queen Elizabeth I
Paternal 3rd cousin, 15x removed.

Elizabeth Tudor was the half sister of Queen Mary I and King Edward VI. Elizabeth was King Henry VIII's daughter with his second wife, Anne Boleyn. By coincidence, both King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn are my paternal cousins, with Anne being my 4th cousin, 16x removed and Henry being my 2nd cousin, 16x removed. In fact a number of King Henry VIII's wives were also my paternal cousins.

Elizabeth was born on September 7, 1533 at Greenwich Palace. At birth Elizabeth was declared the presumptive heir to the throne, her elder half sister Mary having been declared illegitimate and removed from the line of succession.

 

She was to be the 2nd youngest of the 3 surviving children of Henry VIII (Mary was the eldest, followed Elizabeth and then Edward). When she was only 2 years and 8 months old when her mother Anne Boleyn was executed under Henry VIII's orders. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate in order to remove her from the line of succession as her father quickly moved on from Anne to marry Jane Seymour (my 7th cousin, 14x removed) a scant 11 days after the execution of Anne Boleyn. Jane gave birth to a baby boy - Edward - who survived infancy. Unfortunately Jane died shortly after after giving Henry his much-desired male heir.

Elizabeth, after the marriage of her father to Jane Seymour, was declared illegitimate and was no longer in the line of succession to the throne. With the arrival of her half-brother, Edward, he was declared to be Henry's undisputed heir.

All of this happened when the young Elizabeth was only 4 years old. Although Elizabeth was removed from the line of succession, she still lived a royal life. She had a governess and private tutors for her education. It is reported that Elizabeth was fluent in four languages aside from her native English (French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch). By age 11, Elizabeth could write in English, Italian and Latin. At age 12, Elizabeth translated her stepmother's (Catherine Parr - my 5th cousin, 15x removed) religious work Prayers or Meditation from English to French and Greek; she then gifted her father with the translations as a New Year's gift.

Elizabeth continued to translate written works throughout her life, and in 2019 one of Elizabeth's handwritten translations was confirmed to be in the library of Lambeth Palace. 

When Elizabeth's formal education ended in 1550, when Elizabeth was 17, she was one of the most well educated women of her time. It is claimed that by the end of her life Elizabeth spoke even more languages than already listed, and with the fluency of a native of each of those languages. 

Elizabeth's father, King Henry VIII, died in 1547 leaving Elizabeth's half-brother, Edward VI, as King of England at the age of 9. Elizabeth herself was only 14. Catherine Parr, Henry's widow, soon remarried and chose Thomas Seymour, Edward VI's uncle (and brother of Edward Seymour, Lord Protector and 1st Duke of Somerset). Catherine and Thomas moved Elizabeth into their household and thus began the abuse of Elizabeth by Thomas and his unwanted physical attention.

Thomas had been scheming to control the Royal family, and when Catherine died suddenly in childbirth, Thomas doubled-down his pursuit of Elizabeth. This continued until Thomas was arrested for treason in January, 1549, when he was suspected of conspiring to depose the Duke of Somerset as the Lord Protector, marry Lady Jane Grey to King Edward and take Elizabeth as his wife. Elizabeth herself was interrogated, but refused to say anything, frustrating her interrogator, Sir Robert Tyrwitt. For his troubles, Thomas Seymour was beheaded on March 20, 1549.

Elizabeth's problems had not vanished with the death of Thomas Seymour, however. Her half-brother, King Edward VI, had removed both Elizabeth and Mary from the line of succession, over ruling his father's will that brought both of his daughters back into the line of succession. Instead, Edward VI wanted Lady Jane Grey to be his heir. Lady Jane Grey was the granddaughter of King Henry VIII's sister, Mary Tudor. As I have written in Queen Mary I's biography, all did not end well for Lady Jane Grey, also known as the 9 Day Queen.

Mary ascended to become Queen Mary I of England after Lady Jane Grey was overthrown.  Elizabeth showed her solidarity for Mary, riding by her side as Mary, her supporters and military troops arrived in London to rightly take the crown. The sisters solidarity did not last long, however, and soon Elizabeth was implicated in a rebellion to overthrow Queen Mary in favor of Elizabeth.

The rebellion was soon quelled, but the damage had been done - Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London on March 18, 1554. Elizabeth protested her innocence, but there were others who encouraged Queen Mary to execute Elizabeth, believing that her throne would never be safe should Elizabeth live. Luckily for Elizabeth, her supporters in the government plead her case, convincing the Queen not to execute her sister. Although it is unlikely that Elizabeth had any part in the plot to overthrow Mary and to take the crown for herself, her life hung in the balance until May 22, 1554, when she was removed from The Tower and placed under house arrest at Woodstock. This house arrest lasted for almost a year until she was invited to return to Mary's court on April 17, 1555 in order to witness the birth of Mary's anticipated child. The birth never occurred, and Elizabeth returned to Hatfield House in October, 1555.

Mary had another suspected pregnancy, but once again it turned out that Mary was not pregnant. After the 2nd false pregnancy, many believed that Mary could no longer have children, and that Elizabeth would become Queen upon Mary's death. Even King Phillip, Mary's husband, began to cultivate a relationship with Elizabeth, believing that she was a better ally than her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, who had a strong allegiance with France (Spain's enemy). This took place in 1558, when Mary's health took a turn for the worst. Even Queen Mary realized the situation and formally recognized Elizabeth as her heir on November 6, 1558. 11 days later, Queen Mary I died, and Elizabeth was to become Queen.

Elizabeth was 25 when Mary I died. On January 15, 1559, Elizabeth was crowned Queen Elizabeth I of England. She would be the last of the Tudor dynasty to reign over England, but her reign was long - 44 years - which brought a welcome dose of stability in the British Monarchy after the short reigns of her siblings.

One of the most immediate issues facing Queen Elizabeth upon her ascension to the throne was the issue of the religious turmoil in England between the Protestants and the Catholics.  Elizabeth put forth a compromise that would be more inclusive of the Catholic's and would incorporate some of the Catholic faith in the Protestant practices. However, she would not condone the Puritans, who held beliefs too radical in her mind (consider that the Puritans would leave England for America during Elizabeth's reign). While not perfect, the plan was agreed to by the House of Commons, but met resistance in the House of Lords. Luckily the moderates in the House of Lords prevailed, and the legislation was passed. The heresy laws were also repealed to prevent a repeat of the horrors that had occurred during the reign of Queen Mary I.

Queen Elizabeth I's reign was known as the "Elizabethan Era", a period in which literacy, plays and exploration played a significant role. This did not mean an end to the conflict - England was at war with a number of other countries during Elizabeth's reign, including Spain.

One of Queen Elizabeth I's most memorable moments, at least according to contemporary reports, was the English defeat of the Spanish armada in 1588. The Spanish fleet was sent as an invasion force to conquer England. However, due to miscalculations by the Spanish, as well as bad luck and a successful attack by the English using "fire ships", the armada was defeated and the invasion did not take place. The remains of the armada made their way back to Spain while Elizabeth took credit for fending off the Spanish. The truth is that Elizabeth was not present at the attempted invasion and subsequent sea battle, but she did address her troops in person and her subsequent speech endeared her to her troops and the English citizens who saw the victory as approval from God for their virgin queen.

Although tolerant toward her Catholic subjects was much milder than her sister Mary I's were toward Protestants, this did not mean that she wanted Catholicism to become the dominant religion in England. One of the greatest threats was from Elizabeth's cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. The English feared that Mary would allow the French to gain a foothold in Scotland allowing an invasion of England. Mary was considered by many to be the rightful heir to the English throne as the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, King Henry VIII's elder sister. 

When Mary returned to Scotland after being in exile in France, she found that the English had sent in forces to aid the Protestant rebels in the previously Catholic Scotland. A Catholic herself, Mary presented a threat to the Protestant religion and her allegiance with France offered a foothold for the French to attack England through Scotland. To counter this threat, Elizabeth suggested a suitor for Mary, Robert Dudley. However, this was done without consultation with either Mary or Robert Dudley, and neither were enthusiastic about the match. Instead, Mary chose to marry Lord Darnley, Henry Stuart, in 1565. Henry Stuart had his own claim to the English throne and the match was a significant threat to Elizabeth.

Mary's decision to marry Henry Stuart was the first of many fatal mistakes that she made. Lord Darnley proved to be an unpopular figure which helped the cause of the Scottish Protestants. With Stuart, Mary had a child, James, who would become King James VI of Scotland. Darnley himself was murdered in February, 1567 by a group of conspirators. Shortly after Lord Darnley's murder, Mary married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bostwell, yet another unpopular figure. 

Mary's poor choice of mates infuriated Elizabeth I who chastised her cousin for making such a foolish decision. After all, Bostwell had been implicated in the murder of Mary's husband Lord Darnley, and the union gave the appearance that Mary had plotted against her late husband.

Mary was arrested and held at Loch Levin Castle while her young son, James, was taken to Stirling Castle to be raised as a Protestant. Mary would escape her imprisonment and flee across the border into England, where she was certain that her cousin Elizabeth would protect her. Although Elizabeth I considered restoring her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots to the Scottish throne, she feared this would be a mistake. Mary was taken into custody and spent the next 19 years as a prisoner. During the course of Mary's imprisonment, she wrote letters that would later be her undoing; used as proof of Mary's plans to have Elizabeth assassinated and Mary placed on the throne of England, Mary was found guilty of high treason. Elizabeth was at first hesitant to sign Mary's death warrant, concerned that this would set a bad precedent executing a monarch, and could come back to haunt her should Mary's son James decide to retaliate, join forces with the French, and invade England.

After much pressure from the English Parliament, Elizabeth finally signed Mary, Queen of Scot's death warrant. The execution of Elizabeth's cousin Mary took place at Fotheringhay Castle on February 8, 1587. She was executed by beheading. 

Elizabeth I never married, although she had a number of suitors, including the explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh. As much a privateer as an explorer, Raleigh explored and claimed a large portion of what is now the United States and called it "Virginia", possibly as an honor to his virgin queen. The Virginia territory was much larger than today's state of Virginia, running from New England down to the Carolinas. Raleigh established the first settlement in the New World (although the initial Roanoke colony vanished, leaving a mystery that stands to this day). This opened up North America for the colonization by the English in the years to come.

Elizabeth is linked with other suitors, but she choose to never marry, and thus have no heir. It is speculated that the behavior of Thomas Seymour may have dissuaded Elizabeth from taking a husband, but it is purely speculation. With no heir upon her death, the Tudor reign as the Royal Family would end.

Elizabeth died in the 44th year of her reign on the 24th of March, 1603 at Richmond Palace. She was 69. 

With no heir, Elizabeth's cousin, James VI of Scotland, ascended to the throne of England, becoming King James I of England and James VI of Scotland. 

So ended the Tudor reign of England, and thus began the reign of the Stuarts, yet anther branch of my paternal family.