10 Facts about the life of Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I was a 16th-century British monarch that reigned from November 17, 1558, to March 24, 1603. Her 44-year stay on the English throne is commonly referred to as the Elizabethan Era. This era, or Golden Era as some people term it, was one that produced relative stability socially and culturally. In spite of all the inter-religious skirmishes, Elizabeth I managed the affairs of the country far better than her last three predecessors. In order to shed light on her reign and life, we have compiled 10 very fascinating facts about Queen Elizabeth I.
She was only 2 years old when her mother was beheaded
In her adulthood, Elizabeth hardly spoke about her mother, Anne Boleyn (1501-1536). This is surprising, considering the fact that she lost her in a gruesome manner at age 2. The order was to execute Elizabeth’s mother was given by her father, King Henry VIII. The young queen was charged with the offense of infidelity.
Historians opine that had Elizabeth glossed fondly about her mother and her history, she would have risked causing friction among her subjects. The reason being that Anne Boleyn, although unproven, was considered despicable and very promiscuous. Heaping praise and adoration on her would have been a bit too much for her court to swallow.
However, Elizabeth did keep most of her mother’s items close by. During her reign, she even placed most of her mother’s associates and friends at top positions. You could say, Elizabeth secretly adored her mother.
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Elizabeth I never got married
Elizabeth swore a lifetime of commitment to her kingdom. In her mind, this meant not getting married. However, this did not necessarily mean that she was lackadaisical or passive about marriage. During her reign, the monarch surrounded herself with a host of handsome and intelligent men. She took to throwing spectacular parties and balls that were honored by young and eligible bachelors from Europe. She went at lengths to find a suitable husband- a husband that won’t come in and boss her around. Sadly, she could not accomplish this goal of hers. Hence, she opted to spend the rest of her life unmarried.
The queen was also very playful and outgoing with her staff. She created an environment that was free of fear. Often times, she would give her staff funny nicknames. For example, she nicknamed Burghley – her chief adviser – ‘spirit’. She even comically made fun of Francois, Duke of Anjou, by calling him a ‘frog’.
She may have remained a virgin all her life
The queen herself acquired several nicknames over the years. The public she reigned over called her the ‘Virgin Queen’ or ‘Gloriana’ or “Good Queen Bess”. This was in reference to her pledging companionship to her people instead of a man. As to whether she remained all her life a virgin is yet to be determined. It is difficult to truly ascertain if Elizabeth I was a virgin or not. Her more than close relationship with influential courtiers- like Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; and Francois, Duke of Anjou- completely destroys the argument that she was, in fact, a virgin.
Elizabeth I sabotaged her female courtiers in an attempt to stay perpetually beautiful
The fourth fact about Elizabeth I has to do with her unhealthy obsession with staying young and pretty. Old age was a bitter pill for her to swallow. And the more she pushed against it, the more it appeared obvious. In the latter stages of her reign, Elizabeth became very weak; her hair started balding; she had very poor oral hygiene.
Considering the fact that it was the 16th century CE, issues of this nature would be considered normal for an aging woman. However, that was not the case for Elizabeth. In an attempt to roll back on the good days, Elizabeth made sure that she alone dressed in a lavish manner. All the other female courtiers were forced to wear plain black or white gowns. Sly as this may sound, Elizabeth’s only goal was to horde all the men’s attention in her court.
Another fashion habit of hers involved the use of several layers of makeups on her face, hands, and neck. Every effort was made to mask her aging. Unfortunately for her, the use of those substances came at a high price to her life. Experts believe that Elizabeth may have died from blood poisoning owing to her overuse of beauty products and concoctions that were filled with toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury.
She ruled England and Ireland for 44 years
Queen Elizabeth I was crowned queen of England and Ireland on November 17, 1558. She replaced her half-sister, Mary I (1516-1558). The latter spent about 5 years wearing the crown. Her 44-year reign makes her the ninth longest reigning monarch in British history. Also, she is the third longest reigning British queen in history- behind Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria.
During Elizabeth I’s reign literature, theater, scientific and geographical explorations blossomed. Her conquest of the Spanish Armada helped instill a sense of national pride and unity among subjects.
Last monarch to come from the House of Tudor
Elizabeth never got married in spite of the numerous suitors that lined up at her palace to request for her hand in marriage. She once proclaimed to her people that God put her on the earth to serve her people only. She professed her undying love and bond with subjects. Elizabeth believed that marrying a man could dilute the love or bond she had with her people. Therefore, she rejected every marriage proposal that came her way. What this meant was that she produced no heir. Upon her death in 1603, the crown moved up north to her Scottish cousin- James VI.
Historians, however, believe that Elizabeth may have done this for the sole purpose of keeping peace and harmony in her kingdom. Check out the exact reasons why Queen Elizabeth I stayed unmarried all her life.
She spent a sizable number of years behind bars
During the reign of her half-sister Mary I, Elizabeth was locked up on a few occasions. The most famous of her imprisonment was during Wyatt’s Rebellion in 1554, despite the lack of any concrete evidence. The Wyatt’s Rebellion was in actual fact organized by Thomas Wyatt. The rebellion stemmed from a variety of issues. The biggest of those issues was religion. It was basically a group of Protestants that felt oppressed by Mary I’s brutal handling of Protestantism in 16th century England. As a devout Catholic, Mary I fiercely fought against England’s effort to establish Protestantism as the dominant religion.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth periodically found herself ensnared in this religious battle between Catholics and Protestants. Mary I’s childless life also raised a lot of suspicions that Elizabeth was impatient to take the crown from her sister.
Elizabeth I was a well-educated woman with apt skills in writing and oratory
One thing that her cruel father, Henry VIII, did not compromise on was Elizabeth’s education. Sure, her family and half-siblings might have been cruel to her and degraded her sometimes; however, her father made sure that she got the best of tutors in all of England. Examples of those tutors and governesses were Catherine Champernowne, William Grindal, Roger Ascham and her first governess- Margaret Bryan. At an early age, Elizabeth was already fluent in French, Italian, Scottish, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, and Flemish. Some courtiers even remarked that whenever she spoke any of those languages, it appeared as if they were her native tongue.
All these skills came to bare in her innumerable correspondences and letters with rulers across Europe. It is believed that Elizabeth I never met Mary, Queen of Scots face to face. All their interactions were done by letters, and this went on for about 30 years.
In the public arena, Elizabeth could deliver an emotionally charged up speech. Most notable of these speeches came on August 19, 1588, where she rallied her troops at Tilbury to defend England against the Spanish invasion. Some historians claim her oratory prowess was partly the reason why she defeated King Philip II’s Spanish Armada in July 1588.
Elizabeth I may have been abused as a teen
During her teenage, there were rumors floating around that Sir Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymor of Sudeley abused her. The exact extent of this abuse is still unknown to this day. However, what we can say is that Elizabeth spent some time with Seymour’s family at Chelsea. This was after the death of her father, Henry VIII in 1547.
Shortly after the king’s death, Seymour married Catherine Parr (wife of Henry VIII). Feeling shocked and lonely, Elizabeth was invited to spend some time with her stepmother, Catherine Parr. It is believed that it was during that time that a possible emotional abuse took place. Her stepmother, Catherine Parr, was fully aware of this. Some say that she even participated in the abuse. After some time, Catherine became jealous and asked Elizabeth to leave. The possible scar that was inflicted on the young Elizabeth is probably the reason why she never got married all throughout her life.
She absolutely loved the arts and theater
In this 10th and final fact about Elizabeth I, we will look at the Queen’s passion for arts and theater. Elizabeth had the sheer privilege of viewing one of William Shakespeare’s first plays. Or was the privilege all Shakespeare’s? In any case, Queen Elizabeth I devoted considerable effort and time into promoting the arts. During her reign, theater participation and stage drama were at an all-time high. In addition to the works of William Shakespeare, Elizabeth I was fond of the English writer Christopher Marlowe.
In addition to the above, the queen was a big fan of exploration. She propped up support for the famous explorer, Sir Francis Drake. The most prominent of Sir Francis’ exploits came when he circumnavigated the globe. Also, Sir Francis helped Elizabeth I secure some pretty good wins against the Spanish fleets and navy in the latter part of the 16th century.