Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth's Early Reign

Robert Dudley had endeared himself to the queen by bailing her out of substantial debt before she took the throne. As a son of the Duke of Northumberland, who had conspired against Mary, Dudley was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the same time as Elizabeth, and they sometimes saw each other there. Dudley was famous as a great horseman, and also as a talented dancer. Not surprisingly, the young Elizabeth was quite taken with this dashing character. As a later chapter will discuss, a scandalous romance took place between them, the details of which remain debated today. The behavior of the current British royalty hardly warrants mention in comparison to Elizabeth's romantic exploits!

Somewhat strangely for someone so learned, Elizabeth was always fascinated by astrology, and she asked her astrologer friend, Dr. John Dee, to divine a horoscope for her and pick a lucky date for her coronation. They decided on January 15, 1559. The coronation was dramatic and spectacular. Elizabeth loved playing up her role to the people, appearing as the beautiful young Queen. During her procession, she regularly stopped to talk with commoners, a gesture which earned her much love from Londoners. In fact, she stopped so many times and worked so hard to play her role that she finished the coronation process exhausted, and became sick.

Elizabeth always had a weakness for gifts, especially jewels. Perhaps this was because she was briefly deprived of nice things as a child, perhaps she just naturally loved splendor and elegance; most of all, though, her delight in gifts stemmed from her own thriftiness: Elizabeth was practically a miser when it came to spending her money or England's money, yet she loved it when other people spent money on her, since that cost her nothing. Throughout her career, she let it be known that her personal favor could be bought with generous gifts.

Yet no amount of gift-giving could secure her hand in marriage, and none of Elizabeth's advisors were happy about her continued single status, for various reasons. Cecil, for instance, was very concerned for the Queen's safety. He wanted at least one heir between Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots, lest some fanatic or schemer kill Elizabeth to put the Catholic Stuarts on the throne of England. Yet his worries were somewhat misplaced: Elizabeth managed to maintain popularity and survive--indeed, thrive--without a husband or heir to bolster her power. De Feria and Philip were also eager for the queen's marriage, and expected Elizabeth to jump at the opportunity to marry a Hapsburg. Yet they too were grossly mistaken, and Elizabeth simply led them on, always giving her famous "answerless answers." In fact, Elizabeth's reluctance to marry actually may have been a better strategy than marrying quickly, as her advisors encouraged her to do: England's army was not tremendously large, and Elizabeth was afraid of an invasion by France or Spain. However, if she didn't marry, potential invaders could always harbor a hope of conquering England through marriage; thus they delayed actual attacks on England. This sly policy worked quite well, until Philip gave up courting Elizabeth and decided to marry a Medici. After this, he would begin planning for an invasion of England.

Elizabeth further demonstrated her political cunning with the passage of her Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, in addition to other religious compromises. For English Catholics, who considered Henry's marriage to Ann Boleyn illegitimate, believed that Mary Queen of Scots had a purer claim to the throne than Elizabeth did. Yet due to Elizabeth's tolerant policies toward them, most decided to remain loyal to her. This was very fortunate for Elizabeth, since nearly half of England remained Catholic at this time.

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