Historical Figures

Elizabeth I, Queen of England

Daughter of a king of England but of a repudiated and condemned wife, Elisabeth I re nevertheless ends up acceding to the throne and reigns alone for 44 years. In an England divided between Catholics and Protestants, his reign was notably marked by greater religious tolerance.

Daughters of Henry VIII

Daughter of Henry VIII, King of England, and his wife Anne Boleyn, Elisabeth Tudor was born on the 7 September 1533 at Placentia Palace, Greenwich, England. The little girl and heiress to the throne was not yet three years old when her mother was repudiated by the king, accused of adultery, incest and high treason, and executed. An orphan, Elisabeth is stripped of her title of princess; Edward, the son of Henry VIII and his new wife, becomes the new crown prince. Raised by governesses in the residence of the Crown Prince, Elisabeth received an excellent education and learned French, Latin, Italian, Flemish and Spanish in particular. Lively and gifted, she developed, in addition to her mastery of languages, a great culture.

On the death of Henry VIII in 1547, Edward VI became king at the age of nine, but his reign was short-lived:he died in July 1553, at the age of 15. His will excludes Elisabeth from his succession as well as Marie, the daughter Henry VIII had from his first marriage. It is Jeanne Grey, cousin of Edward, who is proclaimed queen, but for lack of support, she is overthrown after only nine days. Eldest daughter of Henry VIII, Marie I re accedes to the throne. His relationship with his half-sister Elisabeth gets complicated very quickly:Marie is Catholic, and decided to be intransigent with Protestants, including her half-sister.

Accession to the throne of England

In 1554, Mary married the Catholic Prince Philip II of Spain and this union caused general discontent, exacerbated by the queen's intransigence in matters of religion. Some approach Elisabeth, popular and seen as a possible alternative to the head of the country. In February 1554, when a revolt against Mary was crushed, Elisabeth was interrogated and imprisoned despite her protestations of innocence. Marie and her advisers then consider Elisabeth as a threat, and it takes the intervention of the young woman's supporters to avoid a death sentence. She will still spend nearly a year under house arrest at Woodstock Palace before being able to return to court.

When it becomes clear that Marie will have no children, the question of her succession arises. Queen Mary I re of Scotland, cousin of Elizabeth, can claim the throne and she is engaged to the Dauphin of France, with which Spain is at war. Philip II of Spain believes that Elizabeth represents a preferable alternative and approaches her. In 1558, Marie fell seriously ill and finally recognized her half-sister as heiress. The queen died in November of the same year, and Elisabeth finally rose to power, cheered by the crowd.

Elisabeth's celibacy

Although it is expected of young women, and especially of a queen, Elizabeth I re will never marry. In 1559, she fell in love with her childhood friend, Robert Dudley, who was married. Rumors are already whispering that the queen would marry Robert if his sick wife died. When this is indeed the case in 1560, Elisabeth seriously considers marrying Robert, but the nobility rebels, considering it scandalous that she should marry his favorite. Faced with rumors of insurrections in the event of marriage, the queen gives up but continues to be possessive of her childhood friend. Almost twenty years later, she will react badly to her remarriage.

Elisabeth, for her part, remains single. Some historians estimate that she feared causing political instability through marriage, that she feared losing her power to an heir, that she knew she was sterile, or that the tendentious attitude of Thomas Seymour, uncle of Edward VI, towards her when she was a teenager could have marked her. Be that as it may, she will consider several suitors, including Philip II of Spain, Charles II of Austria-Styria, Henri d'Anjou and François d'Anjou, but will not marry any of them. Accused of irresponsibility, because her absence of an heir puts the country at risk of civil war upon her death, she does not bend; “if I follow the inclinations of my personality, she said,it would be a beggar and a celibate much more than a queen and a bride”. She claims to be married to her kingdom and, nicknamed "the virgin queen", prides herself on her virginity.

Mary I of Scotland

Unlike her half-sister, Elisabeth I re favors tolerance over intransigence in matters of religion. Fearing a conflagration between Catholics and Protestants, she notably quickly canceled the heresy laws to avoid persecution.

In matters of foreign policy, Elisabeth endeavored to reduce the French presence and influence in Scotland; she fears that the French will invade England to place her Catholic cousin, Mary I of Scotland, on the throne of England, which some believe is the legitimate heiress. Elizabeth sends troops to Scotland to support the Protestant rebels. When an uprising by Scottish nobles forces Marie to take refuge in England, Elisabeth has her locked up. In 1569, a Catholic uprising broke out in England, aimed at freeing Mary and placing her on the throne; the insurrection is brought under control, and more than 750 rebels are executed on the orders of the queen. Believing the uprising to have been a success, Pope Pius V issues a papal bull excommunicating Elizabeth, thus inflaming tensions between Catholics and Protestants and causing new harshness towards Catholic missionaries.

While Elizabeth is reluctant to have Mary Stuart executed, her advisers set a trap for the former Queen of Scotland and pose as conspirators who can help her overthrow the Queen of England. Marie is hooked and compromising letters sent to her supporters are intercepted. Elisabeth is convinced of her guilt and Marie is executed in February 1587. Subsequently, the Queen of England will affirm that she had neither wanted nor ordered this execution, and will express remorse at the death of her cousin.

Diplomatic relations

At war with Spain, Elizabeth I re supports the Dutch rebels and gives them military aid. She also supports the Protestant Henry IV, King of France, and strives to establish diplomatic relations with the Tsar of Russia Ivan IV the Terrible. It also developed England's trade in the Mediterranean by establishing diplomatic relations with the States of North Africa and with the Ottoman Empire.

The Irish Catholic population is hostile to Elisabeth, and her influence is limited on the island. To maintain control and prevent Ireland from getting together with Spain, with which England is at war, Elisabeth grants land to her supporters and crushes the revolts with an iron fist. In a series of uprisings during his reign, his troops enforced a scorched earth policy and carried out indiscriminate massacres. During a revolt in 1582, nearly 30,000 people died of starvation. In 1594, Hugh O'Neill led a large revolt in Ireland, supported by Spain, in the midst of war between the two nations. The first campaign that Elizabeth ordered to crush the revolt failed, and it was not until 1603 that the royal troops overcame the rebels.

The inheritance

Elizabeth I re refusing to name a successor, his main adviser and head of government Robert Cecil secretly negotiates with King James VI of Scotland, son of Mary I of Scotland, who can claim the throne. He explains to her how to be appreciated by the sovereign and Jacques VI manages to do so. Without Elizabeth officially pronouncing in her favour, her appreciation of the King of Scotland is clear and known.

In 1603, a series of deaths among her relatives, and in particular that of Catherine Howard, her companion for 45 years, hit Elisabeth hard. Plunged into depression, she fell ill and died in March of the same year. Buried alongside her half-sister Mary I of England, Elizabeth I is mourned by many of her subjects.

Crowned to succeed him, James VI becomes James I of England.