Queen Elizabeth I

Queen of England 1558 - 1603

(Queen Elizabeth I makes an appearance in the novel When the Time is Ripe by Tony Thistlewood. The strain of endless Catholic plots against her; the problem of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots; and the threat of an invasion by Spain, are taking their toll on her health. And then Caistor Parsons arrives at her Court...)

Today, it is hard to imagine the perpetual stress that Queen Elizabeth I must have been under throughout her life. And that stress started well before she ascended the throne to be eventually dubbed “Good Queen Bess” by her adoring subjects – well, most of them.

The future Queen Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded before Elizabeth was three-years-old. Motherless, loveless and often alone, she spent much of her youth at Hatfield Palace. When her father, Henry VIII, died in 1547, he was succeeded by Elizabeth’s younger half-brother, Edward VI. But Edward was a sickly lad and died five years later to be succeeded by Elizabeth’s elder half-sister, Queen Mary I.

This was when Elizabeth’s problems really began. You see, Mary was an ardent Catholic whereas Elizabeth, although equally ardent, was a Protestant. Mary wanted, needed, to settle a few scores with those evil Protestants that had plotted to put fifteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey on the throne instead of her. How dare they! She wanted revenge, and she got it.

Lady Jane was executed along with her husband, Guildford Dudley. He was the son of John Dudley, the self-proclaimed Duke of Northumberland, who had hastily arranged their marriage and was the architect of the plot. Naturally, John was also executed. But that wasn’t enough for Mary: nearly 300 Protestants were burnt at the stake during her short reign, earning her the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”.

Thanks to the intercession of Mary’s consort, Philip (later King Philip II of Spain), the lives of John Dudley’s other four boys were spared; among them was the favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley . Robert spent some time in the Tower of London where, legend has it, he met the future Queen Elizabeth who had been similarly imprisoned because she was next in line to the throne but a Protestant. In fact, they had probably met many years ealier at Hatfield Palace.

On 17th November 1558, Mary died. The next day, the Great Seal, a symbol of office, was delivered to Queen Elizabeth I at Hatfield Palace. Robert Dudley was by her side. Queen Elizabeth was only twenty-five-years-old yet more than ready, and very eager, to lead her country. After all, apart from being extremely well educated, she believed in the Divine Right of monarchs to rule.

Snapshot Bio of Queen Elizabeth I

Date of Birth:

    7th September 1533
Place of Birth:
    Greenwich Palace, London.


    King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn (executed 19th May 1536 when Elizabeth was only two years and eight months old).

Date of Death:

    24th March 1603 at Richmond Palace, London.
    Westminster Abbey, London, alongside her half-sister, Queen Mary I.
    17th November 1558 until her death in 1603.
    15th January 1559 at Westminster Abbey.
    The future Queen Elizabeth had a number of governesses and probably shared some of her half-brother’s teachers, when they both lived at Hatfield Palace. In 1544, the scholar, William Grindal, was appointed as Elizabeth Tudor’s tutor. Under his guidance, the future Queen Elizabeth I became competent in English, Latin, Italian, French and Greek. Grindal died from the plague in 1548. Roger Ascham, the renowned educationalist who had taught Grindal (and Lord Burghley) at Cambridge, took his former student’s place. By 1550, the Princess Elizabeth was possible the most educated woman in England.
    Queen Elizabeth I never married.

Principal Palaces:

    The Palace of Whitehall, London. Spreading over 23 acres on the banks of the River Thames, Whitehall was the largest palace in Europe. Unfortunately, most of it was destroyed by fire in 1698 leaving only the Banqueting House standing today.

    Greenwich Palace, London. The birthplace of Queen Elizabeth I, Greenwich Palace is also situated by the Thames. The Tudor building was demolished in the latter half of the seventeenth century. In its place, Sir Christopher Wren designed a new building as a charitable institution to assist seaman and their dependants. This later became the Royal Naval College. In 1998, the buildings were transferred to the Greenwich foundation. Some rooms are open to the public.

    St James’s Palace, London. Built between 1531 and 1536, St James’s Palace is still the official residence of British monarchs although William IV was the last one to actually live there. Queen Elizabeth I was in residence in St James’s about the time of the Spanish Armada. In 1809, the buildings were severely damaged by fire but largely rebuilt in 1813. To this day, Foreign Ambassadors are accredited to the Court of St James notwithstanding that since Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 the Sovereign has lived in Buckingham Palace.

    Hampton Court, East Molesey, Surrey. Queen Elizabeth I frequently visited Hampton Court but used it more as a country retreat and a place for entertainment rather than as a centre of government. Unlike her father, Henry VIII, Elizabeth added little to the buildings. Hampton Court is open to the public.

    Richmond Palace, Surrey, was yet another palace built on the banks of the Thames, but this one was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s grandfather, Henry VII, founded the palace around the turn of 15th/16th centuries. He was the last monarch to acquire the crown through battle, which he did in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field and, by so doing, became the first Tudor monarch. Prior to Bosworth, Henry VII was known as the Earl of Richmond, hence the palace’s name. Little more than the gatehouse in the corner of Richmond Green survives today.

    Hatfield Palace, Hertfordshire, now known as Hatfield House, was the childhood home of Elizabeth. It is now owned by the descendents of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. The house is open to the public and often used by filmmakers.

    Nonsuch Palace, Surrey. Henry VIII commanded that a palace be built of such magnificence that there would be “none such” to compare with it in all the land. Much later, about 1670, Charles II gave the palace to one of his mistresses, Barbara Villiers. Barbara was better known as Countess of Castlemaine and, later, Duchess of Cleveland. She gave birth to five children fathered by King Charles. One of them, Charlotte, became Countess Litchfield and gave birth to no less than twenty children. Well done, Charlotte! Among the descendents of Barbara Villiers are Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Earl of Avon, (Sir Anthony Eden) a former British Prime Minister. Sadly, nothing remains of Nonsuch Palace today because Barbara Villiers sold it, brick by brick, to pay her gambling debts.

    Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Queen Elizabeth I was particularly fond of this medieval castle, which is also beside the Thames. The castle is still used as a royal residence and has been for over 900 years.

    Tower of London.

    (The photograph below shows the Traitor's Gate entrance to the Tower on the River Thames)

    Queen Elizabeth was briefly held in the Tower when her half-sister, Queen Mary I, ascended the throne.

Queen Elizabeth I features in Tony Thistlewood's novel:

When the Time is Ripe

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