Mary and Elizabeth: Catholics and Protestants

King Edward VI died on 6th July, 1553. Three days later one of Northumberland's daughters came to take Lady Jane Grey to Syon House, where she was ceremoniously informed that the king had indeed nominated her to succeed him. Jane was apparently "stupefied and troubled" by the news, falling to the ground weeping and declaring her "insufficiency", but at the same time praying that if what was given to her was "‘rightfully and lawfully hers", God would grant her grace to govern the realm to his glory and service. (1)

On 10th July, Queen Jane arrived in London. An Italian spectator, witnessing her arrival, commented: "She is very short and thin, but prettily shaped and graceful. She has small features and a well-made nose, the mouth flexible and the lips red. The eyebrows are arched and darker than her hair, which is nearly red. Her eyes are sparkling and reddish brown in colour." (2) Guildford Dudley, "a tall strong boy with light hair’, walked beside her, but Jane apparently refused to make him king, saying that "the crown was not a plaything for boys and girls." (3)

Jane was proclaimed queen at the Cross in Cheapside, a letter announcing her accession was circulated to the lords lieutenant of the counties, and Bishop Nicolas Ridley of London preached a sermon in her favour at Paul's Cross, denouncing both Mary and Elizabeth as bastards, but Mary especially as a papist who would bring foreigners into the country. It was only at this point that Jane realised that she was "deceived by the Duke of Northumberland and the council and ill-treated by my husband and his mother". (4)

Mary, who had been warned of what John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, had done and instead of going to London as requested, she fled to Kenninghall in Norfolk. As Ann Weikel has pointed out: "Both the earl of Bath and Huddleston joined Mary while others rallied the conservative gentry of Norfolk and Suffolk. Men like Sir Henry Bedingfield arrived with troops or money as soon as they heard the news, and as she moved to the more secure fortress at Framlingham, Suffolk, local magnates like Sir Thomas Cornwallis, who had hesitated at first, also joined her forces." (5)

Mary summoned the nobility and gentry to support her claim to the throne. Richard Rex argues that this development had consequences for her sister, Elizabeth: "Once it was clear which way the wind was blowing, she (Elizabeth) gave every indication of endorsing her sister's claim to the throne. Self-interest dictated her policy, for Mary's claim rested on the same basis as her own, the Act of Succession of 1544. It is unlikely that Elizabeth could have outmanoeuvred Northumberland if Mary had failed to overcome him. It was her good fortune that Mary, in vindicating her own claim to the throne, also safeguarded Elizabeth's." (6)

The problem for Dudley was that the vast majority of the English people still saw themselves as "Catholic in religious feeling; and a very great majority were certainly unwilling to see - King Henry's eldest daughter lose her birthright." When most of Dudley's troops deserted he surrendered at Cambridge on 23rd July, along with his sons and a few friends, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London two days later. Tried for high treason on 18th August he claimed to have done nothing save by the king's command and the privy council's consent. Mary had him executed at Tower Hill on 22nd August. In his final speech he warned the crowd to remain loyal to the Catholic Church. (7)

As soon as she gained power, Queen Mary ordered the release of the Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Bishop Stephen Gardiner and Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall and other Catholic prisoners from the Tower of London. "Raising them up one by one, she kissed them and granted them their liberty." (8) Norfolk was restored to his rank and estates. However, he was in a poor state of health and one contemporary commented "by long imprisonment diswanted from the knowledge of our malicious World". (9)

Sir Thomas Wyatt Rebellion

Queen Mary told a foreign ambassador that her conscience would not allow her to have Lady Jane Grey put to death. Jane was given comfortable quarters in the house of a gentleman gaoler. The anonymous author of the Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary (c. 1554), dropped in for dinner, finding the Lady Jane sitting in the place of honour. She made the visitor welcome and asked for news of the outside world, before going on to speak gratefully of Mary - "I beseech God she may long continue" and made a fierce attack against John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland: "Woe worth him! He hath brought me and our stock in most miserable calamity by his exceeding ambition". (10)

Jane, together with Guildford Dudley and two more of his brothers, stood trial for treason on 19th November. They were all found guilty but foreign ambassadors in London reported that Jane's life would be spared. Mary's attitude towards Jane changed when her father, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, joined the rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt against her proposed marriage to Philip of Spain. Based at Rochester Castle, Wyatt soon had fifteen hundred men under his command.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, aged 80, agreed to lead the Queen's army against the rising led by Wyatt. As David Loades, the author of Mary Tudor (2012), pointed out "that venerable warrior, the Duke of Norfolk, set out from London with a hastily assembled force to confront what was now clearly a rebellion". (11) Unfortunately, most of Norfolk's troops consisted of the London militia, who were strongly sympathetic to Wyatt. On the 29th January, 1554, they deserted in large numbers, and Norfolk was forced to retreat with the soldiers who were left.

When Mary heard about Wyatt's actions, she issued a pardon to his followers if they returned to their homes within twenty-four hours. Some of his men took up the offer. However, when a large number of the army were sent to arrest Wyatt, they changed sides. Wyatt now controlled a force of 4,000 men and he now felt strong enough to march on London.

Queen Mary
Queen Mary, portrait by Hans Eworth (1554)

On 1st February, 1554, Mary addressed a meeting in the Guildhall where she proclaimed Wyatt a traitor. The next morning, 20,000 men enrolled their names for the protection of the city. The bridges over the Thames within a distance of fifteen miles were broken down and on 3rd February, a reward of land of the annual value of one hundred pounds a year was offered to the person who captured Wyatt.

By the time Thomas Wyatt entered Southwark, large numbers of his army had deserted. However, he continued to march towards St. James's Palace, where Mary Tudor had taken refuge. Wyatt reached Ludgate at two o'clock in the morning of 8th February. The gate was shut against him, and he was unable to break it down. Wyatt now went into retreat but he was captured at Temple Bar. (12)

Execution of Lady Jane Grey

Although there is not any evidence that Jane had any foreknowledge of the conspiracy, "her very existence as a possible figurehead for protestant discontent made her an unacceptable danger to the state". Mary, now agreed with her advisers and the date of Jane's execution was fixed for 9th February, 1554. However, she was still willing to forgive Jane and sent John Feckenham, the new dean of St Paul's, over to the Tower of London in an attempt to see if he could convert this "obdurate heretic". However, she refused to change her Protestant beliefs. (13)

Jane watched the execution of her husband from the window of her room in the Tower of London. She then came out leaning on the arm of Sir John Brydges, Lieutenant of the Tower. "Lady Jane was calm, although, Elizabeth and Ellen (her two women attendants) wept... The executioner kneeled down and asked for forgiveness, which she gave most willingly... she said: "I pray you dispatch me quickly." (14)

Jane then made a brief speech: "Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the queen's highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people, this day' and therewith she wrung her hands, in which she had her book." (15) Kneeling, she repeated the 51st Psalm in English. (16)

Paul Delaroche, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (c.1840)
Paul Delaroche, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (c.1840)

According to the Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary: "Then she kneeled down, saying, 'Will you take it off before I lay me down?' and the hangman answered her, 'No, madame.' She tied the kercher about her eyes; then feeling for the block said, 'What shall I do? Where is it?' One of the standers-by guiding her thereto, she laid her head down upon the block, and stretched forth her body and said: 'Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!' And so she ended." (17)

Stories circulated as to the piety and dignity on the scaffold, however, she did not receive a great deal of sympathy. (18) As Alison Plowden has pointed out: "The judicial murder of sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, and no one ever pretended it was anything else, caused no great stir at the time, not even among the militantly protestant Londoners. Jane had never been a well-known figure, and in any case was too closely associated with the unpopular Dudleys and their failed coup to command much public sympathy." (19)

Philip of Spain

At the time Mary became Queen she was thirty-seven, small in stature and near-sighted, appeared older than her years and often tired, because of her generally poor health. Her first parliament reinforced the Act of Succession of 1543 by declaring the validity of the marriage of her mother, Catherine of Aragon, so that the issue of "Mary's legitimacy could not be associated with the abolition of the royal supremacy and the restoration of papal authority." (20)

Almost from her infancy Mary had "hawked around Europe and offered to every prince from Portugal to Poland". As she had been described by her own father as illegitimate, she did not obtain a husband. She felt humiliated and now she was Queen of England, she had much more to offer. Mary also needed an heir. The Protestant attempts to overthrow Mary had also made her feel insecure. To protect her position, Mary decided to form an alliance with the Catholic monarchy in Spain. This gave her the "prospect of a Catholic heir, reunion with Rome, her martyred mother's Spanish dynasty." (21)

Mary was the first woman to rule England in her own right. It soon became clear that Mary was not going to be ruled by her Privy Council. Her first move was to put her marriage into the hands of her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Therefore her councillors found that Mary had excluded them from the marital decision-making process. This is something that no previous king had done. (22)

Charles V, with little concern for Mary, seized the opportunity to increase his influence over England by proposing his son Philip II as her husband. According to Simon Renard, the Spanish ambassador, Mary disliked the idea and reached the decision with the greatest reluctance. (23) "She was disgusted at the idea of having sex with a man; but the Emperor and his ambassador were strongly in favour of a marriage which would unite England with the Emperor's territories in a permanent alliance." (24) This move was opposed by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, her Lord Chancellor, who wanted her to marry Edward Courtenay, a man he thought was more acceptable to the English people. (25)

Mary was determined to produce an heir, thus preventing her sister, Elizabeth, a Protestant, from succeeding to the throne. In negotiations it was agreed that Philip was to be styled "King of England", but he could not act without his wife's consent or appoint foreigners to office in England. Philip was unhappy at the conditions imposed, but he was ready to agree for the sake of securing the marriage.

Queen Mary
Queen Mary, portrait by Antonis Mor (1554)

Philip arrived in England on 19th July, 1554. Their first meeting turned out fairly well in spite of the obvious age difference (Mary was 38 and Philip was 27). The ceremony took place at Winchester Cathedral on 25th July 1554, two days after their first meeting. (26) Mary taught Philip to say "Good night my lords and ladies" in English but this was probably the limit of his proficiency in the language. He spent little time in England and was alleged to have several mistresses in Spain. "Whether he was really as promiscuous as alleged, we do not know, but it is unlikely in view of his rigid piety. On the other hand a man who very seldom saw his wife could well keep a mistress - or a succession of mistresses - without ever feeling called upon to acknowledge the fact." (27)

Soon rumours began circulating that Mary was pregnant. In April 1555, Elizabeth, who was held under house arrest, was summoned to Court to witness the birth of the expected child that summer. However, no child was forthcoming and Mary still did not have an heir. (28)

In deciding to marry Philip of Spain, the only son of Emperor Charles V, Mary made her first and most serious political error. "She either failed to comprehend or chose to disregard the depth of an English xenophobic sentiment which was made all the more powerful for being combined with anxiety about the potential power of a male consort. The prospect of a foreign ruler created considerable opposition in parliament and throughout the realm." When the speaker of the House of Commons suggested she marry an English subject, not a foreign prince, Mary angrily told him that she would not subject herself in marriage to an individual whom her position made her inferior. (29)

Heretics during Mary's Reign

Mary appointed Bishop Stephen Gardiner as her Lord Chancellor. He had been imprisoned during the reign of Edward VI. Over the next two years Gardiner attempted to restore Catholicism in England. In the first Parliament held after Mary gained power most of the religious legislation of Edward's reign was repealed.

In November 1554, Mary's distant cousin, Reginald Pole, returned from exile, to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He shared Mary's devotion to the Catholic Church and wished to see England restored to full communion with Rome. Pole and Gardiner persuaded Parliament to revive former measures against heresy. These had been repealed under Henry VIII and Edward VI.

In early 1555 Lord Chancellor Stephen Gardiner took part in the trials and examinations of John Hooper, Rowland Taylor, John Rogers, and Robert Ferrar, all of whom were burnt. He was also present in the summer of 1555 at meetings of the privy council which approved the execution of heretics. David Loades claims that "the threat of fire would send all these rats scurrying for cover, and when his bluff was called, he was taken aback." (30) Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham, participated to some degree in the trials of notable protestants, he condemned no one to death and seems to have been on the whole unconvinced by the policy of persecution. (31)

Thomas Cranmer had been Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Edward VI. As soon as Mary gained power she ordered the arrest of Cranmer and he was questioned about the Lady Jane Grey coup. He was arrested on 13th November, on charges of joining with John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, to seize power. At his trial for treason he admitted that he "confessed more… than was true". Found guilty, his household was broken up, much of his goods sold off and most of his protestant books apparently destroyed. (32)

Cranmer, Nicolas Ridley, John Bradford, and Hugh Latimer were taken to Oxford to stand trial for heresy. Bradford was executed on 1st July, 1555. At his trial on 12th September, Cranmer made the distinction between obedience that he owed to the crown and his complete rejection of the pope. After this a string of witnesses appeared who confirmed that Cranmer was the symbol of everything that had changed in the church between 1533 and 1553. On 16th October, Cranmer was forced to watch his friends, Ridley and Latimer, burnt at the stake. (33)

Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer by an unknown artist (c. 1550)

On 24th February, 1556, a writ was issued ordering the execution of Cranmer. Two days later Cranmer issued a statement that was truly a recantation of his religious beliefs. When this did not bring a reprieve, he issued a further statement on 18th March. Diarmaid MacCulloch makes the point: "It is worth noting that he signed this when there was no possibility of his being pardoned and spared. What happened next, his dramatic reversal of his recantation, was therefore not simply an act of spite by a desperate man who felt that he had nothing to lose by defying the regime and the old church." (34)

On 21st March, 1556, Thomas Cranmer he was brought to St Mary's Church in Oxford, where he stood on a platform as a sermon was directed against him. He was then expected to deliver a short address in which he would repeat his acceptance of the truths of the Catholic Church. Instead he proceeded to recant his recantations and deny the six statements he had previously made and described the Pope as "Christ's enemy, and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine." The officials pulled him down from the platform and dragged him towards the scaffold. (35)

Cranmer had said in the Church that he regretted the signing of the recantations and claimed that "since my hand offended, it will be punished... when I come to the fire, it first will be burned." According to John Foxe: "When he came to the place where Hugh Latimer and Ridley had been burned before him, Cranmer knelt down briefly to pray then undressed to his shirt, which hung down to his bare feet. His head, once he took off his caps, was so bare there wasn't a hair on it. His beard was long and thick, covering his face, which was so grave it moved both his friends and enemies. As the fire approached him, Cranmer put his right hand into the flames, keeping it there until everyone could see it burned before his body was touched." Cranmer was heard to cry: "this unworthy right hand!" (36)

It was claimed that just before he died Cranmer managed to throw the speech he intended to make in St Mary's Church into the crowd. A man whose initials were J.A. picked it up and made a copy of it. Although he was a Catholic, he was impressed by Cranmer's courage, and decided to keep it and it was later passed on to John Foxe, who published in his Book of Martyrs.

Jasper Ridley has argued that as a propaganda exercise, Cranmer's death was a disaster for Queen Mary. "An event which has been witnessed by hundreds of people cannot be kept secret and the news quickly spread that Cranmer was repudiated his recantations before he died. The government then changed their line; they admitted that Cranmer had retracted his recantations were insincere, that he had recanted only to save his life, and that they had been justified in burning him despite his recantations. The Protestants then circulated the story of Cranmer's statement at the stake in an improved form; they spread the rumour that Cranmer had denied at the stake that he had ever signed any recantations, and that the alleged recantations had all been forged by King Philip's Spanish friars." (37)

In a three year period over 300 men and women were burnt for heresy. The executions usually took place on market day so they would be seen by the largest number of people possible. Supporters of the condemned heretic would also attend the execution. In some cases people demonstrated against the idea of killing heretics. If caught, these people would be taken away and flogged. Christopher Morris, the author of The Tudors (1955) has argued: "The punishment of death by burning was an appallingly cruel one, but it was not this that shocked contemporaries - after all, in an age that knew nothing of anaesthetics, a great deal of pain had to be endured by everybody at one time or another, and the taste for public executions, bear-baiting and cock-fighting suggests a callousness that blunted susceptibilities." (38) During this period around 280 people were burnt at the stake. This compare to only 81 heretics executed during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547).

In the summer of 1558 Mary began to get pains in her stomach and thought she was pregnant. This was important to Mary as she wanted to ensure that a Catholic monarchy would continue after her death. It was not to be. Mary had stomach cancer. Mary now had to consider the possibility of naming Elizabeth as her successor. "Mary postponed the inevitable naming of her half-sister until the last minute. Although their relations were not always overtly hostile, Mary had long disliked and distrusted Elizabeth. She had resented her at first as the child of her own mother's supplanter, more recently as her increasingly likely successor. She took exception both to Elizabeth's religion and to her personal popularity, and the fact that first Wyatt's and then Dudley's risings aimed to install the princess in her place did not make Mary love her any more. But although she was several times pressed to send Elizabeth to the block, Mary held back, perhaps dissuaded by considerations of her half-sister's popularity, compounded by her own childlessness, perhaps by instincts of mercy." On 6th November she acknowledged Elizabeth as her heir. Mary died, aged forty-two, on 17th November 1558. (39)

Elizabeth and Religion

Catherine Parr arranged for Elizabeth to have a Protestant education. She appointed William Grindal as Elizabeth's tutor. (40) Jane Dunn, the author of Elizabeth & Mary (2003) argues that Grindal was "an inspirational tutor" who gave her an excellent grounding in Greek, Latin and foreign languages. (41) It was not long before she was "fluent in Latin and Greek, in French and Italian, and was conversant in Spanish". (42)

Queen Elizabeth was just twenty-five when she became queen. She was described at the time as being "tall, slender and straight". Her hair was variously described as "redder than yellow" and "tawny inclining to gold". Her face was a long oval like her mother, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth had her father's colouring and "aquiline nose". It has also been claimed that she also "inherited from her mother a strain of hysteria, and while her mental power and nervous energy were equal to excessive demands, brain-storms, fainting fits and moments of paralysing dread for which no cause was seen, showed a nervous system that was overstrung." (43)

On the first day of her reign Elizabeth appointed William Cecil as her Secretary of State. Elizabeth trusted Cecil to give him good advice. They both saw the nation's future as bound up with the Protestant Reformation. She told Cecil and her Privy Council: "I give you this charge that you shall be of my Privy Council and content to take pains for me and my realm. This judgement I have of you that you will not be corrupted by any manner of gift and that you will be faithful to the state; and that without respect of my private will, you will give me that counsel which you think best and if you shall know anything necessary to me of secrecy, you shall show it to myself only. And assure yourself I will not fail to keep taciturnity therein and therefore herewith I charge you." (44)

Cecil advised Queen Elizabeth to be cautious in both religious policy and foreign affairs. He warned her against going to war. It was, he argued, to accept the loss of Calais in order to obtain peace with France. William Cecil pointed out that wars were expensive and that the "treasury was bare". One of Cecil's common sayings was that the "realm gains more from one year of peace than from ten years of war". (45) While he refrained from changing his opinion if it differed from Elizabeth's, Cecil followed her will once she had made a decision. (46)

It is claimed that this relationship sometimes resulted in a failure to make decisions: "On those occasions when her instincts and Cecil's did not immediately converge, the result was hesitation. Throughout her reign, hesitancy and parsimony were continually picked out by her councillors, in their private correspondence and comments, as her besetting political failings (though both traits may well have saved her from numerous expensive mistakes!). " (47) William Camden said: "Of all men of genius he was the most a drudge; of all men of business, the most a genius." (48)

Mathew Lyons has pointed out that Cecil's closeness to Queen Elizabeth resulted in hostility of the nobility. "The group's Catholicism distracts from the more general reactionary nostalgia of its worldview... It was fed by resentment of the rising gentry families, of which Cecil was the most egregious and of course most powerful example; by a sense of sour entitlement, the humiliation of proud men excluded from positions of influence that their ancestors had held." (49)

Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley

Elizabeth rejected the proposal of marriage to King Philip II of Spain. This resulted in Philip attempting to help Mary Stuart, to become the Catholic Queen in Scotland. This ended in failure and Mary became Elizabeth's prisoner and she was eventually executed in 1587.

Robert Dudley soon emerged as one of Elizabeth's leading advisers and was given the post of Master of the Horse. This made him the only man in England officially allowed to touch the Queen, as he was responsible for helping Elizabeth mount and dismount when she went horse-riding. (50) He was described as "splendid in appearance and a promptness and energy of devotion". (51) He was allotted official quarters in the palace. He encouraged her to go riding every day. Unlike most of her officials, Dudley was of her own age. "Although Elizabeth did have some women friends, she much preferred the company of men, and it soon became apparent that she preferred Robert Dudley's company to any other." (52)

According to Dudley's biographer, Simon Adams: "It was only in April 1559 that Robert Dudley's peculiar relationship to Elizabeth began to attract comment. This relationship - which defined the rest of his life - was characterized by her almost total emotional dependence on him and her insistence on his constant presence at court.... It also helps to explain his separation from his wife, who came to London from Throcking in May 1559, but spent only a month or so there." (53) In 1559 Elizabeth gave Dudley land in Yorkshire, as well as the manor of Kew. She also gave him a licence to export woolen cloth free of charge. It is estimated that this was worth £6,000 in 1560. (54)

David Starkey has pointed out that in many ways Dudley was similar to Thomas Seymour. "Dudley was strikingly similar to Seymour - in looks, physique and temperament. But whereas Seymour's seduction had involved the threat and perhaps the reality of force, Dudley was all soft words and whirlwind charm. It was the more attractive for that. Did Elizabeth surrender and have sexual relations? She denied it absolutely - just as she had denied it with Seymour. On the other hand, powerful rumour accused her." (55)

The Spanish ambassador, Gómez Suárez de Figueroa y Córdoba, 1st Duke of Feria, was one of those who spread these rumours. He wrote to King Philip II: "During the last few days Lord Robert has come so much into favour that he does what he likes with affairs and it is even said that her Majesty visits him in his chamber day and night. People talk of this so freely that they go so far as to say that his wife has a malady in one of her breasts and that the Queen is only waiting for her to die so she can marry Lord Robert." (56)

Robert Dudley
Robert Dudley by unknown artist (c. 1560)

Another letter at the time from Paolo Tiepolo, the Venetian Ambassador, suggested that she had "been ailing for some time". It has been suggested that Amy was suffering from cancer and according to her maid, Mrs Pirto, her illness resulted in severe depression. However, on 24th August, 1560, she sent a letter to her tailor in a tone that was considered to be "cheerful" and shows her "looking forward to the pleasure of a new gown". (57)

Elizabeth's companion, Katherine Ashley, warned her about the rumours and commented that she was behaving in such a way that would sully her "honour and dignity" and would in time undermine her subjects' loyalty. (58) When she suggested that Elizabeth should end her relationship with Dudley, the Queen angrily retorted that if she showed herself gracious towards her Master of the Horse she had deserved it for his honourable nature and dealings: "She was always surrounded by her ladies of the bedchamber and maids of honour, who at all times could see whether there was anything dishonourable between her and her Master of the Horse." (59)

Elizabeth entered negotiations about the possibility of marrying Charles von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria. However, the Spanish ambassador, Álvaro de la Quadra, claimed that this was just a ploy to save the life of Robert Dudley: "She (Elizabeth) is not in earnest, but only wants to amuse the crowd with the hope of the match in order to save the life of Lord Robert, who is very vigilant and suspicious, as he has again been warned that there is a plot to kill him, which I quite believe, for not a man in the realm can suffer the idea of his being King... A plot was made the other day to murder Lord Robert, and it is now common talk and threat." Quadra went on to say that Dudley was known to wear beneath his clothes a "privy coat", a doublet, made by the armourer at Greenwich.

De Quadra also told Philip II that members of the Privy Council were very hostile to the idea of Elizabeth marrying Dudley and were making no secret of "their evil opinion of his intimacy with Elizabeth." Quadra claimed that he had heard stories that Dudley intended to poison his wife so he would be free to marry Elizabeth. "It is generally stated that it is his fault that the Queen does not marry (someone else) and his own sister and friends bear him ill-will." (60)

It was not only Robert Dudley who was in danger. William Cecil received information that the Queen was in danger of being murdered. He reported that too often the back doors of the chambers where the Queen's gentlewomen were often left open and unattended. Cecil claimed that "anyone could slip in and attack the Queen or introduce into her chambers a poison, slow-acting or immediate, that could be ingested by mouth or through the skin". He instructed that from now on, no meat or other food prepared outside the royal kitchens should be allowed into the Privy Chamber without "assured knowledge" of its origins. (61)

During the summer of 1560 Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley spent every day together. The story that the couple were lovers and that Elizabeth was pregnant had spread across the country. In June, a sixty-eight-year-old widow from Essex, "Mother Dowe", was arrested for "openly asserting that the Queen was pregnant by Robert Dudley". John de Vere, the 16th Earl of Oxford, wrote to Cecil with news that Thomas Holland, vicar of Little Burstead, had been detained for telling another man that the Queen "was with child". Oxford wanted to know whether he should follow the usual punishment for "rumour-mongers" and cut off Holland's ears. (62)

Death of Amy Dudley

On Sunday 8th September, 1560, Amy Dudley insisted that everyone in the house attend a local fair in Abingdon. (63) When her servants returned that evening, they found her lying dead at the foot of the staircase, her neck broken. According to several sources, as soon as he heard the news, Robert sent his household officer, Thomas Blount, to investigate. (64)

Philippa Jones has argued: "Robert acted quickly, with an eye to his own interests. His feelings for Amy were now largely irrelevant: he needed to minimize the damage that his wife's unnatural death might have on his chances of marrying Elizabeth. It was important that he remain in London, partly to be near the Court and partly to stem any accusations that he had rushed to Cumnor to orchestrate a cover-up or to intimidate the jury at the inquest. He counted on Blount to handle things at Cumnor without interfering personally. He was insistent that the jury should be composed of local men of good standing, even if they were hostile towards Forster or himself, as this would count for their impartiality. He knew that there had to be a full and honest appraisal of events, resulting in a finding that Amy's death had been an accident, in order for him to be free to marry Elizabeth after a suitable period of mourning." (65)

Thomas Blount reported that he spoke to several people in Abington and the general feeling seemed to be that Amy's death had been accidental. Others suspected that she had committed in suicide but there was a minority who thought it was possible that she had been murdered. Blount told Dudley he hoped it was an accident, but feared it was suicide, "My Lord... The tales I do hear of her make me think she had a strange mind as I will tell you at my coming." Robert replied, "If it fall out a chance or misfortune, then so to say; and, if it appear a villainy as God forbid so mischievous or wicked a body should live, then to find it so." (66)

Robert Dudley did not want a verdict of suicide as people would have claimed that his relationship with Queen Elizabeth had driven her to take her own life. Dudley was also concerned about the impact of this verdict would have had on her reputation. During the Tudor period suicide was considered a grave sin. "If she had taken her own life, she would have been denied a Christian burial and would have been laid to rest in unhallowed ground, although her rank would have saved her from the fate of being buried at a crossroads with a stake through her heart. In any case, her soul would still be damned for eternity." (67)

Dudley wanted a verdict of accidental death. However, there were problems with this theory. The records show that there were only 8 steps on the part of the staircase where she fell. Some experts have said such a small fall was unlikely to have caused a broken neck. Others have suggested that this also rules out suicide as such a fall would have resulted in injury rather than death. Professor Ian Aird believes the broken neck might be related to her illness. He has pointed out that breast cancer can cause secondary deposits in the bones, making them brittle (the deposits occurred in 50 percent of fatal cases studied; 6 percent of these showed deposits in the spine). If in a fall down a flight of stairs, as Aird explains, that part of the spine which lies in the neck suffers ... the affected person gets spontaneously a broken neck. Such a fracture is more likely to occur in stepping downstairs than in walking on the level." (68)

Robert Dudley
William Frederick Yeames, The Death of Amy Robsart (1877)

Rumours began to circulate that Dudley had murdered his wife so that he could marry Elizabeth. It was suspected that these were being promoted by the enemies of Elizabeth. Mary Stuart, who believed she should be queen of England, was quoted as saying: "The Queen of England is going to marry her horsekeeper, who has killed his wife to make room for her." (69) It was now politically impossible for Elizabeth to marry Dudley. It has even been suggested that Dudley's main rival, William Cecil, might have arranged Amy's death and "thus wrecking any chance of marriage and damaging the reputation of Dudley himself." (70)

At the inquest Amy's servant, Mrs Pirto, testified that her mistress suffered from severe depression and admitted the possibility that she had committed suicide. Anka Muhlstein is someone who supports this view. (71) However, the jury found it difficult to believe that Amy would have chosen such a method to kill herself. After weighing up all the testimony and evidence, the jury formally determined a verdict of accidental death. The foreman wrote to Robert to let him know, who in turn wrote to Blount, stating that the verdict "doth very much satisfy and quiet me." (72) Elizabeth Jenkins, the author of Elizabeth the Great (1958) has pointed out: "The verdict at the inquest was accidental death, but in the general opinion it should have been murder, either at Dudley's instigation, or without his connivance but in his interest. The question, all-important though hardly to be framed, was whether the Queen had been accessory before the fact." (73)

The most convincing evidence against Elizabeth and Dudley appeared in a letter sent by Alvaro de la Quadra, the Spanish Ambassador, to King Philip II, that recorded conversations with Elizabeth and her leading government officer, William Cecil: "He (William Cecil) told me the Queen cared nothing for foreign princes. She did not believe she stood in any need of their support. She was deeply in debt, taking no thought how to clear herself, and she had ruined her credit in the city. Last of all he said that they were thinking of destroying Lord Robert's wife. They had given out that she was ill, but she was not ill at all; she was very well and taking care not to be poisoned. God, he trusted, would never permit such a crime to be accomplished or so wretched a conspiracy to prosper.... Certainly this business is most shameful and scandalous, and withal I am not sure whether she will marry the man at once, or even if she will marry at all, as I do not think she has her mind sufficiently fixed. Since writing the above, I hear the Queen has published the death of Robert's wife." (74)

It seems the Spanish government definitely believed that Elizabeth and Dudley were involved in Amy's death. Philippa Jones, the author of Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010), clearly disagrees with this judgement: "If Amy was murdered, the most logical question to ask would be who would have benefited from the timing and manner of her death? It is hard to argue that Robert and Elizabeth did. Had Amy lived a few weeks or months longer and died of natural causes, Robert would have had a real chance of becoming King of England. They had no reason to rush; Elizabeth had successfully held off her various suitors for two years and showed few signs of giving in to any one of them. She and Robert had waited so long; a little longer would not have mattered. Furthermore, if Robert had genuinely wanted his wife out of the way, he had another option. He and Amy had no children and, with her ill health, were not likely to. A lack of children was a lawful reason for divorce at that time, and it was held to be the wife's fault unless she could prove otherwise. If Robert had wanted his freedom at any cost, he could have divorced Amy at any time." (75)

Puritans and Anabaptists

Christopher Hatton joined the Privy Council and was involved in negotiations about the possible marriage of Queen Elizabeth to the Duke of Alençon. Hatton was against the match "but joined with the rest of the council in a sullen acquiescence, offering to support the match if it pleased her." (76) However, there was a great deal of opposition to the proposed marriage. In 1579 John Stubbs, a Norfolk squire with Puritan sympathies, wrote a pamphlet criticizing the plan. Stubbs objected to the fact that Alençon was a Catholic. He also argued that, at forty-six, Elizabeth was too old to have children and so had no need to get married. Hatton, under instructions from Elizabeth, led the prosecution of Stubbs. (77)

Circulation of this pamphlet was prohibited, and Stubbs, his publisher, William Page, were tried at Westminster, and found guilty of "seditious writing" and sentenced to have their right hands cut off. The punishment was carried out on 3rd November 1579. William Camden points out in The History of Queen Elizabeth (1617): "Stubbs and Page had their right hands cut off with a cleaver, driven through the wrist by the force of a mallet, upon a scaffold in the market-place at Westminster... I remember that Stubbs, after his right hand was cut off, took off his hat with his left, and said with a loud voice, 'God Save the Queen'; the crowd standing about was deeply silent: either out of horror at this new punishment; or else out of sadness." (78) However, by January, 1580, Queen Elizabeth admitted to Alençon that public opinion made their marriage impossible.

Queen Elizabeth and her ministers were also opposed to Anabaptism. It emerged during the Protestant Reformation. It is claimed that the movement began in Germany in 1521. They had been inspired by the teachings of Martin Luther and publication of the Bible in German. Now able to read the Bible in their own language, they began to question the teachings of the Catholic Church. One of the movement's leaders, Balthasar Hubmaier, pointed out: “In all disputes concerning faith and religion, the scriptures alone, proceeding from the mouth of God, ought to be our level and rule.” (79)

The Anabaptists argued that Jesus taught that man should act in a non-violent way. They quoted him as saying: "Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” (Luke 6.27) "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5.9) “Do not use force against an evil man.. But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5.39) “Do not resist evil with evil.” (Luke 6.37) “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26.52) They also believed that God was on the side of the poor. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25)

Jasper Ridley has pointed out: "The Anabaptists not only objected to infant baptism, but also denied the divinity of Christ or said that he was not born to the Virgin Mary. They advocated a primitive form of Communism, denouncing private property and urging that all goods should be owned by the people in common." (80) Anabaptists believed all people were equal and kept their hats on before magistrates and superior officials and their pacifism made them reject military service. (81)

Queen Elizabeth made it clear that she would be more tolerant towards those who held different religious beliefs and for the first seventeen years of her reign she did not execute anyone for heresy. However, in 1575 a congregation of Anabaptists was discovered in Aldgate. Although they were of Dutch nationality they were tried before Edwin Sandys, the bishop of London in St Paul's Cathedral for heresy and blasphemy. Some of them recanted and were allowed to go free after parading the streets with lighted faggots in their hands. Fifteen of them were deported and five were condemned to death by burning. (82)

Only their two leaders, John Weelmaker and Henry Toorwoort, were actually burnt at the stake at Smithfield. The Tudor historian, John Stow, says they died "with great horror, crying and roaring". James Mackintosh, the 19th century historian, commented: "This murder, as far as the multitude thought of it, met with their applause. It was considered by others as the ordinary course. But the first blood spilt by Elizabeth for religion forms in the eye of posterity a dark spot upon a government hitherto distinguished, beyond that of any other European community, by a religious administration, which, if not unstained, was at least bloodless." (83)

Spanish Armada

Even before the execution of Mary Stuart, King Philip II of Spain began considering the invasion of England. He had been angered by the actions of Francis Drake in the West Indies and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, invasion of the Netherlands. His plan was for a great fleet to sweep the English Channel and leave it clear for Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, and his Spanish infantry to cross over from the Netherlands. Philip issued instructions to Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia, to "invade and conquer England, taking the Queen alive at all costs". (84)

Details of the planned invasion reached England's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, as early as December 1585. Walsingham, with his aggressive, almost fanatical desire to protect and promote his fledgling Protestant religion, had long feared Spanish military action against England. This initial information came from a merchant who had heard about it in Italy. However, Walsingham was unconvinced by the story. (85)

In the spring of 1586, Queen Elizabeth heard reports that Spain was preparing a huge invasion force to send against England. When she told Walsingham about this he said his agents in Spain saw no signs of such preparation in Spanish harbours. One of his well-informed spy reported that only eighteen ships in the entire Spanish fleet were ready for sea. A few weeks later the Queen heard from a sea-captain that he had seen a fleet of twenty-seven galleons in Lisbon Harbour. She summoned Walsingham, berated him, and threw a slipper in his face. (86)

In early 1587 Walsingham received alarming intelligence of the Spanish build-up. An estimated 450 ships were now in and around Lisbon, with 74,000 soldiers being mustered in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Flanders. He was also told that there were also 1,200 gunners and 8,912 sailors already in Spain, together with "accumulated provisions including 184,557 quintals of biscuit, 23,000 quintals of bacon, 23,000 butts of wine, 11,000 quintals of beef and 43,000 quintals of cheese." (87)

Throughout 1586 ships were being built and assembled along the Channel coast, and in England the Privy Council ordered the setting up of beacons at prominent places so that news of a Spanish invasion could be communicated to those with responsibility of defending the country. Francis Drake asked the Queen for fifty ships to attack the Armada while it was still on the coast of Spain. He argued that a blow struck in Spanish waters would weaken the determination of Spanish forces and raise morale in England. (88) Drake eventually received permission and arrived in Cadiz and destroyed the ships and stores assembled there. (89) Drake also managed to capture the vast and richly loaded San Philip, one of the largest of the treasure-ships ever to fall into English hands. (90)

Sir John Hawkins, the treasurer and controller of the Royal Navy, was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy. William Cecil gave him the responsibility for providing enough ships to deal with the Spanish Armada. According to Harry Kelsey, the author of Sir John Hawkins (2002), Charles Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral, was "effusive in his praise for the ships" that Hawkins was able to supply. (91)

Queen Elizabeth
George Gower, Elizabeth (1588)

The Spanish Armada left Lisbon on 29th May 1588. It numbered 130 ships carrying 29,453 men, of whom some 19,000 were soldiers (17,000 Spanish, 2,000 Portuguese). Also on board were 180 monks and friars, 167 artillerymen and a hospital staff of 85 (which included five physicians, five surgeons and four priests). The Commander-in-chief, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, took with him 50 servants. (261) The plan was to sail to Dunkirk in France where the Armada would pick up another 16,000 Spanish soldiers led by Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma. (92)

According to Juan Bentivollo, and Italian who saw the Spanish Armada leave for England: "You could hardly see the sea. The Spanish fleet was stretched out in the form of a half moon with an immense distance between its extremities. The masts and rigging, the towering sterns and prows which in height and number were so great that they dominated the whole naval concourse, caused horror mixed with wonder and gave rise to doubt whether that campaign was at sea or on land and whether one or the other element was the more splendid. It came on with a steady and deliberate movement, yet when it drew near in full sail it seemed almost that the waves groaned under its weight and the winds were made to obey it."

On hearing the news that the ships had left Spain, Charles Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral, held a council-of-war. Lord Howard decided to divide the English fleet into squadrons. Francis Drake, John Hawkins and Martin Frobisher were chosen as the three other senior commanders of the fleet. Howard went in his flagship, the Ark Royal (800 tons and a crew of 250). Frobisher was given command of the largest ship in the fleet, the Triumph (1,110 tons and a crew of 500 men) whereas Drake was the captain of the Revenge (500 tons and a crew of 250) and Hawkins was aboard the Victory (800 tons and a crew of 250).

It has been claimed that after the fleet sailed for England Philip II remained kneeling before the Holy Sacrament, without a cushion, for four hours each day. (93) Sidonia kept his ships in tight formation to give them protection from the English ships. The galleons and large ships were concentrated in the centre. By July the Armada was in the Channel. The Tudor historian, William Camden, described it as being "built high like towers and castles, rallied into the form of a crescent whose horns were at least seven miles distant". (94)

English land forces were divided into an army of 30,000 under Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon based at Windsor, whose main task was to defend Queen Elizabeth and 16,000, who were to prevent an attack on London. (95) Elizabeth proved to be a rousing and fearless leader, planning to ride at the head of her army to wherever along the coast the enemy might seek to land, while her fleet went out to battle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in command of the ground forces, managed to dissuade her from this. He recommended instead that Elizabeth address her troops at Tilbury, where she gave a defiant and patriotic speech. Standing in front of her soldiers Elizabeth told them: "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king." (96)

On 21st July the English fleet engaged the Armada off Plymouth near the Eddystone rocks. At the end of the first day's fighting, only one ship was sunk, the San Salvador. During the fighting a tremendous explosion tore out the Spanish ship's stern castle and killed 200 members of the crew. It was later discovered that a gunner's carelessness resulted in a spark reaching the gunpowder in the rear hold. (97)

Admiral Pedro de Valdés and his flag-ship, Nuestra Senora del Rosario, collided with another Spanish vessel, breaking her bowsprit and bringing down the halyards and forecourse. As it was the Admiral's ship, it had 55,000 gold ducats on board, in order to buy supplies from foreign ports. The following morning Francis Drake and the crew of Revenge captured the crippled ship. (98)

The Armada anchored at Calais and the Duke of Medina Sidonia sent a message to the Duke of Parma in Dunkirk : "I am anchored here two leagues from Calais with the enemy's fleet on my flank. They can cannonade me whenever they like, and I shall be unable to do them much harm in return." He asked Parma to send fifty ships to help him break out of Calais. Parma was unable to help as he had less than twenty ships and most of those were not yet ready to sail.

That night Medina Sidonia sent out a warning to his captains that he expected a fire-ship attack. This tactic had been successfully used by Francis Drake in Cadiz in 1587 and the fresh breeze blowing steadily from the English fleet towards Calais, meant the conditions were ideal for such an attack. He warned his captains not to panic and not to head out to the open sea. Medina Sidonia confidently told them that his patrol boats would be able to protect them from any fire-ship attack that took place.

Medina Sidonia was right to be worried by such an attack. This was the opportunity that Charles Howard of Effingham, the English commander, had been waiting for. It was decided to use eight fairly large ships for the operation. All the masts and rigging were tarred and all the guns were left on board and were primed to go off of their own accord when the fire reached them. John Young, one of Drake's men, was put in charge of the fire-ships. (99)

Soon after midnight the eight ships were set fire to and sent on their way. The Spaniards were shocked by the size of the vessels. Nor had they expected the English to use as many as eight ships. The Spanish patrol ships were unable to act fast enough to deal with the problem. The Spanish captains also began to panic when the guns began exploding. They believed that the English were using hell-burners (ships crammed with gunpowder). This tactic had been used against the Spanish in 1585 during the siege of Antwerp when over a thousand men had been killed by exploding ships.

The fire-ships did not in fact cause any material damage to the Spanish ships at all. They drifted until they reached the beach where they continued to burn until the fire reached the water line. Medina Sidonia, on board the São Martinho, had remained near his original anchorage. However, only a few captains had followed his orders and the vast majority had broken formation and sailed into the open sea. (100)

At first light Medina Sidonia and his six remaining ships left Calais and attempted to catch up with the 130 ships strung out eastwards towards the Dunkirk sandbanks. Some Spanish ships had already been reached by the English fleet and were under heavy attack. San Lorenzo, a ship carrying 312 oarsmen, 134 sailors and 235 soldiers, was stranded on the beach and was taken by the English.

Medina Sidonia announced that if any Spanish ship broke formation the captain would be hanged immediately. He also told his captains that they must maintain a tight formation in order to prevent further attacks from the English ships. This decision meant that they could now only move towards Dunkirk at the speed of the slowest ship. As the Amanda moved up the east coast of England the "pursuing English ships passed the bodies of the mules and horses the Spaniards had thrown into the sea". (101)

With their formation broken, the Spanish ships were easy targets for the English ships loaded with guns that could fire very large cannon balls. The Spanish captains tried to get their ships in close so that their soldiers could board the English vessels. However, the English ships were quicker than the Spanish galleons and were able to keep their distance. Bernado de Gongoro, a priest on one of the Spanish ships, complained: "The enemy did not dare to come alongside because he knew the advantage we had. The Duke offered him battle many times and he never wanted it, but only to fire on us, like a man who had better artillery with longer range." (102)

Sir John Hawkins reported to Sir Francis Walsingham: that despite the success they were having they were desperately short of gunpowder: "All that day Monday we followed the Spaniards with a long and great fight, wherein there was great valour showed generally by our company... In this fight there was some hurt done among the Spaniards... Our ships, God be thanked, have received little hurt... Now their fleet is here, and very forcible, it must be waited upon with all our force, which is little enough. There should be an infinite quantity of powder and shot provided... The men have long been unpaid and need relief." (103)

The Spanish fleet, battered and defeated, made its way along the Scottish coast. They were desperately short of supplies and it has been estimated that four or five men died each day from starvation. It was decided to throw all the horses overboard to save water. When the ships reached the Irish Sea a great storm blew up and threw against the Irish rocks. Thousands of Spaniards drowned and even those who reached land were often killed by English soldiers and settlers. One Irishman, Melaghin McCabb, boasted that he had dispatched eighty Spaniards with his axe. (104) Of the 30,000 men that had set out in the Armada, less than 10,000 arrived home safely. (105)

On 2nd August 1588, the English fleet headed home. By the time the fleet reached port, most of the ships had exhausted their supplies. Sir John Hawkins showed concern for his men: "The men have long been unpaid and need relief." However, the Queen had declared that the expenses of war must be stopped as soon as possible. The men also suffered from disease and "a sort of plague swept through the ranks, and men died by the dozens". William Cecil asked why so much money was needed if so many men were dying. Hawkins explained that it was necessary to give the back pay of dead men to their friends, who would deliver it to the families. (106)

Charles Howard of Effingham, the English commander, was also angry that his men had not received their wages. He was also disturbed by the condition of his men. The lack of fresh water caused an outbreak of disease. As they were still waiting for their wages to be paid they were even unable to buy fresh food for themselves. Howard wrote bitterly: "It is a most pitiful sight to see, here at Margate, how the men, having no place to receive them into here, die in the streets. I am driven myself, of force, to come a-land, to see them bestowed in some lodging; and the best I can get is barns and outhouses. It would grieve any man's heart to see them that have served so valiantly to die so miserably." (107)

Queen Elizabeth claimed that her forces had the help of God in the victory. She ordered the issue of a commemorative medal that stated: "God blew and they were scattered." (108) According to Philippa Jones, the author of Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010): "The defeat of the Spanish Armada in July 1588 heralded the highest point in Elizabeth's rule, and was a victory that lent England not only a strong sense of national pride, but also the sense that God was on the side of a Protestant victory against the Catholic enemy." (109)

Final Years of Elizabeth

William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the only man that Queen Elizabeth probably loved, became very ill and it seemed that he was near death. Queen Elizabeth prayed for him daily and frequently visited him. "When the patient's food was brought and she saw that his gouty hands could not lift the spoon, she fed him. (110) Burghley died on 4th August 1598. Elizabeth was deeply affected, retiring to her home to weep alone. (111) It is claimed that for the next few months the Privy Council did their best not to mention him at meetings when the Queen was present because it always made her breakdown in tears. (112)

Burghley's son, Robert Cecil, had over the years become a senior advisor to Queen Elizabeth. Some of his enemies believed that without the support of his father, his political career would go into decline. However, Elizabeth trusted Cecil and appointed him master of the Court of Wards. According to Pauline Croft this lucrative post "controlled a great array of patronage both at court and in the counties". However, "by far the most significant aspect of his elevation was that it signalled unequivocally that the queen recognized his personal worth and ability". (113)

Queen Elizabeth was now sixty-years old: "Her nose had slightly thickened, her eyes became sunken, and as she had lost several teeth on the left side of her mouth it was difficult for foreigners to catch her words when she spoke fast, but the impression she made in her last decade was one of astonishing energy for her years. She was erect and active as ever and though her face was wrinkled her skin preserved its flawless white." (114)

Elizabeth, who had difficulty sleeping, often worked before delight with her officials. All measures relating to public affairs were read over to her and she made notes on them, either in her own hand or dictating her comments to secretaries. Robert Cecil discovered he had to be very careful with the way he treated the Queen. During one long meeting with her one evening he noticed she looked tired and suggested that she "must" go to bed. The Queen replied, "Little man, little man, the word must is not to be used to Princes." (115)

Queen Elizabeth, was 67 years-old on 7th September, 1600. When she was younger she enjoyed riding, walking and dancing. However, for the past few years her frequent illnesses had pulled her down alarmingly. Ambassadors reported that she had suffered from fever, gastric attacks and neuralgia. She was described as "very thin", "the colour of a corpse" and that "her bones could be counted". At the opening of Parliament her robes of velvet and ermine were found to be too heavy for her and on the steps of the throne she staggered and was only saved from falling by the peer who stood next to her. (116)

Robert Cecil made strenuous attempts to sort out the Queen's finances that had been badly damaged by recent military adventures. Cecil advocated a foreign policy of peaceful co-existence with other major powers in Europe. When she ascended the throne the ordinary revenue amounted to some £200,000 a year, to which parliamentary subsidies added £50,000. By 1600 ordinary revenue had increased to £300,000, and parliamentary subsidies were now worth £135,000. Yet during this period the Queen's expenditure had gone up far more than her income. This was partly due to inflation. Between 1560 and 1600 prices had risen by at least 75%. (117)

Queen Elizabeth had to constantly appeal to Parliament to grant her more money. However, by 1601 members began to express doubts about whether the country could actually bear so heavy a burden of taxation. They also complained bitterly about Elizabeth's policy of granting of monopolies. These were patents granted to individuals which allowed them to manufacture or distribute certain named articles for their private profit. It was a device by which Elizabeth could confer benefits on favoured courtiers without putting her to any personal expense. (118)

In the 1601 Parliament one member called monopolists "bloodsuckers of the commonwealth" and argued that they brought "the general profit into a private hand". In the last few years the Queen had granted at least thirty new patents on items that included currants, iron, bottles, vinegar, brushes, pots, salt, lead and oil. Francis Bacon suggested that Parliament petition the Queen over this issue but some members wanted to take more direct action. Robert Cecil said he had never seen Parliament like this before: "This is more fit for a grammar school than a court of Parliament". As a result of these complaints proclamations were therefore issued cancelling the principal monopolies. In return, Parliament agreed to impose taxes in order to increase the Queen's income. (119)

Robert Cecil believed that James VI of Scotland was by far the strongest claimant to the English throne, but Elizabeth could not be brought to acknowledge him openly as her heir. In May 1601 Cecil took the decision to begin secret negotiations with James. "The secret correspondence between them was legally treasonable, but Cecil sensed that such a link was the only practical way to ensure in advance that the transition of power, whenever it came, would be peaceful." (120)

Cecil's covert correspondence was in code. Cecil was "10", Elizabeth "24" and James "30". Although he knew the Queen would disapprove of these negotiations he later justified his actions by arguing that "even with strictest loyalty and soundest reason for faithful ministers to conceal sometimes both thoughts and actions from princes when they are persuaded it is for their greater service". He added "if her Majesty had known all I did... her age... joined to the jealously of her sex, might have moved her to think ill of that which helped to preserve her." (121)

Her final illness began late in 1602 and thereafter her decline was steady. Robert Cecil wrote to George Nicholson, the Queen's agent in Edinburgh, that Elizabeth "hath good appetite, and neither cough nor fever, yet she is troubled with a heat in her breasts and dryness in her mouth and tongue, which keeps her from sleep, greatly to her disquiet." (122)

Unable to eat much and unwilling to sleep, her last days were difficult. Aware that she was dying Cecil attempted to persuade her to nominate a successor. Believing her unable to speak, they offered to run through a list of candidates and asked her to lift a finger if she wished to approve one. Various names left her unmoved. However, when she got to the name of Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp, she burst into life: "I will have no rascal's son in my seat, but one worthy to be a king." (123)

Soon afterwards an abscess burst in her throat and she recovered a little and was able to sip some broth. Then she declined again and knowing the end was coming, Cecil asked her if she accepted James VI of Scotland as her successor. She had lost the power of speech and merely made a gesture towards her head which they interpreted as one of consent. (124)

Comte de Beaumont, the French ambassador, wrote to King Henry IV on 14th March, that the Queen did not speak for three days. When she regained consciousness she said, "I wish not to live any longer, but desire to die." He added that "she is moreover said to be no longer in her right senses: this, however, is a mistake; she has only had some slight wanderings at intervals." (125)

Four days later Beaumont reported: "The Queen is already quite exhausted, and sometimes, for two or three days together, does not speak a word. For the last two days she has her finger almost always in her mouth, and sits upon cushions, without rising or lying down, her eyes open and fixed on the ground. Her long wakefulness and want of food have exhausted her already weak and emaciated frame, and have produced heat in the stomach, and also the drying up of all the juices, for the last ten or twelve days." (126)

On 24th March, 1603, Archbishop John Whitgift was instructed to visit the Queen. The seventy-three year old head of the church knelt by her bed and prayed. After about 30 minutes he attempted to get up but she made a sign that suggested he carried on praying. He did so for another half-hour and when he attempted to rise, the Queen gestured with her hand to keep on the floor. Eventually, she sank into unconsciousness and he was allowed to leave the room. She died later that evening. (127)

It was Robert Cecil who read out the proclamation announcing James as the next king of England on the day Elizabeth died, first at Whitehall and then at the gates to the City of London. The following day James wrote from Edinburgh informally confirming all the privy council in their positions, adding in his own hand to Cecil, "How happy I think myself by the conquest of so wise a councillor I reserve it to be expressed out of my own mouth unto you". (128)