Queen Elizabeth I - Historical profile

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Princess Elizabeth as played by Laoise Murray
The History

Queen of England
November 17, 1558 (aged 25) -
till her death in March 24, 1603
(45 years)

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Elizabeth I-coronation
Coronation 1558


  • Queen Elizabeth traveled with more than 300 carts to carry her luggage. Her entourage traveled 10 to 12 miles a day.
  • For breakfast, Elizabeth I often had bread,ale, beer or wine and a good pottage made of mutton or beef.
  • Towards the end of her life, Queen Elizabeth I refused to have a mirror in any of her rooms.
  • Elizabeth had a near-death experience when she contracted smallpox in October 1562. After this she had scars which she tried to cover up with white lead make-up. This most likely shorted her life and caused her hair to fall out. Her beauty ruined, Elizabeth never thought of marriage or men much again.
  • Elizabeth whitened her skin, as was the vogue in her time, with a mixture of egg, powdered eggshells, poppy seeds, white lead (a lethal ingredient), borax, and alum . The white lead ate into her skin, so she had to apply more and more layers .When her hair began to thin (most likely from this poisonous mixture), she wore a huge spangled red wig.
  • During her reign , there was a tax put on men's beards.
  • Queen Elizabeth I became concerned with the increasing number of black people in England, and in 1596 she ordered that all black people be deported to Spain and Portugal, to be exchanged for English prisoners of war. She had to repeat the order in 1601, ordering her subjects to deliver up their Negroes and blackamoores .
  • She passed a law which forced everyone except for the rich to wear a flat cap on Sundays
  • In 1587, the queen wept when she heard that Mary, Queen of Scots, had been executed, before an audience at Fotheringay. Elizabeth had reluctantly signed Mary's death warrant, as persuaded by her adviser's.
  • Her Coronation ring was one of her most prized possessions. She never removed it, in all the 45 years of her reign. In 1603, the ring had grown into her flesh. Her doctors insisted it had to be removed, and within a week she died. Elizabeth had a feeling about that ring which was why she kept it on all those years. [see pics of ring below]
  • There were 2,000 dresses in her wardrobe.
  • Elizabeth hated the smell of leather.
  • When her rotten teeth were to be pulled, the Bishop of London had one of his extracted to show her how easy it was. It is said that her teeth were bad, because of her love of sweets.
  • After her teeth were removed, Elizabeth never appeared in public without padding out her mouth, with wads of cotton.
  • Following her return to court in 1555 Elizabeth and Mary I -- the half-sister who imprisoned her -- reconciled when Elizabeth declared her undying devotion.
  • Elizabeth Stuart or Elizabeth of Bohemia was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth
  • Elizabeth was taught by her sister Mary how to play Dice.
  • Ivan, the terrible of Russia,once a possible marriage for Elizabeth,referred to her as "old virgin"
  • Once a Gaul laughed of Elizabeth french accent.
  • For the nobles who had the honour to be received into Elizabeth's presence, her visit was expensive,once a show of fireworks became a huge fire, which burnt the roof of a peasant, Bess worried that her royal visit could cause damage for a poor subject, insisted on paying for all the reconstruction.
  • In February 1603 she developed ulcers in her throat and a head cold, followed by a fever. By March she was refusing all food and it was then that she began laying on cushions on the floor. Tonsillitis or flu was probably her main ailment, but she seemed to know it was her time and took matters into her own hands...as Elizabeth had been known to do from time to time. She had people move her to her feet and stayed standing without any aid for 15 hours. After that she became exhausted and allowed them to take her to bed. At 3:00AM on March 24 she died peacefully,"mildly like a lamb, easily, like a ripe apple from a tree."
  • Her rumored last words were: "All my possessions for one moment of time." Many historians believe this statement is apocryphal.
  • It is believed that Elizabeth died of infected tonsils at age 69 at Nonsuch Palace.
  • Both Elizabeth I and Mary I are buried in Westminster Abbey, London, England.
  • Their Epitaph: "Consorts both in Throne and Grave, here we rest two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in hope of our resurrection."


Elizabeth I Tudor
c. 1560


Mary, Queen of Scots - the granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland. She was a dangerous rival for Elizabeth because her Tudor descent gave her a claim to the throne and because she was a Roman Catholic, making her a useful alternative to those who opposed Protestantism. The French supported her for a time.

King Philip II of Spain - husband of Queen Mary I. As the most powerful Catholic monarch in Europe, he was always dangerous to Elizabeth. The English defeat of his armada is considered a hugely significant event in Elizabeth's reign. However, it is interesting to note that he may have had a hand in lessening Mary I's anger towards Elizabeth during her time in the Tower. This is because he saw Elizabeth as a potential wife after Mary's death.

Queen Mary I: It is important to mention that while Mary and Elizabeth were sisters, Mary was not necessarily as cruel to Elizabeth as it is popularly believed. Elizabeth's epitaph says that sisters they are and they will be reunited in death or in the coming of the day of resurrection. However, though both did share a sisterly affection in Elizabeth's younger years, Elizabeth's avoidance in taking part in Catholic Mass and ceremonies during Mary's reign affected their later relationship. Mary placed Elizabeth in the Tower after she learned of a Protestant plot to overthrow her in her sister's name, and Elizabeth reasonably feared for her life.
She is reputed to have carved the following in a window at Woodstock Manor, Oxfordshire with a diamond:

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be.

Also while prisoner at Woodstock
[Written with charcoal on a shutter]

Oh, Fortune! how thy restlesse wavering state
Hath fraught with cares my troubled witt!
Witnes this present prisonn, whither fate
Could beare me, and the joys I quitt.
Thou causedest the guiltie to be losed
From bandes, wherein are innocents inclosed:
Causing the guiltles to be straite reserved,
And freeing those that death had well deserved.
But by her envie can be nothing wroughte,
So God send to my foes all they have thoughte.

signed - A. D. MDLV.
Elizabethe, Prisonner
Pelican Portrait
1575 - 1580 Pelican Portrait by Hilliard

"Elizabeth exploited her gender to render herself more powerful, more able to command loyalty, than she might have done if she were a man. One way to do this was through what might be called “the appeal to chivalry” the culturally constructed expectation that men will defend women in danger." - Queens and Power in Medieval and Early Modern England, edited by Carole Levin and Robert Bucholz

"She's the model of female rule in a male-dominated society, Elizabeth was the master of taking female traits and turning them into successful strategies for leading. She was King and Queen at the same time. She became one of the best diplomats of the 16th century by flirting with ambassadors. She saw it as great fun." - Tudor Historian Charles Beem

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The story of Elizabeth through her Portraits.
Poem to Queen Elizabeth I, by john taylor
Poem to Queen Elizabeth I, by john taylor
Francois Duc D'Anjou
François, Duc d'Anjou -
also called the Duke of Alençon.
Elizabeth nicknamed him "frog" on account
of a frog-shaped earring he had given her

The only one of Elizabeth's many suitors to court her in person. The arrangement was proposed in 1579. He was 24 and Elizabeth was 46. Despite the age gap, the two soon became very close. Many opposed the match because he was French and Catholic. Elizabeth played the engagement game for some months but finally bid her 'frog' farewell in 1581. Neale observed, "Neither master nor servant was a match for the young woman at the diplomatic game of bluff. " However she did write a poem at this time which gave credence to the fact that she may have seriously considered the Duke as a potential husband.
The poem is called :

"On Monsieur's departure"

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.

Venetian Ambassador Giovanni Michieli acutely sensed Elizabeth's bluffing tactics when he wrote: "She has many suitors for her hand, and by protracting any decision keeps them all in hope, persuading herself that in her need they will do what they can from rivalry to gain her love and matrimonial alliance."
Elizabeth, courtships were a crucial element of her foreign policy and she would remain the most elusive bride in history .
Gloriana trumphant

Other Potential Suitors during Elizabeth's Reign:

1559 Prince Eric of Sweden
1559 Son of Johann Friedrich I, Duke of Saxony
1559 Sir William Pickering
1559 James Hamilton, 2° Earl of Arran
1559 Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
1560 King Eric XVI of Sweden
1560 Adolphus of Gottorp, Duke of Holstein
1560 King Charles IX of France
1560 Henri De Valois, Duke of Anjou
1568 Archduke Charles of Austria
1570 Henri De Valois, Duke of Anjou

Henri , Duke of Anjou
Henri De Valois was 21 when it was proposed that he marry Elizabeth (aged 37). There were rumours he was bisexual & a transvestite. He tactlessly referred to Elizabeth as a putain publique (a "public *****") and made stinging remarks about their difference in age.

Upon hearing she limped because of a varicose vein, he called her an "old creature with a sore leg."
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester b. c1532 - d 1588
(probably the one true love of her life)
Guilford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey was his brother.

Elizabeth is quoted as saying :
"You are like my little dog;
when people see you, they know I am nearby."

Robert said that "he knew her better than anyone else from when she was eight years old". He also added: "and from that age she always said that she would never marry".

When he married in 1550, the Heiress Amy Robsart, Princess Elizabeth would attend the wedding celebration. In 1553/4, both Robert & Elizabeth were imprisoned in the Tower & some say that is where their friendship turned to love. With the accession of Elizabeth to the throne in 1558, Robert's fortunes changed. He was made Master of the Queen's horse, a prestigious position that required much personal attendance on the Queen, as well as organizing her public appearances, progresses, and her personal entertainment.

There were many rumours of intimacy between Robert & Elizabeth & it was recorded that she privately told him she would marry no one else. However, when Robert's wife Amy was found dead of a broken neck at the bottom of a stair case, many pointed the finger at him saying he had something to do with her death. Had the Queen married him, people would have believed the gossip, even that Elizabeth herself had been involved. Also, as Robert was hated because of his monopoly of royal favour, promoting him to prince consort may have provoked a rebellion against the Queen. However, for some years, it seems that both entertained the possibility of marriage, and Robert in particular continued to hope for it for many years. He did not remarry until 1578 when it seemed certain that the Queen would not marry him. In 1575, during the glorious entertainments at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, Robert made his last proposal of marriage to the Queen. As she had done in the past, she refused him.

Dudley in later years
Dudley in later years 1580 - 85
After suffering an illness, probably stomach cancer, he died on the 4th Sep, 1588 aged 56. Elizabeth was devastated at the loss of her old friend and companion, and reputedly locked herself in her apartment for hours, if not days. She treasured the letter he had sent her only days before his death, and wrote on it "His Last letter". She put it in her treasure box, and it was still there when she died 15 years later.

Queen Elizabeth I - Historical profile - The Tudors Wiki
Robert Dudley's last letter to Queen Elizabeth

Elizabeth by Hilliard

Sir Walter Raleigh
Sir Walter Raleigh
b.c.1552 - died 1618 (66 yrs)

(Elizabeth's nickname for him was 'Water')
An outspoken man, Raleigh gained the notice of the Queen around 1580 when he criticised English policy in Ireland. Apparently his candid ways were gilded with charm, however, and he soon became a favourite of the Queen, who knighted him in 1585. As Elizabeth’s reigning favorite, he began to earn royal favors including vast amounts of land in Munster, wealth and influential positions, one of which was as the monopoly holder of licenses for ale of wines, export of broadcloths and warden of the Cornish tin mines. So powerful was Raleigh at this time that it was often assumed Elizabeth would marry him, for there seemed no favor too large for her to grant him. He became vice-admiral of Devon and Cornwall and had a seat in Parliament. He was ultimately captain of the queen’s guard, a position that many consider may have put him close enough to the Queen that more personal favors on her part were also part of his benefits.

After Raleigh was appointed governor of Jersey in 1600, however, his fortunes became precarious. Raleigh apparently wanted a home, a wife and family, and after acquiring a house in Dorset, secretly married Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton, cousin of King Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, and daughter of a noble family. When the jealous Queen discovered Raleigh’s duplicity after the couple had a child, she imprisoned both Elizabeth and Raleigh in the Tower of London. Always a ruthless survivor and manipulator, Raleigh bought his release with profits he’d made from a privateering voyage in which he’d invested. He was free, but never regained his influence at Court.
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
b. 1565 - d. 1601 (36 yrs)

In 1587 Robert Devereux was appointed master of the horse, and in the following year was made general of the horse and installed knight of the Garter. On the death of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester he succeeded him as chief favourite of the queen, a position which injuriously affected his whole subsequent life, and ultimately resulted in his ruin. While Elizabeth was approaching the mature age of 60 , Essex was scarcely 21. In May, 1587, a courtier reported, the Queen often had “nobody with her but my Lord of Essex; and at night my Lord is at cards, or new game or another with her, that he cometh not to his own lodgings till birds sing in the morning”.

In 1593 Elizabeth appointed him to the Privy Council, the work horse of Tudor government staffed by her most trusted counselors. But Essex was too obvious and impetuous in his demands on the Queen. For every vacant office Essex had a candidate whom he urged upon the Queen with pressing importunity. There were stormy scenes between them once Elizabeth boxed his ears.

In 1599, at his own demand, he was made lord lieutenant of Ireland and sent there with a large force to quell the rebellion.In 1600, Essex planned a coup that would oust the Cecil faction and establish his own about the Queen. To this end he sought support from the army in Ireland and opened negotiations with James VI in Scotland, but these efforts failed. Desperately, he made his attempt of rebellion with a small body of personal followers on 8 Feb 1601. The Londoners failed to respond, the Queen's government was thoroughly prepared, and he was arrested. At the trial Bacon contributed heavily to his former patron's conviction. Elizabeth, after some hesitation, signed the death warrant, and Essex was executed.
Sir Christopher Hatton
Sir Christopher Hatton
b.1540 -1591 (51 yrs)
(Elizabeth's nickname for him was 'mouton' - sheep)
Another great favourite of Elizabeth's and leading courtier who was involved in most of the important decisions of her reign. He was in daily contact with her and remained single until his death. He had one illegitimate son. During his last illness the Queen paid him several visits, and is said to have fed him with her own hands. He was buried with great pomp in St. Paul's cathedral in 1591.

Eizabeth I - Rainbow Portrait

c.1600 - the Rainbow Portrait
Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake
b. 1540 - d. 1596 (56 yrs)
Elizabeth at Tilbury
Elizabeth delivers her Speech at Tilbury
<a class="external" href="http://www.iwm.org.uk/upload/package/41/women/sounds/Elizabethspeech.mp3" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Click here to hear an audio clip of Elizabeth's speech">Click here to hear an audio clip of Elizabeth's speech</a>

Drake and the attack of the Spanish Armada

Drake was Queen Elizabeth’s favorite sailor and, when news spread of a massive shipbuilding program being carried out in all the Spanish ports, she commissioned Drake to pay a visit to the largest Spanish port of Cadiz. In a thrilling 36-hour commando raid he looted and burned 30 ships. This delayed the sailing of the Spanish Armada by a year but it could not be halted permanently. In July 1588 Francis Drake was playing lawn bowls in the port of Plymouth when news arrived of the terrifying sight of 170 Spanish war ships. Cool as ever, Drake insisted on finishing the game before departing to the docks. The British did not know precisely where the Armada was heading but managed to get in behind the huge crescent shaped fleet and started picking off the outlying ships. As it happened the Armada was actually sailing for Flanders to pick up 17,000 Spanish soldiers (there to enforce Spanish rule in the Netherlands). With these soldiers on board, the Armada was then scheduled to attack England — but it was not to be. A series of disasters was about to strike the Spaniards. Firstly, when the Spanish Armada anchored at Calais the English fleet waited until dark and then borne by the wind and tide, floated in eight “fire ships.” These were unmanned ships stuffed with in-flammables and gunpowder. As the fire ships approached the tightly packed enemy fleet, the Spanish panicked. Anchor cables were cut and heavy galleons, troop transports and store ships collided with each other. At dawn the great Armada was scattered along the coast and the British were on the attack. Then a gale came up and the battered Armada had to run for it. Abandoning any idea of picking up the waiting troops or even attacking the English mainland, the fleet flew northwards along the English coast around North Scotland and down past Ireland. In dreadful weather and without anchors, ship after lumbering ship crashed into the rocky coast, and desperate Spanish sailors and soldiers crawled ashore only to be cut down by British troops and others waiting for them. Only about 40 of the once proud ships of the Armada got back to Spain and over 12,000 lives had been lost. Spanish domination of the Atlantic Ocean was over and the British could start claiming that “Britannia rules the waves.” Drake, who had played a major role in the Armada victory, tried to retire to Buckland Abbey but the lure of the Caribbean was too strong. With his old partner, Hawkins, he found himself back in the Panama area when, in 1596 at age 56, he caught a fever and died — much to the relief of Spain. The Dragon, the devil with the red beard, was gone! [source: Famouslives.com]
Anne Boleyn - The Tudors Wiki

Anne Boleyn - The Tudors Wiki
Above is the locket ring which belonged
to Queen Elizabeth I.
The ring bears the initial 'E' in table-cut
diamonds and contains
miniature busts of Elizabeth herself
and the other of her mother, Anne Boleyn (to the right)

Anne Boleyn - The Tudors Wiki
Anne Boleyn - The Tudors Wiki
Miniature portrait of Anne Boleyn -
inside the ring that her Daughter Elizabeth I
constantly wore and was removed from her finger
& after her death was sent to James VI of Scotland
as evidence of her death showing how important
the ring and her mother was to Elizabeth.
UNFORGETTABLE QUOTES from Queen Elizabeth I during her reign:
  • To be a King and wear a crown is a thing more pleasant to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it. I were content to hear matters argued and debated pro and contra as all princes must that will understand what is right, yet I look ever as it were upon a plain tablet wherein is written neither partiality or prejudice. There is no jewel, be it of never so rich a price, which I set before this jewel; I mean your love. Though God hath raised me high, yet this I account the glory of my reign, that I have reigned with your loves. I have ever used to set the last Judgement Day before mine eyes, and so to rule as I shall be judged to answer before a higher judge. You may have many a wiser prince sitting in this seat, but you never have had, or shall have, any who loves you better. It is not my desire to live or to reign longer than my life and reign shall be for your good (Golden Speech, 1601)

  • "My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourself to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people....I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm." -Speech at Tilbury

  • "My lords, the law of nature moves me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that is fallen upon me makes me amazed, and yet, considering I am God's creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all...to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth. I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel." -Speech to Elizabeth's Council on November 20, 1558

  • "I will have here but one mistress, and no master!" - said to Robert Dudley in the movie, Elizabeth (1998)

  • "Better beggar woman and single than Queen and married."

  • "To me it shall be a full satisfaction both for the memorial of my name, and for the glory also, if when I shall let my last breath, it be engraven upon my marble tomb, 'Here lieth Elizabeth, which reigned a virgin and died a virgin.' " - to the House of Commons

  • "There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles." -said in response to the religious turmoil in England.

  • "I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England." -to Parliament

  • "I have no desire to make windows into men's souls." -said in response to the religious turmoil in England.
Elizabeth & her court
Elzabeth I's tomb


  • Elizabeth and Mary by Jane Dunn
  • Tudor Queenship: The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth (Queenship and Power) Alice Hunt and Anna Whitelock (2010)
  • Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age by Christopher Hibbert
  • Behind the Mask by Jane Resh Thomas
  • Elizabeth I by Anne Somerset
  • Elizabeth I: Collected Works by Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, and Mary Beth Rose
  • Queen Elizabeth I: Selected Works (Foger Shakespear Library) by Stephen W. May
  • The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power by Carole Levin
  • Queen Elizabeth I by J.E. Neale
  • Elizabeth I: Her Life in Letters by Felix Pryor
  • Elizabeth I (Profiles in Power) by Christopher Haigh
  • Elizabeth I and Her World by Susan Watkins and Mark Fiennes
  • Elizabeth I: A Feminist Perspective by Susan Bassnett
  • Queen Elizabeth I by Susan Doran
  • The Men Who Would Be King: Suitors to Queen Elizabeth I by Josephine Ross
  • I, Elizabeth: A Novel by Rosalind Miles
  • The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Wier
  • The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase
  • Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England, 1544 (The Royal Diaries) by Kathryn Lasky
  • Young Bess by Margaret Irwin
  • Beware Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer (Young Royals book)
  • The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell (goes back and forth between Anne's diary and Elizabeth's life)
  • Legacy by Susan Kay
  • Virgin: Prelude to the Throne by Robin Maxwell
  • The Queen's Bastard by Robin Maxwell
  • The Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell
  • The Fyre Mirror by Karen Harper
  • The Poyson Garden by Karen Harper
  • The Tidal Poole by Karen Harper
  • The Thorne Maze by Karen Harper
  • The Queene's Cure by Karen Harper
  • The Twylight Tower by Karen Harper
  • The Queene's Christmas by Karen Harper
  • The Fatal Fashione by Karen Harper
  • The Hooded Hawke by Karen Harper
  • Virgin and the Crab by Robert Parry
  • The Virgin's Lover by Phillipa Gregory
  • The Queen's Fool by Phillipa Gregory