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Friday, 2 January 2015

Queen Elizabeth I of England


Queen Elizabeth I of England was born on September 7, 1533 at Greenwich Palace to King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

When Elizabeth was three her mother was executed on charges of adultery. Princess Elizabeth was declared illegitimate and excluded from succession.

Elizabeth's first governess was Lady Bryan, a baroness whom Elizabeth called "Muggie".

At the age of four, Elizabeth had a new governess, Catherine Chapernowne, who was often referred to as "Kat". Chapernowne developed a close relationship with Elizabeth and remained her confidante and good friend for life.

Foreign ambassadors talked of Princess Elizabeth's good looks and musical talent. However her father paid little attention to her and her governess complained that the princess "hath neither gown, nor kirtle, nor petticoat."

Henry’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr, became fond of the young Elizabeth and brought her back to court. She remained in Catherine's charge after Henry’s death and took no part in the political intrigues following the coronation of her brother as King Edward VI.

The Lady Elizabeth in about 1546, by an unknown artist

A keen scholar, her father provided excellent tutors for the princess including Roger Ascham.

Elizabeth translated Boethius as a hobby and spoke eight languages including fluent Latin, French, Italian and Spanish. She knew her theology and also excelled in science and mathematics and had beautiful handwriting.


The Elizabethan age began when Elizabeth acceded to the throne on November 17, 1558, following the death of her half sister Mary.

Elizabeth I in her coronation robes, 

Elizabeth was told the news of her accession to the throne whilst sitting under an oak tree in the Hatfield Palace gardens. She reacted by getting on her knees and quoting Psalm 118 “This is the Lord’s day. It is marvelous in our eyes.”

Elizabeth I was crowned Queen in Westminster Abbey, London on January 15, 1559. The day was chosen as favorable one by her astrologer John Dee.

The coronation was conducted in a mixture of Latin and English. Before Elizabeth I, the service was all in Latin. Her coronation robes were patterned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine.

In 1566 Elizabeth chartered a general lottery in England to raise money for repairing harbours and other public purposes.

A 1571 Statute ordered the wearing of a "cap of wool knit" to be worn by everybody over 6 years of age during holidays. This was to help out the ailing wool trade. Non cap wearers were fined 3s 4d foR each day of neglect.

In 1573 Elizabeth appointed Ralph Bowes the master of "Our game pastymes and sportes that is to sale of all, evene beares, bullies and mastyve dogges." In other words Bowes was Britain's first sports minister.

In 1601 the Poor Law gave help to the poor by taxing the more wealthy. However the unemployed were given work to do mainly sewing and waving type work and vagrants and beggars were to be whipped and sent back to their home village.


Though Protestant, Elizabeth had Catholic leanings. On occasions she attended Mass and she pursued a ceremonial faith but felt it best politically to restore the Protestant religion.

Elizabeth was distrustful of the evangelical wing of the church and unsuccessfully attempted to erase Puritan “Prophesyings,”which were Non-Conformist Bible study and preaching meetings.

Elizabeth vetoed a House of Parliament bill banning on the Sabbath shooting matches, play going and other activities as she does them herself.

She was unpopular amongst the Non-conformists, as it was known she frequently consulted John Dee, the renowned astrologer, spiritualist and alchemist.

In 1563 Parliament made Queen Elizabeth I the supreme governor of the Church of England.

In 1570 the Protestant Elizabeth was excommunicated by Pope Pius V, who absolved her subjects from allegiance to her.

The personal motto on Elizabeth's coat of arms was “Semper Eadem” (always the same).


Many English parliaments pleaded with Queen Elizabeth to marry but despite being attractive and flirty she never did.

Her reason for never marrying is unclear. She may have felt repulsed by the mistreatment of Henry VIII's wives. Alternatively, she may have been psychologically scarred by her rumoured childhood relationship with Lord Seymour. Contemporary gossip was that she had suffered from a physical defect that she was afraid to reveal.

Elizabeth had several royal favourites, Essex , Leicester & Raleigh, all successful military or naval commanders, were all suitors

Her favorite was Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, tall, handsome but married. She called him "Sweet Robin".

After Leicester's death in 1588, the Queen locked herself in her room for seven days until eventually the door had to be forced.

When Elizabeth died a little ring box covered with pearls was found beside her bed and in it a letter from Leicester.

Elizabeth thought the French Duke D'Lancon so ugly that he looked like a frog and that is the reason the English rudely refer to the French as "frogs".


In terms of personality, Elizabeth was far more like her mother than her father: neurotic, glamorous, flirtatious, charismatic and religiously tolerant.

Hot tempered, she was known to take off her shoe and hurl it an unfortunate minister.

Elizabeth swore like a trooper and was renowned for her spitting.

Eloquent and witty and partial to coarse humour, she laughed loudly when amused.

Famed for her ready wit, once when addressing a group of 18 tailors, Elizabeth quipped "Good morning Gentlemen both".

Notoriously mean, the only public building Elizabeth paid for was a strong-room for the exchequer.

Comely rather than beautiful but with a winning smile. Elizabeth had curly red hair, bright eyes.

Elizabeth inherited her mother's delicate bone structure, physique and facial features.

She was very proud of her long, beautiful long fingered hands, which were shown in most portraits.

She kept 80 mainly red wigs.

She was subconscious in her old age about her black teeth and sunken cheeks so she stuffed a silk handkerchief into her mouth before appearing in public.

Elizabeth I disliked gluttony and retained a reasonably slim figure throughout her life.


According to a courtier, "she hath a bath every three months whether she needeth it or not." This was against the advice of her physician.

The Virgin Queen painted shadowy veins on her face to augment the effects of translucent skin and put white make up on her face with white powder.

Crimson stained lips were popular during Elizabeth's reign and queen herself painted on cochineal blended with gum arabic, egg white and fig milk.

Elizabeth owned nearly three thousand dresses, many of them gifts. Many of her dresses were made up of silk, gold and jewels. It took staff four hours a day to dress and undress her.

As she got older, Elizabeth insisted her ladies-in-waiting wore only black or white so her brightly coloured gowns would glow in contrast.

Outside of state occasions in private Elizabeth often wore the same black plain dress three days running. In public she loved to dress flamboyantly and was determined to outshine the men of the court.

Elizabeth was given a pair of black knitted silk stockings early in her reign and she was so pleased she refused to wear any other style thereafter

The Virgin queen wore carefully arranged jewellery. She was particularly fond of pearls as she liked to be thought of as the goddess of the moon. (The moon is shaped like a pearl).

Her ruff around the neck was so flamboyantly and delicately decorated that it renders her head almost immobile.

Like all aristocratic women of her time Elizabeth had no eyebrows. Eyebrows were for peasants.

Elizabeth I received one of the very first wristwatches from Robert Dudley in 1571/ It was described as an arm watch.

At the age of 65 according to Paul Hentzner, a German visitor to England “She (Queen Elizabeth) was dressed in white silk, bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over it a mantle of black silk shot with silver threads. Her train was very long, the end of it borne by a marchioness, instead of a chain, she had an oblong collar of gold and jewels.”


Elizabeth's regular breakfast was a biscuit and undercooked boiled beefsteaks.

Elizabeth regularly consumed a half pint of strong ale at breakfast.

In 1593 the Royal household got through 600,000 gallons of beer — at the time it was healthier than drinking water.

She was partial to whiskey, indeed Elizabeth claimed Irish whiskey was “her only true Irish friend".

Her teeth were turned black in her old age through eating too many sweet things. In fact black teeth was a status symbol in Elizabethan times as sugar was very expensive, costing nine times as much as milk.


Elizabeth was a fine player of the virginals (a predecessor of the piano, a small oblong shaped harpsichord).

She was a lover of the popular Scottish ballad "My Frog would come to my door" later to become "Froggie went A-courting." The Queen loved the tune and had the lyrics rewritten to reflect her court.

She delighted in watching plays and masques and protected the acting profession. During her reign English culture flourished.

Elizabeth personally got Shakespeare to write The Merry Wives of Windsor as she wanted to see Falstaff in love.

Elizabeth was particularly keen on dancing especially the Lavolta which involved high jumps that exposed the ankles to the sound of the pipe and tabor.

She danced on the Sabbath but didn't kick her legs as high as she did on the other days.

Elizabeth enjoyed outdoor exercise, hunting stags and other animals, which she shot with a crossbow.

The queen enjoyed hare coursing by greyhounds so much she commanded Thomas the 4th Duke of Norfolk to formulate the first code of rules.

Elizabeth was an enthusiast of bear-baiting. Her treasury paid for the provisioning of the baiting animals.

Queen Elizabeth I loved fireworks so much that she created a special court position for the person who created the most beautiful fireworks show.


Elizabeth was the only British sovereign after William the Conquer who did not possess any land outside of England and Wales.

She lived as a child in the the Royal Palace of Hatfield, on the eastern side of the town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England.

Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London by her sister Queen Mary and interrogated about a Protestant conspiracy. The terrified princess entered the Tower of London on March 18, 1554 via Traitors Gate, beneath St Thomas's Tower, believing that she was going to die in the fortress.

Two months later, Elizabeth was moved from the Tower to Woodstock, where she was to spend almost a year under house arrest in the charge of Sir Henry Bedingfield.

On April 17, 1555, Elizabeth was recalled to court to attend the final stages of Mary's apparent pregnancy. When it became clear that Mary was not pregnant, no one believed any longer that she could have a child and Elizabeth's succession seemed assured.

Elizabeth’s godson, Sir John Harrington at Hampton Court Palace, installed the very first flush toilet. The toilet was a water-filled cistern that could be flushed by removing a plug. He recommended that it was flushed at least twice a week.

Elizabeth never travelled outside England

When bored the Queen went on a "progress" from town to town. This was a carnival with her highness the center of attention dressed in her most sumptuous apparel. With her entire court she would then drop in unexpectantly on her landed gentry staying several weeks until they had eaten everything in sight. This brought several of them close to financial ruin.

Elizabeth had her own pleasure sailing craft "Rat of Wight" built in Cowes in 1588.


In 1562 Elizabeth contacted smallpox and was saved by the skill of a German doctor. She recovered without a mark on her face.

Elizabeth had to endure headaches and sickness during times of stress and she avoided medicine
preferring ancient herbal remedies..

Queen Elizabeth was prone to hissy fits, nervous attacks and menstrual problems and was often forced to take to bed.

Elizabeth died on March 24 1603 at Richmond Palace, between two and three in the morning.of septic tonsils aged 70.

She died in agony as she refused to go to bed standing up for hours trying to keep death away. Persuaded at last to rest upon cushions, Elizabeth was there for four days and nights before being carried to her bed. She used up her last breaths quarreling with her ministers about her successors. Her last words were muttered "All my possessions for one moment of life."

Elizabeth I's coffin was carried from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey on April 28, 1503 where she was buried immediately next to her half sister Mary I. The Latin inscription on their tomb translates to "Partners both in Throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection".

Elizabeth as shown on her grave at Westminster Abbey.


The first actress to play Elizabeth I on screen was Sarah Bernhardt in a 1912 silent film.

Sources Encarta Encyclopedia, Food For Thought, The Frank Muir Book, A History of Fashion  James Galway's Music in Time

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