Elizabeth I is probably the most famous monarch to sit on the throne of England. The famous Virgin Queen ruled England for 45 years.
Here are 13 amazing facts about her.
1. She was made illegitimate by her father
Before Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed, Henry VIII annulled their marriage. Legally this was just the same as saying the marriage and never happened in the first place.
As a result, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her title of “Princess” was removed, and she was then referred to as the “Lady Elizabeth.”
Technically, this meant she shouldn’t have a right to succeed to the throne of England. However, despite not restoring her legitimacy Henry VIII did name Elizabeth in the Act of Succession behind her brother Edward and elder sister Mary (who had also been declared illegitimate.)
The illegitimacy argument was one that the supporters of Mary Queen of Scots put forward when they suggested that she was the rightful Queen of England and not Elizabeth.
Unlike her sister, Mary, Elizabeth made no attempts to reverse the illegitimacy ruling on her succession to the throne. Maybe she thought it better to brush the matter under the carpet.
2. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London by her sister
Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, was always suspicious of her. She obviously held a deep resentment due to her own treatment when Elizabeth was born.
When an uprising took place against her rule, those close to Mary suggested that Elizabeth was at the heart of the matter.
Elizabeth was arrested and thrown into the Tower of London for several weeks. After some extensive questioning, she was released from the Tower but held under house arrest in various country houses around England.
It must have been terrible for Elizabeth to go to the same place as her mother, knowing that she didn’t come out alive.
3. She found out she was Queen under an oak tree
One of the houses that Elizabeth lived in was Hatfield. This became her principal residence, but she was always under the watchful glare of Mary spies.
Elizabeth had her own spies of the court who were feeding her information.
When it became clear that Mary was dying, Elizabeth knew it was a waiting game.
However, when many soldiers arrived at Hatfield accompanied by two leading nobles of court Elizabeth believed she would be arrested and taken to the Tower of London once again.
Elizabeth was sitting under an oak tree in the gardens of Hatfield at the time.
However, instead of an arrest, they informed her of her sister’s death and that she was now Queen of England. She fell to her knees and famously said the words of Psalm 118, “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
4. She almost married his sister’s husband
A more accurate description will probably be that her sister’s husband wanted to marry her.
Mary was married to Philip of Spain. The young Elizabeth was considerably more appealing as a bride than her much older sister.
When Mary died and Elizabeth succeeded her to the throne, Philip didn’t want to give up his ties to England. Technically he was King of England.
He proposed marriage to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth knew that such a marriage would be problematic. The people of England weren’t keen on Mary’s match with Philip of Spain, and Elizabeth feared a repeat of the outrage when the marriage was announced.
There was also the matter of religion. Philip of Spain was Catholic. However, Elizabeth was brought up believing in the protestant faith. It was quite simply a clash of religion that Elizabeth did not think could be bridged.
On top of all that, it was the fact that Philip was not a particularly attractive-looking man. Over the years, Elizabeth certainly enjoyed the company of handsome men.
Like the vast majority of potential suitors during her reign, Elizabeth kept putting Philip off without giving him an answer.
Eventually, Phillip’s proposal was declined, much to his disgust.
5. Her favourite was Robert Dudley
Much has been made of Elizabeth’s failure to marry. For much of her life, her obvious favourite was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
Elizabeth had known Robert Dudley for a long time. Dudley was one of the young aristocratic boys Henry VIII decided would be educated alongside his son Edward. Elizabeth was also educated alongside Edward Dudley was one of the boys in the schoolroom with her.
He was also imprisoned in the Tower of London at the same time as Elizabeth. When Elizabeth was undergoing some financial hardships during her house arrests, Robert sold a small piece of land to give her money.
Elizabeth’s principal advisor William Cecil wasn’t that keen on Robert Dudley when she first came to the throne. Cecil much preferred the political advantages of a match from the ranks of European royalty.
There was one huge reason why Elizabeth didn’t marry Robert Dudley in the early years of her reign, and that was the fact that he was already married.
However, even this resulted in a scandal. Robert Dudley’s wife was mysteriously found dead at the bottom of a foot of stairs. Many people throughout the country suggested that Dudley had her murdered to be free to marry the Queen.
Elizabeth rather wisely decided she wouldn’t marry him after this event. However, he still remained her favourite.
6. Parliament urged her to get married
Time after time, parliament urged Elizabeth to marry. Potential suitor after potential suitor was put before her.
As always, she considered and delayed her response. Invariably the answer was no.
It seems the closest she came to marrying was to the Duke of Anjou, who she referred to as her frog. Elizabeth was 22 years older than him at the time. However, even this potential match was eventually declined by Elizabeth.
Finally, she said she was “married” to her country and its people.
Parliament was defied.
7. She had a terrible temper
Elizabeth was a far more moderate ruler than her father in many ways.
However, she inherited one of his traits – Elizabeth had a terrible temper. In fact, it could be said that her temper was even worse than that of Henry VIII.
Her ministers would often quiz Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting to determine her “mood” before approaching her with a “problem.”
Her explosions of rage were infamous, and her favourites were often the subject of her rants.
Robert Dudley and her favourite lady in waiting, Bess of Throckmorton, were all banished from court at one time or another.
To avoid one of the Queen’s bouts of anger, courtiers and ministers would often fake illness. This would mean they couldn’t be admitted to the presence of the Queen. Elizabeth’s anger would have faded by the time they had “recovered”.
8. She had a colony in America named after her
Elizabeth funded Walter Raleigh’s expedition to America in 1584. He named the land and colony he founded Virginia, allegedly after the Virgin Queen.
Actually, the name Virginia is first noted in the expeditions report written by Captain Arthur Barlowe. It may have been the case that Raleigh wasn’t even responsible for the naming. There are even suggestions that the name came from the native language spoken there, and the English simply adapted what they heard.
9. Elizabeth’s portraits were heavily choreographed
Many of Elizabeth’s portraits we designed to project an image. This is something that the Tudors had done ever since they won the throne, and Elizabeth perfected the art.
The most obvious example is the famous armada portrait.
Elizabeth still looks youthful whilst actually being 55. She is depicted with her hand on the globe, and the Armada scattered behind her.
10. She loved sweet food
Elizabeth I had a sweet tooth, and her cooks would always be on hand to provide the Queen with some form of a treat. One of her favourite delicacies were candied violets.
It was only during Elizabeth’s reign that sugar had become a more common commodity. In the past, honey was often used to sweeten food.
It is believed that this love of sweet food was one of the principal reasons for her teeth to blacken and decay.
11. She spoke seven languages
Like most of the European royalty, Elizabeth enjoyed a good education. She was actually educated alongside her brother Edward VI.
She is probably heavily influenced and her love of learning from her stepmother, Catherine Parr.
She could read and write in numerous languages: English, Welsh, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French and Italian
Aside from the more common European languages Elizabeth could also speak Welsh. This takes her back to her true Tudor roots. Two of her principal servants throughout her childhood, Blanche Parry and her husband Thomas, were Welsh. It is quite likely that Blanche taught her the language, and the two would regularly converse in it at court.
12. She survived smallpox
Smallpox was a massive killer in Tudor England.
In October 1562, the Queen herself caught the disease. Such was the severity of her illness; the leading ministers believed that she would die.
However, in typical Elizabeth fashion, she managed to survive.
After this brush with death, she began wearing the famous white lead make-up. This was probably due to the fact that smallpox had left her scarred.
13. She gave one of the most famous speeches of all time
On the 9th of August 1588, Elizabeth I gave one of the most famous speeches in history.
The Spanish Armada was in the English channel, and she went to address her troops at Tilbury in Essex.
The speech was short, but it was powerful.
They produce some of the most famous lines from British history.
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have a heart stomach of a king and a king of England too.”
It is believed that Elizabeth’s speech actually inspired Shakespeare when writing his famous Henry V St Crispin’s Day speech!