While Elizabeth I’s reputation as the Virgin Queen has been in question since her own lifetime, the ladies around her certainly didn’t aspire to the virginal state, despite their mistresses repeated lectures on the matter. It’s not known exactly why Elizabeth shied away from taking a husband, though theories range from witnessing her father’s violently unsuccessful marriages, a fear of pregnancy, or for the political implications of raising a man above her to the throne. Whether personal or political, Elizabeth’s negative opinion of marriage did not just apply to her own and she was notoriously unimpressed by romantic dalliances among her ladies, unless it was she who had orchestrated them. Elizabeth demanded absolute loyalty, requiring her ladies to devote their time solely to their duties in her service, at the expense of family life. Ladies who left court to have children were expected to return as soon as they were physically able to, leaving the child with a wet nurse far from court. The Queen’s reactions to court romances were sometimes so extreme that many of those around here conducted their affairs, and subsequent weddings, in secret, only to suffer Elizabeth’s increased displeasure when the marriage was discovered. Towards the end of her reign her attendants were so concerned with marrying in secret that the Spanish ambassador remarked the Queen discovered a new match each week. Here are some of the more unfortunate women who incurred Elizabeth’s wrath through their choice of husbands, though I’ve left out the most obvious; Lettice Knollys who married Robert Dudley, solely because the relationship between Lettice, Dudley and Lady Douglas Sheffield is worthy of a piece all of its own. Continue reading
Recently I watched The Last Days of Anne Boleyn, part of the BBC Tudor season. It is a documentary but also a debate between historians and authors of historical fiction, trying to piece together what happened to cause Anne Boleyn’s downfall and the events of her last days. While looking at the hows, whys and whats of this event, those who appear never actually speak to each other. The result was interesting, though what was most fascinating to me was the utter relegation of Jane Seymour as a non entity during Anne’s fall from favour.