Frequently Asked Questions
16. Why did Queen Elizabeth I never marry?
Unfortunately, this question has no simple answer. My section Marriage and Succession deals with this question in more depth.
The Queen herself declared on several occasions that she had no personal desire to marry, and this was probably a major reason why she stayed single. Had she been determined to marry, then she probably would have done so as her half-sister, Mary Tudor, did. Why she did not find the idea of marriage appealing has been debated for generations. Perhaps the matrimonial problems of her father left her disllusioned with marriage. Perhaps she was afraid of losing her power and personal independence if she married, or perhaps she was scared of childbirth, which could be deadly before modern medicine.
However, there were also political reasons that made marriage problematic, and never did the Queen's subjects unanimously agree on a husband for her. The marriage of a female ruler was more problematic than that of a male ruler, because of the risks of childbirth, and the potential danger of a husband wanting to rule the country rather than being content enough as consort only. If the Queen died of natural causes, or died in childbirth, the child with her, there could be a bitter struggle for power between her husband and the various claimants. This did not happen when Mary I died, but that did not mean it would not happen in the future. There was also the problem of marrying too powerful a person. If Elizabeth had married Philip of Spain, for example, and her child was heir to the Spanish Empire as well as the English throne, it could mean that in the next generation, England became an afterthought of Spain. Political difficulties also plagued the suit of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. To begin with he was a subject, and there was the question of equality, secondly he was tainted with treason because of his father's attempt to usurp the throne for his daugher in law, Jane Grey, and thirdly he was widely suspected (probably falsely) of murdering his wife. Of all her suitors, he was the man Elizabeth came closest to marrying, but politics made the one marriage that may have appealed to her virtually impossible.
There were also religious difficulties. Protestant countries were generally poorer than Catholic ones, and negotiations for the Queen's hand always reached a stumbling block when religion was discussed. In negotiations with the French and for the hand of the Archduke Charles, religion was a major problem as neither side would change religion. Also the thought of Elizabeth marrying a foreign Catholic was very unpopular in the country.