Queen Elizabeth 1
Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I
Portrait 1560s
Wiki Commons

Queen Elizabeth I

Marriage & Succession

From the moment Elizabeth became Queen, there was one question that everyone was asking - who will the Queen marry? It was assumed that one of the first things Elizabeth would do, would be to select a husband to help her govern the realm, and more importantly, to get her pregnant. Elizabeth was the last of her dynasty, and it was thought natural that her main concern would be to provide a child to perpetuate the rule of the Tudors. Elizabeth was young, unlike her sister who was already into her late thirties when she became Queen, and there were high hopes that soon England would have a royal family again. Without an heir of the Queen's body, the future would be uncertain, and many feared that the rival claims of Henry VII's distant relatives, would plunge the country into a bitter civil war should Elizabeth die without a legitimate child to succeed her.

In these early weeks of her reign, the court buzzed with suitors eager for her hand in marriage, and European ambassadors were busy trying to advance the suit of their masters and of their master's relatives. Elizabeth was now the most sought after woman in Europe. She received offers of marriage from the King of Spain, Prince Erik of Sweden - soon to be king, The Archduke Charles (son of the Emperor Ferdinand), the son of John Frederic Duke of Saxony, The Earl of Arran, the Earl of Arundel, and Sir William Pickering, who was so confident that he would be selected, that he demanded certain privileges be granted him while he stayed at the Court. Elizabeth politely rejected the offer made by King Philip, but allowed the other suitors to remain hopeful, while allowing her advisors to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each match. Yet, the only person, it seemed, who did not see the urgency for marriage, was Elizabeth herself.

King Erik of Sweden

Erik XIV of Sweden

Wiki Commons

It will never be known whether Elizabeth really intended to marry or not. Certainly she showed no great enthusiasm for marriage, and declared on a number of occasions that she personally preferred the single life. However, there is a danger to read history backwards and assume that because Elizabeth never married, it was always her intention not to. The marriage of a Queen regnant was a complicated affair, and could be disastrous for the country, as the case of Queen Mary had illustrated. Elizabeth did not want to repeat her sister's mistake by marrying a man that would not be popular with her people. Any man Elizabeth married would expect a say in the governing of the country (as Philip had expected under Mary) and neither Elizabeth or her ministers wanted to relinquish any power over English affairs.

For this reason, it was in the best interests of the country for Elizabeth to marry a man who, although of suitable rank and status, was not a major European power, and would be content to be the Queen's consort only. This effectively ruled out reigning monarchs, although Eric of Sweden was given serious consideration by Elizabeth's ministers. The suit of Prince Erik, a fellow Protestant, was also popular in the country, and when it was rumoured that Elizabeth had accepted his proposal, medals were made in London with a picture of Elizabeth and Erik united on them. But Erik was far from a wealthy monarch, and marriage to him would have brought England little financial benefit, or provided her with a strong European ally. The Archduke Charles was also given serious consideration, and his suit remained a possibility for several years. But as well as the need to consider the demands for power a potential husband would make, it was also necessary to take into consideration his religion, and religion often proved to be a serious bar to the marriage eventually occurring. The Archduke was a Catholic, and as a Catholic, his suit was not popular by the Protestant element in Elizabeth's Council.





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Wikipedia: Erik XIV
Wikipedia: Philip II
Wikipedia: Archduke Charles
Article: Elizabeth I & Marriage
Article: Elizabeth: Elusive Bride

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