Queen Elizabeth I
Marriage & Succession
No one knows if Queen Elizabeth really wanted to marry. Perhaps the Queen did not really know herself. The Alencon courtship had caused lot of problems within the court and country, and on top of that, Elizabeth learnt that Dudley had married her cousin, Lettice Devereux, Countess of Essex. While the story that he kept the marriage a secret from her for a year is probably apocryphal (Alison Weir in her recent publication Elizabeth the Queen persuasively argues that it probably originates in the work of a seventeenth century historian) Elizabeth still felt a sense of betrayal at his marriage and this may have been a factor in her apparent desire to marry Alencon. But after ten years, the Alencon match was finally laid to rest. Elizabeth's fears of marriage once again began to surface, and the political problems the marriage would cause, made it seem impractical.
For over twenty years, Elizabeth had been courted by the most eligible men in Europe. The "marriage game" had come to be an important
part of foreign relations, and a valuable asset to the country. When it seemed that England was losing friends, or in times when
England needed friends, all Elizabeth had to do was suggest marriage to the respective countries, and regardless of whether she
intended to marry or not, the prospect of marriage to the English Queen was too big a bait to resist, and Elizabeth could be assured of their support for the foreseeable future. But now that Elizabeth was approaching fifty years of age, and could no longer realistically expect to bear a child, she could no longer use her marriage as a diplomatic weapon. The Alencon courtship was her last political courtship. It was certain now that Elizabeth would never marry. Her statesmen must have been relieved that the often gruelling negotiations for her hand were over, but the dangers the lack of an heir posed could not be ignored, and must have weighed heavily on the minds of her more far-sighted advisors.
The woman who early in her reign had declared that it would please her immensely if on her grave it was written "A queen having lived and reigned such and such a time, lived and died a virgin" would have her wish come true, and be known for ever more as The Virgin Queen.