Queen Elizabeth I
Marriage & Succession
Francis, Duke Of Alencon
The only other serious contender for Elizabeth's hand was Francis, Duke of Alencon, later Duke of Anjou. He was the son of
Catherine de Medici, Queen Mother of France, and a brother to the French King. His courtship did not gain serious consideration until the
1570s, as he was considerably younger than Elizabeth herself, and the negotiations were entirely based on the mutual need of England and
France to make an ally of each other. The traditional European alliance system whereby England was united with Spain was rapidly
deteriorating, and England needed the support of France if she was to protect herself against Spain.
The French were also Catholic but did not appear to be as hostile to English Protestantism as the Spanish were. Alencon himself was a known sympathiser of French Protestants (called Hugeunots), and was not as adverse to marrying a Protestant Queen as his older brother, now king, had been. For a decade negotiations for the hand of Alencon played a prominent part in English politics. The negotiations were temporarily discontinued following the Bartholomew Massacre, in which an estimated six thousand French Protestants, including women and children, were killed, but were soon continued when the need for an ally was pressing again.
This was by far the most serious foreign courtship of Elizabeth's reign, and it seemed certain for a while that Elizabeth would indeed
marry him. Francis even came to England for Elizabeth to meet him, and it seemed that the Queen was quite taken with the Frenchman, who
she called her "frog", despite the fact that he was not as good looking as some of her suitors had been, and was reputedly disfigured
from an attack of the small pox. Elizabeth announced before some of her courtiers that she would marry him, kissed him, and gave
him a ring. This pleased those eager for her marriage, but alarmed those who did not want their Queen married to a French Catholic.
The political elite appeared divided. There were those who supported the marriage such as William Cecil and Thomas Radcliffe,
Earl of Sussex, and those who were ardently opposed such as Robert Dudley, now Earl of Leicester. A man named John Stubbes wrote a
pamphlet warning the Queen against the marriage, for which he had his right hand cut off, and Sir Philip Sidney, the famous poet,
wrote her a letter advising her against it.
Once again, politics and religion was making it difficult for the Queen to marry. Elizabeth was in a difficult situation. If she married, then she risked her popularity and support for her regime, but she was now in her late forties, and if she did not marry Alencon, then this could be her last chance at marriage, and having a child to succeed her to the throne. Elizabeth appears to have felt this deeply, and on one occasion when her Council was debating the pros and cons of the marriage, she broke down and wept. The ultimate decision as to whether she married or not, lay with Elizabeth herself, but without the solid backing of the country, marriage would not have been wise.