THE DEATH OF
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
The Dying Queen
It was getting late, and those in vigilance around the Queen's bed left her to the care of her ladies.
The Queen fell into a deep sleep, and died in the early hours of the 24th of March, 1603. It was a Thursday,
the death day of her father, and her sister. It was the eve of the annunciation of the Virgin Mary, perhaps
an apt day for the Virgin Queen to die. The Elizabethan calendar was also different to ours, as they still used
the Julian calendar - the new year beginning on the 25th of March. Thus the last day of the year 1602 also saw
the last hours of the last Tudor monarch. The new year would bring a new reign, that of King James I
(James VI of Scotland), a new ruling dynasty (the Stuarts), and a new era in British history.
It was with sadness that the Queen's death was announced on the streets of London the following morning, and witnesses described the eerie silence of the stunned crowd. For almost 45 years they had been ruled by Elizabeth, and knew no other way of life.
As the Queen had wished, there was no post mortem. Her body was embalmed, and placed in a lead coffin. A few days later, the Queen began her last journey. She was taken by water to Whitehall, and laid in state, before being taken to Westminster Hall. There her body was to remain until the new King gave orders for her funeral.
On the 28th of April 1603, the Queen was given a magnificent funeral. Her coffin, covered in purple velvet, was drawn by four horses draped in black. An effigy of the great Queen, dressed in the robes of state with a crown on her head and a sceptre in her hands, lay on the coffin beneath a mighty canopy held by six knights. Behind the Queen came her palfrey, led by her Master of Horse. The chief mourner, the Marchioness of Northampton, led the peeresses of the realm all dressed in black, and behind them came all the important men of the realm, as well as over two hundred poor folks. The streets were full of people, all come to pay their last respects to the Queen who had ruled them so wisely and for so long as she made her way to her final resting place at Westminster Abbey. When they saw the life-like effigy of the Queen, they wept. John Stow, who attended the funeral wrote:
"Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man, neither doth any history mention any people, time or state to make like lamentation for the death of their sovereign"
The grief of the nation was unprecedented, and was a tribute to the remarkable achievements of a remarkable woman, Queen Elizabeth I.