EARLY YEARS OF
QUEEN ELIZABETH I
HEIR TO THE THRONE
Elizabeth was kept a virtual prisoner at Woodstock for a year. The manor was dilapidated so Elizabeth had to be lodged in the Gatehouse. There was little room for her servants, and Thomas Parry, who was responsible for her financial accounts, had to lodge in the nearby town. Elizabeth was guarded by Sir Henry Bedingfield's hundred men, and watched closely. She was prevented from seeing Kat Ashley, everyone who visited her had to be accounted for, and she was not allowed to communicate with anyone without supervision. Bedingfield was perhaps overly strict with his young charge, but his vigilance was as much for Elizabeth's benefit as for the Queen's. Elizabeth's life was sort by ardent supporters of the Queen, and hidden away in obscurity, Elizabeth may well have been the successful victim of an assassin. Although Bedingfield's constraints irritated her, Elizabeth certainly appears to have appreciated his efforts, affectionately calling him her "gaoler", and when she became Queen bore him no ill will, and teased him that if she should need to keep someone closely confined, she would summon him.
Following her marriage to Philip, Mary soon believed herself to be pregnant. This was welcome news to her supporters, but alarmed
Protestants. If Mary bore a healthy child, then the hope of restoring the Protestant faith in England looked lost for good.
The news of Mary's pregnancy also concerned Elizabeth. It seemed now that her chance of becoming Queen was further away than ever,
and she reputedly even considered escaping from England to France to avoid a life of imprisonment. However, as the months passed,
it became clear that Mary was not pregnant at all. Mary was now increasingly unhappy, and increasingly unpopular. Her policy of
burning Protestants at the stake was hated, as was her involving England in a war with France in which Calais, England's last
foothold in France, was lost.
At her husband's bequest, Mary reluctantly accepted Elizabeth as heir to the throne. After Elizabeth, and passing over the Suffolk line, the most powerful claimant to the throne was Mary, Queen of Scots, granddaughter of Henry VIII's eldest sister, Margaret. Mary had not long married the French heir to the throne, Francois, and the French and Spanish were enemies. Thus, even though Elizabeth was a Protestant, it was in Philip's best interest to secure her accession to the throne to avoid the French obtaining it.
Elizabeth was at her childhood home of Hatfield when Mary died on the 17 of November, 1558. She was reputedly eating an apple underneath an Oak tree in the great park when the news of her accession to the throne reached her. Elizabeth was now just twenty five years old, and Queen of England. For the first time in her life, her destiny lay in her own hands, and Elizabeth knelt on the ground and whispered in Latin what she truly must have felt: "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes".