Queen Elizabeth I
Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's widow, the Queen Dowager, did not stay single long after the King's death. Within only months of his passing she married an old love, Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral, King Edward's uncle and brother of Edward Seymour, Lord Protector of England. Elizabeth, with her servants, went to live with the Queen and her new husband, and a new era of trouble began for her. Thomas Seymour, a dashing man in his late thirties, took an unhealthy interest in his new step-daughter, who had now just turned fourteen. He was charismatic and charming, and it is possible that Elizabeth developed a teenage crush on him. But whatever her adolescent feelings for him may have been, Seymour took advantage of them, and began to visit Elizabeth's bedchamber early in the mornings to romp in the bed with her. Sometimes the Queen herself accompanied him, and they would both tickle her. Another time, they teased Elizabeth in the garden, the Queen holding her while Seymour cut up her mourning gown for her father.
What exactly happened between Elizabeth and Seymour will always be a mystery. The little knowledge we have of Elizabeth's time at the Queen Dowager's household,
comes from documents produced some time later when an investigation was taking place into Seymour's relations with Elizabeth and the
other royal children. Certainly matters appear to have got out of hand, Seymour's interest in Elizabeth being blatantly sexual, and
neither Katherine Parr, Kat Ashley, or Elizabeth herself was comfortable with his behaviour. Elizabeth would reputedly rise early
so that when he came to her bedchamber in the mornings she would already be up and dressed. Matters came to a head when Elizabeth was
reputedly found alone with the Admiral, and Katherine, concerned and perhaps a little jealous of his interest in the young girl, thought
it would be better for her to leave the household. Elizabeth accordingly left, although there was no enmity between the two women, and
Elizabeth wrote often to the Queen, who was now heavily pregnant. Soon after, Katherine gave birth to a daughter, who was named Mary, but
the Queen Dowager did not survive the birth and died on 5 September 1548 at Sudeley Castle. What became of Mary is unknown. She certainly lived for a while but then disappears
from the historical record. Most likely she died in childhood.
Leaving the household was not the end of Elizabeth's troubles with the Admiral. Shortly after his wife's death, Seymour began to seek Elizabeth's hand in marriage. Elizabeth turned him down. Seymour was deeply jealous of his brother's power, and influence with the boy king, and wanted to take his place as Lord Protector. In an attempt to take over power, he planned to abduct the king, marry him to Lady Jane Grey, and marry himself to Elizabeth. His plan failed and he was arrested for treason. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, his plan to marry her brought into question her loyalty to the king. Did she consent to the marriage? Was she complicit in his plot? It was high treason for an heir to the throne to marry without the consent of the monarch, Privy Council and Parliament, and Seymour's actions put Elizabeth in great danger. Her servants were arrested and sent to the Tower of London, and she herself was closely guarded and rigorously interrogated by Sir Robert Tyrwhit.
Elizabeth was only fifteen years old, but one careless word from her could have sealed the fate of all those who were dear to her, and possibly have cost her her own life as well (although it is doubtful that Elizabeth's death was the object of the government, their main concern being to condemn the Admiral). In such extremely difficult, and what must have been very frightening, circumstances, and with virtually no assistance, Elizabeth managed to uphold her innocence. The Admiral, however, was found guilty of high treason and condemned to death. The affect of all this on Elizabeth must have been immense. Certainly it took its toll emotionally and physically, and Elizabeth was unwell for some months after. However, as well as affecting her health, it also effected her reputation and this was a great concern to Elizabeth as well. She was always very sensitive about what people thought of her, and she wanted the rumour that she was pregnant by the Admiral suppressed. She wrote to the Protector asking for a proclamation to be made saying these things were untrue. But while this was considered, it was not implemented. During the investigation, Elizabeth had been painfully parted from her governess, and it was sometime before they were reunited.
In these troubled years, Elizabeth's relationship with her brother suffered. They were no longer as close as they had been, and during and immediately after the Seymour scandal, Elizabeth was forbidden to attend court. She was eventually allowed to return, however. To try and recapture her virginal image, Elizabeth dressed as the perfect Protestant lady. She wore plain black and white gowns, refused to decorate herself with jewellery and other finery, and refused to wear make up. Her sobriety was much commented upon, and even her brother called her "sweet sister temperance".
Following the disgrace and death of his brother, Thomas, Edward Seymour was replaced as Protector by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, soon to be the Duke of Northumberland. He was the father of Elizabeth's childhood friend, Robert Dudley, and they may have seen each other a number of times during the Duke's government. Edward had enjoyed a rather healthy childhood, but from 1553 onwards, be began to be very ill with possibly a form of consumption (TB). It became clear to Northumberland that the young boy was not likely to survive into adulthood, and he thus had to make preparations for the succession. The heir in English law was Edward's sister, Mary, but she was an ardent Catholic, and her accession would undoubtedly put an end to Northumberland's reforms of the church, and his personal power.
To prevent a Catholic succession, Northumberland devised a scheme that would both preserve Protestantism, and his own influence. If both Mary and Elizabeth were excluded from the succession, then the crown fell on either the Stuart line through Henry's oldest sister Margaret, or the Suffolk/Grey line through his younger sister, Mary. Henry VIII had excluded from his will the claims of the Stuart line, and so the crown would fall directly on Frances, Duchess of Suffolk. Both Mary and Elizabeth were again bastardised, and excluded from the succession, and Frances was set aside in favour of her daughter, Lady Jane Grey. Northumberland had further married his youngest son, Guildford Dudley, to Jane, thus ensuring the influence of the Dudleys. Three days after Edward died, on 6 July 1553, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen. The coup, however, failed. Mary put up a strong and successful fight for her throne and was proclaimed Queen on the 19 of July in London. Five days later, Northumberland was arrested and later executed.