" N the 7th day of September, being Sunday,
O between three and four of the clock in the afternoon, the Queen was delivered of a faire ladye." This it is to be Royal - one cannot even be referred to as a baby when one is a day old!
The year was 1533, and the poor little "faire ladye" was Elizabeth, destined to rule over a golden age in England. Her life began badly. Before she was three years old, her mother, Anne Boleyn, was sent to the Tower, divorced, and Elizabeth pronounced illegitimate. Then Anne Boleyn was executed, and Jane Seymour reigned in her place.
Elizabeth, however, was well looked after by Margaret, Lady Bryan, her first governess, and in course of time won the affection of most of her stepmothers. Anne of Cleves was charmed with her; Katharine Howard was very good to her, and always gave her the place of honour next herself. It is supposed she used her influence to induce Henry to revoke his declaration that Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate.
When she was fourteen, Sir Thomas Seymour proposed to her. She refused him. But after the King's death, Seymour married his widow, Katherine Parr. Elizabeth remained with her stepmother, but she had her own ladies and officers of State. However, she and Seymour romped together so uproariously that Katherine Parr disapproved - no doubt she had heard of Seymour's proposal to Elizabeth - and Elizabeth left them.
After Katherine's death, Seymour again tried to marry Elizabeth; but apparently she thought he was well enough as a stepfather once removed, but not as a husband.
When Mary became Queen, Elizabeth's troubles began. Immediately she was suspected of complicity in the insurrection to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne, and sent to the Tower.
She was at last removed from the Tower to Woodstock, where she was kept in as rigorous a confinement. This must have been a trying time for her, as there were attempts to assassinate her, and once a fire broke out in the building.
A reconciliation at last took place between Mary and Elizabeth.
In 1558 Mary died, and Elizabeth succeeded her. She had a hard task before her. The country was humiliated by defeat, and on the verge of rebellion. Elizabeth was twenty-five, with much of her mother's beauty, and of a commanding figure. Her queenly, intelligent face was lighted by a pair of fine eyes, whose expression was alert and keen. She was a bold horsewoman and a good shot; she danced well, was a clever musician, and an accomplished scholar. She was frank and hearty in her intercourse with all, high or low, and loved popularity. She was possessed of remarkable courage and amazing self-confidence. Her will was impetuous, her temper hasty, and she would break into furious outbursts of temper, rating her Ministers in the middle of the most serious deliberations in a manner worthy of a fishwife.
But, on the other hand, Anne Boleyn had bequeathed her her sensuous, self-indulgent nature, suppressed in childhood and girlhood, but now appearing to the full. She loved splendour and pleasure. She revelled in gaiety, laughter, and wit. No amount of flattery could pall upon her, and she accepted the most extravagant adulation in all good faith. She was quite sure to like a man who was well endowed with good looks, particularly if he was young; and she patted the necks of such when they knelt to kiss her hand. She fondled her "sweet Robin," as she called the Earl of Leicester, in front of the whole Court.
And yet Elizabeth lived simply and frugally, and worked hard. When she turned her attention to State affairs, she put away from her vanity and caprice; she would tolerate no flattery then, and was the coolest and hardest of politicians. The preservation of her throne, the restoration of civil and religious order - these were the points she kept in view, and she did not care how she gained her end so long as she did gain it.
To Philip's envoy this extraordinary woman appeared "possessed by a hundred thousand devils," yet her own subjects not only accorded her unbounded admiration, and reposed the utmost confidence in her policy, but really loved her with a whole-hearted affection that her most tyrannous acts could not shake.
"Nothing," she had said to her first Parliament, with glowing eyes and passionate gesture - "nothing, no worldly thing under the sun, is so dear to me as the love and goodwill of my subjects!" This she fully won.
She strongly objected to the marriage of priests, and Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, had a trying time. When his wife advanced to take leave of the Queen at the close of a visit to the Archbishop's palace, Elizabeth, after feigning a momentary hesitation, said:
"Madam I may not call you, and Mistress I am l0th to call you. However, I thank you for your good cheer!"
The Queen Reviewing her Troops
Such was the woman who sat on the throne while great things were doing by sea and land. The actual facts of her reign are known to everyone - that reign which boasted of Shakespeare and Spenser, of Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher, and the Armada, of Essex and Leicester. She was, with all her faults, a worthy Queen for such an era. She had a high, dauntless spirit.
Once she rode through the camp at Tilbury, and thus addressed the men:
"I am come amongst you, not for my recreation and sport, but resolved, in the heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you; to lay down my crown and my blood, even in the dust, for my God and my people. I know that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England."
We hear much of her vanity. When she was near seventy, she had 3,000 gowns, and seventy wigs of different colours. It was due to this vanity that she made a gallant death. She sat up, dressed in a rich dress with many jewels, and rouge on her cheeks, in a stately chair, fixed her thoughts on God, and so fell into sleep, earthly first, and eternal after, in March, 1603.