The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Queen Elizabeth I of England (One Mistress and no Master)

During the reign of King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) most Englishmen believed the strongest rule came from the male monarch. It was not illegal for a woman to become a ruling Queen, but it was undesirable. This opinion was not only held in England but all over Europe. In some countries it was unlawful for a woman to rule as Queen.

The Tudor King Henry VIII spent most of his reign trying to father a son and caused radical change and turmoil in the pursuit. It might be argued that he inadvertently set off a chain of events that bore unforeseen good fortune for England.

His first wife was Catherine of Aragon – a noble Spanish lady that was married to his elder brother Arthur. He died before he could ascend the throne of England. After this, the young Catherine of Aragon was married to Henry – six years her junior. Catherine of Aragon and King Henry VIII were married for many years and were said to be much in love. However, only one child survived birth and infancy and this was a daughter named Mary. As the Royal couple grew older, Henry began to worry about a male heir to the English throne. He sought an annulment of marriage from the Pope, but Rome had a powerful friend in the super power nation that was Spain, where Catherine of Aragon’s family had sway in such matters.

Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church and formed the Church of England making him supreme on such matters. This Reformation caused chaos in England as all of the monasteries were closed. This brought about a very radical change in the social structure of the country. Some of the higher clergymen were allowed to have pensions and make do as best they could, while many of the lay priests were cast out into the unforgiving world. Many had to learn trades or even beg.

Now that King Henry held sway over his usurped church, he awarded himself an annulment of marriage to Catherine of Aragon and stripped his young daughter Mary of her royal title. He proclaimed her illegitimate – a harsh and devastating thing to do to one’s child.

He married a young courtesan called Anne Boleyn and hoped to father sons with her. They had all sorts of philosophers and churchmen read omens to predict the coming of a son for England’s glorious future, but instead, Anne Boleyn gave birth to a little girl called Elizabeth.

Unbeknown to Henry VIII this young daughter would grow to leave her mark on the world, but it would not be seen or appreciated by the self-obsessed king who was bound by the outlook of the times. The country needed a male heir – a king for the future of England.

The birth of Elizabeth was regarded as a disaster by Henry and his royal ministers. The king had caused all sorts of upheaval within England and made terrible and dreadful enemies of the super power Spain and the Holy Roman Catholic Church. England had ostracised itself from the powerful organisations of their world – all this to marry Anne Boleyn and get another daughter. The new young queen (Anne Boleyn) was unpopular among the English subjects and many unfairly put the blame on her for bewitching their king into this dreadful error of judgement. Thus was the type of world that baby Elizabeth was born into.

The young baby Elizabeth was customarily separated from her parents like all young royals of these days. She was brought up by a governess called Lady Bryan. Her half sister and title stripped Mary was also at her side. Mary being some years older than her half-sister Elizabeth and resentful of the hand, fate had dealt her. However, Mary was not cruel to her younger half sibling and did try to get along with her. For a while, Elizabeth was Princess Elizabeth, but the same event would fall upon her as did her elder half-sister Mary.

Catherine of Aragon (Mary’s mother and first wife of Henry VIII) died and this presented the English king with an opportunity to be rid of Anne Boleyn without pressure to re-affirm his marriage to the Spanish royal lady from the powerful enemies his country had made. He accused Anne Boleyn of various crimes and had construed accomplices tortured into confessing allegations of adultery and other crimes against the state. The Queen was convicted and beheaded in 1536 when Elizabeth, her young daughter was two years old.

Elizabeth’s father quickly married another courtesan named Jane Seymour. She died a few days after giving birth to a son called Edward. Upon this news, Elizabeth was stripped of her title as Princess and proclaimed a royal bastard like her elder half-sister Mary. She was now Lady Elizabeth and the change in circumstance was not lost on the young girl.

The new half brother came to live with Elizabeth and Mary and both got on well with him. Elizabeth and Edward were very similar in their ways, unlike the elder sibling Mary who was regarded as a little stayed though older than the infant siblings.

Young Elizabeth was an avid learner and excelled in many things including languages. She could read, speak and write Latin, Greek, Spanish, and French. Also, she was very advanced musically and could play a number of instruments.

In the meantime her father king Henry VIII had gone on to marry a fourth wife called Anne of Cleves, but the marriage was dissolved as both parties were not taken with one another. When Henry VIII suggested an annulment, Anne of Cleves was happy to comply. She was given an estate and income for her convenient compliance. Henry VIII would refer to her as Sister in coming years.

The next unlucky lady to be married to the king was Catherine Howard. She was a cousin of Elizabeth through her mother Anne Boleyn and would suffer the same dreadful consequence.

Elizabeth enjoyed the company of Catherine and was shown some favour by her elder cousin and step mother. She warmed to her, but the joy was to be short-lived as Catherine Howard was accused of adultery when Elizabeth was just eight years old. The young Catherine Howard was beheaded aged just twenty-one.

Understandably, this installed a fear of marriage in young Elizabeth. She was becoming very aware of the fickle English court of power and the ambitions of people and the terrible fates that awaited them when things failed. In her brief eight years she had seen four wives married to her father. Two were executed, including her mother, one had died and one had been annulled, while her elder embittered half sister had seen her own mother cast aside before she was born.

Then Elizabeth’s father King Henry VIII of England did it again. He married a sixth wife called Catherine Parr. By now her father was over weight, suffering from gout and an ulcerated leg. He was also thought to be riddled with venereal disease. Catherine Parr was able to bring Elizabeth and Mary before the king at court allowing both daughters to come out of the shadows.

Henry VIII died at the beginning of 1547 when Elizabeth was just thirteen years old. Her nine-year-old half brother was proclaimed King Edward VI of England. Elizabeth was to move into her teenage years and so would begin a time of great trauma and danger for the young royal.

Upon the old king’s death, Elizabeth went to live with Catherine Parr – the former step-mother and wife of late Henry VIII. She remarried a long time admirer called Thomas Seymour and he was the Lord Admiral.

Thomas Seymour developed an unhealthy sexual interest in the young Elizabeth and may have harboured ambitions if he could win the young girl’s favour. At so young an age it may have been that young Elizabeth might have developed a crush on the man too. He paid too keen attention to Elizabeth and when he started trying to sneak to her bed chamber, Elizabeth began to get up early and dressed before he could get there. After a time she was forced to leave the household but remained friends with Catherine Parr who was expecting Thomas Seymour’s child. Sadly, Catherine Parr died giving birth to a daughter.

Upon the death of his wife Catherine Parr, Thomas Seymour tried to peruse young Elizabeth who was just fifteen years of age. He wanted her hand in marriage, but young Elizabeth refused. She would, by this time, be wise to this person and the low opinions that ambitious men of the court had for their wives. Elizabeth had realised her value as a trophy royal wife for unscrupulous men.

How right she was to refuse Thomas Seymour and his plans to gain himself power. He planned a coup and tried to abduct young King Edward VI and force him to marry Lady Jane, but he was found out and intercepted before he could bring his plan to completion. Thomas Seymour was arrested for treason and the young Elizabeth was implicated even though she was believed to be innocent. At the tender age of fifteen, Elizabeth was subjected to a harsh interrogation. This went on for some time and the nerve of the young royal held firm. Thomas Seymour was found guilty of treason and executed. Elizabeth was acquitted, but the sorry affair caused bad feeling between her and her younger half-brother King Edward VI. It was some time before Elizabeth was allowed back at court and when she did return, the young Elizabeth was dressed in more pious clothes. This was to portray her chastity before the King and the court, dressing in dower black dresses and white aprons of a protestant lady.

This new period of acceptance was to be short lived. Again, new dangers reared a formidable and ugly head for Elizabeth. Her young half brother Edward VI became ill in 1553 from consumption. This time the English court was in total disarray because the elder half sister Mary (Daughter of Catherine of Aragon) was next in line – a Roman Catholic that would undo the radical change brought about by the late Henry VIII Reformation. Those in the court had built their coveted circumstance upon the break with the Roman Catholic Church – they had strengthened anti-pope feeling and made the Church of England a break away power against Rome. The Roman Catholic Mary would undo all this and restore the status quo before her mother’s marriage annulment. She would bring back the doctrines of the Pope and Rome’s holy influence. This would favour the super power of Spain as King Edward VI died in 1553 at the age of fifteen.

Mary was able to prevail against protestant attempts to undermine her inheritance of the English throne. She became Queen Mary and now a new terror would sweep England. Elizabeth had been with her elder half-sister when Mary was proclaimed queen. Their religious differences soon caused a strain between the two sisters. Elizabeth was always trying to evade or politely side step the issue of England returning to the Roman Catholic faith.

The English Protestants tried to resist Queen Mary and her attempt to bring England back into the fold of Roman Catholicism. This was because they feared Spanish domination. She burnt many Protestant priests at the stake and others that resisted conversion. The new queen became known as Bloody Mary.

Another attempted coup followed but it was put down and its instigator, Thomas Wyatt was captured and put on trial. Elizabeth was written into the planned coup to be married off to someone of high standing. Someone that might aid her if she was made a queen.

Again Elizabeth implored that she knew nothing of such plans and as a royal trophy wife she could have been secretly coveted by the noble born plotters without her knowledge. This is probably true, but Elizabeth was arrested and put in the Tower of London with some of her servants.

This time, young Elizabeth rode her luck to the extreme. Lady Jane Grey was again named in the coup as in the Thomas Seymour attempt during the late King Edward VI’s reign. On this occasion, Lady Jane Grey was not so fortunate. She was beheaded and shown no mercy by Queen Mary’s Catholic advisers.

Thomas Wyatt declared Elizabeth to be innocent of the plot before going to his execution. This caused problems for Queen Mary's Catholic advisers. The young Protestant royal was becoming far too popular in the country. Queen Mary was also reluctant to sign her half sister’s death warrant.

Elizabeth was released from the Tower and taken to a place of confinement in Oxfordshire. The dwelling was in a state of disrepair but suitable lodgings were found for Elizabeth who was guarded by a large force of soldiers under the command of Sir Henry Bedingfield. He was strict and imposed draconian rules on those that could come and go before Elizabeth. This was also for Elizabeth’s protection because there were English Catholics who supported Queen Mary and her attempts to restore Catholicism. They wanted Elizabeth dead with no hope of maintaining a Protestant kingdom. Despite Sir Henry Bedingfield’s harsh system, Elizabeth never held ill feelings towards the man in later years.

There came rumours that Queen Mary was pregnant from her marriage to Phillip of Spain and this news was received with great dread by the Protestant English who were terrified of Spanish domination. The news then changed. Queen Mary was not pregnant but gravely ill and besides Elizabeth, the only the other heir to the throne of England was Mary Queen of Scots, the daughter of Mary de Guise who was regent in Scotland. Although young Mary (Queen of Scots) was a Catholic, she was married to Francois, heir to the throne of France and a sworn enemy of Spain. The Protestant Elizabeth was suddenly a better pick of the bad duo to Spain’s thinking, or so the Spanish nation thought. They started to make plans with the fickle English court for Phillip of Spain to marry Elizabeth before the sick Queen Mary had passed away.

Elizabeth was twenty five when she received the news of her elder half sister’s death. With Queen Mary’s passing, Elizabeth was now the new Queen of England. She knew what sort of ruthless men lay in wait for her at court and knew that the Spanish would offer her an alliance through marriage with Spain. So would the French. The young Queen would have enemies every where, but with loyal help from other ruthless men she had already began to learn the ways of politics in Tudor England.

She would have to hold the Spanish at bay and the French. To the north, Scotland had Mary de Guise as regent for France’s ambitions. Queen Elizabeth would seem to have been born to this circumstance. She said, upon the news of her proclamation. “It is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.”

As expected, her ministers were quick to start making plans for an alliance with either Spain or France, while Queen Elizabeth began to discreetly peruse her own plans. She would not marry Phillip of Spain and would not entertain any French suitor. Although it is believed she strung both nations along, buying time for herself. France was a problem because the Queen of Scots Mary and her husband Francois of France were already displaying England’s emblems on their Royal coat of arms and trying to secure recognition from Rome of Elizabeth’s illegitimacy to England’s throne.

Also there was inner English court trouble as Protestant ministers saw Scotland, under the regent Mary de Guise, posing a threat. England’s Protestants sided with the Scottish Protestants as they struggled against the Catholic Mary de Guise. This was a dangerous game that could provoke France into striking through the distrustful Catholics left from late Queen Mary’s rule. Elizabeth tried to play the Spanish off against French intentions. If France attacked, Spain would be England’s ally. The unmarried Queen Elizabeth was a trophy of power much coveted by Spain.

Then in 1560 Mary de Guise, regent of Scotland suddenly died. Some believe she may have been poisoned by the English but it is generally believed she died of dropsy. Her death was convenient for Queen Elizabeth and then another turn of France’s misfortune became convenient for Queen Elizabeth. Mary Queen of Scots husband, King Francois II died in the December of the same year, leaving the Princess Consort (Mary Queen of Scots) widowed. She returned to Scotland to find her country in political turmoil. Protestant and Catholic were fighting one another.

Mary Queen of Scots had a difficult political time in Scotland. Her trials and tribulations brought her to England in 1568. Mary Queen of Scots was seeking refuge in Queen Elizabeth's England – a woman whose throne she had converted. Behind her was a dead husband, Lord Darnley who had been murdered in an explosion. Her faithful Italian servant had been brutally stabbed to death because of Lord Darnley’s anger and her new lover and husband Earl Bothwell was gone.

Queen Elizabeth was not comfortable with the arrangements but held the Scottish queen as a prisoner while pretending the Scottish queen was an honoured guest. Queen Elizabeth was able to support a Protestant Scottish regent, who ruled while the infant James VI of Scotland was growing up. Young James VI was Mary Queen of Scots son by Lord Darnley.

Queen Elizabeth had acquired a loyal and trusted service from a man called Sir Francis Walsingham. He had returned to the England upon Catholic Queen Mary’s death and Elizabeth’s inheritance of the English throne. This man had established good Protestant friends in Switzerland and among Huguenots in Europe. He was to be the Queen Elizabeth’s tenacious servant and spymaster.

Walsingham’s agents learned of a plot by an international banker called Riddolfi. This famous banker was organising an assassination of Queen Elizabeth in favour of Mary Queen of Scots. In 1571 Ridolffi acquired the agreement of Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk to participate in the plot to kill his cousin, Queen Elizabeth. The Duke of Norfolk would then marry Mary Queen of Scots and thus usurp the English throne. Then they would win back Scotland for Mary to unite England and Scotland under Catholic control. The imprisoned Scottish queen also agreed to this.

Assurances were given to a Catholic agent by Norfolk and his plotters. This agent was called Charles Baillie and he was intercepted by Walsingham’s men as he made for Dover with the plans. He was to give them to Riddolfi in France. Baillie was found with compromising letters and under torture he revealed the plot. The Duke of Norfolk was arrested and executed, but the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots was spared. Queen Elizabeth could not chance executing the royal. Instead, the Scottish queen was removed from succession and no longer stated as an honoured quest. She was now a treasonable threat to England’s security under Queen Elizabeth.

Because Queen Elizabeth refused to accept any approaches of marriage from Spanish or French suitors, both countries were becoming at odds with the English queen. She new of her worth as a powerful trophy wife and any nation that could weld influence through her would gain added power.

As time progressed, the Spanish especially became more resentful at their loss of influence in English politics. Plus her sailors were causing great trouble for the Spanish navy and its trade routes from the Americas. The English referred to these sailors as pirates, but secretly they were indulged by the England's Queen Elizabeth. With no chance of Elizabeth agreeing to marriage proposals, the Spanish began to desire the removal of Queen Elizabeth. Mary Queen of Scots was no longer married to the enemy France, but held captive in England – the very country they wanted her to rule.

During the time leading up to this period of Elizabeth’s reign, she had been plagued and remonstrated by her court to marry. She was the last of the Tudors and with her passing, the Tudor dynasty would end if she could not marry and produce an heir. But Queen Elizabeth was faithful to her country and could not always trust the fickle men of court. Their support could be bought by another nation to champion a suitor, while others feared foreign intervention in England’s affairs. It is not known for sure if Elizabeth did not want to marry, but politically she was aware that England’s problems could be intensified if she did not choose the right suitor. Elizabeth had seen it happen with her half sister Mary. She liked the attentions of men, but always seemed reluctant to chance marriage.

Queen Elizabeth did fall in love with one of her subjects and his name was Lord Dudley – her Master of Horse. As other foreign suitors were toyed with, many in court began to worry about the Queen’s favour of Lord Dudley. Many regarded him as an ambitious social climber, which he might have been. Perhaps they did not like the fact that Lord Dudley was better at it then many of his distrustful rivals. A union with this man would cause more division within the English court of power and Queen Elizabeth was probably wise to this. She seems to have kept Lord Dudley at arms length, though not discouraging his attention.

Lord Dudley was already married and his father – the Duke of Northumberland had been executed during Queen (Bloody) Mary’s turbulent reign. Also, his Grandfather had been executed for treason too, a few decades previous. His family background was suspect and Lord Dudley himself had been imprisoned for his part in trying to secure Lady Jane Grey as Queen during the reign of Queen (Bloody) Mary. So, maybe the English court was right in suspecting Lord Dudley to be an ambitious social climber.

In 1560 – two years into the reign of Elizabeth, Lord Dudley’s young wife died under very suspicious circumstances. She had fallen down a staircase and broke her neck. Many suspected Lord Dudley of foul play to make way for marriage to Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth would not entertain any notion of marriage to Lord Dudley, especially after such a scandal, yet still, Lord Dudley seemed to remain in the queen’s favour and was often seen with her over the next ten years. How close this relationship was is uncertain. He may have been a type of male courtesan or just seen to be with her. Who knows for sure?

When Lord Dudley did marry again, Elizabeth was said to feel a sense of betrayal.

All during these times, the continuous courting and negotiations of the marriage game went on. Elizabeth and her ministers were beginning to develop survival policies for the queen’s reign. Every time the country was under threat, Elizabeth could enter into a consideration of marriage to an enemy of the nation that threatened England. It was logical thing to do in this day and age. Her status as a trophy wife was used as bait with many nations eager to win the hand of Queen Elizabeth and influence in her royal court. It seems that every time a match was found and an alliance began to be made, Elizabeth would then cool off and then rebuff the notion. If this was by design or on second thoughts it seems to have bought England time to face the storm that was approaching the country. It may have come sooner if it was not for the politics of the marriage game. The last time this contest was played out, the French Duke of Anjou came before Elizabeth. He was younger then her and the son of Catherine de Medici. This courting lasted for some time and would have most certainly been a marriage of convenience for both nations who opposed the super power of Spain. This also broke down on Elizabeth’s doing. She was now approaching fifty and this type of politics could no longer sustain England in fending off Spain. At such an age Elizabeth had no chance of producing an heir and no nation could take any marriage match seriously anymore. This time of pretend searching for such marriage alliance gave England the time to grow stronger. Little by little, her ships brought back plunder. More ships were built and exploration to the New World continued. Little England was beginning to pack a punch in the political world. She was becoming a pirate nation of the high seas.

From this time on, Queen Elizabeth no longer indulged in the game of finding marriage suitors. Elizabeth was now into a new part of her reign where she needed to keep a firm head upon her shoulders. Raw hard political decisions awaited her attention as a new threat would have to be confronted in a different way. She would meet the danger head on – cold hard resistance to a formidable enemy that she and her court did not under estimate. Though, perhaps the enemy would under estimate this Virgin Queen. The new trials and tribulation awaited. Elizabeth was going to stamp her name into history with feats that no one would forget.

As mentioned before, early in her reign, Elizabeth had gained a devoted and most sinister servant. The man was devious and cunning but all this was at the queen’s disposal, for the man looked up to her as someone much greater then himself. He loved Elizabeth as his queen and would not deviate or be corrupted by any who, he suspected, would bring his queen harm. The fickle English court feared him too and with good reason. If he decided anyone was disloyal to Queen Elizabeth he would find a way of exposing them. He had done so with the Duke of Norfolk during the Riddolfi plot.

Sir Francis Walsingham had gathered a successful ring of spies to protect the queen’s interests. His followers had infiltrated many areas of discontent and a steady stream of information was gathered by him. It was in this way that the Babington plot became known to him and thus a new attempt to usurp Queen Elizabeth had to be foiled.

This new plot was hatched with the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots in mind. There were many sub movements that seemed to have fused into a major one and this was led by a young English Catholic called Sir Anthony Babington. To all appearances he was a Protestant, but in secret, a practising Roman Catholic. He knew the jailer who guarded Mary Queen of Scots and eventually began to secretly liaise with the Scottish Catholic queen, believing that she was the rightful ruler of England. He had been abroad and gathered support from foreign powers that wanted rid of Protestant Queen Elizabeth of England.

However, once again Sir Francis Walsingham and his complex spy network got wind of the plan in its infancy. They had captured a man named Gilbert Gifford and under interrogation, Sir Francis Walsingham had managed to persuade Gifford to re-enter the plot as a double agent. Gilbert Gifford did this to preserve his own life. This allowed Sir Francis Walsingham and his cunning ring of spies to allow the plot to widen and see who were implicated in the new enemy intrigue.

When the time came for Sir Francis Walsingham and his spy team to strike, it was swift and decisive. Sir Anthony Babington and his fellow conspirators were put to the torture and confessed all. In 1586 these wretched men were executed in the most horrendous way before the public. The first seven were humiliated and dragged through the streets towards the gallows. Of these conspirators, the twenty five year old Sir Anthony Babington numbered. These men did not hold a noble enough rank to allow a swift beheading. They were all to be hung drawn and quartered by executioners and tortures who were masters of their profession. All this was done before a cheering mob of people who had come to see the hated traitors die. By this period of Elizabeth’s reign she was extremely popular and much loved by most of her lay subjects. Most did not want Roman Catholic rule back.

Each man was hung until he lost consciousness then he was loosened and laid upon a table. The wretched and unconscious man would then have his stomach sliced open and his innards removed before his eyes as he woke into the excruciating pain of being disembowelled alive. The other men to be executed would be forced to watch while awaiting their turn. When the disembowelment was done the wretched man was finally put out of his misery as he was chopped into four quarters.

This execution was so dreadful that when Queen Elizabeth heard of the horrendous cruelty, she ordered that another seven men to be executed in the following days should be left on the gallows until they were dead before proceeding further. This small mercy was complied with during the execution of the other seven plotters when their time came.

Because Mary Queen of Scots was implicated, she was put on trial and convicted of plotting to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. Her trial lasted longer and the Scottish queen denied any involvement in the plot. This was the second time things had come to this. The first being the Ridolffi plot that saw Norfolk beheaded – now the queen of Scots was again accused of trying to win the throne of England.

Sir Francis Walsingham and more of Queen Elizabeth’s council implored her to sign Mary Queen of Scots' execution papers. Elizabeth did so with great reluctance. She was opening a Pandora box that would unleash the vengeance of the Spanish super power upon her nation. Yet while Mary Queen of Scots lived, she would never be safe. This was the second major plot now. Elizabeth had to make the cold a calculated decision.

In 1587 Mary Queen of Scots was brought before three hundred witnesses and beheaded. This execution of Scotland’s queen triggered off new events in Spain. A vast armada of ships would be sent to invade England.

The Armada was lead by the Spanish Duke of Medina Sidonia and the aim of this vast Armada was to sail to a place called Gravlines in Flanders and pick up a large army under the command of the Duke of Parma. This mission was to depose Queen Elizabeth I of England, stop English intervention in the Spanish Netherlands and stop English piracy in the Atlantic.

The Spanish Armada was sighted when it entered the English Channel and was followed to Gravelines in Flanders were the Spanish ships anchored to await the boarding of the Duke of Parma’s land army. The Spanish intended to take the army across the channel to invade England, but this never occurred. The English navy sent fire ships into the tightly compact Armada while it was at anchor. The Spanish ships were forced to scatter and in the ensuing battle the English managed to score a decisive victory against the Spanish navy. The Spanish army intended for invasion was still ashore in Flanders with no hope of getting across the sea to England.

When the Spanish Armada regrouped they decided to return to Spain by sailing up the east coast of England and Scotland, then around the north coast and west out into the Atlantic. Along the way the Spanish ships were battered by storms and as the Armada turned south along the west coast of Ireland, more ships were driven onto the rocks in stormy weather. Only around half of the ships got back to Spain. Many of the sailors were exhausted and disease ridden. More died in hospitals at the ports.

For Spain, it was a disaster, but for Queen Elizabeth and her English subjects, it further enhanced the nation’s standing. All over Europe Protestant countries took heart from the victory.

Queen Elizabeth was now emulated to a higher standing among her subjects. Her court and her people were now extremely proud of her. England was entering into a golden age of prosperity and their queen was spearheading the way. It was a time of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlow and other great artists. The nation was growing in self-esteem and Spain, as a super power, had little time left. England no longer feared her and English pirates continued to attack the Spanish navy in the Atlantic.

The last fifteen years of the Queen Elizabeth’s reign still had a few other plots. Most prominent was that of the Earl of Essex. Her devoted follower Lord Dudley died in 1588 just after the Armada and Sir Francis Walsingham died in 1590. Other trusted advisers also passed away and Elizabeth was suddenly isolated by the absence of men that had grown more devoted as followers during her prestigious reign.

A man named Robert Devereux was the stepson of the late Lord Dudley and he, along with other fresh young blood, was brought into the queen’s royal court. His title was the Earl of Essex and this young man was favoured much by Queen Elizabeth. He was brash, arrogant and spoilt by the queen’s regard for him. He was given the late Lord Dudley’s former position of Master of Horse. His quick rise to power was only matched by his quick fall from grace.

The queen began to grow weary of the brash young Earl and so too did other members of the court. They decided to send him to Ireland with an army of 17,000 men and put down a rebellion that was being led by the Earl of Tyrone. Instead of meeting the Irish Earl in battle, the English Earl of Essex had a secret meeting and formed a truce. He then deserted his army and returned to England to go to Queen Elizabeth with the news of why he had agreed a truce in her name.

Elizabeth was furious with the Earl of Essex and banished him from the court. She stripped him of his titles and held him under house arrest. The spoilt Earl was furious and tried to write letters to the queen explaining his actions. Elizabeth would not listen and had reached the end of her tether with the arrogant and impulsive young Earl.

The Earl of Essex then tried to gather other disgruntled men and formed a plot to abduct Queen Elizabeth and allow Scotland’s King James VI to become England’s new king. The Earl led his force into London expecting the people to join him. He was deluded and mistaken. He and his cohorts were overcome and arrested.

The old Queen Elizabeth was shocked and dismayed by the brash Earl of Essex and his outrageous actions. He was put to death in 1601 and so ended the final threat to her rule. Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 at the age of seventy. Her passing was much lamented by her subjects. They had grown to love and cherish her. Even today, English people look upon her reign with fascination and great pride.

Why she was never proclaimed Elizabeth the Great is a mystery – she was, after all, a very great Queen. I think it may have been because Scotland's King James VI would become King James I of England, bringing about the foundation for the Union of Britain. Just England is not Britain. Scots would not have the same regard for Elizabeth I of England. Not the way the English do.

Elizabeth the Great by Elizabeth Jenkins

Sir Francis Walsingham: Courtier in an Age of Terror by Derek Wilson

Mary Queen of Scots and the Babington Plot


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