Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I, ‘Gloriana’, is probably the most iconic of all England’s sovereigns. Her long reign established England as a Protestant, sea-faring nation – but not everything in the garden was rosy.

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  • On This Day 26th September 1588

    On 26th September 1588, Elizabeth lost one of her Privy Councillors when Sir Amyas Paulet died. From a West Country family, Sir Amyas had begun his political career in 1550 as assistant to his father, Sir Hugh Paulet, Governor of Jersey. He became Governor himself in 1572, when he was aged about 40. He was a Puritan in religion, and provided a welcome refuge in Jersey to exiled French Huguenots. In the late 1570s he became Ambassador to France, a post he held for about three years. During that time, he sent Elizabeth I silk for two gowns, similar in pattern to fabric worn by the Queen of France.

    In 1585, he was given the post of gaoler to Mary, Queen of Scots. His attitude to the Queen was somewhat harsher than that of previous gaolers but when it was suggested to him that he could relieve the Queen and the realm of a burden by conniving at Mary’s secret murder, he refused saying:

    ‘My goods and my life are at her Majesty’s disposition, but God forbid I should make so foul a shipwreck of my conscience, or leave so great a blot on my poor posterity.’

  • On This Day 25th September 1534

    On 25th September 1534 Clement VII died, no doubt breathing a sigh of relief. He was Pope during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of the Church, as Lutheranism began to gain a hold, and France and the Empire fought up and down Italy like two dogs with a bone. Clement’s other head-ache was Henry VIII’s annulment case. Born Giulio de’ Medici into the powerful Medici family of Florence, and nephew of a previous Pope, Clement was elected in 1523, following the early demise of Adrian VI. On 6th May 1527, Christendom was shocked and outraged when the unpaid troops of Emperor Charles V sacked Rome, causing the worst devastation of the city since the barbarian hordes of the sixth century.

    Clement took refuge in the Castle San Angelo, but was unable to emerge until he had ceded vast swathes of territory to the Empire. This salutary lesson in imperial power influenced him in the matter of the English King’s divorce. The Queen of England was the Emperor’s aunt – a verdict against her was never going to prove popular with Charles V. On the other hand, Clement was keen to keep England, and perhaps France, on side to protect him from further imperial depredations. He managed to delay a decision for seven years, only finally ruling against Henry in January 1534, by which time Henry had given up caring what the Pope thought.

    Not long before his death, Clement had arranged the marriage of his cousin’s grand-daughter, Catherine de’ Medici, to the son of François of France, in the hopes of winning new friends.

  • On This Day 24th September 1561

    On 24th September 1561 in the Tower of London, Lady Katherine Grey bore her first son, Edward Seymour, later Viscount Beauchamp. Lady Katherine had been in the Tower since early August when her secret marriage to Edward, Earl of Hertford was revealed to Elizabeth I. The Queen was beyond furious. Lady Katherine, whom she did not like personally, was being put forward as a possible successor should she, Elizabeth, not marry and have children. For Katherine to have married without royal sanction was a flagrant breach of the Act of Succession of 1536 which outlawed marriage to a member of the royal family without the monarch’s consent.

    When Katherine was released to house arrest a couple of years later, her little boy was sent to live with his father (also under house arrest) and grandmother, Anne, Duchess of Somerset. The young man was eventually received at court, although his repeated attempts to prove his legitimacy were not successful. His choice of a wife disappointed his father, but Elizabeth allowed the match – pleased that he had chosen a wife of fairly low rank, which would reduce his chances of being considered a suitable heir for her. Beauchamp died before his father, leaving his second son to inherit the Earldom of Hertford, and, eventually, the Duchy of Somerset.

    Read a full account of the secret marriage of Beauchamp’s parents here.

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