“Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock which bends to no wind.”
The women who spoke those strong words was the one who gave the English empire a place on the map. Queen Elizabeth the first, one of the four queens in the 1500s to rise up and shake tradition. A political genius, incredibly smart women, and someone who knew her limitations, and yet pushed herself beyond them.
Elizabeth Tudor was the second daughter of King Henry the VIII and the first daughter of Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth never knew her mother, as was custom of the time, being nursed by another woman, and sent to a different castle at only a few months old. Anne was killed when Elizabeth was two years old.
As Elizabeth grew, she never seemed to miss her mother, or perhaps, even at a young age, she understood that politically, it wasn’t safe for her to mourn her loss. Elizabeth resembled her father in looks, and tried to resemble him as much as possible in attitude, knowing that only by her relation to her father could she hope to rise to the throne.
Elizabeth was extremely close to her younger brother, Edward, though she was only tolerated by her older sister, Mary. She also befriended King Henry’s last wife, Katherine, remaining Katherine’s friend and living with her, until Katherine died.
Intelligence was one of Elizabeth’s gifts. She was able to speak and write six languages. By the end of her formal education, Elizabeth was one of the best educated women of her generation, able to rival any man. It is rumored that she might have been able to speak three other languages as well, though it isn’t confirmed.
Elizabeth’s younger life was never easy. Ever in displeasure with some royal or political figure, she soon learned that the only way to survive and keep her head was to remain silent and sober, hidden in the shadows. She spent years in solitude, with only her nurse, tutor, and a few servants.
In March 18, 1554, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the tour, durning the reign of Mary, her sister. Mary, a staunch protestant, had sentenced Elizabeth without much evidence to support her doing so. The supporters of Elizabeth were able to convince Mary to let Elizabeth free, and so Elizabeth went back to her quiet lifestyle in the countryside of England.
On November 17, 1558, Bloody Mary died due to cancer, and Elizabeth the I ascended to the throne.
In the 1500s, it was unheard of for a queen to rule a country without a husband. Even Bloody Mary had a husband. It was part of culture and politics to marry the women off to good political and monetary matches.
But Elizabeth would have none of that.
“I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.”
Now, to understand completely Elizabeth’s repugnance of the thought of marriage, I need to explain what royal marriage was like. In a royal marriage, the men were in charge of everything. Everything. And the women were to parade in social gatherings, and bear children.
From a young age, Elizabeth knew that she wanted to be the Queen, King, and leader of the country, not some human giving birth to future kings, and princesses that would be married off to continue the cycle.
Nope, Elizabeth decided to be a world changer, due to the protestant upbringing and education she was given.
Due to her years of education, and her incredible wit and intelligence, she was ready and able to take on the political games that were played. She was more “moderate” than her father and half-siblings, giving protestants and catholics alike freedom from persecution, as well as building the English empire and refilling the royal treasury that had been sadly drained.
Two interesting things happened during Elizabeth’s reign. The death of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the destruction of the Spanish Armada. Mary was Elizabeth’s cousin, younger by ten years, and Queen of Scotland and France. She lost her Queenship of France at the young age of 16, when her beloved husband died at age 15.
A staunch catholic, and fully involved in the cultural marriage games, Mary made a serious mistake that lead her in the end to being taken to the Tower for 19 years before finally being beheaded.
While the Spanish Armada was built by King Philip of Spain. The same Philip that was married to Bloody Mary. (Yes, all the relations are mind boggling and disgusting.) Elizabeth’s privateers, Sir Frances Drake and his men, made short work of one of the biggest naval fleets at that time in history.
Elizabeth died March 24, 1603, after a few years of intense depression. She was lamented by many of the English people, and has left historians with both favorable and unfavorable opinions of her.
I think we can all say that she was “mere English” and trusted in God, honest advice, and the love of her subjects for the success of her rule. She should inspire us to flourish in spite of hardships, isolation, and times that look bleak. Because ultimately, God has a plan for us and for history.