Mistress of Evasion and Survival
I want a son!
In 1558 the Protestant preacher John Knox wrote: “ It ' s more than a monster in nature, that a woman should reign and bear empire over man. ” Years before that Henry VIII must have cherished similar feelings. Mary, his only daughter born of Henry ' s Spanish wife Catherine of Aragon, was already a seventeen-year-old girl, but there was no hope for a male successor. Henry became desperate. How to get rid of this devout Catholic and marry another woman who would give him a desired son?
Nothing was impossible for a determined monarch and Henry was the last man to accept what fate was offering him: “ Catherine and Mary must leave the court, the Pope from Rome will no longer obstruct me and my sweet Ann Boleyn will marry me. I will have a son at last! ” Those were Henry ' s wishes. All of them came true. Except for the last one.
A daughter again?
On September 7, 1533 a baby daughter Elizabeth is born to Jane and Henry. In his bitter disappointment that it was not a son, Henry VIII blames Anne Boleyn first and God next – in that order. Still, it is a royal daughter and Henry must keep a stiff upper lip. A sumptuous christening ceremony takes place. All the important people appear at the church to celebrate the happy event. Only the famous Daddy does not arrive . . .
A royal daughter once, then a bastard . . . who am I?
Three months later, the baby Elizabeth is given Hatfield House as her residence where she will spend happy years with governesses and tutors.
She is only two years and eight months old when her mother, unable to have a son, is accused of adultery and promptly beheaded. The marriage is annulled and Henry is ready to marry again. Elizabeth loses her status of a legitimate royal daughter and becomes a bastard, but surrounded by loving people who look after her and educate her Elizabeth does not feel any difference . . . yet. She will be given royal status and deprived of it not once in the future, but meanwhile she is being educated by her faithful teacher, the Cambridge scholar Roger Ascham.
What is her education like? To our standards – horrendous, on the verge of cruelty but quite ordinary for her era. So, the little girl starts her day reading the Bible in Greek, then she translates Sophocles and in the afternoon a little Latin, perhaps. When Elizabeth is ten years old, she starts studying Italian and French. She is a real wonder child: enthusiastic, very bright and quick in grasping knowledge.
In later years she is taught the art of public speaking, unheard of for women at the time. Thanks to her formidable intellect, Elizabeth learns how to expertly turn the tide of opinion in her favor and win the hearts of the people when her time comes to become the ruler. The only flaw is that her speeches, letters and dissertations are so tediously interspersed with bombastic quotations!
Her impressive knowledge, caution and cleverness exercised in the midst of court intrigue and murder help her emerge safely from the number of traps she falls into.
Life plays a cat and mouse game with Elizabeth
When Elizabeth is over thirteen years old her amorous Daddy dies and she comes to live with his widow, Catherine Parr, and her new husband, Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth becomes involved in a dangerous romance with Seymour, but the clever girl gets out of the trap safely while he loses his head.
There will be other dangers. When her younger brother, Edward, becomes king, he has her arrested on a charge of treason because of a rumor that she intended to marry without the consent of the Royal Council. Once more Elizabeth escapes the axe thanks to her talent for survival rather than of out of innocence.
Just wait patiently. The crown is coming closer and closer
Edward is dying. Before his death he disinherits both of his sisters – Mary and Elizabeth. The crown is passed to Lady Jane Gray who rules for a few days before being put to death. Then it is Mary at last who becomes queen. But her rule brings failure and misfortune: she is unable to produce an heir, her anti-Protestant policy leads to ruthless persecution, and the country is dragged into a lost war with France. Elizabeth feels that she is getting closer and closer to the crown.. She just has to lie low and wait. Suddenly a blow strikes: Elizabeth lands in the Tower accused of plotting against Queen Mary but, yet again, manages to save her head.
Mary I is dying, unpopular with the people who begin to put their hopes in Elizabeth.. Then, one day when she is twenty five, a delegation of faithful courtiers arrive offering her the royal ring and the title of Queen of England. Her dream has come true at last. Elizabeth starts her reign with an oath: “ No man will ever call me a bastard like my father and brother did, or will he decide of my fate. ”
Elizabeth was proud of her red hair and white skin. To make it even whiter she used rose water and powdered egg whites. Ground coral was another popular cosmetic. Beeswax served to pluck her hairline and make her forehead look higher.
Are you curious what she ate?
This is a list of her favorite dishes: storks in pastry, oysters with bacon, pears in cumin, young birds in stew.
The air in chambers was refreshed with a fire of apple-tree wood. The most serious problem was in summer, when the heat made it impossible for the court to stay in one place and the people had to move to another palace or castle while servants cleaned the carpets stiff with people and animal grime.
Plague and skin diseases tormented people who had to be careful not to touch each other for fear of catching something.