It’s Hard Being Queen

 We know so much about the Victorian Era and Queen Victoria.  

But what of the Queen that came before… LONG before.


Elizabeth I was the long-ruling queen of England, governing with relative stability and prosperity for 44 years. The Elizabethan era is named for her.







Kent, England


Elizabeth was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. At the time of her birth she was heir to the throne.


However, when Elizabeth was two-years-old, her mother was executed. A year later, a male heir, Edward, was born.


She only returned to her fathers court when he married his sixth and final wife Katherine Parr. After Henrys death, she lived at her stepmothers home with her new husband, Thomas Seymour.


However, she left her home following an incident with Seymour. Although no one really knows what happened, it is thought Katherine found Elizabeth kissing him.


On King Edwards death of consumption in 1553, Elizabeths sister Mary came to the throne, and Elizabeth was briefly confined to the Tower of London for suspected treason and collaboration with the rebel Thomas Wyatt. After a few months in the Tower, she was sent to Woodstock and placed under house arrest for a year. It was only when Mary I thought she was pregnant that Elizabeth was allowed to return to her Hatfield residence.


Marys marriage to Philip II of Spain made it seem possible that an heir would be born, but Mary died childless in 1558. Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England on 15 January 1559.


Elizabeths 45-year reign - referred to as the Elizabethan era or the Golden Age of Elizabeth - was one of the more constructive periods in English history: literature bloomed through the works of Spenser, Marlowe and Shakespeare; Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh were instrumental in expanding English influence in the New World; Elizabeths religious compromise laid many fears to rest and de-fused a potential powder keg; and fashion and education came to the fore because of Elizabeths penchant for knowledge, courtly behavior and extravagant dress.


One of the most important concerns during Elizabeths early reign was religion. She relied primarily on Sir William Cecil for advice on the matter. The Act of Uniformity 1559, to which she gave assent shortly after ascending the throne, required the use of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer in church services.


Communion with the Catholic Church had been reinstated under Mary I, but was ended by Elizabeth as she assumed the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England, rather than Supreme Head.


The Act of Supremacy 1559 was also passed, requiring public officials to take an oath acknowledging the Sovereign’s control over the Church or face severe punishment.


Her cousin, Mary (Queen of Scots), was a Catholic but remained the most likely candidate to succeed her. When Mary was driven out of Scotland, she was received by Elizabeth but seen as a threat and so kept under lock and key at Fotheringhay.


Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth in February 1570, something his predecessor had been reluctant to do. This made it impossible for Elizabeth to continue her policy of religious toleration.


Mary Stuart allowed herself to become implicated in yet another treason plot by Catholic sympathisers, and Elizabeth had her executed in 1587. This was the excuse that Philip II of Spain needed to make a determined invasion attempt.


Thanks to Elizabeths naval leaders, notably Sir Francis Drake, the Spanish Armada of 1588 was defeated and scattered.


Elizabeth never married and became known as the “Virgin Queen”. This is despite having many suitors throughout her reign, including her ‘great love’ Robert Dudley.

[and a very good looking fellow he was!]




The pair were childhood friends and he soon became her favorite at court. They never married as Robert was already married to Amy Robsart when Elizabeth became queen. Amy died in mysterious circumstances - found at the bottom of the stairs - a few years later and the scandal meant the pair could never wed.


Despite this, Robert remained the queens favorite until his death in 1588. She kept his last letter to her for the rest of her life.


Several foreign princes and dukes vied for the hand of Elizabeth, who successfully used their suits for developing a friendly relationship without accepting their hand. The man who came closest to marrying the queen was Francis, Duke of Alencon of France, but he died before negotiations were finalized.

[personally… I think a good thing]


Her death ended the Tudor dynasty. Elizabeth died on 24 March 1603, and is buried at Westminster Abbey.





This is a very cool video on Elizabeth 1.  A VERY interesting Queen.




And I’m sure there are few folks who aren’t a little fed up with all the scandal that comes up during ALL our elections.  This last mess is hardly the first… maybe just the messiest… and most depressing… but I digress.  If you have an interest in British History, pre-Queens and Kings, and all the messiness that went with it – here is the history in a nutshell.


Monarchs of England, Wales and Ireland

Henry VIII 1509 - 1547
The best known fact about Henry VIII is that he had six wives! Most school children learn the following rhyme to help them remember the fate of each wife: Divorced, Beheaded, Died: Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. His first wife was Catherine of Aragon, his brothers widow, whom he later divorced to marry Anne Boleyn. This divorce caused the split from Rome and Henry declared himself the head of the Church Of England. The Dissolution of the Monasteries began in 1536, and the money gained from this helped Henry to bring about an effective Navy. In an effort to have a son, Henry married four further wives, but only one son was born, to Jane Seymour. Henry had two daughters both to become rulers of England - Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn.



 EDWARD VI 1547 - 1553

The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was a sickly boy; it is thought he suffered from tuberculosis. Edward succeeded his father at the age of 9, the government being carried on by a Council of Regency with his uncle, Duke of Somerset, styled Protector. Even though his reign was short, many men made their mark. Cranmer wrote the Book of Common Prayer and the uniformity of worship helped turn England into a Protestant State. After Edward”s death there was a dispute over the succession. As Mary was Catholic, Lady Jane Grey was named as the next in line to the throne. She was proclaimed Queen but Mary entered London with her supporters and Jane was taken to the Tower. She reigned for only 9 days. She was executed in 1554, aged 17.



MARY I (Bloody Mary) 1553 - 1558
Daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. A devout Catholic, she married Philip of Spain. Mary attempted to enforce the wholesale conversion of England to Catholicism. She carried this out with the utmost severity. The Protestant bishops, Latimer, Ridley and Archbishop Cranmner were among those burnt at the stake. The place, in Broad Street Oxford, is marked by a bronze cross. The country was plunged into a bitter blood bath, which is why she is remembered as Bloody Mary. She died in 1558 at Lambeth Palace in London.





Elizabeth 1  1558-1603
The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was a remarkable woman, noted for her learning and wisdom. From first to last she was popular with the people and had a genius for the selection of capable advisors. Drake, Raleigh, Hawkins, the Cecils, Essex and many many more made England respected and feared. The Spanish Armada was decisively defeated in 1588 and Raleigh”s first Virginia colony was founded. The execution of Mary Queen of Scots marred what was a glorious time in English history.  Shakespeare was also at the height of his popularity. Elizabeth never married.




British Monarchs


JAMES I and VI of Scotland 1603 -1625
James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. He was the first king to rule over Scotland and England. James was more of a scholar than a man of action. In 1605 the Gunpowder Plot was hatched: Guy Fawkes and his Catholic friends tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but were captured before they could do so. James”s reign saw the publication of the Authorised Version of the Bible, though this caused problems with the Puritans and their attitude towards the established church. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for America in their ship The Mayflower.



CHARLES 1 1625 - 1649 English Civil War
The son of James I and Anne of Denmark, Charles believed that he ruled by Divine Right. He encountered difficulties with Parliament from the beginning, and this led to the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642. The war lasted four years and following the defeat of Charles”s Royalist forces by the New Model Army, led by Oliver Cromwell, Charles was captured and imprisoned. The House of Commons tried Charles for treason against England and when found guilty he was condemned to death. His death warrant states that he was beheaded on Tuesday 30 January 1649. Following this the British monarchy was abolished and a republic called the Commonwealth of England was declared.


The Commonwealth

declared May 19th 1649


Oliver Cromwell  Lord Protector 1653 - 1658
Cromwell was born at Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire in 1599, the son of a small landowner. He entered Parliament in 1629 and became active in events leading to the Civil War. A leading Puritan figure, he raised cavalry forces and organised the New Model Army, which he led to victory over the Royalists at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. Failing to gain agreement on constitutional change in government with Charles I, Cromwell was a member of a “Special Commission” that tried and condemned the king to death in 1649. Cromwell declared Britain a republic “The Commonwealth” and he went on to become its Lord Protector.

Cromwell went on to crush the Irish clans and the Scots Loyal to Charles II between 1649 and 1651. In 1653 he finally expelled the corrupt English parliament and with the agreement of army leaders became Lord Protector (King in all but name)



RICHARD CROMWELL, Lord Protector 1658 - 1659
Richard was the third son of Oliver Cromwell, he was appointed the second ruling Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, serving for just nine months. Unlike his father, Richard lacked military experience and as such failed to gain respect or support from his New Model Army. Richard was eventually “persuaded” to resign from his position as Lord Protector and exiled himself to France until 1680, when he returned to England.




The Restoration

CHARLES II 1660 - 1685
Son of Charles I, also known as the Merry Monarch. After the collapse of the Protectorate following the death of Oliver Cromwell and the flight of Richard Cromwell to France, the Army and Parliament asked Charles to take the throne. Although very popular he was a weak king and his foreign policy was inept. He had 13 known mistresses, one of whom was Nell Gwyn.  He fathered numerous illegitimate children but no heir to the throne. The Great Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666 took place during his reign. Many new buildings were built at this time. St. Paul”s Cathedral was built by Sir Christopher Wren and also many churches still to be seen today.



JAMES II and VII of Scotland 1685 - 1688
The second surviving son of Charles I and younger brother of Charles II. James had been exiled following the Civil War and served in both the French and Spanish Army. Although James converted to Catholicism in 1670, his two daughters were raised as Protestants. James became very unpopular because of his persecution of the Protestant clergy and was generally hated by the people. Following the Monmouth uprising (Monmouth was an illegitimate son of Charles II and a Protestant) and the Bloody Assizes of Judge Jeffries, Parliament asked the Dutch prince, William of Orange to take the throne.


William was married to Mary, James II’s Protestant daughter. William landed in England and James fled to France where he died in exile in 1701.



WILLIAM III 1689 - 1702 and MARY II 1689 - 1694

On the 5 November 1688, William of Orange sailed his fleet of over 450 ships, unopposed by the Royal Navy, into Torbay harbour and landed his troops in Devon. Gathering local support, he marched his army, now 20,000 strong, on to London in The Glorious Revolution. Many of James II”s army had defected to support William, as well as James”s other daughter Anne. William and Mary were to reign jointly, and William was to have the Crown for life after Mary died in 1694. James plotted to regain the throne and in 1689 landed in Ireland. William defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne and James fled again to France, as guest of Louis XIV.

Anne 1702 - 1714

Anne was the second daughter of James II. She had 17 pregnancies but only one child survived - William, who died of smallpox aged just 11. A staunch, high church Protestant, Anne was 37 years old when she succeeded to the throne. Anne was a close friend of Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. Sarah’s husband the Duke of Marlborough commanded the English Army in the War of Spanish Succession, winning a series of major battles with the French and gaining the country an influence never before attained in Europe. It was during Anne’s reign that the United Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the Union of England and Scotland.

After Anne’s death the succession went to the nearest Protestant relative of the Stuart line. This was Sophia, daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia, James I’s only daughter, but she died a few weeks before Anne and so the throne succeeded to her son George.



The Hanovarians

GEORGE I 1714 -1727
Son of Sophia and the Elector of Hanover, great-grandson of James I. The 54 year old George arrived in England able to speak only a few words of English with his 18 cooks and 2 mistresses in tow. George never learned English, so the conduct of national policy was left to the government of the time with Sir Robert Walpole becoming Britain’s first Prime Minister. In 1715 the Jacobites  (followers of James Stuart, son of James II) attempted to supplant George, but the attempt failed. George spent little time in England - he preferred his beloved Hanover, although he was implicated in the South Sea Bubble financial scandal of 1720.



GEORGE II 1727 - 1760
Only son of George I. He was more English than his father, but still relied on Sir Robert Walpole to run the country. George was the last English king to lead his army into battle at Dettingen in 1743. In 1745 the Jacobites tried once again to restore a Stuart to the throne. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” landed in Scotland. He was routed at Culloden Moor by the army under the Duke of Cumberland, known as “Butcher” Cumberland. Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to France with the help of Flora MacDonald, and finally died a drunkard’s death in Rome.






GEORGE III 1760 - 1820

He was a grandson of George II and the first English-born and English-speaking monarch since Queen Anne. His reign was one of elegance and the age of some of the greatest names in English literature – Jane Austen, Byron, Shelley, Keats and Wordsworth. It was also the time of great statesmen like Pitt and Fox and great captains like Wellington and Nelson. in 1773 the “Boston Tea Party” was the first sign of the troubles that were to come in America. The American Colonies proclaimed their independence on July 4th 1776. George was well meaning but suffered from a mental illness due to intermittent porphyria and eventually became blind and insane. His son ruled as Prince Regent after 1811 until George’s death.







GEORGE IV 1820 - 1830
Known as the “First Gentleman of Europe”. He had a love of art and architecture but his private life was a mess, to put it mildly! He married twice, once in 1785 to Mrs. Fitzherbert, secretly as she was a Catholic, and then in 1795 to Caroline of Brunswick. Mrs. Fitzherbert remained the love of his life. Caroline and George had one daughter, Charlotte in 1796 but she died in 1817. George was considered a great wit, but was also a buffoon and his death was hailed with relief!








WILLIAM IV 1830 - 1837
Known as the “Sailor King” (for 10 years the young Prince William, brother of George IV, served in the Royal Navy), he was the third son of George III. Before his accession he lived with a Mrs. Jordan, an actress, by whom he had ten children. When Princess Charlotte died, he had to marry in order to secure the succession. He married Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg in 1818. He had two daughters but they did not live. He hated pomp and wanted to dispense with the Coronation. The people loved him because of his lack of pretension. During his reign Britain abolished slavery in the colonies in 1833. The Reform Act was passed in 1832, this extended the franchise to the middle-classes on a basis of property qualifications.



 Victoria 1837 – 1901 !!!
Victoria was the only child of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Edward Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. The throne Victoria inherited was weak and unpopular. Her Hanovarian uncles had been treated with irreverence. In 1840 she married her cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Albert exerted tremendous influence over the Queen and until his death was virtual ruler of the country. He was a pillar of respectability and left two legacies to the UK, the Christmas Tree and the Great Exhibition of 1851. With the money from the Exhibition several institutions were developed, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Imperial College and the Royal Albert Hall. The Queen withdrew from public life after the death of Albert in 1861 until her Golden Jubilee in 1887. Her reign saw the British Empire double in size and in 1876 the Queen became Empress of India, the “Jewel in the Crown”. When Victoria died in 1901, the British Empire and British world power had reached their highest point. She had nine children, 40 grand-children and 37 great-grandchildren, scattered all over Europe.

EDWARD VII 1901 - 1910
A much loved king, the opposite of his dour father. He loved horse-racing, gambling and women! This Edwardian Age was one of elegance. Edward had all the social graces and many sporting interests, yachting and horse-racing - his horse Minoru won the Derby in 1909. Edward married the beautiful Alexandra of Denmark in 1863 and they had six children. The eldest, Edward Duke of Clarence, died in 1892 just before he was to marry Princess Mary of Teck. When Edward died in 1910 it is said that Queen Alexandra brought his current mistress Mrs. Keppel to his bedside to take her farewell. His best known mistress was Lillie Langtry, the “Jersey Lily”


House of Windsor

Name changed in 1917

GEORGE V 1910 - 1936
George had not expected to be king, but when his elder brother died he became the heir-apparent. He had joined the Navy as a cadet in 1877 and loved the sea. He was a buff, hearty man with a “quarter-deck” manner. In 1893 he married Princess Mary of Teck, his dead brother’s fiancee. His years on the throne were difficult; the First World War in 1914-1918 and the troubles in Ireland which lead to the creation of the Irish Free State were considerable problems. In 1932 he began the royal broadcasts on Christmas Day and in 1935 he celebrated his Silver Jubilee. His latter years were overshadowed by his concern about the Prince of Wales and his infatuation with Mrs. Simpson.


EDWARD VIII June 1936 - abdicated December 1936
Edward was the most popular Prince of Wales Britain has ever had. Consequently when he renounced the throne to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson the country found it almost impossible to believe. The people as a whole knew nothing about Mrs. Simpson until early in December 1936. Mrs. Simpson was an American, a divorcee and had two husbands still living. This was unacceptable to the Church, as Edward had stated that he wanted her to be crowned with him at the Coronation which was to take place the following May. Edward abdicated in favor of his brother and took the title, Duke of Windsor. He went to live abroad.


GEORGE VI 1936 - 1952
George was a shy and nervous man with a very bad stutter, the exact opposite of his brother the Duke of Windsor, but he had inherited the steady virtues of his father George V. He was very popular and well loved by the British people. The prestige of the throne was low when he became king but his wife Elizabeth and his mother Queen Mary were outstanding in their support of him.
The Second World War started in 1939 and throughout the King and Queen set an example of courage and fortitude. They remained at Buckingham Palace for the duration of the war in spite of the bombing. The Palace was bombed more than once. The two Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, spent the war years at Windsor Castle. George was in close touch with the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill throughout the war and both had to be dissuaded from landing with the troops in Normandy on D-Day! The post-war years of his reign were ones of great social change and saw the start of the National Health Service. The whole country flocked to the Festival of Britain held in London in 1951, 100 years after the Great Exhibition during Victoria’s reign.



Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, or “Lilbet” to close family, was born in London on 21 April 1926. Like her parents, Elizabeth was heavily involved in the war effort during the Second World War, serving in the women’s branch of the British Army known as the Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a driver and mechanic. Elizabeth and her sister Margaret anonymously joined the crowded streets of London on VE Day to celebrate the end of the war. She married her cousin Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and they had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. When her father George VI died, Elizabeth became Queen of seven Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised, serving to increase popularity in the medium and doubling television license numbers in the UK. The huge popularity of the royal wedding in 2011 between the Queen’s grandson, Prince William and the commoner Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, reflected the high profile of the British Monarchy at home and abroad. 2012 was also an important year for the royal family, as the nation celebrated the Queen”s Diamond Jubilee, her 60th year as Queen.

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On 9th September 2015, Elizabeth became Britain’s longest serving monarch, ruling longer than her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years and 216 days. Congratulations Ma’am; God Save the Queen!

                                                                     © Michelle Young 2012