She Wolves – Episode 3 – Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I 21.03.2012


Edward VI by William Scrots 1550.
Edward VI by William Scrots 1550.

1553 only heirs to the Tudor throne were women – next three monarchs would be women
6 July 1553 Greenwich Palace Edward VI was the only son of Henry VIII and he died – political crisis as no one left to claim the title King of England
Women were not equipped to rule – weaker, more sinful, less rational, unable to fight or make law
Women who tried to take power were seen as unnatural or monstrous
English crown had always been worn by a man
Henry VIII had gone to extreme lengths to have a son to succeed him – declared his daughters bastards after getting rid of their mothers
Henry’s hopes rested on his son’s shoulders
His heir wasn’t clear – uncertain future, two half-sisters and seven cousins, but all of them were women
Which woman would it be?
Mary and Elizabeth knew that under Henry VIII’s will the crown should pass first to Mary then to Elizabeth if Edward died without heirs.
Edward VI was a protestant and Mary I a Catholic
Edward had instituted a protestant reformation, educated by Protestants
Inner Temple Library in London = Device for the Succession, exclude Mary from inheriting the crown – Edward found a loophole in Henry VIII’s will
Mary and Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate
Planned to wipe female succession out completely by leaving his crown to the sons of the Grey girls
Edward named a female successor – Jane Grey and her children
Mary didn’t know about the change, neither did Jane Grey or Elizabeth
Duke of Northumberland at the head of Edward’s council – saw Jane Grey as the perfect choice, particularly as she was married to his son
June 1553 – warships sent out to patrol the Thames
Mary and Elizabeth were kept ignorant of Edward’s condition and the device excluding them from the throne
6 July 1553 Edward died = kept secret until power was secured

Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.

3 days later Jane Grey was summoned to see the council – told she was queen = grief, “the crown is not my right and pleases me not. The Lady Mary is the rightful heir”
Only 15 years old, struggling with shock and grief
10 July 1553 heralds proclaimed the accession of Queen Jane and the death of Edward VI
Bolt from the blue for the people of England and across Europe
Jane taken to the royal apartments in the Tower of London – Northumberland wanted his son crowned as king as well as Jane crowned
Status of a reigning queen’s husband without precedent
Jane didn’t want Guildford crowned – not sure of her own position, so definitely didn’t want Guildford crowned as it wasn’t his
Jane would make him a duke but not a king
Expected a puppet, but got a young woman with her own opinions
Mary stood next in line to her brother’s throne
Northumberland controlled the machinery of government and so she didn’t know what she could do to oust him – rumours that he planned to arrest and imprison her
Mary headed to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk with its moated defences
Enemies controlled the capital
Mary’s chances of becoming queen were written off even by her own supporters – had a powerful supporter overseas in Charles V
19 July 1553 Jane’s support collapsed and Mary was proclaimed queen
Traitor’s death for Northumberland, Jane Grey imprisoned
3 days before her coronation, Mary I talked to her council and entrusted her affairs and person to them
How much public performance was heartfelt and how much was strategy?
Display of female frailty
30 September 1553 Mary I became the first Queen of England to be crowned in her own right – crimson robes, orb, sceptre, sword, crown and anointed with holy oil
Marriage – still a woman and needed a husband and heir to succeed her
Age 17 Mary declared a bastard and unmarriageable
Now the most eligible woman in Europe – can a woman be both a ruler and a wife?
“Supported in the labour of governing and in matters that are not a lady’s capacity”

Mary I 1554 by Antonio Moro
Mary I 1554 by Antonio Moro

Mary wanted a husband for a different reason = age 37 and wanted a Catholic heir
Which husband should she take? Balance of authority between husband and wife when the wife wore a crown – subjects wanted her to marry an Englishman
Avoid foreign rule – Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon was the leading candidate
November 1553 council spoke to Mary about a domestic consort
Mary didn’t do what she was “told” by her council – angered by suggestion she should marry her own subject = Mary was a queen so how could she obey a husband who was also her subject?
Only marry someone of equal status – didn’t want any involvement in government of England
Philip II of Spain (Charles V’s son) – committed herself to a Spanish match
Defining mistake of her reign – profound and destructive drawbacks
Best of the limited choices available to her – wouldn’t limit her powers within her kingdom
As soon as news spread of a Spanish match, a plot was hatched to remove Mary from the throne and preserve England’s autonomy
Thomas Wyatt 3000 men marched on London February 1554
Wanted to put Jane Grey or Elizabeth on the throne
Mary did lead her people, not by fighting, but by talking and rallying her subjects at London’s Guildhall – double identity of sovereign and woman
6 February Mary stayed at Westminster and by morning the rebellion collapsed
Disaster for Jane Grey – always be a focus for protestant opposition, Mary reluctantly agreed to Jane’s execution
Admitted her fault in accepting a crown she didn’t want
Marriage to her kingdom compromised by marriage to Philip II of Spain
25 July 1554 Mary and Philip married at Winchester Cathedral = odd couple Philip age 27 and handsome, Mary age 38 lined with anxiety
Mary was delighted
Double challenge – woman intent on ruling but with a foreign king as her husband by her side
Treaty sorting their marriage kept Philip out of England’s politics – England not involved in Spain’s wars, Mary wouldn’t leave England and Philip had no political say
November 1554 Mary announced she was pregnant
March 1555 Mary retreated to Hampton Court for her lying in
April 1555 news reached London that Mary had given birth to a son, but it was quickly denied
July 1555 Mary emerged from seclusion without a comment, and it was obvious that she hadn’t been pregnant at all – phantom pregnancy
New political vulnerability
Needed an heir to put an end to the question of the succession
Philip couldn’t stay indefinitely in England August 1555 left England to deal with his royal duties on the continent
18 months later Philip returned
1557 Mary pregnant again, but still no baby – no real chance of an heir anymore age 42
Catholic faith as Elizabeth was protestant
Mary tried to re-establish Catholicism in England – altars restored and images retrieved = wanted to stamp out traces of protestant belief
Reinstated heresy laws 1554, 280 English Protestants perished in the flames
John Knox 1558 First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women
Subversion of order and justice – women inferior to men so women’s ruling was unnatural and monstrous, shouldn’t hold political power
Woman who showed herself to be strong like a man wasn’t a good female ruler, but a monstrous and unnatural woman
“Bloody Mary”
Tried to be a female king and a wife
England drawn in to Spain’s war with France and so Calais (England’s last possession in France) was lost as a result
Summer 1558 lethal flu epidemic
Autumn 1558 Mary fell ill – first week of November 1558 Mary proclaimed Elizabeth her heir, asking that she keep the old religion as Mary had restored it
No question to the succession and no protest that she was a woman

Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original
Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original

14 January 1559 Elizabeth carried in a progress through London and next day was crowned Queen in Westminster Abbey
Contrast with Mary was stark
Both faced the issue of being a king and a queen – marriage and religion were the key issues
Advisors assumed the questions were one and the same = marriage of Elizabeth would decide the religion of England
Assumed that Elizabeth would have to marry
Mary’s widower Philip II of Spain was the foremost of the Catholic candidates
Prince of Sweden was the preferred candidate for the Protestants
6 February 1559 Westminster parliamentary delegation presented Elizabeth with a petition to marry and give England an heir to carry on the dynasty
Would only choose a husband who was as careful of her realm as she was
Queen lived and died a virgin
None of her subjects believed she had meant what she said
Elizabeth had the luxury of time to choose a husband, only age 25
Philip of Spain was the first to lose patience and married in April 1559 to a French princess
Elizabeth would decide England’s religion – not an ardent Protestant or Catholic – new religious settlement was decided
3 April 1559 Elizabeth hadn’t wavered to either side
Tried to unite as many people as possible “no desire to make windows into men’s souls” under her sovereignty – outward conformity to a relaxed religion was enough
Elizabeth’s motto “always the same”
No middle ground on the issue of marriage after months and years – chance of childbearing began to fade
Did Elizabeth ever really play with marriage?
Status as “Virgin Queen”
Elizabeth became the source of security for her kingdom
Summer 1588 Spanish Armada threatens to invade, failed to keep England Catholic by trying to marry her and supporting any opposition to his rule
Intended to make England Catholic by conquest
Age 54 Elizabeth faced the challenge alone, without a husband to wield the sword
Tilbury in Essex an army was mustered 9 August 1588 Elizabeth wore a breastplate to rally her troops
“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a King of England at that”
Armada was shipwrecked by storms in the Atlantic “God breathed and they were scattered”
Even without a husband, Elizabeth had succeeded
Cult of Gloriana – unique being
Man’s heart in a woman’s breast
Woman chosen by God to rise above the limit of her sex
Her power had its limits = could dominate its present, but only by giving up any of its future

James VI & I by Daniel Mytens 1621.
James VI & I by Daniel Mytens 1621.

1603 age 69 – ill but refusing to make a will or name an heir, dreading the time when England had to go on without her
24 March 1603 Elizabeth died, and so did the Tudor dynasty even though her father had gone to such lengths to continue it
James VI of Scotland became James I of England – Stuart dynasty
Ruled for 45 years – female rule possible and could be glorious, couldn’t pass on the crown to an heir of their own bloodline
Power was male – women faced compromises and criticisms that would never have applied to a man
Our queen reigns rather than rules = government rules
Woman with real power is still the exception to the rule – power still seems overwhelmingly male

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