To appreciate better England’s attempt to establish a colony in North America in 1585, a student of history should know certain facts about the difficulties that Queen Elizabeth faced when in 1558 she became Queen, difficulties that she would continue to have during her lengthy reign.
Most of Elizabeth’s initial difficulties were caused by her father, Henry VIII. This blog entry explains how.
Throughout Henry VIII’s reign France was England’s enemy. Henry invaded France three times wanting to regain territory that had once belonged to England. He also wanted to be France’s King. Not surprisingly, France was hostile to Elizabeth when she became Queen.
Until the late 1520s Spain was more Henry’s ally than his enemy. Near the beginning of his reign (1509) Henry married Spain’s Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I. He stayed on good terms with their successor, King Charles (also the Holy Roman Emperor) for ten years, siding with him several times during Charles’s ongoing conflict with France. The relationship soured when Henry sought permission from the Pope to have his marriage annulled. Catherine, who was Charles’s aunt, had not borne Henry a male heir. Thwarted mostly by Charles, in 1533 Henry removed himself from Papal authority by declaring himself the head of the Church of England. A special English court declared the marriage null and void. Prior to the court's decision, Henry married the independent-minded Anne Boleyn, the sister of one of Henry’s mistresses, Mary Boleyn, one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting. Crowned queen-consort June 1, 1533, Anne gave birth to Elizabeth September 7. Henry ordered Anne Boleyn beheaded three years later. He married thereafter Jane Seymour, who gave birth to Edward, who became King in 1547. By separating his kingdom from the Catholic Church and having his marriage to Catherine voided, Henry gave Elizabeth’s nemesis King Philip II (Charles’s successor) every motivation to convert her or replace her with a Catholic monarch.
Henry also created problems for Elizabeth in Scotland. They would plague Elizabeth her entire reign. Henry’s father (Henry VII) had established peace with that Catholic nation by marrying his daughter Margaret to King James IV in 1503. James V, a devout Catholic, crowned King in 1513, maintained a close relationship with France. He married the French king’s daughter Madeleine (January 1537) and, after Madeleine’s death, Mary of Guise of the powerful House of Guise (June 1538). His and Mary’s only surviving child was Mary, born in 1542. She would become Mary, Queen of Scots, and claimant of the English throne.
The death of James’s mother (Margaret Tudor – Henry VIII’s sister) removed any remaining incentive for England and Scotland to remain at peace. When Henry had broken with the Roman Catholic Church, he had asked James to do the same. James had refused. Henry wanted to unite the two kingdoms. Warfare ensued. A small Scottish army met and defeated a similar-sized English army in August 1542 near the Scottish border. In November a larger Scottish army was beaten decisively on the English side of the Anglo-Scottish border. James died December 15 of a fever, six days after his daughter’s birth.
Henry proposed a marriage between his young son Edward and the infant Mary. The regent of Scotland reluctantly agreed. The Treaty of Greenwich was signed July 1, 1543. It stipulated that at the age of ten Mary would marry Edward. Mary would move to England where Henry would oversee her upbringing. The two countries would remain legally separated. If Edward and Mary had no children, the union between the two countries would dissolve. The Treaty was rejected by the Parliament of Scotland in December. Seeking to force the marriage, Henry invaded Scotland. In May 1544 the Earl of Hertford raided and burned Edinburgh. Warfare ended in 1546 without a definite resolution. Henry died January 28, 1547.
In 1548 an agreement was reached between Scotland’s regent and France’s King Henry II regarding Mary. She would marry the Dauphin Francis sometime in the future. Mary was subsequently taken to France by her mother, Mary of Guise, to spend the next 13 years at the French court. Years later, Mary, Queen of Scots, would become the focal point of plots to remove or assassinate Elizabeth.