The Most Perfect Goddess of the Heavens
Queen Elizabeth’s difficulties with foreign princes and Mary Stuart continued into the new decade with the assassination in
January 23, 1570, of James Stuart, the Earl of Moray. Moray was Mary Stuart’s half-brother, one of
King James V’s many bastards. Moray had
taken Mary’s part in her quarrels with the Calvinist John Knox and had won her
confidence. During her reign, until she
married Lord Darnley, Mary had followed his advice. Becoming regent of Scotland after Mary’s abdication in
1567, Moray had opposed any movement to restore her as Queen. Scotland
saw Mary’s restoration as a means of ridding herself of a major difficulty, but
only if the stringent conditions of the Treaty of Edinburgh, which Mary had
refused to ratify, were followed -- the treaty’s most important condition being
that Mary renounce all claims to the English throne. Moray had been murdered by rival lords who
believed he had wanted to become King.
William Maitland, the former Scottish ambassador to Elizabeth England, had thereupon organized a faction to
restore Mary; and the kings of France
and Spain were demanding
assist in the restoration. Elizabeth
Pope Pius V’s excommunication of
February 25 produced considerable
turmoil. The Pope’s bull deprived “the
pretended Queen of England, the serpent of wickedness,” of her kingdom. Elizabeth ’s
subjects were free of their oath of allegiance.
The bull’s intention was two-fold: to incite Elizabeth ’s Catholic subjects to rebel and to
encourage foreign princes to assist in her removal. Its immediate consequences were
counter-productive. Pius’s action
angered Elizabeth Spain’s Philip II
Charles IX. Each resented that he had
not been consulted. English Protestants
pressed “increasingly for Mary’s execution and for tougher laws against
Catholics.” The bull “subverted the
loyalty of France ’s
Catholic subjects and made every one of them a potential traitor to be regarded
with suspicion. … each one of them would
face an agonizing choice of loyalties, for it would no longer be possible to
compromise on matters of conscience” (Weir 213). Elizabeth
In late April the Privy Council warned
that if she forced Mary’s
restoration she would never feel secure in her kingdom. Conversely, the French had threatened war if
she did not. Seeking a middle course, Elizabeth Elizabeth sent Mary an additional condition for
restoration, that her son James be brought to as a hostage to guarantee
Mary’s good conduct. In October Mary
agreed to England ’s
conditions. Because of the increased
threat of Mary being crowned Queen of England, the need for Elizabeth to marry soon and give birth to a
male heir now seemed imperative.
“Without that child, Elizabeth
stood alone, unguarded against foreign invaders, traitors at home, and the
constant fear of assassination. If she
died childless, there would be no bar to Mary’s succession” (Weir 215). Elizabeth
sent an envoy to the Holy Roman Emperor in August to attempt to renew marriage
negotiations with the Archduke. He was
not interested. To her surprise, Elizabeth Elizabeth received in September a marriage proposal from ’s Henry,
the Duke of Anjou, King Charles IX’s brother and heir. Charles and his mother Catherine de Medici
wanted to unite France England and France in a defensive alliance against , whose
presence in the Netherlands Charles feared.
Additionally, Charles needed support against the increasing threat to
his sovereignty of the House of Guise.
And, finally, by having Spain Elizabeth marry
his brother, he hoped to deter
from helping the ever-increasing masses of French Huguenots. Prolonged negotiations were precisely what Elizabeth desired. Because Elizabeth France
was King Philip’s most powerful rival, Philip would be obliged to tolerate ’s religious
heresy for fear that if he were to act against her, he would force her to
commit to a French marriage even though her husband would be Catholic. Elizabeth
was luke-warm about the proposed marriage.
So was Anjou . He was 19; she was 37. It was already well know that he was bisexually
promiscuous. Even though she was
insistent that he would have to obey her country’s rules and Elizabeth was unbending about not abandoning his
faith, she encouraged the French ambassador to believe that she was ready for
marriage. The Queen Mother Catherine de
Medici sent a flattering portrait of her son and a list of demands: Anjou had to be
permitted to practice his faith, he would be crowned King of England the day
after the marriage, and he would receive an annual income of 60,000 pounds for
life. Anjou Elizabeth’s
only concession was that
would not be forced to attend Anglican services. Anjou
In February 1571, Scottish commissioners, acting on behalf of the four-year-old James VI, appeared before
The Scottish people do not want you to press for Mary Stuart’s
restoration, they informed. Embittered
by Pope Pius’s excommunication and resentful of the desire of European monarchs
to depose her, Elizabeth
had no intention now of doing so. Soon
thereafter, Mary was told of Elizabeth ’s
refusal to help her. She realized that
only foreign princes could deliver her.
“If intrigue could secure her liberation, and hopefully the crown of Elizabeth , that
was the course she was now obliged to take” (Weir 270). England
Mary had already received a letter from Roberto Ridolfi, a Florentine banker who acted as a papal agent. He had conceived of a plan whereby Catholic powers would invade
England, overthrow Elizabeth,
and crown Mary and the English subject Lord Norfolk (who had entertained
thoughts of marrying Mary previously -- and had spent time in the because of it) Queen and
King. Philip and the Pope had agreed to
the plan in principle. Ridolfi received
Mary’s consent. Tower of London
According to Ridolfi’s plan, Philip’s general in the
Netherlands, the Duke of Alva, would invade England with 6,000 troops, march to , and occupy
it. London Norfolk
would incite loyal English Catholics to rise up against .
Alva would seize Elizabeth
and either assassinate her or hold her hostage for Mary’s safety. Mary would be liberated and proclaimed Queen
of England. Mary and Elizabeth Norfolk
would be married and would reign as joint sovereigns of England and . Scotland
The Duke of Alva rejected the plan, recognizing that it had little chance of succeeding. Spies working for
chief advisor, Lord Burghley, discovered it.
confessed. The Spanish ambassador was
expelled from the country. Ridolfi fled
abroad. Norfolk ordered her cousin Mary to be more
closely confined and watched. Never
again would she consider restoring Mary to the Scottish throne. Acting swiftly, she recognized James VI King
of Scots. She had Mary’s letters
implicating her in the murders of her secretary/lover David Rizzio in 1566 and
her husband Lord Darnley in 1567 published.
was beheaded June 2, 1572. Yet Norfolk Elizabeth turned down Parliament’s request that Mary
either be executed or be barred legislatively from succession and be warned
that future plotting against
would require her execution. Elizabeth
On April 19, 1572,
concluded the Treaty of Blois. Each
country would provide the other military and naval assistance against their
common enemies. France would
end its support of Mary Stuart.
Catherine de Medici thereafter proposed a marriage between Elizabeth and
her youngest son, Francis, the Duke of Alencon.
Seventeen years old, he was said to be somewhat sympathetic toward
Huguenots. His skin was badly marked
from two childhood attacks of smallpox.
He was undersized for his age. France agreed to allow
negotiations to proceed, hoping to prolong them indefinitely. The Massacre of St. Bartholemew in August
Backed by the Catholic House of Guise, Catherine de Medici, jealous that the Huguenot leader Admiral de Coligny had gained influence with her son King Charles, had ordered the Huguenot murdered. The attempt failed. Riots broke out in
Reluctantly backed by Charles, Catherine ordered all Huguenots removed
from the capital. Catholics murdered
every Huguenot they could find – between 3,000 and 4,000. Similar attacks erupted in the
provinces. Paris responded cautiously. She could not compromise the French
alliance. She expressed deep shock and
anger. She hoped that King Charles would
make amends. She would not make a
decision about marriage until she was satisfied that Charles would henceforth
treat his Huguenot subjects fairly.
Secretly, she sent arms to the Huguenots. Elizabeth
In July 1573 King Charles declared that all Huguenots were free to practice their religious beliefs. Ten months later, May 30, 1574, he died. His brother, the Duke of Anjou, became King Henry III. Fearing an end of religious tolerance in
France and possibly the peace treaty that she
had signed, Elizabeth moved closer to by
signing in August the Treaty of Bristol.
(Henry did continue the moderate religious policies begun by
Charles) Spain Elizabeth
had agreed to meet the Duke of Alencon at
in March 1574, two months before Charles IX’s death. Dover ,
however, had become implicated in a series of intrigues against his brother
Charles and had been put under house arrest.
(After Charles’s death, Alencon Alencon’s title
became the Duke of Anjou, being that he was now the first heir to the French
throne, his older brother, the original ,
having become King. I will continue to
identify him as Anjou Alencon, to avoid
confusion) After Charles’s death, Alencon escaped his incarceration and wandered for some
time about Europe.
informed his mother Catherine that under no circumstance would she now marry
A new threat to
safety began to surface in 1574.
Hundreds of highly-trained, committed, militant Catholic priests from
Jesuit seminaries located throughout Europe had started to arrive in Elizabeth . These “seminarists” were comprised of two
groups. One group provided spiritual
comfort for beleaguered English Catholics.
The other group strived to undermine the English church and state. The government would view both groups as
traitors deserving the worst of punishments. England
In January 1575 Protestant leaders in the
Netherlands asked Elizabeth
to become Queen of Holland and Zeeland. She procrastinated, not wanting to provoke
Philip of Spain, who was the anointed king and hereditary ruler of the . Also, she opposed in principle the
overthrowal of any rightful monarch. The
Protestant leaders took offense at her procrastination. Netherlands
1576 witnessed additional trouble in the
. Netherlands Elizabeth had
not yet answered whether she would consent to be Queen of Holland and Zeeland. In
February Philip asked her if she intended to provide aid to the Protestant
rebels. She evaded his question. In the spring she declined the and Zeeland
Protestant leaders’ offer. That summer
Spanish troops stationed in the Holland
mutinied and rioted over non-payment of wages.
Dutch Protestants and some Catholics coalesced under the leadership of
William of Orange. The rebels agreed
that they should elect their own assembly and fight for independence. They wanted their and Netherlands ’s
military forces to combine to form a Protestant army with Elizabeth its
leader. England rejected their proposal. Philip appointed a new Regent for the Elizabeth Netherlands, his half brother Don John of Austria, “the most renowned soldier in Europe” (Weir 306).
had in fact given the Dutch 20,000 pounds.
She had loaned them another 106,000 pounds – almost half her annual
income. She offered to act as mediator
between Don John and the Dutch rebels.
Her proposal was rejected. Ultimately,
Don John offered the rebel Dutch favorable terms for peace. Elizabeth
In the early months of 1577 Walsingham’s spies uncovered a Catholic conspiracy to remove
re-establish Catholicism as ’s
official religion. Don John would invade
with 10,000 troops. He would marry Mary
Stuart. They would rule England
jointly. Don John was too busy in the England to
initiate the plan. Netherlands refused to punish Mary. Elizabeth
In January 1578 Don John decisively defeated the Dutch Protestant armies in a major battle.
renewed marriage negotiations with the French.
“Thanks to the provocation given to King Philip by English privateers”
(information about this next month) and the help Elizabeth had given the Dutch
rebels, “the peace with Spain now seemed to be on a very precarious footing, …
Philip might yet invoke the Pope’s interdict and make the rumoured Enterprise
of England a reality” (Weir 311). She
had also been worried about reports that the Duke of Alencon was planning to
meddle in the Elizabeth . Netherlands ’s
ambition had found no outlet at the court of France. Regarded as a troublesome nuisance, he craved
military fame and glory. Alencon Elizabeth wanted no French presence whatsoever in the . When she learned that Netherlands ’s intention was not supported by the
French government, she thought to control him by suggesting that she might yet
marry him. Alencon was amenable. Without the backing of a powerful ruler he
knew he could not achieve his ambitious goals.
In March 1579 Simier presented a draft marriage treaty to the Privy Council. The Council rejected three of the marriage articles: that Alencon be crowned immediately after the wedding, that he share jointly with the Queen the power to grant land and church offices, and that Parliament give him an annual income of 60,000 pounds payable until his children had reached their majority.
stipulated that no decision could be reached about the marriage treaty until Alencon came to to meet her. England
arrived “secretly” August 17. She
appeared taken by him. She nicknamed him
her “Frog.” Alencon Alencon
at the end of the month. Public
opposition to the marriage was never greater.
had the right hands of the author and printer of a salacious pamphlet cut
off. The public was outraged all the
more, forcing her to recognize that if she were to retain the love of her
subjects she could not accept Elizabeth
as a husband. Yet it was necessary that
the marriage negotiations be prolonged, to keep the French government friendly,
to keep the Duke under control, and to keep King Philip at bay. Therefore, she feigned a great love for her
French suitor. Into the year 1580 she
wore his gift jewel at Court; she tucked his pair of gloves in her belt, kissed
them hundreds of times; she wrote him many letters. Her Councilors had no idea what she would
ultimately decide. Alencon
Vintage Books, 1998. Print. London