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She was stern, she was smart and cunning, she cared for her people among all else, she refused to be tricked or used, and she was The Virgin Queen. Queen Elizabeth 1 did not pop out of the ground one day with all of her knowledge, characteristics, and political savvy that made her great, she was born and through her childhood and young adult life she learned these things and her character was molded, helping her in her reign. Not much is said on Elizabeth’s childhood and young adult life before she took the throne, so maybe a deeper look at Elizabeth’s younger years will help explain her older ones just a bit more.
Sunday, September 17th 1533 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon a baby girl with possibly peach fuzz on the top of her head was born into history’s most infamous royal family, Elizabeth Tudor was her name. She was not what Henry VIII, King of England wanted, she was missing an important part, but he still loved her and respected her, somewhat. After her christening Elizabeth was swept off to a suite in Greenwich in the independent house, Hatfield. Not soon after though she was given her own home, she was moved to “Prince’s Side at Ilith,” which was her father’s boyhood home. Her father quickly thought of arranged marriages that never went anywhere. At six months old her father began negotiations for her to marry a French prince. Then, only a couple months later, there was talk to marry her to Margareta of Navarre’s nephew, Duke of Angouleme, third son of Frances I. Then in April 1543 Henry had the idea to try to arrange a marriage with the son of Scottish Regent, Earl of Arran. Obviously none of them manifested into something even remotely solid, but even though young when these ideas for Elizabeth were had, it still effected her thinking, she saw what happened to marriages of women of noble birth to men of the same, how in most they are not respected as wives and how the man receives all power because he is a man. Perhaps this is a factor that leads her to the decision to stay “virgin.” It is obvious in certain readings of her reign that she did not want to be used as a pawn for someone else gain, maybe that is what she saw arranged marriages as. Also not to mention her father ended his marriage with a Spanish Princess, ending an alliance and making enemies, she perhaps saw a marriage as not the best way to ensure an alliance. Or maybe because of her father killing her mother she had a slight fear that the man she married could do the same if she displeased him.
After the death of her mother life became difficult for Elizabeth for a time. People who disliked her mother started to openly call her by the cute nickname they had given her when she was born, “little whore.” Not to mention her sister, who was living in her house, hated her and did not acknowledge her as Princess until Anne’s death. There was open talk, and some believed, that she was actually the child of one of her mother’s “lovers” ether Sir Henry Norris or the musician Mark Smeaton. At three years old Princess Elizabeth, not yet Lady Elizabeth, was quickly growing out of her luxurious clothes her mother would send her and within weeks she literally had nothing to wear. Her brother, though, was being brought up in the same house as she and their sister, Mary, and Henry still loving all his children, sent clothes for her after her governess Lady Bryan sent a letter to Thomas Cromwell, the royal Secretary at the time, asking for clothes. These events and rumors though small still made an impact on Queen Elizabeth, she was always dressed in her finest, just like the luxurious clothes her mother gave her that made people remember she is a princess and also a queen. The rumors followed her well into her reign, causing her to be more determined to prove her legitimacy, even though her father clearly saw she was his, people still speculated and tried to prove she was indeed a true bastard. Though not proven, these rumors and accusations could have caused her to rid of anyone who threatened her legitimacy to the throne, example: the beheading of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.
Then other events took place in her teen years that can explain her most famous decision. That was when she was sent to live with her stepmother, Catherine Parr, who married Thomas Seymour; things were not exactly comfortable for Elizabeth in their house. It is said, and there were witnesses, that Thomas would enter her room at night and make sexual advances and would slap her on her behind multiple times, in other words Elizabeth was molested. Rumors started to spread and instead of the people seeing what was obvious, they thought Elizabeth was becoming her mother, stealing men from their wives, she was only 12 to 13 when these event took place.
Though it is not shown if Catherine saw it in that light as well, there was an incident where, while walking in the garden, Thomas mocked Elizabeth for still wearing black to morn her father, and as Catherine held Elizabeth back, Thomas used his sword to slash the dress to pieces. This is another way that points to why she never married, Elizabeth was mistreated by someone that was to be her guardian, not to say she saw all men in this light, but there might have been more that happened that left a scar so deep it would effect her intimacies with men. Thomas Seymour was eventually arrested and sent to the tower, but not for what he did to Elizabeth, but for trying to marry her and it was seen as high treason. Then, before taking the throne, Elizabeth adopted her mother’s badge, which was “Semper Eadem,” which meant “always the same” this lead some to believe she favored her mother in a way that condoned the things she did and was a “whore” like her mother. That is far from the truth, because it was almost like her way of telling those who still believed she was illegitimate and not fit to take the throne that it would always be the same, people would always doubt her, but also that she would always be the same which was, unyielding to those accusations.
What might have truly made Elizabeth a great queen was her education, like many her education was given and acquired for all the royals, but hers was different from those of other Princesses. Like Cleopatra, who was a lover on languages and education, she focused more on things that could help her people (even though she at the time had no idea they would) and herself instead of preparing her to be a wife. She was never sent to the French court like some Ladies were and she didn’t seem to have any interest in learning the ways of being a wife, even though she still was taught them. By the time she was 12 she was educated in advanced sciences, geography, mathematics, architecture and astronomy. She could fluently write and speak in French, Italian, Welsh, Spanish, Flemish and Latin. The languages she learned were geography, architecture, and mathematics. Importance can be seen in her adult life. Learning the languages she did, she was able to speak and have negotiations with others in political matters herself, instead of using a translator who could trick her. She shocked many with her language ability, and one day it took the Polish ambassador by surprise by suddenly reprimanding him in fluent Latin. The geography helped her in military tactics, which she was involved in making decisions in, the architecture explains the housing changes for the homes of her subjects, and homes became bigger and safer to live in. The mathematics can be shown in how well the economy was during her reign, she was involved in making money designs instead of having someone else do it for her. Elizabeth had so many skills and it was said by those that knew her “that God, who endowed her with such rare gifts, had certainly destined her to some distinguished employment in the world.” Elizabeth impressed anyone who sat to talk with her, for she already had great speech and good handwriting by the time she was six. When Thomas Wriothesley, royal secretary, visited her when she was six he was shocked by how the child spoke, “she spoke to me with as much assurance as a woman of forty, if she be no more educated then she now aperient to me, she will prove of no less honor and womanhood.” This statement only shows she already had the makings of a great queen.
Elizabeth was a protestant, she was religious as any princess, but in her younger years she saw what effect of the battle over Catholicism and Protestantism had on England. It is obvious that Elizabeth was not 100 percent invested in what religion her people where, for she cared for the happiness more than how they practiced to love God. From what she saw as a young lady, the effects of her father breaking with the Roman Church, and her sister burring protestant, could be the reason why she did not push her people to decided, she quiet possibly thought she was to be there for her people and not kill them just for having different Christian traditions.
With more time, research and determination there could be more events and learning’s discovered from her young years to help explain more of why she ruled the way she did. It was 400 hundred years ago, so it is quite hard to tell even what findings are fact or fiction. Though it is clearly shown Elizabeth was formed from day one to be a queen, and formed so well that she did not need a king’s help. She did not have the most ideal young life, even though she was a princess, but the years of hardship and accusations of legitimacy helped Elizabeth form tough skin and a stubborn spirit to stop someone from easily ruling her life, instead of doing it on her own and picking what advice she would or would not take. Even with little detail and information on Elizabeth’s young life the psychological effects of the events that took place are clearly shown her rule, but they did not make her weak.