Elizabeth Tudor is considered by many to be the greatest monarch in English history. When she became queen in 1558, she was twenty-five years old, a survivor of scandal and danger, and considered illegitimate by most Europeans. She inherited a bankrupt nation, torn by religious discord, a weakened pawn between the great powers of France and Spain. She was only the third queen to rule England in her own right; the other two examples, her cousin Lady Jane Grey and half-sister Mary I, were disastrous. Even her supporters believed her position dangerous and uncertain. Her only hope, they counseled, was to marry quickly and lean upon her husband for support. But Elizabeth had other ideas.
She ruled alone for nearly half a century, lending her name to a glorious epoch in world history. She dazzled even her greatest enemies. Her sense of duty was admirable, though it came at great personal cost. She was committed above all else to preserving English peace and stability; her genuine love for her subjects was legendary. Only a few years after her death in 1603, they lamented her passing. In her greatest speech to Parliament, she told them, ‘I count the glory of my crown that I have reigned with your love.’ And five centuries later, the worldwide love affair with Elizabeth Tudor continues.
Elizabeth Tudor was born on 7 September 1533 at Greenwich Palace. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry had defied the papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor to marry Anne, spurred on by love and the need for a legitimate male heir. And so Elizabeth’s birth was one of the most exciting political events in 16th century European history; rarely had so much turmoil occurred on behalf of a mere infant. But the confident predictions of astrologers and physicians were wrong and the longed-for prince turned out to be a princess.
Princess Elizabeth Tudor was the fourth child and second daughter of King Henry VII of England and his Queen, Elizabeth of York. Princess Elizabeth was born on Saturday 2 July, 1492 at Sheen Palace in Surrey (later rebuilt by her father as Richmond Palace, the remains of which are now part of Richmond-Upon-Thames, London). Elizabeth spent much of her short life at the royal nursery of Eltham Palace, Kent, with her brother Prince Henry (the future King Henry VIII) and her sister Princess Margaret (later Queen of Scotland) under the guidance of a Lady Mistress, presided over by her mother. Elizabeth's oldest brother, Prince Arthur, as heir to the throne, was brought up separately in his own household. Just before her death, Henry VII proposed a marriage alliance between Elizabeth and the French Prince, Francis, who later became King Francis I of France. Princess Elizabeth died on Saturday 14 September, 1495 after suffering from atrophy at the age of three years and two months. Elizabeth was brought from Eltham in state and buried on the north side of St. Edward the Confessor's Shrine in Westminster Abbey on Friday the 27th. Princess Elizabeth was the first of four of King Henry and Queen Elizabeth's children to die prematurely and they were greatly affected. The large sum of £318 (£155,479.74 in today's money) was spent on her funeral and Henry erected a small tomb to his daughter in the Abbey made from Purbeck and black marble. On top of the monument is a finely polished slab of black Lydian, upon which were placed inscriptions to Elizabeth and her effigy of copper gilt, both of which are now lost. Later, Princess Elizabeth's younger brother Prince Edmund (who died in 1500 at the age of 15 months) and her younger sister Princess Katherine (who died in 1503 shortly after birth) were also laid by her side.
Edward’s ministers, especially after the Seymour affair, were careful with her. Dudley recognized Elizabeth’s formidable intelligence. When Edward VI became ill in 1553 and it was clear he would not survive, Dudley had a desperate plan to save himself from Mary I’s Catholic rule – place Henry VIII’s niece, Lady Jane Grey on the throne. (This is discussed in great length at the Lady Jane Grey site.) Simply put, Dudley believed he would be supported because Jane was Protestant and the English would not want the Catholic Mary on the throne. Of course, the question arises – Elizabeth was Protestant, so why not put her on the throne instead of Jane? The main reason is that Dudley was well aware that Elizabeth Tudor would not be his puppet, unlike Jane Grey whom he had married to his son Guildford. As for Edward VI, he went along with the plan because of two main reasons: Elizabeth was illegitimate so there might be resistance to her rule and, as a princess, she might be persuaded to marry a foreign prince and England would fall under foreign control. Jane was already safely wed to an Englishman.