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3. The Official Courtships ofthe Queen In 1567 the Spanish Ambassador, Guzman de Silva, wrote to his master Philip II that, "the hatred that this Queen has ofmarriage is most strange. They presented a comedy before her last night until nearly one in the morning, which ended in a marriage, and the Queen, as she told me herself , expressed her dislike of the woman's part." At about the same time Elizabeth also held a masque for de Silva performed by gentlemen all dressed in black and white. Elizabeth said ofthe costumes, "those are my colors." This time de Silva apparently did not catch the implication, but in some works on heraldry of the period, black and white are described as the colors of perpetual virginity, ofpurity and steadfastness.1 From the beginning of the reign, as well as the question of religion, the other important issue was whom would the queen marry. Yet, despit~ repeated behests on the part ofParliament and her Council to marry, Elizabeth claimed she preferred the single state. In Elizabeth's speech before her first Parliament, the queen declared, "And in the end this shalbe for me sufficient-that a marble stone shall declare that a Queene having raigned such a tyme, lived and dyed a virgin."2 One might suppose, then, that Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, simply represented the ideal ofchastity to her people. But the ways Elizabeth fashioned herself in her public presentations were far more contradictory and complex.3 For while Elizabeth claimed virginity as her ideal state, and eventually resisted all demands on her to marry, she also loved proposals and courtship. These were not only politically valuable to her, they also seem to have had some deeper emotional resonance. Examining some specific incidents allows us to study the conflicts and contradictions between Elizabeth's self-presentations as virgin and as object of political and sexual desire and marriageability; it is also valuable to examine people's responses to both these images. This chapter focuses on some of the pressures for Elizabeth to marry from the beginning of the reign, and pivotal moments in three different courtships4 -the mid-156os and the Archduke Charles, brother ofthe Holy Roman Emperor, 1571-72 and the Duke ofAnjou (the future Henry Ill), and 4-0 Chapter 3 Figure 4-. Elizabeth being presented with a book by George Gasgoigne (by permission ofthe British Library) the late 1570s and early 158os and Francis, Duke ofAlen<;on (later Anjou). As a counterpoint to these official courtships with foreign princes stands Elizabeth's favorite, Robert Dudley, who also wooed the queen and whose relationship with her caused such concern over whether it would impede these other negotiations. The complexity of the issue of Elizabeth's The Official Courtships of the Queen 4I courtships is especially clear when we think of the very word "court." It is the place where the sovereign resides and the center of power. As D. M. Loades argues, the Tudor court was a political institution as well as a cultural center and the place of exchange for patronage and power. But court can also mean the elaborate ritualized form of wooing, of seeking a woman's hand in marriage. Catherine Bates suggests that in the rs6os and I570s "to court" began to have a distinctly sexual connotation. "By the end of the I570S, then, the word to court was in general use, with two concurrent senses, the social and the amorous." Moreover, as Norbert Elias points out, in the sixteenth century, among aristocratic court society, sexual life was more concealed, and more ritualized, than previously.5 Only with hindsight do we know that Elizabeth indeed never married . Not only did many of her councillors and those at foreign courts hope and expect Elizabeth might marry, she herself at different times appears to have at least considered the possibility, played with the idea, that she might wed. Camden's version of Elizabeth's I558 speech to Parliament, where she claims to already be married to England, is often used as an example that Elizabeth from the beginning of her reign had made the decision never to marry. I have already joyned my selfe in marriage to an husband, namely the kingdome ofEngland. And behold (said she, which I marvaile ye have forgotten,) the pledge of this my wedlocke and mariage with my kingdome, (and therewith , she stretched forth her finger and shewed the ring ofgold.) 6 But as John King has shown, we have to accept this version of the speech only with reservations.? Moreover, in r604 James I made a similar speech to his Parliament, saying: "I am the husband, and all the whole Isle is my lawful! Wife." Now this is obviously a rhetorical strategy, a statement about the king as body politic, since James was already a husband and a father. Furthermore, in r624 James elaborated on this metaphor as a means to explain his power. "It is a very fit similitude for a king and his people to be like a husband and wife.... It is the husband's part to cherish his wife, to entreat her kindly, and reconcile himself towards her, and procure her love by all means, so it is my part to do the like to my people." Equally, when Mary had addressed the citizens in the Guildhall in February I554 during the Wyatt rebellion she asserted: "I am your queen, to whom at my coronation, when I was wedded to the realm . . . (the spousal ring whereof! have on my finger, which never hitherto was, nor hereafter shall 42 Chapter 3 be left off), you promised your allegiance and obedience unto me." Mary promised to marry only "for the high benefit and commodity ofthe whole realm." She did not say that since she was married to her realm she could not marry a person. So too we might grant that for Elizabeth to present herself as already married to England is also claiming that her body politic is the spouse of her country; it is not a definitive claim that her body natural will never marry.8 Of course, being Elizabeth, and given her deployment of ambiguous rhetorical strategies, in Camden's version of her 1558 speech she is at least implying that she does not need to marry, as she, symbolically, already has. The more authoritative version ofElizabeth's 1558 speech does not give this justification for not marrying but here as well Elizabeth presents her preference for the maiden state. The speech continues, however, by presenting other alternatives. "Whensover it may please God to enclyne my harte to an other kynd of life, ye may well assure your selves my meaningc is not to do or determyne anie thinge wherwith the realme may or shall have juste cause to be discontented.... And whomsover my chance shalbe to light apon, I truste he shalbe as carefull for the realme and yow." If however , it "please almightie God to contynew me still in this mynde to lyve out of the state of mariage, yet it is not to be feared but he will so woorke in my harte and in your wisdomes as good provsion by his healpe may be made in convenient tyme, wherby the realme shall not remayne destitute of an heire that may be a fitt governor, and peraventure more beneficial! to the realme then suche ofspring as may come of me. For although I be never so carefull of your well doinges and mynde ever so to be, yet may my issue growe out ofkynde and become perhappes ungracious."9 At the beginning of her reign Elizabeth seemed to show little interest in marriage and children. With a strong lack of maternal feelings, she suggested her own child might be much inferior to her. But other speeches and statements even more leave open the possibility that the queen was seriously considering marriage and the desirability ofchildren. Elizabeth was under enormous pressure to marry, and indeed in a later speech to Parliament goes much further in her attempts to placate her subjects by offering to wed-if the time were right. In a speech of November 5, 1566, to some thirty members of Lords and thirty members of Commons in the midst of the negotiations with the Archduke Charles, Elizabeth was horrified that Parliament would think she did not care about the fate ofEngland. The Official Courtships of the Queen 4-3 Was I not borne in the realme? Were my parentes borne in anye forreyne contreye? Ys there anye cause I shold alyenatte my self from beynge careful! over this contreye? Ys not my kyngdome here? Whom have I opressede? ... What turmoyle have I made in this common welthe that I shold be suspected to have no regarde to the same? Elizabeth protested that I wyll never breke the worde of a prynce spoken in publyke place, for my honour sake. And therefore I saye ageyn, I wyll marrye assone as I can convenyentlye , yf God take not hym awaye with whom I mynde to marrye, or my self, or els sum othere great lette happen.... And I hope to have chylderne , otherwyse I wolde never marrie.10 The pressure on Elizabeth to marry was great, and certainly related to role expectations about her as a woman, in that a king could relieve Elizabeth of the difficulties of rule, or so her councillors fondly believed. But the pressure on all monarchs to marry so that they could provide the country with an heir was intense. This had already been made all too obvious with the murderous, marital antics of Elizabeth's father. And the expectations for what the marriage would accomplish would be clear. In the sixteenth century it was expected that rulers would marry, and royal marriages involved not only providing an heir but bringing to the kingdom honor and perhaps some political and religious advantage. Affection and personal pleasure might be a bonus, but would hardly be the reason for marrying. Jenny Wormald suggests that of all sixteenth century rulers , Mary Stuart was "uniquely'' the only one to "put marriage before monarchy." 11 The expectations that the queen would marry were strong, but there was also the conflict and contradiction that the queen was ruler while a wife was to be ruled by her husband. In 1559 Aylmer in his Harborrow for Trew and Faithful SubJects attempted to reconcile these contradictions, but without much success. "Say you, God hath apoynted her to be subject to her husband ... therfore she maye not be the heade. I graunte that, so farre as perteining to the bandes of mariage, and the offices of a wife, she must be a subjecte: but as a Magistrate she maye be her husbandes heade.... Whie may not the woman be the husbandes inferiour in matters of wedlock, and his head in the guiding of the commonwelth." While Aylmer's vision of duty carefully delineated between public and private with Elizabeth as dutiful wife in the domestic circle and head and ruler of 44 Chapter 3 the commonwealth in her official role might sound like an ideal solution to the problem of a woman ruler, we can well understand how Elizabeth herselfwould not be convinced. Delineating the line between what is private and what is public is virtually impossible. In many w<}ys every aspect of Elizabeth's life contained its public element; as she herself once stated, her life was conducted in the open. We might well might wonder if there were any place for Elizabeth to ever be privately the subservient and submissive wife, even ifshe would choose to be so, which is dubious. And it is highly doubtful that a husband, either a foreign prince or one of her own nobility, could simply accept Elizabeth's domination in the public realm without attempting to interfere. This question of marriage and what it might mean to her was obviously one that Elizabeth was well aware ofthroughout her life and reign. We have a number of statements from letters as well as reported events that may give us some insight into how she felt about marriage, and it does seem clear that this is not a monochromatic picture-Elizabeth presented a variety ofperspectives on the question ofher marriage at different times and in different courtships. We must, however, remember that Elizabeth often was carefully crafting her statements for public consumption, and they reveal not so much what she felt about marriage but what she felt would be politic for her to say about marriage. From the beginning ofher reign, Elizabeth's Council and Parliaments beseeched her to marry, and found the idea ofan unmarried woman ruling unnatural. William Cecil expounded on this frequently in letters to intimates . For example, in 1561 he wrote to Thomas Radcliffe, the Earl of Sussex, "The Quene's Majestie remanyth still strange to allow of marriadge , wherein God alter her mynde!" The same year he wrote to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, "I am most sorry of all that her Majesty is not disposed seriously to marriage; for I see likelihood of grat evil . . . if she shall not shortly marry." In letters to his friend, Sir Thomas Smith, Cecil was even more open about the despair Elizabeth's refusal to marry caused him. Writing in 1564 he stated that unless she changed her mind and married , "I assure you, as now thynges hang in desperation, I have no comfort to live." Two years later he was no more sanguine about Elizabeth's single state. "God direct the Quene's Majesty to marriadg in some place, for otherwise her regyment will prove very troublesome and unquiet." Even when he was concerned about the potential marriage partner, as he obviously was about Anjou in 1571, Cecil still considered marriage the best for Elizabeth and the realm. In what he underlines is a private letter to Sir The Official Courtships ofthe Queen 4-5 Francis Walsingham, he comments: "I am not able to discern what is best, but surely, I see no continuance of her quietness without a Marriage. And therefore I remit the successe to an almighty God. This that I write privately to your self! trust shall remaine to yourself." 12 The people around Elizabeth very much wanted Elizabeth to marry. But that is not the sole reason for the various courtships. Despite Elizabeth 's supposed dislike of marriage negotiations, she herself encouraged them; she vastly enjoyed the rituals of courtship. Sir Henry Sidney suggested that Elizabeth was "greedy for marriage proposals," a view shared by de Silva. "I do not think anything is more enjoyable to this Queen than the treating ofmarriage, although she assures me herselfthat nothing annoys her more. She is vain, and would like all the world to be running after her." At the same time, the actual idea of marriage seems to have been repugnant to her. Elizabeth told the ambassador to the Duke of Wiirttemberg, "I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married." She was even more emphatic to the French ambassador. "When I think of marriage, it is as though my heart were being dragged out of my vitals." 13 And there was the question of what would be the role for a husband of a queen. Elizabeth told de Quadra that, if she married, her husband "should not sit at home all day amongst the cinders," a clever allusion to Cinderella, an already well known tale by that time, and one often told about a "poor cinder boy'' as well as a girl. But one who did not sit in the cinders might well take over control from Elizabeth. Examining her responses, relationships, and others' responses to the marriage negotiations of Archduke Charles, Anjou, and Alenc;on can allow us insight into this contradiction ofimage and purpose.14 Adding further to the ambiguity ofthe foreign negotiations was Robert Dudley's determined courtship of his queen, and his position as her favorite. Elizabeth's relationship with Dudley was very different from those with her foreign suitors. She knew him well, she apparently had intense feelings for him for many years, and his prospects for marrying the queen came not from the suitability of his birth but from Elizabeth's personal affection for him. The rumors about Elizabeth's sexual misconduct that abounded throughout her reign almost entirely centered on her relationship with Dudley.15 In terms of being English and Protestant, Dudley did have certain advantages as a potential husband. He was, however, also the son and grandson of executed traitors, and deeply disliked as an arrogant upstart. Elizabeth, whatever her emotions, kept them sufficiently under control as to not make such a potentially divisive marriage.16 4-6 Chapter 3 Dudley was clearly Elizabeth's favorite from the beginning of her reign-they had apparently become friends while both were in the Tower in the reign of her sister. Unfortunately (from his point of view), at the time Elizabeth became queen Dudley was already married, though his wife, Amy Robsart, lived in the country away from court, suffering from what was probably breast cancer. Many people suggested that Robert was simply waiting for Amy to die so that he might marry the queen. Others thought he might not simply wait. "I had heard ... veracious news that Lord Robert has sent to poison his wife," de Feria's successor, Alvaro de Quadra, Bishop of Aquila, wrote home in November 1559. 17 We have no evidence that Dudley contemplated murdering his wife; however, he may well have not regretted the idea of a natural death for Amy in the not too distant future. But Amy did not die of illness peacefully in her bed. Her death was mysterious and disturbing; on September 8, 1560 she was found dead with her neck broken at the bottom of some stairs in the country house where she was living. Her body was otherwise undisturbed with marks of violence. Many people around Elizabeth were desperately afraid the queen would forget everything in a moment of passion and marry Robert Dudley. We truly do not have all the answers to the questions about Amy's death. Was she murderedr The coroner's court said no, but the verdict never quieted the rumors. Perhaps she threw herself down those stairs; she was certainly unhappy enough, though this is a particularly uncertain way to commit suicide. Her maid Pinto had overheard her mistress praying to God to deliver her from desperation. On the day she died, Amy sent everyone out of the house to the Abingdon Fair, refusing to go herself, and was angry when her companion decided to stay at home. We might wonder if she wanted to be alone so that she could kill herself Indeed, some scholars suggest that she may have simply died accidentally, her spine so brittle from metastasized cancer that even the act of walking down stairs-especially if she stumbled-could have cause her neck to snap.18 Whatever the truth, the scurrilous comments about Elizabeth and Robert Dudley disturbed many people. A marriage with Dudley would have been most unpopular. But fear of public opinion may not have been the only reason that Elizabeth declined to marry her favorite. She also did not want to give up her control as monarch, as she surely would if she married. Even though Philip was often an absentee husband, his impact on Mary's reign was profound. While Elizabeth was also emotionally involved with Dudley in a way that was unique, she did not allow him to The Official Courtships of the Queen 4-7 presume too far on his position. When Dudley tried to discipline her servant , Bowyer, the latter threw himself at Elizabeth's feet and humbly craved for Elizabeth to tell him "Whether my Lord ofLeicester was King, or her Majesty Queen1"-a question that could not be better calculated to sway Elizabeth's answer. Elizabeth turned to Dudley and told him, "If you think to rule here, I will take a course to see you forth-coming: I will have here but one Mistress, and no Master." 19 Robert Dudley did, however, hope to see England with a master as well as a mistress; he tried both overtly and indirectly to convince Elizabeth that she should marry, and that he ought to to be the man. As early as 1560 he confided "that ifhe live another year he will be in a very different position from now." Of course in fact he was not. Elizabeth was well aware of his maneuvers. In 1565 Dudley sponsored a party as a part of the pre-Lenten festivals. De Silva described the events of the day in some detail to his king. We went to the Queen's room and descended to where all was prepared for the representation of a comedy in English, of which I understood just so much as the Queen told me. The plot was founded on the question of marriage , discussed between Juno and Diana, Juno advocating marriage and Diana chastity. Jupiter gave a verdict in favour of matrimony after many things had passed on both sides in defence of the respective arguments. The Queen turned to me and said, "This is all against me."20 It is hard to know for how long Robert Dudley seriously thought he had a chance to marry Elizabeth, and when the courtship became a game. Richard McCoy suggests this change happened by the mid-156os and uses as evidence Dudley's statement (reported in a 4- February 1566 letter from de Silva to Philip) that he did not tell Elizabeth he had abandoned his courtship because "the Queen should not be led to think that he relinquished his suit of distaste for it and so turn her regard into anger and enmity against him which might cause her, womanlike, to undo him." While it is true that Elizabeth and Dudley's relationship did begin to change around 1564-, and that Elizabeth seems to have made up her mind not to marry him but neither to diminish her preference for him, we should not necessarily take Dudley at his word here, though of course he may be telling the truth. It is not at all clear that Dudley had yet given up all hope of marrying his queen. We might question whether instead of misleading Elizabeth, he hoped to convince the Spanish ambassador and the English lords who favored the marriage with Archduke Charles.21 Like 4-8 Chapter 3 Elizabeth's, Dudley's statements were often calculated for effect and are not trustworthy guides to what he really thought. Susan Doran, in fact, suggests that those in favor of the marriage with the archduke were such a formidable force at Court that Dudley was afraid to show his hostility publicly. "Instead he chose to negotiate secretly with the French ambassador to sabotage it by putting forward first Charles IX's candidature and then his own." Wallace MacCaffrey states of the period between 1562 and 1569 that "Leicester's position was for obvious reasons a ... difficult one. The prospect ofmarriage with Elizabeth diminished steadily during these years but he never quite gave up hope."22 There were a number of obstacles in the 1560s marriage negotiations of Elizabeth to the Archduke Charles, but it also had a number of attractions for the English. The marriage had been suggested by the Austrians and not taken seriously by the English at the very beginning ofthe reign, around 1559-60. Despite all de Quadra's attempt to encourage the marriage , Elizabeth then had told the Emperor she had "no wish to give up solitude and our lonely life."23 Though no one really expected Elizabeth would keep to her "lonely life" at that time, more ofthe nation supported the idea ofElizabeth marrying an Englishman. By the mid-156os the situation had changed. In 1563 the idea of the marriage was one again revived, this time by the English, leading to Vienna sending an Imperial envoy, Adam Zwetkovich , Baron von Mitterburg, in 1565. In the mid-156os the concerns over a disputed succession were acute, especially after Catherine Grey's secret marriage to the Earl of Hertford and her subsequent disgrace. Mary Stuart's position may have been an even stronger motive. Elizabeth may have felt the need to encourage courtships herself when her Scottish cousin was attempting to negotiate an advantageous marriage. Elizabeth was extremely concerned with whom Mary Stuart might marry for her second husband. "Until 1565, when she finally married her cousin," Susan Bassnett suggests, "the question ofMary's marriage preoccupied Elizabeth as much as that of her own."24 Mary had made herself available to the Spanish (with hopes of marrying Philip's heir, Don Carlos) and the French (she hoped to marry her brother-in-law, Charles IX, younger brother of her first husband Francis II). Mary even listened to Elizabeth's incredible proposal that she marry Robert Dudley in the hopes Elizabeth would name her as heir as a wedding gift. None of these marriage possibilities worked out, probably due to Mary's own weaknesses as queen,25 and in the summer of 1565 Mary married her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord The Official Courtships of the Queen 4-9 Darnley. Despite Elizabeth's own role in narrowing Mary's choices for marriage partners, and allowing Darnley to go to Scotland, both the English queen and the English people were angry and frightened by the implications of this marriage, since Darnley also had some claim to the English throne through his grandmother, Margaret Tudor. A marriage alliance with tl1e archduke could possibly restore the balance of power lost with Mary's marriage. Among foreign princes there was really none other ofcomparable status. And a marriage with Robert Dudley, clearly the only domestic candidate by the early 156os, was unpopular. Elizabeth also recognized that relations with the Hapsburgs needed to be repaired after the ill will that had developed over textile trade between the English and the Netherlands.26 Yet whether Elizabeth really wanted to marry is another question. In March 1565 she told de Silva: IfI could appoint such a successor to the Crown as would please me and the country, I would not marry, as it is a thing for which I have never had any inclination. My subjects, however press me so that I cannot help myself or take the other course, which is a very difficult one. There is a strong idea in the world that a woman cannot live unless she is married, or at all events that is she refrains from marriage she does so for some bad reason.... But what can we do? We cannot cover everybody's mouth, but must content ourselves with doing our duty and trust in God, for the truth will at last be made manifest. He knows my heart, which is very different from what people think, as you will see some day.27 Elizabeth certainly believed that a woman, at least a queen, could live unmarried , and do it for the best of reasons. We might wonder what Elizabeth believed God knew was in her heart and what truth would someday be made manifest. Was it that she would never marry, but would rule her entire reign as the Virgin Queen? But, as she admitted, she was pressed very hard, and did agree to to seriously negotiate with the Empire over a marriage with Charles. A large obstacle in the negotiation for the English was Archduke Charles's Catholicism. For Elizabeth herself it was also crucial that she see the archduke before any marriage contract could be signed. It seemed to be an insurmountable difficulty that Elizabeth refused to commit herself before she had actually seen Charles. The emperor's negotiators claimed that Charles would lose his dignity were he to come to England prior to a formal betrothal, but without his coming to England first, a formal betrothal was impossible.28 50 Chapter 3 Throughout her reign Elizabeth made the prospect of a successful courtship more difficult by claiming that she could not trust portrait painters . She must see a potential husband before she could decide whether she would marry. De Quadra recorded in May 1559 that "the Queen says that she has taken a vow to marry no man whom she has not seen. . . . And said she would rather be a nun than marry without knowing with whom and on the faith of portrait painters." This ploy was not simply used in the negotiations with the Austrians. For example during the negotiations for Elizabeth to marry the Duke of Anjou (the future Henri III) in the early 1570s, Cecil wrote to Walsingham, who was then her ambassador in France: For the Marriage her Majesty caused me privately to confer with the Ambassador , and her Majesty hath willed me to let him know, that you shall make the Answer, ... her Majesty would have you to let the King and his Mother understand that she cannot accord to take any person to her husband whom she shall not first see. There were certainly a number of reasons to hold to this position, and Elizabeth had personal experience with some of them. Elizabeth was all too aware of Henry VIII's scathing disappointment when he actually met Anne of Cleves. Her sister's husband Philip, too, had scarcely bothered to hide his contempt for his older queen, despite Mary's passionate love for him. While it was obviously important to Elizabeth that she not be paired with a man she found distasteful, she would also not to place herself in a vulnerable position with a foreign suitor who would not sufficiently appreciate her charms. And Elizabeth's position made sense not only in terms of what would be a happy marriage but in the medical beliefs of the day of what would hasten conception. In the sixteenth-century medical text, The Methode ofPhisicke, Philip Barrow argues that "unwilling camall copulation for the most part is vaine and barren: for love causeth conception, and therfore loving women do conceave often." Elizabeth's position also, however, worked effectively to keep a number of marriage negotiations from going further than she wanted them to go. Elizabeth never wavered on this issue, though as we shall see, even if she did see the potential marriage partner, this was not simply a formality, and did not necessarily mean she would marry. Nor did a potential suitor's willingness to come make her agree to a visit.29 William Cecil reopened the negotiations with the Empire in 1563, and by 1565 the support for the marriage with Charles included much of the The Official Courtships ofthe Queen sr Council; its most vocal supporters included both Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas Radcliffe, the Earl of Sussex. The fear of a disputed succession was so strong in the Council it overrode the question ofreligious differences. The promoters ofthe marriage believed the Hapsburgs to be more flexible about religion than indeed was the case. Cecil was committed to the new religion, but he optimistically believed that Charles would eventually agree to total conformity. Sussex was more realistic about the obstacle of religion but hoped that a compromise could be arrived at whereby Charles would attend Anglican church services with Elizabeth and privately hear Mass.30 When the negotiations were seriously under way, the open exercise of Charles's Catholicism was the area ofgreatest dispute. Further areas of disagreement included who should bear the cost ofCharles's household in England and Charles's tide and role in governing England. De Silva wrote to Philip that the English thought the Imperial stand on the practice of religion "offered great difficulties.... They also struck at the clause about the Archduke's expenses, thinking that the Emperor wants to burden them with them. With regard to the Emperor's remarks showing that he wishes the Archduke to be called King and to govern joindy with [the] Queen, Cecil thinks this would be difficult.... With regard ... to the request that in case of the Queen's death without an heir, that the Archduke should remain here with a footing in the country, that is a thing they cannot concede, and will never agree to." While the other issues might have been resolved, Elizabeth was adamant about religion. By the end of August, 1565, Zwetkovich returned to Vienna with Elizabeth's stand and Emperor Maximilian decided "to abandon the matter" unless Elizabeth was willing to modify her position.31 Elizabeth, however, did not want to see the negotiations ended, whatever she hoped to finally gain from them, and in May 1566 she sent Thomas Danett to Vienna to ask Maximilian to reconsider his position. Susan Doran speculates that this may have been done to avoid a confrontation with her 1566 Parliament over her marriage and the succession. She may also have wanted to keep Philip's good will, at least for a time longer. Maximilian refused to reconsider, however, and Danett also discovered that Charles was a far more devout Catholic, attending Mass daily, than the English had previously believed. Even this news, however, did not keep Norfolk, Sussex, and Cecil from continuing to advance the cause of the marriage. With Parliament pressuring her, Elizabeth agreed to send Sussex to Austria to further discuss the marriage negotiation. Elizabeth kept 52 Chapter 3 postponing his departure, however, and "some feared that the embassy was a mere public relations device intended to silence demands that the Queen marry or settle the succession." This was certainly de Silva's interpretation . He believed that in the end the English would make "an excuse that in consequence of religion, the marriage cannot be effected."32 Elizabeth finally allowed Sussex to depart; he arrived in Vienna on Augusts. He and Maximilian eventually were able to hammer out a compromise that would allow Charles private worship if he also publicly attended Anglican services with the queen. While there were still some differences in interpretations between Sussex and Charles over what this all entailed, Sussex believed that these concessions would clear the way for the marriage and sent Henry Cobham to England. Elizabeth said she could not make a commitment without discussing it with her Council . Norfolk, the strongest supporter, was ill and could not attend, and the opponents to the marriage, Leicester, Pembroke, Northampton, and Knollys, pressed their case forcefully, arguing that a Catholic husband would cause religious and political unrest. They were answered by Cecil, Lord Admiral Clinton, and Howard ofEffingham, the Lord Chamberlain, who argued that the dangers of a disputed succession and civil war far outweighed any problems over the marriage. Mter listening to the arguments, Elizabeth decided that she could not allow Charles even the right to have the Mass celebrated in private. Nor was there any point in Charles coming to England in the hope ofchanging her mind, as she was adamant. Elizabeth's letter to Sussex informing him of this ended all hopes for the marriage, despite Sussex's attempts to salvage the negotiations, and he returned to England in February 1568. Susan Doran argues intriguingly that though it was Elizabeth herself who eventually killed the negotiations, "it would be a mistake to conclude ... that she had at no point taken the negotiations seriously.... By her own admission, she had reluctantly agreed in 1564 to abandon the single life, for the good of her realm, if a suitable candidate could be found. She made it clear, however, from the first, that she would only marry a man who would practise the same religion as her own." Wallace MacCaffrey suggests that "she was probably not entirely insincere when she expressed her willingness to marry for the sake of her realm. But in her own mind this eventuality remained a remote-indeed, almost an abstract -possibility."33 We might consider, though, if however much Elizabeth might agree that she would marry for the good of England, in 1565-66 on a deeper level the thought of marriage was overwhelming to The Official Courtships of the Queen 53 her. Despite the pressure of some members of the Council toward the marriage, for Elizabeth it was always something to play with but keep at arms' length. An incident that occurred with Zwetkovich and de Silva is illuminating. When the Imperial envoy arrived in 1565 he observed ofElizabeth that "although she wished to be a maid and single, she had subordinated her will to the interests of the country, and for its sake would also accept in love him whom the country recommended to her." On July 2 he further wrote to Maximilian "that the Queen becomes fonder of His Princely Highness and her impatience to see him grows daily. Her marriage is, I take it, certain and resolved on." De Silva, who had known Elizabeth far longer than Zwetkovich, may have doubted it and put it to the test. On August 13, 1565 Elizabeth was walking with the two men. Zwetkovich noticed a beautiful ring that Elizabeth was wearing. He suggested that Elizabeth give to him the ruby ring as a token for Charles. Elizabeth refused, but she spoke of longing for Charles to come and visit, since then a marriage could be arranged and he would get much more than one ring from her finger. De Silva had already had enough experience with the queen to know her great ambivalence at the idea of marriage, and how often she spoke longingly of seeing a suitor she knew to be safely far away. He decided to tease her, and suggest that Charles was already at Court in disguise. I asked her whether she had noticed amongst those who accompanied the Ambassador and me any gentleman she had not seen before, as perhaps she was entertaining more than she thought. The idea horrified Elizabeth. It was easy to wish for Charles's presence as long as he was far away in a distant country. De Silva described Elizabeth's reception to his hint: "She turned white, and was so agitated that I could not help laughing to see her." Only after she got her breath back was Elizabeth able to try to turn the joke around, saying that indeed would be a good way for Charles to come and "I promise you plenty of princes have come to see me in that manner." 34 Charles never did come to England; by 1568 he finally refused to continue his courtship with the elusive queen, and eventually married elsewhere .35 For a prince actually to come, however much Elizabeth claimed this was what she wanted, or her even more outlandish statement that this had happened "plenty'' of times, would be pushing the courtship game farther than Elizabeth really wanted it to go. The arrival ofa foreign suitor 54 Chapter 3 would put the queen in a position where her options would be closed, and make refusing to marry much more difficult. Elizabeth's physical reaction to the possibility of Charles' presence-she apparently nearly fainted-is eloquent testimony to the difficulty of the balancing act she was forever playing. Certainly throughout these lengthy negotiations she convinced members of her own Council that she was serious about marrying. Sussex and Cecil both believed at certain points that she would marry Archduke Charles. So did Dudley, to his great dismay. Later, during the negotiations with the French, he again believed that Elizabeth might indeed marry, and a foreigner. He wrote to Walsingham in 1571 when the latter was in France negotiating the marriage between Anjou and Elizabeth, "I perceive her Majestie more bent to marry then heretofore she hath been." This may not have been good news to him-a marriage for Elizabeth must have hurt his position as Elizabeth's favorite-as he put in the same letter: "I wish all things to be thoroughly considered of him, that her Majestie may fully understand the condition of his person before hand." A few months later Dudley came to understand that Elizabeth's eagerness for the marriage was pretense. In a subsequent letter to Walsingham, he wrote: "I suppose my Lord of Burleigh hath written plainly to you of his opinion how little hope there is that it [the marriage] will ever take place, for surely I am now perswaded that her Majesties heart is nothing inclined to marry at all." 36 Around 1569-70 there was again great pressure on Elizabeth to marry, as she was moving into her late thirties. If she were to have a child she needed to do it soon. The English also felt a tremendous fear that Elizabeth might be a target for assassins, and believed this would lessen if she had a child, since with a child her death would not end the dynasty and the gain for the assassins would be that much less. There was also the strong feeling that England was at risk both at home and abroad, and England desperately needed to secure an alliance. The discussion of Elizabeth's marriage to the Duke of Anjou was part of these larger negotiations with France. By the end of the 1560s England's relationship with Spain was highly strained. The Duke ofAlva was effectively crushing Protestant resistance in the Low Countries, and refugees poured into England with horror stories and desperate requests for aid. In November 1568, Spanish ships with treasure borrowed from the Genoese for Alva's use took refuge in Devon and Cornwall from pirates. Elizabeth kept the money, claiming it still belonged to the Genoese and that she had as The Official Courtships ofthe Queen 55 much right as Philip to borrow it. Moreover, Mary Stuart's presence in England presented possibilities for English conflict with both Spain and France. Despite the Scottish queen's French connections, she was soon moving toward a realignment with Spain that further hurt Anglo-Spanish relations. To Elizabeth's great regret, in February 1568 de Silva requested a new posting, arguing that the English climate was injurious to his health, and that "since things here being quiet, the friendliness of the Queen undoubted , and the Flemish commercial affairs arranged, another person could easily fill my place."37 De Silva's tact and his genuine respect for the queen helped bridge problems between England and Spain during his four years as ambassador. His replacement, Guerau de Spes, considered Elizabeth a heretic and Cecil an enemy ofSpain. One ofhis first acts when he arrived in September 1568 was to communicate with Mary Stuart. "It was," G. D. Ramsay suggests, "the fateful first step towards an alignment of interests between Philip II and Mary Stuart."38 De Spes's response to the Genoese loan-he asked Alva to seize all English property and subjects in the Low Countries-brought England and Spain to the brink of conflict . Spain's interest in Mary Stuart and the repression ofthe revolt in the Netherlands made the French much more attractive allies, particularly if an alliance could neutralize French interest in Mary Stuart and Scotland. Especially after the Rising ofthe Earls ofNorthumberland and Westmoreland in Mary Stuart's favor in the fall of1569, the English saw the serious need for a rapprochement with the French, the alliance also having been damaged because ofEnglish aid to the Huguenots. It is of course impossible to know whether Elizabeth was sincere about this marriage negotiation. MacCaffrey believes that "we can be quite certain that in 1571 she had no intention of taking the Duke of Anjou or anyone else as her husband." On the other hand, Neale argues that "she was probably sincere in her in her resolve to marry, convinced by the urgent reasons for it," but the religious issues-Anjou's Catholicism and his refusal to compromise on his worship-derailed the negotiations. As always , it is impossible to know Elizabeth's own feelings on the subject, as what she said, however sincere it sounded, was not necessarily what she meant.39 While Sir Francis Walsingham was in France in 1571 as a negotiator , Elizabeth wrote to him an insightful but carefully constructed letter about her attitudes toward marriage and how they had changed over the course of time. She had by this time been queen for over a decade, had 56 Chapter 3 successfully ruled alone, and had also witnessed the consternation and horror her people felt about not having a recognized heir. Elizabeth's letter is certainly interesting, though we must be careful how much credence to give it. The letter may well have hidden more than it revealed, however honest it presented itselfto be. At this point it was certainly in Elizabeth's interest to convince Walsingharn, so he might convince Catherine de Medici and Charles IX, that she was sincere that nowshe would trulywant to wed. In the beginning of our Reign, that is not unknown how we had no disposition of our own nature to marry, [or] when we lived but in a private state as a daughter, or as a sister of a King, yet could we never induce our mind to marry, but rather did satisfie our self with a solitary life.... Nevertheless, the letter continues, after some years passed Elizabeth realized the continual urgent and frequent solicitations, not only of our Cousellours, to whom we alwaies think meet to give ear, but also of the whole Estates of our Subjects ... did stir us to some further consideration by the weight of their reasons.... And therefore we yielded thus far to their importunitie.... we would commend our heart to be directed by Almighty God, to follow that which might be to the comfort of our loving Subjects.... So may you for more assurance of our firm determination to marrie, affirm to them that have judged doubtfullie ofus.40 But despite this "firm determination to marie," this negotiation along with all the others eventually ended with certain short-term agreements between the two countries but no marriage for Elizabeth. And indeed, the proposal that Elizabeth would marry Anjou was part of larger negotiations for amity between the two nations. At the very least, the possibility of marriage could provide some time for the English to strengthen their position. Catherine de Medici was immediately very interested, as she desired royal crowns for each of her children, and Anjou was her favorite. But already Elizabeth's age, and what this might mean for her fertility, was becoming an issue in the negotiations. In 1570 the Lord Keeper Nicholas Bacon wrote a summary of arguments for Elizabeth's marriage, stating the queen should marry without delay. He did, however, express a worry over the marriage: "Ifthe Duke shall not have children by the Queen, and the Scottish Queen should remain unmarried, it might be dangerous to the shortening of Her Majesty's life, lest some insinuation might light in the heart of the Duke to attain to the marriage of the Queen of Scots, The Official Courtships of the Queen 57 thereby to continue possession of the crown of England and conjoin the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland in his own person."41 Cecil felt such conflict over the need for Elizabeth to marry and the difficulties of this particular marriage negotiation with the French that he may even have secretly and privately "by calculating her nativity ... inquire [d] into her marriage."42 We do not know whom Cecil found to make the prognostication, but the result is interesting and encouraged Cecil even though "the queen had not much inclination to marriage." Despite this, "wedlock would be very happy to her." The prediction went on to say that Elizabeth would be somewhat older when she entered the state of matrimony-a wise statement on the part of the astrologer, given that she was already in her late thirties by 1570, and that she would marry only once. It also said that while "she should arrive at a prosperous married estate" it would be "but slowly, and after much counsel taken, and the common rumour of it everywhere, and after very great disputes and arguings concerning it for many years, by divers persons, before it should be effected." The prediction was quite specific about her husband: he would be young, had never been married previously, and was a foreigner (obviously ruling out Elizabeth's favorite, Robert Dudley, whose marriage to Elizabeth Cecil had never favored). The prediction was not entirely positive since it suggested, "that (especially towards the middle ofher age) she should not much delight in wedlock." Even so, "she should obey and reverence her husband, and have him in great respect." Despite the fact that Elizabeth's husband would be younger, her "husband should die first: and yet she should live long with her husband; and should possess much of his estate." On the most important question of the heir, the astrologer was optimistic, if not so definite. "For children, but few, yet very great hope of one son, that should be strong, famous, and happy in his mature age: and one daughter."43 From January 1571 onward the marriage negotiations continued. The question of Elizabeth's sincerity in these negotiations was a problem for the English ambassador, Walsingham, who feared the French would take offense at Elizabeth's playing them along. Dudley wrote to Walsingham in March that Catherine de Medici would "doubt much her Majesties intention to marriage, at least, that she had rather hear of it then perform it," and Walsingham wrote to Cecil in April that "I feare that by the next dispatch you shall well perceive that there is no other meaning in the Queen of England but dalliance, and that you and I shall be sorry that ever we waded so far." But there was also a question of sincerity on the 58 Chapter 3 French side. While Catherine and Charles IX were enthusiastic about the marriage, Anjou himself was not, placing the French in a somewhat embarrassing position. Catherine attempted to reassure the English that it was Anjou's Catholicism, not any doubts about Elizabeth's person, which made Anjou reluctant. Catherine assured Sir Thomas Smith that Anjou "knew [Elizabeth] had so vertuously Governed her Realm this long time, that she must needs be a good and vertuous Princesse, and full of honour , and other opinion of her he could not have; but that his conscience and his Religion did trouble him that he could not be in quiet, and nothing else."44 When it was clear that the marriage negotiation with Anjou was dead, Catherine suggested her younger son Francis, Duke of Alen<;on-at seventeen twenty years Elizabeth's junior-urging that ifthe marriage was to take place it ought to be soon. In a letter to Cecil, Smith reported the conversation with Catherine; she had first told Smith how she wished Elizabeth "quiet from all these broils" referring to the problems with Norfolk and Mary Stuart. Catherine then went on to ask: "doe you know nothing how she can fancie the marriage with my son the Duke of Alanson ?" Catherine went on to say she recognized that she had a mother's partiality but she considered Alen<;on as good a match for Elizabeth as any prince in Europe and "if she should marrie, it were pitty any more time were lost." Smith reported to Cecil he had responded thus: "Madame (quoth I) If it pleased God that she were married, and had a child, all these braggs, and all these Treasons would soon be appaled." Catherine agreed and suggested that if Elizabeth did not marry into the French royal house, "I cannot see how this League and Amity would be so strong as it is." In a later meeting with Catherine the French queen mother told Smith: "Jesu! doth not your Mistress see that she shall be alwaes in danger untill she marry?" Smith did not have to be convinced. He was always urging marriage on Elizabeth. "Madam (quoth I) I think if she were once married, all in England that had any traiterous hearts, would be discouraged.... If she had a child, then all these bold and troublesome Titles of the Scotch Queen, or other that make such gapings for her death, will be clean choaked up." Catherine, perhaps from her own experience, did not think that one child was enough, suggesting to Smith that Elizabeth should have at least two sons, in case one died, and three daughters, so they might make advantageous marriages. Smith, perhaps more realistic given Elizabeth 's age and inclination, responded with the desperate hope ofany heir: "I would to God we had one."45 The Official Courtships ofthe Queen 59 In the fall of 1571 the English discovered the Ridolfi Plot, a plan for the Duke ofAlva to send over a force ofsix thousand men to join English insurgents who would rise in revolt to rescue Mary Stuart and marry her to the Duke of Norfolk. Catholicism would be restored and Mary and Norfolk would be king and queen ofEngland and Scotland. De Spes was expelled from England in January 1572 for his complicity. The Duke of Norfolk's role in the plot especially grieved Elizabeth, who had already warned him of the danger of involvement with Mary Stuart. Though he was found guilty oftreason she continued to postpone his execution, not finally agreeing to it until June of 1572 and no amount of pressure could convince Elizabeth to have Mary Stuart executed for her role in the assassination plot. Elizabeth did, however, abandon any thought of seeing Mary Stuart restored as queen of Scotland under any conditions and agreed to the publication of the Casket Letters. Elizabeth's councillors were worried and distressed by her attitude. Cecil wrote to Walsingham that "the Queens Majesty hath been alwaies a merciful Lady, and by mercy she hath taken more harm then by justice, and yet she thinks that she is more beloved in doing her self harm, God save her to his honour long among us." That the plot also involved the assassination of both Cecil and Elizabeth caused an even deeper sense of panic, and though Cecil was convinced that "truly the more matters are discovered, the more necessary it is seen that her Majestie should marry," the need for some kind ofagreement was critical, and the question ofmarriage was separated from a general agreement. By April 1572 the English and French signed the Treaty of Blois, a defensive treaty against Spain that promised also to keep France out ofthe affairs ofMary Stuart and Scotland.46 Throughout the negotiations, the French Protestants were very concerned that if there were no marriage between Elizabeth and the French royal house their own position might be perilous. In August of1571 Walsingham had written to Dudley: "My Lord, ifneither Marriage nor Amity may take place, the poor Protestants here do think then their case desperate ; they tell me so with tears, and therefore I do believe them." Once the amity was signed, Smith and Walsingham believed the Huguenots' position was more secure, and Walsingham wrote serenely about the coming marriage of Henry of Navarre and Catherine's daughter, Margaret. Instead , on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24-, 1572, Catherine de Medici ordered the slaughter ofthousands ofProtestants. The English who heard about the massacre across the Channel were horrified. The Spanish agent, Antonio de Guaras, wrote to the Duke ofAlva, "I have since heard that, whilst the Queen was hunting in company with her principal Councellors, 6o Chapter 3 the said post from France reached her and she read the letters at once, whereupon she immediately abandoned her hunting and returned to the palace, so distressed at the news that all the Court was downcast."47 For those actually in Paris witnessing the slaughter, the experience marked them forever. The memory of the massacre would taint marriage negotiations at the end of the decade as well. The eighteen-year-old Sir Philip Sidney, abroad for his education and in Paris at the time, vividly remembered the massacre years later when in 1579, for the last time, there was again talk of a marriage between Elizabeth and a foreign Prince. Elizabeth had always claimed that she must see a suitor before she would decide to wed; however, Charles did not come in 1565 nor did Anjou in 1571-72. It was to be twenty years into her reign before a foreign Prince would actually come and woo the queen in person. In the late 1570s the idea of marriage to the French royal house was revived with the potential husband being Francis, Duke of Alen<;on (or Anjou as he later was). In 1571 Catherine had already mentioned Alen<;on as a partner for Elizabeth. Again in 1574 there was some discussion of Alen<;on, and of his coming to England for a visit, but again nothing came of it. In 1579 the suggestion was suddenly taken seriously by Elizabeth. This was the final marriage charade, and perhaps the most difficult to sort out. There were real political reasons for these negotiations-to support anti-Spanish forces in the Netherlands-and this flirtation was one segment of an important element in English foreign policy, one ofthe crucial turning points in Anglo-Spanish relations.48 But it also seems that Elizabeth, then in her mid-forties, was actually playing seriously as a woman looking at her last chance at marriage and potential motherhood. MacCaffrey suggests that at the beginning ofthe negotiations the possibility ofmarriage was simply a useful means to open discussion, but "what had began as a conventional diplomatic exercise in which-as often before-discussion of a royal marriage was simply a handy vehicle for arriving at some kind of entente, turned into an intense, almost breathless, wooing ofFran<;ois d'Anjou by Elizabeth Tudor."49 When Alen<;on's envoy and close friend Jehan de Simier arrived at court, Elizabeth did everything she could to show that she was sincere about the marriage. She even agreed to Alen<;on's private practice of Catholicism, something she had always before refused to grant a potential husband. While the decade earlier the thought of the archduke's presence almost caused Elizabeth to faint, this time she encouraged Alen- <;on to come in person and fulfill her longstanding condition that she must see any potential marriage partner before a final commitment was made. The Official Courtships ofthe Queen 61 Robert Dudley was so distressed by Elizabeth's attitude he expressed the opinion that Simier had caused Elizabeth to fall in love with Alen<;on through the use of "amorous potions and unlawful arts."50 Dudley's arguments against the marriage were deflated when Simier learned of his secret marriage to Lettice Knollys and informed Elizabeth. Elizabeth was deeply hurt and outraged, and only Sussex's urgent arguments that one could not imprison someone for entering into the holy state ofmatrimony may have kept her from sending Dudley to the Tower. She immediately agreed to Alen<;on's visit. Alen<;on came to England twice in the midst of these negotiations, the first time in August 1579, supposedly in secret, for a ten-day visit. He was the first foreign suitor actually to fulfill Elizabeth's condition that she must see a potential husband. Elizabeth expressed her delight with Alen- <;on, but the proposed French marriage caused great dissension in England . The 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre was still a vivid memory.51 But it was not only fear ofCatholicism; after her people had been begging Elizabeth for two decades to marry, now many worried that marriage and potential pregnancy were too dangerous for a woman of Elizabeth's age. Both these concerns were expressed by John Stubbs in his 1579 pamphlet , The Discoverie ofa Gaping Gulfwhereinto England is like to be swallowed . Stubbs, a Cambridge graduate, a lawyer, and a member ofLincoln's Inn, had Puritan leanings; his sister was married to Thomas Cartwright. Stubbs was also a loyal Englishman who was expressing his love and concern for his sovereign. But both the tone and the argument of the pamphlet infuriated Elizabeth. John Stubbs was convinced that the marriage was so dangerous because a husband could easily dominate a wife. "How much more forcibly shall the stronger vessell pull weak woman, considering that with the inequality of strength there is joined as great or more readiness to idolatry and superstition." Through this marriage to the French "our dear Queen Elizabeth (I shake to speak it) [would be] led blindfold as a poor lamb to the slaughter." Stubbs also discussed "how exceedingly dangerous ... for Her Majesty at these years to have her first child, yea, how fearful the expectation of death is to mother and child."52 Worse, Stubbs claimed that Alen<;on's motives in making such a match must be disreputable and suggested that Alen<;on hopedElizabeth would die in childbirth so that England would be ripe for a French takeover. Elizabeth was furious. MacCaffrey argues that Elizabeth's anger was understandable, since this work "had to be taken seriously." The Gaping Gulfwas "a literarily respectable piece ofwork ... addressed to an 62 Chapter 3 educated audience." Her response, however, was brutal. Stubbs, his bookseller , Page, and his printer, Singleton, were all put on trial in October for seditious libel. Stubbs and Page both lost their right hands. Camden was an eyewitness. "I remember (being present therat,) that when Stubbs, having his right hand cut off, put off his hat with his left, and sayd in a loud voyce, God save the Queene; the multitude standing about, was altogether silent."53 In November or December 1579 Sir Philip Sidney also wrote against Elizabeth's marriage to Alen~on. As a nephew of Dudley, Sidney wanted to argue the anti-Alen~on position not politic for his uncle to present. Also his own experience in Paris during the massacre made the idea of the French match horrifying. Sidney's letter to the queen was circulated in manuscript only, not printed as Stubbs's Gaping Gulfwas, but a fairly wide circle saw Sidney's composition. Hubert Languet wrote to Sidney in October of 1580 that he was "glad you have told me how your letter about the Duke of Anjou has come to the knowledge of so many persons.... no fair judging man can blame you for putting forward freely what you thought good for your country, nor even for exaggerating some circumstances in order to convince them of what you judged expedient." While Sidney's letter was more restrained than the one by Stubbs, Katherine Duncan-Jones argues that it is clear from the parallels that Sidney had read Stubbs with great care when constructing his own argument. Sidney does not, however, argue that Elizabeth would die in childbirth; rather he is diplomatic enough, whatever his real beliefs, to suggest she might marry and have children, but should choose a better partner than "the son ofthe Jezebel of our age." In fact, Sidney was convinced Elizabeth was far too old to marry, and four years earlier in a private letter to the Count of Hanau had described her as "old and ripe for death." 54 Besides, Elizabeth does not need to marry, argues Sidney, since "truly, in the behalf of your subjects, I dare with my blood answer it that there was never monarch held in more precious reckoning of her people." While Sidney did not suffer the horrific punishment of a Stubbs for his letter, Richard McCoy is probably right that Elizabeth found his advice "presumptuous" and Sidney did leave court at that time, though there is no evidence that he was actually banished.55 Elizabeth called a meeting of the Privy Council at Greenwich on October 2, 1579 to consider the marriage. The meeting lasted five days, and everyone but Burghley and Sussex opposed Elizabeth's proposed The Official Courtships of the Queen 63 marriage to Alen<;on or to anyone else from the royal French house. Elizabeth was very upset by their response. Burghley reported: She allowed very well of the dutiful offer of their services; nevertheless she uttered many speeches, and that not without shedding of many tears, that she should find in her Councillors by their long disputations any dispositions to make it doubtful whether there could be any more surety for her and her realm than to have her marry and have a child of her own body to inherit, and so to continue the line ofHenry the Eighth; and she said she condemned herselfof simplicity in committing this matter to be argued by them, for that she thought to have rather had a universal request made to her to proceed in this marriage than to have made doubt of it.56 On November 10, 1579, Elizabeth told her Council that she had made up her mind to marry and bade them urge no further objections but instead to consider what was necessary to do to accomplish her purpose. In late January, however, Elizabeth wrote to Alen<;on that the agitation against the marriage continued, and she could not let the prince return to a people so disturbed. A year later, though, in October 1581, Alen<;on did return to England to ask Elizabeth for assistance in his war in the Low Countries and to try once more to convince Elizabeth to agree to the marriage. The Spanish Ambassador reports that Alen<_;on and all his company were in entire disillusionment that the marriage would ever take place on November 21. On the 22nd, however, at n: oo in the morning Elizabeth and Alen- <;on walked together in a gallery. The French ambassador entered and told the queen he must write to his master, from whom he had received orders to hear from Elizabeth herselfwhat her intentions were in regards to marrying his brother. "You may write this to the king," Elizabeth startled the ambassador by stating, "that the duke of Alen<;on shall be my husband." She then turned to the duke and kissed him on the mouth, and drew a ring from her own hand to give him as a pledge. While she had refused Charles a ring, these many years later she did offer one to Alen<;on. The astonished and jubilant Alen<;on gave her a ring of his in return. Soon afterward, Elizabeth summoned the ladies and gentlemen from her presence chamber and repeated to them in a loud voice what she had just stated. Alen<;on was delighted with this turn ofevents, but Elizabeth grew reluctant, expressing the belief she must remain a spinster until she could "overcome her natural hatred to marriage." The ring, she claimed "was only a pledge of perpetual friendship." The story is an odd one. Was she so swept away that "the force of 64 Chapter 3 modest love amongst amorous talke carried her so farre" and then spent the night "in doubtful! care without sleepe" when she realized what she had done, as Camden suggests? Or did she never really intend to marry him despite this public scene? Maria Perry argues it was Elizabeth's hurt and anger over Dudley's marriage that fueled the relationship with Alen- ~on. "Hurt her ego was. She never forgave Lettice.... Alen~on's affection was a salve to Elizabeth's wounded feelings." MacCaffrey suggests that, "Whatever we are to make of the scene in the gallery at Greenwich between the Queen and her 'frog,' it is certain that no marriage eventuated." Elizabeth finally lent Alen~on some money and he left in February to return to the Low Countries, where the war there was a fiasco. Elizabeth publicly wept at his leaving, but it was said "in her own chamber she danced for very joy at getting rid of him." The following year the French Ambassador told Elizabeth the most important reason to marry Alen~on was to save her honor, a reason "of more importance than any, namely, that it was said that he [Alen~on] had slept with her." Elizabeth responded that she could disregard such a rumor. Hardly so, said the ambassador, "she might well do so in her own country, but not elsewhere, where it had been publicly stated. She was extremely angry, and retorted that a clear and innocent conscience feared nothing." 57 On June ro, 1584, Alen~on died. Elizabeth again wept and wrote to Catherine de Medici that even she as his mother could not feel the loss more deeply than Elizabeth.58 This incident with Alen~on demonstrates some of the pressures Elizabeth was under, especially as the reign progressed. People begged her to marry-and not to marry. They wished for her to have a child, but feared she was too old. As a public self she was both Virgin and Mother to her people; the private Elizabeth may in her forties at least momentarily regretted that she never had a child of her own. Icon to the ideal ofchastity, Elizabeth had to be womanly and yet rule, a hitherto masculine enterprise. By not marrying, Elizabeth refused the most obvious function of being a queen, that of bearing a son. To compensate, Elizabeth presented herself to her people as an symbol of virginity, a Virgin Queen. As we saw in the previous chapter, this proved a powerful resource for Elizabeth in dealing with the political problems ofher regime. But this image too was balanced with contradictions. Elizabeth, wed only to her kingdom and mother to her people, represented many images. She was intensely courted throughout her reign both as a potential marriage partner and the political object of desire in a highly ritualized courtship game that lasted even when the queen was in The Official Courtships ofthe Queen 65 her sixties. Yet throughout her reign as well Elizabeth was also the Virgin Queen, a secularized version of the Virgin Mary. Many people have chosen to see Elizabeth's public self-presentation as Virgin Queen as a sign of some sexual or psychological inadequacy: we may understand her better, however, if we see it as a political strategy, and one with considerable merit. The possibility of marriage was fraught with difficulties. Years ago Sir John Neale commented that "it must have been a question with Elizabeth whether a woman ruler could ever do otherwise than err in marriage; whether, in fact to be a success as a Queen she might not have to be a Virgin Queen."59 Unmarried, Elizabeth avoided the role ofwife and the risk of being perceived as the inferior partner in the marriage relationship. Also, she need worry neither about lack offertility and subsequent embarrassment , such as dogged her sister Mary, nor about the risks of dying of disease related to childbirth, as were the fates of two of her stepmothers, Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr. Certainly there were costs as well to this choice, both personal and political, but it was a choice that was also in keeping with Elizabeth's own wishes. With Elizabeth as Virgin Queen, unmarried and ruling alone, England had but "one mistress and no master." ...


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