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Was Elizabeth I indeed The Virgin Queen?
Elizabeth I & Her Potential Lovers
Elizabeth I was born to King Henry and the infamous Anne Boleyn, after his historical departure from the Catholic church for the sole purpose of marrying Anne, making her Queen, and producing a male heir. Much to Henry's disappointment, Anne gave him yet another daughter, following several years after the birth of his first daughter Mary by Katherine of Aragon. Elizabeth I, then known as the Princess Elizabeth was sent away from court to be raised. She flourished in the blooming outdoors, was precocious, and a bright child. She had a deep love for her Mother, who she did not see often, and kept that adoration her entire life, even being buried with her royal ring which bore her face, and her Mother's.
Upon her Mother's imprisonment and execution for alleged affairs and treason, Elizabeth I was to be called "The Lady Elizabeth" by all. This was not lost to Elizabeth, who as a small child remarked "Why am I to be the Princess Elizabeth yesterday, and the Lady Elizabeth today?" She had not yet been declared illegitimate and was generally confused about everything going on around her. Her Father, King Henry, soon married and finally had his male heir in Prince Edward. His third wife subsequently died due to childbirth, but Henry was happy. Elizabeth I was still treated very well in these days, even being sent to study with her brother, Prince Edward, and a selection of other noblemen's children, under the instruction of scholars from Cambridge and Oxford. It was here we believe Elizabeth first met Robert Dudley.
Robert Dudley was the son of a Nobleman who had participated in the rebellion, being thrown in the Tower and stripped of his lands. However, his family began to rise again as Prince Edward pushed forth with the new faith. Robert Dudley is most famous for being the Queen's favorite. He one remarked "I know her better than any man, body, or spirit" and he is also reportedly the first person, a then 8 year old Elizabeth declared to "I will never marry!" Robert Dudley was a best friend to Elizabeth. During the reign of her half sister Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) Dudley sold off many of his lands to help Elizabeth. Mary was a staunch Catholic, and Elizabeth had been raised in the new faith, which her Mother held so dear. This presented a number of problems for Elizabeth, including being unwelcome at court. Elizabeth found solace in her step-mother Katherine. Katherine took Elizabeth into her home, with her husband Admiral Thomas Seymour. Little did Katherine know that Thomas had originally planned on proposing to Elizabeth before her, however the council would not permit it. Elizabeth loved living with Katherine and Thomas. She was growing up and becoming a young lady, and had all the comforts and cares of a Mother in both Katherine and her governess Kat. It was only when the Admiral entered the picture shortly after her arrival that things become questionable. Elizabeth was still in touch with Robert Dudley, always her closest confidant, next to Cecil, who was her eyes and ears at court. However, what is out of sight is out of mind, and what was in sight was Thomas. Known throughout the court as being a very handsome, tall, admirable yet ambitious man, his reputation proceeded him. While under his care, Thomas had several incidents with Elizabeth, starting with the morning romps. In the morning, before Elizabeth was dressed and still in her shift, Thomas would jump on her bed, tickle her, and romp around with her. While this could all be completely innocent, was it? Elizabeth's governess Kat had repeatedly asked him to not come to the rooms so early, and even approached Katherine about it...so she joined in! There was even an instance when the three were in the garden and Katherine held Elizabeth down and Thomas cut off her "pious, sad, mourning" dress. The straw that broke the camel's back was when Katherine spied Thomas and Elizabeth in an embrace in the garden. Elizabeth was sent away to stay with other relations for a period of about six months. During this six months, it is said she was pregnant with Thomas's child. During about the fourth month, she allegedly suffered a miscarriage. This cannot be confirmed, but a midwife in the village was blindfolded, taken to a great house, and brought into a room where a young lady lay in bed. She was to bring forth the birth of a stillborn child, barely recognizable. Upon the birth, the master of the house took one look at the child, and threw the corpse into a fire. Once Elizabeth had recovered, she was seen again closer to Hatfield and London, as well as welcomed back to court.
Elizabeth I rose to power after the death of her half sister. She believed that God sent her to be the leader of her people. During this time there were many suitors, from Kingdoms across the world, but all were delayed and denied. The only men constant in Elizabeth's life were Cecil (her trusted adviser) and Dudley, her childhood best friend, her Master of The Horse, and later the Earl of Leicaster. Cecil constantly encouraged a marriage, preferably with a Protestant Prince, however in later years he would go on to accept any marriage that might produce an heir. Dudley was more reluctant. He harbored a love for the Queen that went beyond being a countryman, he was in love with her, and she knew it. The Queen favored Dudley so much that there is historical documentation of her favoring him, gifting him with many things including money and land, and raising him in station. He was always her favorite, even through their spats.
This begs the question, was Elizabeth really a virgin Queen? Did she have relations with the Admiral? Did they result in a pregnancy? Did she always love Dudley? Was she truly, as she said, married to her country, and her people her children? We may never know. There are several conspiracy theories out there, beginning with Shakespeare being the child of Elizabeth I and Dudley. Also, years later, a man named Arthur Dudley washed ashore and told his tale of being the bastard child of Elizabeth and Robert who was raised by a village person who told him this on his deathbed. DNA wasn't around back then and it was mostly ignored. Now, those of us who look back to history with fascination and amazement have to wonder, was Elizabeth I really the Virgin Queen?