7 facts you (probably) didn’t know about Elizabeth I

Here is a brief excerpt from a BBC History Revealed article about one of Great Britain’s greatest leaders. To read the complete article, check out others, and learn more about BBC History Revealed, please click here.

Right: Illustration of Princess Elizabeth, about 10 years after she became Queen of England. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

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The daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I (1533–1603) was England’s ‘Gloriana’ – a virgin queen who saw herself as wedded to her country and who brought almost half a century of stability after the turmoil of her siblings’ short reigns. Here, historian Tracy Borman reveals seven surprising facts about her life

Flame-haired, white-faced and always lavishly dressed, Elizabeth possessed the natural charisma of her father, Henry VIII, and was the darling of her people. Her finest hour came in 1588 when her “Sea Hawks” defeated the Spanish Armada, catapulting her to legendary status.

Writing for BBC History Revealed, Tracy Borman reveals some surprising facts about the famous Virgin Queen, Elizabeth.

[Here are the first two.]

Elizabeth was never meant to be queen

Although Elizabeth is now hailed as one of our greatest monarchs, she should never have got anywhere near the throne. She was not only a girl at a time when the laws of succession favoured boys, but she had an elder sister, Mary. Elizabeth was also removed from the line of succession altogether when her parents’ marriage was declared invalid prior to Anne Boleyn’s execution, and was only reinstated thanks to the kindly intervention of her last stepmother, Katherine Parr.

By the time of Henry VIII’s death, therefore, Elizabeth was third in line to the throne behind her younger brother Edward and elder sister Mary. It is one of the greatest ironies of history that Henry VIII had been so obsessed with having a son, yet his cherished boy only reigned for six years, dying of tuberculosis at the age of just 15. The second in line, Mary, did not fare much better. Her brief, catastrophic reign ended after just five years.

It was up to Elizabeth to show them how it ought to be done.

Elizabeth was a mummy’s girl

There is a common misconception that Elizabeth thought little of her ill-fated mother, Anne Boleyn. The fact that she hardly spoke of her and saved all of her praise for her adored father, Henry VIII, has often led to the conclusion that Elizabeth was ashamed of Anne.

On the contrary: all this proved was what a great pragmatist Elizabeth was. She had no wish to alienate swathes of her subjects by openly voicing her love for the woman who was still reviled as the ‘Great Whore’. Instead, Elizabeth chose more subtle ways to demonstrate her affection. For example, when posing for a portrait during her teenage years, she wore her mother’s famous ‘A’ pendant around her neck – an audacious stunt that would have landed her in hot water if her father had spotted it.

As queen, Elizabeth made sure that all of her late mother’s relatives were promoted to the best positions at court, and she also wore a pendant necklace that contained a miniature portrait of her mother opposite one of herself.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Tracy Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, Lincolnshire, England. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth’s Women, a portrait-gallery of the powerful women who influenced Queen Elizabeth I. Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, near Lincoln.
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