After the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth basked in the adulation of her subjects. She had reigned for over thirty years during a period of mostly peace and prosperity. Young courtiers, however, were replacing the friends and advisors that had been at her side since her accession. Robert Dudley had died within a month of their victory over the Armada. He was followed by Lord Cecil whose son, Robert, had taken his place at Elizabeth’s side and by Sir Francis Walsingham who had served as advisor and chief of her spies.
Most of her subjects had known only Elizabeth as their monarch. The younger men who danced attendance around her as though she were still a young maid desired military exploits and the glory that came with them. It is no surprise, therefore, when she turned to Robert Devereux, the earl of Essex who was a last link to Dudley. Devereux was Dudley’s stepson through his marriage Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth’s cousin, who had been persona non grata in Elizabeth’s court because of her marriage to Dudley.
Devereux became the great favorite of Elizabeth’s later years because, for a while, he was a good flirt. He was the queen’s ‘wild-horse,’ encouraged by his flighty mother and sycophantic admirers in ambitions beyond his abilities. Devereux’s exploits, once he had badgered the Queen into a command in Ireland, was a military and financial disaster. After he had been sent to the country in disgrace a statement about the Queen (“Her conditions! Her conditions are as crooked as her carcase.”) offended her deeply.
Essex finally rose in rebellion against Elizabeth. It broke her heart to sign the death warrant for his execution which occurred in February, 1601. Those close to her noted a slow decline in her mood and health. Still, she did not name a successor. Her councilors, led by Robert Cecil, entered into negotiations with James VI of Scotland (the only child of Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scotland executed by Elizabeth). The “conspirators” communicated by assigning numbers to the major characters.
Elizabeth made peace with James, sent him money, and offered political advice.
Elizabeth moved to Richmond Palace, in March, 1603. She developed a sore throat that she would not allow a doctor to treat. Her death was preceded by physical weakness and mental depression, but there were no overt causes. She stood for hours but was persuaded to lay upon cushions on the floor where she fell into a stupor. When Cecil told her she must go to bed she replied “Little man, little man, the word must is not used to princes.”
She eventually grew so weak that they could carry her to bed. Story was that when Cecil asked about her successor, she signaled James. She died soon after Unfortunately Elizabeth was left unattended for a time while power was being transferred. The new king received the news of his accession on 27 March, from the ambitious Robert Carey who had raced to Edinburgh with the ring his sister had thrown from a window in the Queen’s chamber.
Elizabeth’s funeral procession with more than a thousand mourners began on 28 April. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. Next week, a brief rant on King James, one of my least favorite historical characters—the tales I have to tell!!
Happy Presidents’s Day!! Check out RitaBay@wordpress.com for a final story about Andrew Jackson’s childhood and a salute to Lincoln the rest of the week. Rita Bay