Moonday’s Heroic Hunks: Elizabeth’s Men – the European Princes

King Philip II of Spain

Prior to her accession to the throne of England, Elizabeth Tudor had lived a precarious existence.  Her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn, had been beheaded when Elizabeth was only three.  Henry VIII, her father, had divorced two of his other queens and beheaded Queen Katherine Howard, Elizabeth’s own cousin.  She had been implicated in Thomas Seymour’s attempts to seize power which ended in his execution and waT sent to the Tower by her sister Queen Mary for her association with the Dudley/Lady Jane Grey treason.

Before and after Queen Elizabeth refused Robert Dudley’s (the love of her life) marriage proposal, she used her availability for marriage as a political tool.  Everyone-English and European alike-assumed that Elizabeth would be anxious to marry.  Elizabeth, however, once wrote: “Better beggar woman and single than Queen and married.” While Elizabeth’s councilors plotted and fretted, only Robert Dudley who knew her heart believed her.  He knew she would never willingly grant power over her and control of her England to any man.

King Eric of Sweden

In 1559, King Philip of Spain, the widower of Elizabeth’s sister Mary, was the first to send a proposal her way.  He wished to keep England Catholic and Elizabeth out of bed with the Protestant rulers of Europe.  Elizabeth strung him along, first hot and then cold, for more than a year–to the frustration and aggravation of two Spanish ambassadors.  Their communications to their Spanish master provide insight into the complicated machinations of the English Court.

Another of Elizabeth’s suitors, King Eric of Sweden, a fellow Protestant, was seriously considered by Elizabeth’s ministers. His suit was popular in the England but Eric was far from a wealthy monarch, and marriage to him would have brought England little financial benefit or provided a strong alliance.  Despite his fervent letters attesting to his devotion, Eric was eventually refused also.  Good thing, King Eric was deposed in 1568 and poisoned with arsenic-laced pea soup in 1577.

Henry II of France

When the Archduke Charles of Austria proved to be too Catholic for her., Elizabeth looked to the Valois of France, still Catholic but not so much.  Henry, Duke of Anjou, and Francis, Duke of Alencon and (later) Anjou, were the sons of Catherine d’Medici.  Henry who was reputed to be homo- or bisexual was rejected after his comments referring to her as a “public whore” and ridiculing her age (37) were reported Elizabeth.  Elizabeth appeared to genuinely have some affection for Francis, her “frog,”  even though he was 24 and she was 46 when he visited her. (She actually wore an earring in the shape of a frog for several years.”)  Elizabeth, fearing her people would not accept a French overlord, sent him on his way.  Anjou, the last of Elizabeth’s suitors died two years later.

Francis, Duke of Alencon

 Several other foreign suitors, including the Duke of Saxony, Earl of Arran, and the Duke of Holstein were proposed but not seriously considered.  Next Moonday, Elizabeth’s English suitors and the succession.  Rita Bay

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