known as "The Virgin Queen", but although she never married, Elizabeth Tudor's life was rich in romantic intrigue.
True most of her coquettish overtures and withdrawals
were political in nature, but Elizabeth was also a woman drawn to poetry, to literature and to music, all vehicles of romantic expression.
England needed an heir and Parliament was anxious to get
Elizabeth married off, partly to prevent Mary, Queen of Scots from pushing her right to the throne and returning the country to Catholicism.
Elizabeth rejected all the suitors presented, but not
outright. She was the mistress of manipulation and bluff and
seemed to enjoy being in a constant state of courtship. Philip II of Spain and the Archduke Charles of Austria were among those suggested to her as marr. She used her availability as a marriage prospect to gain political clout, but it eventually became apparent she had no plans to marry anyone.
When pressed by Parliament about the urgent need for
marriage so that she could produce an heir, she replied,
"I have already joined myself in marriage to an husband, namely the kingdom of England." She was devoted to England and to her people and quite possibly realized that marriage meant sharing power and losing her right to
govern as she wished. She also had, as a reminder of the pitfalls of marriage, the example of her father's six ventures into matrimony and the beheading of her mother Anne Boleyn.
Playing at public courtship as though it were a game of
strategy doesn't mean she had no personal romance in her life. She had a long-standing relationship of flirtation and affection with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, her Master of the Horse. Speculations says the relationship may have been sexual, but who knows? Dudley was married to a wife in ill health. He spent little time with her, electing to spend his time at court. Then Dudley's wife Ann fell downstairs and died. Rumours abounded that Dudley had arranged her death so that he would be free to marry the Queen. Some even suggested Elizabeth could have shared responsibility.
In any case the death of Ann insured that Elizabeth and
Dudley could never marry, if that had ever been their plan. The English people had always been hostile to Dudley and his influence on the Queen and now they were downright angry. Dudley apparently decided to cut his losses and he married a cousin of Elizabeth's. Their friendship continued in spite of this. Elizabeth kept a portrait of Dudley in her bedroom, not perhaps a wise thing to do, but she refused to part with it, suggesting that her heart definitely belonged to
her Master of the Horse.
In her later years, when she had no claim to any beauty
she may have had as a young woman, she developed an infatuation for the Earl of Essex, a stepson of Robert Dudley. Essex was ambitious and arrogant and believed he could bend the Queen to his will. To some degree he succeeded, for she forgave him many times for his mistakes and his arrogance. By now Elizabeth was an aging woman, nearly
bald without her wigs. Yet she flirted outrageously with Essex and he thought he could gain power by courting her and flattering her. It worked for a while but eventually he went too far leading a revolt and attempting to kidnap Elizabeth. Elizabeth may have been foolish but she wasn't
stupid. She had him imprisoned for treason and he was put to death in 1601.
Elizabeth died two years later, and was persuaded on her
deathbed to settle the problem of succession. She agreed to James VI of Scotland, a Protestant and her cousin, also the son of Mary Queen of Scots. With his succession on her death the Tudor line gave way to the Stuarts.
During her reign, literature flourished and Shakespeare
penned his works, Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe, and the New World was colonized. It was truly a Golden Age for England Elizabeth's forty-four years on the throne were a time of adventure, of exploration, of literature and of course ,of romance.