Queen Elizabeth Tudor: Journey to Gloriana

By Laurel A. Rockefeller

Biography & memoir, Women's fiction, Children's, Romance, Young adult

Paperback, eBook

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6 mins


“You cannot seriously be considering this, Robin!” paced Elizabeth with disbelief in the gardens at Hatfield Palace.

“We cannot allow Philip of Spain to become king of England,” asserted Robert Dudley.

“Do you like being in the Tower, Robert? Your family connections secured your release once; do you think they will be able to do it again if you go along with this foolhardy scheme of the Greys?”

“The queen is hated in Kent; it is the perfect place to begin.”

“Perhaps, but what make you think you can succeed? Your own father was beheaded on Tower Hill a mere month after you and your brothers joined him in the Tower. Do you want to die too? I thought you loved me better than that!” protested Elizabeth with frustration as a roll of thunder cried through the skies, preluding the soft December rain that now fell upon their heads.

Robert held her close, “I do love you Elizabeth! But I also love England! This Prince Philip your sister wishes to marry is son and heir to the holy Roman emperor and likely to become king of Spain in his own right. If we allow this marriage to go through, what chance does England have of remaining free under a Spanish king? Once she marries she legally belongs to her husband—your argument for deciding to never marry.”

“It is not worth the risk, Robin! Please, do not go!”

“Elizabeth, sweetest Elizabeth I am not going to die!”

“I am sure that is what your father said before he took up arms in defence of your sister-in-law Jane.”

“Sometimes my dear it is worth the risk.”

“You may be willing to risk your life, Robert. But I am not.”

“That is not your decision to make, not while your sister reigns as queen.”

“So that is it? You are going to go no matter what I say?”

“Yes,” affirmed Robert stubbornly.

Anger fumed inside Elizabeth, “Get out of my sight! If you are determined to die, then leave me! I will manage with or without you!”

Obediently Robert marched towards the exit of the walled garden. As he reached the gate, he turned over his shoulder to meet her eyes once last time, “I love you, Elizabeth. No matter what happens; I love you!”

~ ~ ~

“Belle qui tiens ma vie captive dans tes yeux. Qui m'as l'ame ravie d'un souris gracieux. Viens tot me secourir ou me faudra mourir. Viens tot me secourir ou me faudra mourir,” sang Princess Elizabeth in her apartment at Whitehall, her fingers expertly playing her virginal, a small keyboard instrument similar to a harpsichord. “Pourquoi fuis tu, mignarde, si je suis pres de toi? Quand tes yeux je regarde je me perds dedans moi.” As the princess sang, a messenger entered with a bow. Princess Elizabeth finished singing and playing the verse, “Car tes perfection changent mes actions. Car tes perfection changent mes actions.” The song complete and rising from her instrument, Princess Elizabeth met the messenger’s eyes, “What news, my lord?”

The messenger bowed a second time humbly and handed her a letter from Sir Thomas Wyatt. Elizabeth opened the letter and read it. The expected rebellion had at last begun in Kent though the expected uprisings in the west and in the midlands seemed doom to fail before they began. Finishing the letter, Elizabeth tossed it into the fireplace where flames quickly consumed it. The messenger bowed, “What response shall I send to my master?”

Elizabeth paced a moment, her hands clasped under her chin while she formed her feelings into words, “Tell your master that when the time is right I shall do as my conscience demands. More than this, I cannot say, not until we know more.”

The messenger nodded, “I shall tell him.”

“What do you know concerning my lord Robert’s status?” asked Elizabeth.

“I regret to say he was taken to the Tower three days ago,” answered the messenger. “Is there anything else you would ask me or tell me to convey to my master?”

“No; no that is all. God bless you and keep you safe!”

“And to you, my lady!”

~ ~ ~

Three weeks passed. On Tower Hill and Tower Green Henry Grey, Lady Jane Grey, and her husband Guildford Dudley were beheaded on Queen Mary’s orders. Though Queen Mary remained certain that Princess Elizabeth played some role in Wyatt’s rebellion, the rebels refused to offer the queen any proof of Elizabeth’s guilt, even under torture. Finally Queen Mary’s patience came to an end.

“My lady I am here to arrest you!” declared the soldier sternly.

“On what grounds?” asked Elizabeth, the setting sun streaming softly through the window of her apartment.

“You are charged with conspiring against the queen with the traitor Thomas Wyatt.”

“I see. When am I to leave Whitehall?”

“Tomorrow as soon as you are ready and the tide permits.”

“Very well then; I expect to see you tomorrow.” dismissed Elizabeth. Bowing, the soldier turned and left.

Fear crept into Elizabeth’s heart. Trying to control her emotions she paced, then sat down, then started pacing again. That didn’t work; she still felt panicked inside. Sitting she started to recite Plato in Greek, then the same passage in Latin, and finally in English. The words failed her and she stumbled, despite her natural talent for languages. She sat down at her virginal and tried to play only to find the terror in her heart blanked out all her music. Rising from the keyboard she walked across the room and picked up her lute, strumming aimlessly. Realizing she was playing nonsense, she put it down again.

Three ladies-in-waiting entered with her dinner. Elizabeth sat down and tried to eat but could not swallow anything more than a bit of wine. Stomach pains and nausea swept through her. A migraine surged. In agony she laid down on her bed until the pain put her to sleep.

At three in the morning Elizabeth rose. Her dinner still sat on the table. Starving, Elizabeth finally ate her meal. Inspiration struck her as she finished eating. Crossing over to her desk, she picked up her pen. She would write her sister! Yes, surely Mary could be reasonable! Dipping her pen into the inkwell she began her long letter, “…if any ever did try this old saying, ‘that a king’s word was more than another man’s oath’, I most humbly beseech your majesty to verify it to me, and to remember your last promise and my last demand, that I be not condemned without answer and due proof, which it seems that I now am; for without cause proved, I am by your Council from you commanded to go to the Tower, a place more wanted for a false traitor than a true subject, which though I know I desire it not, yet in the face of all this realm it appears proved.”

~ ~ ~

Dawn rose. Though she had already written several paragraphs, the letter was still not long enough yet to prevent the soldier from taking her to the Tower that morning. Elizabeth continued, “Therefore, once again, kneeling with humbleness of heart, because I am not suffered to blow the knees of my body, I humbly crave to speak with your highness, which I would not be so bold as to desire if I knew not myself most clear, as I know myself most true. And as for the traitor Wyatt, he might peradventure write me a letter, but on my faith I never received any from him.”

Rising Elizabeth looked out her window. Success! The tide had turned! It was impossible to take her to the Tower with the tide so low! Feeling a little more relaxed, Elizabeth drew lines through the remaining open portion of the page to deter forgery before writing her conclusion, “Your highness’s most faithful subject, that hath been from the beginning, and will be to my end, Elizabeth. I humbly crave but only one word of answer from yourself.”

Elizabeth signed the letter just as the soldier came in, “Is it time already?”

“Nay my lady—it is too late to go today,” answered the soldier.

“When do I go then?” asked Elizabeth, her face conveying a deceptive innocence.

“We shall try again tomorrow.”

“Until then, my lord!” smiled Elizabeth as he left her alone. Relieved Elizabeth went back to bed for some well-earned rest.

The next day, on the eighteenth of March five armed soldiers surrounded Elizabeth, escorting her to the boat readied to take her down the Thames to the Tower at low tide. Disembarking upstream of the Tower along the long Tower Wharf, the soldiers marched the terrified Elizabeth eastward through the Lion’s Tower, past the Tower menagerie and under the Bloody Tower, the relics of recent executions a terrifying reminder of the price to be paid by those who opposed the queen. Finally the soldiers guided her to the Queen’s Lodgings on the west side of the White Tower, the white steps circling upwards until she finally reached the same royal apartment where her mother spent her final days.

Dread filled Elizabeth’s heart as she realized where she was. Would she now follow in her mother’s footsteps and die here too? As the guards left, Elizabeth fell into her bed, her tears washing over her as she half shrieked with despair. Finally, after two hours exhaustion blessed her with sleep and forgetfulness.

~ ~ ~

Night turned to day and day turned to night. With no news and only a few ladies-in-waiting to serve her and keep her company Princess Elizabeth fell into a sort of routine. Unlike most prisoners, Elizabeth enjoyed a reasonably comfortable confinement, lacking for nothing beyond her freedom. On the eleventh of April Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger was executed, his final words making clear that Elizabeth played no role in his rebellion and that she was entirely innocent. In her council chamber Queen Mary remained indecisive as to what to do about her sister. Without solid proof of Elizabeth’s guilt, Queen Mary did not dare execute her only legal heir even though the queen herself was absolutely convinced that Elizabeth was guilty and deserved to die. Finally, on the fourth of May Queen Mary ordered her new Constable of the Tower Sir Henry Bedingfield to raise one hundred troops for the Tower. Surely with the increased armed presence around her Elizabeth would break and confess her crimes!

The ploy did not work. With Elizabeth insistent that she was innocent of all crimes against the queen, Queen Mary found herself unable to justify keeping Elizabeth in the Tower any longer. On the nineteenth of May fifteen fifty-four, exactly eighteen years after Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded with a single stroke of her executioner’s sword, Princess Elizabeth was taken twelve miles south and west by boat from the Tower to Richmond and from Richmond to Hatfield house where the queen kept her under house arrest.

As May yielded to summer and summer to autumn Queen Mary shifted the focus of her reign towards religion, reuniting England with the papacy in Rome and offering Robert Dudley the opportunity he needed to secure his release from the Tower.



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