Elizabeth I, Part 8: Summary and Death

On 28 Apr 1603 her body was put in a coffin and was taken to Westminster Abbey on an open chariot drawn by four horses hung with black velvet. Her coffin was covered in purple velvet, firmly sealed.

A genealogical table, to get the big picture about dynasty and succession:

J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII

The dynastic storyline is not complicated. None of Henry VIII’s children produced an heir or heiress.

Elizabeth at 62 or 63

Elizabeth and Father Time


  1. “The need to stay in control was indeed the key to most of Elizabeth’s behavior, both as a queen and as a woman” (Loades 305).
  2. Queen: Many thought it was not suitable for a woman to be a monarch, so she asserted her authority in the Act of Supremacy.
  3. Woman: If she married, her husband might have taken too much authority over the realm, so she put it off indefinitely.
  4. She never claimed the divine touch for the King’s Evil (Scrofula).
  5. Her motto was semper eadem or “Always one and the same.” Did she live up to it?
  6. Her greatest trial came from her sister Mary. After the Parliament revolted, evidence against Elizabeth was strong. But Philip II said not to execute her. She was spared.
  7. But Mary could also be kind and sisterly. They sometimes visited on friendly terms.
  8. Elizabeth promoted the Middle Way, or a blend of a little of Catholic ritual and Protestantism.
  9. “The Elizabethan Church … was a Goldilocks settlement, neither too hot nor too cold. As such, it pleased neither the orthodox Roman Catholics, for whom it went too far, nor the hotter sort of Protestant, later known as Puritans, for whom it did not go nearly far enough (Starkey 311).
  10. But at its core, the Middle Way was Protestant.
  11. Elizabeth could not fully embrace Catholicism that denounced her mother as a harlot and herself as a bastard.
  12. In Elizabethan England, Protestantism = Patriotism = No Spanish or Foreign Influence.
  13. Sir Francis Drake was sent around the globe to counter Spanish expansion.
  14. Sir Walter Ralegh also went to the Caribbean to disrupt Spain’s influence and gold shipments. He even sponsored (but did not go to) a colony at Roanoke, South Carolina.
  15. Yes, her Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity persecuted recusants, normally Catholics who refused to sign the oath of supremacy, but the persecution did not have the fury of Mary’s burnings.
  16. Under Elizabeth, only four men were burned for heresy, and they were Anabaptists, not Catholics. Elizabeth’s persecution of Catholics must be seen in the context of European power politics. These states opposed her religious reforms: Spain, Spanish Netherlands, France, Holy Roman Empire, and the Pope.
  17. Assassination attempts or threats of them were plentiful. She survived the Catholic insurgency and assassination plots, thanks to William Cecil, his son Robert, and Francis Walsingham.
  18. At the beginning of her reign, Catholics outnumbered Protestants. At the end, the numbers were more than flipped; Catholics were a small minority.
  19. The biggest foreign threat came from Spain, the most powerful nation in the world at that time, and its king Philip II, her former brother-in-law. He sent the Spanish Armada in 1588, but defective Spanish naval leadership, superior English seamanship, and a storm stopped it.
  20. England had come of age, defeating the most powerful navy in the world. Spain was in decline as the national protector of Catholicism.
  21. She was her father’s daughter, without all the cruelty, however. She lost her temper many times.
  22. She proclaimed that she was the Virgin Queen who was married only to her people. They loved her for it.
  23. Pope Sixtus said of her: “She is only a woman, the mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all!” (qtd. in Woodbridge and James 251).
  24. Mary offered her opinion on why her cousin and competitor did not marry
  25. She is reported to have said, “I am not sick. I feel no pain, and yet I pine away.” She lost her appetite for food. Insomnia plagued her.
  26. She refused to go to bed for two or three nights. Robert Cecil tried to force her to bed; she berated him: “Little man, little man. ‘Must’ was a word not used to princes.” She sat immobile on a stool in her nightgown, staring into space. She believed that if she were to lie down, she would never rise.
  27. On her death bed, Archbishop of Canterbury Whitgift prayed for her for a half hour. He stopped. She motioned that he should continue. He prayed for another hour, though he himself was aging. When he mentioned the joys of heaven, she clasped his hands.
  28. She gestured for her Privy Council to be summoned to her bedside.
  29. Not herself at this moment, she reportedly pointed to her head when James VI of Scotland’s name was mentioned. Cecil interpreted the gesture as her approval of his succeeding her. After all, the head is where the crown is worn.
  30. But what did the gesture mean? Was she pointing toward the place where she used to wear her crown, or was she just moving her hand there because it hurt?
  31. Historian John Guy says that a letter she wrote to James just before she died would indicate she would not have approved of his succession, or she would not have made it easy for him.
  32. She died on the morning of 24 Mar 1603, clutching Whitgift’s hand. She was seventy years old.
  33. When Sir Robert Carey heard her ladies weeping, he got on his horse and galloped on the Great North Road, on his way to Edinburgh, to break the news to James VI that he was the king of England, soon to be King James I of England (the first king of that name in England, so he is called the First).
  34. On 28 Apr her body was put in a coffin and was taken to Westminster Abbey on an open chariot drawn by four horses hung with black velvet. Her coffin was covered in purple velvet, firmly sealed. A wooden effigy of the queen dressed in Parliament robes and a crown on her head, a scepter in her hand, stood on top of the coffin. Apparently it looked just like her.
  35. Six knights wearing their coats of arms supported the canopy above the chariot. Twelve barons, six on each side held up the heraldic banners around the coffin. The Marchioness of Northampton, the chief mourner walked behind them. She had been hand-picked by Cecil.
  36. The cortege, heading towards Westminster Abbey, was half a mile long, with 260 poor women recruited from the almshouses, clad in black, their heads covered with linen handkerchiefs, walking in rows of four.
  37. The officers of the queen’s household came next, with the mayor and aldermen of London and judges.
  38. Then came the Privy Council, the bishops, the archbishop of Canterbury and the nobles in order of their rank, followed by the queen’s women.
  39. Raleigh, as captain of the guard, brought up the rear, at the head of soldiers, five in a tow. They pointed their halberds downwards, draped in black.
  40. A symbolic riderless horse was led by the earl of Worchester, who had replaced the earl of Essex as the Master of the Horse.
  41. Inside the Abbey, the funeral began with a sermon and then a eulogy, delivered by the queen’s almoner Anthony Watson, bishop of Chichester. Psalms were read and prayers were offered.
  42. Noteworthy: At her coronation Bishop Stephen Gardiner held Mass, though she slipped out through a side door when the host was elevated. At her burial, no Mass was held, but a streamlined service was.
  43. The coffin and her effigy were lowered into her tomb in the crypt beneath the altar of Henry VII’s chapel. Later, King James I of England moved her coffin to its present location in a monumental tomb on the north side of the chapel.
  44. The line of Tudors came to an end, and the Stuarts began.
  45. After arriving in London, James cleared away the portraits of Elizabeth and installed those of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots.
  46. Elizabeth’s motto was semper eadem “always one and the same.” Did she live up to it? She did in not marrying and in maintaining Protestantism, but she vacillated often on taking tough decisions about Mary, Queen of Scots, and the earl of Essex. She had a tough time not marrying Robert Dudley, but she put her desires aside and followed her royal duty.
  47. Overall, she lived up to her motto in her governing the realm.


Mary: 300 in five years, while she had the support of neighboring nation-states;

Henry 308 people were killed in 14 years, after the Treason Act (Ackroyd 397).

Elizabeth: 200 in forty-five years and only four for heresy (Anabaptists). The other executions were done for challenging her right to rule in a heated context of assassination attempts and plots and international opposition to the point of five Spanish Armadas.

Perspective: These nation-states opposed Elizabeth’s reforms, but supported Mary’s effort to return England to Rome: Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, France, and the Spanish Netherlands.

Great self-description by Elizabeth:

For myself, I was never so much enticed with the glorious name of a king or royal authority of a queen as delighted that God hath [has] made me His instrument to maintain His truth and glory and to defend his kingdom from peril, dishonor, tyranny, and oppression. There will never queen sit in my seat with more zeal to my country, care to my subjects, and that will sooner with willingness venture her life for your good and safety, than myself. For it is not my desire to live or reign longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had and may have many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had or shall have any that will be more careful and loving (qtd. in Castor 94-95)


Henry VII: First Tudor King

Henry VIII, Part 1: Early Life and Divorce from Catherine of Aragon

Henry VIII, Part 2: Marriages after His Divorce

Henry VIII, Part 3: Reformation and National Policies

Henry VIII, Part 4: International Policies

Henry VIII, Part 5: Personal Life, Death, and Conclusions

Edward VI: the Boy King

(Jane Grey, Queen of Nine Days: she was not a Tudor)

Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen

Elizabeth, Part 1: Early Years

Elizabeth, Part 2: Sibling Rivalry with Queen Mary

Elizabeth I, Part 3: The Coronation

Elizabeth I, Part 4: Mary Queen of Scots

Elizabeth I, Part 5: Reformation and International Policies

Elizabeth I, Part 6: Personal Life

Elizabeth I, Part 7: Her Male Favorites

Elizabeth I, Part 8: Summary and Death


Peter Ackroyd, Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I (New York: Thomas Dunne / St. Martin’s, 2012).

Stephen Alford, Edward VI: The Last Boy King, Penguin Monarch Series (Allen Lane / Penguin, 2014).

Tracy Borman, The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secret’s of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty (New York: Grover P, 2016).

—, Elizabeth’s Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen (Bantam 2009).

Gerald Bray, ed. Documents of the English Reformation, (Fortress, 1994)

Helen Castor, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth (Harper Collins, 2011).

John Cooper, The Queen’s Agent: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England (Pegasus, 2012).

Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (New York: Metro Books, 2006).

Susan Doran, Elizabeth I and Her Circle (Oxford UP, 2015).

—, Elizabeth I and Foreign, 1558-1603 (Routledge, 2000).

—, Elizabeth and Religion, 1558-1603 (Routledge 1993).

J.. D. Douglas, “Elizabethan Settlement (1559),” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas (Zondervan, 1974).

John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (New Haven, Yale UP, 2011).

—, Mary I: The Daughter of Time, Penguin Monarch Series (Allen Lane / Penguin, 2016).

John Guy, Henry VIII: The Quest for Fame, Penguin Monarch Series (Allen Lane / Penguin, 2014).

—, Elizabeth: The Later Years (Penguin, 2016)

Christopher Haigh, Elizabeth I: Profiles in Power, 2nd ed. (Pearson Education, 1998).

Judith John, A Dark History: Tudors: Murder, Adultery, Incest, Witchcraft, Wars, Religious Persecution, Piracy (Metro, 2014).

Jennifer Loach, Edward VI, edited by George Bernard and Penry Williams, Yale English Monarchs (New Haven: Yale UP, 1999).

David Loades, Elizabeth I (New York: Hambledon, 2006).

—, Chronicle of the Tudor Queens (Sutton 2002).

Stephen J. Lee, The Reign of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603 (Routledge 2007).

G.. J. Meyer, The Tudors: The Most Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty (Bantam, 2011).

P.. W. Petty, “Elizabeth I (1533-1603),” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas (Zondervan, 1974).

Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).

J.. J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, new edition, Yale English Monarchs (New Haven: Yale UP, 1997).

Ian Sellers, “Uniformity, Acts of,” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas (Zondervan, 1974).

David Starkey, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne (New York: Harper Collins, 2001 [in England in 2000]).

Anna Whitelock, Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court (Bloomsbury 2013).

John D. Woodbridge and Frank A. James, Church History from Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: the Rise and the Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual and Political Context, vol. 2, (Zondervan, 2013).

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