Good Queen Bess

Happy coronation day, Elizabeth! That’s right: on January 15, 1559, Elizabeth I, last monarch of the House of Tudor, was crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, following her accession on November 17, 1558. After a highly unstable childhood, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn somehow managed to weather the reign of her devoutly Catholic half-sister, Mary, who was a little too fond … Continue reading Good Queen Bess

A Gentleman and a Poet

Today is the four-hundred-sixty-third anniversary of the birth of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, courtier, poet, and, according to some, the actual author of Shakespeare’s plays. Even the ones performed after his death. He must have been a very literary ghost. De Vere was born on 12 April 1550 at his family’s ancestral pile, Hedingham Castle. His family could trace their roots back to … Continue reading A Gentleman and a Poet

Robert Dudley

Farewell, Robert. On September 4, 1558, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, favorite and rumored lover of Queen Elizabeth, died near Oxford from a longstanding illness. Robert was born in June 1532, the fifth son of the Duke of Northumberland. He was well educated and spent time at the courts of both Henry VIII and Edward VI. He married an heiress, Amy Robsart, in 1550, … Continue reading Robert Dudley

Opening Night

On June 12, 1997, Queen Elizabeth II re-opened the Globe Theatre in London, following its reconstruction about 230 meters from the original site. The original Globe was owned by Richard Burbage and his brother, Cuthbert, William Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, and Thomas Pope. The theatre was built in 1599 using timber from an earlier theatre that was built by the Burbages’ father, James. The … Continue reading Opening Night

Heads Will Roll

On February 8, 1587, Mary, former Queen of Scotland, officially wore out her welcome in England. After an almost 20 year imprisonment, she was executed at Fotheringhay Castle after being implicated in the Babington Plot against Queen Elizabeth’s life. She was 44 years old when she died.

Mary’s life has been much romanticized in the four centuries since her death, and while she wasn’t a bad person necessarily, she was a pretty good example of why an inherited monarchy isn’t always such a good idea. She tried, but she was flighty and giddy and very unsuited to her job. Though to be fair, the cards were pretty much stacked against her from the get-go.

Scotland, at the time, was a difficult country full of fractious nobles with too much power and all seeming to lay claim to the throne. It took a firm hand to rule them. Mary was six days old when she inherited the throne. As a child, she was betrothed to the eldest son of Henry II of France, and at the age of five she was sent to France to be raised alongside her fiance, Francois. By the time she returned to Scotland in 1561 (following Francois’s death), she was more French than Scottish; a stranger in her own land. Scotland, at that time, was undergoing some major religious upheaval, with many people turning from Catholicism to Protestantism. Mary was a devout Catholic. Mary tried to appease the Protestants by tolerating the new religion and inviting several Protestants to join her Privy Council. Many of her countrymen, however, still viewed her with suspicion.

Continue reading “Heads Will Roll”