This post is slightly different from most other posts that I’ve done, but I am really into history as I am doing it as part of my A Levels! So for the next part of my course we are doing it on Queen Elizabeth the first and last week we were set some research homework. We had to choose our own question so I thought I would share my findings with you.
Why did Elizabeth I never get married?
There can be no fixed reason as to why Elizabeth did not find the idea of marriage appealing it has certainly been the topic of much debate over the centuries. It perhaps goes without saying that marriage may have been particularly unappealing bearing in mind the six wives her father had taken during his life time and the undoubted uncertainty and instability Elizabeth would have felt as she was growing up.
Marriage would certainly have meant a loss of power and personal independence for Elizabeth. On marriage her personal influence on politics and strategy for England would have been diminished if not completely eliminated by her husband and his family. Another factor which may have had influence over Elizabeth was the risks of childbirth. Many women of Elizabeth’s era died in childbirth and many of their children died either before, during or shortly after birth. Even for the queen there was no modern medicine.
Marriage for elizabeth would not only have been about personal choices or a love match it would have been a strategic and political decision. This would have required unanimity from her subjects which due to the religious and political divisions of the time was never forthcoming. Elizabeth’s advisors were concerned that the marriage would have dispersed power away from them towards her husband and his advisors. The personal factors of fear of childbirth and the likelihood of death to the mother also had political significance it raised the risk of either no heir or a consort trying to rule until any surviving heir reached maturity. This in and of itself could lead to power struggles between competing factions perhaps her husband on the one hand and various claimants to the throne from France, Spain, Scotland and beyond.
Perhaps one question is who was there for Elizabeth to marry? Philip of Spain could have been considered a suitable match but that could have future problems for the child heir, would England become an afterthought and just be subsumed into Spain. Another suitable candidate may have been Robert Dudley, the earl of Leicester but he was viewed as a subject of Elizabeth. Dudley was certainly the closest to being the personal choice of Elizabeth but the political ramifications were too great to allow this match.
The religious difficulties that were present at the time were also an important factor in answering the question why Elizabeth never married. She had been raised in a broadly Protestant faith but many of the European countries still had ruling catholic families, Spain France, the Holy Roman Empire (The Hapsburgs). The queen would not change her religion and neither would they so any negotiations for marriage always failed once religion was discussed. Of course there were Protestant countries but they were often much poorer than the well established catholic monarchies and therefore were not seen as suitable matches for an English Queen.
If only it had been as simple as Elizabeth marrying for love then she may have married but she was the ruler of England and had political, religious and foreign policies to consider in making her choice, if she really had a choice at all! Perhaps it was simpler to rule alone than with any man!
I hope you enjoyed this slightly different kind of blog post. Let me know if you liked this kind of thing as I really enjoy learning about the past and sharing that knowledge!