History Essay Continues...
Marriage and the Welfare of England

    One of the main problems that Elizabeth and her Parliament saw in accepting a marriage proposal by a foreigner was that he would surely put his own interests before the welfare of England. With bad memories of the marriage between Mary and Philip of Spain, the English people were rather reluctant to accept a foreigner on the throne (Weir 46). Although Elizabeth’s political power could be preserved to a certain degree as she married, it was no security against her husband’s proceedings as king (King 37). Even a queen had to be obedient to her husband, and Elizabeth was not about to give up her independence and power for anyone. 

    Still, Elizabeth kept on receiving marriage proposals from abroad, and though she controlled her courtly wooers well, the conclusion was that each one of the suitors had personal or political liabilities, and frankly, she never had the intention to marry at all. After her refusal to marry Philip, Elizabeth’s next marriage proposal came from the Habsburg Emperor, Ferdinand I, who offered Elizabeth his bachelor son, the Archduke Charles. 
    Again, it took Elizabeth a long time to reply, and this time she stated that she would not marry someone that she had not seen in person. The Emperor was shocked at her reply since it was not a custom to inspect the spouse before marriage. He refused to send his son to be inspected by Elizabeth since it would bring public humiliation to the family if Elizabeth did not decide to marry the Archduke. Moreover, the Protestants in England did not like the fact that Archduke Charles was Catholic and thus could disturb the position of the Protestant religion in the country. 

    However, a Protestant king who had wooed Elizabeth since she was a young woman was King Erik of Sweden. But, since they were both the head of their nations, Elizabeth simply stated that it was not reasonable for either of them to leave their kingdoms in order to get married. She certainly had no intention of leaving her baby, England, under any circumstances (Weir 66). Many people thought that, in order to avoid having a foreigner controlling England, including the problems connected with accepting a king of different religion, Elizabeth should marry a Protestant Englishman. But like a mother who does not want to favor one child over another, Elizabeth worried that there would be grave discontent and jealousy between the nobles if she choose one of her subjects as her husband. 
    Competition for power among the English nobility was fierce, and Elizabeth did not want to put her country in a situation that could lead to feuds and political breakdown (Somerset 93). Lord Robert Dudley - Picture Gallery
  It was publicly known that the man Elizabeth found most stimulating as a companion was Lord Robert Dudley. His company was perfect for Elizabeth, and the one thing he could not offer her was marriage since he was already married. By pursuing her relationship with Dudley and other courtiers, Elizabeth stayed in power and nurtured her image as the Virgin Queen (Weir 73). But, the amount of time that Elizabeth spent with Dudley started rumors that she was planning to marry him, and when his wife suddenly died mysteriously, people thought that she was murdered so that Elizabeth and Dudley could get married. 
    However, Elizabeth did not have any intention of marrying Dudley, or anyone else (Weir 111). Yet the Parliament’s desire for Elizabeth to get married was not put on the shelf.

    In October of 1562, when England was in the middle of a war with France, Elizabeth fell ill with the often fatal disease of smallpox. After less than a month, the queen was on the way to recovery, but during her illness, the Council had thought about the situation England would be left in if Elizabeth passed away. Thus new demands for her marriage and the naming of a successor fell upon Elizabeth (Somerset 155). A petition reached Elizabeth from the Houses of Lords and Commons, and as a response, she stated that as she was recovering from her sickness she still cared more about her subjects’ well being than her own. She also argued that naming a successor was not an easy task, given that she did not want England to fall into the wrong hands, as had happened when her sister Mary was at the throne. She concluded by explaining that even though many queens might come after her days were over, they would not be as “natural mother than I mean to be unto you all” (qtd. Weir 138). The facts that many women were subject to early menopause and a high rate of death in childbed contributed to the view that Elizabeth, at this time thirty years old, started to be too old to have children. Since Elizabeth had failed to choose a husband, the parliament stated that a successor was all they asked for. To this remark Elizabeth heatedly replied that “she was no less capable of childbirth than Saint Elizabeth, to whom God sent offspring despite her advanced years” (King 40). 

    Impressed by the queen’s rhetoric, the parliament regained new hope that Elizabeth would finally marry and give birth to an heir. Elizabeth felt the pressure increase as Mary Stuart, the queen of Scots, became a widow and now was actively searching for a new husband. Since many people hoped that Mary Mary I - Picture Gallerywould one day become queen of England, Elizabeth carefully watched Mary’s marriage negotiations. To ensure that Mary did not take a husband who would be unfriendly to England, Elizabeth even suggested that Mary should take Dudley as her husband. Instead, in 1565, Mary fell in love with Elizabeth’s young second cousin, Darnley, married him without Elizabeth’s consent, and gave birth to a son, James, one year later (Somerset 174). 
Elizabeth now took up marriage negotiations with the fourteen-year-old Charles IX, who was the current king of France. Yet, when the proposal became serious, Elizabeth retreated due to the fact that she was so much older than he was. Both the king’s mother, Catherine de Medici, and the king himself, reassured Elizabeth that the age difference was not a problem. After discussing the matter with her council where a majority did not like an engagement with France, she formally declined the proposal (Somerset 178-179). The Parliament grew even more impatient with their queen, and in 1566, they petitioned Elizabeth again. Angrily she responded, “And though I be a woman, yet I have as good a courage, answerable to my place, as ever my father had. I am your anointed queen. I will never be by violence constrained to do anything” (Crane 90). Although Elizabeth used her femininity to manipulate her Parliament, she stood firm in her attitude that she was the queen and ruler of England, thus the power lay in her hands.

The Last Proposal

     In the beginning of 1570, religious instability led to conspiracies against the crown of England, and the anonymous leaders of the rebellion turned out to be Norfolk and Mary Stuart. In the midst of this turmoil, Elizabeth received another marriage proposal from France, this time from Charles IX’s brother, the Duke of Anjou. Catherine de Medici once again hoped to persuade Elizabeth to marry one of her sons, and the main reason was that France needed England’s alliance against Spain. Due to the political advantages, Elizabeth started the negotiations. However, the Duke himself was not too eager to marry Elizabeth, and controversy arose about their different religions and more importantly regarding the Duke’s bisexuality (Somerset 217). Amazingly enough, Catherine de Medici did not give up when the negotiations broke off, and she now offered Elizabeth her youngest son, the Duke of Alençon. This was the last offer that Elizabeth considered, and even though no actions were taken to accept the proposal for years, in 1579, she seriously considered the idea of marrying Duke Alençon. Nevertheless, as the proposal was about to be accepted, her subjects started to worry. The main reason why Elizabeth should marry in the first place was so that she could produce an heir, but now she was forty-six years old and conception was not likely to happen. Even if Elizabeth would become pregnant, the risk of death in childbed was high (Somerset 310-311). Thus in 1582, it was decided that Elizabeth was not to marry the Duke of Alençon, and what had seemed to be endless pressure on Elizabeth to get married now ended. 

    Consequently, Elizabeth managed to rule England alone and with an iron fist: through her diplomacy and gift of rhetoric, she continued leading a single life in sixteenth-century pro-marriage England. Yet she never looked upon herself as childless. On several occasions she stated that she was the mother of all Englishmen. In her “Golden Speech” to Parliament in 1601, Elizabeth stated, “There will never Queen sit in my seat with more zeal to my country, care to my subjects and will sooner with willingness venture her life for your good and safety than myself” (“Selected Speeches”). Elizabeth turned England into one of Europe’s most powerful nation and gave her people a stable government. After her death in 1603, when James XI of Scotland became James I of England, the English people would, with sentimental feelings, look back at the time when Elizabeth was their Queen Mother and remember her as Good Queen Bess (Somerset 488).