After the Wyatt Rebellion in 1554, Princess Elizabeth Tudor was imprisoned in The Bell Tower at The Tower of London by order of her half-sister , Queen Mary I of England. When their father, King Henry VIII, died, he-was succeeded by their Protestant half-brother, Edward, the son of Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour. After Queen Jane’s death, Henry acquired three more wives, but no additional children.
Edward, a staunch Protestant, was nine years old when he became king. He was brilliant but sickly and died from tuberculosis in 1553 when he was only seventeen years old. Although he had named his cousin, Lady Jane Grey as his successor, she reigned for only nine days before Princess Mary Tudor put her aside. She and her husband, Guildford Dudley, were later beheaded for treason.
Queen Mary I, a staunch Catholic in the now Protestant England, was thirty-four when she succeeded to the throne. Her father had divorced her mother to marry his pregnant mistress, Anne Boleyn. She had been declared a bastard, removed from the succession, and forced to play nursemaid to her sister. Her mother had died in relative poverty which she often shared.
When Mary succeeded to the throne, she did so with the support of both Catholic and Protestant supporters. Thomas Wyatt the Younger, the son of one of Anne Boleyn’s accused lovers, rose up in rebellion when it was announced that Mary would marry King Phillip of Spain. Having seen the Inquisition first hand, he wished to spare England. He wrote a letter to Elizabeth pledging his support. When Thomas was captured as he prepared to attack the Queen in London, Elizabeth was suspected of treason and almost lost her head. Wyatt was beheaded and later, hung, drawn and quartered. (Portrait of Thomas the Younger c. 1540 by Holbein)
Tomorrow, Elizabeth’s Fate. Rita Bay
Queen Elizabeth I
Monarchs often determined through customs or law appropriate conduct for his or her subjects. Sumptuary laws were one method of controlling consumption and padding the royal coffers.
With the rise of the wealthy merchant class in the 16th century, Henry VIII passed a new series of laws concerning dress and personal adornment. This new middle class was rising above their station to challenge the nobility in the quality of living accommodations and dress.
Henry’s daughters, Queens Mary and Elizabeth I, continued to use the Sumptuary Laws which dictated what color and type of clothing individuals were allowed to own and wear, an easy and immediate way to identify rank and privilege. Only royalty was permitted to wear clothes trimmed with ermine. Lesser nobles were allowed to wear clothing trimmed with fox and otter. Elizabeth also had to contend with her nobles’ ostentation landing them in serious financial trouble.
In addition, the Sumptuary Laws were used to protect English merchants. Elizabeth’s laws forbade excess, the unnecessary importation of foreign wares, extremity, manifest decay, vain devices, wasting, and decay of the wealth of the realm. Severe fines were among the penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws.
Elizabeth also set high behavioral standards for the ladies of her court. When Elizabeth’s life-long favorite, Robert Dudley, married the recently-widowed Lettice Knowles, Elizabeth went ballistic. Dudley defended Lettice to the Queen, but Elizabeth would have none of it. She called him “a traitor.” She called Lettice (her own cousin) a “she-wolf” and banned her from Court. Although Dudley eventually returned to her good graces, Lettice couldn’t return to court until after Elizabeth’s death in 1603—more than 25 years later. In 1592, the queen discovered Raleigh’s secret marriage to one of her maids of honour, Elizabeth Throckmorton.Elizabeth flew into a jealous rage and Raleigh and his wife were imprisoned in the Tower. Lesson in manners? Don’t court or marry without the Queen’s permission.
Tomorrow, Washington’s Rules of Civility 2 Rita Bay