Queen Elizabeth was a single woman with a kingdom (or two) at her disposal. Many men wished to marry the Queen to advance their own status. Some came closer than others. In this article we’re going to focus on two men (other than Robert Dudley) who came closest to marrying the Queen.
Francis, Duke of Anjou and Alençon
Francis Valois was the son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici — he was born in 1555. Francis was considered attractive as a child, however, like Elizabeth was scarred by smallpox. He was only eight years old when he contracted small pox while Elizabeth was an adult when she contracted the disease. Even with the scars Elizabeth found the Duke attractive and dashing, plus he was one of the rare suitors who came in person to court her.
In 1579, Jean de Simier, a close friend of Francis, arrived in England to negotiate a marriage between Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou. Council members took in all factors as to whether or not the marriage would be beneficial to England. They were divided. Their biggest concern was the fact Francis was Catholic.
The Duke of Anjou had courted Elizabeth of 1578-1581. Even though they were separated in age by two decades the two became very close. Author Elizabeth Norton states that Elizabeth actually accepted the marriage proposal from Francis in November 1581. That very evening, while talking with her ladies about the dangers of childbirth, Elizabeth changed her mind and broke the news to the French Duke the following day – she could not marry him, but they could remain betrothed. Francis was upset with this turn of events and refused to leave England. It wasn’t until February 1582, that he agreed to leave after being bribed with £60,000 and three English warships to assist him in his endeavors.
At one point Elizabeth wrote to him, “For my part, I confess that there is no prince in the world to whom I would more willingly yield to be his, than to yourself, or to whom I think myself more obliged, nor with whom I would pass the years of my life.”¹
Upon his departure in February 1582, she penned a poem, “On Monsieur’s Departure“:
I grieve and dare not show my discontent;
I love, and yet am forced to seem to hate;
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant;
I seem stark mute, but inwardly do prate.
I am, and not; I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun —
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands, and lies by me, doth what I have done;
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be suppressed.
Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, Love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low;
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die, and so forget what love e’er meant.
Sir Christopher Hatton
Sir Christopher Hatton was born around 1540 and was considered a handsome and accomplished man, he was especially recognized for his elegant dancing; Hatton attracted the attention of Queen Elizabeth at court for those reasons.
Under Queen Elizabeth, Hatton received a number of estates and a multitude of positions — it wasn’t long before suspicions grew and members at court suspected the two were lovers. Whether they were or not is unknown. Elizabeth affectionately called him lydds/lids and her sheep.
In 1572, Queen Elizabeth sold Corfe Castle to Hatton who became the first private owner of the castle. Hatton prepared and fortified the castle for what was to be the Spanish Armada.
Hatton’s rapid rise at court was somewhat stalled by his opposition to Queen Elizabeth’s proposed marriage to Francis, Duke of Alencon, and his rivalry with another favorite of the Queen, Sir Walter Raleigh. Also, Hatton, along with most of the Queen’s advisers, supported the idea of executing Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scots, which earned him Elizabeth’s displeasure (Wagner, 145). Hatton encouraged secretary William Davison to defy the Queen’s orders and send Mary Stuart’s signed execution warrant to Fotheringay, rather that retain it indefinitely, as she had instructed. After the Queen’s wrath dissipated, Hatton was welcomed back into the royal fold.²
Hatton served as Lord Chancellor from 1587 until his death in 1591.
Christopher Hatton was one of Elizabeth’s most dedicated suitors since he remained single his entire life in hopes that she would one day marry him.
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