For Queen Elizabeth to find a husband seemed critical to those in her council. On the other-hand, we here at Tudors Dynasty feel that Elizabeth came to the conclusion well before becoming queen that she would not wed – especially when she saw what it did to her sister Mary’s reign. The biggest factor for Elizabeth was that she did not want a foreign ruler, nor any man to rule her kingdom over herself. She was, after-all Queen of England.
In this article we touch base on some, if not most, of the men who were considered a marriage prospect for Queen Elizabeth. All too often we only see a list of names but do not learn anything more about the men themselves, or what Elizabeth thought.
Most believe that the only man Queen Elizabeth would have trusted enough to wed was Robert Dudley. Dudley was a lifelong friend and someone who most believe would not have tried to rule over her. Unfortunately, that union would not happen for Elizabeth. Dudley was married to Amy Robsart at the time and the only way to wed Queen Elizabeth is if Amy was not in the picture – well, we know what happened there. If not, see our article that explains more: Why Queen Elizabeth I Never Married
Queen Elizabeth’s marriage prospects, in no particular order:
Philip was married to Elizabeth’s sister, Mary. As we know, Mary was Queen of England from 1553 – 1558. After her death Philip continued to support England and even attempted a union with his dead wife’s sister.
Elizabeth delayed making a decision on the proposal and had learned that Philip was also considering a marriage with the Valois family in France. Elizabeth, we believe, would not have married a Catholic.
The problem with this marriage stemmed with Elizabeth’s legitimacy and her faith. In the eyes of the Catholic church Elizabeth was illegitimate since the Pope did not recognize the divorce of Katherine of Aragon and her father, Henry VIII – thus the marriage of her mother Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII was invalid and she was illegitimate.
James, Earl of Arran
James was a Scottish nobleman whose father was a short-lived regent of Scotland, after the death of King James V. Mary Queen of Scots was queen at only 6 days old and required a regent.
James’ father proposed marriage between Elizabeth and his son in 1558 to cement the relationship between Scotland and England.
In 1559, both James and his ex-regent father declared themselves Protestants – James seems like he would’ve be an attractive choice to the Protestant Queen Elizabeth. The Earl of Arran made a visit to England (and presumably Elizabeth) and when he went back to Scotland he was joined by English escorts who recorded that he had signs of mental instability.
Elizabeth formally declared her rejection of his suit on 8 December 1560.
Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
Henry Fitzalan was born around 1512, in London. He was a prominent Lord during the reign of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
In January 1559, Henry was elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford. After only four months as Chancellor, Henry resigned the office – most likely due to religious motives.
Elizabeth visited him at Nonsuch Palace in August 1559. For five days she was entertained as any monarch would be, with banquets, masques, and music. She visited Nonsuch and Henry many times after. Was Elizabeth deciding if a marriage with Henry was suitable?
As a widower Henry Fitzalan was named as a suitor who might aspire to the queen’s hand. Apparently in 1561, this news led to a fight between himself and Robert Dudley. At this time Dudley’s wife had died a year earlier and Dudley was free to marry again. Was he jealous?
Sir William Pickering
Sir William Pickering was born in 1516, and was an English courtier and diplomat (ambassador).
…being ‘a brave, wise, comely English gentleman,’ was seriously thought of as a suitor for Elizabeth’s hand. In 1559 ‘the Earl of Arundel … was said to have sold his lands and was ready to flee out of the realm with the money, because he could not abide in England if the queen should marry Mr. Pickering, for they were enemies’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1559–1560, p. 2).
At one point it was reported that William had secret visits with the Queen and he had taken up residence at court. He was known to entertain lavishly and showed great tastes. The Earl of Arundel was said to be jealous of William, as his rival suitor, and challenged the 2nd Earl of Bedford to a duel for having spoken ill of him. The truth is probably that Pickering never considered himself a suitor. He was recorded as telling ambassadors that the Queen (Elizabeth) ‘would laugh at him and at all the rest of them as he knew she meant to die a maid’.
Eric XIV of Sweden
Eric was born 13 December 1533, to Gustav I of Sweden and his wife Catherine of Saxe-Lauenburg at Tre Kronor castle in Stockholm, Sweden. Eric ruled as King of Sweden from 1560 until he was eventually deposed in 1568.
He had sought to improve his reputation by securing a marriage with Queen Elizabeth. Eric courted Elizabeth for years – he even sent her love letters written in Latin. He also went so far as to send his brother to English court, where he “scattered silver like a shower of falling stars in the London streets, and told the crowds that whereas he scattered silver, his brother would scatter gold” (according to John Sitwell).
Eric XIV, the King of Sweden, sent Elizabeth a portrait of himself, making his interest for her hand in marriage known.
Elizabeth seems to have slowed her courtship with Eric intentionally, but King Eric was never deterred. He was determined to wed Elizabeth. It wasn’t until the rumors of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley that the King started to became upset and challenged Dudley to a duel. The duel never happened as King Eric was “talked off the ledge” by his envoy.
Eric gave up in 1560 when he had to return to Sweden, from a trip to England, because his father had died.
“Eric was prone to sending the Queen letters containing passionate declarations of love, which greatly entertained her.”***
Adolphus of Gottorp, Duke of Holstein
Adlolphus of Gottorp was born the third son of King Frederick I of Denmark and his second wife Sophie of Pomerania in 1526.
Adolphus of Gottorp, Duke of Holstein was thought of highly enough in England to be made a Knight of the Garter.
24 August 1560, Elizabeth received a letter from Adolphus that thanked her for the order of saint George of the Garter which was communicated to him by the letter of Henry Carey.*
Henry, Duke of Anjou
Henry was the son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici, born in 1551.
In 1570, Catherine de Medici wanted her son with to marry the Queen of England. However, Henry would hear nothing of it. He insisted that Elizabeth was too old for him, plus she was the daughter of a Protestant – not to mention the fact that he considered her illegitimate. In addition to those objections he wanted to steer clear of the drama regarding Elizabeth and Robert Dudley’s “affair”.
Archduke Charles of Austria
In 1559, and again from 1564–1568, there were negotiations for a marriage between Charles and Queen Elizabeth. His father, Emperor Ferdinand I expected Elizabeth to be okay with Charles of Austria to rule England if she died childless.
As with all of her other suitors Elizabeth dragged out the negotiations – most likely knowing all along that she would not agree to marry. As with many of her suitors religious beliefs were an issue with the Catholic Archduke.
Negotiations lasted many years as Elizabeth played suitors off against each other and tried to keep everyone happy.
Alison Weir in “Elizabeth the Queen”: “She [Elizabeth] had acknowledged that the Archduke was the best foreign match for her, but she waxed alternately hot and cold over the matter.”
Francis, Duke of Anjou
Francis was the son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici, born in 1555.
In 1579, Jean de Simier arrived in England (on 6 January) 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 or not. They were divided.
The Duke of Anjou had courted Elizabeth of 1578-1581 without success. Elizabeth seemed very interested in Francis and even called him, ‘her little frog’. Even though they were separated in age by two decades (he was only 24) the two became very close. Unfortunately the opposition of some of her Councillors and concerns from her subjects over a french takeover led her to end the courtship – she would have no more suitors.
On his departure 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.
*State Paper Office, Royal Letters, vol. VIIII p. 228
**’Elizabeth: June 1559, 26-30′, in Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 1, 1558-1559, ed. Joseph Stevenson (London, 1863), pp. 337-346 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/foreign/vol1/pp337-346 [accessed 9 December 2015].
***Quote about Eric of Sweden – Alison Weir “Elizabeth the Queen”