View Full Version : Elizabeth and Mary: “When Queens Collide”

01-22-2004, 01:08 PM
Just took Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0375408983/qid=1074787240/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-4493039-0204863?v=glance&s=books) out of the library (I’d have called it “When Queens Collide,” which is why I’m not writing Serious History Books).

I’ve read bios of both Eliz. and Mary and have heard both sides of the story—what do you history types think? Did Eliz. have any choice in chunkin’ Mary’s head off? Mary seems to have made one dumb (or desperate?) move (and marriage) after another and seems to have been asking for it. Or was Elizabeth just ax-happy?


01-22-2004, 02:29 PM
Please forgive me if I get some chronology and names a tad mixed up. It's difficult to review one's texts from work.

I'd have to say that Lizzie was pretty well backed into a corner at that point.

She was facing a heap of pressure from the other nations, particularly the Pope and Spain, who'd figured by having Philip shack up with Mary (soeur), they'd get themselves a piece of the English pie and the first blow in a Roman Catholic reformation of Protestant nations.

Elizabeth was looking at criticism from several fronts. Roman Catholics who'd enjoyed renewed power under Mary I; Puritans who'd wouldn't be happy until nobody was having any fun; nobles who saw their power slipping through their fingers as Elizabeth showed herself to be more and more self-reliant. Even her legitimacy to the throne was called into question by those who felt the only marriage of Henry VIII that counted was his first.

England had not had a strong monarch since Harry and Elizabeth was determined to rule by herself and for herself, without being beholden to stronger nations or rulers. She was a threat, and she had to make sure people knew that she was there to stay.

Mary, on the other hand, had an unassailable claim to the throne (through Henry VIII's sister Margaret). She was a good Roman Catholic, and had every reason to dislike the Protestants. They had, after all, killed her husband, stolen her son, and kicked her out of her own country.

Furthermore, she'd been a pawn in someone else's game her whole life. Raised in the French Court, she was sheltered from 6 years old to the day she was married. She had the bloodline, the religion, and the malleability the Roman Catholics needed.

Elizabeth forgave her as often as was politically safe. She'd shut down several plots "led" by Mary and did nothing but lock her up. The last one (Northumberland?) was the breaking point. Again, Mary was led by her nose by a scheming "lover" into planning Elizabeth's overthrow and Elizabeth found that it was safer to have her executed than keeping her around.

Elizabeth was having enough trouble dealing with internal problems, and did not need pressure from the rest of Europe. England had not been a stable country since Henry's time, and Elizabeth needed to establish and maintain her power base. Mary was threatening that base.

Mary was more than just another claimant to the throne. She was a legitimate threat that had to be removed. Forgiveness on Elizabeth's part had done nothing. Her back was to the wall, and the only option left at this point was (IMHO), execution.

01-22-2004, 03:55 PM
I have to disagree about Mary being "led by the nose." Much of her life suggests that she was an opportunist who had an unfortunate tendency to get emotionally and physically involved with some Very Bad Choices, but who otherwise rarely let her eye slip from the Main Chance. While it seems likely that her personal preference was with Catholicism (especially since her childhood was spent that way), I find the idea of her as a martyr to her religion laughable; as I understand it, she married James Hepburn by Protestant rites, she readily agreed to allow her son to be raised Protestant, and, for Pete's sake, the greatest likelihood is that she had her 2nd husband, Darcy, assassinated!

She not only exhausted Elizabeth's forgiveness, but constantly bitched that Elizabeth wasn't doing anything to put her back on the Scottish throne, despite having abdicated in favor of her son, and leaving Scotland (which she'd pretty much always detested) quite voluntarily. Of course, she'd so alienated her own aristocracy by then that they were pressuring her pretty hard.

So, she has one husband killed, marries her (probable) co-conspirator by Protestant rites, is thrown out/abdicates and leaves Scotland, Hepburn tries to take it back and fails, dying miserably in Denmark I think, and wanders around England demanding asylum. Despite this, she has continued from early adulthood to refer to herSELF in both title and arms as Queen of England, yet she has the nerve to demand succor from the woman she labels an illegitimate usurper. This woman, not out of kindness, but because she has a very strong sense that Royalty must only be judged by its peers if at all, puts Mary up for what? 20 years or better, and finally executes her when the plotting becomes so thick that Elizabeth's own life is seriously threatened.

Ax happy, my ass! :D

It may be apparent to the highly discerning that I am not a fan of Mary, so called Queen of Scots!

01-22-2004, 04:00 PM
IT would appear that I have Hepburn dying in Denmark and then wandering around demanding asylum! :smack: A great feat if he could do it, but I meant that Mary wandered around demanding asylum...

And this, AFTER previewing yet! Oy! :o

01-22-2004, 07:15 PM
Not much to add except I tip my Historian Hat (it has a little nose-veil) to some very learned discoursers!

01-22-2004, 09:08 PM
Not much to add except I tip my Historian Hat (it has a little nose-veil) to some very learned discoursers!

Eve, tell the truth: you're actually Miss Manners in real life, aren't you? :D

01-22-2004, 09:19 PM
Not Darcy - Darnley! I really R idiot today! :smack: :smack: :smack:

BTW, Eve, if you like History Lite, and haven't read it yet (you probably have), The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey is a real classic about Richard III, set in the context of a (more or less) modern detective story. You'll end up liking your roses white!

01-23-2004, 08:31 AM
Ah, but I like my history neat, no chaser—"historical fiction" sets my teeth on edge.

But I have learned a lot in this thread, and enter the book well-armed!

01-23-2004, 11:28 AM
No, no! The Daughter of Time is NOT historical fiction. It is a fictional account of a fictional detective investigating the FACTS of Richard III/the Princes in the Tower. No history was murdered in the course of writing the book, or if it was, it was due to the contemporaneous state of research at the time of the writing.

Sorry, this has gotten rather off-topic of When Queens Collide (sounds like a drag fight, doesn't it?), but I was reminded of the book by this discussion; Mary, Queen of Scots is mentioned in passing in the book. Apologies.

The Scrivener
01-23-2004, 08:20 PM
I think Elizabeth was tempted by an eerie foreknowledge that doing so would later inspire the Monty Python skit "The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots".

01-25-2004, 02:21 AM
While it's impossible to know "what might have been" had Mary lived so there is only conjecture, but had I been one of Elizabeth's advisors I would most definitely have had urged for her execution long before the actual blow fell. I've little to add to Aguecheek's post by way of motives, but a few words about Tudor paranoia (if you can call it paranoia- it could be well argued that any fear they had was justified).

The entire Tudor dynasty rested on sandy footing to begin with. Elizabeth's grandfather, Henry VII, came to the throne by virtue of being the great-grandson of a bastard son of the fourth son [John of Gaunt] of Edward III (and by virtue of heading a victorious army; he was also a bastard of Henry V's queen, which allowed him some French pretendancy, not that he ever pressed it). His wife Elizabeth of York had a vastly superior claim to the throne than he did, and her cousin Margaret of Salisbury had a stronger claim yet. (Elizabeth of York, like her brothers, was technically illegitimate [due to her father's betrothal to another woman at the time of his marriage], but the wedding of Margaret's parents [George of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV & Richard III, and his wife Isabel Neville] was of unquestioned legitimacy. True, George was disowned and stripped of titles (and probably drowned) by his brother, BUT it was the Tudor assertion that they were an illegal dynasty anyway. (Henry VIII was so concerned with this line's greater claimancy that as an old, obese and dying man he ordered cousin Maggie to the tower and there, at the age of 72, she was literally chased around the headsman's block [refusing to go gently unto that good knight who escorted her] before being decapitated; her children and grandchildren got the point and never mentioned their ancestral claims again.)
Henry VII had to fight numerous battles against men with better claims (though both were probably impostors, one so ludicrous and simpleminded Henry employed him as a servant rather than execute him). Catherine of Aragon as the descendant of one of the legitimate children of John of Gaunt could have claimed greater right to the throne than her own husband(s), a fact not lost on Henry after the divorce and the reason that his own daughter Mary's life was not always safe after the divorce (and also a fact that Bloody Mary mentioned a few times during her reign).
Had Henry had children, even daughters, with Katherine Howard or Katherine Parr, it's highly unlikely that Elizabeth ever would have been crowned due to her own bastard status. (It was after all Lady Jane Grey and not her who was chosen as usurper after Edward VI's death.) It was a miraculous twist of circumstances that ensconced her to begin with ("This is the Lord's work, and it is marvelous in our eyes!") and this was not lost on her, and all this was long before Mary Q of S entered the picture.
Enter Mary: her legitimacy is beyond doubt (in fact she was betrothed to Elizabeth's own brother at one point). Her father and her grandfather were both killed by Henry VIII, so there was little love lost twixt the families already. (Henry and his sister, Mary's grandmother Margaret, hated each other passionately; Margaret also hated her first husband , but hated Henry more for killing him and making her Q Dowager rather than Q.) Though hated by the Scots, she had supporters in Europe (and Scotland, though they hated Mary and were under the thumb of John Knox, would still have united with France anytime they wanted to invade England). Since she was too stupid and shallow to want to rule in her own right she was the dream of a dynastic match for the younger brothers of Francis II or for Ferdinand (brother of Philip of Spain) who would be more than happy to rule for her, and she was already in England. The Pope would gladly have given his banners (papal banners: the original weapons of Mass destruction) to anybody who wished to "liberate" her, and when she took the bait with Catholic courtiers there was no choice. The dynasty was illegitimate from too many points and even after the destruction of the Spanish Armada there was too much Catholic firepower very close to England. She had to go. (Pity about the terrier though.)

While bloody to us, that's the problem of authority based on bloodline. There are NUMEROUS accounts in Byzantine history of entire families including infants were literally hacked apart unapologetically when a new emperor came to power. (Even the other grandparents of the murdered grandchildren of the Emperor Maurice were killed just for good measure, while bastard sons of noblemen were invariably castrated as a mercy to preclude them from being threats.) David, considered one of the most divinely appointed monarchs in history, found excuses to gradually destroy the entire house of Saul (save for Mephibosheth, who was the son of his beloved friend Jonathan- and, conveniently, crippled by an "accident" that occurred shortly after David's accession and thus banned from any type of holy office), just as his son Solomon lost little time in killing any of David's other sons who wanted to make an issue of his right to succeed. In a way, Mary surviving 20 years in luxurious (at least compared to the lives of commoners) captivity was a major leap forward and a sign of enormous mercy on the part of Bess.

01-25-2004, 02:39 AM
Some ages old movie trivia which, being Eve, I'm guessing you already know, but just for the benefit of others:

Katharine Hepburn was a descendant of the Scottish family of which Mary's third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, was head. (She was also a descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, but then given the number of live children she bore and the number of bastards some had and the number of generations since the 12th century, there are probably few with European ancestry who aren't, they just haven't won Oscars for playing her.)

When La Belle Hepburn was cast as Mary in Mary of Scotland (http://imdb.com/title/tt0027948/), studio execs were concerned that any mention of the name James Hepburn for Fredric March's character might prove too confusing or worse, incestuous, for audiences and for that reason his surname is never used in the movie. (I know that Geraldine Chaplin played her grandmother in CHAPLIN, but I wonder if any other actresses have given great performances when playing an ancestress?)

Q.N. Jones
01-25-2004, 11:26 AM
From what I've read, Good Queen Bess really didn't want to do it (on a personal level), but politically, really had no choice.

Can't speak to her personal feelings, but I agree with the (ruthless) political analysis.

01-25-2004, 01:35 PM
Zowie, now I can't wait to start reading the book (just came back from a trip, and it was too heavy to carry). I've also been of the opinion that Eliz. really had no choide in the matter, and that Mary was, if not asking for it, too easily led into traps and schemes that cooked her goose.

I just wish that their story could have been made as a musical comedy, with Betty Grable and Alice Faye! Carmen Miranda could have been a comical lady-in-waiting, Charlotte Greenwood and Edward Everett Horton as Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn . . .

01-25-2004, 02:35 PM
From what I've read, Good Queen Bess really didn't want to do it (on a personal level), but politically, really had no choice.

Elizabeth had problems having Mary executed because Mary too was a queen, and having a fellow queen executed (even with apparently good reason) is rather a sticky business when one believes in monarchy by divine right, as Elizabeth seems to have done. This did not, however, stop her from trying to get Mary rubbed out in secret. Says biographer Anne Somerset: "In her own eyes and those of God, nothing could alter the fact that the killing of a Queen was wrong, but since circumstances forced her to countenance such a deed, she took the view that an evil committed out of sight was less obnoxious than one performed brazenly before all the world."

So basically it seems to have been a combination of conscience and PR worries. ;)

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