Elizabeth I’s sexual life: was she most a ‘Virgin Queen’?

Getting a king noted for the girl alleged virginity, Elizabeth I’s love life is certainly the subject of great conjecture. Here, Dr Anna Whitelock, a reader in early progressive record at Regal Holloway, School away from London area, explores just what most went on behind new signed gates of your own so-named Virgin Queen

Typically, many guides, books, plays and you may films provides represented Elizabeth I’s relationships with data such given that Robert Dudley, Earl regarding Leicester; Robert Devereux, Earl out of Essex, and Duke away from Anjou. About absence of definitive facts for some reason, practical question ‘performed it otherwise don’t it?’ will always linger. Yet what is actually obvious would be the fact, both at home and you may overseas, rumours on the Elizabeth’s love life – actual otherwise thought – circulated through the her leadership. From being the Virgin Queen, for many aggressive observers Age try the ‘whore’ of Europe.

Contemporary values concerning the ‘insatiable’ sexual appetites of women, and additionally Elizabeth’s inability to help you wed, fuelled suspicions the queen was engaged in wonders sexual liaisons. The woman Catholic competitors confronted their advantage, and you can implicated the girl out of a beneficial “filthy lust” that had “defiled the lady body and nation”. The latest king away from France joked this option of your high issues during the day are “if or not Queen Elizabeth is actually a maid or no”. This new courts away from Europe were abuzz with hearsay about what king regarding England’s afrointroductions phone number behaviour.

Regarding the really very first days off the lady leadership, rumours pass on away from Elizabeth’s relationship with Robert Dudley, the girl “sweet Robin” just who she got identified given that youthfulness. Within this days of this lady accession, Age got designated Dudley as master of the pony – a situation you to definitely protected just about every day get in touch with. Brand new Foreign language ambassador advertised for the queen out-of Spain you to definitely “Lord Robert has arrived such toward rather have that he really does whichever he wants and is also actually asserted that Her Majesty visits him within his chamber night and day”.

The pair’s interest to each other was extensively stated abreast of, and their flirtatious actions amazed observers. When in 1560 Robert Dudley’s partner, Amy Robsart, are discover with her shoulder damaged at the end out of a beneficial stairways, conjecture are rife as to what wedding of the queen and you can this lady favorite. On years one adopted, their romantic relationships continued, however, any constant odds of a future wedding is restarted.

But Robert Dudley remained the fresh queen’s first, and probably only like

Elizabeth’s councillors was basically calculated so you’re able to secure a favourable relationship for her, both as a way out-of combining England’s standing in the European countries and you may to provide a keen heir to advance the girl. When you are discover zero lack of suitors, together with Philip II out of The country of spain; Erik XIV regarding Sweden while the Archdukes Ferdinand and you will Charles regarding Austria, not one person was able to earn the fresh new queen’s go for or perhaps the unanimous assistance of the girl council. When you find yourself foreign transactions proceeded, Elizabeth appreciated the interest out of younger male courtiers including Thomas Heneage, Christopher Hatton and you can Walter Raleigh, and later Robert Devereux, earl regarding Essex, each of exactly who flirted the means to your queen’s favour.

Possibly as the reaction to Dudley’s relationship to Lettice Devereux, dowager countess from Essex throughout the trip off 1578, next season Age asked Francois, new duke from Anjou, brother of queen out-of France, towards English legal to present their fit for relationships.

It was not an ideal meets. Anjou was a 20-some thing smaller and you can pockmarked Catholic who was simply generally rumoured is a transvestite. Nevertheless, Age had constantly longed to get wooed privately by the one out-of their illustrious suitors, as well as for a period of time she seemed to be genuine inside her affections and interest in Anjou, who she affectionately named their ‘frog’.

After a few months Anjou returned to France and you can negotiations looked so you can falter in the face of social resistance to your fits, but in October 1581 Anjou returned to England. While the his earlier check out, he’d proceeded to enter like letters into king for the which he shown their wish to be “kissing and you can rekissing all of that Your beautiful Majesty normally remember”, and to end up being “during intercourse between the sheets on your own breathtaking arms”.

Upon their arrival in London Age once more appeared mesmerized and you may enraptured by the Anjou’s visibility, as well as on twenty-two November, when the court is actually build on Whitehall to help you commemorate the brand new Accession Big date celebrations, Age stated in public places that she meant to wed him. She proceeded so you can kiss your for the mouth and give your her ring. Yet , immediately, Elizabeth seem to had second thoughts and you will established the next day she would not get married Anjou.

It is suspicious if or not Age got really meant to just do it to the marriage given the popular hostility so you can they, but once Anjou in the long run departed she made the majority of being despair-afflicted during the loss of the lady spouse “having which she therefore unwillingly parted”.

Robert Devereux, the students earl from Essex and you will stepson off Robert Dudley, is actually Elizabeth’s history high flirtation

Towards the failure of French suits, hopes you to E carry out age so you can an end, however, since she became old and you can all the more remote she proceeded so you’re able to seek the interest from the girl men courtiers. Regardless of the decades pit between the two, the sort of your own relationships is actually again speculated through to. The guy in the near future turned grasp of your own horse and you can gone on the their stepfather’s leases on legal. Certainly one of Essex’s servants boasted that “even later in the day my personal lord is at cards or you to definitely online game or other along with her, he cometh to not ever his personal lodging before birds sing-in the newest day.”

But this was a special form of matchmaking compared to the that Age got got which have Dudley, and you will are about the will of an aging woman to help you be made feeling young and attractive of the a handsome young courtier. Yet Age was never very swept aside of the the girl thinking one to she destroyed a keen sense of political information. Inside 1601, once that which was found to be an experimented with coup up against the lady, she bought Essex’s performance.

During the 1603 E, following nearly 70, died single and you may notable as England’s great ‘Virgin Queen’. Yet their death offered in order to remain conjecture regarding the the lady private lifetime. In the many years one adopted, the brand new wondering of Elizabeth’s virginity are not confined to help you hostile Catholic commentary, so there try an expanding experience you to Elizabeth’s private thinking had compromised the fresh ethics out of their signal.

In daily life, Elizabeth and the lady of bedchamber got tenaciously defended the newest chastity from her looks to protect their reputation and you can guard their crown. When you look at the death, it is undoubtedly the possibility that she wasn’t chaste you to will continue to intrigue, and ensure Elizabeth’s long lasting dominance and appeal.

Dr Anna Whitelock is your readers at the beginning of modern background from the Regal Holloway, School from London, additionally the writer of Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An intimate Reputation for the Queen’s Judge (Bloomsbury, 2013).

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