Elizabeth's Suitors

An overview of Elizabeth I's marriage options, and why she chose to stay single throughout her reign.

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Philip of Spain

  • after the death of his wife Queen Mary I, Philip extended an offer of marriage to Elizabeth, hoping he could convert her and bring England back to Protestantism
  • religious differences meant that neither side was particularly interested in the match
  • however, Elizabeth played a game, keeping Philip interested for as long as possible in order to retain an ally in Spain
  • as soon as he was rejected, however, Philip quickly planned a marriage with Isabella of Portugal 
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Eric XIV of Sweden

  • this match offered religious advantages (Eric was a Protestant) as well as opening options for trade
  • however, the Swedish monarchy was elected and it was not certain that Eric would succeed to the throne
  • also, it would upset the Catholic powers and Denmark
  • Elizabeth decided against the match as she feared a Catholic invasion should she marry him
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Duke of Holstein

  • the Duke of Holstein was the Danish candidate
  • he was a noble rather than a royal and the Danish throne was not distinguished
  • Elizabeth decided against a match as he was not important enough
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James Hamilton, Earl of Arran

  • this match offered a good opportunity for uniting England and Scotland - however, not everyone was in favour of this move!
  • he had little chance of succeeding to the throne
  • Elizabeth did not consider him a viable candidate
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Robert Dudley

  • Elizabeth and Dudley were supposedly in love
  • Dudley's status as a commoner and son of a traitor made any match difficult
  • the biggest problem, however, was that Dudley was married
  • the death of his wife in suspicious circumstances seemed to incriminate Dudley and removed him entirely as a possible candidate
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Archduke Charles of Austria

  • Cecil's candidate
  • Catholic, but might be persuaded to convert
  • useful commercial link, and Hapsburg family - offered protection from Philip
  • serious negotiations were begun and it seemed as though Elizabeth might marry him BUT - Charles required to hear Catholic mass in a private chapel
  • Elizabeth refused, and negotiations were halted
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Henry, Duke of Anjou

  • first candidate offered by the French (although a French alliance was unpopular with the privy council and with the public)
  • insisted on Catholic worship, and unpleasant comments he made about Elizabeth were reported back to her
  • negotations were called to a halt
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Francis, Duke of Alencon (later Anjou)

  • Henry, Duke of Anjou's younger brother, significantly younger than Elizabeth
  • said to be more moderate than Henry
  • negotiations were stopped after the Massacre of St Bartholomew (1572) as the French descended into Civil War again
  • however, Alencon later visited England, and Elizabeth gained some affection for him, kissing him and calling him her "Frog"
  • negotiations finally stopped again after serious anti-French propaganda
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