Known as The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth the First was one of England’s most notorious queens. She was not as bloody, as vile or as hate-filled as monarchs that went before, but her reign was steeped in controversy and she divided pinion. She lived a long life and reigned over a powerful country, but How Did Queen Elizabeth the First Die?
On Ways to Die we never turn down a good mystery involving death and we also like answering your questions involving the death of celebrities and famous historical figures. As it happens, the question of how did Queen Elizabeth the First die has a little bit of both, which makes this the perfect combination to keep us entertained and you hooked for the next 1,000 words.
How Did Elizabeth 1 Die?
Elizabeth 1 was very unwell towards the final few years of her life. In 1602 this became a serious problem and the queen that many thought was immortal, seemed to be on her last legs. She was approaching 70 after all, and back then that was an impressive milestone for anyone to reach, even a privileged royal.
She was said to have developed a cold after talking a short walk in the open air. She had a sore throat, aching limbs and the bodily pains associated with flu and other viral infections. She retired to her quarters to rest and announced to all those in attendance that she was not well.
Despite this, she refused help from her doctors and would periodically continue her duties, even as her doctors advised her to rest. In the end, it became clear that she was ready to die. She seemed ready to accept this herself, perhaps too tired, too lonely and in too much pain to continue fighting. She spent some time in this position and eventually called for Archbishop Whitgift, who held her hand and comforted her.
According to those in attendance, she announced that James VI, the king of Scotland, would succeed her, and then she passed peacefully on the 24th March 1603.
How Did Elizabeth 1 Die? The Death
Contemporaries believe that the Queen probably didn’t confirm the succession by King James, but instead believe that this story was told to avoid any conflict breaking out and to allow for a peaceful transfer of power. There was no post-mortem, as the Queen didn’t want it, so there was no way of knowing for certain what she died of.
One of the most common beliefs is that she succumbed to blood poisoning. She had also suffered great distress in her life leading up to the illness and even as she lay on her deathbed. All of this served to weaken her resolve and increase the deep melancholy she is said to have been suffering from. If she did have blood poisoning, then the lack of effective treatments, the fact that she was old and refused any care and the fact that she was weak and depressed, would have made it very difficult for her body to fight the disease.
The blood poisoning could have been related to an illness. It could have been related to lead-based make-up which was common at the time. There is also a strong chance that she suffered from cancer, or that she had merely contracted a viral infection and was too weak to fight it off.
All of these are possibilities, but because no post-mortem was conducted, we can’t answer the question of how did Elizabeth the First die with any conviction.
A Tricky Birth
Queen Elizabeth 1 had a difficult upbringing, to put it lightly. She was the daughter of Henry the Eighth, a man known for his gluttony, his short-temper and his desperate attempt to find a male heir. He was also known for chopping off the heads of his wives (no one likes the red tape that surrounds a divorce, but this was an extreme way of avoiding it) one of which was the mother of Queen Elizabeth 1.
Anne Boleyn lost her head when Elizabeth was just two and a half. The marriage was annulled, which meant that little Elizabeth was declared illegitimate and pretty much surplus to requirements. Elizabeth’s half-brother, Edward VI, took the throne ahead of her and Elizabeth’s half sister, Mary, then became queen.
Her sister, Mary, was known as “Bloody Mary”. She was a devout catholic and was determined to torture and murder anyone who wasn’t. Her reign was short, brutal and marked a dark period in English history. When Elizabeth took the throne in 1553, the country switched back to a protestant religion and the groundwork was set for the Church of England. She wasn’t as tranquil as her sister, but people were still put to death for their beliefs and for speaking out for these beliefs.
The Legacy of Elizabeth the First
Although there was some controversy surrounding her succession to the English throne, with the country torn between two religions and suffering severe consequences for believing one or the other, Elizabeth’s reign was altogether positive for the country, its economy, and for the world on the whole.
This is when the Elizabethan period began, one of the most important periods in history. Not everything that happened during this period was the direct result of her rule, but her laws, her leadership and the direction that the country took as a result of her reign all served to influence this period either directly or indirectly.
What The Elizabeth Era Gave Us
This means that, in some way, she was responsible for some of the greatest British writers ever. The Elizabethan period gave birth to some of the greatest works of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. It helped to nurture the theatrical scene and to birth an industry that would give rise to centuries of culture and art.
This was also an important period for music. We don’t really think of England when we think of great music from several centuries ago. In fact, we rarely even think of this period at all. But this is when music began to become a spectacle in itself. It’s when composers and performers started to receive more respect and acclaim and when the wheels were set in motion for “musician” to become a high paying and highly respected career.
This era is also said to have signaled a great period of female strength. By modern standards, women in this era may appear to have been treated as second-class citizens. But when compared to other eras and other countries at the time, women of England had considerably more power, respect and freedom.
The Elizabethan era didn’t produce as many great scientists as the century that proceeded it, but this was still a period in which Francis Bacon and Francis Drake helped to expand our understanding of the wide world.