305 The Frog Prince

French 16th Century, Prince Hercule-François, Duc d’Alençon, , 1572, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection

From 1578 to 1582 the courts of France, Spain and England buzzed with the possibility of the latest office romance – between the Queen of England and Duke of Anjou. Was this classic Elizabethan distraction or an affair of the heart?

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Ok, so it’s been a long time since we’ve been firmly in blighty as far as Elizabeth and her court and politics are concerned – we’ve been to Africa, the Caribbean and all sorts. But now we are back to the knitting as it were. Time maybe for a bit of a summary of where we are. We had just heard how the thermostat of religious conflict had been turned up; in 1570 by the Papal bull Regnans in Excelsis that urged Elizabeth’s subjects to kill her as a heretic, and in 1572 the evidence of where Catholic attitudes towards Protestants could lead with the slaughter of St Bartholomew’s Day; this on top of the 1567 Council of Troubles and the 1000 executions visited on Protestants in the low countries. The 1570s and 1580s in particular will be the story of how these international conflicts work on England’s domestic policy, leads to persecution of Catholic communities, to war and the creation of tightly held national stories.

The point of all this is that it’s essential to understand the complex and dangerous world around Elizabeth and her English councillors in the last quarter of the 16th century to understand domestic politics. Yes, the attitudes of those councillors also has a significant influence on policy; in particular in the form of two men, Burghley and Walsingham. It’s difficult to express this quite clearly enough; here are two men, very close to the queen, who see the world in black and white absolutes. I was thinking about this the other day, and reflecting that, sadly, I am perfectly capable of telling a pal, in a jovial way of course, that they are the anti christ. Not done it recently you understand, but I can imagine it, because clearly of course they are not. So all this stuff about the Pope being called the Antichrist from Cranmer onwards, I have subconsciously downgraded to a sort of casual, pub level insult. But back then it really wasn’t – I mean clearly its insulting, but the Godly, the likes of Burghley, Walsingham and Leicester among them, believed that the Pope really was the Antichrist and his church there to deliver the English to the Devil in eternity. And vice versa on the Catholic side of course. Don’t know why this hit me so hard, but it’s hard to shake off your 21st century assumptions sometimes.

The point I’m making is to remember that many of the English councillors saw the world in binary terms; and events internationally did nothing to re-assure them. And in the person of Mary and Scotland, those concerns were either at home or just next to home. In addition, by the end of the 1570s, the personnel around Elizabeth was changing.

So, there is some debate about the impact of religion on England’s foreign policy priorities – namely the received wisdom that Elizabeth was no religious zealot, which is probably true, and had a foreign policy that was dynastic not religious. In some ways the question is academic – protestant nations were likely to get more English support than Catholic ones because they were more likely to be sympathetic. But whether Elizabeth herself saw England as a Protestant champion or not, many around her most certainly wanted her to.

England’s priorities then were massively complicated; and it is important to bear in mind that war with Spain was not inevitable really until the 1580’s – there were enormous provocations for either side it must be said, but France remained Phillip II’s primary worry, England being a small damp island and all; but there were other pressures against war. Central to this was the attitude of the Duke of Alba, Governor of the Netherlands, supreme in the low countries, but also he had been in England during the 1550s, and still held a network of contacts and agents there. He was even more influential than he would normally be, because Philip had no other channel of communication since he’d expelled the English Ambassador as a heretic protestant – and admittedly a rather abrasive one at that. Now Alba recognised that the prosperity of the low countries was dependant on trade with England – and fiercely opposed anything that would endanger that. So in 1569, Philip asked Alba for his best advice on how to conquer England; Alba fiercely opposed any action on the basis of the importance of trade. Phillip therefore turned to the Ridolphi plot, trying to replace Elizabeth with Mary QoS. The episode shows two things; that however conciliatory Phillip’s words and how strong his fear of France, he wanted to conquer England at an early stage, or at least have a ruler on the throne that would convert the heretics back to the true church; and that nonetheless the forces against war remained strong.

English diplomacy relied on 6 rather overlapping and complex priorities, according to John Guy. Firstly, following the decade of the 60’s events at Le Havre and the costs of war, England would not willingly intervene in the Netherlands with boots on the ground. Secondly, volunteers would be allowed to go, which kind of helped square the circle of strong popular support for the Dutch vs reluctance to send an army. Meanwhile, third, a defensive alliance with France would help protect against Spanish aggression, but four, while France might be encouraged to help the Dutch revolt, they could under no circumstances be allowed to control it – and that five, the entente with France  must not allow France to extend their influence to Scotland. And that My friends, is a diplomatic tightrope that would have Phillipe Petit hiding his eyes in horror. Finally, Spain must be persuaded to return the low countries to the kind of semi autonomy they’d held before.

Now, achieving all of that was of course tricky. I believe I have told you of the Sea Beggars? Just to remind you, the Sea Beggars was a military force of up to 85 Dutch ships, in rebellion against Spain. Their name came from the famous occasion in 1566 when the then Spanish governor had contemptuously turned away a delegation of nobles asserting their rights, with the phrase that they were nothing but beggars. The Sea Beggars were part of the protestant pirates alliance of Huguenot, English, Scots, based in La Rochelle, raiding in the narrow seas and selling their ill-gotten gains in English ports, where they could also refit. But the pressure on Elizabeth was immense – allowing the Sea Beggars to use English ports to carry war against the Spanish might just possibly maybe perhaps be seen as unfriendly towards Spain. So in 1572 she closed English ports to the Sea Beggars while trying to open trade again with Spain.

Spanish eyes, however, were not smiling for long. The sea Beggars launched a surprise attack and captured the Dutch seaport of Brill. Suddenly the Netherlands were on fire once more, multiple towns declaring independence from Spain, and the control of the Iron Duke challenged once again. With fairly horrific consequences it must be said; in October Mechelen surrendered but was subjected to the fury of the Spanish, and reputedly 2,000 killed, followed by another massacre in November at Zutpen. At which point rebellious cities began opening their doors as quickly as they could draw the bolts, but the rebellion survived nonetheless. Elizabeth’s policy to avoid provoking the Spanish had paid, in a grisly way, rather dramatic dividends; rather than destroying William of Oranges chances, she had helped to ignite yet more trouble for Phillip, and look blameless into the bargain. Often the war of Dutch independence is thought to have started from this date; but it’s worth noting the William of Orange had not yet abandoned the idea of negotiating a peace with his liege lord, Phillip II of Spain.


In the low countries, then, the situation was complex, with traditional loyalties, religious differences and a difference in opinion between those seeking now to separate and seek full independence and those still looking for accommodation with their Imperial Prince. In France the situation in a way was even more complex; with three broad attitudes – the Catholics with leadership at court from the Guise, the Huguenot, recently battered but not beaten by St Bartholomew’s Day, led by Henry of Navarre, and then a third group at court, the Politiques, those who felt that religion should play no part in politics, that loyalty to the crown was all. Each of these groups had an interest in intervening in the Low countries, from religious to dynastic. The Treaty of Blois with England rather encapsulated these sensitivities; as a defensive alliance it sought to protect French from Spanish aggression, but from an English perspective not to encourage French intervention in the low Countries. But as French royal policy switched to and fro between the three camps, it was extraordinarily hard to understand what French policy was that day, and what it might be tomorrow.




To help manage these incredibly sensitive priorities, with the French relationship, Elizabeth remained in possession of a great asset – the prospect of marriage. Now to be sure, in 1572 this was a declining asset; Elizabeth was 39, very late for marriage in those days but the card had a few more years to run to run before its sell by date was reached. And then the French advanced the claims of one of Henry II’s sons, Francis of Alencon, soon to become the Duc of Anjou on the death of his brother – but not yet! It’s actually rather confusing, I do wish for the billionth time everyone would stop changing their titles.

Anyway, Alencon-soon-to-be-Anjou was just 16, so a bit difficult for Elizabeth to take seriously, but actually the French began to push it. Obviously one of the torturous problems was that Francis was catholic, but for Burghley and Leicester, on this issue on the same camp, it looked rather a good idea; although catholic, Francis seemed sympathetic to the Huguenots, and it might be a way to deliver French aid to William of Orange without the whole authority of the French state being behind it – just a protestant campaign as it were. Elizabeth did what she was rather wont to do, and she dithered; she didn’t really want to marry Alencon, but on the other hand wanted to keep France sweet. Meanwhile her Privy Council was also split – while Burghley and Leicester were keen, Francis Knollys and Walter Mildmay were agin it, hating the idea of the personal religious concessions that would need to be given to Francis if he was to be married.

Well, St Bart’s blew all this out of the water, but in 1573 the French put feelers out again, and Elizabeth, though clearly not keen, played along politely. Interestingly Catherine de Medici the French queen Mum, firmly believed that Elizabeth was a woman ruled by her passions and was therefore disposed to be rather contemptuous of her, so she thought there was a good chance that Elizabeth would give way, desperate to leap into bed with her son for a bit of nookey and damn the future of Europe. She was later to recognise that her judgement was seriously at fault. Anyway, in the torturous process of negotiation, the political situation changed – Edinburgh fell to Scottish protestants, the king of France made peace with Huguenots, raising a siege of La Rochelle, Elizabeth managed to persuade Spain to raise a Trade embargo between the low countries and England, everything eased, and the driving need for the French-English entente faded somewhat.

The idea kept popping up though, and was given new leases of life in 1575 with a rather remarkable offer from the protestant rebels in the low countries. Because in the summer of 1575, the talks between Orange and Phillip II failed – and now at last Orange became convinced that now it was independence or bust. To be more accurate, the Provincial states of the northern provinces, Holland and Zeeland became convinced, and together they came up with three possible new rulers – The HRE Maximillian, French king, now Henry III, or Elizabeth I of England. The first too were rejected – as on the one hand not very pro-rebels, and on the other beset by religious war in France – and so Elizabeth was made an offer to become ruler of the northern provinces. Interesting to note that the Dutch Republic was not formed in the spirit of republicanism at all – they’d offer the throne to Elizabeth again in 1585 – but ended up in the place of Republicanism faute de mieux.

By which of course you’ll guess that Elizabeth turned the offer down. What, I hear you say, surely no one turns down a throne, and think of the potential for a protestant super state! But Elizabeth was always realistic and cautious; accepting the offer would essentially be a declaration of war against Spain, and Elizabeth had few illusions about her chances of winning that one, so it was a no.

Then in 1576 Alencon himself proposed a solution to the French civil wars, which would be called the Pacification of Monsieur, that being Alencon’s formal title at the time, Monsieur,, don’t ask me why, to bring peace to a Paris now being besieged by the Huguenots. Golly. On the English council, this time Knollys and Leicester wanted to back this move, while Sussex and Burghley still pursued the marriage – more evidence, incidentally of the flexible nature of political relationships on the Council; but when the Pacification was agreed, giving the Huguenots limited toleration, the marriage idea withered away again, leaving no gain except a new respect from Catherine de Medici for Elizabeth, recognising that she’d been played in the diplomatic game by a professional, rather than ‘passion’s slave’.

However, the complications really didn’t go away, and I am sorry for that, but look this is history, it’s complicated. The Southern states in the low countries, more Catholic and more amenable to Spanish rule were outraged that very year by a collapse in Spanish control over their army; the Governor died, the Spanish army went into one of their regular pay freeze periods – by which I mean they were completely frozen out of any pay because there was no money to be had to pay them. And so they took their traditional recourse, helped themselves, and sacked a city – in this case Antwerp. This was the Spanish Fury as it became known during which it’s estimated 17,000 were killed; in fact, the slaughter at Antwerp was just one example of similar events happened all over Brabant. Once again, then, revolt spread as Catholic nobles joined the revolt in 1577. And to whom did they appeal for help? Well, to Elizabeth I of course, but mainly to our Francis of Alencon-soon-to-be-Anjou. Well actually it’s more simple now – he’s turned Anjou now, so we can talk with relief of Francis, Duke of Anjou. Now Elizabeth didn’t want this – the idea of Anjou swanning around as king of the Low Countries, spreading French influence and who knows, French annexation at some point, just like had happened with Brittany, that wasn’t attractive at all.  So the Elizabethan stone was squeezed, and £20,000 of blood came out as a subsidy to the Dutch rebels and the promise of soldiers to follow – although those never materialised since the Spanish immediately won a rather complete victory in the field.

Now we are back in 1578, and I hope you can see just how complicated the decision making process is; the situation in NW Europe is incredibly fluid, a constantly changing picture; in this light, Elizabeth’s famous prevarication and caution made enormous sense, and more sense than maybe than those of her councillors and parliament demanding firm clear cut decisions – marry, clarify the succession, execute Mary Queen of Scots, support the Protestant cause unreservedly. Elizabeth was playing for space, for survival, steering between Scylla and Charibodis, and in this situation coming down firmly on one side or t’other meant potential disaster; whether at the hands of the military superpower of Spain, or financial ruin and over stretched resources, or the destruction of the protestant cause. Without doubt the Protestant zealots, of which Leicester might be described as one, were disappointed at the lukewarm nature of Elizabeth’s support for the Dutch rebels. This could be Elizabeth’s less than puritanical religious views, but more likely, Elizabeth’s priority was security, not religion, but nor was she attracted by conquest and the kind of imperialistic dynastic ambitions that drove her father. Could Henry VIII have turned down the offer of a crown? I rather doubt it. It’s interesting also than Burghley, protestant zealot undoubtedly, was more cautious, but at this time was advocating greater support for the rebels.

Ok, so in 1578, Anjou suddenly went from being friendly or irrelevant to being potential carrier of the disease of French Imperialism into a crucial part of Europe of English trade and religious affiliation. And as a solution, the Earl of Sussex came up with the idea of playing the matrimonial card once more and Elizabeth gave him permission to approach the French. Now this came as a surprise to Burghley who knew nothing of it; this is interesting; Elizabeth and Burghley were very close – but almost never did Elizabeth allow herself to be ruled by her councillors or lose the political initiative – a point we’ll come back to.






There might have been another reason for Elizabeth’s sudden passion for a marriage with Anjou. You might note that we have not talked about the most celebrated love affair between Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester for some time. Well, after the death of Amy Dudley and all the suspicions around that, the hindsight view is that the idea of a Dudley Elizabeth hook up was probably dead in the Narthex. Dudders didn’t see it that way though, and the relationship remained very close between the two of them. Not, however, that this stopped Dudders pursuing other romantic avenues, oh dearie me no.

Who knew that Douglas could be a woman’s name? Not me, but apparently it could be in the 16th to 18th century, so there’s a thing. Anyway, Douglas Howard, the daughter of William Howard of Effingham and Margaret, was born around 1542, and was the sister of Charles, the armada Howard of Effingham. In the early 1568 when her husband Sheffield died, leaving her with 2 children, she took up a post as a Gentlewoman of the Queen’s Privy Chamber. There in the 1570’s she and Dudders started an affair – which would lead to an illegitimate Robert Dudley. Interestingly in an updated letter presumed to be written by Dudley to Douglas, Dudders explains why he can never marry her because ‘if I should marry I am sure never to have [the queen’s] favour’, which is, you know, honest if a little brutal. This affair was common knowledge to most at court, possibly with the exception of the Queen, and much rumour surrounded it; it was rumoured Leicester poisoned Douglas’s husband, almost certainly untrue; and much later, Douglas would claim she and Leicester had been married – in a court case she later brought to establish her son’s legitimacy, though, oopsey, all her documents had been stolen, which didn’t help her case.

Sorry, I am frankly in the throes of court gossip here, but you know, it’s high grade stuff. Let me then introduce you to Lettice Knollys. Lettice was one of the offspring of the union between Katherine Knollys, a descendant of the Boleyns, and Francis Knollys, one of the most influential of Elizabeth’s Privy Councillors. Lettice was one of 16 offspring – yes, that was in fact 16 children – and she was born in 1543. If you follow the FB site, you will have seen the really rather remarkable memorial in the otherwise really rather unremarkable church of Rotherfield Greys, because the Knollys lived in my hood, they lived at a village called Rotherfield Greys. There’s still a house there now. though not very grand, but the gardens are lovely.

Anyway, when Francis Knollys became vice chamberlain, Katherine became one of the four ladies of the Queen’s Privy Chamber, and at the tender age of 16 she became a gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber too. Before you could say matrimonial prospects, Lettice was married to Walter Devereux, and soon produced 2 children, one of whom will be Robert Devereux, a future royal favourite. But despite withdrawing to their estates, Lettice seems to have still been at court; or at least a scurrilous rumour circulated that Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was paying her court to try and turn the head of the queen back in his direction.  Devereux went to Ireland in 1572, to an ill-fated Irish plantation scheme. And here’s gossip again around the goings on at court; Lettice was rather good looking by all accounts and certainly she and Leicester got it on at some point; before or after Devereux died on 21st September 1576. The gossip has it that Leicester had Devereux murdered, or maybe kept him in Ireland by court intrigue. Both seem a bit unlikely, but the affair seems very likely, and the gossip would also have it that there were children on the wrong side of the bed.

While the Dastardly Dudley kept probably two affairs of the heart in the air, he was by the summer of 1575 as yet unreconciled to the prospect of not being Mr King. So in the summer of 1575 he decided to spin the wheel just one more time, and threw a party of mega proportions for his Queen at his magnificent estate at Kenilworth, reputedly spruced for the occasion with £60,000 of improvements. Dudley smashed the piggy bank and pushed the boat firmly out and laid on a knees-up to end all knees ups. Rarely, may it be said, have knees been so high up. On 9th July, Elizabeth arrived at Kenilworth for 3 weeks of knee raising fun, welcomed on her palfrey with the sound of guns in salute. Through the Outer courtyard and tiltyard, into the inner courtyard to be greeted by actors reciting fine speeches, and being presented with precious gifts, and then to her suite of chambers.

The following 3 weeks were filled with music, masques, dancing and tilting, acrobatic displays, with hunting of course and sadly, bear-baiting. There were elaborate banquets which saw the guests sink up to 40 barrels of beer and 16 barrels of wine a day. Come darkness, the evening sky was lit by fireworks displays. In the words of the French ambassador, nothing “more magnificent” had been seen in England “for a long time”. Not necessarily a compliment from a French Ambassador it should be noted.

Dudley was at the same time making a more obvious bid for his queen’s hand. He unveiled two fabulous portraits of himself and of the queen – therefore quite clearly presenting them as a possible couple. And as Elizabeth left, its reported his leaving speech included a broad hint on the put a ring on it theme:

Vouchsafe, O comely Queene, yet longer to remaine,

Or still to dwell amongst us here! O Queene commaunde againe

This Castle and the Knight, which keepes the same for you;

… Live here, good Queene, live here; …”[1]

However; the speech was delivered early – because the queen left early. Maybe not pointedly who knows, maybe she remembered that she’d left the gas on, but it was enough, this was the final rejection – Leicester would now give up on his hopes of royal marriage, as in all likelihood Elizabeth had done some time ago. Neither of them would give up each others’ friendship though.

However, the path of true friendship didn’t run smooth. Because 2 years to the day after the death of Lettice Knollys’ first husband, Leicester and Lettice were secretly married, far from the eyes of court. The eyes of the court, however, were not fooled for a moment. And nor eventually were the eyes of the queen. When she discovered that her favourite was playing away, she went potty, and the eyes of the queen were full of jealous rage, she boxed Lettice’s ears and screamed that ‘as but one sun lightened the earth, she would have but one Queen in England’. The ‘flouting wench’ as she called her was banished from her presence.

Lettice went on to remarry when Leicester died, and in a court case of 1604 the words of Robert Cecil giving judgement reflect that her reputation with most people did not suffer terribly, or her life commanded later respect at least. Cecil

much commended the Countess of Lester, how well she lyved with him [Leicester] all his time notwithstanding all his humours, how for her marriage with him she was long disgraced with the Queene …

However, the Queen never forgave her, and her opinion was bitter and unending; it may simply be that Lettice had taken the love of her life away, and it may also be that Elizabeth suspect Lettice of deliberately scheming to do so. and setting her cap at her paramour. But you know, if you are going to set your cap, might as well set it at the right guy

Anyway, I got onto this because in 1578 Elizabeth suddenly seems turned on again to the idea of marriage to the Duke of Alencon; the timing of her discovery about Lettice is not clear, so it may have been the affair with Douglas that helped give her a push, though honestly, I’m not sure we need any personal reasons – Elizabeth was clever and hard enough to recognise that the French needed distracting from the Dutch Revolt. It was late in Elizabeth’s life of course – she was 45, and councillors like Mildmay and Walsingham were therefore against the match; not just because Anjou was Catholic, but because it was now almost a racing certainty that the match would be childless – and if she died Anjou, much younger than she would be the heir. Elizabeth though, and Anjou it seems, were keen.

The diplomatic fuss was quite remarkable. Diplomatically speaking the debates that extended from 1578 to 1581 were torturous; about the rights Anjou would have as king, how he’d have to conduct himself politically and religiously – all controls that wormed their way dramatically up the French nasal passages. The negotiations were aimed not just at the French of course; one eye was turned towards Spain, with talk of possible greater toleration of Catholics, to keep the Spanish as sweet as possible. To be fair, Phillip wasn’t fooled; his ambassador bluntly informed the Queen that English intervention in the Netherlands or Portugal would mean war, whomsoever she married. Meanwhile, the urgency of the diplomatic situation was enhanced by the formation in 1576 of the Catholic League by the Guise, determined to eradicate Protestantism, and supported by the Pope and Phillip II.

The English however were universally livid at the idea of the marriage to a French Catholic, and virulently so. Court poets like Spenser and Sidney wrote clever appeals to the queen’s vanity, an exercise in how criticism can be delivered as compliments; Elizabeth wasn’t fooled for a moment, and actually it’s from this period that the cult of the Virgin Queen began to be used. But other criticism was delivered with less skill; notably in popular broadsheets and ballards complaining of the marriage. One John Stubbs wrote a piece entitled ‘Discoverie of a gaping gulf whereinto England is like to be swallowed’, which really ticked the queen off, especially when the piece suggested that she was being led helplessly and blindly into the slavery of the French.

At this we meet again Elizabeth’s stubborn and imperious streak; no matter who was saying it, Privy Councillors, parliament or her people, Elizabeth would not have anyone telling her what to do about what she felt was her personal matter and nobody else’s – her marriage. Her response to Stubbs and another author, William Page, was savage – both of them lost their right hands. Elizabeth may not have her father’s savagery, but she was without doubt her father’s daughter.

Negotiations went back and forth, and attitudes waxed and waned as Spanish fortunes in the Netherlands went through flood and ebb. By October 1581, it appeared that really things had moved on, to the prospect of an Anglo French treaty over Flanders rather than a marriage; and Anjou came over to England to negotiate the terms. His visit was accompanied by great celebrations and events of course; and there appears to have been real affection between the two. Elizabeth called him her frog, and to the untutored ear that might seem rude. But Elizabeth often did this sort of thing as a term of endearment calling Leicester eyes and Christopher Hatton lids and so on, so it’s probably affectionate. The story goes that Anjou was a particularly energetic dancer, at a time when dancing involved a lot of leaping around, hence the term frog. Which pulls me into a digression; the theory also goes that this is why the English call the French frogs. I have to say this is not conclusive and there are other theories. One being English culinary horror that the French would eat Frog’s legs as opposed good honest Lard, Tripe and Yorkshire puddings. But then since we don’t call the Belgians les Frites or the Norweignasn the roll mops or the Dutch the herrings, seems a bit unlikely. A further theory is that we are simply copying the French of the 18th century who called Parisians les Grenouilles, or Frogs. Who knows, who can tell, anyone for the last few choc ices now?

None the less as I say by the time Anjou’s visit was coming to an end, it seemed that the prospect of marriage had passed, once the agreement to support Anjou’s intervention in the Low Countries on decent terms and ambition, with agreement to prevent permanent French hegemony, had been achieved.

But then, dramatically and a little outrageously, Elizabeth set the court buzzing when she drew Anjou to one side, talking words of love, kissing him full on the kisser, and giving him a ring from her finger. Well, there was outrage and confusion – it looked as though there was a mutual agreement, by ‘eck. The Privy Councillors were gutted, Elizabeth’s night was passed

All that night without sleep amongst her household her household servants who made a great consort of weeping and sighing.

Now this seems very un-calculating and un Elizabeth like. And before the kissed frog could turn into a prince of the Netherlands, Elizabeth had recanted – taking Anjou aside again for a serious talk. After which Anjou returned to his chamber and

Plucketh off the ring, casteth it upon the ground, taketh it up again, rayleth on the lightness of women, and the inconstancy of islanders

There has been much debate about the relationship with Anjou. On the one hand, it has been presented as classic Elizabeth, all theatre to distract the French and the Spanish from their more dangerous designs. If so it was only moderately successful – as we’ve seen, Phillip wasn’t fooled, and when Anjou finally left in 1582, he had the relationships and agreements with the war party in England he wanted, with Councillors like Leicester. Other historians have argued that Elizabeth was genuinely interested, despite the 20 year age difference between them. Either of the interpretations seem to have evidence to support them, and I am moved to say that the two things don’t seem mutually exclusive. What’s certain though, is that this is the end of the debate about marriage to distract the body politic or the body biological. From here on, the iconography of the Virgin Queen takes over.

There were plenty of other things to disturb the body politic of course, and we need to get back to the workings of the PC and that hardy perennial, what are we going to do about Maria. But there were other, thoroughly thrilling things too – namely all that opening up of the world, and not to mention plunder and the glory of seemingly impossible voyages, and the lives of the most outrageous Elizabethan adventurers. Let us turn to that for the next few weeks, starting with the doings of one of the immortals of English memory, Sir Francis Drake; but fear not, neither will we ignore the Gilberts, Frobishers and Raleghs of this world. That’ll all start in a couple of weeks on the 10th January.

Do not forget then the Bun Fight Fete on 16th January, 6 pm UK time – and hie thee to the website the history of England to find out more.

[1] https://www.historyextra.com/period/elizabethan/princely-pleasures-at-kenilworth-robert-dudleys-three-week-marriage-proposal-to-elizabeth-i/

9 thoughts on “305 The Frog Prince

  1. At the end of this rather unpleasant year, to say the least, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for providing good education and escapism that were both much needed in my 2020. It was always a pleasure listening to your new episodes as they came out. I am looking forward to hearing your take on what is to come as we seem to move slowly but surely toward the naval campaign that shall not be named.

    Regarding the title of Monsieur, which Alençon/Ajou had, it was and still is the french equivalent of Sir as a mark of respect and was sometimes informally used to describe a brother of the french king, especially when it was an only brother, like Anjou/Alençon was during the last years of his life under the reign of Henri III.


  2. I’m an idiot, but I only just connected Lettice Knollys to her grandmother, Mary Boylen. No wonder Elizabeth was unhappy. (Aside: it’s possible she wasn’t merely bElizabeth’s first cousin once removed, but also her half-niece. There is no conclusive evidence, but a fair amount of circumstantial bits to suggest it.)

    Also, am I the only one who kind of wants a nice popular history book that examines the relationship between Elizabeth I and Catherine d’ Medici? I feel like there’s a great story of two fairy careful operators engaged in a polite-but-serious competition that deserves telling.

    1. Should have been more explicit. And interesting idea – I’ll see if I can find anything I can get my hands on

      1. Oh, you were quite clear, David. The lapse was mine over a couple decades of not picking up on it. Your comments made me connect things.

    2. TBF this is one of these occasions where I believe some sympathies for both parties are warranted on a human level.

      Elizabeth for obvious reasons, and also because a quick google search for Lettis showed that she did kinda looked like a younger version of Elizabeth, which probably made matters worst for her (Elizabeth’s) on an emotional level. Dudley because the decision not to marry was, after all, Elizabeth’s and not his. Unlike Elizabeth there was no political why he, personally, shouldn’t get married again. It is fairly understandable that he would want to find someone else after he finally accepted that he wouldn’t marry Elizabeth, doubly so because he lived in a very lignegnage oriented society and he would have had a strong cultural push toward trying to get an heir to whom he could leave his fortune, lands and titles.

      It was just a bad situation for all those involved.

  3. I’m just really impressed to learn a man could have affairs with women named “Douglas” and “Lettice”

    Bravo, Dudders!

    1. Done for the most recent one; but sorry, I’m not going to go through adding all the older ones I’ve missed

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