Story of the English - Helene Guerber
In spite of all her activity in state matters, Elizabeth's court was very brilliant and gay, and the people who gathered around her rivaled one another in the splendour of their garments, and in the fulsome compliments which they paid to the queen. Although so sensible when discussing business matters with her ministers, Elizabeth was often very silly, and chose her courtiers more for their good looks or skill in flattering her than for other talents.
She was at times very dignified, and made her courtiers address her only on bended knee; but at other moments her manners were very coarse. We are told that she used to swear very freely, slap her courtiers on the back, and box the ears of those who ventured to displease her. Her favourites were often changed; but there was one among them, a brother-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, whom she made Earl of Leicester and treated with such marked favour that every one fancied she loved him.
Leicester himself thought that the queen would marry him, were he only free; and some stories say that he killed his gentle wife, Amy Robsart, to whom he had secretly been united, so as to marry Elizabeth. But while the queen took great delight in being admired and made love to by many suitors, she never accepted any of them, and is hence known as the unmarried, virgin, or maiden queen.
One of Elizabeth's first suitors was her sister's husband, Philip II., King of Spain. Although she never had the least intention of accepting him, she delayed giving him an answer as long as she could; for she was afraid that if she refused Philip he would make war against England before her army and navy were in good condition.
When she finally said no to him, she told him it was because she never meant to marry at all. But in spite of this decision, she afterwards allowed the Duke of Alencon to court her for ten years. Finally a marriage contract was signed, but Elizabeth jilted this prince within a few weeks of the time fixed for her wedding.
Although Elizabeth never gave any special reason for not accepting one of her many lovers, people have said that it was because she wanted to keep all the power in her own hands. But because she had no brothers or sisters left, it was very important that she should either marry and leave the crown to her children, or decide who should have it after her death.
You remember, do you not, how angry the pope was when Henry VIII. divorced Queen Catherine, and how he said that she was still Henry's wife? Well, as soon as Elizabeth (Anne Boleyn's daughter) was crowned, the pope sent her a message saying that the crown did not really belong to her, but that if she would abide by his decision he would see whether she could be queen or not.
Elizabeth paid no attention to this message, for she had decided to act like her father and refuse to obey the pope. As she did not do as he suggested, the pope now excommunicated her, and wrote to Mary Stuart that he gave the crown of England to her, as she was the next heir.
So Mary, Queen of Scotland and France, took the title of Queen of England also; and she sent a French army to Scotland to join the Catholics there in making war against Elizabeth. But when the French reached Scotland they found that matters had changed very much since Mary had gone to France. A great Protestant preacher named Knox had preached to the Scotch so persuasively that, instead of remaining Catholics, most of them had now become even stancher Protestants than the English.
As the Scotch knew that Mary and the pope wanted to restore the Catholic religion, they not only refused to help her, but actually sided with Elizabeth and forced Mary to give up her attempt. Shortly after this, the young French king died, and his nineteen-year-old widow sadly left France to return to her native country.