Sunday, October 05, 2008

Question from Mary Ann - Elizabeth having her mother re-buried

Why didn't Elizabeth I have her mother's body removed from St. Peter ad Vincula and given a more suitable burial?

[ed note - although we've had quite a bit of discussion of Elizabeth and her mother, I don't think this exact question has come up]


Anonymous said...

Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed when Elizabeth was just two and one half years old, leaving Elizabeth only a relatively short time to "bond" with her mother. And since Elizabeth, like all royal and noble children, was cared for even in infancy by servants, it is unlikely that she had a lot of opportunity to form significant personal memories of her mother. Further, throughout Elizabeth's early life, before becoming queen, Anne was spoken of in largely negative terms, which would have had an effect on Elizabeth's recollection of her. And Elizabeth received more than adequate "mothering" from surrogates, including Katherine Parr and Kat Ashley, providing other sentimental attachments in place of Anne. As a result of all this, and despite modern notions to the contrary, it seems to me unlikely that Elizabeth ever regarded her mother with much sentimentality. I doubt very seriously that she pined for her or idolized her or even "missed" her in the way that modern children miss a deceased parent. I am thus not convinced that Elizabeth would have ever felt sufficiently motivated to pursue the idea of giving her mother a suitable re-burial.

As evidence of a lack of sentimentality on Elizabeth's part, consider that she never attempted to get a reversal of the guilty verdict against her mother on charges of treason, nor did she ever have her own birth re-legitimated. Compare that to her half-sister Mary, who had an act passed in her first Parliament declaring HER mother's marriage to Henry fully valid and thereby re-legitimating herself.

Lastly, Elizabeth did not herself become queen and acquire the authority to have her mother's body moved until more than two decades had passed. That is a long time to wait before going looking for a body buried in an unmarked grave beneath the floor of a chapel. How many of the participants in the events of 1534 were even still alive to locate the grave after 1558? Probably very few, if any.

No, on the whole, I have to think there were just too many "issues" involved, and that Elizabeth, ever the consummate politician, preferred to let the past be the past rather than risk opening a potential can of political worms simply to honor a long-dead woman she had never really known.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth wasn't even three years old when her mother was executed so it's very unlikely she had any memories of her. Elizabeth inherited her royalty from her father and it wasn't in her best interest to call any attention to a mother who'd been executed for adultery. Anne received absolution before death so one may assume she died in a state of grace as it was understood at the time and thus was able to be buried in holy ground inside St. Peter ad Vincula. And anyway, by the time Elizabeth came to the throne Anne's grave had been disturbed many times to allow for new burials so it would be doubtful they could identify her bones at all.

Anonymous said...

The princess Elizabeth was only two years,seven months and two weeks old when her mother Anne died so Elizabeth would not have gotten to know her mother all that well if she died when her daughter was only a little child.
The young Elizabeth would not have been able to arrange for the reburial of her mothes body until she became queen and that wasn't until twenty two years later.
When Elizabeth became queen I don't think she would have had her body reburied somewhere else because she never had any sought of bond with her mother Anne.I don't even know whether this would have entered her mind during her reign as queen. But I can tell you this Anne could have never of been out of Elizabeth's thoughts because some time during her queenship she had a locket ring made which she from then on owned and in the ring it contained two pictures one being of herself and the other being of her mother Anne.
Perhaps she should of given Anne A more suitable burial after all she herself and her father and majority of Henry's wives all had suitable burial place.Perhaps she thought she was best left where she was.

Anonymous said...

In fact, Elizabeth did speak well of her mother and affectionately on the few recorded times she did so. Her comments to the Venetian ambassador in 1555 indicate that she held a high opinion of Anne's morals, hardly surprising given that she had been surrounded by surrogate parenting units, all of whom had a link to the Boleyns - Katherine Ashley and Matthew Parker etc. There is also, of course, the touching and sentimental "hidden" ring Elizabeth wore in secret until her death, with cameo portraits of herself and Anne within.

When she became queen in 1558, Elizabeth did actually seriously consider having Anne's verdict of guilty reversed, but she was advised by Sir Nicholas Throckmorton to "leave sleeping dogs." After all, if Anne was publicly declared innocent by a due process of law, then Henry - who was the main dynastic font of Elizabeth's legitimacy - was by default an unjust murderer. The decision tells us less about how Elizabeth felt on her mother and far more about the realpolitik operating at the time of her accession.

kb said...

I'm with GarethR.

It would have been a political quagmire to re-bury Anne and would have gained Elizabeth very little while exposing her to much.

Foose said...

It's interesting to look at how similarly -- and differently -- Elizabeth and James I handled the issue of their scandalous mothers.

Both were raised without their mothers' input. Both were pretty unsentimental about their maternal relationships. Both were anxious to minimize or redirect attention away from their mothers' alleged misconduct and the shadow cast on their paternities (both ladies accused of committing adultery with a low-born, musical foreigner - Rizzio and Smeaton).

James had his mother reburied in Westminster Abbey. Does anyone know if there was any sort of outcry or opposition from the English at the time? Mary Queen of Scots was a popular object of execration during Elizabeth's reign, and even though it might have been politic for most people to "rehabilitate" her in their minds upon James' accession, she was still executed as a conspirator and threat to an English monarch, as well as a suspected husband-killer. Or had popular feeling undergone a reversal and felt that James' action was the proper and sentimentally, as well as dynastically, appropriate thing to do? (From a Catholic viewpoint, she was the legitimate Queen of England once Mary Tudor died.) Did James ever consider reburying Darnley?