Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Question from Liz - Elizabeth mentioning her siblings after becoming Queen

As Queen, did Elizabeth ever mention her brother or sister again? Or did she forget them when she rose to fame?


kb said...

I'm not sure what your question is really about.

Her brother and sister are referenced and sometimes named in several official documents regarding the restoration of religious reformation, among other topics, that she signed.

Unfortunately there are very few records of her daily conversations and so it is almost impossible to know if she referenced her siblings when talking amongst her ladies for example.

I believe that the biggest issue for her, especially early on, was maintaining her legitimacy for siting on the throne.

PhD Historian said...

I agree with KB. Certainly there are many government and state documents containing formulaic references to "our dearly beloved brother/sister King Edward/Queen Mary of famous memory," but those references are all very impersonal. And we know so little about Elizabeth's genuine private feelings and equally little about any of her conversations. Did she "mention" her half-siblings at any point between 1558 and 1603? It seems almost certain that she must have. But in the absence of written accounts of the conversations, we will simply never know when, how often, or what was said exactly.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting they were referenced as dearly beloved brother/sister. Wouldn't she hate her brother for cutting her out of the sucession and her sister for locking her in the tower?

PhD Historian said...

Anonymous, the phrase "dearly beloved" was, as I said, formulaic and impersonal. It was the form customarily used in such documents and was not an expression of the monarch's true feelings. It would hardly have been reasonable for Elizabeth's government to produce documents referring to Mary as "our well hated and despised Popish sister" or to Edward as "our radically evangelical woman-hating brother."

Just think of the phrase "dearly beloved" as similar to the modern response "I'm fine" when asked the question "How are you today?" How many people answer "I'm fine" even when they are not, in fact, "fine"? Next time you are at the grocery store and the check-out clerk asks the cliche question "How are you today?", try answering with a non-positive response ("depressed, anxious, worried, angry) and see what kind of reaction you get. It's just a social rule: We all lie about our feelings in certain situations when custom dictates that we do so.

kb said...

PhD Historian is absolutely right in that terms of endearment in official documents, and frequently in letters, was part of a formula.

Elizabeth would not want to spend too much time referencing her siblings because it would bring to mind the question of her legitimacy. Was she the bastard half-sibling of Mary? In which case, Europe would not consider Elizabeth to be the legitimate heir. Was Edward king long enough to be someone a newly-minted monarch would want to identify with?

Elizabeth wanted to appear legitimate and strong. She did this initially by emphasizing her relationship with her father, her popularity with the common people and her moderate approach to religious issues. By the time of her coronation, she had enough support amongst the elite that she could include references to both her mother and father in the coronation procession.

She had many close companions around her and would not have felt the lack of family.

Kristian said...

First, PhD Historian - thank you for the good laugh you gave me this morning! The idea of Elizabeth addressing her brother and sister publicly in those terms is hilarious. (to me)

I agree with you and kb and may I also add that not only was Elizabeth always conscious of maintaining her rightful hold on the throne, but I also believe that - much like with her mother - she would not want to make many references to family members who were not particularly popular with the people.
She clearly distanced herself from family members or branches who "dragged her down."

Again, we don't know much about her personal feelings but like anyone's family, I'm sure it was far more complicated than just hating or loving her brother and sister. Remember, it was recorded that she had some years of good relations with both as well.

Jens C. Kruse said...