Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Question from Amy - Children of Elizabeth I

Has it ever been established if Elizabeth I ever had a child, because it was rumoured that she had?

[This question has been asked before, but it's been a while and I know that people might still be having trouble searching this blog due to the switch-over last month. See previous thread below. - Lara]


kb said...

There is no evidence that Elizabeth ever had a child. It is impossible to conceive that she could have had a child and kept it secret as she was under constant observation, morning, noon and night.

The rumour that she had a child with Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester was part of a propaganda campaign by Catholic enemies. If Elizabeth had a child, it would have lent momentum to the efforts to overthrow her and place her cousin Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.

I absolutely believe Elizabeth I never experienced pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

article that may be of interest

kb said...

Fascinating article. Thank you for the link. I am still highly doubtful that Elizabeth was pregnant and had a child. Her sheets were a matter of court record. If she had stopped menstruating for several months, gossip would have been rampant.

The story told by Arthur Dudley in Spain has too many other possible explanations to allow the conclusion that it was true.

Anonymous said...

Doubtful that she did,but a man named Arthur Dudley claimed he was the son of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley born after the death of Amy Dudley, therefore making it impossible for Robert and Elizabeth to marry. He appeared in 1587 a year before the Armada claiming he had been sent away in secrecy as an infant. There is a small chapter on him in Sarah Gristwood's book Elizabeth Leicester.

Alia said...

There were rampant rumors, but remember that celebrities always have rumors swirling around them. There were a few different father rumors.

One, that Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour had a child. They had a suspicious relationship, and Elizabeth was sent away eventually from Chelsea House, Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour's home, because of it. She went to a remote country mansion, and a local midwife accounted that she went to a house blindfolded, bribed with lots of money, to deliver the child of a young woman with flaming red hair.

Another story is that Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Elizabeth had a child while Elizabeth was queen. They had a relatively scandalous, close, and romantic relationship through Elizabeth's reign.

I personally think both of these stories fairly unlikely, though if one is true, I would argue the first is more plausible, because as queen, I am sure people would notice Elizabeth steadily growing bigger for nine months!
Hope this helps :)

Anonymous said...

I agree that he theory of Elizabeth having a child while a princess by Seymour seems more possible than a pragnacy while she was Queen...But I believe that Elizabeth never had children...If she had,wouldn't she preffered to give them titles and name them as her succesors instead of James?But what proves the fact that she was childless is her (kind of jealous and heartbroken)comment that Mary Stuart has a son while she is of barren stock...I think she didn't car much about a husband but she seems that she most certainly wanted to experience motherhood and why not,not leave the Tudor bloodline die with her

Anonymous said...

Biographer/historian Neville Williams believes that "barren stock" quote to be fiction, "an invention of Sir James Melville, for the Spanish ambassador, who was far better informed of court gossip than the Scot, reported that Elizabeth 'seemed very glad of the birth of the infant'." Do consider the source...Melville was a member of Mary Stuart's court (having started out there as a page) and so is likely to have penned something that made his own queen look better and make Elizabeth look like a lesser woman for being "but a barren stock." It was a day and age when a woman's worth was measured by the number of male heirs she could produce for her husband. I think it interesting that Melville used the word "barren" specifically rather than have Elizabeth bemoan her own spinsterhood, her lack of children for the lack of their being a man worthy enough (in her opinion) to marry. "Barren" suggests that Elizabeth's childless state can *never* be changed, husband or no. I think, too, given all the other things in the records that Elizabeth is quoted as saying, this "barren stock" quote sounds oddly out of place. When I think of her screaming at Leicester for all the court to hear, "I will have but one mistress here, and no master," or telling her councilors "my dogs wear *my* collars," I can only a envision a woman who thinks a great deal of herself. She has survived through some extremely dangerous years, playing all sides to come out with her head still attached and now ascended to the throne that no one thought she would ever have. She has scorned the idea of marriage repeatedly while stringing along the noble suitors sent from the great houses of Europe, keeping the diplomatic channels open without committing to put *her* crown in their hands. I feel like this is a lady who, like Great Harry, her father, keeps her insecurities private and would not give voice to them among a gaggle of gossipy women in waiting for all the court to hear later.

Unknown said...

My mother heard from a prof at Barnard that a Clerk of the Works found evidence in a chest that Elizabeth had borne several children, and that Queen Victoria ordered it destroyed.

kps said...

It is entirely possible that Elizabeth had a child. She could have hidden her pregnancy beneath the voluminous clothing that totally hid her figure. And, as her styles were copied multitudes of women in and outside of the Court, there were multitudes of women walking around for years that looked very pregnant. Kat Ashley was her beloved servant and friend....she could have helped her hide it. She might have bribed ladies to keep quiet. Her sheets may have been checked, but if she was habitually fastidious, she may never have soiled her sheets to begin with.

There was a girl in my high school who was trim and lively. No one had any idea that she was pregnant, until one Monday we found out that she had had a full-term baby over the weekend. It was when shirts were smock-like in the 70's. Even her mother did not know.

Pregnancies are hidden all the time.

Elizabeth was secretive and devious. She had to be to stay alive. She manufactured her image. She also lied quite a bit.

We make the mistake of reading "history" and believing it. Just because something was written down, doesn't mean it happened as it was portrayed. She clapped people into the Tower left and right, sometimes for very selfish reasons, and, on occasion, she had people tortured and killed. People were afraid of her. If anyone suggested that she was pregnant or had a child, they might have been ruined by her wrath.

kb said...

Karie -

I completely agree with you about the validity of 'history' as being open to revision. I am myself a revisionist historian according to my doctoral committee.

The clothing of the times we would consider cumbersome. However, it took approximately 2 hours to get dressed and two hours to get undressed and this activity might occur many times a day depending on activities.

It was usual for at least 4 ladies to attend Elizabeth's dressing/undressing. It was not always the same ladies. The dressing area was open to additional court staff like chamberers, grooms, and officers of state.

While it would be possible to hide a pregnancy under some styles of clothing, like a smock blouse you describe, this would be dependent on privacy. The girl you speak of did not have an audience for her dressing/undressing and she had the normal expected privacy of the 20th/21st century.

Elizabeth did not have any privacy. Given the number of people visiting her chamber while dressing/undressing and the frequent rotation of ladies in waiting, the list of people to be bribed would be lengthy. I just don't believe that many people, at a minimum 20-30, could keep such a secret for so long no matter the bribe.

So although I am all about revision of the traditional narrative, I can not find a way to believe the queen had children of her body.