Religion was dictated by the ruling monarch and the country, and Elizabeth lurched from the rule of her Protestant brother Edward, the short tragic reign of the Protestant Lady Jane Grey and then the succession of her fanatical Catholic half-sister Mary. Powerful, cruel men all played a part in the early years of Elizabeth - Thomas Seymour, Edward Seymour, John Dudley and Thomas Wyatt. All these men tried to use Elizabeth and tried to ensnare her into their webs of political intrigue and danger. The Elizabethan Age was dominated by men. Women were expected to so as they were told. A women's role in the Elizabethan era was totally subservient to that of a man. No wonder Elizabeth feigned illness to avoid dangerous situations. This page explains the World that Elizabeth lived in.
Change of Image for Elizabeth
In 1548 Elizabeth was placed in great danger due to the attentions of the ambitious Thomas Seymour. Although she and her servants were questioned nothing could be proved against her - she had survived this scandal of her teenage years. The whole incident taught her a valuable lesson. She was never reckless again. She dressed in plain, severe and sombre dark clothes as befitting a devout Protestant lady giving the image of chastity and modesty (Elizabeth would not be seen to wear clothes which might reflect the material trappings of Catholicism). Her devoutly Protestant half-brother Edward VI was King of England. He favoured Elizabeth over the older Catholic Mary. Elizabeth continued her studies and continued to build her image. Her cousin Lady Jane Grey also studied with Edward.
Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset - Protector of the Realm
When Henry VIII died in 1547 Thomas Seymour's brother, Edward Seymour the Duke of Somerset, had been made Protector of the Realm because Edward was too young to rule alone. Edward Seymour was a Protestant and he soon began to make changes to the Church of England which included the introduction of the English Prayer Book and allowing members of the clergy to marry. In 14 June 1549 people who had torn down hedges enclosing common land were pardoned. Further demands from the commoners led to the Kett rebellion. Robert Kett then formed a governing council made up of representatives from the villages that had joined the revolt. The rebellion was quashed by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland. Disagreements with members of the Privy Council led to the imprisonment of Edward Seymour in October, 1549. He was released in 1550 and returned to the Privy Council but again imprisoned and on 22nd January, 1552 he was executed.
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland - Lord Protector
The death of Edward Seymour saw the rise of the rich and powerful John Dudley as the most powerful man in England. He was a Protestant but above all else he was ambitious. A mean, cold, calculating and cunning man - devoid of any scruples. He was given the title of Lord Protector. He had great influence over the young King Edward VI and as Elizabeth was a Protestant showed her favour over the Catholic Mary. Elizabeth wisely kept her distance from John Dudley. Edward did not. He completely trusted John Dudley the Lord Protector. Aware that the young King Edward VI suffered ill health John Dudley started to plot and scheme in order to prevent the succession of the Catholic Mary. The succession of Mary would certainly mean the downfall of the Protestant John Dudley.
Princess Elizabeth, feigning illness and John Dudley
John Dudley attempted to place Elizabeth in his power whilst Edward was dying. He summoned Elizabeth to Greenwich Palace. She refused the summons and took to her bed with a sudden illness. As a further precaution, her doctor sent a letter to the council certifying she was too ill for travel...
Elizabeth feigned illness on several occasions to avoid dangerous, life-threatening situations.
Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth
Dudley persuaded Edward to write his own will and leave the throne to his pious cousin, Jane Grey who possessed royal blood through her grandmother, Princess Mary Tudor. Both his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate by an act of Parliament during Henry VIII's reign. There was no question of the legitimacy of Lady Jane Grey. On 25 May 1553 Lady Jane Grey was married to the fourth son of John Dudley - Guildford Dudley. On 6 July 1553 King Edward VI died of tuberculosis and he leaves the throne to 'the Lady Jane and her heirs male.' On Monday 10th July 1553 Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England. She was Queen for just Nine Days and on 19th July 1553 Queen Jane was deposed as Queen. During the nine days of Jane's reign, Elizabeth had continued her pretence of illness. John Dudley was arrested while on his way to capture Princess Mary in Norfolk in July 1553. Mary was proclaimed as Queen of England. John Dudley recanted his Protestant beliefs and attended Mass, thinking this may persuade Mary to pardon him. It did not. He was executed on Tower Hill on Monday 23 August 1553. On 12th February 1554 Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley were executed at the Tower of London.
Queen Mary and Elizabeth
The Catholic Mary, the rightful heir of King Henry VIII, was proclaimed Queen of England. Elizabeth had steered clear from John Dudley and the tragic Jane Grey by her pretence of illness. On 2nd August 1553 Elizabeth greeted her half-sister in London. They had not met for five years. Elizabeth dismounted and knelt in the road before her sister who raised her then embraced and kissed her with 'affection'. On 1st October 1553 Elizabeth attended the coronation of her half-sister Mary. Elizabeth played the role of dutiful sister and loyal subject to Mary. Mary continued to distrust Elizabeth and ensured she was not afforded the precedence in court that her position, as sister to the Queen warranted. Elizabeth had no alternative but to outwardly conform to the Catholic faith - but she knew that she should not distance herself from her Protestant supporters. Elizabeth knew that Mary had never liked her and she retreated to Hatfield away from the court of the Catholic Queen Mary. Mary was a fanatical Catholic and was determined to return England to the true Catholic faith. Elizabeth was in mortal danger - she was heir to the throne and a Protestant. And as such was the focus of all Protestants and in danger of being implicated in conspiracies to overthrow her Catholic half-sister.
The Wyatt Rebellion
It did not take long for a Protestant rebellion to erupt against Queen Mary. It was sparked by the news that Queen Mary intended to marry the man who was destined to become King Philip II of Spain, Emperor of the mighty Hapsburg Empire. In terms of any Protestant Englishmen this could not have been a worse choice of husband. Philip was also a devout Catholic. And the Protestants of England knew about the terrible Spanish Inquisition. The rebellion was led by Sir Thomas Wyatt. He was the son of the poet Thomas Wyatt senior who had been imprisoned, but released, during the terrible days when Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's mother, was arrested and eventually executed for adultery, treason and incest. The Protestant Wyatt rebellion drew Elizabeth into a web of intrigue, great danger and imprisonment in the Tower of London. She tried feigning illness but on this occasion it failed... The Wyatt Rebellion