Queens of England



queen of Great Britain, second daughter of James II., by his first wife, Anne Hyde, was born in 1664; was married to Prince George of Denmark in 1683; and succeeded to the crown on the death of William III., 1702. Her reign is marked by the great war of the Spanish Succession and the achievements of Marlborough, the accomplishment of the legislative union of Scotland with England, and the dashing exploits of lord Peterborough in Spain. Anne was of a kind and yielding disposition, and was long entirely controlled, first by the imperious duchess of Marlborough, to whom she became warmly attached in childhood, and afterwards by her attendant, Mrs. Masham. Prince George died in 1708, and their six children died young. The contention of parties during the reign of Anne was extremely violent, in consequence of the hopes entertained by the Jacobites that she would be induced by natural feelings to favour the succession of her brother, the Pretender. Her reign was also distinguished for the number of eminent writers who then flourished, several of whom rose to high stations. Died, 1714, aged 50.

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Elizabeth I,

Queen of England; was daughter of Henry VIII., by his queen, Anne Boleyn, and was born at Greenwich, September 7, 1533. When three years of age she lost her mother, who was beheaded, and was herself immediately bastardized by Act of Parliament. By a later Act, however, the succession to the throne was conditionally secured to her. Elizabeth was carefully educated, attaining, under the direction of Roger Ascham, considerable proficiency in Latin, French, and Italian, and some knowledge of Greek. She was brought up in the Protestant faith. Marriage projects were early set on foot for her, and she entertained with more or less of sincerity numerous successive suitors; but she never married. She accompanied her sister Mary to London on her accession to the throne; but in the following year, immediately after the suppression of Wyatt's insurrection, she was arrested and sent to the Tower. She was kept in more or less close confinement during Mary's reign; and was removed from the Tower to Woodstock, and thence to Hatfield House.

At the age of 25 she succeeded Mary, and was received in London with immense joy, the bishops meeting her at Highgate, and the people in crowds escorting her through the city. The re-establishment of the Protestant faith and worship; conflicts in various forms with the adherents of the Romish system, who were also the enemies of Elizabeth as a Protestant sovereign; conflicts on the other hand with the Puritan party, ever growing stronger; these were the staple of home transactions during this reign. Foreign affairs also were almost entirely acts of the same drama, the great struggle between the two religions. Pope Paul IV. refused to acknowledge Elizabeth's title; Pius V. and Sixtus V. published bulls of excommunication against her, and absolved her subjects from their allegiance; the king of France supported the claim of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the crown of England, and Elizabeth assisted the Protestants in Scotland, in France, and the Netherlands; and above all, the struggle took outward shape and formidable dimensions in the threatened Spanish invasion and the 'Invincible Armada.' Elizabeth on her accession retained the principal advisers of her sister Mary, but added several eminent men to their number; among whom were Cecil, Lord Burleigh, who remained her first minister till his death, Sir Nicholas Bacon, and at a later period Sir Francis Walsingham.

The imprisonment and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, has been a fruitful occasion of reproach against Queen Elizabeth; yet none can doubt that Mary sanctioned and took part in the plots and schemes which had for their object the dethroning of Elizabeth, and the elevation of Mary in her stead. The personal character of Elizabeth has naturally been depicted in very different colours by Romanists and Protestants; exaggeration made on both sides, and the truth probably lying between the two extremes. Recent inquiries have resulted in a less favourable view than has been usual in England. Vanity in excess, selfishness, unwomanly hardness, vacillation of temper, love of expense and display, indulgence in bursts of passion, indelicate speech and manners, and fondness for worthless favourites (especially the Earls of Leicester and Essex), are too obvious features of her character. Energy, and good sense, and a certain courage she had too; for though the prosperity and progress that marked her reign must be attributed to the wisdom and measures of her ministers, these ministers were her choice and had her support.

Her reign was one of the greatest periods in our literary history; the age of Shakespeare and Spencer, of Bacon and Raleigh and Hooker. It was an age too of great enterprises and discoveries; of Drake, Frobisher, and other maritime heroes. Elizabeth died at Richmond, March 24, 1603; her health and spirits having never recovered the shock they received by the execution of Essex, two years previously. She was buried in Henry VII's chapel at Westminster. A fine portrait of Queen Elizabeth, closely resembling that by Mark Garrard at Hampton Court, was presented in 1866 to the National Portrait Gallery, by the 'Mines Royal and Mineral Works Societies.' In the same collection is a miniature of the Queen, by Hilliard.

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Queen Elizabeth II (Monarch from 1952 onwards)

Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch, was the daughter of King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She acceded unexpectedly at the age of 25, has reigned for 57 years and has four children, including Charles, Prince of Wales. In a television age of increasing intrusion she has steered the monarchy through difficult times, holding to values which have sometimes been derided. And it started optimistically - with the British ascent of Everest.

From the start she pledged support to her 'Commonwealth' and visited it determinedly. But her reign opened with the Mau Mau risings in Kenya and her government was soon embroiled in Egypt with Colonel Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal. The latter brought military action by France, Israel and Britain, which foundered and brought opposition from the USSR, the USA, the UN and a hostile British press. After Eden's resignation in 1957 Harold Macmillan had to face new European issues. In 1961 Britain's attempt to join the Common Market was vetoed by France and the issue of her membership remained a debating point through the reign, membership having been gained under Edward Heath in 1973. For Macmillan, nonetheless, joining the European Club was part of his 'wind of change' which predicted European withdrawal from African lands and the development of a European trading ideal. The burdens of Empire remained, however: Margaret Thatcher's resolve to win back the Falklands from unpredicted Argentinean occupation was successful, at a cost; but it displayed a militarily enfeebled Britain which was even less well prepared for the later (Tony Blair) support of the US deposition of the Iraqi president or contain the influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Britain was finding that its role and power in the world were not what it had thought. Increasingly apparent, too, was the advent and spread of nuclear energy capacity and its potentially destructive weaponry: whether Britain should retain a nuclear deterrent remains a debating point.

Elizabeth's state was also beset by economic cycles which brought high unemployment and industrial decline. Its economy was supported by windfall oil revenues from the North Sea fields which brought some relief to an ageing infrastructure; but it had to assimilate immigration at a previously unknown rate from the old Empire, and it experienced the see-saw of politics, from Harold Wilson's 'white heat' socialism to Margaret Thatcher's strident free-market. This post-war half century saw possibly the fastest changes in British history - in world-wide transport, the rise of the motor car, electronic communication, space adventure, educational experiment including the expansion of Higher Education, industrial restructuring, the demise of Empire, the decline in probity of political institutions (local and national), and the rise of a popular musical and entertainment industry with its many unwelcome side effects. Queen Elizabeth witnessed all of this; and few of the issues raised have been resolved. ['Elizabeth II' was written by Richard Miller, © 2009]

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Elizabeth Stuart,

Queen of Bohemia, daughter of James I. (James VI. of Scotland at the time of her birth), was born in 1596. She was married to the Elector Palatine Frederick V. in 1613; prevailed on him to accept the crown of Bohemia in 1619, reckoning on her father's aid to maintain them in the new kingdom; but at the battle of Prague, in the following year, the Imperialists were victorious, and Frederick lost not only Bohemia but his hereditary states. Elizabeth bravely followed her husband and shared his hardships, finding refuge at last in Holland. She was left a widow in 1632, saw her son reinstated in part of his father's dominions, came to England with Charles II. in 1660, and died at London two years later. Elizabeth was the mother of 13 children, among whom were the Princes Rupert and Maurice, and Princess Sophie, mother of George I.

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Lady Jane Grey,

whose accomplishments and misfortunes have rendered her an especial object of interest, was the daughter of Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset (afterwards Duke of Suffolk), by the Lady Frances, daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and Mary, younger sister of Henry VIII. She was born in 1537 at Bradgate, her father's seat in Leicestershire and early in life gave proofs of talents of a superior order. She wrote an incomparable hand, played well on several instruments, and acquired a knowledge of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as well as of the French and Italian languages. Roger Ascham has given a beautiful and affecting narrative of his interview with him at Bradgate, where he found her reading Plato's Phædo in Greek, while the family were amusing themselves in the park. In 1551 her father was created Duke of Suffolk; and at this time Lady Jane Grey was much at court.

The ambitious Duke of Northumberland projected a marriage between her and his son, Lord Guilford Dudley, which took place on the 25th of May, 1553. Soon after this Edward VI died, having been prevailed upon in his last illness, to settle the crown upon the Lady Jane who reluctantly accepted it, and was proclaimed with great pomp. This gleam of royalty however, was of short duration; for the pageant reign lasted but nine days. The people were dissatisfied, and the nobility indignant at the presumption of Northumberland, so that Mary soon overcame her enemies, and was not backward in taking ample revenge. The Duke of Northumberland was beheaded, and Lady Jane and her husband were arraigned, convicted of treason, and sent to the Tower. After being confined some time, the council resolved to put them to death. Lord Guilford suffered first, and as he passed her window on his way to Tower Hill, his lady gave him her last adieu. Immediately afterwards she was executed on Tower Green; suffering with calm resignation, and a firm attachment to the Protestant religion, Feb. 12, 1554.

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Queen of England, daughter of Henry VIII. and his queen, Catherine of Aragon, was born at Greenwich, in February, 1516. She was soon declared Princess of Wales, and was settled with a numerous household at Ludlow, where she was under the care of the Countess of Salisbury. Brought up in the Catholic faith, she took the part of her mother in the disputes respecting the divorce, and thereby estranged herself from her father. Many schemes for her marriage were projected, but they came to nothing. After the execution of the Queen, Anne Boleyn, in 1536, Mary was induced to acknowledge the king as head of the church in England, to confess that her mother's marriage was unlawful, and to express her sorrow for her resistance to his laws; and was then restored to his favour. She yielded an outward conformity to the successive changes in religion during Henry's reign, and the succession was secured to her by Act of Parliament passed in 1544.

During the reign of her brother, Edward VI., she steadily refused conformity to the Protestant religion, which led to the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen instead of her. This attempt failed, although Lady Jane was actually proclaimed on the death of Edward, July 6, 1553, and Mary entered London in triumph. She immediately set herself to the task of undoing the work of the preceding reign, and re-establishing the Catholic faith. She liberated the imprisoned Catholic bishops, imprisoned Cranmer, Latimer, and other leading Protestants, had Lady Jane Grey and her husband put to death on the charge of treason, and on the instigation of Gardiner procured the repeal of all the laws of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. respecting religion. An insurrection which was provoked by the proposal of her marriage with Philip of Spain, and was headed by Sir Thomas Wyatt, was immediately suppressed, and the marriage took place at Winchester, in July, 1554. Her chief advisers were Cardinal Pole and Bishop Gardiner, and the rest of her reign is filled with the relentless persecution of the adherents of reform. The number of victims is variously estimated, but at the lowest it was about three hundred. Bonner, Bishop of London, especially distinguished himself as a promoter of this persecution.

In 1557 war was renewed between France and Spain, and Mary took part with Spain; losing soon after the town of Calais, a blow felt as keenly by the queen as by the nation. Worn out with bodily and mental suffering, Mary died, November 17, 1558, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The popular estimate of Queen Mary is expressed by the epithet 'Bloody;' but while the fitness of the term to characterize her reign is acknowledged, it is necessary, if we would be just, to consider many things besides the fact of her persecutions, and to make large allowance for her. She must at least be credited with sincerity in her attachment to the faith of her mother; and in her endeavour to establish it by persecuting its enemies, she shared the spirit and followed the example of all dominant churches of the age. With Queen Mary the last hope of a triumph of Romanism in England died out. Portraits of Mary were lent by the Queen (Victoria), the Society of Antiquaries, and Mr. W. B. Stopford, to the National Portrait Exhibition (1866). The two latter were painted by Lucas de Heere.

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Mary II.,

Queen of England, the wife of William III, was the daughter of James II. by his queen, Anne Hyde, daughter of the Earl of Clarendon, and was born in 1662. At the age of 15 she was married to William, Prince of Orange, whom she followed to England in 1689. The same year parliament having declared the crown vacant by the abdication of James, conferred it upon William and Mary. She died of the small-pox, Dec. 28,1694, aged 32. Her portrait, by Wissing, is in the National Portrait Gallery.

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Mary Stuart,

Queen of Scots, famous for her beauty and wit, her crimes and her fate, was daughter of James V., King of Scotland, and succeeded her father in 1542, eight days after her birth. In the following year she was crowned by Archbishop Beatoun, and before she was six years old she was sent to the court of France. In 1558 she married Francis, then dauphin, and, in the next year, King of France. On his death in 1560 she returned to Scotland, where during her absence Knox had preached, and the Reformation had been established. She had an interview with Knox soon after her arrival. After rejecting several proposals of marriage, she married her cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, in 1565. Being excluded from any share of the government by the advice (as he suspected) of Rizzio, an Italian musician, her favourite and secretary, the king, by the counsel and assistance of some of the principal nobility, suddenly surprised them together, and Rizzio was slain, in the queen's presence, in 1566. An apparent reconciliation afterwards took place, a new favourite of the queen appeared in the Earl of Bothwell, and in February 1567, Darnley, who had continued to reside separately from the queen, was assassinated, and the house he occupied, called the Kirk of Field, near Edinburgh, was blown up with gunpowder. This murder was very imperfectly investigated; and in the month of May following, Mary wedded the Earl of Bothwell, who was openly accused as the murderer of the late king.

Scotland soon became a scene of confusion and civil discord. Bothwell, a fugitive and an outlaw, took refuge in Denmark; and Mary, made a captive, was committed to custody in the castle of Loch Leven. After some months' confinement she effected her escape, and, assisted by the few friends who still remained attached to her, made an effort for the recovery of her power. She was opposed by the Earl of Murray, the natural son of James V., who had obtained the regency in the minority of her son. The battle of Langside insured the triumph of her enemies; and, to avoid falling again into their power, she fled to England, and sought the protection of Queen Elizabeth; a step which created a very serious embarrassment for Elizabeth and her ministers.

For eighteen years Mary was detained as a state prisoner; and, during the whole of that time, she was recognised as the head of the Popish party, who wished to see a princess of their faith on the throne of England. Mary, despairing of recovering that of Scotland, countenanced, if she was not directly concerned in, their plots. She was accordingly tried for a conspiracy against the life of the Queen of England, condemned, and suffered decapitation, Feb. 8, 1587, in the castle of Fotheringay, where she had been long confined. Her body was interred, with great pomp, in Peterborough Cathedral, but subsequently removed by her son, James I., to Henry the Seventh's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, where a magnificent monument was erected to her memory.

The character and conduct of Mary, Queen of Scots, have been made the subject of much controversy; the popular view, both in Scotland and England, making her the 'unfortunate Mary', almost a suffering saint; sentimentally brooding over her calamities and refusing to admit her crimes and follies Mr Froude, who has told her story once more in the third volume of his 'History of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth,' has made this view no longer tenable. The verdict of Mr. Burton in his new 'History of Scotland' (1867) is no less severe and decisive. Among other recent Memoirs of Mary may be named those of Mignet Lamartine, Miss Strickland, and A. M'Neel Caird. The celebrated Fraser Tytler Portrait of this queen has been purchased for the National Collection. A very fine portrait by Clouet is in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court

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Victoria (Monarch 1837 - 1901)

Victoria did not expect to be Queen of England, and the role was not intended for her. But that she became, and her reign became synonymous with an era. She was on the throne for 64 years, the longest reign, and 'Victorian' became the descriptor for an artistic and architectural style, a philosophy and morality, a literature and its poetry, and the century.

Princess Victoria was born in 1819, the daughter of Edward Duke of Kent and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld. She was the niece of William IV (died 1837) and thereby became monarch at the age of 18, William's two children having pre-deceased him. Rarely had a monarch been so unprepared. She subsequently married Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, whom she adored and who was her guide and mentor; his early death in 1861 nearly broke her emotionally and, by virtue of her long mourning, nearly broke her relationship with her subjects too. She rebuilt this relationship with the unthanked though careful guidance of William Gladstone, her longest serving Prime Minister. With Albert she had four sons (including the future Edward 7) and five daughters and their marriages and children provided tentacles through the major royal families of Europe.

She was a proud and conscientious lady whose early and later popularity did much to rescue the monarchy from the upsets of the reigns of George III (her grandfather) and George IV and William IV. The length of her reign was such that she saw unprecedented transformations, in political systems, engineering, transport, social expectations, health and schooling, Empire, trade and intellectual endeavour and achievement. She saw 19 Prime Ministers, relating with difficulty to most (especially Gladstone) but relying heavily on some (none more so than Melbourne, her first). The Whig Melbourne provided experience to her inexperience, and compassion. Prince Albert replaced this guidance from 1840 and Albert helped her to reconcile herself to Tory premiership under Robert Peel (PM 1839 and 19841-46). Both Melbourne and Peel guided Queen and Parliament through the repeated demands for further Parliamentary by The Chartists (in 1836, 1842 and 1848) and Peel defused the demands of The Anti-Corn Law League by conceding the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. This repeal, contrary to landlord and farmer expectations, ushered in a period of prosperity for the land, lasting from 1846 to at least 1875; Peel had argued for this, his Tory party was split on the issue, the landed interest was hostile; but Peel was proved right, landed pockets bulged and prices of staple crops fell - to universal enjoyment. The Queen employed some of the political benefit. These 1840s saw other great campaigns and responses, some de-fusing the otherwise 'hungry forties'; there was legislation to limit Factory Hours, reform Municipal Corporations, further reduce capital crimes, limit working hours and employment ages in Mines, and expend the railway system. Much was made manifest in the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, which celebrated the material achievements of the country in a world context and brought together visitors, in their millions, from every location and background.

The great wealth of these mid-century 'Years of Equipoise' was needed to sustain Britain's Empire, promote this 'Workshop of the World' through its agents the Royal Navy and Merchant fleet, and defend its borders and world territories. But the wars of the century from 1853 proved that it was hopelessly ill-prepared. Support for Turkey, the 'Sick Man of Europe', drew Britain into the Crimean War to 1856. Facing up to Russia brought expense and disillusionment with the Army, only resolved somewhat by Disraeli's subsequent deal with the Russians in 1878; and out of these conflicts came military lessons (ill-learned), Florence Nightingale and her new nursing, and some epic verse ('The Charge of the Light Brigade', a celebration of disaster and incompetence). But at least the neutrality of Black Sea waters was temporarily secured. The Indian Mutiny subsequently broke up the East India Company and raised huge questions of Empire, not to be resolved for 100 years. It was a time of international stress, with Italian Unification, confirmation of a 'United' States of America after the Civil War, revolutions in European capitals and the consolidation of a German Empire from its myriad principalities. Disraeli's purchase of a controlling interest in The Suez Canal in 1875 seemed to put a stamp on Britain's place in the commercial and political world; it certainly reinforced the mutual admiration between the Queen and this minister, both of whom enjoyed 'Peace with Honour' with the Russian deal in 1878, the acquisition of Cyprus in that year and the Suez transaction.

Issues at home continued, of course. Parliamentary Reform Acts in 1832, 1867, 1872 and 1884 provided the vote for all adult males, by secret ballot; and the pressures to address schooling inadequacies, especially compared to Germany, the rival and unspoken mentor, led to the provision of universal elementary education by a process starting in 1870 (Forster's Education Act). Victoria's Jubilees of 1887 and 1897 celebrated these many events and undeniable achievements, highlighting the world role of the Mother Country under its long-standing monarch. The Empire had reached its height, from islands in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and Atlantic, to vast tracts of Africa (an unintended Empire from Cape to Cairo), the Queen 'Empress of India' from 1877 (more Disraeli flattery - and it worked), ports and commercial stations in the Far East, including Singapore and Hong Kong, and consolidation in Australia and New Zealand. This was 'the largest Empire the world had ever seen', all owing homage to its Queen but soon to be fatally challenged by the Boers in South Africa and its adjacent republics in The Boer Wars to 1901.

The Queen gave her name to an era which saw this Empire rise to unprecedented scale, and be challenged; it saw the world and the home country reduced in travel time by a train transport revolution; it saw its children educated and its males represented in a representational parliament; it saw the works of Dickens and Eliot, Wordsworth and Darwin; it saw the motor car and it saw manned flight, just; and it experienced its population rise from 24 to 42 million. The nation went into mourning when the Queen died in 1901 - most of the nation had known no other monarch. They thought of themselves as 'Victorians'.

Victoria had 9 children and 42 grandchildren and arranged marriages for them across Europe, thus tying Europe together and earning her the nickname "The grandmother of Europe. On her death, she was interred beside Prince Albert in the Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great park. She was succeded by her son Edward VII having outlived 3 of her children and 11 of her 42 grandchildren. ['Victoria' was written by Richard Miller, © 2009]

The above information except for Victoria & Elizabeth II was gleaned from various sources and then put together by Colin Hinson © 1996.

The Victoria & Elizabeth II information was written by Richard Miller © 2009.

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