Marriage and Succession: Elizabeth I

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Practice Essay: Marriage and Succession Elizabeth I
Explain the factors behind Elizabeth’s decision to neither marry nor name a successor. Evaluate the consequences of the decision for Elizabeth and England until 1603. Introduction
From the moment Elizabeth became Queen in 1558, there was one question that everyone was asking; who will the Queen marry and name successor? It was assumed that one of the first things Elizabeth would do, would be to select a husband to help her govern England, and more importantly, to produce a protestant male heir. Elizabeth was the last of the Tudor dynasty, and it was thought natural that her main concern would be to provide a child to perpetuate her rule of England. Finding a suitable partner was a major factor in Elizabeth’s decision not to marry. Any English candidate would be of non-royal stock and subject to destructive rivalry from other noble families. A foreign husband might well cement an important strategic alliance but could also sacrifice England’s best interests in the future. The religious affiliation of the prospective husband was also a key factor because it could disrupt the delicate balance arrived at by the Elizabethan Church Settlement. Out of all her liaisons, the most overt and most certain was with her Master of the Horse, Lord Robert Dudley, whom she named the Earl of Leicester in 1564. They had been friends since childhood, and he was one of the few men Elizabeth believed valued her for herself, and not for the fact that she was now Queen. This marriage would certainly have avoided the problem of foreigners controlling the realm through marriage to the Queen, and avoided a clash over religion, but marriage to a subject also gave rise to serious problems. Competition for power amongst the English nobility was fierce, and if Elizabeth married one noble, his rivals in power would be offended, and possibly withdraw their allegiance from her, and even plunge the country into civil war. Dudley was accused...
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