Today is Accession Day, a day that was celebrated throughout the reign of Elizabeth I and the reigns of many of her successors. It commemorated the day that Elizabeth I came to the throne on the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary I, on 17th November 1558. You can click here to read about how Accession Day was celebrated, but in today's Claire Chats video I'm talking about the 17th November 1558 and the story of Elizabeth receiving the news that she was queen.
Here is the clip from the film Elizabeth that I mention in my talk:
Notes, Sources and Further Reading
- ed. Nichols, John Gough (1874) The Legend of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Nichols and Sons, London, p. 36. This can be read online at https://books.google.es/books/about/The_Legend_of_Sir_Nicholas_Throckmorton.html?id=OWxbAAAAQAAJ&redir_esc=y.
- 'Simancas: November 1558', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1, 1558-1567, ed. Martin A S Hume (London, 1892), pp. 1-6. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/simancas/vol1/pp1-6 [accessed 14 November 2017].
- Naunton, Robert, ed. Caulfield, James (1814) The court of Queen Elizabeth: originally written by Sir Robert Naunton, under the title of "Fragmenta regalia." With considerable biographical additions, by James Caulfield, G. Smeeton, London. This can be read online at https://archive.org/details/courtqueeneliza00caulgoog
- Harington, John (1804) Nugae antiquae : being a miscellaneous collection of original papers, in prose and verse; written during the reigns of Henry VIII. Edward VI. Queen Mary, Elizabeth, and King James. Selected from authentic remains by the late Henry Harington, and newly arranged, with illustrative notes, Vernor and Hood, London, p. 66-68. Read online at https://archive.org/stream/nugaeantiquaebei01hariuoft#page/66/mode/2up
- Starkey, David (2001) Elizabeth: Apprenticeship, Vintage, p. 241-2.
- "Oak and Hatfield", http://www.hatfield-herts.co.uk/features/oak_hat.html
- "Queen Elizabeth's Oak | a tree of legend" - http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog/queen-elizabeths-oak-tree-legend.
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It also shows Elizabeth as rather cold giving thanks for her sister’s death, which is hardly professional and while she may have acclaimed this but later on in Church probably. She must have felt relieved and thankful but blasphemy is not appropriate at this time. The cornerstone whom the builders rejected refers to Jesus and his victory, not to Elizabeth I. So if she believed herself to be this cornerstone now, she committed blasphemy and somehow I don’t see that. Someone writing later, given the high points of her reign and its triumphant ideas might well have brought this quotation to mind and interpreted it in relation to Elizabeth I.
I too like the oak tree tale. Elizabeth must have been somewhere in Hatfield on the day she learned of her sister’s death so reading in the garden is possible. We don’t know if the exact story is true but it fits with her legend. I don’t believe she made a speech on the same day, it could have been the next day when she had time to compose herself and write something. Nobody reacts to bad news with a speech, sorry. She would need time to compose herself, receiving her new Council and then to address them and receive their homage. Yes she wrote beautiful correspondences but how many drafts did she make? She was still human and had just received news which changed her life forever. A few faltering words are more realistic and a speech later on when the woman was calmer. In fact some people are now casting doubt on many of her speeches, saying they are an invention for propaganda purposes. I don’t really agree with that but many speeches have come down to us in a very polished fashion or were placed in the mouth of their speakers, for historical effects.