Elizabeth I Episode 1 Starring Lily Cole

Episode 1 – Battle for the Throne, aired 09.05.2017

Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original
Elizabeth I coronation portrait c.1610 copy of a lost original

Elizabeth I was England’s greatest queen – strong-willed, passionate and brave

Vulnerable woman surrounded by danger

Enemies scheming for her crown and plotting against her life

Would never know a moment’s peace

From the minute of her birth she was thrust into a bloody game – life and death

Never knew who to trust and who to fear

Hopes, fears, enemies who stalked her at every turn

What drove her enemies? Risks? Plots? How close they came to destroying Elizabeth

Elizabeth fell prey to a ruthless lord, sister’s love turns murderous

1603 Elizabeth I dying – reign a golden age

Inspired her country to defy the king of Spain and saw off the Armada

Survived assassination attempts, rebellions and a feud with Mary Queen of Scots


Born 7 September 1533 daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

Henry loved Anne – divorced his first wife and broke with Rome but 3 years later Henry’s love turned to murderous paranoia

Found guilty of incest and adultery and sentenced to death

Henry regretted marrying Anne and took it out on Elizabeth – cut her off and called her a bastard

Elizabeth was to be used as political bait

Henry more interested in Prince Edward – Elizabeth banished from court and raised by series of governesses

1543 aged 9 Elizabeth’s life changed, 12 July 1543 Henry VIII married Katherine Parr

Katherine was warm and caring and close to Elizabeth

Mother-figure Elizabeth always wanted

1544 Elizabeth welcomed back to court when Katherine persuaded Henry to restore her as heir, after Edward and Mary

Life starting to look up

28 January 1547 Henry VIII died


Elizabeth upset at death but world not falling apart

Healthy dose of fear for her father after he banished her and killed her mother

Edward VI became king – what would happen to Elizabeth?

Katherine Parr invited Elizabeth to live with her at Chelsea

Elizabeth loved living with Katherine but wasn’t to last – Katherine in love with Thomas Seymour, handsome and charming eligible bachelor

Within weeks of Henry’s death Katherine and Seymour married secretly

Katherine adored him but he had his eyes on Elizabeth

Seymour’s desire to have her would drag Elizabeth almost to the brink of death


Today Seymour’s behaviour would be described as grooming – incredibly risky

Seymour didn’t care and relied on natural charm to get him out of trouble

Seymour repeatedly visited Elizabeth in her chambers for the next year

January 1548 Katherine Parr fell pregnant and was overjoyed

Seymour still focused on Elizabeth – Katherine had no idea what Seymour was up to

Katherine found out, felt betrayed

Elizabeth left the following day – sent away as punishment? Only thing Katherine could do was send Elizabeth away for her own protection

Elizabeth devastated and would never see Katherine again

5 September 1548 Katherine died a week after giving birth to a daughter


Seymour didn’t mourn for long and her death probably helped him out

Within weeks of Katherine’s death Seymour was scheming for a new wife – Elizabeth

Henry VIII’s will banned Elizabeth from considering marriage without consulting the privy council – quick route to power

Privy council banned Seymour from discussing marriage with Elizabeth

Seymour persuaded Elizabeth’s advisor Thomas Parry to speak for him

“If, and when, that [privy council permits marriage to Seymour] comes to pass, I will do as God puts in my mind to do”

Seymour pursued Elizabeth harder


16 January 1549 Seymour broke into Westminster to speak directly to the king – wanted to persuade him to allow his marriage to Elizabeth

Stupidest plan and didn’t work – rumbled by palace guards and ran off

Rumours flew around court that Seymour planned to kidnap Edward VI, kill the privy council, and marry Elizabeth

Seymour arrest the day after for treason and sent to the Tower

Claimed he would never harm the king, asked about relationship with Elizabeth

Story emerged that Seymour and Elizabeth were engaged in an affair – planned to kill Edward VI and seize the throne themselves

January 1549 Elizabeth questioned as believed she was involved in Seymour’s plot

Elizabeth denied everything but council convinced she was guilty

Seymour had been meeting members of Elizabeth’s household – Kat Ashley and Thomas Parry arrested and questioned

Parry confessed what happened and Ashley followed suit

Wanted to know if Elizabeth was Seymour’s lover – role in plot?

If Elizabeth were guilty it would be treason


January 1549 Elizabeth suspect in treasonous plot to kill king and marry Seymour

February 1549 Elizabeth confronted with confessions of Parry and Ashley

Confessed secret meetings, enquiries into Elizabeth’s fortune, morning romps

Elizabeth admitted communication with Seymour, but denied involvement in plots – admitted Seymour’s treason

Elizabeth out of danger but Seymour found guilty of treason and executed

20 March 1549 Seymour executed on Tower Hill – didn’t die quickly as executioner botched the first attempt


This period had a profound effect on Elizabeth

Had been naive to get involved in an ambitious man’s power games

Elizabeth knew that she was a magnet for power-hungry men – all would have one eye on her and one on the throne

Seymour’s execution marked the end of Elizabeth’s childhood

Elizabeth not allowed to drop her guard


1553 Edward VI died – Elizabeth’s life thrown into danger again when her half-sister Mary became queen

Elizabeth had been close to Edward but not to Mary

Tudors a dysfunctional family – Henry VIII had abandoned Mary’s mother, Katherine, to marry Elizabeth’s mother, Anne

Mary a Catholic where Elizabeth a Protestant – guaranteed to come to blows

1553 Mary agreed to marry Prince Philip of Spain

Mary’s decision unpopular

Husband was the boss and wife did what she was told – even the queen, Philip would be the real ruler of England

Mary refused to give in – big mistake


Early 1554 protestant nobles cooked up a plot to overthrow Mary I and put Princess Elizabeth on the throne

Thomas Wyatt behind the plot – fiery protestant

January 1554 Wyatt rumoured to have written to Elizabeth, wanting her to bless his plot – most dangerous position of her life

If rebellion was successful she would be crowned queen

Agreeing to help conspirators was an act of treason – Elizabeth could be executed if found to be involved

Stephen Gardiner reported rumours that Elizabeth was planning to move to Donnington Castle to meet with Wyatt

Gardiner advised Elizabeth’s execution for Mary’s safety.


Mary ordered Elizabeth brought to court – no excuses to be accepted

Elizabeth in serious trouble and wanted to avoid going to London so dragged her heels over 11 days to make the journey

By the time Elizabeth arrived in London Wyatt’s rebellion was crushed and Wyatt was imprisoned

Elizabeth arrested on suspicion of treason and sent to the Tower on 17 March 1554

Elizabeth asked to speak with Mary

She refused to confess to any connection with the revolt

Wyatt was tortured to try and find a connection with Princess Elizabeth and the revolt but he refused to implicate her

11 April 1554 Wyatt publicly proclaimed Elizabeth innocent on the scaffold before being hung, drawn and quartered

Mary had no choice but to free Elizabeth on 19 May 1554, 18 years to the day since her mother’s execution

Elizabeth knew Mary I and Stephen Gardiner were actively looking for an excuse to send her to her death


Elizabeth found innocent but was still suspected by Mary I

Mary sent Elizabeth from court, ill and terrified for her life, Mary about to become more powerful

25 July 1554 Mary I married Philip II of Spain at Winchester

Mary fell head over heels in love but Philip not as keen – did his duty and in November 1554 Mary declared she was pregnant

Mary convinced the child was a boy who would one day rule England and Spain

Mary was deluded as there was no baby and never would be – phantom pregnancy

Women tricked by own brains and bodies into believing they were pregnant – same happened again 3 years later

Turned out to be a terrible illness – possibly ovarian cancer which would prove fatal


Late 1558 Mary fatally ill but refused to name an heir

Council pressed her to name Elizabeth but she wouldn’t, almost to the last

17 November 1558 Mary died


15 January 1559 Elizabeth was crowned at Westminster Abbey as Queen of England

Aged 25 walked on blue linen carpet to the altar

No one believed Elizabeth would ever reign over England

Survived so much to obtain the throne – ambitious men manipulating her, influential Catholic enemies who wanted her dead, and her own sister who wanted her dead

Troubles only just beginning

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