Elizabeth I was born on September 7, 1533 at Greenwich Palace near London. Herfather was England’s King Henry VIII; her mother was the king’s second wife,Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth had an older half-sister, Mary, who was the daughter of theking’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. King Henry had moved heaven and earth to marry Anne Boleyn. He had partedfrom the Catholic church, established the Church of England, and annulled histwenty-four year marriage to Queen Catherine – partly because he loved Anne, andpartly because he wanted the male heir Catherine could not give him.
Henry andAnne were convinced that their first child would be a boy. The new queen even hada document drawn up ahead of time that announced the birth of a prince. When theprince turned out to be a princess, her parents were dismayed. Over the next few years Anne had three miscarriages, and Henry – who had becomedisenchanted with her even before Elizabeth’s birth – decided to be rid of her. In1536 he had Anne arrested on false charges of adultery. The Archbishop ofCanterbury bowed to the king’s will by declaring that Henry’s marriage to Annehad never been valid.Order now
Like her half-sister Mary, two-year-old Elizabeth was nowconsidered illegitimate. Anne was executed, and two weeks later the king marriedJane Seymour. In 1537 Queen Jane died after giving birth to a son, Edward. Elizabeth and Maryparticipated in his christening ceremony.
As Edward grew older, he and Elizabethbecame close; although they lived in separate households, they wrote to each otheroften. When Elizabeth was four, Katherine Champernowne became her governess. Thewell-educated Champernowne – known as Kat Ashley after her marriage in 1545 -began teaching Elizabeth astronomy, geography, history, math, French, Flemish,Italian, Spanish, and other subjects. Elizabeth was an excellent student. Her tutorRoger Ascham later wrote, “She talks French and Italian as well as she doesEnglish. When she writes Greek and Latin, nothing is more beautiful than herhandwriting.
” In 1540 Elizabeth’s father married Anne of Cleves. Repelled by what he perceived ashis bride’s ugliness, Henry quickly had the marriage annulled and instead marriedAnne Boleyn’s first cousin Katherine Howard. Katherine was very young – aboutfifteen – and something of a featherbrain, but she was kind to Elizabeth, who wassurely appalled when, in a repetition of the past, the queen was arrested andcharged with adultery. This time the charges were true.
Queen Katherine wasbeheaded in 1542, when Elizabeth was seven years old. Katherine Howard’s violent death seems to have had a lasting impact on Elizabeth. At the age of eight she met one of Prince Edward’s classmates, Robert Dudley, andtold him of an important decision she had made. “I will never marry,” she said. Itwas a decision that would shape her life.
Thomas Seymour In 1543 Elizabeth gained yet another stepmother when Henry married his sixth andfinal wife, Katherine Parr. Four years later Henry VIII died, leaving his crown toEdward. According to Henry’s will, if Edward died without heirs he would besucceeded by Mary. If Mary died without heirs, Elizabeth would become queen. Soon after Henry’s death, Elizabeth received a marriage proposal from handsomeThomas Seymour, who was England’s Lord Admiral and the brother of the lateQueen Jane.
Knowing that Seymour was simply seeking the power that marriage tothe king’s sister could bring him, Elizabeth turned him down. So Seymour proposedto the widowed Queen Katherine, who had been in love with him before hermarriage to Henry VIII. Unaware of Seymour’s previous proposal to herstepdaughter, Katherine happily accepted. They were quickly married, and thefollowing year Elizabeth went to live with them at the royal Old Manor House inChelsea. Thomas Seymour still had designs on pretty red-haired Elizabeth.
He took tovisiting her bedroom in the morning before she was dressed. During these visits hesometimes tickled her or slapped her bottom; once he tried to kiss her. Elizabethgiggled and seemed to enjoy his attention, but Kat Ashley was disturbed by theLord Admiral’s behavior, and the servants began to gossip. Queen Katherine wasaware of what was going on, but saw it all as innocent romping. Once she evenjoined in the “joke,” holding Elizabeth in the garden while her husband cut offElizabeth’s dress. Hoping to further deceive his wife, Seymour told her that he had seen Elizabethwith her arms around a man’s