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The Death of Elizabeth I

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 15 October 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests John Guy, Clare Jackson and Helen Hackett discuss the death of Queen Elizabeth I and its immediate impact, as a foreign monarch became King in the face of plots and plague.

By the spring of 1603, Elizabeth had been Queen for 44 years, and it was clear that she would leave no heir. Many feared that her death would spark insurrection, led perhaps by Puritans, perhaps by Catholics, possibly with the support of Spain. As it became clear that she was dying, Elizabeth's chief minister, Sir Robert Cecil, put into action his covert strategy to secure the succession of King James the Sixth of Scotland.

What follows is a story of plots, plague and high politics, as a foreign monarch brought a thoroughly Continental approach to Kingship to the English throne. James's accession was widely welcomed, but his relationship with Cecil was initially tense, and his long procession south from Edinburgh attracted both celebration and criticism. His treatise on Kingship, published on his succession, became a bestseller in London - at least until an outbreak of plague, which also drove him from the capital not long after he arrived. His coronation was hurried through to circumvent plots against him, but his triumphal entry into London had to be delayed until a year after Elizabeth's death. And, as the high expectations which first greeted James were increasingly frustrated, the English started to invoke the ghost of their dead Queen to criticise their new ruler.

John Guy is a Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge; Clare Jackson is Lecturer and Director of Studies in History at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge; Helen Hackett is Reader in English at University College, London.

  • FURTHER READING

    Bradshaw, Brendan and Morrill, John ed., The British Problem c.1534-1707,
    (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 1996)

    Barton, Anne, 'Harking back to Elizabeth: Ben Jonson and Caroline nostalgia', in English Literary History 48.4 (Winter 1981), pp.706-31

    Burgess, Glenn, Whyte, Rowland and Lawrence, Jason (eds), The Accession of James I: Historical and Cultural Consequences (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)

    Croft, Pauline, King James (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003)

    de Lisle, Leanda, After Elizabeth: The Death of Elizabeth and the Coming of King James (London: Harper Perennial, 2005)

    Dekker, Thomas, The Wonderfull Yeare, 1603

    Dutton, Richard, ed. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1996)

    Greenblatt, Stephen, ed. Representing the English Renaissance (University of California Press, 1988)

    Guy, John, and Morrill, John, The Tudors and Stuarts (Oxford UP, 1992)

    Guy, John, The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (Cambridge UP, 1995)

    Hackett, Helen, Virgin Mother, Maiden Queen: Elizabeth I and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (Macmillan Press, 1995)

    Hackett, Helen, Shakespeare and Elizabeth: The Meeting of Two Myths (Princeton University Press, 2009)

    Jackson, Clare, Restoration Scotland, 1660-1690: Royalist Politics, Religion and Ideas (Boydell: Woodbridge, 2003)

    Jackson, Clare, 'Restoration to Revolution: 1660-1690', in Glenn Burgess ed., The New British History: Founding a Modern State 1603-1715, (Tauris: London, 1999), pp. 194-216.

    Kay, Dennis, Melodious Tears: The English Funeral Elegy from Spenser to Milton (Oxford UP, 1990)

    Montrose, Louis Adrian, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Shaping Fantasies of Elizabethan Culture: Gender, Power, Form', in Rewriting the Renaissance: the discourses of sexual difference in early modern Europe, eds Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (1986), pp.65-87

    Strong, Roy, Gloriana: The Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (London: Thames & Hudson, 1987)

    Wormald, Jenny, ‘James VI and I (1566–1625)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008)

    Watkins, John, Representing Elizabeth in Stuart England (Cambridge UP, 2002)

    Wilson, E.C., England's Eliza (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1939)

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