Elizabeth I of England’s Death: Mysteries and Stories


One of England’s most well-known queens is Elizabeth I. Her parents were the notorious King Henry VIII and his legendary Queen Anne Boleyn, who was executed when Elizabeth was two years old.

The last monarch of the Tudor Dynasty, Elizabeth reigned for approximately forty-five years before passing away childless. Her reign is known as “The Golden Age” for the birth of Renaissance theatre, the flourishing of the arts, and the production of the most famous playwrights of the time, including William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

Let’s take a look at her death and the mysteries and stories surrounding her. 

1. She may have suffered from depression

Elizabeth I of England's Death: Mysteries and Stories

Formerly attributed to George Gower, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth began to experience spells of melancholy and what we would now refer to as depression during her final years as her health began to progressively deteriorate, her close companions died, and her beauty began to fade. Blanche Parry, an elderly companion who had been one of the queen’s closest servants, passed away in 1590. 

Elizabeth’s advisor William Cecil passed away in 1598, along with another one of her close friends. Cecil was Elizabeth’s loyal supporter and confidant when she was young. The loss of these significant individuals upset the queen, who became even more reclusive and disconnected from the court she had once ruled.

2. Elizabeth had refused to eat for some time which led to malnourishment

Elizabeth I of England's Death: Mysteries and Stories

Edgar Wilson “Bill” Nye, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth refused to eat or drink enough, which caused her to lose weight. The queen adamantly denied multiple requests from her ladies to allow a doctor to examine her as they grew increasingly concerned. Only a few weeks later, Elizabeth was devastated to learn of the passing of Katherine Howard, Countess of Nottingham, her longtime aide.

3. She refused to name a successor 

Elizabeth evidently had a strong dislike for the idea of marriage. She was reluctant to be counselled regarding either marriage or succession, despite accepting in theory that it was her duty to create an heir. Her evasive responses and attempts to prevent debate of any of these royal “matters of state” were met with repeated petitions from both Houses of Parliament. 

To the utter dismay of her advisors, Elizabeth was able to use the succession throughout her reign as a political tool by refusing to reveal her heirs. In the end, this proved to be a successful tactic for domestic and international identity.

4. Her rumoured last words were…

There are several reports of Elizabeth’s claimed final words, including the heartbreaking sentence “All my possessions for one moment of time.”

5. She refused to rest and stood for hours upon hours

Elizabeth I of England's Death: Mysteries and Stories

Formerly attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

She would not take a break and remained standing for many hours. The old queen would not go to sleep despite repeated attempts from her attendants; perhaps she was regretting her ultimate fate. As a result of their growing anxiety, the queen’s women eventually put pillows on the floor of her bed chamber for the queen to use as seating, should she choose to do so. The queen experienced confusion and disarray during these uneasy final days as a result of her grief and guilt over the death of her late cousin Mary Queen of Scots.

6. Elizabeth chose James VI as her successor 

Elizabeth I of England's Death: Mysteries and Stories

Attributed to John de Critz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

James VI of Scotland was picked as Elizabeth I’s successor in a deliberate move that took into account political and religious factors. There was a succession problem as Elizabeth’s reign came to an end. She considered several candidates because she didn’t have a direct heir of her own.

Her cousin Mary Queen of Scots’ son James VI, who became a leading candidate, popped up. James was viewed by Elizabeth as a Protestant king who could uphold stability in England while carrying out her plans. James was more well-liked by the English nobility since he had shown political skill and had been raised as a Protestant.

7. Elizabeth refused permission for a post-mortem to be conducted

It’s still up for debate what exactly caused Elizabeth to pass away. Elizabeth refused to allow a post-mortem to be performed prior to passing away, therefore there would always be a question as to how she passed away. There are a few theories, though.

According to some, she may have suffered blood poisoning as a result of using “Venetian Ceruse,” a lead-based cosmetic sometimes known as “the spirits of Saturn.” 31 years after Elizabeth’s passing, this chemical was found to be poisonous. Pneumonia, streptococcus (infected tonsils), and cancer are some of the other suggested causes of mortality.

Elizabeth’s coronation ring had nearly integrated into her flesh by the time she passed away. This was a result of the fact that she never had it taken out during the 45 years she was in power. Elizabeth died a week later when her physicians ordered that the ring be taken off.

8. Elizabeth I died in Richmond Palace

Elizabeth I of England's Death: Mysteries and Stories

Patche99z, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth I passed away at Richmond Palace. She had an inch of makeup on her face at the time of her death, according to reports. She had already lost the majority of her teeth, had hair loss, and resisted getting dressed and showering.

9. She had a lavish funeral ceremony

Elizabeth’s embalmed body was protected in Whitehall Palace for three weeks before being buried on April 28, 1603, in a lavish funeral service.

A large crowd gathered to observe the funeral procession through London. The names of individuals in the procession, which was reported to include the lowest members of the royal household, are mentioned in various elegies penned during this period (including the maker of spice bags, wine porters, and scullery maids). A replica of Elizabeth I was placed on top of her lead casket at the funeral. The figure was so lifelike and dressed in royal clothes that it caused mourners to gasp.

10. Elizabeth I is buried in Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey Night.jpg JeyHan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Westminster Abbey is where the queen was buried. Her body was initially buried in her grandfather King Henry VII’s vault. But in 1606, Elizabeth’s body was moved to the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey and buried beneath a statue of her that King James I had constructed. There is a monument honouring Mary, Queen of Scots. The grave of Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary I is also in the same vault. 

Elizabeth I of England’s death brought up a number of mysteries and stories that are quite intriguing. There’s no doubt that  Elizabeth’s death left a mysterious legacy that has remained to date, from the mystery surrounding the reason for her death to the myths and stories that developed in the wake of it.

Also, the succession crisis brought about by her passing set the way for a new period to begin under James VI of Scotland, who would later become James I of England. Although there are still many unanswered questions regarding her final days, Elizabeth I’s influence on English history and her reign as the “Virgin Queen” continue to be very key in England’s history.