Is her mother's traumatic execution why Elizabeth I stayed single?

She was just two-years-old when her mother was taken from her and beheaded. Is that the real reason why the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I refused to marry?

  • Elizabeth I was still aged two when her mother Anne Boleyn was executed 
  • But Anne seems to have been a huge influence on Elizabeth as queen 
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Although Elizabeth I was still a toddler when her mother was put to death by Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn appears to have had a major influence on her daughter’s reign – and might even be responsible for her remaining single.

Speaking at the Hay literary festival, historian Tracey Borman suggested that the trauma of her mother’s execution is likely to have had a profound effect. 

Borman said: ‘[Elizabeth] was given to nervous fits, as they were described, and often stomach complaints. 

‘She had migraines. It was very obvious that she had been literally traumatised by her early history and, when she was pressed on the issue of marriage, she would become almost hysterical.’

While Queen Elizabeth I (pictured) was not yet three years old when her mother was executed, the influence of the event would stay with her for the rest of her life

Anne Boleyn (pictured), the second wife of Henry VIII was executed on May 19, 1536, on her husband’s orders

Elizabeth witnessed her father, Henry VIII (pictured), go through four more wives – each discarded wife serving as a reminder of her mother’s tragic fate

According to a Guardian report of the event, Borman, said the ‘popular myth’ that Elizabeth I did not think much of her mother,  could not be further from the truth.

Detailing how Elizabeth wore Anne’s iconic ‘A’ pendant in secret as she sat for a painting with her father and siblings, Borman said: ‘Elizabeth’s actions speak louder than words’.

Her refusal to marry ‘went beyond her politics’, Borman believes.

She added: ‘Anne had left an indelible mark on Elizabeth, physically as well as emotionally.’

Both Elizabeth and Anne were heavily influenced by  Marguerite of Navarre, the Princess of France, who introduced Boleyn to the feminist ideas of Christine de Pizan.

Christine de Pizan was a medieval writer who advocated for women’s equality. Her works included poetry and novels, as well as literary, political, and religious commentary.

In her later years, Elizabeth was also introduced to the work of Marguerite of Navarre through her stepmother Catherine Parr.

Pictured: The execution of Anne Boleyn after she was found guilty of adultery and was to be beheaded at the Tower of London

The trauma of losing her mother at a young age would have psychologically affected Elizabeth

Through her translation of one of Marguerite’s most famous works, the poem Miroir de l’âme pécheresse, Borman views this as ‘a real tribute to her late mother’. 

She believes the so-called Virgin Queen actually was a virgin: ‘She had come to equate sex with death from a very early age.’

Both women broke the mould for women in Britain at the time, as Anne’s work in reforming the country’s religious traditions provided the perfect starting point for Elizabeth’s 45-year reign without a husband.

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