"Queen Elizabeth I" ("The Ditchley portrait"), ca. 1592, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
It was the most anticipated birth in Tudor history: the one that would reward Henry VIII for dismantling a 20-year marriage, blowing up England’s relationship with Catholicism, and creating the Church of England. But his long-awaited son turned out to be a girl. No one could have imagined that baby would grow up to be the longest-reigning Tudor monarch, and the queen who would change the history of England and the world.
Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger leads a journey through the life and reign of Elizabeth I. She explores the impact of Elizabeth’s childhood and early experiences, how she dealt with challenges to her throne, the ways she navigated England’s changing place in Europe, her most important relationships, and the reasons this monarch left such a lasting mark through the centuries.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Preparing for Greatness
As a child, Elizabeth was a disappointment from the minute of her birth. As a young woman, she lived out of favor during her father’s reign, under suspicion during her brother’s, and in the Tower of London during that of her sister. Through all this, Elizabeth dedicated herself to her studies and developed the tenacity and spirit she would need to ascend to the throne of England at age 25.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Remaking the Monarchy
A woman’s rule was declared “monstrous” in Tudor times. Monarchs were considered to have two bodies—the personal and the political. But a queen’s physical body was considered inadequate to the political role she played. How did Elizabeth manage to bring these bodies together? She resisted the expectation she would marry and come under the guidance of a husband. Instead, she forged her own path as a ruling queen and broke the royal glass ceiling by declaring she had the “heart and stomach of a king.”
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. Navigating Court and Courtiers
Elizabeth was the very heart of her nation, surrounded by suitors and courtiers, powerful men and women at court and around the world. As an unmarried queen, she relied on her wits and her sexuality to lead the men who considered themselves better suited to lead than follow. From long-time favorite Robert Dudley to suitors from abroad, and from steady statesman William Cecil to the flamboyant Robert Devereux, Elizabeth had to play her games at court to win.
3–4:15 p.m. Becoming Gloriana
Elizabeth’s journey ends in glory, but she was tested endlessly along the way. How did she respond to ongoing threats to her throne and her life? Who was the woman beneath the makeup, the wigs, the gowns, and the jewels? Elizabeth’s great legacy is that of a single woman, disinherited by her father and reviled by Catholics at home and abroad, who held the throne for more than four decades and became one of the most beloved monarchs of all time.
Lloyd-Stanger is former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
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Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)