April 13, 2013

(Giveaway) Was Elizabeth I a Woman Hater? by Sandra Byrd

We welcome Sandra Byrd to HF-Connection with covetous delight as we swoon over the bling being given away! Thank you to Sandra for offering the prizes to go with the following article on our beloved Queen Elizabeth:

Was Elizabeth I a Woman Hater? 
Sandra Byrd

There has long been an “urban rumor” that Elizabeth Tudor hated other women. It’s true that she was a female monarch in a time which greatly preferred sovereign men. {Note the extent to which her father, Henry VIII, extended himself to get a male heir, as well as the contents of John Knox’s much-circulated pamphlet, “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women,” which railed against sitting queens and regents of the era.} Elizabeth didn't forestall imprisoning women for long periods of time, such as her Grey cousins and Mary Queen of Scots, when she felt they threatened her throne, which admittedly may have seemed unfeminine and harsh.

Because of her ruling position, Queen Elizabeth was never really able to be an equal companion with anyone. William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, who dedicated his life to her service, once said the queen was “more than a man and, in truth, something less than a woman.” And yet, perhaps that was a man's perspective, or one man's perspective of a woman with power. Elizabeth knew how to dress like a woman, flirt like a woman, fall in love like a woman, and there were certainly women who were in every sense her lifelong friends.

Take for example, Katherine Carey Knollys, daughter of Mary Boleyn. Shortly after Elizabeth became queen, she installed this cousin as Chief Lady of the Bedchamber and kept her close at hand, perhaps to the detriment of Knollys family, till the day Lady Knollys died.

Katherine “Kat” Ashley and Blanche Parry stayed with Elizabeth from her childhood until each woman died. Because Elizabeth was deprived of her own mother as a young girl, Ashley and Parry became surrogate mothers to her. Ashley spoke bluntly to Elizabeth when no one else dared, and Parry continued on in Elizabeth’s household in positions of honor and affection long past her abilities warranted them.

Anne Russell Dudley married Lord Ambrose Dudley, the brother of Elizabeth’s longtime love, Robert, and became the Countess of Warwick. But even before then, Anne served Elizabeth as a maid of honor. They became great friends, and Anne stayed by her mistress’ side until Elizabeth died in 1603.

Catherine Carey, the Countess of Nottingham, was the eldest daughter of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, Mary Boleyn’s son and therefore a cousin to Elizabeth; she died shortly before Elizabeth did, and it was said that her death was the loss Elizabeth was unable to bear, eventually leading to the queen's lack of will to live.

And then in 1566, Elin von Snakenborg came from Sweden to England. The queen intervened, unusually, with another monarch in order to allow Elin to remain in England. Elizabeth, as famous for counting her pennies as her grandfather Henry VII, atypically awarded rooms, a servant, and a horse to Elin (later Helena) within months of her arrival. Throughout her service, Helena was known as someone who couldn’t be bribed. She became a great friend of the queen and the highest ranking woman in England after Elizabeth, though that friendship was tested perhaps more than many of the queen's confidantes.

But what about all those women Elizabeth is supposed to have precluded from getting married, insisting that they remain virgins like herself? There is no doubt that from time to time Elizabeth expressed, sometimes forcefully, her preference that her ladies not marry. Anne Somerset, in her biography, Elizabeth I, states, “The Queen's opposition to her ladies marrying stemmed from more than mere jealousy that they should attain contentment of a sort that she would never know. Although she occasionally lamented her spinsterhood, simultaneously she entertained an altogether contradictory conviction that matrimony was an undesirable condition for women, a view not altogether surprising when one recalls that her father had executed her mother and stepmother, and the marriage of her sister had been a fiasco. It may well have been her early experience that instilled in her that instinctive aversion to the married state.”

While the Queen clearly enjoyed her power, she perhaps also keenly felt the loss of the kind of social and emotional intimacy that all people, and especially women, desire in a family. And yet she had no mother or father, no siblings, no husband, no children and her (Tudor) cousins all had claim to her throne. Historian and author Antonia Fraser said, “Her [Elizabeth’s] household resembled a large family, often on the move between residences, and as a family it had its feuds when factions formed around strong personalities. It was not out of malice that Elizabeth opposed her maids of honors’ plans to marry, but because marriages broke up her own family circle.”

The queen did, sometimes, help them to marry and marry well. Somerset says, “She (Elizabeth) could point out in the course of her reign no less than 13 of her maids of honor contracted prestigious marriages within the peerage, and this might seem to justify her claim that it was only unsuitable matches of which she disapproved.” The trick, of course, is that one never knew if the queen would approve or not. The consequences of the latter could be severe and long lasting.

On the whole, though, it certainly cannot be proved that Elizabeth Tudor hated women; in fact, the handful of long term, devoted friendships we know about prove otherwise. She gifted those women with rents, properties, perquisites, trust, affection, gowns and jewels, and emotional intimacy. Oxford University historian Susan Doran states in her book, Queen Elizabeth I, “It should also not be forgotten how loyal and gracious she could be to her intimates and that the turnover of her household was very low. The majority of women served until death or severe illness intervened.”

April 9, 2013
Elizabeth Tudor bling!

Giveaway of beautiful Elizabeth I necklace!

Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd (book 3 in Ladies In Waiting)
In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between an unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.

Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.

One lucky follower of HF-Connection will receive a copy of Sandra Byrd's Roses Have Thorns AND the necklace shown above featured a favorite Tudor icon of Elizabeth I. Please enter via the Rafflecopter form and follow the prompts. Offer valid to USA only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Very interesting. I've never read much on her, but her story sounds quite intriguing. Thank you for sharing and God bless.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful historical info, Sandra! I really enjoyed it! I have loved history, including those dry boring dates, since I was very small and love to soak up any new historical tidbits I can.
    What made you choose Queen Elizabeth I for this book?
    Jasmine A.

  3. Thanks for the history lesson - it is always so great to learn more. One of the reasons why I enjoy historical fiction so much :)
    God bless

  4. I love reading about the Tudors they've always been a fascination to me and as a history major I always like to read on different points of views regarding the characters and the period and the primary sources. I would love to take this copy home just because Elizabeth I happens to be one of my favorite Queens in European history. My question is what first drew you to this period and has your view of the characters changed through time?

  5. Thank you for the interesting post on Queen Elizabeth I, Sandra~ I love UK History and I look forward to reading your Lady in Waiting Series ~ Happy Reading and Writing~ Cheers~ Elizabeth

  6. Ahhh, more complexity to my favorite person in history, Queen Elizabeth I. It is rather unfair to claim she didn't like women but I think it is something many women in power, not just in the past but now, have to endure. It does raise the question if this perception comes from men or from women?

  7. Very interesting post on Elizabeth!! I learned quite a bit and always thought it was interesting that she preferred her ladies not marry. Thanks for the great post!

  8. This was a very interesting post. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

    Sandra who is your favorite person in history?

  9. a definite add to my WishList!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!

  10. What is the most favorite thing you know about Elizabeth I and the least favorite?

  11. What was the key factor that encouraged you to write about Elizabeth I?


  12. Certainly an interesting hypothesis and you are much more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. Still I think the idea of Elizabeth as a woman hater is unlikely and probably just an enduring myth. Thanks for the thoughtful post and the giveaway.

  13. Thank you for the interesting post on Elizabeth I. she is definitely an intriguing person with many facets to her character.

  14. Hi guys,

    Sorry it's taken me a day to get back here. Hubs was doing yard work and I thought I'd better help rather than hide behind the computer. :)

    Jasmine, for some reason, I have always loved Elizabeth I. Maybe because I've liked Anne Boleyn so much, or maybe because she just made the best of a tough childhood to become a great leader. And her personal life had drama and romance, so what a package deal!

    Lady Shalott, I think the drama, danger, high stakes and deep personal relationships drew me to the period originally. If anything, after the research I've done, I admire the women of the period even more. They had very little power ascribed them by society, but were able to accomplish so much.

  15. I agree with you, dhhanni. History then was written mostly by men, and even Cecil, who loved her, said she was more than a man and less of a woman. I don't think they knew what to do with a powerful woman. But she clearly had female friends, as much as she could have had. In her position, there was no way to have a peer friend.

    Mamabunny, I love how smart and relational Elizabeth was, and how truly loyal. I admire how she pushed England into being a world power from the pieces left to her by her family. What I liked least was that, when stressed, she could have a very sharp temper and tongue. I'm glad I wasn't on the receiving end of that!

  16. Carol, Elizabeth just has it all for a novel subject. Smart, lots of personal drama, underdog, loyal, romance, high stakes, and personal sacrifice. She packed an amazing amount of life and accomplishment into her life!

    Carl, I agree with you. The loads of research I did indicate that she was not a woman hater at all, this is a myth, sadly, that persisted.

    Thank you, all, and especially you, Marie, for considering the book as a read. I hope you enjoy!

  17. Sandra, While I agree that Elizabeth was probably not a woman-hater in general, I think that she reserved her malice for those woman she regarded as her "rivals," not only for the throne (Grey sisters, Mary Stewart) but also for the men she considered as hers (Lettice Knollys, Bess Walsingham, etc.) I am looking forward to reading "Roses have Thorns" to see why Helena von Snakenborg apparently was a huge favorite!


  18. I agree with you, Denise. The trouble is that I think Elizabeth was "docked" for coming out strongly against political rivals, whereas a man may have looked at as merely being strong. Elizabeth did treat Mary Grey particularly poorly, but Katherine Grey made some choices that, in light of her sister's death for treason, might not have been very wise. And Mary Q of S was definitely plotting for Elizabeth's throne.

    One of my small conjectures, in the book, is that Elizabeth and Lettice were not only rivals for Dudley's affections, but earlier, for the affections of Lettice's mother, Katherine Carey Knollys. Elizabeth loved Lady Knollys, and kept her with her constantly, to the detriment of the Knollys family. While this was part and parcel of the time, it was a hardship for the Knollys family and I think may have added to the animosity. Anyway, let me know what you think after reading, and it's delightful to chat about this!

  19. This book looks wonderful! I love anything written about the Tudors, and your previous two novels were fantastic!!
    Thanks for having the giveaway!

  20. opps! I meant kohlert(at)mail(dot)gvsu(dot)edu

  21. Elizabeth I is one of my two favorite Tudor women, Anne Boleyn being the other. I really don't think she hated women, I think she hated men more. I so admire her for strength especially in a time when women literally had no place in a man's world, except to have sons.

    I also want to ask Sandra how and why she decided to write about the Tudor women for this series...Great article Sandra...as always...a fan.



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