History : Jul-Aug 2018
BONHAMS,LONDON/BRIDGEMAN/ACI THE WYATT PLOT of 1554—the year Mary I married the unpopular Philip of Spain—sought to overthrow Mary and replace her with the Protestant Elizabeth. Having crushed the conspiracy, Mary flung Elizabeth into the Tower of London. For two months her life hung in the balance until her interrogators, satisfied of her inno- cence, placed her under house arrest at Woodstock, near Oxford. PRINCESS IN PERIL DETAIL FROM ROBERT HILLINGFORD’S “PRINCESS ELIZABETH AT THE TOWER,” 19TH CENTURY Elizabeth and Philip—these two powerful peo- ple—would begin their relationship peacefully, even warmly, but they would become enemies, facing off in a battle of empires and faiths that would last until death. An Unlikely Queen The future Queen Elizabeth I was conceived in controversy, a beginning which perhaps forged her strength and skill. Her father, Henry VIII, divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and broke with the Catholic Church, to wed Anne Boleyn, who would bear Elizabeth. The birth did not please Elizabeth’s father, who had hoped for a son and heir. Anne Boleyn soon fell from fa- vor and lost her head, as Henry’s wandering eye sought a new queen, one who would give him a son. He eventually found one. When Henry’s son Edward was born, Eliza- beth became third in line to the throne behind her new half brother and her older half sister, Mary, the Catholic daughter of Henry’s first marriage. After Henry died in 1547, Edward, age nine, succeeded him, but the young Protestant king’s reign was cut short by illness. Mary took the throne in 1553, to the delight of her Catholic subjects and the shock of Protestants. Through- out the religious turmoil of Henry’s reign, Mary had remained a devout Catholic, and now she sought a husband so that she could produce a Catholic heir for England. She found her match in the 27-year-old prince Philip of Spain, son of the Holy Roman Emperor and heir to the Spanish Empire. If the two produced a succes- sor, the Protestant Elizabeth would never take the throne. Mary’s pending marriage was unpopular, and in March 1554, English Protestants rebelled. They hoped to overthrow Mary and place the Protestant Elizabeth on the throne. The rebel- lion was quashed, the conspirators executed, and Elizabeth imprisoned. Claiming she had no involvement in the conspiracy, Elizabeth was nonetheless held in the Tower of London for two NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 59 FINE ART/GETTY IMAGES THE FUTURE QUEENS FLANKING KING HENRY VIII, ELIZABETH I (NEAR RIGHT) STANDS WITH MARY I AND HER HUSBAND, PHILIP II OF SPAIN (FAR LEFT), IN THIS 17TH-CENTURY ALLEGORY OF THE TUDOR SUCCESSION.