Queen Elizabeth I’s Death

During her reign, Elizabeth I became an icon to worship, the Protestant object of a “royal cult” intended, according to some critics, to “clash with and contest the Catholic worship of the Virgin Mary”. This cult emphasized her virginity and beauty: she was never seen without her whitened ‘mask of youth’.
Some historians believe she may have died of blood poisoning, caused by that mask, i.e. by the use of toxic makeup, since she exhibited various symptoms similar to those of lead poisoning, such as memory loss, nausea, irritability, fatigue, irritated skin, and loss of hair.
Others don’t agree and mention other causes including pneumonia, streptococcus, or cancer.
However, the cause of Elizabeth’s death remains a controversial topic, and forever shrouded in mystery, also because before her death, the queen refused permission to carry out a post-mortem.

Her death was certainly hastened by her ailing mental conditions: she suffered severely from depression and melancholy that led her to become isolated. In addition, many of her close friends were dying and she was devastated at the loss of these important figures, which furthered her isolation.

In the last months of her life, she had lost most of her teeth (the huge amounts of sugar combined with poor dental hygiene had already made them black and rotten), suffered from hair loss, did not want to be attended to and bathed, and, above all, she did not allow doctors to visit her.
In her last days Elizabeth refused even to rest and forced herself to stand for hours and hours. She believed that if she lay down, she would never rise again.
During this last period she became even more disarranged and disordered, with feelings of guilt and regret for the execution of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, and she began to be plagued by ghostly visions of people she had known.
It is said Elizabeth stood for fifteen hours straight, before collapsing to the floor which fortunately her worried ladies-in-waiting had covered with cushions, and she lay there unable to speak for four days before her servants finally managed to put her in bed.
It soon became apparent that the queen was dying, so she was begged to name her successor, which she did in a ‘gasping breath’ and with a hand gesture: it was to be James VI of Scotland. It was the end of the Tudor dynasty and the beginning of the Stuarts.

Finally, on 24 March 1603, the seventy-year-old queen passed away in Richmond Palace At the time of her death it was reported that she had a full inch of makeup on her face.
Her body was later transferred to a barge and taken downstream from Richmond to the Palace of Whitehall, where it was guarded for three weeks.
On 28 April, a little over one month after her death, Elizabeth’s body was conveyed to Westminster Abbey for burial in a grand and lavish funeral procession.

NOTE 1

Elizabeth Southwell, a lady-in-waiting, who wrote an account of Queen Elizabeth’s death reported that, towards the end of her life, the queen was haunted by visions of her frail body, and that a playing card with a nail through its head was found on the her chair. She also stated that she heard a loud ‘crack’ coming from the coffin: “her corpse was so full of noxious vapours that it exploded in her lead coffin.”

NOTE 2

Sixteen years after her death, playwright and poet Ben Jonson wrote that Elizabeth “never saw herself after she became old in a true glass”; according to this story, her servants painted her, and sometimes had fun by putting vermilion (a red paint) on her nose, knowing that she would never see it.

IMAGE

The so-called Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I is an allegorical painting by an unknown artist (formerly attributed to George Gower) made in the late 16th century and executed with the oil on panel technique. It depicts the Tudor queen surrounded by symbols of royal majesty against a backdrop representing the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
In the words of the Elizabethan philosopher Sir Francis Bacon, Elizabeth I imagined that the people, who are very much influenced by exteriority, would be distracted by the glitter of her jewels, from noticing the decay of her personal attractions.

Durante il suo regno, Elisabetta I divenne un’icona da adorare, l’oggetto protestante di un “culto regale” teso, secondo alcuni critici, a “scontrarsi con e contestare il culto cattolico della Vergine Maria”. Questo culto ne sottolineava la verginità e la bellezza: la regina non era mai vista senza la sua candida maschera di giovinezza’.
Alcuni storici ritengono potrebbe essere stata proprio quella maschera a portarla alla morte per avvelenamento del sangue, per l’uso continuo di trucco tossico, poiché mostrava vari sintomi simili a quelli dell’avvelenamento da piombo, come perdita di memoria, nausea, irritabilità, affaticamento, pelle irritata e perdita di capelli.
Altri non sono d’accordo e menzionano altre cause tra cui polmonite, streptococco o cancro.
Tuttavia, la causa della morte di Elisabetta rimane un argomento controverso e sarà per sempre avvolto nel mistero, anche perché prima di morire la regina rifiutò il permesso di effettuare un’autopsia sul suo cadavere.

La morte fu certamente accelerata dalle sue condizioni mentali: soffriva gravemente di depressione e malinconia che l’avevano portata ad isolarsi. Inoltre molti dei suoi amici più cari stavano morendo e la devastazione per la perdita di queste figure importanti non faceva che accrescere il suo isolamento

Negli ultimi mesi della sua vita. aveva perso la maggior parte dei denti (l’enorme quantità di zucchero abbinata a una scarsa igiene dentale, li aveva già da tempo resi neri e marci), soffriva di caduta dei capelli, non voleva essere accudita e lavata e, soprattutto, non permetteva ai medici di visitarla.
Nei suoi ultimi giorni Elisabetta si rifiutò persino di riposare e si costrinse a rimanere in piedi per ore e ore, poiché credeva che, se si fosse coricata, non si sarebbe mai più rialzata.
Durante quest’ultimo periodo divenne ancora più sciatta e disordinata, con sentimenti di colpa e rimpianto per l’esecuzione della cugina Maria Stuarda e iniziò ad essere tormentata da visioni spettrali di persone che aveva conosciuto.
Si dice che Elisabetta rimase in piedi per quindici ore di fila, prima di crollare sul pavimento che per fortuna le sue dame di compagnia, preoccupate, avevano ricoperto di cuscini, e vi rimase senza poter parlare per quattro giorni prima che i suoi domestici riuscissero finalmente a sistemarla nel letto.
Divenne presto evidente che la regina stava morendo, così le fu richiesto di nominare il suo successore, cosa che fece con un “respiro affannoso” e con un gesto della mano: Giacomo VI di Scozia. Finiva così  la dinastia dei Tudor e iniziava quella degli Stuart.

Alla fine, il 24 marzo 1603, la settantenne regina spirò al Palazzo di Richmond. Al momento della sua morte è stato riferito che avesse il viso coperto da un pollice (due centimetri e mezzo) di trucco.
Il suo corpo fu in seguito trasferito su una chiatta e portato da Richmond al Palazzo di Whitehall, dove venne presidiato per tre settimane.
Il 28 aprile, poco più di un mese dopo la sua morte, il corpo di Elisabetta fu trasportato all’Abbazia di Westminster per la sepoltura in una grande e sontuosa processione funebre.

NOTA 1

Elizabeth Southwell, una sua dama di compagnia che scrisse un resoconto della morte della regina Elisabetta. riferì che verso la fine della sua vita la regina era ossessionata dalla visione del suo fragile corpo e che sulla sua poltrona era stata trovata una carta da gioco con un chiodo che passava attraverso la testa. Narrò anche che si sentì un forte “crack” provenire dalla bara: “il suo cadavere era così pieno di vapori nocivi che esplose nella sua bara di piombo.”

NOTA 2

Sedici anni dopo la sua morte, il drammaturgo e poeta Ben Jonson scrisse che Elizabeth “non si è mai vista in un vero specchio dopo essere diventata vecchia”; secondo questa narrazione, i suoi servi la truccavano e talvolta si divertivano a metterle del rosso anche sul naso, sapendo che non l’avrebbe mai visto.

IMMAGINE

Il cosiddetto Ritratto dell’Armada è un dipinto allegorico di artista ignoto (già attribuito a George Gower realizzato nel tardo XVI secolo ed eseguito con la tecnica dell’olio su tela. Elisabetta I è circondata da simboli di maestà reale su uno sfondo che rappresenta la sconfitta dell’Armata spagnola nel 1588.
Nelle parole del filosofo elisabettiano Sir Francis Bacon, Elisabetta I immaginava che le persone, che sono molto influenzate dall’esteriorità, sarebbero state distratte dallo scintillio dei suoi gioielli, dal notare il decadimento delle sue attrattive personali.

64 thoughts on “Queen Elizabeth I’s Death

  1. Wow. Thank you so much, dear Luisa for making history so fabulous, and interesting. Queen Elizabeth’s death was so intriguing. Loved it. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Luisa ! Queen ELIZABETH-I appeared to be quite manic . With full one inch make up on her face , the toothless Queen died at the age of seventy or so . Perhaps she kept standing for more than fifteen hours daily ; so that her facial make up could not be erased . As her servants used to paint her face , they used to put some vermillion or other red colors on her nose as she never used to see her face in the mirror in the old age . Protestants started worshiping QUEEN ELIZABETH I as the Catholic used to worship Virgin Mary . All mysterious things are attached with this Lady Queen of England . One day she collapsed while standing as she used to stand for fifteen hours a day and for four days she remained senseless . It appears that the Queen Palace remained a Lunatic Asylum till Queen ELIZABETH-I was alive . And with her , Tudor Dynasty of England ended and the age of Stuart Dynasty started . If King or Queen becomes mad to this extent and endowed with sedentary culture , his or her Dynasty collapsed within no time . Thaks !

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Wow. Surely, she was most certainly touched by insanity and paranoia, to be so determined to present an image to the public that was only a mere perception of her reality. In many ways, this still goes on today, with idolized stars and personalities giving the people “what they want”. A sad existence to be sure. Thanks for telling the tale Luisa. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating. To die at the age of 70 back then, would have been a very long life. Interesting details about her death. I had read that she stood for hours because she had always thought she would die in bed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent post Luisa. So much information that I wasn’t aware of, and although I knew that her looks had gone into decline, I didn’t realise that at least some of it may have been due to her vanity in the first place with make-up that was possibly killing her. It’s fitting too that she is buried in Westminster Abbey’s Lady Chapel, as is her sister and Mary Queen of Scots.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post, as always! Loving the small, fine, almost irrelevant yet fascinating details of Queen Elizabeth’s I, life and death. Your vivid descriptions allow me to imagine what her terrible death scene must’ve been like. Thanks Luisa. Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Così potente e tanto sola, il suo trapasso dev’essere stato davvero straziante. Grazie Luisa per averci raccontato anche gli aspetti più nascosti di questa Regina che comunque sia è stata una grand3 donna!!! Buonanotte e un forte abbraccio 🥰😘

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