Elizabeth was born in Greenwich on 7 September 1533, the only daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. As Tudor queen of England and Ireland, nicknamed the 'Virgin Queen' and 'Gloriana', she overcame many challenges and threats at home and from abroad to reign supreme during the 'golden age' of English history.
If it were the story of Mary instead of that of Elizabeth that we were following, we should have now to pause and draw a very melancholy picture of the scenes which darkened the close of the queen’s unfortunate and unhappy history. Mary loved her husband, but she could not secure his love in return. He treated her with supercilious coldness and neglect, and evinced, from time to time, a degree of interest in other ladies which awakened her jealousy and anger. Of all the terrible convulsions to which the human soul is subject, there is not one which agitates it more deeply than the tumult of feeling produced by the mingling of resentment and love. Such a mingling, or, rather, such a conflict, between passions apparently inconsistent with each other, is generally considered not possible by those who have never experienced it. But it is possible. It is possible to be stung with a sense of the ingratitude, and selfishness, and cruelty of an object, which, after all, the heart will persist in clinging to with the fondest affection. Vexation and anger, a burning sense of injury, and desire for revenge, on the one hand, and feelings of love, resistless and uncontrollable, and bearing, in their turn, all before them, alternately get possession of the soul, harrowing and devastating it in their awful conflict, and even sometimes reigning over it, for a time, in a temporary but dreadful calm, like that of two wrestlers who pause a moment, exhausted in a mortal combat, but grappling each other with deadly energy all the time, while they are taking breath for a renewal of the conflict. Queen Mary, in one of these paroxysms, seized a portrait of her husband and tore it into shreds. The reader, who has his or her experience in affairs of the heart yet to come, will say, perhaps, her love for him then must have been all gone. No; it was at its height. We do not tear the portraits of those who are indifferent to us.
At the beginning of her reign, and, in fact, during all the previous periods of her life, Mary had been an honest and conscientious Catholic. She undoubtedly truly believed that the Christian Church ought to be banded together in one great communion, with the Pope of Rome as its spiritual head, and that her father had broken away from this communion—which was, in fact, strictly true—merely to obtain a pretext for getting released from her mother. How natural, under such circumstances, that she should have desired to return. She commenced, immediately on her accession, a course of measures to bring the nation back to the Roman Catholic communion. She managed very prudently and cautiously at first—especially while the affair of her marriage was pending—seemingly very desirous of doing nothing to exasperate those who were of the Protestant faith, or even to awaken their opposition. After she was married, however, her desire to please her Catholic husband, and his widely-extended and influential circle of Catholic friends on the Continent, made her more eager to press forward the work of putting down the Reformation in England; and as her marriage was now effected, she was less concerned about the consequences of any opposition which she might excite. Then, besides, her temper, never very sweet, was sadly soured by her husband’s treatment of her. She vented her ill will upon those who would not yield to her wishes in respect to their religious faith. She caused more and more severe laws to be passed, and enforced them by more and more severe penalties. The more she pressed these violent measures, the more the fortitude and resolution of those who suffered from them were aroused. And, on the other hand, the more they resisted, the more determined she became that she would compel them to submit. She went on from one mode of coercion to another, until she reached the last possible point, and inflicted the most dreadful physical suffering which it is possible for man to inflict upon his fellow-man.