Compare and Contrast Essay: Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots In “Mary, Queen of Scots” and “Elizabeth l”, there are two powerful women being displayed during a time of male dominance not only in the throne but also in wielding of power. Elizabeth was the queen of England and had not married, leaving her alone in the throne with much power for a queen, which she liked. She wanted to show that women could be powerful leaders as well. Mary on the other acceded to the throne of Scotland after her father died when she was only 6 days old. Mary and Elizabeth I were cousins so they did have some blood flowing between them.
Between Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, there were some similarities and differences, albeit more differences. Not only were they both women, but because Elizabeth never married and had a child, her and Mary both had a shot at the throne of England. Even though Elizabeth had priority of the throne if she would have died, Mary could have easily claimed the throne. They both exchanged letters, with Elizabeth sending one to Mary first 1567 and the following year Mary responded. They both placed emphasis on two topics in this time, religion and gender.
Mary was Catholic and Elizabeth was Protestant and they were both omen. For most of the 15th century there were disputes on succession in England. After a civil war called the War of Roses ended the Tudor family emerged as the rulers of England. King Henry VIII ,a tudor, obsessed over producing a male heir and when through 3 wives before he finally produced a male child named Edward VI. However Edward died young. Elizabeth’s half- sister Mary I also died leaving Elizabeth as Henry VIII’s last child. So at age twenty-five Elizabeth ascended to the throne.
Elizabeth ,unlike her half-sister Mary I, was Protestant, so when she took over the throne, she made Protestantism the religion f the land. In Elizabeth’s letter to Mary she says, “I assure myself that there could be no one more loyal than myself, I offer you my affection in place of this prudence”(Elizabeth1 757). Elizabeth expresses some pity to Mary in this letter, after she hears about Lord Darnley’s death. If Elizabeth died childless, the Tudor line would come to an end. At age twenty-five she still hadn’t married and no one really knows if she ever planned to.
Her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots was the nearest heir, and that worried English Protestants because of Mary’s Catholic background and supported claim to France and the papacy. All Elizabeth had to do was marry and produce an heir, but she refused to. Throughout both of the texts, Elizabeth was targeted early in her reign, because of how easily Mary, Queen of Scots could have overtaken Elizabeth’s throne if something happened to her. That is why there were plans on ending Elizabeth to make way for someone like Mary. One key difference between the two was their religion.
Mary was Catholic and Elizabeth was protestant. Anti-Catholicism became central to English national and political life in the late sixteenth century in response to a particular problem” (McLaren, 2002, pg. 40). The problem was that protestant men were looking at a potential female succession, and at this time that is something that wanted to be prevented. Protestant councilors were aware that because of Elizabeth’s failure to produced a male heir, Mary was next in line and they didn’t want, “a nightmare vision of a world turned permanently upside down, feminized and Catholic”(McLaren,2002,pg. 740). So at this time it is clear that religion and gender played a big role.
Not only were protestant men worried that Elizabeth would not produce male heir, but that her successor would not only be a female but lso Catholic. Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle, because of a scandalous marriage that involved the murdering of her secretary and then Lord Darnley. She soon escaped and fled to England, where she seeked the help of her cousin Elizabeth. In that same year Mary had responded to Elizabeth’s letter. “I, feeling myself innocent, and desirous to avoid the shedding of blood, placed myself in their hands, wishing to reform what was amiss”(Mary 741).
In Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s letter she defended herself against the claims that she murdered their cousin Darnley. The difference in their two etters is that Mary has to speak to her cousin Elizabeth a certain way because she’s the queen. The same way that Elizabeth talks to Mary in a way that lets the reader know she has more authority. “However, I exhort you, I counsel you, and I beseech you to take this thing so much to heart that you will not fear to touch even him whom you have nearest to you”(Elizabeth I 757).
This quote from Elizabeth’s letter to Mary, shows off Elizabeth’s authority with words such as beseech and exhort being used to sort of straighten things up to Mary. Eventually after time passed with Mary being imprisoned,Elizabeth signed the death arrant and Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded on February 8, 1587. So following Mary’s execution, all the dispute over her potentially taking Elizabeth’s place was laid to rest and all eyes were on Elizabeth and on whether she would produce a much anticipated male heir.
However, Elizabeth strongly believed that she didn’t need to marry to be a successful ruler, so she didn’t and was a powerful ruler especially for a women. However, despite her success people were unhappy with her decisions and her gender. “Baffled by the Queen’s failure to see wisdom of their advice, Elizabeth’s advisers often expressed their rustration in the gendered, sometimes misogynistic language of their day”. (Doran,2003,pg. 32). Even her own advisers judge her differently just because she is a women, even with the power she holds with which gives you a good idea of how women were portrayed during this time.
While their differences were significant ones, notably religion, Mary and Elizabeth do share their similarities. It usually falls back to their gender but that is a crucial topic in a time where some queens were there to hold the throne down until a male heir took over. There were not really represented as important. People like Elizabeth and even Mary were viewed as important figures, especially Elizabeth who ruled for forty-four years. Mary did have importance to some. “Mary quickly became the focus for the aspirations of discontented Catholics at home and abroad”(Mary 737).
While Mary was imprisoned people such as Anthony Babington tried to make a plan where Mary would become queen because the Catholics knew she was there only hope of bringing catholicism back to England. They wanted her as their queen, which shows the influence Mary had on the Catholics. On the other hand, even more people looked up to Elizabeth because of what she as able to accomplish in her forty-four year tenure, which is impressive enough. “Elizabeth claimed the same prerogatives as her male predecessors, adopted the same visual imagery and mottos on her coinage, and participated in traditional royal rituals”(Doran, 2003,pg. 1).
So she really planned to rule alone by doing everything the men had did in the past , by adapting were it deemed necessary for a female monarch. These things Elizabeth did is what makes her known today as one of the greatest britons to ever live. One notable difference, especially at this time, was that Mary had married three people in her hole life which basically ended when she was around 25 and was imprisoned while Elizabeth in her 69 years of age never married once. How Mary’s marriages played out is probably supports why Elizabeth decided to never marry.
Mary’s first husband, Francis II of France was only married to her for 2 years before he died at the age of 16. She then proceeded to get married to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley which also only lasted 2 years before his death. Lastly she married James Hepburn,4th Earl of BothwelI. While this marriage did last 11 years it is still not sure whether she wanted to marry him. Catholics were not appy with the marriage because they believed it was unlawful how Bothwell handled his previous divorce.
Bothwell was also accused of murdering Mary’s husband Lord Darnley, which confused people on why she would marry him in the first place. Even though Bothwell kidnapped her and maybe even forced her to marry him. “The scandal of this marriage alienated many of her supporters and helped provoke an uprising of the Scottish nobility”(Mary 736-737). This is what led to her imprisonment in Lochleven Castle and then eventual escape to England. So knowing this it is well known that Mary, Queen of Scots did not have much success in any of her marriages.
Elizabeth possibly didn’t want all the drama that came with marriage, so she felt that ruling alone would be the best thing to do and it seems she made the right choice as history supports that. On top of their clear differences Mary and Elizabeth were also from two different royal houses. Mary was a Stuart while Elizabeth was a Tudor. The House of Tudor died along with Elizabeth I since she never married or produced a male heir. The House of Tudor did rule for 118 years which is a long time. It was of England origin. The House of Stuart did last significantly onger stretching from 1371-1807.
They were both dynasties, while Elizabeth did have a bigger impact on the House of Tudor than Mary did on the Stuarts because not only did the Tudors end with Elizabeth but she ruled 44 years ,while Mary barely ruled in the hundreds of years that the Stuarts were relevant. In conclusion, gender and religion clearly show how Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I go about their lives in different ways. While Mary, who was Catholic, tried to prosper in a time of Protestant rule in an odd succession scale, Elizabeth was holding the throne of England alone with no king, and was having profound success.
In ways their differences reflected the kind of person they were. Elizabeth who saw no point in marriage decided not to do it and it did not stop her from being a successful ruler. Mary, who never found success in things like marriage was held back and led her through a series of imprisonment. However, despite their differences they were both powerful women during a time ruled by men and with certain people questioning if a women could even rule. This shows the progression that was made involving women in these times and what could be accomplished as a female monarch which carried on through Elizabeth’s death.