MovieChat Forums > Elizabeth R (1972) Discussion > The real reason she never married and ha...

The real reason she never married and have any heirs?

I am still confused, even after watching this. Did she deliberately avoid marriage, or was it that she never found a "suitable" husband? Wouldn't the possibility of loss of the lineage prompt her to bear an heir? After all, she had a tenuous hold on the throne. For all her successes and shrewdness, this seems to be a flaw.


Both "The Lion's Cub" and "The Marriage Game" both show her fears. In her talk with Robert at the end of the second episode, she remembers the execution of her beloved stepmother Katherine Howard and is always under the shadow of her own mother's death. To her psychological traumatic viewpoint, marriage is the road to violent death. She refuses to be beholden to anyone but her people (and she knows how to keep that support). In "The Shadow of the Sun" we see her being pressured into marriage and bearing an heir, but when she comes close to it, she panics. Tenuous connection to the crown or not, she will never marry.


probably a combination of reasons. She had seen the difficulties that being a married queen regnant had caused to her sister and her cousin, Mary, queen of Scots. it was difficult to find a suitable husband. the man she was probably most attracted to, Robert Dudley, was a subject, and then of course there was that terrible scandal about his wife's death. With royal suitors there were other problems, like them being catholic etc. And she was reluctant to share power 'i will have in this realm but one mistress and no master' she said on one occasion.


Some of the most often-quoted characterisations of Leicester, such as that he "was wont to put up all his passions in his pocket", his nickname of "the Gypsy", and Elizabeth's "I will have here but one mistress and no master"-reprimand to him, were contributed by Sir Henry Wotton and Sir Robert Naunton almost half a century after the Earl's death. Source:,_1st_Earl_of_Leicester#cite_note-268

...In other words, that classic line may be complete fiction by Naunton, or it may be late Elizabethan hearsay that Wotton, born in 1563 and acquainted with the unfortunate Earl of Essex, passed on to Naunton.

"I don't deduce, I observe."


She didn't deliberately avoid marriage so much as use it as a political pawn to keep England safe and make alliances.

There were plenty of what that time would have considered suitable husbands, but remember the misogyny of the age. Queens don't rule. Only Kings do. So once Elizabeth married she would no longer rule England, her husband would.

She came pretty close a time or two but her anxiety couldn't bring her to follow through.

Considering all that she experienced growing up, would any woman in her right mind marry when in her mind it equals death at the hands of her husband? Her husband could have her killed and then take another wife for queen. Her Father did, many times. Or she could even die in childbirth as her stepmother did.

She used marriage as a carrot but no, I doubt she could ever bring herself to marry.

As to an heir, once Mary had James VI of Scotland, he would be heir and eventually did become James I of England.


I think the real reason is emotional and political.

With her background and having seen such nastiness in regards to marriage, it is not surprising she would be turned off by marriage.

She was almost a pawn when Seymour attempted to marry her and declare her Queen. Her mother and step-mothers were all disposed of, even though they were once loved by the King. She was very lucky to escape these situations.

She never married, so as to be controlled by a husband who can then seize everything she fought for. She is her own boss. There's no incentive for her to share her power with anyone.

As for not having an heir or naming a successor, some historians say that Elizabeth was indecisive and mercurial. Perhaps she was. But I think her motivation was actually highly astute and brilliant.

She learned a valuable lesson during Mary's reign that conspirators are constantly looking for figureheads to prop up as rulers. If there were no named successors, no one can rally support for those successors and overthrow her. Thus, her position would remain intact.


We will never know the reason, though I suspect there were many, that she changed her mind many times, that diplomacy played a part, that she had deeply personal reasons, too. There are indications that she felt lonely, particularly in the attachments she formed with Dudley and his adoptive son. But above all, she was a shrewd political creature and played the game brilliantly and with a great deal of improvisation as her role in England was unprecedented.