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November 28, 1558 – Elizabeth I Takes Possession of the Tower

The White Tower at the Tower of London, from a stereoptic card c.1890-1910 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Elizabeth was at Hatfield on November 17 when Mary died (read my blog post about the event here). The members of sister’s Privy Council immediately repaired to her and began to sit and confer with her; it was an important part of the transfer of power. On November 23, Elizabeth began the progress to London – accompanied by the huge retinue of lords and ladies that had also come to wait on her. She took her time with this – she made sure to let people greet her and show their allegiance and celebrate with her! – but finally arrived in London on November 28 to take possession of the Tower – that ultimate symbol of royal authority.

On the one hand, this might seem like a small event in the story of her accession. On the other hand, it was a poignant moment in her life – and one that she had clearly thought about and prepared for as carefully as she prepared for the moment she heard the news of her elevation. After all, she had been imprisoned there in 1554 on suspicion of treason (that was when she wrote the Tide Letter, a must-read) – and had only narrowly escaped her own mother’s fate.

As she entered, she paused, and (to use Agnes Strickland’s words), “majestically addressed those about her”:

“Some have fallen from being princes of this land to be prisoners in this place; I am raised from being prisoner in this place to be prince of this land. That dejection was a work of God’s justice; this advancement is a work of His mercy: as they were to yield patience for the one, so I must bear myself to God thankful, and to men merciful, for the other.”

She then immediately went to her former prison apartment, “where she fell on her knees and offered up aloud an ex tempore prayer in which she compared herself to Daniel in the lion’s den.”

I’m going to stick with Agnes Strickland, since her words offer the perfect context for this: “Deeply had Elizabeth studied her métier du roi before she had an opportunity of rehearsing her part.” Clearly, the Gloriana myth began early…


Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, Volume VII


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November 28, 1558 - Elizabeth I Takes Possession of the Tower
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