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Queendom of Britain

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Arabella1

Arabella I, Queen of England

The March sun rises over London. Queen Elizabeth I is dead. She died in peaceful slumber after having ruled England for forty-four years and living until she was nearly seventy, a great feat for the time. Robert Cecil, the head of his late Queen's Privy Council, declares that Elizabeth I deceased on the 24th of March, 1603. The rest of the council meet and they declare the new monarch of England. They all fall to their knees in respect to Elizabeth, who is dead in front of them, and they then call out "The Queen is dead, Long live the Queen." And on that morning Arabella Stuart, the somewhat noteworthy English noblewoman, became Queen of England.

The Queendom of England centers around the 'what-if' scenario of more women inheriting the English, and later British crown. Starting with the death of James VI of Scotland in 1599, this Althist attempts to explore the effects of female presence in European and global politics in the emerging global age. Concepts like Feminism, women's rights, and perhaps even the concept of world peace and universal human rights could be forever altered.

Point of Divergence

The point of divergence is January 12, 1599. Elizabeth ruled England as she had done for the past forty one years. However, the Queen was aging, and with her most loyal advisor William Cecil recently dead, she was commonly found to be stressful and depressed. The current Privy council, a young and ambitious bunch born under the Queen, were desperate for her to name an heir. While it was almost obvious that she intended to name James VI of Scotland as an heir, the uncertainty bothered the councillors. As the Queen drew closer to naming James as the next King, tragedy shook Scotland to the core: James was dead.

At first it seemed like he died from smallpox, but as the weeks passed on, it became clear it was an assassination. An investigation later found Anne Borley, a Catholic and suspected witch, to be guilty of assassination. During her trial, she accused the dead King James VI of being insanely obsessed with witchcraft, publishing a book on it in 1597, and bringing up a rumor concerning the King overseeing the torture and execution of suspected withces. When the fiercely Protestant jury accused her of being apart of a Catholic plot, Anne responded with:

My religion was not the cause of my action, jurymen, but the true disdain for the fanatical King was my cause. A King such as he already meddled with the politics of Scotland badly just as his mother did, and if he assumed the English throne like that, doom would fall over the entire island.

Despite Anne Borley's glowering, dooming speech, the jury hanged her on August 1,1599. The throne was now safe for James' five year old son, Henry. By 1600, things had settled down in Scotland.

England's New Queen

The situation was much different in England. Elizabeth now had no one to proclaim as next in line to the English throne. Her councillors were adamant on not naming Henry of Scotland. In their eyes, he was far too young to be placed in both the Scottish and English courts. A solution seemed completely absent. However, even as the Queen approached death, she was still crafty, smart, and able to continually outwit her privy council. In May of 1600, the Queen addressed her council and finally announced her heir to the throne: Arabella Stuart, the  Anglo-Scottish Protestant noblewoman raised by her mother and grandmother and cousin of the buried and forgotten James. Arabella had frequented the English court in the past, but for the most part, encounters with Elizabeth and her government were seldom. Instead, she fancied living with her grandmother, the wealthy Bess of Hardwick, and furthering her own education in languages and music.

In 1601, Robert Cecil had sent letter to Arabella requesting her presence in London. Arabella, receiving the letter with puzzlement, decided to make the trek from Derby to London, accompanied by her eighty-year old grandmother. Upon reaching London, they were immediately greeted with cheerful Londoners and citizens. Arabella had already been named heiress by Elizabeth in a court meeting. She was now Princess Arabella of England. The months passed as Arabella settled into Whitehall Palace and reaccustomed herself to court life after nearly twenty years of absence. Meetings with the Queen were frequent, and Arabella maintained a high relationship with Elizabeth. Their relationship remained good even in the face of Bess of Hardwick's flashy court presence. 

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I, in a rare portrait depicting her human, aged features.

  In November of the same year, as Elizabeth's health continued to decline, she gave her final Parliamentary address. Princess Arabella was invited to watch as the Queen professed the utter love and respect she had for her people, and that no more loving of a monarch will ever sit upon her seat. 

For the next year and a half, Arabella attended numerous court functions and events, earning the respect of her agemates and courtiers. From April to October of 1602, Arabella was allowed visitation with Elizabeth's privy council, where she was caught up to date with England's economic and diplomatic state. The country was at war with Spain while simulataneously trying to put down both an economic recession, an untimely rebellion in Ireland, and attempting to uphold Dutch independence from the aformentioned Spanish foe. Arabella was, at first, overwhelmed with the thought of governing England, but as the months went on, she slowly grew accustomed to the ways of the Privy council, and that of English politics itself.

Arabella2

Portrait of Arabella I a year after her coronation, 1604.

  The day finally came when Elizabeth died. The reign of Gloriana had finally ended after four decades. Arabella was lodging in Richmond Palace where Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603, after being advised to maintain close proximity to Elizabeth. Minutes after Elizabeth died, councillors woke Arabella from her slumber in her Richmond apartment and told of her the news. As they bowed before her, they proclaimed her Queen of England. Third Queen regnant in a row, and the first Stuart monarch.

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