The Succession and Foreign Policy

Simon Adams looks at the close connections between Elizabeth’s ascendancy, her religion and her ensuing relationships with the states of Europe.

‘She is a very prudent and accomplished princess, who has been well educated, she plays all sorts of instruments and speaks several languages (even Latin) extremely well. Good-natured and quick spirited, she is a woman who loves justice greatly and does not impose on her subjects. She was good-looking in her youth, but she is also tight-fisted to the point of avarice, easily angered and above all very jealous of her sovereignty.’

This assessment of Elizabeth I was made in the introductory discours to his collected papers by Guillaume de d’Aubespine, Baron de Châteauneuf, ambassador from Henry III of France between 1585 and 1590. Given that Châteauneuf’s embassy had involved him in the diplomatic nightmare of the trial and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, it was a remarkably charitable description. But it was not untypical of the respect and even admiration in which Elizabeth was held by French ambassadors to her court.

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