On this day - 24th Mar 1603 & 1953: Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary died

The 24th March marks two regal anniversaries. 412 years ago Queen Elizabeth I of England passed away and 350 years later in 1953, Queen Mary, wife of King George V, died. Although they lived in very different times, both women lived long and full lives, outliving many of their friends and family and when they died were sincerely mourned by heartbroken subjects. 

Funeral Elisabeth

Funeral of Queen Elizabeth I
 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Queen Mary’s death moved many of the gathered crowds to tears whilst many refused to believe the news of Queen Elizabeth’s. Their impact upon the country was immense and whether you love the royals or loathe them, you have to take your hats off to two pretty tremendous women. 

Now, I am a self confessed Tudor geek, I nearly fainted with excitement when I went to Hampton Court. No, seriously, just look.

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This being said it should come as no surprise that Elizabeth I is a bit of a heroine of mine. She ruled and was widely respected in a time when men ruled the world. She could easily have been cast aside or forced to marry, thereby losing power to her husband, but she held firm. The glorious Virgin Queen. Not that her reign was peaceful. Alongside several little rebellions on her own turf, an ongoing tiff with the Spaniards nearly lead to invasion in 1588 when the Spanish Armada sailed for England. Elizabeth herself rode out in battle speaking the immortal lines - “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and a King of England too” - it sends shivers down my spine every time. What it must feel like to command those words. 

Elizabeth I Rainbow Portrait

Queen Elizabeth I in the 'Rainbow Portrait' painted towards the end of her life
Isaac Oliver [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

She was magnificent. By 1603, however, she was fading. At 70 years old and having suffered the loss of all the men who had accompanied her through her life, Robert Dudley, William Cecil and Francis Walsingham to name but a few, Elizabeth was weakening. Her stubbornness to remain strong meant that she would not rest when advised and died perhaps months or years before she might have done. She was herself right to the end; independent, strong and fearless. A truly magnificent Queen and an icon amongst women. 

Elizabeth I in coronation robes

Queen Elizabeth I in her Coronation Robes and youthful splendour
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Research

Queen Mary, unlike Elizabeth, was a Queen consort (although she was Princess of Teck in her own right).  At 24 she was married to Prince George, who later became King George V, and became throughout her Royal life Duchess of York, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess of Wales, Queen, Empress, Queen Mother (twice) and finally Queen Grandmother (if that is a thing, I really hope it is, it sounds excellent!). She sounds pretty remarkable already, right? Added on top of this, Queen Mary guided her family and the nation through the First World War, the aftermath of the war and the vast political changes it entailed, the scandal of her son’s abdication (Edward VIII) and the Second World War. 

Photograph of Queen Mary

Queen Mary
By Grove & Boulton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Like Elizabeth, Mary was a strong figure and her keen sense of duty, her austerity and her resilience earned her the respect and unwavering love of the British public who mourned her passing with real sincerity. She behaved with dignity, grace and kindness for her whole life long. From remaining fiercely strong for her second son, Albert, when he was forced to take up the crown after Edward’s abdication, or offering lifts to soldiers in her car during the Second World War, Queen Mary was always one for doing the right thing. 

Queen Mary in Garter Ceremonial Robes

Queen Mary
By Sir William Samuel Henry Llewellyn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Both of these remarkable women are worth remembering, for their own actions, sense of duty and characters but also for the eras in which they both lived. By looking to the past and to great women who have lived in the past we may glean something for our own lives today. We can see from Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary the very great amount that can be done in a life. The events that are seen and participated in and the great amount of good that can be done when someone is inspired by such a sense of duty. In the world we live in today, too many people are absorbed in their own little spheres. Prisoners to devices that are becoming smarter than they are. Perhaps it might be worth looking beyond the screens every now and again, and being inspired by two woman who gave their lives to public service. Now get off your phone and chat to the person next to you! You never know what a simple ‘Hello’ might mean to them. 

© Isla Robertson 2017