Graduate student contribution

Elizabeth I’s Relationship with London

Born the second daughter and second child to the infamous Henry VIII, Elizabeth Tudor would emerge in historical discourse as a formidable figure, an icon, and an enigma. Growing up, Elizabeth was always in the background, shadowed by her father. Yet she was always observant, and respected her place in the line of succession. These facets of her personality are evident in the Latin translations that she gave as gifts to her father and siblings, all the while patiently biding her time until she could emerge from the shadows and take her place as England’s Gloriana.1
The relationship between Elizabeth and the city of London started years before her accession to the throne in 1558: it began even before her birth, as historian Hester Lee-Jeffries argues, starting with her mother’s May 1533 ceremonial procession into the cities of London when she was five months pregnant with Elizabeth (Lee-Jeffries 2).2 The term cities of London refers to the fact that early modern London was comprised of many distinct areas that collectively made up the greater city. In order to understand the unique and interesting relationship between Elizabeth and the city of London, we need to understand the nature and persona of Elizabeth. From a very early age she was in London frequently, as her parents, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, initially rejoiced in her birth. The city held festivals and celebrations in honour of the new princess. On the day of Elizabeth’s christening, 10 September 1533, all of London rejoiced. The procession of a great many people would have been quite a sight, adding to the magnificence of the occasion: Upon the daie, the Maior Gap in transcription. Reason: (DN)[…] and all the Aldermen in scarlet Gap in transcription. Reason: (DN)[…] and all the Councell of the Cittie Gap in transcription. Reason: (DN)[…] took their barge at one of the clocke; and the Citizens had another barge, and so rowed to Greenwich (Nichols 68). Additionally, Elizabeth was paraded around London as a baby in Greenwich, Whitehall, and Hampton Court at the insistence of her mother, who tried to garner favour and legitimacy with the people by way of her daughter (Dunlop 38-39). Elizabeth would frequently come back to London throughout the reigns of her brother, Edward VI, and sister, Mary I, the latter of whom ultimately imprisoned Elizabeth in the Tower of London on suspicion of treason. Upon reaching the doors of the Tower on the day she was imprisoned, Princess Elizabeth remarked, Oh Lord, I never thought to have come here as a prisoner (Porter 311)—a statement that provides some insight into how she viewed her relationship not only with the Tower, but also with the city as a whole on a personal and royal level.
On 17 November 1558, Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, died at the Palace of St. James.3 By proclamation of the Lords and Commons, Elizabeth acceded to the throne. From that moment, she began the process of fashioning herself as England’s strong and intelligent next monarch. This was clear at her first accession council at Hatfield House, her childhood home in Hertfordshire, where she defined her role and that of those around her: I shall desire yow all my Lordes (chiefly yow of the nobility, every one in his degree and power) to be assistant to me Gap in transcription. Reason: (DN)[…] I w[i]th my rulinge and yow w[i]th yo[ur] service (The National Archives, State Papers, Domestic 12/1, 7). In the days that followed, Elizabeth left Hatfield for the Tower of London, this time not as a prisoner but as the country and the city’s queen. Once there, she began preparing for the ceremonial procession that would take her through London to her coronation at Westminster on 14 January 1559. The unique relationship between London and its subjects and Queen Elizabeth is clearly portrayed through a contemporary account of the procession:
And entryng the citie [Elizabeth] was of the people receiued marueylous entierly, as appeared by thassemblie, prayers, wishes, welcomminges, cryes, tender woordes, and all other signes, whiche argue a wonderfull earnest loue of most obedient subiectes towarde theyr soueraigne. (The Queen’s Majesty’s Passage A2r)
It is important to understand this early connection and acquaintance between London and Elizabeth, as it gave her a sense of comfort and familiarity with the city that would last a lifetime.
Elizabeth’s dynamic persona was partly established by the fact that she made herself accessible to her subjects through royal progresses and public processions.4 With the Tudors, royal progresses contained extravagant displays of royal riches and pageantry, magnificence, and grandeur. At the very heart of these royal progresses and processions was the flourishing city of London. Progresses allowed Elizabeth to publicly assert an image as a powerful ruler. She utilized progresses and processions to exercise authority in a world that was increasingly dominated by her council and court. It was a time when her travels inspired and spread images of royal sacred governance embodied in a female ruler even as the dislocation of her court reminded everyone in its orbit who was at its center (Hill Cole 19). These progresses occurred for a number of reasons ranging from festival cycles (Hill Cole 19), to changes in seasons and weather to avoid the threat of the dangerous conditions resulting from the plague or disease, to addressing political and religious issues throughout her kingdom. The plague and threat of disease was important within the context of London’s history and to that of the monarchy. With overpopulation and crowding (during Elizabeth’s reign, London’s population increased dramatically), the spread of disease and the plague was rampant during the summer months. In order to avoid falling ill, Elizabeth would remove from London to protect herself against the threat. Most of the summer progresses away from London held a dual purpose—to avoid health threats and to deal with the political and religious issues arising in the realm.
Regardless of the plague, London was the epicentre of the political machine of Elizabethan England. In the reign of Elizabeth, London was on the route of educational tours (Picard xiv), and this meant that it hosted important European nobles, aristocrats, and ambassadors, who came to learn about not just the nation of England but also about Elizabethan court life. Moreover, Elizabeth had several palaces in London that she frequented during her reign: Richmond, Whitehall, Hampton Court, Westminster, Nonsuch, Greenwich, St. James, and the Tower of London. She would often move among them to receive important diplomatic guests such as the Duke of Montmorency at Whitehall in 1559 and Henry Romelius, the Danish ambassador at Greenwich in 1584 (Dunlop 52, 61). At times, Elizabeth’s royal progresses moved within London to other sites along the Thames, as was the case when she visited the Earl of Sussex in 1567 at his London home, Bermondsey House, or when she visited her friend, the Countess of Pembroke, at Baynard’s Castle in 1575 (Picard 8).
During her long reign, Elizabeth developed a symbiotic relationship with London. The city depended on the royal presence not just for revenue but for prestige and economic opportunities. Elizabeth’s monarchial stability relied on the allegiance and loyalty of the subjects and citizens of London. The city of London offered the monarch access to its citizens during displays of magnificence, virtues, and dialogue. This dialogue was facilitated through the petitions and responses to various affairs of state, from the religious settlements to the relief of the poor. The city also offered a geographical incentive and provided Elizabeth with easy travel that maximized her visibility. The River Thames, for example, provided a course not only between royal palaces, but also presented the Queen with a processional route. Traveling along the Thames was never a quiet or simple affair and, each time the Queen travelled between the royal palaces, the church bellringers had to turn out to salute her with peal (Picard 12). Besides adding to the Queen’s royal magnificence, these river processions also gave economic opportunities and prosperity to the citizens of London, as the bellringers were paid to ring the bells of Her Majesty’s remove and to mend the bells that were in a constant state of repairs (Picard 12).
Elizabeth’s relationship with London spanned nearly seventy years and was one that was mutually beneficial in terms of royal patronage, prosperity, loyalty, legitimacy, and allegiance. Additionally, during Elizabeth’s long reign, she would come back to the city again and again because of the familiarity it provided from the earliest days of her childhood.


  1. With two siblings ahead of her in the line of succession, Edward VI and Mary, it was unlikely Elizabeth thought she would ever become queen. (KL)
  2. See Tudor Royal Progresses for more information. (KL)
  3. St. James’s Palace was also the site, some thirty years later, of Elizabeth’s residence when the news of the invading Spanish Armada reached her. It was from St. James that she would set out on 8 August 1588 to address the troops at Tilbury. (DN)
  4. A royal progress usually saw monarchs and their retinue travel from one place to another. This could be to places throughout the kingdom or between the royal palaces within London. A royal procession, in contrast, was a more formal event or occasion that involved a specific ordering of the political ranks. The two are often intertwined and are not mutually exclusive: a royal progress could turn into a royal procession upon entry to a civic centre. (DN)


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MLA citation

Neighbors, Dustin. Elizabeth I’s Relationship with London. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Neighbors, Dustin. Elizabeth I’s Relationship with London. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Neighbors, D. 2022. Elizabeth I’s Relationship with London. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

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Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
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T1  - Elizabeth I’s Relationship with London
T2  - The Map of Early Modern London
ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
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TEI citation

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