I’ve always felt a certain affinity with Elizabeth I. One thing we have in common: our dads were both characters, who tied the knot a little more often than most. I partially attribute my obsession with marriage, and my reluctance to being made into an 'honest woman', to my father and I’ve always kind of assumed that Elizabeth, my sister from another mister, remained unmarried as a result of her father too.
‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived’
I have a tendency to overthink the details that others, probably rightly, overlook. The first time I heard the popular rhyme about the fate of Henry VIII’s wives, I wondered how it must have affected Elizabeth psychologically. I think I was eight. I imagined the whole scene like a courtroom drama with a young and angered Elizabeth, perhaps around the same age as me, staring out at her father as he tried to justify his actions from the dock. When I later saw portraits of her with this strange ornamental structure around her neck, it seemed obvious that the emotion scarring brought on by her mother’s beheading was making itself known through her sartorial choices.
The ruff, as we now of course know it, was new to fashion. I imagined all of her ladies-in-waiting whispering behind her back the day it got its first airing in court; word spreading like wildfire that the queen's new neck accessory was a psychological barrier, keeping the executioner's axe at bay. Putting Henry to one side, Elizabeth had, of course, for all her royal blood, been imprisoned by her sister after her father's death, so you could reason that this elaborate disc with all of its lace and starch was not so absurd. And those around her hastily adopted the look as well. Their logic was not to be faulted either, for she may have made a point of ending her family line, but she was definitively a Tudor. She did not suffer fools gladly and racked up her own head count from those who crossed her.
I have now broached this ruff theory with many people and it seems, unequivocally, that nobody else shares or has ever considered my conjecture. Perhaps if I applied Occam’s razor, I would find a simpler conclusion to the advent of the ruff, but for the me of now, and the me aged eight, the evidence is compelling. Court adjourned.