8. MYTH: The ‘Virgin Queen’ had at least one secret, illegitimate child, probably fathered by her cousin and one true love, the Earl of Leicester
Even now, many people refuse to accept that Elizabeth I was happy without the love of a man. Ever since she was a young lady, rumors concerning her love life – and, indeed, sex life – have abounded. And, according to some, not only did Elizabeth not die a ‘virgin Queen’, she even had a child out of wedlock. Moreover, she conspired to keep the illegitimate son or daughter a secret all her life. Above all, it’s alleged that her close friendship with her cousin Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, had produced a child.
Upon her coronation, Elizabeth argued that having children would just be a distraction. She said: “Do not upbraid me with miserable lack of children, for every one of you, and as many as are Englishmen, are children and kinsmen to me.” But more compellingly, most historians agree that it would have been almost impossible to keep any pregnancy secret. Elizabeth lived her life in a bubble, with no real privacy. What’s more, it’s believed the King of Spain – a Catholic keen to undermine Protestant Elizabeth any way possible – had spies in the English court, including maids who would check the royal bed sheets to ensure the monarch was menstruating.