One thing I have noticed about the dialogue in Starz Becoming Elizabeth is the tendency to refer to Elizabeth as “Princess Elizabeth”, “princess”, “the princess” etc. It seem a logical choice – after all she is the daughter of a King – but is it accurate?
The short answer is no. When she was born in 1533, the daughter of ruling monarch Henry VIII and his wife Anne Boleyn, she was indeed known as Princess Elizabeth or “the Princess”. However, on 17 May 1536, the marriage between Henry and Anne was annulled – that is to say, it was declared null and void as if it had never happened. From this point, contemporary documents tend to refer to Elizabeth as “the Lady Elizabeth” just as Mary Tudor was “the Lady Mary”.
The annulment was confirmed in the Second Succession Act of July 1536. Elizabeth was no longer the legitimate child of Henry VIII, rather she was a bastard, and she was no longer in the line of succession. If Henry died without legitimate heirs by Jane Seymour or future wives then he could declare his heir in his will or by letters patent. The expectation was probably that he would declare his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, to be his heir not one of his daughters but Fitzroy died later that month.
The Third Act of Succession of 1543/44 restored Mary and Elizabeth of the line of succession behind Prince Edward. If Edward died without heirs then they could inherit the throne in turn. However, it did not reverse their illegitimacy. Elizabeth therefore continued to be referred to as “the Lady Elizabeth” or sometimes “the King’s sister the Lady Elizabeth”.
Check out the rest of my Becoming Elizabeth explained posts: