Myths About Elizabeth I You Can Stop Believing

Queen Elizabeth I of England ruled over what many call the Golden Age. This was a time when the country flourished. So of course, over time, legends around her grew. She called herself the "Virgin Queen" and historians generally believe Queen Elizabeth I actively encouraged these myths about her. However, while some things are true — she did have a fiery temper, wore white makeup, and of course, never married — other rumors about her, that stood the test of time, are just rumors.

One of the most enduring myths about Elizabeth is that, while she was the "Virgin Queen," she had a lot of lovers. It's true that she never lacked for attention, since the unmarried ruler of one of the wealthiest countries will always attract suitors. In reality, though, Elizabeth didn't have a harem of men. According to the Royal Museums Greenwich website, there is little proof Elizabeth took on many boyfriends. She did have favorites. Among her male friends were Robert Dudley, Walter Raleigh, and Francis Drake, not to mention suitors from other royal houses.

She wasn't always bald under that red wig

Portraits of Elizabeth I often depict her wearing a mane of red hair styled in different ways. Several paintings of her show she had a high forehead, which has led many to believe she actually had a receding hairline or worse, that she had gone bald early. In reality, the queen still had her hair until she was in her 60s, per Elizabeth did eventually lose some of her hair by the time she died, at age 69, and she also took on what was called her Mask of Youth, writes Smithsonian Magazine: She caked on the white makeup to cover wrinkles, had rotting teeth, and covered up her thinning grey hair with wigs. However, Elizabeth strongly believed in maintaining an image. She wanted to present herself as strong and young, fit to rule the empire forever. 

That also extended to her other body parts. Over the years, rumors persisted that Elizabeth had a sixth finger like her mother Anne Boleyn. Not true, says Elizabeth ... and for that matter, History points out even Anne Boleyn didn't have an extra finger, as is so often believed.

Elizabeth was not the man known as William Shakespeare

Elizabeth was a rarity in her time. Very few queens were in power, and women barely had a role outside of the home, but she sat on the throne of England and commanded an army that was often at war. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth sometimes spoke of herself as taking on male characteristics. In her speech to troops facing the Spanish Armada in 1588, she said "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King." This made many believe Elizabeth was actually a man. Which, as the Royal Museums Greenwich points out, is not true.

And while Elizabeth was very intelligent and had a flair for writing, she also did not pose as another famous man of her time, William Shakespeare, even though some academic circles did theorize that she might've secretly wrote the bard's plays. While it's true that some people think Shakespeare did not exist and that someone else wrote his works, it's a sure bet Elizabeth was not the brains behind Romeo and Juliet.

Elizabeth I was a great many things. And it is a testament to her legend that so many of these myths still persist about her.