CRAIG BROWN: Great Oprah Interviews From History – Queen Elizabeth I

CRAIG BROWN: ‘Wh-what!? He cut off your mom’s head?’ Great Oprah Interviews From History – Queen Elizabeth I

Oprah: I’d so love to hug you!

Elizabeth: That won’t be necessary.

Oprah: A big, big hug! Oh, wouldn’t that be just great! Elizabeth, I remember your coronation at the Abbey in 1559. Thanks for inviting me, by the way! I so recall this sense of magic, I never experienced anything like it. When you came through that door, you seemed like you were floating down the aisle. Were you even inside your body at the time?

Elizabeth: I was aware that this wasn’t just my day, this was the day planned for the world.

Oprah: So, tell me about the narrative of your childhood, Elizabeth. Your mother was . . . Her Royal Majesty Queen Anne Boleyn, right?

Craig brown writes: ‘Elizabeth: He didn’t want me to be a princess. It was a really hard time and, yes, it really hurt my feelings, but he was upset about something, and he owned it, he apologised. He brought me flowers and a note to say sorry. He did what I would do if I knew I had cut off someone else’s mummy’s head. He took accountability for it. So I don’t want to get into the details’

Elizabeth: Yes . . .

Oprah: Wow! That must have been something!

Elizabeth: . . . before my father had her beheaded.

Oprah (staring open-mouthed in silence, with her eyebrows raised): Wh-what? You’re kiddin’ me? Say that again!

Elizabeth: My father had her beheaded.

Oprah: Whoah! Let’s get some clarification. Are you telling me your pop had your mom’s head chopped off? What with?

Elizabeth: A sword.

Oprah: Wh-what? A sword?

Elizabeth: So it seems.

Oprah: A sword! Whoah! That must have been so tough. Not only on you, but on her. I mean, no one wants their head getting chopped off. That’s not a narrative anyone should have to learn to run with. And you were how old at this time, Bess?

Elizabeth: About two and a half.

Oprah: Wh-what? But that’s so little! And, tell me, Bess — how did that make you feel?

Elizabeth: Uncomfortable. And my father had his marriage annulled, so that made me . . . illegitimate.

Oprah: Wh-what? Hold on. Stop right now. Let’s clarify! So first your father beheads your mom, then he declares you illegitimate? And did that make you . . . cry?

Elizabeth: He didn’t want me to be a princess. It was a really hard time and, yes, it really hurt my feelings, but he was upset about something, and he owned it, he apologised. He brought me flowers and a note to say sorry. He did what I would do if I knew I had cut off someone else’s mummy’s head. He took accountability for it. So I don’t want to get into the details.

Craig Brown writes: ‘Oprah: A sword! Whoah! That must have been so tough. Not only on you, but on her. I mean, no one wants their head getting chopped off. That’s not a narrative anyone should have to learn to run with. And you were how old at this time, Bess?’

Oprah: OK, Bess. Thank you for having the courage to share that with us. So then your dad marries four more times. That’s a helluva lot of stepmoms!

Elizabeth: I don’t want in any way to be disparaging about my father, but I think at least one of them had her head chopped off . . .

Oprah: Not a great look.

Elizabeth: And so . . . no way am I blaming her, but she lacked communication skills. She wasn’t great to talk to. And another one died. Another, he divorced.

Oprah: And how do you remember your father now? In a word?

Elizabeth: Compassionate.

Oprah: So let’s fast-forward. Your half-brother, Edward VI, becomes king, even though he’s younger than you.

Elizabeth: I know.

Oprah: That’s so unfair! Nobody should have to go through that. And then he dies, and your half-sister, Mary, gets the throne. And Mary never reached out to you. How did that make you feel? You must have been in a very dark place.

Craig Brown writes: ‘Oprah: A big, big hug! Oh, wouldn’t that be just great! Elizabeth, I remember your coronation at the Abbey in 1559. Thanks for inviting me, by the way! I so recall this sense of magic, I never experienced anything like it’

Elizabeth: I was in a very dark place. It was a prison.

Oprah: Wh-what? Whoah!

Elizabeth: The Tower of London. I’m just telling you what happened, Oprah. I really wasn’t planning to say anything shocking.

Oprah: Whoah! I am shocked! And how do you feel about Mary now?

Elizabeth: I feel so much compassion for her. And that’s why, when I became Queen, I reached out to so many of her most fervent followers . . . and executed them. It was for their own good. And I did it with so much compassion. You see, they had been perpetuating falsehoods. And no one wants to perpetuate falsehoods.

Oprah: That must have been so hard on you.

Elizabeth: I still grieve. But at a certain point, you’re going to go: ‘But, hey, you guys, someone just tell the truth!’ And that comes with the risk of losing things. Like, your heads. But I’m still standing, and my hope for people in the takeaway from this is to know that there’s another side.

Oprah: Your fairy tale has a happy ending. So thank you for trusting me to share your story. We are going to take a break, y’all. See you in a few minutes.

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