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Elizabeth I the Virgin Queen, by Sue Toohey




On 17th November 1558, Queen Mary I died leaving 25 year old Elizabeth to ascend the English throne. Elizabeth's ascension marked the beginning of a 45-year reign that saw England's emergence as a nation of remarkable political power and incomparable cultural accomplishment. Mary's reign had been an unpopular one that saw the burning of over 300 Protestants, earning her the unfortunate moniker of 'Bloody Mary'. When Elizabeth came to the throne, England had just lost Calais, its last European foothold, to the French, the financial coffers had been bled dry after years of fighting wars, and religion was the primary divisive issue tearing the nation apart. By the time Elizabeth's reign ended with her death in 1603 England had become one of the most powerful and triumphant nations on earth.

On September 7th 1533 at around three in the afternoon,[1] to the enormous disappointment of her parents, a baby girl was born. Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, had risked everything on the belief that the baby would be born a boy. When Elizabeth was born, Henry was so incensed that he refused to attend her Christening. In 1536, after having his wife beheaded, Henry, by the Act of Succession, ruled that he had never been married to her mother thus declaring Elizabeth illegitimate. This declaration was to cause difficulties for Elizabeth all of her life.

Nativity for Elizabeth I


Elizabeth's Sun is in Virgo, in the 8th house. It is peregrine and has no dignity. Manilius said of those born with the Sun in Virgo "The temperaments of those whose span of life she pronounces at their birth Erigone will direct to study, and she will train their minds in the learned arts."[2] Elizabeth was considered to be one of the most well educated intellectuals of her time. It had become popular for the nobility to educate their daughters as well as their sons and she was taught such subjects as history, mathematics, geography and astronomy, showing a particular gift for languages. Roger Ascham, a well-known Cambridge scholar of the day, regarded Elizabeth as his best student. Throughout her life, she never ceased to study, seeking out new ideas and putting them to use. When astrologer John Dee presented her with one of his books on matters pertaining to astrology, magic and Christian Cabala, she was so fascinated by the ideas contained in the book that she became his student, learning all she could about such matters. She would often call upon Dee to explain upcoming celestial events such as eclipses or the appearance of a new star.

Born with the Saturn-ruled sign of Capricorn on her ascendant, Elizabeth quite likely came into the world with feelings of rejection and was instantly proved correct. Saturn in Elizabeth's chart is in Cancer, the sign of its detriment, in the 7th house. Ebertin describes those born with Saturn in Cancer as having a reserved and controlled emotional life. They have difficult contact with family members and aggravating circumstances are due to family ties.[3] Firmicus Maternus says a similar thing when he says, "If the descendant is in Cancer, the native will have great trouble from relatives and will be involved in great danger."[4] If anyone was a victim of family ties it was Elizabeth. Most of her life would be spent with the threat of death hanging over her head. These threats were largely as a result of her father breaking away from the Catholic Church in order to marry her mother. John Gadbury said that with the Sun being placed in the 8th house, there are "many Dangers unto the life of the Native but he shall escape, if the Sun be strong and essentially dignified."[5] The Sun isn't essentially dignified in her chart but Elizabeth managed to elude the threats on repeated occasions. The fixed star Bellatrix conjuncts Mars, ruler of her Mc and, according to Bernadette Brady, the potential success indicated by this star comes only after a journey through darkness.[6]

By early adulthood Elizabeth could speak five languages fluently. Mercury (ruler of Virgo) in the 9th sextile Jupiter in the 12th, trine Mars in the 6th indicates that Elizabeth's mind was continuously active. It shows someone who had a masterful command of language that gave the facility to speak and write eloquently. She could hold her own intellectually with anyone she engaged with and had infinite energy for good conversation. She had the rare capacity to see things from several angles, often leading others to accuse her of being too prevaricating in her decision-making. She was known to be very unpredictable, often unable to make a decision. Her ability to see the variances in a situation was often seen as a disadvantage. But her Virgo Sun reveals Mercury's command for discernment and discrimination. Not only did Elizabeth have an extraordinary aptitude for learning, she knew how to use the information in a way that was of most benefit in any given situation. She was able to observe and analyze any situation and make informed decisions based on painstaking research. Her ability to persuade people to her way of opinion was legendary. Again, speaking of Virgo, Manilius says, "On them she will confer a tongue which charms, the mastery of words, and that mental vision which can discern all things however concealed they might be by the mysterious workings of nature." [7]

Elizabeth's Moon is in Taurus, the sign of its exaltation, and is in the 3rd house, the house of its joy. It makes no major aspects to other planets apart from a square to Pluto. The 3rd house is the house of short journeys and Elizabeth made an abundance of those. It was tradition during that time for the person occupying the throne to spend the summer months travelling with a large entourage to greet the people she ruled. Elizabeth took this custom very seriously and delighted in travelling throughout England to meet the people. She also spent a great deal of time moving from one residence to another. There was no regular house cleaning in those days and, because of lack of sanitation and proper disposal of waste, things would get quite grim. When it got too dismal, the whole of the court would move to one of the other residences so that the previous one would be cleaned, a process that often took months. Elizabeth rarely spent more than a few months in the one home her whole life.

The ruler of Elizabeth's 3rd house, Mars, is in Gemini in the 6th house. She was known to be very quick to lash out with her sharp and often cutting wit at those around her but was just as quick to calm down again. With Mars opposing Jupiter, she enjoyed competition and sought out challenges. She liked nothing more than to debate issues. It was said that she particularly enjoyed religious debates, refusing to hold an investigation into Walter Raleigh's rumoured atheism because she enjoyed their arguments. Mars also rules her 10th house showing her strong desire for power and authority. She certainly expected to win all arguments.

It was often believed that Elizabeth had a parsimonious nature. It is alleged that the sailors who were instrumental in the defeat of the Spanish Armada were not rewarded and members of her staff were very poorly paid. Saturn ruling the 2nd house shows her tendency to be quite frugal. When she came to the throne, the country was seriously in debt. She managed a good economic recovery but unfortunately in the later years things were not so good and she died hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt.

When only 21 years old, Elizabeth was charged with treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London. This must have been one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. She had been witness not only to her mother, but also several other people she had known, being sent to the Tower never to return. She had no reason to believe that her life would be spared. When she was released from the Tower two months later and taken to where she would be residing (virtually under house arrest) she firmly believed she was on her way to be beheaded. During the time she spent in the Tower, Saturn was opposite her natal Sun. It would have been a very dispiriting time where she felt opposed in every way, leaving her feeling as though she was constrained from being herself. Life would be a heavy burden at this time. Not only was she physically constrained, for someone who has always been so mentally active, the restrictions would have been almost unbearable. Saturn squaring natal Jupiter at this time shows a perfect example of how Saturn can inhibit and restrict the freedom of Jupiter. Elizabeth was used to her freedom. With Jupiter in the 12th house, she was quite comfortable with solitude. But it was solitude of her choice. Having it forced upon her was not what she had in mind. This would only have strengthened her tenacity. While it may have been difficult for Elizabeth, she would have seen it as a test of personal resolve, an opportunity to show herself she could meet the challenge. And meet it she did. Not only did she confront the challenge with dignity and pride but less than five years later she was to become the most powerful person in England.

One of Elizabeth's first appointments as Queen was to assign the radical Protestant Robert Dudley to be chief organiser of her coronation. Dudley immediately called upon the assistance of astrologer John Dee. Choosing the date of the coronation was extremely important. England could not afford another difficult reign like the last two. Elizabeth's right to the ascension of the throne was challenged for a number of reasons. Not only was she officially still illegitimate, she was also considered a heretic. A woman ascending the throne was seen as going against the political and cosmic order, as had been proved by Mary's less than successful reign. It was important to find a time that would forgo the disaster that had been foretold. Dee wrote a long and detailed analysis of the astrological augurs for her reign and after much consideration of her natal chart and the current influences, he chose 12pm on the 15th January 1559 for the commencement of celebrations. Details of this election are now lost but history has shown that it was a fortuitous time.[8]

The commencement of celebrations for Elizabeth's coronation


Elizabeth's transits to her natal chart at the time of the coronation included Jupiter sextile Jupiter, which became exact on the day of her coronation along with Venus trine her Sun, making it a very pleasant occasion. Venus opposed Saturn and, Mars was conjunct her Mars ruled Mc showing that she would not be a weak and feeble monarch but one who would rule with great fortitude. What Dee would not have known is that Uranus was on her Mc and Mars was trine Uranus. This would bring dynamic leadership and great self-determination to her rule. She would not be constrained by what others had done before her and would create her own style of rule. Pluto was sextile both her ascendant and Moon bringing with it great responsibility of authority over the people she was to rule. An eclipse of the Sun had made a very close conjunction to her natal Moon a few months previously. Elizabeth took her responsibilities very seriously and saw that the first of those was always to the people she ruled. She promised that she would always put them first and it was often cited as one of the reasons for choosing never to marry.

One of Elizabeth's most well known speeches came after Parliament had refused to allow her any more funds unless she married. The House of Commons had drafted a formal petition requesting that Elizabeth marry as soon as possible. If she remained unmarried and a vestal virgin such things would be contrary to public respects. This was a bad move on the part of the Parliament as no on told the Queen what to do. She responded that she would marry when she was ready and not before and thanked Parliament to stay out of what was a personal matter. "In the end, this shall be for me sufficient that a marble stone shall declare that a queen having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin."[9] Thus was born the legend of the Virgin Queen. Elizabeth capitalized on this to her full advantage, and it was to achieve cult status in years to come. Virgo is a barren sign and there were rumours that Elizabeth knew she was unable to have children and hid it by refusing to marry. Taking the symbolism of her Sun sign literally, Elizabeth is reputed to have remained a virgin her entire life.

In the five years that Mary occupied the throne, over 300 Protestants were burned at the stake, their crime being that they were heretics. When she came to the throne, Elizabeth, who had known no other religion but Protestantism, set about to restore the Protestant faith in England. However, she was not nearly as concerned with religious dogmatism as were her siblings. While she reestablished the Protestant faith as the official religion of England, she was more reluctant to punish those who chose another way. Elizabeth has often been accused throughout history of having no strong beliefs either way. This is not strictly true. She had strong spiritual beliefs, which may be seen in the sextile between Mercury in the 9th and Jupiter in the 12th. In 1559 a religious settlement was reached that consisted of a series of complicated Acts. It was to be considered a middle path that suited all but the most radical members of either side. The Queen became the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The majority of the people accepted this but there were still some fairly harsh penalties for being a practicing Catholic. Most of Elizabeth's distaste for religious diversity came only when it threatened her rule or when she was confronted by fundamentalism from either side. The agreement was an extraordinary achievement that prevented the religious wars that were dominating Europe throughout that time whereby thousands of people would be killed.[10] Elizabeth's ability to see religion as a personal choice saved her country from the pain and suffering that had plagued England both before and after her reign. This is not to say that there were not religious difficulties but it is this sort of achievement that makes her one of the most remarkable women in the history of Great Britain and one that saw people of all religions stand to defend their Queen when the Spanish attempted to dethrone Elizabeth and put the Catholic King Philip of Spain in her place.

The compromise that saw England free from religious strife did not prevent Elizabeth's own life from being in danger. She was excommunicated by Pius V, who forbade her Catholic subjects to obey her and acted as a standing invitation to European Catholic powers to depose her. The most serious attempt came in 1588 when Pope Sixtus V issued a Papal Bull in which he concluded that she was unworthy to live. He officially extended a full Plenary Indulgence from sin for any Catholic who removed or killed the Queen. This was one of the reasons behind the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada into England.

As 1588 approached, it became very clear that Spain was preparing to invade England. Earlier, astrologers had predicted that extraordinary accidents would take place in 1588. The public became quite fearful of these predictions. However, Elizabeth had consulted her astrologer, John Dee, who was far more optimistic.[11] While the Queen attempted to negotiate with Spain, preparations were taking place on a practical level. Elizabeth hated war. It wasn't in her nature to seek military glory and she was appalled at the expense, both with money and lives. But Elizabeth finally gave up on her attempts at peaceful negotiations. During this time, transiting Mars was conjunct both Saturn and Uranus in the 7th house of open enemies and would soon go on to oppose Pluto. These aspects were stressful but they gave her the resolve to see it through. No one was going to take advantage of her or her country. The Spanish fleet set sail in an attempt to wrestle England by force from what they saw as heretical damnation. During this time, the squabbling between religious factions in England stopped and all went to defend their Queen and country. Due largely to some bad weather but also the resolve of the English navy, the Armada was destroyed and the incident became the crowning glory on what was a hugely successful reign.

Celebrations of this victory went on for months. In November one of the biggest parades ever seen took place and Elizabeth rode in triumph to Westminster Abbey, her popularity never being higher. On this day, Venus was sextile Jupiter, Jupiter was sextile both Uranus and the Mc and Uranus was trine her Mc. She was enjoying immense popularity and from some very unexpected sources. Pope Sixtus V, the Pope who's Papal Bull instigated the whole affair, had this to say:

'She certainly is a great queen, and were she only a Catholic, she would be our dearly beloved daughter. Just look how well she governs! She is only a woman, only a mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all!' [12]


Elizabeth reigned another fifteen years after this triumph. It was not all good and there were some difficult times. By most accounts she struggled continually with a sense of melancholy that was essentially a part of her character. However, she dealt with it in the way that she dealt with everything else. She confronted it and found a way to live with it. It is not surprising that she should suffer bouts of melancholy when we consider that Saturn and Mercury, predominant planets in her chart, are both melancholic planets. The earth signs are melancholic in nature and, in Elizabeth's chart, the earth element predominates with the ascendant, Sun and Moon all in earth signs.

On March 24 1603, somewhere around 2:30am, Elizabeth died in her sleep. Capricorn was ascending, just as it was at her birth. Transiting Sun and Mars were conjunct in Aries in the 2nd house and square the Moon, which was in Capricorn in the 12th house conjunct the ascendant. The Sun/Mars conjunction made several aspects to her natal chart including a square to Uranus, opposition to Mercury and a sextile to Mars. Jupiter was culminating at the time of her death, ensuring that Elizabeth’s reign would become legendary and would always be remembered for her larger than life character. Transiting Uranus was at almost 12 degrees Taurus, making a conjunction to her natal IC. The reign that began with the conjunction of Uranus to Elizabeth’s 10th house cusp of public acclaim, ended when it was conjunct her natal 4th house cusp of the end of the matter. Her reign was over. For forty-five years Elizabeth had given England peace and stable government. The religious compromise had worked bringing unity to the nation in a way that had not been seen for some time. But most of all, what she brought the people was self-assurance and a conviction that they were a chosen nation protected by Divine Providence.[13] In the years following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, this confidence helped to bring about the advancement of the English Renaissance, a time of unsurpassed vision for a great nation.


Death of Elizabeth I

The Queen at 52 years old

“To be a King and wear a crown, is a thing more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it” - Elizabeth I

Elizabeth's signature




Notes & References:

  1] All dates are in Old Style. However, they follow the modern convention of beginning the year on January 1st rather than the old date of March 25th.
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  2] Manilius, Astronomica, translated by G.P. Goold, (Loeb ed) 1976, Harvard University Press, 4: 189-202
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  3] R. Ebertin, The Combination of Stellar Influences, AFA, USA, 1972, p.56
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  4] Firmicus Maternus, Matheseos Libri VIII, translated by Jean Rhys Bram, Astrology Classics, USA, 1975, p.161
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  5] John Gadbury, The Doctrine of Nativities, Facsimile edition, Spica Publications, Queensland, p.57
Although Gadbury agreed with the 8th house location of Elizabeth's sun he stood against the historical record of Elizabeth's birth and argued for an earlier birth time (2:36 pm) to give the ascendant at the end of the fiery sign Sagittarius rather than the beginning of Capricorn. He felt that this more accurately described her high lofty spirit. See Gadbury's Collection of Nativities, p.12.
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  6] Bernadette Brady, Fixed Stars, Samuel Weiser, Maine, 1998, p.175
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  7] Manilius, loc cit
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  8] See John Frawley, The Real Astrologer, Apprentice Books, UK. 2000, pp.109-111 for an interesting discussion on John Dee's coronation chart.
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  9] Alison Weir, Elizabeth the Queen, Pimlico, Great Britain, 1999, p.44.
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  10] One of the worst examples is the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre where about 6,000 Protestants were murdered.
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  11] Alison Weir, Elizabeth the Queen, p.388.
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  12] Ibid., p.399.
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  13] Ibid., p.487
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Sue TooheySue Toohey is an Australian astrologer with a degree in history and philosophy. She is currently enrolled in a Masters degree, researching the history of astrology and religious thought. Sue also has a Homoeopathy degree, using awareness of all these areas to further her understanding of astrology. Her main areas of interest lie in traditional astrology and philosophy, seeking to understand how they contribute to our current appreciation of these disciplines.
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© Sue Toohey, August 2004

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