I began today with every intention of addressing the rumor that Elizabeth I was really a man. My attention was soon drawn elsewhere once I came across an article on Forbes titled “The Cougar Relationship: Making it Work”:
Demi and Ashton are hardly the first “cougar couple.” Back in 1976, John Travolta was in a relationship with his Boy in the Plastic Buble co-star Diana Hyland (she played his mother), who was 18 years older than him, until she died of breast cancer. At 48, Queen Elizabeth I had a 26-year-old boyfriend.
Immediately, I realized the “boyfriend” mentioned within the article was the Duke of Anjou and Alençon, Francois. Clicking on the link included with Elizabeth’s name gave me an idea where Forbes’ writer pulled her material from:
The Virgin Queen? Hardly. She may have never married, thus earning her this nickname, but Her Royal Highness never lacked companionship. Various upper-class Europeans vied for her hand in marriage, but this royal seemed to be a fan of the “no strings attached” policy. Her last courtship ended in 1581, when she was forty-eight and her paramour, Francois, the Duke of Anjou, was twenty-six. It’s good to be the queen.
While the discussions swirling around Elizabeth and Francois were some of the most serious foreign negotiations that ever occurred over Elizabeth’s hand (and, indeed, it was her last political courtship), should we characterize this as a “cougar” relationship? Hardly. Of course, I am not certain that modern culture has exactly arrived at a firm definition of what a “cougar” is (some describe a middle-aged woman who willfully “prowls” and snatches up young whippersnappers who could be her sons, to be willfully discarded after youth-affirming coitus is achieved. Other writers tend to describe any woman as a “cougar” if she is at least 5-10 years older than her male partner, often ignoring the length of time or dedication that either party puts into the relationship), but I do not believe Elizabeth was after her “frog” for the enjoyment of sex…an heir or simply an alliance would have been more important in this very political courtship. Reports from the time period indicate that Elizabeth displayed a fondness for Francois, as she gave him the gifts of kisses and a ring, and publicly voiced before some that she would marry the man. She was even said to have wept over the argument of whether or not he should become her husband.
With every story that exists about Elizabeth, however, it is difficult to ascertain what Elizabeth’s true thoughts on the subject were. Her interest in the Duke could have stemmed from her usual game of foreign politics. It could have been a ploy to make Robert Dudley jealous. Then again, she was forty-eight years of age, and likely knew that this would be the last great tussle over her unmarried state. Did she love the man, the chase, or being the object of affections? I do not have a firm answer, but find it preferable if the term “cougar” is left out of the mix.