Elizabeth faced many problems on her accession to the throne in 1558. Her country was bitterly divided between Catholics and Protestants, she faced war Scotland and France, potential civil unrest from the common people, her treasury was nearly bankrupt and on top of all this most people in England did not think that she would be able to govern the country effectively on account of her inexperience and gender; a London woman, on seeing Elizabeth for the first time, said 'Oh Lord the Queen is a woman.' Elizabeth's biggest problem was something she could do nothing about. She was seen as only a woman and so unfit to rule. Her image problem was something that would affect how well she would be able to address all the other issues she faced. She was expected to marry a foreign prince and produce an heir. However she knew that by doing this her power would be decreased as it was not compatible with 16th century values to have a woman as the head of the family; this role was reserved for men and a woman's and especially a Queen's role was to produce an heir. To Elizabeth as a strong and independently minded woman, who once changed a French translation she did as a child to have wives stoning their adulterous husbands instead of the other way round, any loss in power to a man was intolerable. However until she did marry she would continuously be seen as incompetent in not considering the problem of the succession until she produced an heir; she could do nothing right. .
This problem of who to marry was also linked to Elizabeth's foreign policy. She was one of the few Protestant rulers in Europe and so was threatened by France, Spain and Scotland, all of whom were staunchly Catholic and saw Protestantism as a threat to their countries . Her most dangerous threat was Scotland, run by Mary of Guise, the French regent, and with a rival, Catholic, claimant to the English throne, Mary Queen of Scots, whom many Catholics in England wished to see on the throne instead of Elizabeth.