"Elizabeth I - the last Tudor monarch - was born at Greenwich on 7
September 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Her
early life was full of uncertainties, and her chances of succeeding to the
throne seemed very slight once her half-brother Edward was born in 1537. She was
then third in line behind her Roman Catholic half-sister, Princess Mary. Roman
Catholics, indeed, always considered her illegitimate and she only narrowly
escaped execution in the wake of a failed rebellion against Queen Mary in 1554.
Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on her half-sister's death possibly from
cancer in November 1558. She was very well-educated (fluent in six languages),
and had inherited intelligence, determination and shrewdness from both parents.
Her 45-year reign is generally considered one of the most glorious in English
history. During it a secure Church of England was established. Its doctrines
were laid down in the 39 Articles of 1563, a compromise between Roman
Catholicism and Protestantism. Elizabeth herself refused to 'make windows into
men's souls ... there is only one Jesus Christ and all the rest is a dispute
over trifles'; she asked for outward uniformity. Most of her subjects accepted
the compromise as the basis of their faith, and her church settlement probably
saved England from religious wars like those which France suffered in the second
half of the 16th century.
Although autocratic and capricious, Elizabeth had astute political judgement
and chose her ministers well; these included Burghley (Secretary of State),
Hatton (Lord Chancellor) and Walsingham (in charge of intelligence and also a
Secretary of State). Overall Elizabeth's administration consisted of some 600
officials administering the great offices of state, and a similar number dealing
with the Crown lands (which funded the administrative costs). Social and
economic regulation and law and order remained in the hands of the sheriffs at
local level, supported by unpaid justices of the peace.
Elizabeth's reign also saw many brave voyages of discovery, including those
of Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and Humphrey Gilbert, particularly to the
Americas. These expeditions prepared England for an age of colonisation and
trade expansion, which Elizabeth herself recognised by establishing the East
India Company in 1600.
The arts flourished during Elizabeth's reign. Country houses such as Longleat
and Hardwick Hall were built, miniature painting reached its high point,
theatres thrived - the Queen attended the first performance of Shakespeare's A
Midsummer Night's Dream. The image of Elizabeth's reign is one of triumph
and success. The Queen herself was often called 'Gloriana', 'Good Queen Bess'
and 'The Virgin Queen'. Investing in expensive clothes and jewellery (to look
the part, like all contemporary sovereigns), she cultivated this image by
touring the country in regional visits known as 'progresses', often riding on
horseback rather than by carriage. Elizabeth made at least 25 progresses during
However, Elizabeth's reign was one of considerable danger and difficulty for
many, with threats of invasion from Spain through Ireland, and from France
through Scotland. Much of northern England was in rebellion in 1569-70. A papal
bull of 1570 specifically released Elizabeth's subjects from their allegiance,
and she passed harsh laws against Roman Catholics after plots against her life
were discovered. One such plot involved Mary, Queen of Scots, who had fled to
England in 1568 after her second husband's murder and her subsequent marriage to
a man believed to have been involved in his murder. As a likely successor to
Elizabeth, Mary spent 19 years as Elizabeth's prisoner because Mary was the
focus for rebellion and possible assassination plots, such as the Babington Plot
of 1586. Mary was also a temptation for potential invaders such as Philip II. In
a letter of 1586 to Mary, Elizabeth wrote, 'You have planned ... to take my life
and ruin my kingdom ... I never proceeded so harshly against you.' Despite
Elizabeth's reluctance to take drastic action, on the insistence of Parliament
and her advisers, Mary was tried, found guilty and executed in 1587.
In 1588, aided by bad weather, the English navy scored a great victory over
the Spanish invasion fleet of around 130 ships - the 'Armada'. The Armada
was intended to overthrow the Queen and re-establish Roman Catholicism by
conquest, as Philip II believed he had a claim to the English throne through his
marriage to Mary.
During Elizabeth's long reign, the nation also suffered from high prices and
severe economic depression, especially in the countryside, during the 1590s. The
war against Spain was not very successful after the Armada had been beaten and,
together with other campaigns, it was very costly. Though she kept a tight rein
on government expenditure, Elizabeth left large debts to her successor. Wars
during Elizabeth's reign are estimated to have cost over £5 million (at the
prices of the time) which Crown revenues could not match - in 1588, for example,
Elizabeth's total annual revenue amounted to some £392,000. Despite the
combination of financial strains and prolonged war after 1588, Parliament was
not summoned more often. There were only 16 sittings of the Commons during
Elizabeth's reign, five of which were in the period 1588-1601. Although
Elizabeth freely used her power to veto legislation, she avoided confrontation
and did not attempt to define Parliament's constitutional position and rights.
Elizabeth chose never to marry. If she had chosen a foreign prince, he would
have drawn England into foreign policies for his own advantages (as in her
sister Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain); marrying a fellow countryman could
have drawn the Queen into factional infighting. Elizabeth used her marriage
prospects as a political tool in foreign and domestic policies. However, the
'Virgin Queen' was presented as a selfless woman who sacrificed personal
happiness for the good of the nation, to which she was, in essence, 'married'.
Late in her reign, she addressed Parliament in the so-called 'Golden Speech' of
1601 when she told MPs: 'There is no jewel, be it of never so high a price,
which I set before this jewel; I mean your love.' She seems to have been very
popular with the vast majority of her subjects.
Overall, Elizabeth's always shrewd and, when necessary, decisive leadership
brought successes during a period of great danger both at home and abroad. She
died at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603, having become a legend in her
lifetime. The date of her accession was a national holiday for two hundred
years." -- Text by: Historic
Royal History - Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I. ... Behind the Mask: The Life of Queen Elizabeth
I by Jane Resh Thomas. For ages 9-12. ...
Description: The life of English queen Elizabeth I;
books about Elizabeth
This site and its contents are not affiliated, connected,
associated with or authorized by the individual, family,
friends, or trademarked entities utilizing any part or
the subject's entire name. Any official or affiliated
sites that are related to this subject will be hyper
linked below upon submission
and Evisum, Inc. review.
Please join us in our mission to incorporate America's Four United Republics discovery-based curriculum into the classroom of every primary and secondary school in the United States of America by July 2, 2026, the nation’s 250th birthday. , the United States of America: We The
People. Click Here