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Elizabeth I of England

also known asCivilization:British: England

Queen Bess

Era: Tudor
1533–1603Field of Renown:monarch: Queen
elizabeth1e
 Queen Elizabeth knighting Drake on board the Golden Hind.

Elizabeth I is one of the most famous monarchs of England, and one of the most curious and complicated women in history. Her long reign was one of the most important transitional periods in English history, and was a relatively peaceful and prosperous one—this in spite of the fact that all of Europe was reeling from the dislocations of the Reformation at the time, and that England's relationship with Spain, the most powerful country in Europe, was highly antagonistic. Although Elizabeth is not generally recognized as a bastion of personal virtue, she shepherded England through a very treacherous period quite effectively.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Her mother fell out of favor with Henry soon after her birth, however, so for her early life Elizabeth was neglected. Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, helped restore her fortunes, and before Henry's death she was named third in line to the throne after her younger brother Edward VI and her older sister Mary I. Although Elizabeth was raised as a protestant, she was too politic to make her personal beliefs a major issue. She therefore remained on reasonably good terms with both the Protestant advisors during her brother's reign, and the Catholic advisors during her sisters reign. She was however, suspected of being involved with a protestant rebellion that occurred early in Mary's reign, and was imprisoned on that account. She denied wrong-doing however, and on Mary's recommendation, was eventually released.

When Elizabeth ascended to the throne, she proceed to govern as a Protestant, but did not actively persecute Catholics, and in some cases allowed Catholics to hold high positions in government. Her toleration of religious differences is one of the finer points of her administration and helped unify the country at a time when civil war would have been disastrous.

In many other matters of administration, Elizabeth played both sides of an issue, and it was often exceedingly difficult to tell where she really stood on a matter. This was probably her most striking personality trait, but her ambivalence often worked out well for England. For example, she kept many of the princes of Europe who courted her on their best behavior for years, while never agreeing to marry of them. She publicly condemned the free-booters who attacked Spanish ships while privately supporting them, and encouraging their enterprises. She supported the war of Independence in the Netherlands without provoking a full-scale war with Spain, and most strikingly, she feigned shock and horror when she found that her rival Mary, Queen of Scots had been executed, and blamed the "miscommunication" on the attendant who had delivered the warrant which she herself had signed.

Instead of marrying, Elizabeth had a series of "favorites" and courtiers who competed for her favor. The most famous of these were Robert Dudley, (a.k.a the Earl of Leicester), Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Earl of Essex. The later two came to bad ends, but all three benefited greatly from her favor during most of their lives. She never, however, granted much power to any of her favorites, and left much of the government of the realm in the capable hands of Lord Cecil. Elizabeth's court was also known for its daring seaman, the most notorious being Sir Francis Drake. Sir Richard Grenville, Sir Martin Frobisher, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert were also important explorers of the Elizabethan age. English literature also thrived under her reign, during which William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, and Ben Jonson wrote many of their masterpieces.

Although Elizabeth managed to avoid a war with Spain for the early part of her reign, eventually, the two countries came into open conflict. By the time Anglo Spanish Wars broke out however, England was in a good position to defend itself, and had a great many daring sea-men ready to meet the Spanish in battle at sea. The Great Armada was one of the most important naval battles in history because by destroying almost the entire Spanish fleet, England ended Spain's domination of the seas. This not only freed England from the threat of invasion by Spain, but also opened up the possibility of English settlement in the New Worlds.

The other war of significance near the end of Elizabeth's reign was the Nine Years War in Ireland. England and Ireland had been at war for much of the 16th century, but it was not until the final years of Elizabeth's reign that the Irish overlords were driven entirely out of Ulster. Elizabeth died after a reign of forty-four years, and was succeeded by her grand-nephew, James VI of Scotland (later James I of England).


Key events during the life of Elizabeth I of England

Year Event
1533 Elizabeth is born
1536 Execution of Anne of Boleyn
1547 Death of Henry VIII
1553 Death of Edward VI; Mary ascends to the throne
1554 Elizabeth accused of conspiring against Mary
1559 Death of Mary; Elizabeth ascends to the throne
1560 Becomes involved with Robert Dudley
1569 Catholic rebellion under Thomas Howard is put down.
1579 Desmond Rebellion in Ireland
1580 Drake returns form voyage around the world
1581 Elizabeth makes the acquaintance of Sir Walter Raleigh
1585 Founding of Roanoke Colony in Virginia
1585 English army sent to support the Netherlands against Spain.
1587 First Battle of Cadiz
1588 Great Armada
1595 Deaths of sea-farers Hawkins and Drake
1594 Nine Year's War in Ireland
1598 Death of Lord Cecil
1601 Death of Earl of Essex
1603 Death of Queen Elizabeth

Book Links
Queen Elizabeth  by  Jacob Abbott
In the Days of Queen Elizabeth  by  E. M. Tappan

 

Story LinksBook Links
How the Princess Elizabeth Became a Prisoner  in  Our Island Story  by  Marshall
Kings and Queens  in  Tales from Westminster Abbey  by  Lord
Long Captivity  in  Mary Queen of Scots  by  Abbott
Elizabeth of Tudor  in  Historic Girls  by  Brooks
Rival Queens  in  Stories From English History: II  by  Church
Progress of Liberty in England  in  Story of Liberty  by  Coffin
Heirs of Henry VIII—continued  in  Christian Persecutions  by  Craig
England under Elizabeth  in  Story of England  by  Harding
How the Imprisoned Princess Became a Queen  in  Our Island Story  by  Marshall
Golden Days of Good Queen Bess  in  Awakening of Europe  by  Synge
Elizabeth Queen of England and Mary Queen of Scots  in  Tudors and Stuarts  by  Synge

Image Links
Elizabeth in the Tower  in Queen Elizabeth Elizabeth's Progress to London  in Queen Elizabeth Portrait of Queen Elizabeth  in Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth in her Last Hours  in Queen Elizabeth Portrait of Queen Elizabeth  in Mary Queen of Scots I myself will make him a knight.'  in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold
Without your help, my lords! Without your help!' in Historic Girls Queen Elizabeth  in Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary Queen Elizabeth  in Stories From English History: II
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth  in Young Folks' History of Russia Queen Elizabeth knighting Drake on board the Golden Hind at Deptford  in Story of Sir Francis Drake Queen Elizabeth  in Story of the English
Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth  in Story of the Thirteen Colonies Raleigh erects Queen Elizabeth's standard in America  in Famous Men of Modern Times Shane O'Neill and his clansmen interviewing Queen Elizabeth  in Ireland: Peeps at History
Elizabeth, Queen of England in Statesmen and Sages Elizabeth defied by Mary Stuart in Statesmen and Sages Walter sprang forward and spread his handsome cloak on the muddy spot.  in Men Who Found America
Stepping gently on the cloak, she passed on  in Story of Sir Walter Raleigh Quickly pulling off his cloak he threw it upon the ground.  in Our Island Story Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth  in Great Englishmen
Elizabeth receiving the news of her accession  in Tudors and Stuarts Queen Elizabeth knighting Drake on board the Golden Hind.  in Tudors and Stuarts Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury  in Tudors and Stuarts
The last moments of Queen Elizabeth  in Tudors and Stuarts Elizabeth, Queen of England in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth Princess Elizabeth of England in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth Elizabeth signing death warrant of Mary Stuart. in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth  in European Hero Stories Queen Elizabeth Carried in State  in European Hero Stories


Contemporary Short Biography
Henry VIII of England King of England famous for marrying and dispensing with six wives.
Anne Boleyn Second wife of Henry VIII. Executed when she fell from grace.
Mary I of England Eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Tried to restore Catholicism to England.
Robert Dudley Favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Granted many favors, but not much power.
Sir Francis Drake Greatest sea adventurer. Sailed around the world, harassed Spanish ships. Fought in Armada.
Sir Walter Raleigh Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Earl of Essex Favorite of Queen Elizabeth. Involved in a conspiracy and died in prison.
Sir Philip Sidney Favorite of Queen Elizabeth's court. Was a poet, soldier, courtier, and adventurer.
Edmund Spenser Elizabethan era poet. Wrote The Fairy Queen.
Richard Grenville One of Elizabeth's famous sailors. Involved in War with Spain and settlement of colonies. Died defending the Revenge.
William Shakespeare Greatest dramatist in the history of the English language.
William Cecil Minister of Queen Elizabeth throughout her entire reign.