Queen Elizabeth I dies

Queen Elizabeth I dies

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After 44 years of rule, Queen Elizabeth I of England dies, and King James VI of Scotland ascends to the throne, uniting England and Scotland under a single British monarch.

The daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1559 upon the death of her half-sister Queen Mary. The two half-sisters, both daughters of Henry VIII, had a stormy relationship during Mary’s five-year reign. Mary, who was brought up as a Catholic, enacted pro-Catholic legislation and made efforts to restore the pope to supremacy in England. A Protestant rebellion ensued, and Queen Mary imprisoned Elizabeth, a Protestant, in the Tower of London on suspicion of complicity. After Mary’s death, Elizabeth survived several Catholic plots against her; although her ascension was greeted with approval by most of England’s lords, who were largely Protestant and hoped for greater religious tolerance under a Protestant queen. Under the early guidance of Secretary of State Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth repealed Mary’s pro-Catholic legislation, established a permanent Protestant Church of England, and encouraged the Calvinist reformers in Scotland.

READ MORE: The Wildly Different Childhoods of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots

In foreign affairs, Elizabeth practiced a policy of strengthening England’s Protestant allies and dividing her foes. Elizabeth was opposed by the pope, who refused to recognize her legitimacy, and by Spain, a Catholic nation that was at the height of its power. In 1588, English-Spanish rivalry led to an abortive Spanish invasion of England in which the Spanish Armada, the greatest naval force in the world at the time, was destroyed by storms and a determined English navy.

With increasing English domination at sea, Elizabeth encouraged voyages of discovery, such as Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world and Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions to the North American coast.

The long reign of Elizabeth, who became known as the “Virgin Queen” for her reluctance to endanger her authority through marriage, coincided with the flowering of the English Renaissance, associated with such renowned authors as William Shakespeare. By her death in 1603, England had become a major world power in every respect, and Queen Elizabeth I passed into history as one of England’s greatest monarchs.

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry registered domain names for Lilibet ahead of birth

New widow Queen Elizabeth II has reportedly suffered yet another heartache — the death of one of the puppies she was given to stop her feeling “down and alone in the castle.”

Fergus, one of two pups Prince Andrew gave his 95-year-old mom when her husband, Prince Philip, fell sick earlier this year, died over the weekend, sources told the Sun.

The dachshund-corgi cross — known as a “dorgi” — was only about 5 months old, the outlet said. No cause of death was given.

“The Queen is absolutely devastated,” a Windsor Castle insider told the paper.

“The puppies were brought in to cheer her up during a very difficult period.

“Everyone concerned is upset as this comes so soon after she lost her husband,” the source said of Philip, who died on April 9 just two months shy of his 100th birthday.

“On top of that, there’s been the problems with her grandson, Harry,” the source said, referring to the Duke of Sussex’s ongoing attacks against his family and the institution of the monarchy itself.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew attend the funeral of Prince Philip at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021, in Windsor, England. Yui Mok-WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Queen — well known for her love of dogs — had reportedly given up on having more after her corgi, Vulcan, died last October.

But scandal-scarred Andrew “surprised his mom with two new puppies when she felt down and alone in the castle” when Philip was first sick, a source previously told the UK paper.

An old photo of Queen Elizabeth with her corgis. Alamy Stock Photo

Fergus was named after the Queen’s uncle, Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who died at just 26 in 1915 when he led an attack on German lines at the Battle of Loos in France during World War I, the Sun said.

Queen Elizabeth is a known dog lover, owning many pups during her reign. Alamy Stock Photo

She still has the other puppy from Andrew, Muick, who is named after a beauty spot in Balmoral, where the queen has her Scottish estate.

She also has an older “dorgi,” Candy, the last living descendant of a corgi the Queen was given on her 18th birthday, the report said.

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II depart military service on March 13, 2015. Chris Jackson/Getty Images


Descent from the two daughters of Henry VII who reached adulthood, Margaret and Mary, was the first and main issue in the succession.

Lennox claim Edit

Mary I of England had died without managing to have her preferred successor and first cousin, Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, nominated by parliament. Margaret Douglas was a daughter of Margaret Tudor, and lived to 1578, but became a marginal figure in discussions of the succession to Elizabeth I, who at no point clarified the dynastic issues of the Tudor line. [2] When in 1565 Margaret Douglas's elder son Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, married Mary, Queen of Scots, the "Lennox claim" was generally regarded as consolidated into the "Stuart claim". [3]

Stuart claimants Edit

James VI was the son of two grandchildren of Margaret Tudor. Arbella Stuart, the most serious other contender by the late 16th century, was the daughter of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox's younger son Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox.

James VI's mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, was considered a plausible successor to the English throne. At the beginning of Elizabeth's reign she sent ambassadors to England when a parliament was summoned, anticipating a role for parliament in settling the succession in her favour. [4] Mary was a Roman Catholic, and her proximity to the succession was a factor in plotting, making her position a political problem for the English government, eventually resolved by judicial means. She was executed in 1587. In that year Mary's son James reached the age of twenty-one, while Arbella was only twelve.

Suffolk claimants Edit

While the Stuart line of James and Arbella would have had political support, by 1600 the descendants of Mary Tudor were theoretically relevant, and on legal grounds could not be discounted. Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk, and Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland, both had children who were in the line of succession. Frances and Eleanor were Mary Tudor's daughters by her second husband, Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Frances married Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and they had three daughters, Lady Jane Grey (1537–1554), Lady Catherine Grey (1540–1568), and Lady Mary Grey (1545–1578). Of these, the two youngest lived into Queen Elizabeth's reign.

Catherine's first marriage to the youthful Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, a political match, was annulled, and there were no children. She married Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford covertly in 1560. The couple were separately imprisoned in the Tower of London after Catherine became pregnant. There were two sons of the marriage, but both were decided by the established Church of England to be illegitimate. After Catherine's death in 1568, Seymour was released. The elder boy became Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp the younger was named Thomas. The "Beauchamp claim" was more insistently kept up by Thomas, relying on a defence against the ruling of illegitimacy available to him, but not to his elder brother. He died in 1600. Rumours after Elizabeth's death showed that the Beauchamp claim was not forgotten. [5]

Lady Mary Grey married, without royal permission, Thomas Keyes, and had no sons. She completely lacked interest in royal pretensions. [6]

The family of Eleanor Clifford was more often talked of in relation to the succession. A daughter Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby lived to have two sons, Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby. At the period when Margaret Stanley might have been considered a succession candidate, her name was usually "Margaret Strange", based on her husband's courtesy title of Lord Strange. Her Catholic support was drawn off by the Stuart claim. [3] Just before his death in 1593, however, the claim of her husband Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby was being promoted by Sir William Stanley and William Allen. [7]

Ferdinando's position in the succession then led to his being approached in the superficial Hesketh plot to seize power, in September 1593. [7] His daughter Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven, played a part in the legalistic and hypothetical discussions of the succession.

There was some interest early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth in a claimant from the House of York. Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, could make a claim only based on the idea that Henry VII was a usurper, rather than a legitimate king, but he had some supporters, ahead of the Tudor, Stuart and Suffolk lines. [8] Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, a survivor of the Plantagenets, was his great-grandmother (on his mother's side), and her paternal grandfather was Richard, Duke of York. The Spanish diplomat Álvaro de la Quadra, on whose accounts the early intrigues round the succession have been reconstructed, considered that Robert Dudley, brother-in-law to Hastings, was pushing the Queen in March 1560 to make Hastings her successor, against his wishes. [9] There were also some pretensions from his relations in the Pole family. [10]

The major political issue of the reign of Richard II of England, that his uncle, the magnate John of Gaunt, would claim the throne and so overturn the principle of primogeniture, was revived in the context of the Elizabethan succession, after seven generations. John of Gaunt's eldest daughter having married into the Portuguese House of Aviz, one of his descendants was the Infanta of Spain, Isabella Clara Eugenia. The legitimacy of Isabella's claim was seriously put forward, on the Catholic side of the argument. A reason given for Essex's Rebellion was that the Infanta's claim had gained traction with Elizabeth and her counsellors. [11] [12]

The Succession to the Crown Act 1543 was the third such act of the reign of Henry VIII. [13] It endorsed the provisions of Henry's last will (whatever they were) in assigning the order of succession, after Elizabeth's death. It in consequence supported in parliamentary terms the succession claims of Lady Catherine Grey, Protestant and born in England, over those of Mary, Queen of Scots. [14] Further, it meant that the Stuart claimants were disadvantaged, compared to the Suffolk claimants, though James VI was descended from the older daughter of Henry VII. [5]

Setting aside the will would have, in fact, threatened the prospects of James VI, by opening up a fresh legal front. It indeed specified the preference for descendants of Mary, rather than Margaret. However, in its absence, the matter of the succession could not be handled as an issue under statute law. If it were left to the common law, the question of how James, an alien, could inherit could be raised in a more serious form. [15]

There was no comparable Act of Parliament in Elizabeth's time. She did not follow the precedent set by her father in allowing parliamentary debate on the subject of the succession but instead actively tried to close it down throughout her reign. Paul Wentworth explicitly challenged her position on the matter in questions put to the House of Commons in 1566. [16]

In 1563, William Cecil drafted a bill envisaging the Privy Council having wide powers if the Queen died without an heir, but he did not put it forward. [17] Parliament petitioned the Queen to name her successor, but she did not do so. [18] A Bill was passed by Parliament in 1572, but the Queen refused her assent. [19] In the early 1590s, Peter Wentworth attempted to bring up the question again, but debate was shut down sharply. The matter surfaced mainly in drama. [20]

Discussion of the succession was strongly discouraged and became dangerous, but it was not entirely suppressed. During the last two decades of the century, the Privy Council was active against pamphlets and privately circulated literature on the topic. [21] John Stubbs, who published on the closely related issue of the queen's marriage, avoided execution in 1579 but had a hand cut off and was in the Tower of London until 1581. In that year, Parliament passed the Act against Seditious Words and Rumours Uttered against the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty. [22] The publication of books deemed seditious became a felony. [23]

Much of the writing was therefore anonymous in manuscript form or, in the case of Catholic arguments, smuggled into the country. Some was published in Scotland. Leicester's Commonwealth (1584), for example, an illegally circulated tract attacking the queen's favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, devoted much of its space to arguing for the succession rights of Mary Queen of Scots. [24]

A number of treatises, or "succession tracts", circulated. Out of a large literature on the question, Edward Edwards picked five of the tracts that were major contributions. That by Hales reflected a Puritan view (it has been taken to be derived from John Ponet) [25] and it to a large extent set the terms of the later debate. The other four developed the cases for Catholic successors. [26]

The Hales tract Edit

John Hales wrote a speech to give in the House of Commons in 1563 [27] he was a partisan of the Earl of Hertford, in right of his wife, the former Lady Catherine Grey. [26] It was related to the efforts of Lord John Grey, Lady Catherine Grey's uncle and guardian, who tried to make the case that she was the royal heir at an early point in Elizabeth's reign, incurring the Queen's wrath. This manuscript brought to bear on the question the old statute De natis ultra mare. It was influential in the following debate, but the interpretation of the statute became important. [28] It also caused a furore, and allegations of a plot. Hales could only be brought to say that he had shown a draft to John Grey, William Fleetwood, the other member of parliament for the same borough, and John Foster, who had been one of the members for Hindon. [29] Walter Haddon called Hales's arrest and the subsequent row the Tempestas Halesiana. What Hales was doing was quite complex, using legal arguments to rule out Scottish claimants, and also relying on research abroad by Robert Beale to reopen the matter of the Hertford marriage. [30] Francis Newdigate, who had married Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, was involved in the investigation, but was not imprisoned Hales was. [31] He spent a year in the Fleet Prison and the Tower of London, and for the rest of his life was under house arrest. [27]

The case for a Catholic successor Edit

Early tracts Edit

John Lesley wrote on behalf of Mary, Queen of Scots. [26] A defence of the honour of the right high, mightye and noble Princess Marie (1569) had its London printing prevented by Lord Burghley. It raised, in particular, the tensions between the Succession Act of 1543 and the actual wills left by Henry VIII. Elizabeth would not accept the implied degree of parliamentary control of the succession. Further discussion of the succession was prohibited by statute, from 1571. [32] A related work, by Thomas Morgan (as supposed), [26] or Morgan Philipps (supposed), for Mary, Queen of Scots, was another printing of Lesley's work, in 1571. [33] Lesley's arguments in fact went back to Edmund Plowden, and had been simplified by Anthony Browne. [34]

The Doleman tract Edit

The arguments naturally changed after Queen Mary's execution. It has been noted that Protestant supporters of James VI took over debating points previously used by her supporters while Catholics employed some arguments that had been employed by Protestants. [35]

A significant step was taken in Robert Highington's Treatise on the Succession, in favour of the line through the House of Portugal. Robert Persons's pseudonymous Conference about the next Succession to the Crown of England, by R. Doleman (comprising perhaps co-authors, 1595), was against the claim of James VI. [26] It cited Highington's arguments, against those of Hales and Sir Nicholas Bacon. [36] This work made an apparent effort to discuss candidates equitably, including the Infanta of Spain, Isabella Clara Eugenia. It was taken by some in England to imply that Elizabeth's death could lead to civil war. A preface suggested that Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex might be a decisive influence. The circumstance reflected badly on Essex with the Queen. [37] It also sought to undermine Burghley by suggesting he was a partisan of Arbella Stuart, and dealt acutely with the Lancaster/York issues. [38]

The plot of Gorboduc (1561) has often been seen as a contribution to the succession debate. [39] This view, as expounded by Axton, has led to much further debate. The play was given for the queen in 1562, and later published. Stephen Alford argues that it is a generalised "succession text", with themes of bad counsel and civil war. [40] From the point of view of Elizabethan and Jacobean literary criticism, it has been argued that it is significant to know when the succession was "live" as an issue of public concern, right into the reign of James I, and in what form drama, in particular, might be expressing comment on it. In particular, Hopkins points out that Macbeth and King Lear, both relating to legitimacy and dynastic politics, were written in the early years of James's reign. [41]

The term "succession play" is now widely applied to dramas of the period that relate to a royal succession. Plays mentioned in this way include, among other works by Shakespeare, Hamlet [42] Henry V [43] A Midsummer Night's Dream through allegory and the figure of Titania [44] and Richard II as an atypical case. [45] Another, later play that might be read in this way is Perkin Warbeck (1634) by John Ford. [46]

The poet Michael Drayton alluded to the succession in Englands Heroicall Epistles (1597), in a way now seen as heavy-handed dabbling in politics. [47] In it, imaginary letters in couplets are exchanged by paired historical characters. [48] Hopkins sees the work as a "genealogical chain" leading up to the succession issue, and points out the detailed discussion of the Yorkist claim, in the annotations to the epistles between Margaret of Anjou and William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk (thought in Drayton's time to have been lovers). [49] [50]

Theories on the putative succession had to be revised constantly from the later 1590s. The speculations were wide, and the cast of characters changed their status. [51]

The Doleman tract of 1594 suggested one resolution to the succession issue: the Suffolk claimant William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby should marry the Infanta of Spain, and succeed. Stanley, however, married the following year. [52] Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, son-in-law of Philip II of Spain, became a widower in 1597. Catholic opinion suggested he might marry a female claimant, Lady Anne Stanley (the Earl's niece), if not Arbella Stuart. [51]

Thomas Wilson wrote in a report The State of England, Anno Domini 1600 that there were 12 "competitors" for the succession. His counting included two Stuarts (James and Arbella), three of the Suffolks (two Beauchamp claimants and the Earl of Derby), and George Hastings, 4th Earl of Huntingdon, younger brother of the 3rd Earl mentioned above. The other six were: [53]

    via John of Gaunt [i] via Edmund Crouchback , nephew of Henry, King of Portugal, via John of Gaunt [ii] and with related claims [iii]
  • The Infanta of Spain.

These six may have all been taken as the Catholic candidates (Percy was not in fact a Catholic, though from a Catholic family). Wilson at the time of writing (about 1601) had been working on intelligence matters for Lord Buckhurst and Sir Robert Cecil. [54]

Of these supposed claimants, Thomas Seymour and Charles Neville died in 1600. None of the Iberian claims came to anything. The Duke of Parma was the subject of the same speculations as the Duke of Savoy [51] but he married in 1600. Arbella Stuart was in the care of Bess of Hardwick, [55] and Edward Seymour in the care of Richard Knightley, whose second wife Elizabeth was one of his sisters. [56]

The Love Life of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I began her reign on 17th November 1558 as a young woman of only 25 years of age. However, by the time Elizabeth gave her first speech to Parliament in early 1559 she declared that it would be ‘sufficient’ for her to ‘live and die a virgin.’ On 24th March 1603, Elizabeth did in fact die in this precise manner at the age of 69. Therefore, within this article I will analyse several key events before Elizabeth’s succession to suggest why it was ‘sufficient’ for a young woman of 25 to make such a bold statement within months of succeeding, especially when her very role of monarch was to marry and produce an heir.

To decipher Elizabeth’s perception of matrimony, it is probably best to first look at the example set within her immediate family. Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, married a total of six times, and as the famous mnemonic rhyme goes they were divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Of those beheaded of treason and adultery was that of her own mother, Anne Boleyn, on 19th May 1536, when Elizabeth was not quite three years old. However, although Elizabeth was too young to understand the ‘speed and ruthfulness of Queen Anne’s downfall’ she was fully aware of her stepmother Catherine Howard’s execution on 13th February 1542, when she was eight years old. Once Catherine was arrested her father ‘refused even to let her plead in her own defence.’ Of her four other stepmothers, two were divorced and cast aside, one died in childbirth and the other barely survived due to an implication of suspected heresy, months before her own father’s death. Therefore, Elizabeth’s views of matrimony with regards to her own father’s marriages can only have been connected to alienation or death, whether by childbirth or beheading.

Elizabeth’s elder half sister, Mary I, fared little better within her own marriage to the future Philip II of Spain, whom she married on 25th July 1554. The marriage was not successful though, ‘for although Mary fell deeply in love with Philip, he found her repellent.’ Unsurprisingly, the marriage produced no children, despite Mary’s expectant hopes during her phantom pregnancies that she would produce the longed for Catholic heir. Philip soon returned to Spain, and Mary never saw him again.

When Elizabeth eventually succeeded on 17th November 1558 it was Philip who was the first to offer his hand in marriage, although a dispensation would have been needed for Elizabeth to marry her deceased sister’s husband. However, Elizabeth was careful not to make the same disastrous mistake as her sister, that of marrying a Catholic foreign prince. By the time of Elizabeth’s succession ‘the country was impoverished by Spain’s injudicious wars and humiliated by the loss of Calais’ resulting in the Treasury being virtually empty. It was this reason, which her councillors later used in 1579 when Elizabeth thought of marrying the Catholic French prince, Frances, Duke of Alencon. Their xenophobic fears were widely popular within the country, as the English ‘were always suspicious of foreign men and their Continental ways.’

Elizabeth’s first experience of love also did very little to recommend her to the state of matrimony. For, following the death of her father on 28th January 1547, Elizabeth was placed into the care of her stepmother, Catherine Parr, where she soon gained the attentions of her stepmother’s new husband, Thomas Seymour. When in early 1548 the heavily pregnant Catherine Parr became aware of the inappropriateness of her husband and stepdaughter’s flirtatious conduct, Elizabeth was duly sent away. Within months, Catherine died in childbirth on 5th September 1548, and Thomas was now free to marry the 15-year-old princess. However, Thomas was soon caught up in a power struggle with his brother, the Lord Protector Edward Seymour, and was ‘condemned to death on charges of treason on 20th March 1549.’ Elizabeth and her servants were questioned over their involvement with Thomas Seymour and his suspected plan to marry Elizabeth, but no evidence was found against them. This early encounter with love and flirtation, and all the dangers that came with it, were an early sign to Elizabeth of how marriage could lead to self-destruction.

Of course, Elizabeth did have several chances to marry throughout her reign, most notably to Robert Dudley (pictured with Elizabeth, above), her great favourite. However, the suspicious death of Robert’s wife, Amy Robsart, on 8th September 1560, effectively put an end to this possibility. Elizabeth was by then a skilled enough politician to know that her people would revolt if she married Dudley, due to the popular belief that he has ‘instigated the death of his inconvenient wife.’ Ironically, a similar turn of events occurred seven years later when Mary, Queen of Scots, married James, 4th Earl of Bothwell, whom the Scots believed had murdered her second husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, only weeks earlier. Consequently, the Scots revolted and Mary was forced to abdicate and ‘yield the throne to her thirteen-month-old son, now James VI.’ This dramatic series of events within Scotland shows in itself Elizabeth’s wisdom in not marrying Robert Dudley in 1560.

To conclude, I would argue that Elizabeth had already decided upon her succession that she would ‘live and die a virgin’ due to the various experiences of marriage she had already encountered within her immediate family. Her flirtations with Robert Dudley, the love of her life, early on within her reign were marred by the suspicious death of his own wife. This served as a reminder to Elizabeth how dangerous love could be, especially following her youthful encounter with Thomas Seymour. Mary, Queen of Scots’ disastrous choice in husbands and the consequential loss of her throne and freedom also indicated to Elizabeth that a ruler, especially a female ruler, needed to be more careful in her choice of a consort. Elizabeth therefore had to prove that a female monarch could rule effectively, despite those contemporaries such as the ‘aggressive Calvinist divine, John Knox,’ publicising sceptical texts on Europe’s ‘Monstrous Regiment of Women.’ These events during her reign, rather than putting any doubt in Elizabeth’s mind of whether to enter into matrimony, more than likely confirmed her initial resolution made in early 1559 that it was wisest to ‘live and die a virgin.’

Scott Newport was born in 1984 in Reading, Berkshire and lives with his wife Katherine in Whitchurch, Hampshire. He has been a keen amateur historian from a young age and specialises in the Tudor and Stuart era.

The Spanish Armada Backfires and Launches England’s Power

Elizabeth’s return to Protestantism and her re-establishment of the Church of England was one of the reasons for the launching of the Spanish Armada by Philip II of Spain, although it may be said that this occurred much later during Elizabeth’s reign, i.e. in 1588. The Spanish plan was to invade England, overthrow the queen, and re-establish Roman Catholicism in England. The invasion was a failure and a blow to the prestige of Spain, which was a superpower at that time.

On the other hand, the defeat of the supposedly invincible Armada was a great morale boost, not only for England, but also for other Protestant countries in Europe. Although Spain continued to dominate Europe for the next few decades, it now had a rival at sea and saw the beginnings of England as a major player in European politics .

English fireships are launched at the Spanish armada off Calais (Eastfarthingan / Public Domain )

Facts About Married life of Elizabeth

The fact that Queen Elizabeth was unmarried, and was also known as the Virgin Queen, brought the question of her successor in the forefront in the midst of her reclining condition. She had never clearly stated the name of the person to whom she wanted to make her successor.

It is believed that during her last few days she had mentioned that James I (James VI) of Scotland should succeed her. It was also said the Queen’s government played an essential role in his becoming the King of England. Queen Elizabeth died in her sleep in the wee hours of 24th March, 1603. It is interesting that the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty died on the same day as her father and her sister.

Elizabeth I -Last Monarch of the Tudors

Elizabeth I was queen of England from 1558 until she died in 1603. Her reign was called the Elizabethan Age, a very exciting and glorious period in English history, in which England became an important world power.

She was born near London in 1533. Her father was Henry VIII and her mother Anne Boleyn, the second of the king&rsquos six wives. When Elizabeth was 3 years old her mother was beheaded because she was accused of having a relationship with someone else. Elizabeth had an elder half sister Mary, and a younger half brother Edward.

King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church because the pope would not let him divorce his first wife. Henry then founded the Church of England and made his country protestant.

Although Henry cared very little about Elizabeth during her childhood she received a good education and was taught well in history and philosophy. She learned many languages, including French, Italian and Latin.

When Henry died in 1547 his only son, Edward, became king but the boy king died six years later. Mary became queen and made England a Catholic country again. She didn&rsquot like Elizabeth and thought that she was plotting against her. She sent her half sister to prison in the Tower of London for two months. When she was released , she had to live in the countryside.

Mary died in 1558 and Elizabeth succeeded her. She became very popular and many people thought that she would bring back peace and stability in a time of conflict. Elizabeth was a cautious and clever queen she knew a lot about economics and had good advisors . She returned England to Protestantism but she was not a radical religious reformer.

Elizabeth I

Although there were many young men who wanted to marry her, Elizabeth stayed alone and had no children. This was a threat to the English monarchy because without children her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, would inherit the throne . She was a Catholic and a friend of France. Elizabeth was aware of this danger and had Mary sent to prison for many years. She was executed in 1587.

Elizabeth gave her country a lot of self confidence . During her reign it built up its sea power and ships sailed across the seas to trade in the New World. At that time Spain controlled much of the trade in the New World. Elizabeth sent Sir Francis Drake and other sea captains to raid Spanish ships and seize gold and other treasures that the Spanish had captured .

This was too much for Philip II of Spain so he decided to attack England. After years of preparation he put together a strong fleet of ships called the Spanish Armada. In 1588 the Armada sailed into the English Channel . In the battle that lasted for nine days the British defeated the Spaniards because their ships were smaller and faster. Only a few of them managed to get back to Spain. Elizabeth had celebrated the greatest victory of her reign .

The Elizabethan Age was also an age of art and culture. Many musicians, scholars and writers came to her palace. William Shakespeare was the greatest writer of the period and wrote some of the world&rsquos finest plays and poems. (Elizabethan Theatre)

The last years of Elizabeth&rsquos reign were troubled by scandals and revolts . Parliament started to criticize the queen and health problems made her weaker. She died on March 24, 1603 at the age of 69. At her wish, Mary Stuart&rsquos son, James VI of Scotland became king of England and the two countries were united .

Queen Elizabeth I: Death & Funeral Information & Facts

‘She is certainly a great Queen and were she only a Catholic she would be our dearly beloved. Just look how well she governs! She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all…. Our children would have ruled the whole world.’ Pope Sixtus V describes Elizabeth, c1588

When news of the execution of Mary, queen of Scots reached Europe, it gave Philip II of Spain yet another reason to look askance at his former sister-in-law. English harassment of Spanish shipping and their support of rebellions against his rule had long angered him. He had tried diplomacy it had been successful enough until Elizabeth’s Protestant councilors grew suspicious of his motives and angry over his treatment of continental Protestants. After diplomacy came a gradual cooling between the countries Philip even tried his hand at encouraging Irish rebellions against Elizabeth. And Philip grew increasingly pious as the years passed, and thus more inclined to take the excommunication of 1570 more seriously.

Serious consequences were avoided for the first thirty years of Elizabeth’s rule due to her own prevarication and Philip’s more pressing problems. But as the 1580s began, it was clear that something must give. Philip could no longer afford the blatant piracy of the English, publicly disavowed but privately approved by Elizabeth (who always received the largest share of profits.) She had even gone so far as to knight her greatest pirate, Sir Francis Drake, in 1581. Four years later, the English openly supported the Netherlands when it revolted against Philip, a dangerous but popular policy for Elizabeth. Furthermore, Philip had long claimed the throne of Portugal but had only recently seized it by force of arms. If he wished to maintain control, he needed to defend the rich and wide-ranging Portuguese colonies.

Philip also needed to end the Protestant menace to Europe. He supported plans to free Mary, queen of Scots and place her on the English throne. His ambassador Mendoza had been peripherally involved in the Babington Plot and was expelled from England as a result. Many of Elizabeth’s councilors, most importantly the influential Robert Dudley, had advocated a tougher approach to Spanish meddling. But always the queen, mindful of her treasury and always desiring peace, had held back. She would send a few troops and some money, but little else. Philip, however, had less love of peace and a more pressing piety. England would be brought back into the Catholic fold, as the pope had commanded in 1570. The execution of Mary, queen of Scots in early 1587 gave him added impetus to act. The English had sought to publicize Mary’s various crimes, but most Europeans, even the Scots who had applauded her overthrow years ago, preferred the more tragic image of an innocent queen trapped by Elizabeth’s wily councilors.

Philip spent much of 1587 finally preparing his long-rumored ‘Armada’ against England. While Elizabeth’s council had long warned her of this possibility, Philip’s own advisors believed he could ill afford this new battle. The Spanish fleet and army had fought too long and hard over the years. They comprised the largest and best-prepared army and navy in the world they had been successful against the Turks, had watched their traditional enemy, France, succumb to internal religious turmoil, had seized Portugal, and fought throughout the Low Countries. But victories could be as tiresome and expensive as defeats. Morale was low and leadership was lacking.

Philip’s advisors consistently stressed the expense of the proposed battle. But for the king, expenses were driving him to fight. He needed to stop the English from seizing Spanish ships filled with precious coin and goods. Each loss was a further blow to a nearly empty treasury. There was no better time to fight than now, he declared, for the murder of Mary Stuart had at last united European opinion against Elizabeth. In July 1587, he received official approval from the pope for the invasion, provided England returned to Catholicism. The pope even agreed to allow Philip to choose the next English ruler. It would in all likelihood be the Spanish king himself for he claimed descent from the famous Edward III.

As further impetus to Philip, even as he negotiated approval of the invasion with the pope, Drake led an expedition into Spain itself, seizing and destroying many vessels. Elizabeth protested that Drake had acted without her knowledge this may have been true. Certainly the queen had no desire for war. But her protestations did not matter. It was an audacious act which could not go unpunished.

Elizabeth, of course, knew of the Spanish army lodged in the Low Countries, so close to English shores and able to intercept English shipping. When word came that these forces were being steadily increased and an armada of Spanish ships was being prepared for battle, she could no longer debate and hesitate. The impending threat was too obvious to ignore.

Yet what could England do against the great Spanish fleet? All of Europe, and many Englishmen, believed England could not withstand the overwhelming Spanish force.

‘Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects… I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm…’ from Elizabeth I’s speech to the troops at Tilbury, 1588

The Armada which sailed against England is sometimes called ‘The Invincible Armada’, but its correct name is La Armada Grande. Its supreme commander was the duke of Medina Sidonia, a nobleman who had done all he could to avoid this appointment. He spent hours urging Philip, in the most polite and obsequious way possible, to find someone else, pointing out his own lack of experience in naval matters. But the king would not listen. Spain’s greatest naval commander Don Alvaro de Bazan the elder, the marquess of Santa Cruz, had died and there had been a long, fruitless search for a suitable replacement. The conscientious Medina Sidonia was Philip’s choice, much to the duke’s everlasting regret.

The Armada sailed from Lisbon on 20 May 1588, a grand procession of 130 ships and over 30,000 men. However, half of the vessels were transport ships and the majority of men were soldiers, not sailors. Medina Sidonia was to sail to Flanders, where he would join the prince of Parma who waited with more soldiers and transports. But the Armada stopped first in Corunna for some repair work and Medina Sidonia wrote to Philip, asking for the invasion to be postponed indefinitely. The king was adamant, however, and the fleet sailed to Flanders.

Their arrival was expected and observed by the English. Under the command of Lord Howard, they set out from Plymouth, under cover of night. They managed to destroy some of the chief Spanish ships so that, with reinforcements, their numbers roughly equaled the Spanish. More importantly, in terms of command and gunnery, the English had a far superior advantage. By the time of the great battle off Gravelines, each fleet had roughly sixty warships. The Spaniards fought heroically, but Howard was relentless. The English ships were more agile and their commanders more inventive. They did not allow the Spanish time to regroup and refit. Only one Spanish ship was captured but several sank or ran ashore. Medina Sidonia decided to lead the remaining fleet home, sailing along the north of Scotland and Ireland. They met constant storms and rough seas, and not one pilot remained in the whole fleet. Each passing storm destroyed more ships until, when the Armada finally limped home in the mid-September, half the fleet and most of its men were gone.

The defeat of the Armada was justly celebrated in Elizabeth’s time. It continues to be one of the most famous naval victories in history. There is an engaging aspect to the whole story – the English fleet taking on the greatest naval power in the world and, against all odds, winning a stunning victory. The psychological effect upon both nations was enormous.

Yet, upon closer inspection, the victory was neither as unexpected or immediately successful as is often believed. The English navy had always been superior in tactics and gunnery than the Spanish, but had suffered from Elizabeth’s penny-pinching support. They simply never had enough money to build the ships and pay the sailors needed to become a world-class naval power. The Spanish took so long to rebuild their navy that England finally had their opportunity, and they seized it with enthusiasm. England would become the undisputed master of the seas.

But Spain was not nearly finished as a world power. Barely two years after the Armada, they were virtually omnipotent in European affairs. The religious turmoil in France had weakened their traditional enemy to such an extent that Spain stood unchallenged until 1598, when Henri of Navarre converted to Catholicism. The balance of power in Europe was thus restored. But Spain’s army continued to grow until their dominance of land warfare equaled England’s naval power.

For Elizabeth, of course, the most important development was the most immediate – a brilliant victory over her greatest enemy, whose threats to invade had haunted most years of her reign. She could breathe a much-deserved sigh of relief. And she deserved no small credit for the success. Her speech to the troops at Tilbury, rallying them to fight, remains justly famous it is among her most stirring:

My loving people, We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.
She enjoyed a renaissance of sorts among her people after the Armada. She had already ruled for thirty years. Those years of peace and general prosperity had led to an inevitable resentment amongst her subjects, particularly the young noblemen who now dominated her court. They wanted adventure, glory, grand military exploits they were fervent nationalists who wanted England to finally challenge the great powers of Europe they believed themselves capable of anything. And Elizabeth, nearing sixty, would regard them with either amusement or anger. They did not know the price of war, she would complain they did not understand how difficult it had been to bring peace and security to England. They had not lived through the tumultuous reigns of her father and siblings. They did not remember the bitter religious divide, which even now she only bridged with her inestimable charm and intellect. England was at peace and her young courtiers chafed at peace. But for the queen, peace was her greatest gift to her ‘loving people.’ She knew its importance, the dear price it had cost her. ‘To be a King and wear a crown is a thing more pleasant to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it,’ she remarked in her Golden Speech of 1601.

But she also knew those young courtiers disagreed, however much they fawned over her, pretending she was still the young queen of thirty. Elizabeth was content to play the game for her vanity would not allow otherwise. To grow old was a curse to her, she remarked ‘I am not sick, I feel no pain, yet I pine away.’ To have a young mind in an old body was another common lament. She felt the loss of her youth keenly and did what she could to create a timeless role for herself. She wore wigs and heavy make-up and still dressed in the opulent gowns of a maid, a fetching style when she was younger but now merely a reminder of her lack of marriage and family. Her older subjects understood her melancholy of the younger ones, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Bacon were clever enough to guess its cause. But most did not.

And the queen no longer had the comfort of loyal Cecil and her beloved Dudley. Though Dudley had commanded the troops at Tilbury, he had died barely a month afterwards. Cecil was now very old and had ceded much of his influence to his ambitious son Robert and Sir Francis Walsingham, who died in 1590. The queen thus turned to another favorite, a young man who was a last link to Dudley. His name was Robert Devereux, earl of Essex he was Dudley’s stepson and his mother was Elizabeth’s cousin, Lettice Knollys.

Essex remains one of the more interesting courtiers of Elizabeth’s later years. He was the mortal enemy of Raleigh (who found him arrogant and overbearing) and close friends with Bacon. He became the great favorite of Elizabeth’s later years because, for a while, he was the ablest flirt and wit at court. But his ambitions went far beyond being the queen’s ‘wild-horse’. In this, he was encouraged by his flighty mother and sycophantic admirers.

Essex believed in the primacy of the nobility at Elizabeth’s court and disliked the influence of Cecil and his son, Robert, and other ‘upstarts’ such as Raleigh. He was too proud, which the queen – depending upon her mood – found endearing or infuriating. And he dreamed of military glory, badgering the queen to send him to Ireland to quell rebellions or with the navy to harass Spanish ships. Elizabeth often refused she genuinely enjoyed his company and would not risk his life. And when she did succumb, Essex performed disastrously. Though a daring and brave soldier, he was a terrible commander and his exploits cost the frugal queen dearly.

His worst offense, however, was a slip of the tongue. Elizabeth would respond to Essex’s tantrums by banishing him to the country until he begged forgiveness. Once, he decided to pretend illness instead. When news of his condition reached Elizabeth, she sent a letter asking after his health – but nothing more. Someone mentioned the queen’s conditions for letting him return. Infuriated, Essex cried out, ‘Her conditions! Her conditions are as crooked as her carcase.’ Those words reached the queen and she never forgot them.

Essex did return to court. But his subsequent behavior was outlandish and insulting he even dared to turn his back on Elizabeth during a council meeting. The final blow came when he led a rebellion against the queen. With his friend, the earl of Southampton, he planned to gather a small army and seize the queen and throne. When captured, as inevitably he was, for his supporters were few and even those deserted him, Essex declared he only meant to save the queen from evil counsel. But Elizabeth, who had so often vacillated over executions, only hesitated once with Essex. He was executed on 25 February 1601.

Despite scurrilous gossip, Elizabeth’s affection for Essex was more maternal than romantic. She had no choice but to sign his death-warrant but it broke her heart. When her godson, Sir John Harington, visited in the winter of 1602, he found her taste for old pleasures gone. Harington read some of his rhymes and Elizabeth, with a little smile, remarked, ‘When thou dost feel creeping time at thy gate, these fooleries will please thee less I am past my relish for such matters.’ To the earl of Nottingham, mourning the loss of his wife, she said, ‘ I am tied with a chain of iron about my neck. I am tied, I am tied, and the case is altered with me.’

She mentioned Essex at times, but this was merely a symptom of her awareness that all of the work and struggle of her reign had ended in solitude. She had often remarked on the essential loneliness of the crown but she felt it most deeply now.

Her council, led by Robert Cecil, whose father had died in 1601, watched her slow decline while preparingportrait of Elizabeth I in old age for the future. Elizabeth still had not named a successor. She had always understood its dangerous implications. Yet there was no real doubt that she meant for James VI of Scotland, son of Mary queen of Scots, to succeed her. He had married a Protestant princess and was already a father. And he had long since made his peace with Elizabeth, exchanging frequent letters and accepting her political advice.

Elizabeth retired to Richmond Palace, her ‘warm, snug box’ in March 1603. Her death was preceded by physical weakness and mental depression, but there were no overt causes. She was almost seventy years old, ancient for her time. She rested in a low chair by the fire, refusing to let doctors examine her. As the days passed, her condition slowly worsened. She stood for hours on end until, finally, she was persuaded to lay upon cushions on the floor. She rested there for two days, not speaking. A doctor ventured close and asked how she could bear the endless silence. She replied simply, ‘I meditate.’ For the third and fourth day, she continued to rest in silence, with a finger often in her mouth. Her attendants were terrified they must move her but she refused. The younger Cecil visited and said, ‘Your Majesty, to content the people, you must go to bed.’ Elizabeth replied, with some of her old spirit, ‘Little man, little man, the word must is not used to princes.’

Finally, she grew so weak that they could carry her to bed. She asked for music and, for a time, it brought some comfort. Her councilors assembled did she have any instructions regarding the succession? She made a sign when Cecil mentioned the king of Scotland. It was enough. He returned to his office to begin the paperwork for a new ruler.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Whitgift, whom she once called her ‘little black husband’, arrived to pray. He was old and his knees ached terribly, but he knelt at the royal bedside until she finally slept. She slept on into the early hours of 24 March until, at last, as the courtiers watched and waited, the steady breathing stopped. ‘Her Majesty departed this life, mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from the tree,’ John Manningham was told.

That same morning, the chief councilors rode to Whitehall where Cecil drafted the proclamation of the queen’s death and James’s succession. He read it aloud first at Whitehall and then at St Paul’s and finally Cheapside cross. The councilors then formally demanded entrance to the Tower of London in the name of King James I of England. Elizabeth’s maids and ladies were still waiting in the Coffer Room at Richmond Palace. When news of the peaceful transition of power came, they began to prepare for Elizabeth’s funeral.

The new king received the news of his accession on 27 March, for the ambitious Robert Carey had ridden at top speed to Edinburgh his journey was so quick that its speed would not be matched until 1832. But while James was initially welcomed peacefully and happily, his reign would quickly turn sour. It was not long before even Robert Cecil, who became the most powerful statesman of James’s reign, wrote to Harington:

You know all my former steps: good knight, rest content, and give heed to one that hath sorrowed in the bright lustre of a court, and gone heavily even on the best-seeming fair ground. Tis a great task to prove one’s honesty, and yet not spoil one’s fortune. You have tasted a little hereof in our blessed Queen’s time, who was more than a man and, in troth, sometimes less than a woman. I wish I waited now in her Presence Chamber, with ease at my foot, and rest in my bed. I am pushed from the shore of comfort, and know not where the winds and waves of a court may bear me.

And the common people realized their loss as well, as Godfrey Goodman, bishop of Gloucester wrote:

After a few years, when we had experience of a Scottish government, the Queen did seem to revive then was her memory much magnified: such ringing of bells, such public joy and sermons in commemoration of her, the picture of her tomb painted in many churches, and in effect more solemnity and joy in memory of her coronation than was for the coming-in of King James.

Elizabeth’s funeral procession, composed of more than a thousand mourners, began on 28 April. It was a stirring tribute to the queen, never forgotten by those who witnessed its passing. But her tomb, paid for by the new king, was less impressive than that provided to his disgraced mother, and cost far less. It can still be visited in Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth rests alongside her half-sister Queen Mary I.

What is Elizabeth I remembered for?

Elizabeth is often remembered as a powerful and clever monarch, known for her sumptuous costumes, sparkling jewellery, beautiful appearance and magnificent portraits. She reigned England at a time when religious opinion was divided, yet, for the most part, she managed to maintain peace and prosperity, and reign over a ‘Golden Age’.

She’s also remembered for being a different kind of queen. She was only the second queen in English history to rule in her own right (the first was her half-sister, Mary) – during a time when people believed that women weren’t able to rule as well as men. But Elizabeth didn’t let that stop her! She was clever and cunning and proved that women can be just as powerful as men!

Her refusal to marry lead to her being remembered as the ‘Virgin Queen.’ She knew that marriage would mean sharing power with her husband, and even becoming the less powerful of the two. There were rumours of Elizabeth having relationships with men at court, but none were ever proven true – making her even more of a mystery!

Lastly, she is arguably the most famous child of Henry VIII. Desperate for a male heir, Henry disowned Elizabeth as a child and beheaded her mother – and in the process, hugely underestimated his daughter’s potential to become one of the most influential queens in British history.

The truth behind the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I presented a reign filled with progress, riches and happiness but behind the scenes, things were far from joyous. Did Elizabeth I used public relations, political strategies and personal games to present a united front to both her subjects and her enemies?

Queen Elizabeth I and indeed the whole Elizabethian age appeared to leave behind an extraordinary image of a dazzling era of excitement and achievement, nearly superhuman heroes and daring deeds. And with it all the Queen, larger than life, radiating inspiration at the centre of it all.

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When her namesake, Queen Elizabeth II, came to the throne in 1952, her subjects hoped that another “golden age” was at hand. That the British would once again stun the world with their brilliance and panache, just as the English had done in the days of the first. The second Elizabethan age never transpired, not only because the expectation was unreasonable, but because the first age of Elizabeth never existed as it has long been perceived.

The reality behind the mask of Elizabeth I

The misperception was deliberately created to hide the crucial weaknesses in 16th-century England and its vulnerable Queen. The House of Tudor, of which Elizabeth became the fifth and last monarch, excelled at propaganda, and Elizabeth I needed favourable press.

When she came to the throne on 17th November 1558, she quickly realized she had inherited a poor, ill-equipped country highly vulnerable to attack. Religious upheavals over the previous 30 years had deeply divided her exhausted subjects. The Queen’s own status was just as depressing.

Much of Europe regarded her as an illegitimate child of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn since the Pope had not sanctioned Henry’s divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. As a bastard, Elizabeth had no right to the English throne. Furthermore, her father’s break from the Roman Catholic Church made her anathema to Catholics both in and outside England who regarded her distant cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, as the rightful sovereign.

Especially in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, England always faced the danger of attack from the great Roman Catholic powers, Spain and France, egged on by the Pope. Against these perils, the Queen could rely only on her own wits, her gambler’s instinct, and above all, her talent for creating a cult of personality.

Elizabeth's PR strategy

Elizabeth secured her position creating a glorious public image that overwhelmed religious differences and appealed directly to English patriotism. In order to win her subjects over, she needed to be visible and, in an age of slow communications, that meant undertaking many royal “progresses.”

“We princes,” Elizabeth told the English Parliament, “are set as it were upon stages in the sight and view of the world.” Elizabeth’s progress, accordingly, resembled travelling theatre. Every summer of the first 20 years of her reign saw her moving in splendid procession through the major towns and cities of England. The centrepiece was, of course, the Queen herself.

A dazzling figure almost submerged in the jewels, brocade, and ornaments of her dress, she was more like a living icon than a human being. The layers of this theatrical front Elizabeth presented to the outside world have hidden the real person within from historians seeking a truer understanding of the Queen. Much about her personal as well as her public life remains mysterious, and this is probably just what she wanted.

However, if she herself was the chief author of this persona, Elizabeth had backup of the highest order. Poets, playwrights, painters, the creators of water pageants and masques at court, propagandists, pamphleteers, and ballad-makers all conspired to intensify the image of Elizabeth as “Gloriana,” the Virgin Queen or the “Faerie Queene” of Edmund Spenser’s fantasy. Artists also promoted Elizabeth in all her bejewelled glamour, surrounded by a glittering court full of lusty young men whose dauntless deeds she inspired.

Elizabeth as a political strategist

Through most of her life, and certainly in her early years as Queen, Elizabeth lived dangerously so that she and England could survive. England’s principal enemies, France and Spain, enjoyed far greater wealth, influence, and military might. England had little chance of resisting a direct onslaught from them. Elizabeth relied, therefore, on guile, smokescreens, and confusion. She deliberately exploited the enmity between France and Spain, hinting at aid for one against the other, never committing herself, but always holding out hope. As long as she kept her enemies guessing, she could be reasonably sure that neither would risk a war on two fronts by attacking England.

Elizabeth always drew back from courses of action that might provoke her enemies. At the same time, she kept her options open and never gave in to pressure. When her reign began, for instance, Elizabeth hinted to Henri II of France that she would break with King Philip of Spain if Henri would restore Calais to England. (Calais, a former English possession, had been taken by France in January 1558.) At the same time, she persuaded Philip that she would be willing to marry him and so ally England with Spain. As a result, Elizabeth gained compensation for Calais while Philip went on living in hope.

The Queen confounded even the Pope with her wiles. He watched England closely to see whether Elizabeth would reverse the policy of her Roman Catholic half-sister and predecessor, Queen Mary I, and turn her realm into a fully Protestant state. Try as he might, though, the Pope was never able to decide whether she would or would not.

On the one hand, Elizabeth kept the Catholic mass in her own private chapel and sent an ambassador to the Papal Court. On the other, the Queen and her advisors slowly steered legislation through Parliament that gave first place to the Protestant faith, with concessions to make the religious settlement palatable to Catholics. Then again, Elizabeth allowed outrageous fun to be made of the Roman church at court mummeries, where crows were dressed up as cardinals and asses as bishops. However, she made it clear that she would force no one’s conscience to conform to the Protestant faith and make no one a martyr in the cause of religion.

Elizabeth took blatant advantage of the fact that her enemies expected a woman to be indecisive. She took care, of course, to conceal the devious mind, keen political instinct, and strong urge to survive that lay at the root of her protean proceedings. All that showed on the outside was a monarch who offered hope and then backtracked, gave half a promise and then denied it.

Elizabeth's search for a successor

Where she could not follow such an indeterminate course, Elizabeth fell back on the royal prerogative to decide important matters unilaterally. Very often, when no safer option presented itself, that meant doing nothing. This was certainly true when it came to naming the successor to her throne. If she named a Catholic heir she would alienate her Protestant subjects - they remembered only too well the fires that had consumed those Mary had considered heretics. The other choice, a Protestant heir, would inevitably lead to the foreign invasion and conquest Elizabeth feared. She chose no one until the last possible moment when she was dying in 1603.

A third alternative, one constantly urged on her, was for Elizabeth to marry and produce her own heir. There was no shortage of applicants from Philip of Spain to the heir to the Swedish throne. From assorted foreign dukes and English nobles to the spectacularly squat and ugly Due d’Alençon, whom Elizabeth called her “frog.” Elizabeth kept the Duke dangling for years, and he was still seriously, but hopelessly, wooing her when she was in her mid-forties. Meanwhile, of course, Elizabeth could avoid considering marriage with anyone else.

Why Elizabeth would never marry

Political and economic opportunism motivated many of these suits, as was common with royal unions in Elizabeth’s time. None of her suitors realized, though, that while Elizabeth kept them dangling as it suited her, she had no intention of marrying any of them. Most likely, she truly loved only one man, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who according to rumour almost succeeded in getting her to the altar. However, when she and Dudley were both about nine years old, she had told him she would never take a husband. This was no piece of childish melodrama. Elizabeth knew from personal experience that royal marriage was dangerous.

Robert Dudley, who Elizabeth called her “sweet Robin”. (© Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy)

The marital history of her father, the six-times-married King Henry VIII, had been a nightmarish lesson. He had hounded his first wife, Catherine, to death executed two others, including Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn and terrorized three of the other four. Elizabeth watched from the sidelines and drew her own conclusions.

After she became Queen, the dangers of marriage took on another aspect. A husband would not have occupied a secondary position, like Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, or Prince Philip, who married the second Elizabeth in 1947. At the time of Elizabeth I, the husband of a reigning Queen could claim the Crown Matrimonial and rule as King during her lifetime. In the case of a foreign husband, this meant the one thing Elizabeth’s subjects most hated: foreign influence in English affairs. If, on the other hand, she opted to marry an English noble, she would make him an “overmighty subject” with more power than any subject ought to possess.

This situation had a particular poignancy in 16th-century England. The Tudors had claimed the throne in 1485 after the Wars of the Roses, a struggle for control that had laid waste to many an English noble. Elizabeth would not risk a repeat performance and so resolved to keep her nobles from access to royal power. One of her most famous assertions - that she was wedded to her kingdom - was another way of saying that England was the only “husband” she could have who would not prove a danger to her.

Elizabeth's sensitivity around her image

Of all the many aspects of Elizabeth’s public image perhaps the most obvious, and in some ways the most sensitive, was the face depicted by her many portraitists. Painting an image of the Queen was a task fraught with many difficulties, particularly as her half-century-long reign wore on. By the time she reached her 65th birthday, one contemporary wrote that “Her face is oblong, fair but wrinkled her eyes small, yet black … she wore false hair, and that red.”

In addition, when Elizabeth was 29 she contracted small-pox, which left her face permanently blemished. To cover the marks, she took to wearing white lead makeup. The effectiveness of her efforts to hide her scars and advancing age may be judged from the fact that towards the end of her life she would not allow mirrors in her rooms.

This concern over her outward appearance extended to the portraits made of her. Just where was the line to be drawn between accuracy and deferential flattery? Commenting on this delicate matter. Sir Robert Cecil, her Secretary of State, wrote: “Many painters have done portraits of the Queen but none has sufficiently shown her looks or charms. Therefore Her Majesty commands all manner of persons to stop doing portraits of her until a clever painter has finished one which all other painters can copy. Her Majesty, in the meantime, forbids the showing of any portraits which are ugly until they are improved.”

While there was surely some simple vanity in the Queen’s command, her concern for projecting the proper image - one of a strong monarch unimpaired by the passage time - was also a matter of political propaganda.

The Spanish question

There were, of course, limits to just how far Elizabeth could go in masking her intentions. It was one thing to keep suitors in suspense, quite another to challenge the Spaniards in America and Europe without incurring their wrath. The Spaniards believed their American empire was God-given. Their astounding achievements in exploring, conquering, and settling this huge area brought Spain so much wealth in gold, silver, and jewels that the currency of Europe had to be revised to take account of it.

Spain’s growing wealth obviously worried Elizabeth. Philip had never ruled out a war against England, and a potential flashpoint lay just across the English Channel. The Spanish Netherlands, heavily militarized by Philip, was Protestant territory and a possession as important for its own product - cloth - as the New World was for gold and silver.

Portrait of Elizabeth I of England in Parliament robes

The Dutch “sea-beggars” used English harbours as havens when the Netherlands finally rebelled against its Spanish masters. Even Elizabeth’s prevarication could not stop Philip realizing that the English sympathized with the rebels, and that English privateers had cast greedy eyes on Spanish America. Philip had initially allowed his colonies to conduct a certain amount of trade with England, but in 1567 Spain closed its American colonies to all foreigners, and the English Protestant heretics in particular.

The ambitious English, however, dearly wanted to muscle in on the wealth of the New World to build up England’s resources, and if legal trade came to an end, piracy would do. In 1572, Francis Drake sailed the Atlantic to Panama, where the Spanish marshalled their treasure fleets. With characteristic daring, Drake hijacked the latest shipment and returned to England, his ships’ holds stuffed with booty. Five years later Drake carried out a thoroughgoing series of raids against several Spanish settlements and again returned home loaded with treasure. For good measure, Drake sailed around the world, the first Englishman to do so.
King Philip complained about the English pirates, but Elizabeth parried the protests, claiming Drake’s activities were his own private business. Even so, when Drake returned triumphant in 1580, she went down to greet him when he stepped ashore at Deptford. There on the quayside, with the Spanish ambassador glowering nearby, she drew a sword and knighted Drake.

Thus far, Philip had been too preoccupied in Europe to consider a serious attack on England and its impudent Queen. He had contented himself with fomenting plots against Elizabeth among the English Catholics. However, incidents like the knighting of Drake, as well as the failure of the plot to unseat Elizabeth, and English interference in the Netherlands greatly raised the temperature of Anglo-Spanish rivalry. In 1587, when Mary, Queen of Scots’ involvement in the most serious conspiracy against Elizabeth resulted in her execution, the enmity escalated, and a course was set for war.

However, Drake forced the Spanish to delay their attack on England by launching his most outrageous strike yet, against the Armada Philip was gathering at Cadiz. The effect was only temporary. Within a year, Philip had replaced the ships and stores. The invasion force left Spain in the early summer of 1588, bound for the Netherlands where it planned to embark a large army.

The embarkation never took place. Philip’s Armada failed, partly through the wild, destructive weather in the English Channel, partly because of the deadly firepower of the new-style English galleons. Channel storms tore at the lumbering Spanish vessels, and English guns pounded their timbers, reducing the much-vaunted Armada to a mass of wallowing, leaking hulks. The survivors did not return to Spain until the end of 1588, having sailed around the British Isles and out into the Atlantic. At least half the surviving Spanish ships wrecked or sank on the way.
The news that tiny, pipsqueak England had laid low the mighty fleet and pride of Spain stunned Europe. The English felt both triumph and relief. The genius of her seamen, aided by phenomenal good luck, had saved England. But, as always where Elizabeth was concerned, it had been a very close thing.

By this time, Elizabeth had been Queen of England for 30 years—a long time to wait for some security. Though the war with Spain lasted in desultory fashion for another 15 years, the worst perils Elizabeth and England would face were behind them.

Elizabeth's legacy

When Elizabeth died in 1603, England was an expanding power with a rich and growing trade in the Netherlands, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and even Russia. In addition, the groundwork had been laid for the first English settlement in the New World, established in Virginia in 1607. Though still early in the day, the realm Elizabeth preserved against great odds was on its way to its later status as a prime world power, while the sun of Spain was slowly sinking. This, rather than the overblown image of a celebrity Queen and her “golden age,” was the real source of lustre in the reign of the first Elizabeth and her country.

Watch the video: Ελισάβετ Α - Η αινιγματική ζωή της παρθένου βασίλισσας (August 2022).