Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I
Born: Sept 7, 1533 in Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, England
Died: March 24, 1603 (at age 69) in Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Nationality: English
Famous For: Last monarch of the Tudor Dynasty

Queen Elizabeth I was Queen of England and the last monarch in the Tudor Dynasty. She is generally acknowledged to have been one of England’s greatest rulers, and to have re-established stability after the turbulent reign of Mary I. She generally ruled pragmatically and was known as “Good Queen Bess,” but she was forced to imprison her sister Mary, Queen of Scots when she became a rival. She later had her executed.

Elizabeth’s reign also saw one of England’s greatest military victories, with the smashing of the Spanish Armada invasion fleet in 1588. She never married nor had children, giving her the alternative nickname of “The Virgin Queen.”

Early Life

Elizabeth was born in Greenwich, then outside London, on September 7, 1533. Her father was King Henry VIII and her mother was Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded for adultery when her daughter was age two. The young Elizabeth was banished from court, although she was rehabilitated to some extent near the end of Henry’s reign when his final wife, Catherine Parr, took her under her wing.

With the Roman Catholic Mary I’s ascension to the throne in 1533, Elizabeth’s position once again became dangerous. The following year, she was even imprisoned in the Tower of London for a short time after Mary suspected her of involvement in a plot against her.

Elizabeth’s Rise to Leadership

Mary died in the fall of 1588, and Elizabeth became the queen. She impressed the country and wider European society with her intelligence and wit; she was able to speak six languages, something considered highly unusual for a woman in the 16th century.

Her immediate aim was to stamp out the Catholicism that Mary had nurtured and re-establish a Protestant England. However, she was a shrewd enough leader to realize that excessive brutality in this regard might be counterproductive, and so she permitted certain Catholic practices to continue within the Church of England.

The Height of Elizabeth’s Power

Elizabeth’s leadership extended to her ability to choose competent administrators. These included Sir Francis Walsingham, the forerunner of the modern intelligence officer, and Sir Francis Drake, whose voyages of discovery brought back treasure and prestige for the Queen and for England in general.

Elizabeth considered that her subjects should see their monarch, and often rode into towns during royal visits, rather than being closeted away in a carriage. She brought on the arts, with Shakespeare being merely the most famous of a number of playwrights and musicians to whom she gave tacit encouragement and in some cases overt patronage.

The Queen’s Jealousy

In 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots, came to England after being exiled from her homeland. Elizabeth, being suspicious of her motives regarding the English throne, imprisoned her. She remained a captive for almost two decades with Elizabeth hoping to show mercy to her cousin.

However, the discovery of Mary’s involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow Elizabeth left the Queen with no choice but to try and execute her for treason in 1587. The following year, Philip II of Spain’s Armada fleet was destroyed, with Elizabeth’s already high popularity further entrenched by the great victory. Support for her remained strong until she died on March 24, 1603.