Elizabeth I of England

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Elizabeth I
Queen of England and Ireland (more...)
Reign 17 November 1558 – 24 March 1603
Coronation 15 January 1559
Predecessors Mary I and Philip
Successor James I
House House of Tudor
Father Henry VIII
Mother Anne Boleyn
Born 7 September 1533
Greenwich, England
Died 24 March 1603(1603-03-24) (aged 69)
Richmond, England
Burial Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth I of England (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was the Queen of England, Ireland, and nominal claimant to Queen of France from 17 November 1558 until she died in 1603. She has also been called The Virgin Queen or Good Queen Bess.

Early life[change | change source]

Elizabeth was born in the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, England. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII of England and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. When she was very young, she lost her right to be called a princess, because her mother was found guilty of having lovers and was executed. After Anne's death, the king said she should no longer be treated as his daughter. Her half-sister, Mary, was in the same position. Mary was much older than Elizabeth, but her mother (Catherine of Aragon) had been divorced by King Henry and she was also being treated as if she was not the King's daughter.

After Anne Boleyn was beheaded, King Henry married Jane Seymour, who became queen. Jane had a baby son, who was named Edward. According to the Salic Law, the throne could not pass to a female descendant if there was a male heir, even if the female was older or had a more direct claim to the throne, so Edward became heir to the throne as soon as he was born.

Elizabeth was taken away from the royal court and was looked after by other people. She was given a good education. Elizabeth could speak and read six languages: her native English, as well as French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, and Latin.

When she was thirteen years old, King Henry died. Elizabeth's younger half-brother, Edward, became King even though he was only a child. He was called King Edward VI of England. People thought King Edward was a good King but he was young and did not understand the finer details of ruling a country, and relied heavily on an adviser. He soon died of an illness.

Because King Henry had no other children, he left a will saying that, if Edward had no children of his own, Mary would be queen after him, and Elizabeth would be queen after Mary. At the time no one thought this would ever happen, but Edward died when he was only fifteen. Mary then became queen, and was called Queen Mary I of England.

During Mary's reign, life became difficult for Elizabeth. When King Henry VIII divorced Mary's mother, he had quarrelled with the Pope and most people in England had turned away from the Roman Catholic religion. Mary had been loyal to the old religion, and, as soon as she became queen, she married King Philip II of Spain, who was a Roman Catholic. This marriage made her unpopular because Spain and England were old enemies. Mary wanted everyone else in England to be Roman Catholic again, so she tried to make Elizabeth attend Roman Catholic services. Elizabeth pretended to believe the same as Mary, but she was not really a Catholic. Because of the argument over religion, many people in the country preferred Elizabeth to Mary and wanted to make her queen. She was accused of trying to take Mary's throne, and was even put into the Tower of London for a while. She did not have any children.

Queen of England[change | change source]

Elizabeth became the Queen of England in 1558. Elizabeth has been called the "Virgin Queen", because she never married. The English loved Elizabeth because she courted them but they wanted her to marry and give them a king and heirs. Because Elizabeth was a woman, many people believed that she would do whatever her husband told her. Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain had caused a lot of problems, and Elizabeth did not want to make the same mistake in marrying a foreign ruler. If she married one person, she would form an alliance with one country, but could make many enemies. Politics would become uneasy and England would be opposed by other countries. She played the political games with the prospect of marrying one prince or another...aligning England with one side of a power struggle or the other - perhaps a country seeking to assert itself into the world politics would win her hand. If Elizabeth had married, it is likely England would have been attacked by one or both of the major powers at the time - Spain or France. By keeping suitors on their toes, she delayed such an invasion for many years. She was fond of saying England was her husband.

If Elizabeth had married a man who was not a prince or king, that might also have caused problems because other people would have been jealous of her husband. Most people believe that she was in love with Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester. She renewed her friendship with Robert Dudley when they were both prisoners in the Tower of London during Queen Mary's reign. Elizabeth knew about Robert Dudley's marriage to a woman called Amy Robsart as she had attended their wedding. After Elizabeth became queen, there was gossip about her friendship with Robert Dudley. Not long afterwards, Amy died in an accident. It seems that she fell down stairs after sending all her servants away, her body was not found until later. Some people said that her husband had arranged for her to be killed so he would be free to marry Queen Elizabeth...some think she committed suicide because of her husband's attention to the queen. All this gossip made it impossible for Elizabeth to marry him. When Elizabeth found she could not marry the man she loved, she may have decided that she would not marry at all.

Elizabeth I caught smallpox in 1562. This scared Parliament, because they did not know who would be the King or Queen after her. They asked Elizabeth I to name an heir, but she did not.

The person with the most legitimate claim to follow Elizabeth to the throne of England was her cousin, Mary Stuart, who was already Queen of Scotland. Mary Stuart and Elizabeth were rivals; Mary was a Catholic and Elizabeth was a Protestant. Mary married a French prince and became the French queen as well as the Queen of Scots. Some people wanted to force Elizabeth off the throne and replace her with Mary. This made Mary a danger to Elizabeth's bid for power.

Because many Scottish people were Protestants, they did not like Mary and wanted to get rid of her. She was put in prison and her infant son James was made King of Scotland in her place. He became James VI. In 1568, she escaped and ran away to England, to ask for help from Elizabeth. Elizabeth kept her as a prisoner for many years. In 1578, Elizabeth was told that Mary had been plotting to kill her and become queen in her place. Mary was put on trial and found guilty, and Elizabeth agreed to put Mary to death. This action was popular with Elizabeth's court, but it made her enemies in the Catholic countries of Europe, such as France and Spain.

End of Elizabeth's reign[change | change source]

After the death of her companion Robert Dudley, Elizabeth was very upset and turned to Dudley's stepson, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, who was a young man and not always very sensible. He let Elizabeth down several times. In the end, she sent him away from the royal court. Essex rebelled in 1601, the removal of his monopoly over sweet wines being the final straw. He planned to take over the royal court by coup, raising 300 men and some fellow out-of-favour nobles. Not many people supported them, and Essex was executed but noble participants such as Southampton were spared. Elizabeth was very hurt by the way he had behaved, and she was even more upset at having to agree to his execution.

Elizabeth I fell ill in February 1603, she was suffering from physical weakness and insomnia. She had no children, so it was decided that James VI would be the next king of England. James VI was the son of Mary Stuart, but he was a Protestant. Elizabeth I died at the age of 69, on 24 March 1603. She had managed to keep peace in the country and to keep the independence of England. These were thought to be great achievements.

Legacy[change | change source]

There have been many movies about Elizabeth I.

Other websites[change | change source]