from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. The daughter of Henry VIII
, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn
, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI
, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey
, cutting his half-sisters out of the succession.
1558 Elizabethan era begins: Queen Mary I of England dies and is succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I of England.
1559 Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey, London.
1568 Queen Elizabeth I of England orders the arrest of Mary, Queen of Scots.
1570 Pope Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth I of England.
1586 Mary, Queen of Scots, goes on trial for conspiracy against Elizabeth I of England.
1597 William Shakespeare's ''The Merry Wives of Windsor'' is first performed, with Queen Elizabeth I in attendance.
Much suspected by me,Nothing proved can be, Quoth Elizabeth prisoner.
This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Kings were wont to honour philosophers, but if I had such I would honour them as angels that should have such piety in them that they would not seek where they are the second to be the first, and where the third to be the second and so forth.
Though I be a woman yet I have as good a courage answerable to my place as ever my father had. I am your anointed Queen. I will never be by violence constrained to do anything. I thank God I am endued with such qualities that if I were turned out of the Realm in my petticoat I were able to live in any place in Christendom.
I will make you shorter by the head.
The use of the sea and air is common to all; neither can a title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons, forasmuch as neither nature nor public use and custom permit any possession thereof.
Brass shines as fair to the ignorant as gold to the goldsmiths.
I grieve and dare not show my discontent, I love and yet am forced to seem to hate, I do, yet dare not say I ever meant, I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
Must is not a word to be used to princes! Little man, little man, if your late father were here he would never dare utter such a word.
from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. The daughter of Henry VIII
, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn
, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI
, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey
, cutting his half-sisters out of the succession. His will was set aside, Lady Jane Grey was executed, and in 1558 Elizabeth succeeded the Catholic Mary I
, during whose reign she had been imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
Elizabeth set out to rule by good counsel, and she depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley
. One of her first moves as queen was the establishing of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor
. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement
later evolved into today's Church of England
. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir so as to continue the Tudor line. She never did, however, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity, and a cult grew up around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.
In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-siblings had been. One of her mottoes was "video et taceo" ("I see, and say nothing"). In religion she was relatively tolerant, avoiding systematic persecution. After 1570, when the pope declared her illegitimate and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life. All plots were defeated, however, with the help of her ministers' secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, moving between the major powers of France and Spain. She only half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France and Ireland. In the mid-1580s, war with Spain could no longer be avoided, and when Spain finally decided to invade and conquer England in 1588, the defeat of the Spanish Armada
associated her with what is popularly viewed as one of the greatest victories in English history.
Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan era
, famous above all for the flourishing of English drama
, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare
and Christopher Marlowe
, and for the seafaring prowess of English adventurers such as Sir Francis Drake. Some historians are more reserved in their assessment. They depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charisma
tic performer and a dogged survivor, in an age when government was ramshackle and limited and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth's rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and eventually had executed in 1587. After the short reigns of Elizabeth's brother and sister, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.
and was named after both her grandmothers, Elizabeth of York
and Elizabeth Howard
. She was the second child of Henry VIII of England
born in wedlock to survive infancy. Her mother was Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn
. At birth, Elizabeth was the heiress presumptive to the throne of England. Her older half-sister, Mary
, had lost her position as a legitimate heir when Henry annulled his marriage to Mary's mother, Catherine of Aragon
, in order to marry Anne and sire a male heir to ensure the Tudor succession. Elizabeth was baptised on 10 September; Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
, the Marquess of Exeter
, the Duchess of Norfolk
and the Dowager Marchioness of Dorset
stood as her four godparents.
When Elizabeth was two years and eight months old her mother was executed on 19 May 1536. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate and deprived of the title of Princess. Eleven days after Anne Boleyn's death, Henry married Jane Seymour
, but she died shortly after the birth of their son, Prince Edward
, in 1537. Edward now became the undisputed heir to the throne. Elizabeth was placed in Edward's household and carried the chrisom
, or baptismal cloth, at his christening.
who remained her Lady Mistress until her retirement in late 1545 or early 1546. Catherine Champernowne, better known by her later, married name of Catherine “Kat” Ashley, was appointed as Elizabeth's governess in 1537, and she remained Elizabeth’s friend until her death in 1565, when Blanche Parry
succeeded her as Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She clearly made a good job of Elizabeth’s early education: by the time William Grindal became her tutor in 1544, Elizabeth could write English, Latin
, and Italian. Under Grindal, a talented and skilful tutor, she also progressed in French and Greek. She is also reputed to have spoken Cornish
. After Grindal died in 1548, Elizabeth received her education under Roger Ascham
, a sympathetic teacher who believed that learning should be engaging. By the time her formal education ended in 1550, she was one of the best educated women of her generation.
became king at age 9. Catherine Parr
, Henry's widow, soon married Thomas Seymour of Sudeley
, Edward VI's uncle and the brother of the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset
. The couple took Elizabeth into their household at Chelsea
. There Elizabeth experienced an emotional crisis that some historians believe affected her for the rest of her life. Seymour, approaching age 40 but having charm and "a powerful sex appeal", engaged in romps and horseplay with the 14-year-old Elizabeth. These included entering her bedroom in his nightgown, tickling her and slapping her on the buttocks. Catherine Parr, rather than confront her husband over his inappropriate activities, joined in. Twice she accompanied him in tickling Elizabeth, and once held her while he cut her black gown "into a thousand pieces." However, after Catherine Parr discovered the pair in an embrace, she ended this state of affairs. In May 1548, Elizabeth was sent away.
Seymour continued scheming to control the royal family and tried to have himself appointed the governor of the King’s person. When Catherine Parr died after childbirth on 5 September 1548, he renewed his attentions towards Elizabeth, intent on marrying her. The details of his former behaviour towards Elizabeth emerged and for his brother and the council, this was the last straw. In January 1549, Seymour was arrested on suspicion of plotting to marry Elizabeth and overthrow his brother. Elizabeth, living at Hatfield House
, would admit nothing. Her stubbornness exasperated her interrogator, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, who reported, "I do see it in her face that she is guilty". Seymour was beheaded on 20 March 1549.
Mary I's reign
died on 6 July 1553, aged 15. His will swept aside the Succession to the Crown Act 1543, excluded both Mary and Elizabeth from the succession, and instead declared as his heir Lady Jane Grey
, granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary, Duchess of Suffolk
. Lady Jane was proclaimed queen by the Privy Council, but her support quickly crumbled, and she was deposed after nine days. Mary rode triumphantly into London, with Elizabeth at her side.
The show of solidarity between the sisters did not last long. Mary, a devout Catholic, was determined to crush the Protestant faith in which Elizabeth had been educated, and she ordered that everyone attend Catholic Mass; Elizabeth had to outwardly conform. Mary's initial popularity ebbed away in 1554 when she announced plans to marry Prince Philip of Spain
, the son of Emperor Charles V
and an active Catholic. Discontent spread rapidly through the country, and many looked to Elizabeth as a focus for their opposition to Mary's religious policies.
In January and February 1554, Wyatt's rebellion
broke out; it was soon suppressed. Elizabeth was brought to court, and interrogated regarding her role, and on 18 March, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London
. Elizabeth fervently protested her innocence. Though it is unlikely that she had plotted with the rebels, some of them were known to have approached her. Mary's closest confidant, Charles V's ambassador Simon Renard
, argued that her throne would never be safe while Elizabeth lived; and the Chancellor, Stephen Gardiner
, worked to have Elizabeth put on trial. Elizabeth's supporters in the government, including Lord Paget
, convinced Mary to spare her sister in the absence of hard evidence against her. Instead, on 22 May, Elizabeth was moved from the Tower to Woodstock
, where she was to spend almost a year under house arrest in the charge of Sir Henry Bedingfield. Crowds cheered her all along the way. King Philip had little role in England's governance, but he did help protect Elizabeth.
On 17 April 1555, Elizabeth was recalled to court to attend the final stages of Mary's apparent pregnancy. If Mary and her child died, Elizabeth would become queen. If, on the other hand, Mary gave birth to a healthy child, Elizabeth's chances of becoming queen would recede sharply. When it became clear that Mary was not pregnant, no one believed any longer that she could have a child. Elizabeth's succession seemed assured.
King Philip, who became King of Spain in 1556, acknowledged the new political reality and cultivated Elizabeth. She was a better ally than the chief alternative, Mary, Queen of Scots, who had grown up in France and was betrothed to the Dauphin of France
. When his wife Queen Mary fell ill in 1558, King Philip sent the Count of Feria to consult with Elizabeth. This interview was conducted at Hatfield House, where she had returned to live in October 1555. By October 1558, Elizabeth was already making plans for her government. On 6 November, Mary recognised Elizabeth as her heir. On 17 November 1558 Mary died and Elizabeth succeeded to the throne.
AccessionElizabeth became queen at the age of 25, and Elizabeth declared her intentions to her Council and other peers who had come to Hatfield to swear allegiance. The speech contains the first record of her adoption of the mediaeval political theology
of the sovereign's "two bodies": the body natural and the body politic
My lords, the law of nature moves me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that is fallen upon me makes me amazed, and yet, considering I am God's creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all ... to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth. I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel.
As her triumphal progress
wound through the city on the eve of the coronation
ceremony, she was welcomed wholeheartedly by the citizens and greeted by orations and pageants, most with a strong Protestant flavour. Elizabeth's open and gracious responses endeared her to the spectators, who were "wonderfully ravished". The following day, 15 January 1559, Elizabeth was crowned and anointed by Owen Oglethorpe
, the Catholic bishop of Carlisle, at Westminster Abbey
. She was then presented for the people's acceptance, amidst a deafening noise of organs, fifes, trumpets, drums, and bells.
Church settlementElizabeth's personal religious convictions have been much debated by scholars. She was a Protestant, but kept Catholic symbols (such as the crucifix), and downplayed the role of sermons in defiance of a key Protestant belief.
In terms of public policy she favoured pragmatism in dealing with religious matters. The question of her legitimacy was a key concern: Although she was technically illegitimate under both Protestant and Catholic law, her retroactively declared illegitimacy under the English church was not a serious bar compared to having never been legitimate as the Catholics claimed she was. For this reason alone, it was never in serious doubt that Elizabeth would embrace Protestantism.
Elizabeth and her advisors perceived the threat of a Catholic crusade against heretical England. Elizabeth therefore sought a Protestant solution that would not offend Catholics too greatly while addressing the desires of English Protestants; she would not tolerate the more radical Puritan
s though, who were pushing for far-reaching reforms. As a result, the parliament of 1559 started to legislate for a church based on the Protestant settlement of Edward VI, with the monarch as its head, but with many Catholic elements, such as priestly vestments.
The House of Commons
backed the proposals strongly, but the bill of supremacy met opposition in the House of Lords
, particularly from the bishops. Elizabeth was fortunate that many bishoprics were vacant at the time, including the Archbishopric of Canterbury
. This enabled supporters amongst peers to outvote the bishops and conservative peers. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was forced to accept the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England
rather than the more contentious title of Supreme Head
, which many thought unacceptable for a woman to bear. The new Act of Supremacy
became law on 8 May 1559. All public officials were to swear an oath of loyalty to the monarch as the supreme governor or risk disqualification from office; the heresy
laws were repealed, to avoid a repeat of the persecution of dissenters practised by Mary. At the same time, a new Act of Uniformity
was passed, which made attendance at church and the use of an adapted version of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer
compulsory, though the penalties for recusancy
, or failure to attend and conform, were not extreme.
Marriage questionFrom the start of Elizabeth's reign, it was expected that she would marry and the question arose whom. She never did, although she received many offers for her hand; the reasons for this are not clear. Historians have speculated that Thomas Seymour had put her off sexual relationships, or that she knew herself to be infertile. She considered several suitors until she was about fifty. Her last courtship was with François, Duke of Anjou
, 22 years her junior. While risking possible loss of power like her sister, who played into the hands of King Phillip II of Spain, marriage offered the chance of an heir. However, the choice of a husband might also provoke political instability or even insurrection.
Lord Robert DudleyIn the spring of 1559 it became evident that Elizabeth was in love with her childhood friend Lord Robert Dudley
. It was said that Amy Robsart
, his wife, was suffering from a "malady in one of her breasts", and that the Queen would like to marry Lord Robert in case his wife should die. By the autumn of 1559 several foreign suitors were vying for Elizabeth's hand; their impatient envoys engaged in ever more scandalous talk and reported that a marriage with her favourite
was not welcome in England: "There is not a man who does not cry out on him and her with indignation ... she will marry none but the favoured Robert". Amy Dudley died in September 1560 from a fall from a flight of stairs and, despite the coroner's inquest
finding of accident, many people suspected Dudley to have arranged her death so that he could marry the queen. Elizabeth seriously considered marrying Dudley for some time. However, William Cecil, Nicholas Throckmorton
, and some conservative peers
made their disapproval unmistakably clear. There were even rumours that the nobility would rise if the marriage took place.
Despite several other marriage projects, Robert Dudley was regarded as a candidate for nearly another decade. Elizabeth was extremely jealous of his affections, even when she no longer meant to marry him herself. In 1564 Elizabeth created Dudley Earl of Leicester
. He finally remarried in 1578, to which the queen reacted with repeated scenes of displeasure and lifelong hatred towards his wife
. Still, Dudley always "remained at the centre of [Elizabeth's] emotional life", as historian Susan Doran
has described the situation. He died shortly after the Armada
, and after Elizabeth's own death, a note from him was found among her most personal belongings, marked "his last letter" in her handwriting.
own hand in 1559, and negotiated for several years to marry his cousin Archduke Charles of Austria. By 1569, relations with the Habsburgs had deteriorated, and Elizabeth considered marriage to two French Valois princes in turn, first Henri, Duke of Anjou
, and later, from 1572 to 1581, his brother François, Duke of Anjou
, formerly Duke of Alençon. This last proposal was tied to a planned alliance against Spanish control of the Southern Netherlands
. Elizabeth seems to have taken the courtship seriously for a time, and wore a frog-shaped earring that Anjou had sent her.
In 1563, Elizabeth told an imperial envoy: "If I follow the inclination of my nature, it is this: beggar-woman and single, far rather than queen and married". Later in the year, following Elizabeth's illness with smallpox
, the succession question became a heated issue in Parliament. They urged the queen to marry or nominate an heir, to prevent a civil war upon her death. She refused to do either. In April she prorogued the Parliament, which did not reconvene until she needed its support to raise taxes in 1566. Having promised to marry previously, she told an unruly House:
I will never break the word of a prince spoken in public place, for my honour's sake. And therefore I say again, I will marry as soon as I can conveniently, if God take not him away with whom I mind to marry, or myself, or else some other great let happen.
By 1570, senior figures in the government privately accepted that Elizabeth would never marry or name a successor. William Cecil was already seeking solutions to the succession problem. For her failure to marry, Elizabeth was often accused of irresponsibility. Her silence, however, strengthened her own political security: she knew that if she named an heir, her throne would be vulnerable to a coup; she remembered that the way "a second person, as I have been" had been used as the focus of plots against her sister, Queen Mary.
that exalted Elizabeth. Public tributes to the Virgin by 1578 acted as a coded assertion of opposition to the queen's marriage negotiations with the Duc d'Alençon.
Putting a positive spin on her marital status, Elizabeth insisted she was married to her kingdom and subjects, under divine protection. In 1599, Elizabeth spoke of "all my husbands, my good people".
Mary, Queen of ScotsElizabeth's first policy toward Scotland
was to oppose the French presence there. She feared that the French planned to invade England and put Mary, Queen of Scots, who was considered by many to be the heir to the English crown, on the throne. Elizabeth was persuaded to send a force into Scotland to aid the Protestant rebels, and though the campaign was inept, the resulting Treaty of Edinburgh
of July 1560 removed the French threat in the north. When Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 to take up the reins of power, the country had an established Protestant church and was run by a council of Protestant nobles supported by Elizabeth. Mary refused to ratify the treaty.
In 1563 Elizabeth proposed her own suitor, Robert Dudley, as a husband for Mary, without asking either of the two people concerned. Both proved unenthusiastic, and in 1565 Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
, who carried his own claim to the English throne. The marriage was the first of a series of errors of judgement by Mary that handed the victory to the Scottish Protestants and to Elizabeth. Darnley quickly became unpopular in Scotland and then infamous for presiding over the murder of Mary's Italian secretary David Rizzio
. In February 1567, Darnley was murdered by conspirators almost certainly led by James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Shortly afterwards, on 15 May 1567, Mary married Bothwell, arousing suspicions that she had been party to the murder of her husband. Elizabeth wrote to her:
How could a worse choice be made for your honour than in such haste to marry such a subject, who besides other and notorious lacks, public fame has charged with the murder of your late husband, besides the touching of yourself also in some part, though we trust in that behalf falsely.
These events led rapidly to Mary's defeat and imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle
. The Scottish lords forced her to abdicate in favour of her son James
, who had been born in June 1566. James was taken to Stirling Castle
to be raised as a Protestant. Mary escaped from Loch Leven
in 1568 but after another defeat fled across the border into England, where she had once been assured of support from Elizabeth. Elizabeth's first instinct was to restore her fellow monarch; but she and her council instead chose to play safe. Rather than risk returning Mary to Scotland with an English army or sending her to France and the Catholic enemies of England, they detained her in England, where she was imprisoned for the next nineteen years.
Mary and the Catholic causeMary was soon the focus for rebellion. In 1569 there was a major Catholic rising in the North
; the goal was to free Mary, marry her to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk
, and put her on the English throne. After the rebels' defeat, over 750 of them were executed on Elizabeth's orders. In the belief that the revolt had been successful, Pope Pius V
issued a bull
in 1570, titled Regnans in Excelsis
, which declared "Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime" to be excommunicate and a heretic
, releasing all her subjects from any allegiance to her. Catholics who obeyed her orders were threatened with excommunication
. The papal bull provoked legislative initiatives against Catholics by Parliament, which were however mitigated by Elizabeth's intervention. In 1581, to convert English subjects to Catholicism with "the intent" to withdraw them from their allegiance to Elizabeth was made a treasonable offence
, carrying the death penalty. From the 1570s missionary priests
from continental seminaries came to England secretly in the cause of the "reconversion of England". Many suffered execution, engendering a cult of martyrdom.
Regnans in Excelsis gave English Catholics a strong incentive to look to Mary Stuart as the true sovereign of England. Mary may not have been told of every Catholic plot to put her on the English throne, but from the Ridolfi Plot
of 1571 (which caused Mary's suitor, the Duke of Norfolk, to lose his head) to the Babington Plot
of 1586, Elizabeth's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham
and the royal council keenly assembled a case against her. At first, Elizabeth resisted calls for Mary's death. By late 1586 she had been persuaded to sanction her trial and execution on the evidence of letters written during the Babington Plot. Elizabeth's proclamation of the sentence announced that "the said Mary, pretending title to the same Crown, had compassed and imagined within the same realm divers things tending to the hurt, death and destruction of our royal person." On 8 February 1587, Mary was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle
Wars and overseas tradeElizabeth's foreign policy was largely defensive. The exception was the English occupation of Le Havre
from October 1562 to June 1563, which ended in failure when Elizabeth's Huguenot
allies joined with the Catholics to retake the port. Elizabeth's intention had been to exchange Le Havre for Calais
, lost to France in January 1558. Only through the activities of her fleets did Elizabeth pursue an aggressive policy. This paid off in the war against Spain, 80% of which was fought at sea. She knighted Francis Drake
after his circumnavigation
of the globe from 1577 to 1580, and he won fame for his raids on Spanish ports and fleets. An element of piracy
and self-enrichment drove Elizabethan seafarers, over which the queen had little control.
Netherlands expeditionAfter the occupation and loss of Le Havre
in 1562–1563, Elizabeth avoided military expeditions on the continent until 1585, when she sent an English army to aid the Protestant Dutch rebels
against Philip II. This followed the deaths in 1584 of the allies William the Silent
, Prince of Orange, and François, Duke of Anjou
, and the surrender of a series of Dutch towns to Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma
, Philip's governor of the Spanish Netherlands
. In December 1584, an alliance between Philip II and the French Catholic League
undermined the ability of Anjou's brother, Henry III of France
, to counter Spanish
domination of the Netherlands. It also extended Spanish influence along the channel
coast of France, where the Catholic League was strong, and exposed England to invasion. The siege of Antwerp in the summer of 1585 by the Duke of Parma necessitated some reaction on the part of the English and the Dutch. The outcome was the Treaty of Nonsuch
of August 1585, in which Elizabeth promised military support to the Dutch. The treaty marked the beginning of the Anglo-Spanish War, which lasted until the Treaty of London in 1604.
The expedition was led by her former suitor, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth from the start did not really back this course of action. Her strategy, to support the Dutch on the surface with an English army, while beginning secret peace talks with Spain within days of Leicester's arrival in Holland, had necessarily to be at odds with Leicester's, who wanted and was expected by the Dutch to fight an active campaign. Elizabeth on the other hand, wanted him "to avoid at all costs any decisive action with the enemy". He enraged Elizabeth by accepting the post of Governor-General from the Dutch States-General
. Elizabeth saw this as a Dutch ploy to force her to accept sovereignty over the Netherlands, which so far she had always declined. She wrote to Leicester:
We could never have imagined (had we not seen it fall out in experience) that a man raised up by ourself and extraordinarily favoured by us, above any other subject of this land, would have in so contemptible a sort broken our commandment in a cause that so greatly touches us in honour....And therefore our express pleasure and commandment is that, all delays and excuses laid apart, you do presently upon the duty of your allegiance obey and fulfill whatsoever the bearer hereof shall direct you to do in our name. Whereof fail you not, as you will answer the contrary at your utmost peril.
Elizabeth's "commandment" was that her emissary read out her letters of disapproval publicly before the Dutch Council of State, Leicester having to stand nearby. This public humiliation of her "Lieutenant-General" combined with her continued talks for a separate peace with Spain, irreversibly undermined his standing among the Dutch. The military campaign was severely hampered by Elizabeth's repeated refusals to send promised funds for her starving soldiers. Her unwillingness to commit herself to the cause, Leicester's own shortcomings as a political and military leader and the faction-ridden and chaotic situation of Dutch politics were reasons for the campaign's failure. Leicester finally resigned his command in December 1587.
Spanish ArmadaMeanwhile, Sir Francis Drake
had undertaken a major voyage against Spanish ports and ships to the Caribbean
in 1585 and 1586, and in 1587 had made a successful raid
, destroying the Spanish fleet of war ships intended for the Enterprise of England: Philip II had decided to take the war to England at last.
, a great fleet of ships, set sail for the channel, planning to ferry a Spanish invasion force under the Duke of Parma to the coast of southeast England from the Netherlands. A combination of miscalculation, misfortune, and an attack of English fire ships on 29 July off Gravelines
which dispersed the Spanish
ships to the northeast defeated the Armada. The Armada straggled home to Spain in shattered remnants, after disastrous losses on the coast of Ireland (after some ships had tried to struggle back to Spain via the North Sea
, and then back south past the west coast of Ireland). Unaware of the Armada's fate, English militias mustered to defend the country under the Earl of Leicester's command. He invited Elizabeth to inspect her troops at Tilbury
in Essex on 8 August. Wearing a silver breastplate over a white velvet dress, she addressed them in one of her most famous speeches
My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourself to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people ... 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.
When no invasion came, the nation rejoiced. Elizabeth's procession to a thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral
rivalled that of her coronation as a spectacle. The defeat of the armada was a potent propaganda victory, both for Elizabeth and for Protestant England. The English took their delivery as a symbol of God's favour and of the nation's inviolability under a virgin queen. However, the victory was not a turning point in the war, which continued and often favoured Spain. The Spanish still controlled the Netherlands, and the threat of invasion remained. Sir Walter Raleigh
claimed after her death that Elizabeth's caution had impeded the war against Spain:
If the late queen would have believed her men of war as she did her scribes, we had in her time beaten that great empire in pieces and made their kings of figs and oranges as in old times. But her Majesty did all by halves, and by petty invasions taught the Spaniard how to defend himself, and to see his own weakness.
Though some historians have criticised Elizabeth on similar grounds, Raleigh's verdict has more often been judged unfair. Elizabeth had good reason not to place too much trust in her commanders, who once in action tended, as she put it herself, "to be transported with an haviour of vainglory".
Supporting Henry IV of FranceWhen the Protestant Henry IV
inherited the French throne in 1589, Elizabeth sent him military support. It was her first venture into France since the retreat from Le Havre in 1563. Henry's succession was strongly contested by the Catholic League
and by Philip II, and Elizabeth feared a Spanish takeover of the channel ports. The subsequent English campaigns in France, however, were disorganised and ineffective. Lord Willoughby
, largely ignoring Elizabeth's orders, roamed northern France to little effect, with an army of 4,000 men. He withdrew in disarray in December 1589, having lost half his troops. In 1591, the campaign of John Norreys
, who led 3,000 men to Brittany
, was even more of a disaster. As for all such expeditions, Elizabeth was unwilling to invest in the supplies and reinforcements requested by the commanders. Norreys left for London to plead in person for more support. In his absence, a Catholic League army almost destroyed the remains of his army at Craon, north-west France, in May 1591. In July, Elizabeth sent out another force under Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
, to help Henry IV in besieging Rouen
. The result was just as dismal. Essex accomplished nothing and returned home in January 1592. Henry abandoned the siege in April. As usual, Elizabeth lacked control over her commanders once they were abroad. "Where he is, or what he doth, or what he is to do," she wrote of Essex, "we are ignorant".
IrelandAlthough Ireland was one of her two kingdoms, Elizabeth faced a hostile—and in places virtually autonomous—Irish population that adhered to Catholicism and was willing to defy her authority and plot with her enemies. Her policy there was to grant land to her courtiers and prevent the rebels from giving Spain a base from which to attack England. In the course of a series of uprisings, Crown forces pursued scorched-earth
tactics, burning the land and slaughtering man, woman and child. During a revolt in Munster
led by Gerald FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond
, in 1582, an estimated 30,000 Irish people starved to death. The poet and colonist Edmund Spenser
wrote that the victims "were brought to such wretchedness as that any stony heart would have rued the same". Elizabeth advised her commanders that the Irish, "that rude and barbarous nation", be well treated; but she showed no remorse when force and bloodshed were deemed necessary.
Between 1594 and 1603, Elizabeth faced her most severe test in Ireland during the Nine Years War
, a revolt that took place at the height of hostilities with Spain, who backed the rebel leader, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. In spring 1599, Elizabeth sent Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
, to put the revolt down. To her frustration, he made little progress and returned to England in defiance of her orders. He was replaced by Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy
, who took three years to defeat the rebels. O'Neill finally surrendered in 1603, a few days after Elizabeth's death. Soon after a peace treaty was signed between England and Spain.
originally established by her deceased brother. She often wrote to its then ruler, Tsar Ivan IV, on amicable terms, though the Tsar was often annoyed by her focus on commerce rather than on the possibility of a military alliance. The Tsar even proposed to her once, and during his later reign, asked for a guarantee to be granted asylum in England should his rule be jeopardised.
Upon Ivan's death, he was succeeded by his simple-minded son Feodor
. Unlike his father, Feodor had no enthusiasm in maintaining exclusive trading rights with England. Feodor declared his kingdom open to all foreigners, and dismissed the English ambassador Sir Jerome Bowes, whose pomposity had been tolerated by the new Tsar's late father. Elizabeth sent a new ambassador, Dr. Giles Fletcher, to demand from the regent Boris Godunov
that he convince the Tsar to reconsider. The negotiations failed, due to Fletcher addressing Feodor with two of his titles omitted. Elizabeth continued to appeal to Feodor in half appealing, half reproachful letters. She proposed an alliance, something which she had refused to do when offered one by Feodor's father, but was turned down.
Barbary states, Ottoman Empire
in opposition to Spain, selling armour, ammunition, timber, and metal in exchange for Moroccan sugar, in spite of a Papal
ban. In 1600, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud
, the principal secretary to the Moroccan ruler Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur, visited England as an ambassador to the court of queen Elizabeth I, in order to negotiate an Anglo-Moroccan alliance
against Spain. Elizabeth "agreed to sell munitions supplies to Morocco, and she and Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur talked on and off about mounting a joint operation against the Spanish". Discussions however remained inconclusive, and both rulers died within two years of the embassy.
Diplomatic relations were also established with the Ottoman Empire
with the chartering of the Levant Company
and the dispatch of the first English ambassador to the Porte, William Harborne
, in 1578. For the first time, a Treaty of Commerce was signed in 1580. Numerous envoys were dispatched in both directions and epistolar exchanges occurred between Elizabeth and Sultan Murad III
. In one correspondence, Murad entertained the notion that Islam and Protestantism had "much more in common than either did with Roman Catholicism, as both rejected the worship of idols", and argued for an alliance between England and the Ottoman Empire. To the dismay of Catholic Europe, England exported tin and lead (for cannon-casting) and ammunitions to the Ottoman Empire, and Elizabeth seriously discussed joint military operations with Murad III during the outbreak of war with Spain in 1585, as Francis Walsingham was lobbying for a direct Ottoman military involvement against the common Spanish enemy.
One of the causes for this "second reign" of Elizabeth, as it is sometimes called, was the different character of Elizabeth's governing body, the privy council
in the 1590s. A new generation was in power. With the exception of Lord Burghley, the most important politicians had died around 1590: The Earl of Leicester in 1588, Sir Francis Walsingham in 1590, Sir Christopher Hatton
in 1591. Factional strife in the government, which had not existed in a noteworthy form before the 1590s, now became its hallmark. A bitter rivalry between the Earl of Essex and Robert Cecil
, son of Lord Burghley, and their respective adherents, for the most powerful positions in the state marred politics. The queen's personal authority was lessening, as is shown in the affair of Dr. Lopez, her trusted physician. When he was wrongly accused by the Earl of Essex
of treason out of personal pique, she could not prevent his execution, although she had been angry about his arrest and seems not to have believed in his guilt (1594).
Elizabeth, during the last years of her reign, came to rely on granting monopolies as a cost-free system of patronage rather than ask Parliament for more subsidies in a time of war. The practice soon led to price-fixing
, the enrichment of courtiers at the public's expense, and widespread resentment. This culminated in agitation in the House of Commons during the parliament of 1601. In her famous "Golden Speech" of 30 November 1601, Elizabeth professed ignorance of the abuses and won the members over with promises and her usual appeal to the emotions:
Who keeps their sovereign from the lapse of error, in which, by ignorance and not by intent they might have fallen, what thank they deserve, we know, though you may guess. And as nothing is more dear to us than the loving conservation of our subjects' hearts, what an undeserved doubt might we have incurred if the abusers of our liberality, the thrallers of our people, the wringers of the poor, had not been told us!
's Euphues and Edmund Spenser
's The Shepheardes Calender
in 1578. During the 1590s, some of the great names of English literature
entered their maturity, including William Shakespeare
and Christopher Marlowe
. During this period and into the Jacobean era
that followed, the English theatre reached its highest peaks. The notion of a great Elizabethan age
depends largely on the builders, dramatists, poets, and musicians who were active during Elizabeth's reign. They owed little directly to the queen, who was never a major patron of the arts.
As Elizabeth aged her image gradually changed. She was portrayed as Belphoebe
or Astraea, and after the Armada, as Gloriana
, the eternally youthful Faerie Queene of Edmund Spenser
's poem. Her painted portraits became less realistic and more a set of enigmatic icons
that made her look much younger than she was. In fact, her skin had been scarred by smallpox
in 1562, leaving her half bald and dependent on wigs and cosmetics. Sir Walter Raleigh called her "a lady whom time had surprised". However, the more Elizabeth's beauty faded, the more her courtiers praised it.
Elizabeth was happy to play the part, but it is possible that in the last decade of her life she began to believe her own performance. She became fond and indulgent of the charming but petulant young Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who was Leicester's stepson and took liberties with her for which she forgave him. She repeatedly appointed him to military posts despite his growing record of irresponsibility. After Essex's desertion of his command in Ireland in 1599, Elizabeth had him placed under house arrest and the following year deprived him of his monopolies. In February 1601, the earl tried to raise a rebellion in London. He intended to seize the queen but few rallied to his support, and he was beheaded on 25 February. Elizabeth knew that her own misjudgements were partly to blame for this turn of events. An observer reported in 1602 that "Her delight is to sit in the dark, and sometimes with shedding tears to bewail Essex".
, died on 4 August 1598. His political mantle passed to his son, Robert Cecil
, who soon became the leader of the government. One task he addressed was to prepare the way for a smooth succession. Since Elizabeth would never name her successor, Cecil was obliged to proceed in secret. He therefore entered into a coded negotiation
with James VI of Scotland
, who had a strong but unrecognised claim. Cecil coached the impatient James to humour Elizabeth and "secure the heart of the highest, to whose sex and quality nothing is so improper as either needless expostulations or over much curiosity in her own actions". The advice worked. James's tone delighted Elizabeth, who responded: "So trust I that you will not doubt but that your last letters are so acceptably taken as my thanks cannot be lacking for the same, but yield them to you in grateful sort". In historian J. E. Neale's view, Elizabeth may not have declared her wishes openly to James, but she made them known with "unmistakable if veiled phrases".
The Queen's health remained fair until the autumn of 1602, when a series of deaths among her friends plunged her into a severe depression. In February 1603, the death of Catherine Howard, Countess of Nottingham, the niece of her cousin and close friend Catherine, Lady Knollys, came as a particular blow. In March, Elizabeth fell sick and remained in a "settled and unremovable melancholy". She died on 24 March 1603 at Richmond Palace
, between two and three in the morning. A few hours later, Cecil and the council set their plans in motion and proclaimed James VI of Scotland
as king of England.
Elizabeth's coffin was carried downriver at night to Whitehall
, on a barge lit with torches. At her funeral on 28 April, the coffin was taken to Westminster Abbey
on a hearse
drawn by four horses hung with black velvet. In the words of the chronicler John Stow
Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came out to see the obsequyFuneralA funeral is a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprise the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honor...
, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man.
Legacy and memoryElizabeth was lamented by many of her subjects, but others were relieved at her death. Expectations of King James started high but then declined, so by the 1620s there was a nostalgic revival of the cult of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was praised as a heroine of the Protestant cause and the ruler of a golden age. James was depicted as a Catholic sympathiser, presiding over a corrupt court. The triumphalist image that Elizabeth had cultivated towards the end of her reign, against a background of factionalism and military and economic difficulties, was taken at face value and her reputation inflated. Godfrey Goodman
, Bishop of Gloucester, recalled: "When we had experience of a Scottish government, the Queen did seem to revive. Then was her memory much magnified." Elizabeth's reign became idealised as a time when crown, church and parliament had worked in constitutional balance.
, when the nation again found itself on the brink of invasion. In the Victorian era
, the Elizabethan legend was adapted to the imperial ideology of the day, and in the mid-20th century, Elizabeth was a romantic symbol of the national resistance to foreign threat. Historians of that period, such as J. E. Neale
(1934) and A. L. Rowse
(1950), interpreted Elizabeth's reign as a golden age of progress. Neale and Rowse also idealised the Queen personally: she always did everything right; her more unpleasant traits were ignored or explained as signs of stress.
Recent historians, however, have taken a more complicated view of Elizabeth. Her reign is famous for the defeat of the Armada, and for successful raids against the Spanish, such as those on Cádiz in 1587 and 1596, but some historians point to military failures on land and at sea. In Ireland, Elizabeth's forces ultimately prevailed, but their tactics stain her record. Rather than as a brave defender of the Protestant nations against Spain and the Habsburgs, she is more often regarded as cautious in her foreign policies. She offered very limited aid to foreign Protestants and failed to provide her commanders with the funds to make a difference abroad.
Elizabeth established an English church that helped shape a national identity and remains in place today. Those who praised her later as a Protestant heroine overlooked her refusal to drop all practices of Catholic origin from the Church of England. Historians note that in her day, strict Protestants regarded the Acts of Settlement and Uniformity of 1559
as a compromise. In fact, Elizabeth believed that faith was personal and did not wish, as Francis Bacon
put it, to "make windows into men's hearts and secret thoughts".
Though Elizabeth followed a largely defensive foreign policy, her reign raised England's status abroad. "She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island," marvelled Pope Sixtus V, "and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire
, by all". Under Elizabeth, the nation gained a new self-confidence and sense of sovereignty, as Christendom
fragmented. Elizabeth was the first Tudor to recognise that a monarch ruled by popular consent. She therefore always worked with parliament and advisers she could trust to tell her the truth—a style of government that her Stuart successors failed to follow. Some historians have called her lucky; she believed that God was protecting her. Priding herself on being "mere English", Elizabeth trusted in God, honest advice, and the love of her subjects for the success of her rule. In a prayer, she offered thanks to God that:
[At a time] when wars and seditions with grievous persecutions have vexed almost all kings and countries round about me, my reign hath been peacable, and my realm a receptacle to thy afflicted Church. The love of my people hath appeared firm, and the devices of my enemies frustrate.
- Early modern BritainEarly Modern BritainEarly modern Britain is the history of the island of Great Britain, roughly corresponding to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Major historical events in Early Modern British history include the English Renaissance, the English Reformation and Scottish Reformation, the English Civil War, the...
- English RenaissanceEnglish RenaissanceThe English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement in England dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that is usually regarded as beginning in Italy in the late 14th century; like most of northern...
- Portraiture of Elizabeth I of EnglandPortraiture of Elizabeth I of EnglandThe portraiture of Elizabeth I of England illustrates the evolution of English royal portraits in the Early Modern period from the representations of simple likenesses to the later complex imagery used to convey the power and aspirations of the state, as well as of the monarch at its head.Even the...
- Protestant ReformationProtestant ReformationThe Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...
- Royal Arms of England
- Royal eponyms in Canada – Queen Elizabeth I
- Royal Standards of England
- Tudor periodTudor periodThe Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...
- Beem, Charles. The Foreign Relations of Elizabeth I (2011) excerpt and text search
- Jones, Norman. The Birth of the Elizabethan Age: England in the 1560s (Blackwell, 1993)
- MacCaffrey Wallace T. Elizabeth I (1993), political biography summarizing his multivolume study:
- MacCaffrey Wallace T. The Shaping of the Elizabethan Regime: Elizabethan Politics, 1558-1572 (1969)
- MacCaffrey Wallace T. Queen Elizabeth and the Making of Policy, 1572-1588 (1988)
- MacCaffrey Wallace T. Elizabeth I: War and Politics, 1588-1603 (1994)
- McLaren, A. N. Political Culture in the Reign of Elizabeth I: Queen and Commonwealth, 1558-1585 (Cambridge University Press, 1999) excerpt and text search
- Palliser, D. M. The Age of Elizabeth: England Under the Later Tudors, 1547-1603 (1983) survey of social and economic history
- Ridley, JasperJasper RidleyJasper Godwin Ridley was a British writer, known for historical biographies. He received the 1970 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his biography Lord Palmerston....
. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue. New York : Fromm International, 1989. ISBN 0-88064-110-X.
Primary sources and early histories
- Elizabeth I: The Collected Works Leah S. Marcus, Mary Beth Rose & Janel Mueller (eds.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. ISBN 0-226-50465-4 excerpt and text search
- Susan M. Felch, ed. Elizabeth I and Her Age (Norton Critical Editions) (2009); 700pp; primary and secondary sources, with an emphasis on literature
- Camden, William.William CamdenWilliam Camden was an English antiquarian, historian, topographer, and officer of arms. He wrote the first chorographical survey of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and the first detailed historical account of the reign of Elizabeth I of England.- Early years :Camden was born in London...
History of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princess Elizabeth. Wallace T. MacCaffrey (ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, selected chapters, 1970 edition. OCLC 59210072.
- William Camden.William CamdenWilliam Camden was an English antiquarian, historian, topographer, and officer of arms. He wrote the first chorographical survey of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and the first detailed historical account of the reign of Elizabeth I of England.- Early years :Camden was born in London...
Annales Rerum Gestarum Angliae et Hiberniae Regnante Elizabetha. (1615 and 1625.) Hypertext edition, with English translation. Dana F. Sutton (ed.), 2000. Retrieved 7 December 2007.
- Clapham, John. Elizabeth of England. E. P. Read and Conyers Read (eds). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1951. OCLC 1350639.
Historiography and memory
- Carlson, Eric Josef. "Teaching Elizabeth Tudor with Movies: Film, Historical Thinking, and the Classroom," Sixteenth Century Journal, Summer 2007, Vol. 38 Issue 2, pp 419-440
- Collinson, Patrick. "Elizabeth I and the verdicts of history," Historical Research, Nov 2003, Vol. 76 Issue 194, pp 469-91
- Doran, Susan, and Thomas S. Freeman, eds. The Myth of Elizabeth.(2003). 280 pp.
- Greaves, Richard L., ed. Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1974), excerpts from historians
- Haigh, Christopher, ed. The Reign of Elizabeth I (1984), essays by scholars
- Howard, Maurice. "Elizabeth I: A Sense Of Place In Stone, Print And Paint," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Dec 2004, Vol. 14 Issue 1, pp 261-268
- Hulme, Harold. "Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments: The Work of Sir John Neale," Journal of Modern History Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sept. 1958), pp. 236-240 in JSTOR
- Montrose, Louis. The Subject of Elizabeth: Authority, Gender, and Representation. (2006). 341 pp.
- Watkins, John. Representing Elizabeth in Stuart England: Literature, History, Sovereignty (2002) 264pp
- Watson, Nicola J., and Michael Dobson. England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (2002) ISBN 0-19-818377-1.
- Woolf, D.R. "Two Elizabeths? James I and the Late Queen's Famous Memory," Canadian Journal of History, Aug 1985, Vol. 20 Issue 2, pp 167-91
- Tudor and Elizabeth Portraits. Tudor and Elizabethan portraits and other works of art, provided for research and education. Retrieved 15 December 2007.