Elizabeth I

"Elizabeth I", "Elizabeth of England", and "Elizabeth Tudor" redirect here. For other uses, see Elizabeth I (disambiguation), Elizabeth of England (disambiguation), and Elizabeth Tudor (disambiguation).
Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I , "Darnley Portrait", c. 1575
Queen of England and Ireland (more...)
Reign 17 November 1558 – 24 March 1603
Coronation 15 January 1559
Predecessors Mary I of England and Philip II of Spain
Successor James I
House House of Tudor
Father Henry VIII
Mother Anne Boleyn
Born 7 September 1533
Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, England
Died 24 March 1603(1603-03-24) (aged 69)
Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Burial Westminster Abbey
Signature
Religion Anglican

Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was queen regnant of England and Ireland 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 into the royal succession, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth, with Anne's marriage to Henry VIII being annulled, and Elizabeth hence declared illegitimate. On his death in 1553, her half-brother, Edward VI, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, cutting his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, out of the succession in spite of statute law to the contrary. His will was set aside, Mary became queen, and Lady Jane Grey was executed. In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister, 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,[1] 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 establishment 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.[2] One of her mottoes was "video et taceo" ("I see, and say nothing").[3] 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 attempt to conquer England in 1588, the failure of the Spanish Armada associated her with one of the greatest military 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 Francis Drake. Some historians are more reserved in their assessment. They depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler,[4] 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 charismatic 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 half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped forge a sense of national identity.[2]

Early life


Elizabeth was born at Greenwich Palace and was named after both her grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard.[5] 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, to marry Anne and sire a male heir to ensure the Tudor succession.[6][7] 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.[8] Elizabeth was declared illegitimate and deprived of her place in the royal succession.[9] 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. From his birth, Edward was undisputed heir apparent to the throne. Elizabeth was placed in his household and carried the chrisom, or baptismal cloth, at his christening.[10]


Elizabeth's first governess or Lady Mistress, Margaret Bryan, wrote that she was "as toward a child and as gentle of conditions as ever I knew any in my life".[11] By the autumn of 1537, Elizabeth was in the care of Blanche Herbert, Lady Troy, who remained her Lady Mistress until her retirement in late 1545 or early 1546.[12] 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.[13] Champernowne taught Elizabeth four languages: French, Flemish, Italian and Spanish.[14] 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.[15] After Grindal died in 1548, Elizabeth received her education under Roger Ascham, a sympathetic teacher who believed that learning should be engaging.[16] By the time her formal education ended in 1550, she was one of the best educated women of her generation.[17] By the end of her life, Elizabeth was also reputed to speak Welsh, Cornish, Scottish[18] and Irish in addition to English. The Venetian ambassador stated in 1603 that she "possessed [these] languages so thoroughly that each appeared to be her native tongue".[19] Historian Mark Stoyle suggests that she was probably taught Cornish by William Killigrew, Groom of the Privy Chamber and later Chamberlain of the Exchequer.[20]

Thomas Seymour


Henry VIII died in 1547; Elizabeth's half-brother, Edward VI, became king at age nine. 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.[22] Seymour, approaching age 40 but having charm and "a powerful sex appeal",[22] 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. 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."[23] However, after Parr discovered the pair in an embrace, she ended this state of affairs.[24] In May 1548, Elizabeth was sent away.

However, Thomas Seymour continued scheming to control the royal family and tried to have himself appointed the governor of the King's person.[25][26] When Parr died after childbirth on 5 September 1548, he renewed his attentions towards Elizabeth, intent on marrying her.[27] The details of his former behaviour towards Elizabeth emerged,[28] and for his brother and the council, this was the last straw.[29] 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".[29] Seymour was beheaded on 20 March 1549.

Mary I's reign


Edward VI 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.[30]

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