Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603)[a] was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed when Elizabeth was 21⁄2 years old. Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother Edward VI ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, the Roman Catholic Mary and the younger Elizabeth, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward’s will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary’s reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
Upon her half-sister’s death in 1558, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel.[b] She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers, led by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the supreme governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir; however, despite numerous courtships, she never did. She was eventually succeeded by her first-cousin twice-removed, James VI of Scotland, laying the foundation for the Kingdom of Great Britain. She had earlier been reluctantly responsible for the imprisonment and execution of James’s mother, Mary, Queen of Scots.
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 keep silent”). In religion, she was relatively tolerant and avoided systematic persecution. After the pope declared her illegitimate in 1570 and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life, all of which were defeated with the help of her ministers’ secret service. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring 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. By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain, and won a celebrated victory against the Spanish Armada.
As she grew older, Elizabeth became celebrated for her virginity. A cult of personality grew around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day. Elizabeth’s reign became known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and for the prowess of English maritime adventurers such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh. Some historians depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her fair share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. However, Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. After the short reigns of her half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped to forge a sense of national identity.
“Elizabeth I.” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_I. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.
Cate Blanchett commandingly portrays Elizabeth in the 1998 film.
Home Video Trailer from USA Films
A fictionalized account of the court from the Fool’s perspective:
At a time when an innocent woman could be burned for heresy or strangled for witchcraft, to spy on the queen for the love of a traitor was the most dangerous choice of all. Into a Tudor court on the brink of treason comes Hannah, a young Jewish girl on the run from the Inquisition.
For more information on the real life of Queen Elizabeth:
By Dr. Christina Faraday