Queen Elizabeth the First was born Princess Elizabeth on September 7th, 1533 in Greenwich Palace, London. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Henry VIII had wanted a son, but Anne seemed as though she would give him only daughters and dead children. To get rid of her, Anne was accused of incest, adultery and treason. These offences carried the death penalty, and Anne was thus executed on 19 May 1536. At this time, Elizabeth was 2 and a half years old. Henry declared his marriage to Anne null and Elizabeth illegitimate. For the next eight years, Elizabeth had five stepmothers. They were Jane Seymour (1508-1537) who died giving birth to the King’s son, Edward (1537-1553); Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) who divorced him; Catherine Howard (1523-1542) who was beheaded; and finally Catherine Parr (1512-1548). Historians theorize that her father’s constant switching of wives may have led to Elizabeth’s contempt for marriage as an adult.
King Henry VIII was killed when Elizabeth was 13. In his will, however, Henry reinstated his daughters Mary (from his first wife) and Elizabeth in the line of succession. This meant they were both now possible heirs to the throne. Elizabeth was taken care of by Henry’s widow, Catherine Parr. A few months after Henry’s death, Elizabeth was involved in a scandal with Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr’s new husband. Parr found Seymour and Elizabeth in an inappropriate embrace in May 1548 and banished her stepdaughter. After Parr’s death in childbirth; Seymour was accused of plotting to marry Elizabeth and overthrow his brother.
He was beheaded on March 20, 1549, and Elizabeth was declared innocent of all charges.As a child, Elizabeth had a very good education and was rumored to speak five languages. She was also very well liked amongst the people, who believed her to be the perfect Tudor princess.Since Mary and Elizabeth were “illegitimate,” their half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553. He bequeathed the crown to his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and Mary. Edward’s will was set aside and Mary became queen. During the reign of the Roman Catholic Mary, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels. She was innocent, and only imprisoned due to her half-sister’s jealousy.
In 1558, following Mary’s death, Elizabeth became queen, at the age of 25. She was coronated on Sunday, January 15th, 1559.Also in 1559, the King of France was killed in a jousting accident, and at only seventeen years of age, Mary (of Guise) became Queen of France. This alarmed Elizabeth, who had only just become Queen herself. She and her government feared that the French would now try and claim the English throne as well. But the French could not do this:. Mary of Guise’s position in Scotland was weak, and she was fighting for survival in a country that was now Protestant.
The French could not contemplate attacking England when French rule in Scotland via Mary and her French mother was so fragile. Elizabeth’s ministers thus urged her to aid the Scots rebellion against their Catholic government. Elizabeth was reluctant to aid rebels, but in the name of self preservation, agreed to some aid.
English involvement was rather disastrous, however, with the English forces suffering humiliating defeat. William Cecil was sent to Scotland to negotiate peace with the Scots, and he played a prominent part in drawing up a treaty with the Scottish government, which guaranteed peace between the two countries. Notwithstanding, the Treaty of Edinburgh was never ratified by Mary, as she refused to relinquish her claim to the English throne that the English requested. In her early reign, Elizabeth re-established the Protestant Church Of England. Perhaps to appease Catholics or those who did not believe a woman could become head of the church, Elizabeth became Supreme Governor of the Church of England, rather than Supreme Head. She was a committed Protestant, and reputedly spent time in prayer every day. However, she was probably a conservative Protestant as she did not like religious extremism and did not want to persecute any of her people for their religious beliefs.
At this time, it was expected that Elizabeth would marry and she considered a number of marriage negotiations. However, Elizabeth remained but single and refused to name a successor. She was known as the “Virgin Queen” and spoke of being married to her kingdom and subjects. She almost married Robert Dudley, but turned him down as he was politically a bad match.In 1576, Elizabeth financed Martin Frobisher’s voyage to Canada.
Martin Frobisher was an English seaman who made three voyages to Canada to look for the Northwest Passage, a new trading route that could be used to get things to and from China faster. He landed in northeastern Canada, around today’s Resolution Island and Frobisher Bay, which is named after him. On his second voyage, Frobisher found what he thought was gold ore and carried 200 tons of it home on three ships, where initial assaying determined it to be worth a profit of £5.
2 per ton. Encouraged, Frobisher returned to Canada with an even larger fleet and dug several mines around Frobisher Bay. He carted 1,350 tons of the ore back where, after years of smelting, it was realised that the ore was worthless iron pyrite (fool’s gold). After that, Frobisher was so upset by the obvious failure that he never returned to Canada. He was the first European to successfully navigate Frobisher Bay and open it in order to trade with First Nations people. This was the extent of Queen Elizabeth I’s connection to Canada. When Mary Queen of Scots abdicated her throne, she fled to England, but was immediately imprisoned there and kept a prisoner for almost twenty years.
Elizabeth refused to hear about executing her cousin. It was a traumatic time for Elizabeth, and for a while it seemed that she would not have the strength to go ahead with the execution. It was not until the Babington Plot of 1586 that she finally relented, and only then because there was proof of Mary’s complicity.
Elizabeth was hurt and angry that Mary had personally endorsed her murder, when for almost twenty years, she had protected Mary’s life. She wrote a letter to Mary to this effect, but it is unclear whether it had any effect on Mary’s conscience. It was the plan of Sir Anthony Babington and his co-conspirators to release Mary from the House at Chartely where she was kept, and to depose and kill Elizabeth.
Their plans failed, however, as Sir Francis Walsingham, one of Elizabeth’s most influential ministers, had created a very effective spy-network, that monitored the actions of English Catholics by using double agents and spies. Anthony Babington and his supporters were tortured and put to death, and Mary was put on trial. She was found guilty of treason, and condemned to death. But despite this judgement by Elizabeth’s judges, Elizabeth could not bring herself to sign her cousin’s death warrant. The very thought of executing a crowned sovereign terrified her, and the whole matter affected her health profoundly, possibly leading to her premature death. In the end she reluctantly signed the warrant. Her ministers secretly rushed through the execution, and Elizabeth was not told about it until it was over. Mary was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in the February of 1587.
Another significant event in Elizabeth’s reign happened in 1588 and involved Spain. Queen Elizabeth and Philip, now King of Spain, were at first amicable, but their friendship had deteriorated over the years as their political and religious agendas clashed. By 1588 they were enemies. Philip had spoken of invading England and dethroning Elizabeth for years, but the execution of the Queen of Scots gave him an added incentive. Now he could claim the English throne for himself.
In the summer of 1588 he sent his mighty Armada fleet against England. But by superior tactics, ship design, and sheer good fortune, the English defeated them. The victory brought Elizabeth’s popularity to its height. It was also another personal triumph as she had proved that she, a woman, could wage a war as well as any man.Queen Elizabeth faced hostility and irreverence in her kingdom of Ireland. Backed by the Spanish after their loss, Irish Catholics rebelled against their Protestant Queen. It was a long and bloody battle, with the victorious Protestants administering a scorched-earth policy and condemning the Irish to poverty and starvation. Ironically, this was a popular move in England.
Queen Elizabeth faced much sexism throughout her reign, and despite this became one of the most revered monarchs of all time. In many ways, she was one of the first feminists. She wouldn’t have seen herself that way, however, because the idea of women and men having the same rights seemed completely natural to her and she was surprised by many sexist standards. She was the first Queen of England to rule in her own right.In the 1590s, almost all of Elizabeth’s trusted advisors were dead and she was forced to build a new governing body which was troubled by internal conflicts.
The economy suffered from the costly Spanish and Irish wars, crops fail, standards of living fall while costs rise, and riots break out over food shortages. The arts also flourished during this time via poetry and drama masterpieces created by William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and English theatre was highly popular. When Shakespeare killed off a side character in one of his plays that Elizabeth enjoyed, she not only ordered him to resurrect the character but to write a play centered around the character and give him a happy ending. In 1599, Queen Elizabeth opened the Essex Theatre.On November 30th, 1601, Queen Elizabeth delivered her Golden Speech. It was delivered to the 141 Members of the Commons at the time. She revealed that it would be her last Parliament and turned the speech to address the respect and love she had for her country.
Elizabeth was the last Tudor monarch, a royal family succeeded by the Stuarts. In appearance she was extravagant, in behaviour sometimes flippant and frivolous, but her approach to politics was serious, conservative, and cautious. She lived life to the fullest and never compromised her beliefs. She ruled England for 44 years and her reign has been often described as a Golden Age. Queen Elizabeth died in the palace on March 24th, 1603. Her mental and physical health had both deteriorated, and she had become increasingly bitter and paranoid. Elizabeth died peacefully in her sleep.
She is considered one of England’s greatest monarchs.