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Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I

From the Tower of London to the Queen of England, Elizabeth I is remembered as one of England's greatest monarchs. The English didn't believe a woman could rule alone, but Elizabeth rewrote the narrative. She solidified England as a Protestant country, defeated the Spanish Armada, and promoted the arts. Who was Queen Elizabeth I? What did she accomplish? Let's dive further into Queen Elizabeth I!

Queen Elizabeth I Biography

Queen Elizabeth I
Reign:17 November 1558 - 24 March 1603
Predecessors:Mary I and Philip II
Successor:James I
Birth:7 September 1533 in London, England
Death:March 24 1603 (aged 69) in Surrey, England
House:Tudor
Father:Henry VIII
Mother:Anne Boleyn
Husband:Elizabeth chose never to marry. She was referred to as the "Virgin Queen".
Children:no children
Religion:Anglicanism

Elizabeth I was born on 7 September 1533. Her father was Henry VIII, King of England, and her mother was Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife. To marry Anne, Henry separated England from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church didn't recognise the annulment between Henry and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Therefore, the Church never recognised the legitimacy of Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth was two, Henry had her mother executed. He alleged that she had an affair with several men, one of which was her own brother. Anne nor the alleged affair partners contended against the accusation. The men understood their families were at risk if they went against the king. Anne, on the other hand, didn't want to have any further negative impact on Elizabeth's chances.

Elizabeth and the Wives of Henry VIII

Elizabeth was only two when her mother died. It is possible that the death of Anne Boleyn had little effect on the princess. Henry's third wife died in childbirth, and his fourth was short-lived. It wasn't until his fifth wife that a queen showed interest in Elizabeth. Catherine Howard cared for Henry's children and fulfilled a motherly role with them. She was executed when Elizabeth was nine. There is a scholarly debate on the impact that her death had on young Elizabeth.

In 1536, an Act of Succession declared that Elizabeth and her older half-sister, Mary I, were illegitimate children. The two were removed from the line of succession and demoted from Princess to Lady. In 1544, another Act of Succession was passed three years before Henry's death. This one declared that Henry's heir was his firstborn legitimate son, Edward VI. If Edward died without producing an heir, then Mary would become queen. If Mary died without an heir, then Elizabeth would be queen.

The line of succession went as follows: Edward Mary → Elizabeth. If Elizabeth didn't have children, the line would follow Henry VIII's sister, Margaret Tudor, the Queen consort of Scotland.

Elizabeth I Teenage Elizabeth I StudySmarterFig. 1 - Teenage Elizabeth I

Edward succeeded Henry VIII. Elizabeth left court to live with Henry's final wife, Catherine Parr and her new husband, Thomas Seymour. Seymour had a questionable relationship with Elizabeth that included unwanted advantages. Catherine sent Elizabeth away, but they remained close until Catherine died in childbirth.

On 16 January 1549, Seymour attempted to kidnap the young king and then marry Elizabeth. This plan was thwarted, and Seymour was executed. Elizabeth's loyalty to Edward was questioned, but she was able to earn her way back into court. Edward died in 1553 and was succeeded by Mary.

The catholic Queen Mary married the powerful Phillip II, King of Spain. The couple worked together to return England to a Catholic kingdom. Protestant nobles concocted a conspiracy known as Wyatt's rebellion to put Elizabeth on the throne. Mary found out, and the conspirators were executed. Subsequently, Elizabeth was sent to the Tower of London. In 1558, Mary died, and Elizabeth was crowned queen.

Queen Elizabeth I Reign

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.1

- Elizabeth I

Elizabeth was coronated in 1558 when she was 25 years old. One of her first and immediate issues was the challenges to her right to rule. Elizabeth was unmarried and refused proposals. She used her unbetrothed status to her benefit. The young queen was lovingly referred to as the Virgin Queen, Good Queen Bes, and Gloriana. She would never have her own children but was England's mother.

Elizabeth I Elizabeth I Coronation StudySmarterFig. 2 - Elizabeth I's coronation

The young Queen's relationship with gender was very complicated. She ended this rhetoric by invoking her Divine Right to rule. To question her legitimacy was to question God because He chose her.

Divine Right

The belief that a ruler was chosen by God, and it was their divine right to rule.

Queen Elizabeth I and Poor Laws

Wars were expensive, and the royal treasury couldn't keep up. This financial strain became an issue for the English. To offer some assistance, Elizabeth passed the Poor Laws in 1601. These laws aimed to place the responsibility for the poor on the local communities. They would provide for soldiers who could not work because of injuries sustained during wars. Work was found for the poor who didn't have jobs. The poor laws provided the groundwork for future welfare systems and lasted 250 years.

Queen Elizabeth I Religion

Elizabeth was a Protestant, just like her mother and brother were. Mary I was queen she had persecuted Protestants when she was queen.

Henry VIII was the Supreme Head of the Church of England, but Elizabeth couldn't assume the same title because of gender politics. Instead, Elizabeth took on the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Religion was a tool for Elizabeth and one that she wielded expertly.

Many Protestants were murdered during Mary I's reign. However, Elizabeth wasn't as strict as Mary. She declared England a Protestant kingdom. People were required to go to a Protestant church, but Elizabeth didn't care whether they were truly Protestant. Missing church resulted in a twelve-pence fine. This money wasn't given to the crown but instead went to the needy.

Elizabeth I Elizabeth Procession Portrait StudySmarterFig. 3 - Elizabeth's Procession Portrait

The Supreme Governor had no real issues with the Catholics until the Papal Bull of 1570. Pope Pius V declared Elizabeth was the illegitimate heir to the English throne. The Church didn't recognise Henry's annulment to his first wife. By their logic, Henry's children after his first wife were illegitimate. The Catholic English were torn between their loyalty to the Church and to the Crown.

In the 1570s, Elizabeth tightened her control over English Catholics. England didn't have any major civil wars due to religion, unlike other countries during this period. Elizabeth could keep a straight line with some religious freedoms while England remained a Protestant kingdom.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Elizabeth didn't officially name an heir. According to Henry's 1544 Act of Succession, succession would pass through Margaret Tudor's family line if Elizabeth didn't have children. Margaret and her son died before 1544, so the heir after Elizabeth, assuming she had no children, was Margaret's granddaughter, Elizabeth's cousin Mary Stuart.

Mary was Catholic, which frightened Elizabeth. When her siblings were the rulers, Elizabeth was unwillingly used as a pawn to overthrow them. Officially naming an heir meant that the same thing could happen again with the new heir. Since Mary was Catholic, Catholics who wanted England to return to Catholicism might use Mary to do so.

Elizabeth I Mary Queen of Scotts Execution StudySmarterFig. 4 - Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland on 14 December 1542; she was only six days old! Scotland was in political chaos at the time, and the young Mary was often used as a pawn. Eventually, she fled to England for Elizabeth's protection in 1568. Elizabeth kept Mary under house arrest. Mary was kept as a prisoner for nineteen years! Within this time, she sent many letters to Elizabeth, pleading for her freedom.

A letter written by Mary was intercepted. It revealed that she agreed to a plan to overthrow Elizabeth, known as the Babington Plot. This was treason, which was punishable by death, but who was Elizabeth to kill another queen? After much deliberation, Elizabeth had Mary executed in 1587.

Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada

One of the larger threats to Elizabeth's reign was Spain. King Phillip of Spain was Mary Tudor's husband and king consort. When Mary died in 1558, he lost his hold on England. Subsequently, Philip proposed to Elizabeth when she became queen. England was a rising power which would make a great asset for the Spanish.

Elizabeth entertained the proposal publicly, though she never planned to follow through. Eventually, Phillip realised that he would not gain control over England through marriage to Elizabeth. Then, Elizabeth allowed privateers to attack Spanish ships. To make matters worse, she had sent Sir Walter Raleigh to the New World twice to establish colonies to rival Spain.

Privateers

An individual granted permission by the crown to attack ships from specific kingdoms, often a percentage of the loot went to the crown.

The Spanish were threatened by the English's involvement in the Americas. The final nail in the coffin was the execution of Mary, Queen of Scotts. Phillip believed he had a claim to the English throne through his marriage to Mary Tudor. England, of course, disagreed. In 1588, the Spanish Armada confronted the English navy. The Spanish Armada was a formidable foe that outnumbered the British ships.

I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart 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 realms: to which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I myself will take up arms.1

- Elizabeth I

Elizabeth gave a speech to raise morale among the soldiers. Like many times before, Elizabeth used striking language to force her subjects to put aside her gender and fight for her. Elizabeth passed command of the English navy to Lord Howard of Effington. The English sent fire ships to break through the Spanish line in the dead of night, which started the battle.

Elizabeth I Portrait depicting Elizabeth's Victory over the Spanish Armada StudySmarterFig. 4 - Portrait depicting Elizabeth's victory over the Spanish

Both sides spent all of their ammunition within one day. A storm picked up on the English coast that pushed the Spanish back into the ocean. The British won the battle, and Elizabeth declared that it was an act of God. She was God's chosen ruler, and He blessed her with victory.

Queen Elizabeth I Death

Elizabeth lived to be 69 years old. Toward the end of her life, she suffered from deep sadness. The queen had many regrets throughout her life; one of the more notable ones was the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. When she was finally ready to name an heir, Elizabeth had lost the ability to talk. Instead, she gestured to the crown upon her head and pointed to Mary's son, James VI.

Elizabeth didn't want an examination performed on her body after her death. She died on 24 March 1603 in Richmond Palace. Her wishes were respected, and a postmortem wasn't allowed on her body. We are unsure of what caused the queen's death.

Queen Elizabeth I's cause of death

There are a few popular theories about the queen's death. One is that she died of blood poisoning. Elizabeth was remembered for her iconic makeup looks; today, we understand that the makeup that she used was toxic. The other two are that she died of cancer or pneumonia.

Queen Elizabeth I Importance

Elizabeth was a patron of the arts, which thrived during her reign. William Shakespeare wrote many plays at the queen's request. In fact, Elizabeth was in the theatre on the opening night of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. She commissioned many portraits from well-renowned artists. The sciences also did well with the rise of thinkers like Sir Francis Bacon and Doctor John Dee.

Queen Elizabeth was the last Tudor monarch. She is considered to be one of England's greatest monarchs. Elizabeth rose above religious and gender-based challenges to her rule. She defended England from the Spanish Armada multiple times and paved the way for a successful transition to the next monarch.

Queen Elizabeth I - Key takeaways

  • Elizabeth I had a difficult childhood that led to her imprisonment in the Tower of London.
  • In 1558, Elizabeth ascended to the throne. The English Parliament feared that a woman couldn't rule on her own, but Elizabeth proved them wrong.
  • Elizabeth was a Protestant but wasn't extremely strict on the English, so long as they publicly claimed Protestant. That was until Pope Pius V declared that she was an illegitimate heir of Henry VIII.
  • Elizabeth's assumed heir, Mary, Queen of Scots, was involved in the Babington Plot, a plan to overthrow Elizabeth. Mary was executed for treason in 1587.
  • Elizabeth died in 1603; her cause of death is unknown.

References

  1. Elizabeth I, 1566 Response to Parliament
  2. Elizabeth I, 1588 Speech Before the Spanish Armada

Frequently Asked Questions about Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I ruled from 1558 to 1663. Her reign lasted 45 years. 

Queen Elizabeth I was Protestant. She was lenient with Catholics in comparison to the former queen, Mary I. Mary I was a Catholic ruler who had many Protestants executed. 

Historians are unsure how Queen Elizabeth I died. Before her death, Elizabeth denied requests for a post-mortem examination of her body. Historians speculate that she had blood positioning from the toxic makeup that she wore. Another theory is that she died of cancer or pneumonia. 

Queen Elizabeth was very concerned with her appearances. When she was in her twenties, she contracted small pox. The disease left marks on her face that she covered with white makeup. Her iconic look became a trend in England.

James VI was the great-grandson of Elizabeth's aunt. He was the son of Elizabeth's second cousin, Mary, Queen of Scotts, and Elizabeth's third cousin. 

Final Queen Elizabeth I Quiz

Question

Who was Essex's chief rival at court?

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Answer

Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury

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Question

Which Earl followed Essex into the Rebellion?

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Answer

The Earl of Southampton

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Question

Where was Essex sent to command English and Dutch forces?

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Answer

Cadiz, Spain

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Question

Hugh O'Neill was the Earl of ____.

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Answer

Tyrone, Ireland

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Question

What was the Nine Years' War also called?

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Answer

Tyrone's Rebellion

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Question

Define "Privy Council".

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Answer

A Privy Council is an advisory body that advises the monarch. Privy means "private" and/or "secret", so one must keep in mind that the Privy Council is almost always the closest and most trusted advisor a monarch has under their disposal.

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Question

When and why was Essex put under house arrest?

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Answer

1600, for disobeying the Queen's orders and returning from Ireland to England.

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Who was the last person to be beheaded in the Tower of London?

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Answer

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

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What was Essex charged with and where was he kept as prisoned?

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Answer

Treason, Tower of London

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How many men initially followed Essex into rebellion?

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Answer

300

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What religion did Elizabeth I follow?

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Answer

Protestantism.

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Which of the following was NOT a reason for the Spanish attack against England? 

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Answer

Elizabeth I denounced Pope Pius V.

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Who was the ruler of England before Elizabeth I?

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Answer

Mary I.

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where was Elizabeth imprisoned  when Mary believed that Elizabeth was involved in a plan to overthrow her?

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Answer

Tower of London.

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Who was succeeded Elizabeth I?

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James VI.

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Who were the poor laws designed to help?

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Answer

Disabled soldiers and people without jobs.

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Which pope declared that Elizabeth was the illegitimate child of Henry VIII?

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Answer

Pope Pius V.

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What is the right given by God to a king or queen to rule?

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Answer

Divine Right.

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What was Elizabeth's title for her role in the Church of England?

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Answer

Supreme Governor.

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How did Elizabeth I die?

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Answer

Unknown causes.

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Complete this sentence: Puritans were extreme ___.

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Answer

Protestants.

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When was the Elizabethan Religious Settlement passed?

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1559.

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True or False: Puritans thought Churches should be well-decorated/

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Answer

False.

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True or False: Puritans wanted to get rid of Bishops and Archbishops.

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Answer

True.

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Complete this sentence: During the Vestarian controversy, Puritan ministers refused to wear the ___.

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Answer

Surplice.

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Which of these was NOT Archbishop of Canterbury during Elizabeth I's reign.

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Answer

Thomas Cranmer.

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Which Archbishop was suspended over the issue of Prophesying?

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Answer

Edmund Grindal.

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John Stubbs' pamphlet spoke out about the planned marriage between Elizabeth I and _____.

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Answer

Duke of Alencon.

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True or False: John Stubbs was executed for his pamphlet.

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Answer

False.

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Which religious threat was greater to Elizabeth I - the Catholic threat or the Puritan Challenge?

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The Catholic threat.

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How many parliaments did Elizabeth I have?

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10.

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True or False: One of the most pressing issues for the Elizabethan parliament was Elizabeth's succession.

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Answer

True.

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Complete the sentence: Elizabeth's final speech to Parliament became known as her ____ speech.

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Answer

Golden.

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Which of these did Parliament have the authority to grant?

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Answer

Extraordinary revenue.

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True or False: Parliament was responsible for the day to day running of the country.

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Answer

False.

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When was Elizabeth I's last Parliament?

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Answer

1601.

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What was the name for the sole authority a monarch has to make decisions in certain areas?

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Answer

Royal prerogative.

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Question

What happened to MP Peter Wentworth when he tried to bring up free speech in parliament?

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Answer

He was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

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How many parliaments were called concerning the Catholic threat from Mary Queen of Scots?

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Answer

3.

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Question

When did Elizabeth I ban the discussion of religion in Parliament?

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Answer

1580s.

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