Elizabeth I (known simply as "Elizabeth" until the accession of Elizabeth II; 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 a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth.
Elizabeth was a different kind of Queen: quick-witted, clever and able to use feminine wiles to get her own way. Elizabeth could be as ruthless and calculating as any king before her but at the same time she was vain, sentimental and easily swayed by flattery. She liked to surround herself with attractive people and her portraits were carefully vetted to make sure that no physical flaws were ever revealed. She relied upon the ministers close to her but would infuriate them with her indecision - 'It makes me weary of life,' remarked one. Faced with a dilemma - for example whether or not to sign the execution warrant of Mary Queen of Scots - Elizabeth would busy herself with other matters for months on end. Only when the patience of her ministers was running short would she be forced to make up her mind. She had a formidable intellect, and her sharp tongue would quickly settle any argument - in her favour.
Elizabeth was the only child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, who did not bear a male heir and was executed less than three years after Elizabeth's birth. Elizabeth was born at Greenwich Palace 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. 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
Elizabeth is favorably contrasted to her half-blood sister, Mary I but she was lucky to live longer than her. Her early life was full of uncertainties, and her chances of succeeding to the throne seemed very slight once her half-brother Edward was born in 1537. She was then third in line behind her Roman Catholic half-sister, Princess Mary. Roman Catholics, indeed, always considered her illegitimate and she only narrowly escaped execution in the wake of a failed rebellion against Queen Mary in 1554. Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on her half-sister's death in November 1558. She was very well-educated (fluent in six languages), and had inherited intelligence, determination and shrewdness from both parents.  |
III, Elizabeth’s Reign
Her 45-year reign is generally considered one of the most glorious in English history. During it a secure Church of England was established. Its doctrines were laid down in the 39 Articles of 1563, a compromise between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Elizabeth herself refused to 'make windows into men's souls ... there is only one Jesus Christ and all the rest is a dispute over trifles'; she asked for outward uniformity. Most of her subjects accepted the compromise as the basis of their faith, and her church settlement probably saved England from religious wars like those which France suffered in the second half of the 16th century. Although autocratic and capricious, Elizabeth had astute political judgement and chose her ministers well; these included Burghley (Secretary of State), Hatton (Lord Chancellor) and Walsingham (in charge of intelligence and also a Secretary of State). Overall, Elizabeth's administration consisted of some 600 officials administering the great offices of state, and a similar number dealing with the Crown lands (which funded the administrative costs). Social and economic regulation and law and order remained in the hands of the...