By 1603, Elizabeth was ultimately successful with many of her aims in regard to foreign policy. Despite this, the monarch faced various set backs and failures in such affairs. The problems arose as she ruled an isolated protestant kingdom surrounded by catholic superpowers. She managed these difficulties with great pragmatism and opportunism, reducing the threat of invasion. Her aggressive stance on some issues led to further problems such as those faced in Ireland. Yet, her passive stance on some issues, such as intervention via proxy in the Netherlands, largely ended in failure.
In 1558, England was in religious turmoil. Not only did Elizabeth face religious problems in domestic affairs, the protestant kingdom brought international relations into disrepute. Compared to France and Spain, England was weak both militarily and economically. Yet Elizabeth was still resolute in her wish to preserve the religious neutrality of the Netherlands, under pressure from a catholic Spain. Such religious tensions reached a high point in the early 1570s. These years saw the St Bartholomew’s day massacre, The Ridolfi Plot and papal excommunication. All these events demonstrated the threat posed by Catholicism. Nevertheless, Elizabeth handled the problems with pragmatism. The massacre of 3000 Huguenots (Protestants) horrified the English people, yet Elizabeth entered in negotiations with both sides of the dispute. Offering aid to the Huguenots whilst renewing marriage talks with Alencon. Her actions prevented another potentially disastrous holy war with France that England did not have the muscle for. Therefore relations with France began to improve despite the setback. The event also demonstrated Elizabeth’s tendency to be erastian as she put the needs of a weak state above the spark for a religious holy war. The continuation of improved relations with France is largely