Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

Early Life

Queen Elizabeth I as a child
Queen Elizabeth I as a child

Queen Elizabeth I was born in Greenwich, England, on September 7th, 1533. The situation that she grew up in was complicated. Her father was King Henry VIII, and her mother was his second wife, Anne Boleyn. When Elizabeth I was two years old, her father had her mother beheaded, due to uncertain adultery and conspiracy charges. After this, Elizabeth I and her half-sister, Mary I were declared to be illegitimate, but they would later be reinstated as potential heirs. Edward VI was born in 1537 by Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife. He was their half-brother. Like most royal children, Elizabeth I received a very good education. She had tutoring and excelled in language and music. Edward VI was king for a short time, but he died in 1553. Mary I, and their cousin, Lady Jane Grey, were both in line for the throne. Edward VI had appointed Lady Jane Grey to be his successor, but after nine days of her ruling, she was unseated by Mary I. Mary I became queen, as she had the support of people in England. Mary I, a devout Catholic, made Protestants subject to extreme persecution during her reign, giving her the nickname "Bloody Mary."

Queen Elizabeth I in her coronation robes
Queen Elizabeth I in her coronation robes

Rise to Power


Elizabeth I became Queen on November 17th, 1558, after the death of Mary I. Her coronation occurred on January 15th, 1559. After this, Queen Elizabeth I had complete freedom, as she was the ruler of England. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth I was a supporter of the arts, including the famous plays of the era. Puritan theologists wanted to have theatres shut down, but they were not allowed to do this under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth I also made efforts to restore England to being Protestant, after the Catholic reign of Mary I. Queen Elizabeth I made herself the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Unlike Mary I, she was not an extremist, and she did not treat Catholics terribly as Mary I had treated Protestants.

A Golden Age

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I is often considered to be a golden age by historians. This is because England went through a period of great prosperity while she was queen. England became the most dominant Western maritime power, which helped commerce, and made the merchant class more wealthy. As a result, many people immigrated to England, which increased the population. The economy was improved in England. Due to England's increased wealth, more money was able to be invested in the arts, and in exploration. Famous playwrights such as William Shakespeare, and poets such as Christopher Marlowe, shaped theatre and literature in England. Just as Queen Elizabeth I had supported the arts, she also supported exploration, to find new trade routes and make England even wealthier.

The Virgin Queen


Queen Elizabeth I is called The Virgin Queen because she never married or had children. The topic of succession was an issue for her, as she never had a heir to the throne. The exact reason for Queen Elizabeth I's decision to never get married is not known for sure, but it could be for several reasons. Queen Elizabeth I's father, Henry VIII, had gone through several wives, and he had executed her mother, Anne Boleyn. Queen Elizabeth I likely did not want to get married out of fear of such terrible treatment. If she got married, all the power she had would go to her husband. She may not have wanted to give up her power. If this were to happen, she would not have been able to make decisions about how England was run. Queen Elizabeth I wanted to have the image as The Virgin Queen. She wanted to be seen as queen who was married to her country and her people.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587)
Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587)

Mary, Queen of Scots

The Babington Plot
The Babington Plot

Mary, Queen of Scots was Queen Elizabeth I's cousin, and one of her greatest rivals. Mary had been the Queen of Scotland, but she was removed from the throne, and she fled to England. She asked Queen Elizabeth I for help, but Queen Elizabeth I was suspicious of her. She did not want Mary to raise Catholic support and take power in England for herself. Queen Elizabeth I kept Mary, Queen of Scots as a prisoner for eighteen years. In 1586, letters were found that revealed Mary's involvement in the Babington Plot, a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I. As a result of this, Queen Elizabeth I had to have Mary, Queen of Scots executed. Mary was beheaded in 1587 at Fotheringay Castle.
This article contains additional information about Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Spanish Armada

The Spanish Armada and English ships
The Spanish Armada and English ships

The defeat of the Spanish Armada of 1588 was a very important event for England that occurred during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. England was prepared for the Armada. It was also very stormy, and England had an advantage that allowed them to defeat the Spanish. Queen Elizabeth I had given a famous speech that had inspired the English, the Speech to the Troops at Tilbury. This speech is known for Queen Elizabeth I's famous line, "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too". She wanted to defend her strength as a female leader, and give her people a sense of English pride and nationalism with her speech. The defeat of the Spanish Armada increased national pride in England, and helped the legacy of Queen Elizabeth I to persist for many years.
Elizabeth I at Tilbury
Elizabeth I at Tilbury


Later Life and Death

Elizabeth I in old age
Elizabeth I in old age

In the final years of her reign, Queen Elizabeth I went through some difficult times. England was having problems with crop failures, unemployment, and inflation. There were some challenges to Queen Elizabeth I's authority, such as Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex. He attempted to start a rebellion against her, and was executed for treason in 1601. Queen Elizabeth I was still devoted to her people during these more difficult years. She another famous speech in 1601, to the Parliament. This speech is called her Golden Speech, in which she reflects upon her reign. A quote from this speech is, "Of myself I must say this, I was never any greedy, scraping grasper, nor a strait, fast-holding prince, nor yet a waster. My heart was never set on worldly goods but for my subjects' good." Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, at Richmond Palace in Surrey. She was succeeded by James I, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. Queen Elizabeth I has been remembered as a queen who supported her people, and for bringing stability and prosperity to England while she reigned for 45 years.
Resting place of Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey
Resting place of Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey


Movie trailer for Elizabeth: The Golden Age