Elizabeth I

John Florens | Apr 15, 2024

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Elizabeth I, born 7 September 1533, died 24 March 1603, was reigning queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. She has been called Gloriana, The Virgin Queen and Good Queen Bess, among other names. Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the House of Tudor.

The daughter of Henry VIII of England and his second wife Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was born a princess, but when her mother was executed two and a half years later, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate, and lost her right to the throne. However, when both her half-brother Edward and half-sister Mary died prematurely and childless, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1558. One of Elizabeth's first acts as Queen was to force a new order on the Church of England, of which she became head, with the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England. This Elizabethan church order later evolved into today's Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry, but she never did. A kind of cult grew up around her and the Virgin Queen was celebrated in contemporary portraits, plays and literature.

Elizabeth was cautious about foreign policy commitments, and only out of necessity did she endorse a number of ineffective and poorly supported military campaigns in the Netherlands, France and Ireland. Her victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 has since led to her name being associated with what is popularly regarded as one of the greatest victories in English history. Elizabeth's reign is referred to as the Elizabethan era, and is famous above all for its flourishing cultural life. Foremost among these was the Elizabethan theatre, with great stars such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Francis Drake became the first Englishman to sail around the world. Francis Bacon set out his philosophical and political views and the English colonisation of North America began under Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

Towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, a host of economic and military problems contributed to a decline in her popularity, but Elizabeth's reign offered England 44 years of continuity after her sister's and brother's brief and conflicted periods on the throne. This stability helped lay the foundations for England's national identity and later great power.

Elizabeth was born at Greenwich Palace, in the room known as the Chamber of Virgins, on 7 September 1533 between three and four o'clock in the afternoon and was named after both her grandmother Elizabeth of York and her grandmother Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire. She was the second of the King's legitimate children to survive infancy, her mother being Henry VIII's second consort, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth was heir to the throne at the time of her birth because her older half-sister Mary had lost her status as the king's legitimate heir when Henry VIII annulled her marriage to Mary's mother, Catherine of Aragon, in order to remarry Anne Boleyn. King Henry was very keen to have a male heir to ensure the dynastic status of the House of Tudor. Anne's coronation was crowned with the English royal crown of St. Edward's, unlike previous queens who were crowned with special crowns made for queen consorts. The reason for this was probably that Anne was visibly pregnant with Elizabeth at the time, and the king wanted to emphasise the status and legitimacy of the heir. Both Henry and Anne assumed that the child they were expecting was male. Elizabeth was christened on 10 September at a ceremony held at Greenwich Palace. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter, the Duchess of Norfolk and the Marquess of Dorset were appointed as Elizabeth's godparents. After Elizabeth's birth, Queen Anne was expected to quickly give birth to a male heir, but this did not happen. Anne suffered at least two miscarriages, one in 1534, the other sometime in early 1536. On 2 May 1536, the Queen was arrested, accused of having had several extramarital affairs, an accusation that modern scholars mainly agree was false. Anne Boleyn was executed on 19 May 1536.

Elizabeth, who was then two years and eight months old, was declared illegitimate and stripped of her title of princess. Eleven days after Anne Boleyn's death, Henry VIII remarried, this time to Jane Seymour, who died 12 days after giving birth to the couple's son, Prince Edward. Elizabeth was placed in Edward's household, and it was she who wore the christening gown at the prince's baptism.

Elizabeth's first Lady Mistress, Lady Margaret Bryan, wrote that she was "as toward a child and as gentle of conditions as ever I knew any in my life". By the autumn of 1537 Elizabeth had a new governess, Blanche Herbert, Lady Troy, who remained in that post until her retirement in 1545 or early 1546. Catherine Champernowne, who became better known by her married name, Katherine (Kat) Ashley, was appointed Elizabeth's governess in 1537 and she remained Elizabeth's friend until her death in 1565 when Blanche Parry succeeded her in the post she had held since the Queen's accession, as Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, one of the highest posts in the Queen's private court. Kat Ashley evidently gave Elizabeth a good educational background; when William Grindal was appointed as her informant in 1544, Elizabeth could write English as well as Latin and Greek. Under Grindal's tutelage she also acquired a good knowledge of French and after a while could speak fluent Greek, a sign of Grindal's skill as an educator. After Grindal's death in 1548, Roger Ascham, a kind and skilled teacher who believed that learning should be pleasurable, took over the responsibility for Elizabeth's education. When Elizabeth's education was formally completed in 1550, she was the best educated woman of her generation.

Henry VIII died in 1547 when Elizabeth was 13 years old, and he was succeeded by Elizabeth's half-brother Edward. Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth and last wife, soon remarried Thomas Seymour of Sudeley, Edward VI's uncle and brother of the Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Elizabeth was admitted to the couple's household in Chelsea. There, Elizabeth underwent an emotional crisis, which historians have since argued affected the rest of her life. Thomas Seymour, approaching 40 but still possessing both charm and a palpable sex appeal, began to engage in hands-on games with the 14-year-old Elizabeth. He made a habit of coming to her bedroom in just his nightshirt, tickling her and patting her bottom. After Katarina Parr discovered them in an embrace, she put an end to these "games". In May 1548, Elizabeth was sent away.

Seymour continued to forge plans for a future in which he could use his ties to the royal family to increase his power. When Catherine Parr died of puerperal fever after giving birth to a girl, Mary, on 5 September 1548, Seymour resumed his courtship of Elizabeth, hoping to arrange a marriage. However, the details of his unwise behaviour towards Elizabeth came to the attention of the Lord Chamberlain, after questioning Kat Ashley, and Thomas Parry, who was in charge of Elizabeth's finances. For the Duke of Somerset and other members of the Council, this was the last straw, and in January 1549 Seymour was arrested on suspicion of attempting to marry Elizabeth and overthrow his brother. Elizabeth, who was living at Hatfield House at the time, made no admissions. Her stubborn denials frustrated the interrogator, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, who reported that: "I can see in her face that she is guilty". ("I do see it in her face that she is guilty"). Seymour was beheaded on 20 March 1549.

Edward VI died on 6 July 1553, at the age of 15. His will contravened the Act of Succession passed by Parliament in 1543 and excluded both Mary and Elizabeth from the succession, appointing Lady Jane Grey as heir to the throne instead. Lady Jane Grey was the granddaughter of Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary Tudor, who had been Queen of France, but who later remarried Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Lady Jane was proclaimed Queen by the Privy Council, but support for her soon collapsed and she was deposed after reigning for only nine days. Mary was able to ride triumphantly into London as Queen, with her half-sister Elizabeth at her side.

However, the solidarity, at least on the surface, between the sisters was not to last long. Mary, the country's first unchallenged reigning queen, was determined to wipe the Protestant faith, in which Elizabeth had been brought up, out of England, and she ordered that everyone had to attend Catholic mass. This order included Elizabeth, who was forced to bow, at least outwardly. Mary's initial popularity quickly waned when it became known that she intended to marry Philip II of Spain, son of Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Dissatisfaction spread quickly, and many Englishmen pinned their hopes on Elizabeth, who was seen as a possible leader of a Protestant opposition. In January and February 1554, rebellions broke out in England and Wales, led by Thomas Wyatt.

When Wyatt's rebellion failed, Elizabeth was taken to court, where she was subjected to harsh interrogations about possible support for the rebels. Although nothing could be proved, Elizabeth was imprisoned on the Queen's orders in the Tower where Lady Jane Grey had been executed on 12 February for failing to act as a rallying point for further rebellion. The terrified Elizabeth eagerly maintained her innocence. Although it is unlikely that she actively conspired with the rebels, it is known that some of them tried to contact her. Mary's closest confidant, the Spanish ambassador Simon Renard, argued that the Queen could never sit safely on her throne while Elizabeth was alive, and the Lord Chancellor, Stephen Gardiner, went to great lengths to bring Elizabeth to justice. Elizabeth's friends at court, including Lord Paget, managed to persuade Queen Mary that it was better for her to let Elizabeth live, in the absence of convicting evidence. Instead, on 22 May, Elizabeth was taken from the Tower to Woodstock Castle, where she was kept under house arrest for almost a year, with Sir Henry Bedingfield as her reluctant "overseer". When she was taken to Woodstock, crowds gathered along the road and cheered for her.

On 17 April 1555, Elizabeth was recalled to court to be monitored during what was believed to be the end of the Queen's pregnancy. If Mary and her child died in childbirth, Elizabeth would become queen. If, on the other hand, Mary gave birth to a healthy child, Elizabeth's chances of ever ascending the throne would be drastically reduced. When it became clear that the queen had not been pregnant at all, people stopped believing that she could ever have a child. It seemed increasingly certain that Elizabeth would succeed her sister on the throne. Even Mary's husband Philip, who became King of Spain in 1556, acknowledged that this was the political reality. He continued to treat Elizabeth with great consideration, preferring her as heir to the throne to the alternative, Mary Stuart, who had grown up in France and was betrothed to the French heir to the throne, the future Francis II. When his wife fell ill in 1558, Philip sent the ambassador Count Feria to consult with Elizabeth. By October, Elizabeth was already planning her accession to the throne. On 6 November, Mary officially named Elizabeth as her successor. Eleven days later, Elizabeth became Queen of England and Ireland when Mary died in St James's Palace on 17 November 1558.

Elizabeth became queen at the age of 25. As monarch, Elizabeth essentially followed the intention she had announced on her accession, to rule "by good counsel", and she came to develop a close working relationship with her Privy Council under the leadership of William Cecil, Baron Burghley. When she travelled in procession through London on the eve of her coronation, she was warmly welcomed by the townspeople and greeted with speeches and tableaux, most of which were replete with Protestant symbolism. Elizabeth's kind and spontaneous response to the tributes was received with great warmth by the onlookers, who were enchanted by the young Queen. The following day, 15 January 1559, Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster Abbey where she received the anointing from the Catholic Bishop of Carlisle, Owen Oglethorpe. She then appeared before the people and received their applause against a backdrop of drums, trumpets, bell ringing and bagpipes.

On 20 November 1558, Elizabeth gave a speech to the councillors and peers who had come to Hatfield to swear an oath of allegiance to her. In this speech, Elizabeth announced her intentions for her reign, and for the first time it is recorded that she used the metaphor that she later came to use so skilfully and often: the "two bodies", referring to her physical body and her spiritual, royal, body:

My lords, the law of nature causes me to grieve for my sister, the burden that now falls upon me to bear makes me wonder, and yet, considering that I am God's creation, bound to obey His commands, I shall devote myself to this burden and I wish with all my heart that I may be assisted by His grace to carry out His will in this office entrusted to me. And though I am only a body by nature, yet by His permission I am also a political body, destined to rule, and I therefore desire that you all will assist me...so that I by my rule, and you by serving me, may do good before the Lord, and also bring about relief for our posterity here on earth. I intend to base all my actions on the counsel of the Council (the burden that is fallen upon me makes me amazed, and yet, considering I am God's creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all...to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth. I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel.)

Elizabeth's policy on religious matters was characterised above all by pragmatism, as can be seen from the way she dealt with the following important issues:

First, the question of the Queen's legitimacy was important. Although she was technically illegitimate under both Protestant and Catholic law, the fact that she was retroactively declared illegitimate by the Protestant Church was not as great a disadvantage to her as the fact that under the Catholic Church she was never legitimate at all. For her own part, however, the most important thing seems to have been that she considered that emancipation from Rome meant that she had become legitimate. For this reason, Elizabeth was never likely to say publicly that she belonged to anything other than the Protestant faith.

Elizabeth and her advisers also had to plan to counter a possible Catholic crusade against Protestant England. Elizabeth therefore tried to offer a solution to ecclesiastical issues that did not conflict too strongly with the consciences of her Catholic subjects but still satisfied the Protestants. She was opposed to the radical Protestants and Puritans who demanded more far-reaching reforms. Consequently, in 1559, at the Queen's request, Parliament adopted a Church Code which was largely based on the Protestant Church Act passed under Edward VI, but which also contained several Catholic elements such as the dress of the clergy.

The House of Commons was virtually unanimous in its support for this church constitution, but the renewal of the law which established Elizabeth, like her father and brother before her, as the absolute head of the church, the Supremacy Act, met with opposition in the House of Lords, mainly from the bishops. Elizabeth was lucky, however, and many bishoprics happened to be vacant at the time, including the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled the peers to vote down the bishops' opposition. Elizabeth was nevertheless forced to agree to adopt the title Supreme Governor rather than Supreme Head, as many felt that a woman could not be the head of the Church, but found a title that meant patron or handler more acceptable. The new church constitution became law on 8 May 1559. All public officials had to swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, or risk being stripped of their offices. The old heresy laws were repealed to avoid future religious persecutions similar to those that had taken place during Mary's reign. At the same time, a new Act of Uniformity was passed in 1559, making attendance at church services compulsory and requiring the use of a revised version of the Book of Common Prayer, published in 1552. However, the penalties for breaking this law were relatively mild.

At first, the Queen was tougher on the Puritans than on the Catholics. The Primate of England, Archbishop Grindal of Canterbury, was suspended from office and imprisoned in his own palace because of his sympathies with Puritan doctrines. Other clergymen and professors of like mind were deposed. Puritans who too vehemently and loudly attacked the institutions of the Anglican Church were condemned to the pillory.

The situation changed after the Catholic rebellion of 1569 and the Pope's bull against Elizabeth the following year. The Parliament of 1571 strengthened the Protestant character of the English Church, forbade all Catholic worship by corporal and capital punishment, and declared any connection with Rome to be high treason. England now became the champion of Protestantism in Europe, first and foremost against Spain, the protector of the Counter-Reformation. In total, during Elizabeth's reign, some 200 Catholics were executed as enemies of the state.

Archbishop of Canterbury for the longest period of Elizabeth's reign was Matthew Parker, who had been chaplain to Anne Boleyn.

From the moment of her accession, Elizabeth was expected to marry, and the question was which husband she would choose. The reason why Elizabeth came to live her life as an unmarried woman is unclear and disputed. Historians have speculated that the events with Thomas Seymour had discouraged her from sexual relations, or that she might have known that she was infertile for some reason. She considered a variety of proposals until she reached about age 50; her last serious marriage negotiations involved Francis Hercule of Anjou, who was 22 years younger than herself. However, Elizabeth was not in need of a husband to help her rule and marriage could have jeopardised her monopoly on power and could have meant that a foreign power could usurp power in England as a wife was expected to obey her husband (this was what had happened during Mary's reign). On the other hand, marriage offered the only possibility for Elizabeth to have a child, an heir.

One of the Queen's foreign suitors was the Crown Prince and later King of Sweden, Erik XIV.

Robert Dudley

Elizabeth received several offers of marriage, but there were only three or four suitors whose offers she seriously considered for any length of time. Perhaps the one who came closest to winning her hand was the Queen's childhood friend Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. In the spring of 1559 their friendship seems to have developed into love. The intimacy between them soon became a hot topic of gossip, both at home and abroad. It was also said that his wife, Amy Robsart, was suffering from an illness in one of her breasts, and that the Queen wished to marry Dudley if his wife died. Several royal suitors, and their emissaries, began to engage in increasingly coarse gossip that a marriage between the Queen and her favourite would be unpopular in England: 'There is not a man here who does not cry out on him and her with indignation ... she will marry none but the favoured Robert' (There is not a man here who does not cry out on him and her with indignation ... she will marry none but the favoured Robert). Not surprisingly, Amy Robsart's death in September 1560, after falling down a flight of stairs and breaking her neck, caused a huge scandal. Rumours that Dudley had his wife murdered in order to marry the Queen soon began to circulate. An inquest concluded that it had been an accident, and Elizabeth seriously considered marrying Dudley for a time. William Cecil and many more of England's nobility were greatly alarmed by this, and loudly announced their disapproval. Opposition was overwhelming, and there were even rumours that the nobility would revolt if the marriage went ahead.

Although there were several serious negotiations about marriage, Dudley emerged as the most likely candidate for over 10 more years. Elizabeth encouraged his repeated proposals, and remained very jealous of his exclusive attentions, even after she herself finally decided not to marry him. Elizabeth elevated Dudley to the Earl of Leicester in 1564. In 1578 he finally remarried, to Elizabeth's relative Lettice Knollys, which caused huge outbursts of anger from the Queen, who for the rest of her life referred to Lady Leicester as the She-wolf.Dudley nevertheless retained a special place in Elizabeth's heart. He died shortly after the victory over the Spanish Armada, and his last letter to Elizabeth was found after her death among her most private possessions, inscribed "his last letter" in the Queen's own handwriting.

Political aspects of marriage

Elizabeth kept the question of marriage open, but often only for political and diplomatic reasons. Parliament humbly asked her to marry on several occasions, but the Queen always gave evasive answers. In 1563 she informed an envoy from the imperial court that: "If I follow the inclination of my nature, it is this: beggar-woman and single, far rather than queen and married". In the same year, after Elizabeth's successful recovery from smallpox, the question of succession was raised. Parliament implored the queen to marry, or appoint a formal successor to the throne, to avoid a civil war if she died childless. She refused to do any of this. In April she had Parliament suspended, and it did not reconvene until she needed their approval to raise taxes in 1566. The House of Commons threatened to refuse to allow the Queen to raise taxes until she had appointed a successor.

In 1566, the Queen confided to the Spanish ambassador that if there was any way for her to settle the question of succession without having to marry, she would do so. By the 1570s, several of Elizabeth's most prominent ministers had resigned themselves to the fact that the Queen would never either marry or name an heir. William Cecil had already begun to look for other solutions to the problem of succession. Because of her position on the marriage question, and the related succession issue, the Queen was often accused of being irresponsible. However, Elizabeth's silence increased her political security, as she knew that appointing a successor would make her vulnerable to rebellion in favour of a (mainly male or Catholic) successor to the throne.

Elizabeth's unmarried status inspired a virgin cult. In both art and poetry, the queen was portrayed as a virgin, a goddess or both, not as an ordinary woman. Initially, only Elizabeth saw her unmarried status as a virtue; in 1559, she let Parliament know that: "And, in the end, this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin". Later, especially after 1578, poets and painters picked up on this statement and developed an iconography on the theme that exalted Elizabeth. In an age of metaphor and symbolism, the queen was depicted as blessed with her kingdom and her subjects, under the protection of God. In 1559, Elizabeth spoke of "all my husbands, my good people".

Elizabeth's way of ruling was more compromising than that of her father and siblings. One of her mottos was "video et taceo" ("I see, but say nothing"). This strategy, which could sometimes drive her advisers to frustration, often saved her from political, and marital, mesalliances. Except in the case of Robert Dudley, Elizabeth treated the marriage question as part of her foreign policy. Despite rejecting Philip II's proposal in 1559, she negotiated marriage for many years with his cousin, Archduke Charles of Austria. Relations with the Habsburg dynasty deteriorated in 1568, when Elizabeth considered marrying, in turn, two French princes, the brothers Henry III of France and later his younger brother, Francis Hercule of Anjou. These later marriage negotiations were on and off from 1572 to 1581, and were connected with a planned alliance against Spain's control of the Netherlands. Elizabeth seems to have taken the marriage negotiations seriously, at least initially, and made a habit of wearing an earring in the shape of a frog given to her as a gift by Anjou.

Elizabeth's foreign policy was largely one of defence, or avoiding conflict. The major exception was the disastrous siege of Le Havre from October 1562 to June 1563, when Elizabeth's allies, the Huguenots, joined forces with the Catholics to recapture the port. Elizabeth had intended to replace Le Havre with Calais, which France had recaptured from England in January 1558. The Queen sent troops to Scotland in 1560 to prevent France from using the neighbouring country as a base for an attack on England. In 1585, she signed the Treaty of Nonsuch with the Netherlands, which aimed to block the Spanish threat to England. The only area in which Elizabeth actively pursued an aggressive foreign policy was the navy. This paid off in the war against Spain, with 80% of the fighting taking place at sea. She had Sir Francis Drake knighted after his circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580, and he gained fame for his attacks on Spanish ports and naval forces. Many Elizabethan sailors were driven by the profits to be made from acting as pirates, which Elizabeth found difficult to prevent and sometimes directly supported.


Elizabeth's main interest in Scotland was to prevent France from consolidating its power in the country. She feared that the French were planning an invasion of England and that they wanted to make the Catholic Mary Stuart queen instead of Elizabeth. As Elizabeth was declared illegitimate, many people, mainly Catholics, considered the Scottish queen to be the rightful queen of England as well. Elizabeth was persuaded to send an armed force to Scotland to support Protestant rebels, and although this campaign did not result in any clear victory, the peace treaty that was concluded, the Treaty of Edinburgh, did remove the French threat from the north. When Mary Stuart returned to Scotland in 1561 to take over the reigns after being widowed, Scotland was led by a group of Protestant nobles supported by Elizabeth. Mary refused to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh.

Elizabeth insulted Mary by proposing a marriage between the Scottish queen and her own favourite, Robert Dudley. Instead, in 1565, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who was able to claim hereditary rights to the English crown through his mother. This marriage was the first in a series of serious mistakes, based on a lack of judgement, that Mary made and which ultimately resulted in the political victory of the Scottish Protestants and Elizabeth. Darnley quickly became very unpopular in Scotland, and after being one of the leading participants in the murder of Mary's secretary David Rizzio, he became instantly infamous. In February 1567, Darnley was murdered by a group of conspirators most likely led by James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. Shortly afterwards, on 15 May 1567, Mary married Bothwell, which meant that the suspicion of her murder also extended to her. Elizabeth wrote to Mary Stuart:

What decision could have been more injurious to your honour than to marry in such haste a subject, who, besides other and notorious faults, has been accused by public opinion of being the murderer of your late husband, an act which has also touched your own honour, but in this we hope the rumour is false. (How could a worse choice be made for your honour than in such haste to marry such a subject, who besides other and notorious lacks, public fame has charged with the murder of your late husband, besides the touching of yourself also in some part, though we trust in that behalf falsely).

These events soon led to Mary Stuart's deposition and imprisonment at Loch Leven Castle. The Scottish lords forced her to abdicate in favour of her son, James VI of Scotland, who had been born in June 1566. James was taken to Stirling Castle, where he was raised in the Protestant faith. Mary escaped from Loch Leven Castle in 1568 and managed to gather an army. After another defeat, she fled across the border to England, relying on earlier promises of support and friendship from Elizabeth. Elizabeth's first instinct was also to come to Mary's aid and have her restored to the Scottish throne, but on reflection she and the Crown Council chose to act cautiously. Rather than risk sending Mary on to relatives in France, or equipping her with an English army to try to regain the Scottish throne, they kept her in England where she then had to spend 19 years in increasingly harsh captivity, mainly at Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor with George Talbot and his wife Bess of Hardwick.

For people who wanted to rebel against Elizabeth, Mary Stuart became a natural focus. In 1569, a rebellion broke out in the north of England, known as the Northern Rebellion, instigated by Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland and Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, aimed at replacing Elizabeth with Mary, and there were plans to marry her off to the Duke of Norfolk. Elizabeth's response to this was to have the Duke executed. Pope Pius V issued a papal bull in 1570, the Regnans in Excelsis, declaring that "Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime" was a heretic and that her subjects were therefore released from showing her faith and obedience. This gave English Catholics another reason to regard Mary Stuart as the rightful ruler of England. Mary may not have been aware of every conspiracy aimed at placing her on the English throne, but based on the Ridolfi Conspiracy of 1571 and the Babington Conspiracy of 1586, Walsingham and the Queen's Privy Council were eager to gather enough evidence to support a conviction of Mary Stuart.

Initially, Elizabeth resisted all calls for Mary Stuart's execution, but by the end of 1586 she had been persuaded to agree to a trial and Mary's eventual execution. The main evidence was letters written by Mary Stuart linked to the Babington conspiracy. Elizabeth's announcement of the sentence declared that "Mary, having claimed the right to our crown, had orchestrated and devised in this our kingdom, divers plans and acts for the purpose of injuring, killing and destroying our royal person. ("the said Mary, pretending title to the same Crown, had devised and imagined within the same realm divers things tending to the hurt, death and destruction of our royal person.") On 8 February 1587, Mary was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire.


The superficial friendship that existed between Elizabeth and Philip II when Elizabeth took the throne did not last long. Elizabeth quickly reduced Spanish influence in England. Although Philip II helped her to end the Italian wars with the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis, Elizabeth remained diplomatically independent. After the disastrous occupation, and loss, of Le Havre 1562-1563, Elizabeth avoided further military ventures on the Continent until 1585 when she sent an English army to try to assist the Protestant revolution in the Netherlands against Philip II of Spain. This was because her ally William of Orange and her former suitor the Duke of Anjou had both died, and the Dutch had been forced to give up a series of cities to Philip's liege Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, who was also Spanish governor of the Netherlands. In December 1584, an alliance was formed between Philip II and the French Catholic League through the Treaty of Joinville, making it difficult for Henry III of France to resist Spanish domination of the Netherlands. The treaty also extended Spanish influence over the area along the French Channel coast, where the Catholic League was strong, and this posed an obvious threat to England. The siege of Antwerp by the Duke of Parma in the summer of 1585 made it necessary for the English and the Dutch to react. The consequence was the Treaty of Nonsuch, signed in August 1585, in which England promised military support to the Dutch. The treaty marked the beginning of the Anglo-Spanish War, which lasted until the Treaty of London in 1604.

The campaign in the Netherlands was led by the Queen's favourite, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth was reluctant to this action from the start. Her strategy was to publicly support the Dutch with an English army, but at the same time, as soon as Leicester arrived in the Netherlands, to enter into secret peace talks with Spain, which of course went against Leicester's interests in conducting an active military campaign in accordance with the treaty with the Dutch. Elizabeth, however, announced that she wished him "to avoid at all costs any decisive action with the enemy". Leicester incurred Elizabeth's wrath by accepting the title of Governor-General of the Dutch States General. Elizabeth saw this as a ploy by the Dutch to force her to accept the Dutch crown, which she had always refused to do. She wrote to Leicester:

We could never have imagined, unless we had first-hand experience of seeing it happen, that a man whom we ourselves had exalted, and who had shown our favour in an extraordinary manner, more than any other subject in this country, should have so contemptibly violated our command in a matter which so greatly concerns our honour. ..And it is therefore our express will and command that, without further delay or excuse, you will at once obey and perform upon your honour all that the bearer of this letter enjoins you to do in our name. (We could never have imagined (had we not seen it fall out in experience) that a man raised up by ourselves and extraordinarily favoured by us, above any other subject of this land, would have in so contemptible a sort broken our commandment in a cause that so greatly touches us in honour. ...And therefore our express pleasure and commandment is that, all delays and excuses laid apart, you do presently upon the duty of your allegiance obey and fulfill whatsoever the bearer hereof shall direct you to do in our name. Whereof fail you not, as you will answer the contrary at your utmost peril.)

The command Elizabeth was referring to was that letters refusing Leicester to accept the title of Governor-General should be read in public before the Dutch States-General in Leicester's presence. This public humiliation of her representative, combined with the Queen's continuing attempts to achieve a secret separate peace with Spain, irreparably undermined Leicester's position in the Netherlands. The campaign was also hampered by Elizabeth's continual refusal to send the necessary resources to her starving soldiers. Her unwillingness to truly support the campaign, Leicester's shortcomings as a commander and the Dutch inability to stick to a unified strategy were all reasons for the campaign's failure. Leicester finally resigned his command in December 1587.

Meanwhile, Sir Francis Drake had made a voyage to the West Indies in 1586 and 1587, where he had attacked and plundered Spanish ships and ports. On his way home, he struck at Cadiz, where he managed to sink the Spanish war fleet that was destined to invade England. Philip II had finally decided to take the war to English soil.

On 12 July 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail for the English Channel. The fleet was intended to lead an invasion force under the Duke of Parma from the Netherlands to the English coast. A combination of miscalculation, bad luck, and an attack by English fire ships on 29 July off Gravelines that scattered the Spanish fleet led to the defeat of the Armada. The remnants of the proud Armada fought their way back to Spain through storms and after losing further ships in storms off the Irish coast. As the Armada's demise was not known for some time, England prepared to meet the Spanish attack under the leadership of the Earl of Leicester. He invited the Queen to inspect the troops at Tilbury in Essex on 8 August. Wearing a silver breastplate over a white velvet gown, she made one of her most famous speeches there:

My faithful people, we have been told by those who fear for our safety that we should be careful how we expose ourselves to armed masses to protect ourselves from treachery, but I assure you that I do not want to live if it means distrusting my faithful and loving people. ..I know I have only the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and backbone of a king, and a king of England besides, and I feel only contempt that the Duke of Parma, or any other prince, should dare to invade the borders of my realm. (My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. ...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, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm.)

When the invasion failed, joy broke out across the nation. Elizabeth's procession to a service of thanksgiving in St Paul's Cathedral was almost as great a spectacle as the procession she had performed for her coronation. The victory over the Armada was also a great propaganda victory, both for Elizabeth personally and for Protestant England. The English saw the victory as a sign of God's special protection and of the nation's invincibility under the Virgin Queen. However, the victory failed to end the war with Spain, which both continued and developed in Spain's favour. Spain continued to control the Netherlands, and the threat of invasion persisted. Sir Walter Raleigh claimed after Elizabeth's death that her prudence had been a detriment in the war against Spain:

If the late queen had trusted her military as much as her secretaries, we would have defeated and divided the great empire in her time, and made their kings of figs and oranges as of old. But Her Majesty did everything in half, and by petty invasions taught the Spaniards how to defend themselves, and to recognize their own weaknesses. (If the late queen would have believed her men of war as she did her scribes, we had in her time beaten that great empire in pieces and made their kings of figs and oranges as in old times. But her Majesty did all by halves, and by petty invasions taught the Spaniard how to defend himself, and to see his own weakness.)

Although some historians have criticised Elizabeth for the same reasons, Raleigh's ruling has often been dismissed as unfair. Elizabeth had good reason not to put too much faith in her commanders, who tended, as she herself put it, to be "inactive" once the time came for action: "to be transported with an air of vainglory".


When the Protestant Henry IV inherited the French throne in 1589, Elizabeth gave him military support. It was her first involvement in France since the loss at Le Havre in 1563. Henry's accession was strongly opposed by the Catholic League and Philip II, and Elizabeth feared that the Spanish would take over the Channel ports. However, the military campaign that followed in France was poorly supported and poorly planned. Lord Willoughby moved his forces of over 4,000 men around northern France, largely disregarding Elizabeth's orders. He was forced to retreat in December 1589 after losing half his troops. In 1591, John Norris's (1547-1597) campaign in Brittany proved to be an even greater disaster. In these, and similar campaigns, Elizabeth was always reluctant to send the reinforcements and resources that the commanders needed and requested. Norreys himself left his campaign to go to London in person to plead with the Queen for help. In his absence, his army of 3,000 men was virtually destroyed by the Catholic League at Craon in north-west France in May 1591. In July, Elizabeth sent another army under the command of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex to help Henry IV lay siege to Rouen. The result was equally pathetic. Essex was unable to achieve anything and returned home in January 1592. Henry abandoned the siege in April. As usual, Elizabeth found it difficult to exert control over her commanders once they were outside the kingdom's borders. "Where he is, or what he doth, or what he is to do,we are ignorant", the Queen wrote of Essex.


Although Ireland was one of Elizabeth's two kingdoms, her Irish subjects were hostile, basically self-governing and mainly Catholic, and they willingly allied themselves with her enemies. The Queen's strategy was to give land in Ireland to her courtiers in an attempt to prevent the Irish from offering Ireland as a base for the Spanish from which to attack England. In response to a series of rebellions, English forces began to apply scorched earth tactics, burning land and slaughtering men, women and children. During a revolt in Munster led by Gerald FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond in 1582, it is estimated that 30,000 Irishmen starved to death. The poet Edmund Spenser wrote that the victims "were brought to such wretchedness as that any stony heart would have ruined the same". Elizabeth demanded from her commanders that the Irish "that rude and barbarous nation" be treated well, but she showed no remorse when violence and bloodshed were deemed necessary.

Between 1594 and 1603, Elizabeth faced her most difficult test in Ireland, in the form of the rebellion known as Tyrone's Rebellion, or the Nine Years' War. Its leader, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, received support from Spain. In the spring of 1599, Elizabeth sent Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex to Ireland to put down the rebellion. To the Queen's frustration, he made no progress and returned to England without waiting for permission from the Queen. He was replaced in Ireland by Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who took three years to defeat the rebels. O'Neill finally surrendered in 1603, a few days after Elizabeth's death.


Elizabeth nurtured the relations with Russia initiated by her brother, Edward VI. She wrote frequently to Tsar Ivan IV of Russia and they exchanged friendly compliments, although the Tsar was often annoyed by her focus on trade exchanges rather than military alliances. The Tsar even proposed to her on one occasion, and towards the end of his reign asked for a guarantee from Elizabeth that he would be granted asylum in England if he were to be overthrown from his throne. When Ivan died, he was succeeded by his son Fyodor I of Russia. Unlike his father, Fyodor was not interested in maintaining special trade agreements with England. The new Tsar declared that his kingdom was open to all foreigners and he had it declared that the English ambassador Sir Jerome Bowes, whose pompous ways had been tolerated by Ivan IV, was no longer welcome at the Russian court. Elizabeth sent a new ambassador, Dr. Giles Fletcher, whose mission was to ask the regent, Boris Godunov, to try to persuade the Tsar to change his mind. These talks failed, however, because Fletcher accidentally addressed Fyodor in the wrong way, omitting two of the Tsar's titles. Elizabeth continued to try to secure new agreements with Fyodor, sending him several half-pleading, half-reproachful letters. She even proposed an alliance to him, which she had refused to do when Fyodor's father wanted it, but Fyodor was not interested in this proposal either.

The Barbary States, the Ottoman Empire and Japan

Trade and diplomatic relations between England and the Barbary States developed under Elizabeth I. England established trade agreements with Morocco to which it sold arms, munitions, timber and metal in exchange for Moroccan sugar, despite the Pope's ban on it. In 1600, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ,who was the chief minister of the Moroccan ruler Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur, visited England as ambassador to Elizabeth, to try to negotiate an Anglo-Moroccan alliance against Spain. Elizabeth agreed to sell arms to Morocco and she and Mulai Ahmad al-Mansur talked for a while about making common cause against Spain. However, these talks never led to anything concrete, and both rulers died within two years of this visit.

Diplomatic relations had also been established with the Ottoman Empire, English investors had set up a trading company, the Levant Company, to trade with the Turks, and the first English ambassador to the Ottoman ruler's court had been sent in 1578. A formal trade agreement was concluded for the first time in 1580. A number of diplomats and other representatives were sent between the two courts and there was correspondence between Elizabeth and the Ottoman Sultan Murad III. In one letter, Murad argued that Islam and Protestantism had more in common than either had with Catholicism, since both rejected idolatry, and he saw this as an argument for stronger ties between England and the Ottoman Empire. To the horror of Catholic Europe, England exported lead and steel (for casting cannons) and even ammunition to the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, Elizabeth seriously discussed making common military cause with Murad III when war broke out with Spain in 1585, and Sir Francis Walsingham, among others, pleaded for a military alliance with the Turks against the common Spanish enemy. There were also Anglo-Ottoman pirates in the Mediterranean.

The first Englishman to go to Japan was a sailor named William Adams, who arrived there as a pilot for the Dutch East India Company. He was to play a key role in establishing the very first contacts between the Japanese shogun and England.

As Elizabeth aged, and it became increasingly unlikely that she would marry, her image changed. She was portrayed as a Greek goddess, and after her victory over the Armada, her alter ego in art often became Gloriana or the eternally young Queen of the Elves, Faerie Queene as in Edmund Spenser Portraits of her became less and less realistic and more and more iconographic. She was always portrayed as much younger than she was. Actually scarred by the smallpox she contracted in 1562, she also came to rely on wigs and make-up to maintain her youthful appearance. Sir Walter Raleigh called her "a lady whom time had surprised". But the more Elizabeth's beauty faded, the more her courtiers celebrated it.

Elizabeth was happy to take part in these role-plays, but it is possible that in the last decade of her life she began to believe in her own acting. She became very fond of the charming but quarrelsome young Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and allowed him to take greater liberties with her than anyone before, and she often forgave him. She entrusted him with several military commands despite the fact that he repeatedly proved to be totally irresponsible. After Essex deserted in Ireland, Elizabeth had him placed under house arrest, and the following year she took away the trading monopolies that were his main source of income. In February 1601, the earl tried to start a rebellion in London. He intended to usurp power over the Queen's person, but almost no people turned out to support him. He was executed on 25 February. Elizabeth knew that the situation that had arisen was partly her own fault and that she had lacked good judgement. A witness described in 1602 how "She likes to sit in the dark, and sometimes she lets her tears flow to mourn Essex". ("Her delight is to sit in the dark, and sometimes with shedding tears to bewail Essex").

The trading monopolies Elizabeth regained from Essex were one of the rewards the monarch was able to bestow on loyal courtiers. The Queen had often chosen this form of free reward instead of requesting increased funds from Parliament. These monopolies led to rising prices and courtiers enriching themselves at the expense of the public, leading to strong dissatisfaction with the practice. In 1601, this led to a very fierce discontent debate in the House of Commons. In her famous "Golden Speech" on 30 November 1601, Elizabeth claimed to be unconcerned about her courtiers' abuse of the monopoly and she managed to win over the debaters to her side through promises and emotional rhetoric:

What thanks they deserve for helping their monarch avoid committing an error that might otherwise have been committed through ignorance, not intent, we do not know, though you can guess. And since nothing is so precious to us as to retain the love of our subjects, which might have been undermined by those who have abused our privileges, these tormentors of our people and exploiters of the poor, if we had not known of it! (who keeps their sovereign from the lapse of error, in which, by ignorance and not by intent they might have fallen, what thanks they deserve, we know, though you may guess. And as nothing is more dear to us than the loving conservation of our subjects' hearts, what an undeserved doubt might we have incurred if the abusers of our liberality, the thrallers of our people, the wringers of the poor, had not been told us!)

The period following the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 brought new problems for Elizabeth, who was to spend the remaining 15 years of her reign. Conflicts with Spain and Ireland dragged on, taxes increased and the economy suffered a few years of poor harvests and the expensive costs of the wars. Prices rose and living standards fell. During this period, the government's attitude towards Catholics was tightened, and in 1591 Elizabeth appointed a commission to interrogate and monitor Catholics. To maintain a semblance of peace and prosperity, she relied increasingly on propaganda. In the Queen's last years, increasing public criticism indicated that her popularity was declining.

One of the reasons for this second phase of Elizabeth's reign was that Elizabeth's government, her Privy Council, had changed its appearance in the 1590s. A new generation had taken over power. With the exception of Lord Burghley, the most important politicians of Elizabeth's early government had died around 1590, the Earl of Leicester in 1588, Sir Francis Walsingham in 1590, Sir Christopher Hatton in 1591. Fights between different factions in the government, which had been rare before 1590, now became a feature of the work. A bitter rivalry between the Earl of Essex and Burghley's son Robert Cecil and their respective supporters made effective government difficult. The Queen's authority was waning, as evidenced, for example, by the affair with her personal physician, Dr. Lopez. When he was falsely accused of high treason by Essex because of a personal quarrel, the queen could not bring herself to avert his execution, although she had been angry when he was arrested, and seems to have been convinced of his innocence (1594).

This period of political and economic decline, however, brought a simultaneous boom in literature. The first signs of a new movement in literature had emerged by the end of Elizabeth's second decade in power. Examples of works from this period include John Lyly's Euphues and Edmund Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender in 1578. In the 1590s, several of the greatest names in English literature entered their prime, including William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. During this era and the following Jacobite era, English drama reached its highest heights. The notion of an Elizabethan Golden Age is largely linked to the large number of outstanding poets, playwrights, artists, musicians and architects who worked during her reign. However, this was to a rather small extent thanks to her, as the Queen was not one of the major cultural patrons of the time.

Elizabeth's chief minister and adviser, Burghley, died on 4 August 1598. His political duties passed to his son, Robert Cecil, who became the government's new chief minister. One task he undertook was to try to prepare for an unproblematic succession. As Elizabeth refused to name a successor, Cecil was forced to carry out this work in secret. He therefore began a coded correspondence with James VI of Scotland, who had strong, but unproven, claims to the throne. Cecil encouraged James to keep Elizabeth in good spirits and try to comply with her wishes. This advice worked, Elizabeth was delighted by the tone James adopted in his correspondence with her and she replied, "I hope you have no doubt that your letters have made me so happy that my thanks are marked by this joy and I send them to you with gratitude. ("So trust I that you will not doubt but that your last letters are so acceptably taken as my thanks cannot be lacking for the same, but yield them to you in grateful sort.") According to the historian J. E. Neale, Elizabeth may not have formally announced that James was her successor, but he believes that she made it clear nonetheless by her statements.

The Queen's health remained good until the autumn of 1602, when a series of deaths among her closest friends contributed to her developing a deep depression. In February 1603, the death of Catherine Howard, Countess of Nottingham, niece of Elizabeth's beloved Catherine Carey, was a particularly severe blow to the Queen. In March Elizabeth fell ill and fell into an incurable melancholy. She died on 24 March 1603 at Richmond Palace, between two and three in the morning. A few hours later, Cecil and the Privy Council proclaimed James VI of Scotland as the new king, making him James I of England.

Elizabeth's coffin was taken at night by river to Whitehall Palace, on a raft lit with torches. At her funeral on 28 April, the coffin was taken to Westminster Abbey, carried by four horses dressed in black velvet. The nearest mourner on the Queen's funeral train was a Swede, Helena Snakenborg (1549-1635). She had come to England with Cecilia Vasa and then stayed on as a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth, married first to the Marquess of Northampton and then to Sir Thomas of Langford. The chronicler John Stow wrote:

Westminster was filled with all sorts of people, in the streets, in the houses, in the windows, in the alleys and in the gutters, who came out to see the procession, and when they saw the statue lying on the coffin, there were as many sighs, groans and tears as ever before. (Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came out to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man.)

Although there were other claimants to the throne, Jacob's accession to the throne went smoothly. James's accession overrode Henry VIII's order of succession, which had stipulated that the descendants of his younger sister Mary would precede the descendants of his older sister Margaret. To remedy this, James had Parliament adopt a new order of succession in 1603. Whether this was legal was a matter of debate throughout the 17th century.

Elizabeth was mourned, but many people were also relieved after her passing. Expectations were very high for the new king, James I of England, and at first he seemed able to meet them. He brought an end to the war with Spain in 1604, and reduced taxes. Until the death of Robert Cecil in 1612, government continued much as it had during Elizabeth's reign. James' popularity waned, however, when he chose to leave the affairs of the realm in the hands of his favourites at court, and in the 1620s a nostalgic cult of Elizabeth developed, hailed as a Protestant heroine and ruler of a golden age. James, on the other hand, was portrayed as a papist sympathiser who ruled over a corrupt court. The triumphalist image of herself that Elizabeth had built up during the second half of her reign was metaphorically embraced and her legacy was exalted. Godfrey Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester, recalled that: "When we had experienced Scottish rule, the Queen seemed to rise again. The memory of her was glorified."("When we had experience of a Scottish government, the Queen did seem to revive. Then was her memory much magnified.") Elizabeth's reign was idealised as a time when the Crown, the Church and Parliament had worked in constitutional balance.

The image of Elizabeth painted by her Protestant followers in the early 17th century has proved to be enduring and influential. Even during the Napoleonic Wars, Elizabeth's memory was celebrated when the nation was again at risk of invasion. During the Victorian era, the myth of Elizabeth was adapted to the imperialist ideals of the time. and in the mid-20th century, Elizabeth became a symbol of national resistance to external threats. Historians of the period such as J. E. Neale (1934) and A. L. Rowse (1950) interpreted Elizabeth's reign as a golden age based on development. Neale and Rowse also idealised the queen personally, saying she always did everything right and her more unpleasant traits were explained away as signs of stress, or ignored altogether.

Contemporary historians have developed a more complex picture of Elizabeth. They describe the queen as an easy-going, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed a great deal of luck. Her reign is famous for her victory over the Spanish Armada and for a series of successful raids against the Spanish, for example at Cadiz in 1587 and 1596, but some historians point instead to the military failures, both on land and at sea. Elizabeth's troubles in Ireland are also a blot on her memory. Rather than a courageous defender of the Protestant nations against Spain and the House of Habsburg, she is seen as a very cautious foreign policy maker. She offered minimal support to foreign Protestants and failed to provide her commanders with the resources they would have needed to undertake effective operations abroad.

Elizabeth's reign offered England 44 years of continuity after her sister's and brother's brief and conflicted periods on the throne, and this stability helped to lay the foundations for England's national identity and later great power. Elizabeth established a Church of England, which also helped to create a national identity, and which remains intact today. Those who later hailed her as a Protestant heroine ignore Elizabeth's refusal to abolish all Catholic customs. Historians point out that stricter Protestants regarded Elizabeth's church order as a compromise. Elizabeth believed that religion and faith were really a personal matter and she did not want to, as Sir Francis Bacon put it, "Make windows into the souls and secret thoughts of men". ("make windows into men's hearts and secret thoughts").

Despite Elizabeth's essentially defensive foreign policy, her government helped to raise England's status internationally. "She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island,and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all", Pope Sixtus V exclaimed admiringly. Under Elizabeth, England built a new national confidence and sense of independence while the Christian Church was split. Elizabeth was the first of the House of Tudor to realise that a monarch rules with the good will of the people. She therefore always cooperated with Parliament and a group of advisers she trusted would tell her the truth, a way of governing that her successors of the House of Stuart failed to emulate. Some historians have called her lucky; she herself believed she was under God's special protection. She was proud to be all English, and she put her faith in God, sincere advice and the love of her subjects to be successful. In a prayer, she thanked God for that:

when war and dissension and terrible persecution have afflicted almost all the kings and countries around me, my government has been peaceful, and my kingdom a recipient of your church. The love of my people has remained faithful, and the schemes of my enemies have failed ( when wars and seditions with grievous persecutions have vexed almost all kings and countries round about me, my reign hath been peacable, and my realm a receptacle to thy afflicted Church. The love of my people hath appeared firm, and the devices of my enemies frustrate.)

Benjamin Britten wrote an opera, Gloriana, about the relationship between Elizabeth and Lord Essex, for the coronation of Elizabeth II.

Many notable portrayals of Queen Elizabeth on film and television have been made. She is the most filmed British monarch. Among those who have made an impression in the role of Elizabeth over the last 100 years are French actress Sarah Bernhardt in Queen Elizabeth (1912), Florence Eldridge in Mary Stuart (1936), Flora Robson in Fire of England (1937), Bette Davis in Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and The Maid Queen (1955) and Jean Simmons in Her Majesty's Kingdom (1953).

Recently, the story of Elizabeth has been filmed more than ever. In 1998, Australian actress Cate Blanchett got her big break and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her critically acclaimed performance in Elizabeth. In the same year, British actress Judi Dench won an Oscar for her supporting role as the Virgin Queen in the popular film Shakespeare in Love.

On television, actors Glenda Jackson (in the BBC drama series Elizabeth R in 1971, and the historical film Mary Stuart - Queen of Scots in 1972) and Miranda Richardson (in the BBC's classic comedy series Black Snake in 1986 - a comic interpretation of Elizabeth) have both played the role and created contrasting portraits of Elizabeth I. Helen Mirren portrayed Elizabeth in the television film (2 parts) "Elizabeth I" in 2005, the film was shown on Swedish television in 2007.

Many novels about Elizabeth have been written. These include I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles, The Virgin's Lover and The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory, Queen of This Realm by Jean Plaidy and Virgin: Prelude to the Throne by Robin Maxwell.

Elizabeth's story is merged with her mother's in Maxwell's book The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. Maxwell also writes about a fictional child of Elizabeth and Dudley in The Queen's Bastard. Margaret Irwin has written a trilogy based on Elizabeth's youth: Young Bess, Elizabeth, Captive Princess and Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain. Susan Kay has written a novel about Elizabeth's life from her birth to her death, Legacy (translated into English as Elizabeth - Anne Boleyn's Daughter Gloriana).


  1. Elizabeth I
  2. Elisabet I
  3. ^ Somerset, 4.
  4. ^ Dates in this article before 14 September 1752 are in the Julian calendar and 1 January is treated as the beginning of the year, even though 25 March was treated as the beginning of the year in England during Elizabeth's life.
  5. ^ "I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel."[1]
  6. ^ An Act of July 1536 stated that Elizabeth was "illegitimate ... and utterly foreclosed, excluded and banned to claim, challenge, or demand any inheritance as lawful heir ... to [the King] by lineal descent".[11]
  7. ^ Elizabeth had assembled 2,000 horsemen, "a remarkable tribute to the size of her affinity".[32]
  8. ^ "The wives of Wycombe passed cake and wafers to her until her litter became so burdened that she had to beg them to stop."[38]
  9. Somerset 2003, p. 4.
  10. Loades 2003, p. 3-5.
  11. Somerset 2003, p. 4-5.
  12. Loades 2003, p. 6-7.
  13. O Segundo Ato de Sucessão de 1536 afirmava que Isabel era "ilegítima ... e totalmente impedida, excluída e banida de reivindicar, desafiar ou exigir qualquer herança como herdeira legal ... do [rei] por descendência linear".[8]
  14. Isabel havia reunido dois mil cavaleiros montados, "um tributo notável para o tamanho da sua afinidade".[32]

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