of England and Ireland
Reign 17 November 1558 - 24 March 1603
Coronation 15 January 1559
Predecessor Queen Mary I
Successor King James I, also known as King James VI of Scotland
Royal House Tudor
Father King Henry VIII
Mother Anne Boleyn, 1st Marchioness of Pembroke
Born 7 September 1533
Palace of Placentia
Died 24 March 1603
Abbey (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England,
Queen of France (in name only), and Queen of Ireland from 17 November
1558 until her death. She is sometimes referred to as The Virgin Queen,
as she never married, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, and was immortalized
by Edmund Spenser as the Faerie Queene. Elizabeth I was the sixth and
final monarch of the Tudor dynasty (Henry VII, Henry VIII, her half-brother
Edward VI, her cousin Jane, and her half-sister Mary I). She reigned
for 45 years, during a period marked by increases in English power and
influence worldwide and great religious turmoil within England.
is referred to as the Elizabethan era or the Golden Age of Elizabeth.
Playwrights William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson
all flourished during this era; Francis Drake became the first Englishman
to circumnavigate (travel around) the globe; Francis Bacon laid out
his philosophical and political views; and English colonisation of North
America took place under Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
Elizabeth was a short-tempered and sometimes indecisive ruler. A favourite
motto for her was video et taceo ("I see and keep silent")
. This last quality, viewed with impatience by her counsellors, often
saved her from political and marital misalliances. Like her father Henry
VIII, she was a writer and poet. She granted Royal Charters to several
famous organisations, including Trinity College, Dublin (its official
name is the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Elizabeth near
Dublin) in 1592 and the British East India Company (1600).
In nearly forty-five
years, only nine peerage dignities, one earldom and seven baronies in
the Peerage of England, and one barony in the Peerage of Ireland, were
created. She also reduced the number of Privy Counsellors from thirty-nine
to nineteen, and later to fourteen.
of Virginia, a former English colony in North America and one of the
United States of America's original 13 states, was named after Elizabeth
I, the "Virgin Queen".
Elizabeth was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII of England
by his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Marchioness of Pembroke. The couple
were secretly married sometime between the winter of 1532 and late January
of 1533. In later life Elizabeth reported to the Venetian ambassador
that she had been told it was the earlier date, possibly in November.
Elizabeth was born in the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, on September
7, 1533. Upon her birth, Elizabeth was the heir presumptive to the throne
of England despite having an older half sister, Mary, this was because
Henry annulled his marriage to first wife, the Spanish princess Catherine
of Aragon, Mary was not considered to be a legitimate heir.
Henry would have
preferred a son to ensure the Tudor succession, but Queen Anne failed
to produce a male heir. She suffered at least two more miscarriages,
one in 1534 and again at the beginning of 1536. The King enjoyed a string
of affairs, one of which involved a young woman named Elizabeth Blount,
known as Bessie, daughter of a knight, Sir John Blount of Shropshire.
In 1519, Bessie became the mother of a male bastard, Henry FitzRoy,
1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, also named Earl of Nottingham. While
he acknowledged Fitzroy, the king didn't put the boy into the official
lineage. It is believed the king thought to do so would anger his subjects.
Fitzroy died of consumption in 1536 at the age of seventeen.
the exact reason why Anne fell from power, but it is generally agreed
that she was innocent of the charges against her, and that her death
was orchestrated by her political rivals. Anne was arrested on 2nd
May 1536 and imprisoned. Seventeen days later, she was executed on charges
of treason, incest with her younger brother, George Boleyn, and witchcraft.
Elizabeth, then three years old, was declared illegitimate and lost
the title of Princess. She also lost the money and gifts her mother
had routinely showered upon her. After Anne's death, she was addressed
as Lady Elizabeth and lived separately from her father as he married
his succession of wives. In 1537, her father's third wife, Jane Seymour
gave birth to a son, Prince Edward, who became the official heir to
the throne under the Act of Succession 1544.
governess was Lady Margaret Bryan, a baroness whom Elizabeth called
"Muggie". At the age of four, Elizabeth acquired a new governess,
Katherine Champernowne, whom she often referred to as "Kat".
Champernowne developed a close relationship with Elizabeth and remained
her confidante and good friend for life. Matthew Parker, her mother's
favourite priest, took a special interest in Elizabeth's well-being,
particularly because a fearful Anne had entrusted her daughter's spiritual
welfare to Parker before her death. Parker later became Elizabeth's
first Archbishop of Canterbury after she became queen in 1558. One companion,
to whom she referred with affection throughout her life, was the Irishman
Thomas Butler, later 3rd Earl of Ormonde (d. 1615).
age 13 in 1546, thought to have been painted by Levina TeerlincIn terms
of personality, Elizabeth was resourceful, determined, and exceedingly
intelligent. She loved learning for its own sake. Like her mother and
father, she was flirtatious and charismatic.
Henry VIII died
in 1547 and was succeeded by Edward VI. Catherine Parr, Henry's last
wife, married Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Edward VI's
uncle, and took Elizabeth into her household. It is believed that Seymour
made advances towards Elizabeth while she lived in his household. There,
Elizabeth received her education under Roger Ascham. She came to speak
and read six languages: her native English, as well as French, Italian,
Spanish, Greek, and Latin. Under the influence of Catherine Parr and
Ascham, Elizabeth was raised a Protestant.
As long as her Protestant
half-brother remained on the throne, Elizabeth's own position remained
secure. In 1553, however, Edward died at the age of fifteen, after suffering
ill health from birth. He had left a will which purported to supersede
his father's will. Disregarding the Act of Succession 1544, it excluded
both Mary and Elizabeth from succeeding to the throne and declared Lady
Jane Grey, ward of Thomas Seymour, to be his heiress. A plot was formed
by Thomas and John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland who married his
son, Guilford Dudley to Jane. Lady Jane ascended the throne, but was
deposed less than two weeks later. Armed with popular support, Mary
rode triumphantly into London, her half-sister Elizabeth at her side.
Mary I contracted
a marriage with Prince Philip of Spain (later King Philip II), seeking
to strengthen the Catholic influence in England. Wyatt's Rebellion in
1554 sought to prevent Mary from marrying Philip, and after its failure,
Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London for her alleged involvement
in it. There were demands for Elizabeth's execution, but few Englishmen
wished to put a member of the popular Tudor dynasty to death. The Lord
Chancellor Stephen Gardiner wanted to remove Elizabeth from the line
of succession, but neither Mary nor Parliament would allow it. After
two months in the Tower, Elizabeth was released on the same day her
mother was executed eighteen years earlier. She was then put under house
arrest under the guard of Sir Henry Bedingfield.
Following a moderate
start to her reign, the Catholic Mary opted for a hard line against
Protestants, whom she regarded as heretics and a threat to her authority.
In the ensuing persecution she came to be known as "Bloody Mary".
She urged Elizabeth to change to the Roman Catholic faith, but the princess,
instead of converting, kept up a skilful show of allegiance to suit
her own conscience and ambitions. By the end of that year, when Mary
was falsely rumoured to be pregnant, Elizabeth was allowed to return
to court at Philip's behest. He worried that his wife might die in childbirth,
in which case he preferred Lady Elizabeth, under his tutelage, to succeed
rather than her next-closest relative, Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary had
grown up in the French court and was betrothed to the French Dauphin
and, being heavily influenced by the French, although she was Catholic,
Philip did not desire her to grasp the English crown.
This portrait "The
Coronation of Elizabeth" was used as the basis for the photography
and costume of Cate Blanchett during the coronation scene in the film
Elizabeth, 1998. This is a copy of a now lost original, this copy attrib.
Nicholas HilliardIn November 1558, upon Queen Mary's death, Elizabeth
ascended the throne. She was far more popular than Mary, and it is said
that after the death of her half-sister the people rejoiced in the streets.
Legend has it Elizabeth was sitting beneath an oak tree reading the
Greek Bible at Hatfield when she was informed of her succession to the
throne. As it was November and winter, it was unlikely Elizabeth would
have been quietly reading but perhaps enjoying a brisk walk. A manservant
approached to her and breathlessly said, "Your Majesty . . .".
Elizabeth quoted Psalm 118 in response: "This is the Lord's doing,
and it is marvellous in our eyes".
During her procession
to the Tower of London, she was welcomed wholeheartedly by the common
people, who performed plays and read poetry exclaiming her beauty and
intelligence. Elizabeth's coronation was on 15 January 1559. She was
25 years old. There was no Archbishop of Canterbury at the time; Reginald
Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic holder of the office, had died shortly
after Mary I. Since the senior bishops declined to participate in the
coronation because Elizabeth was illegitimate under both canon law and
statute and because she was a Protestant, the relatively unknown Owen
Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle crowned her. The communion was celebrated
not by Oglethorpe, but by the Queen's personal chaplain, to avoid the
usage of the Roman rites. Elizabeth I's coronation was the last one
during which the Latin service was used; future coronations except for
that of George I used the English service. She later persuaded her mother's
chaplain, Matthew Parker, to become Archbishop.
One of the most
important concerns during Elizabeth's early reign was religion. She
relied primarily on Sir William Cecil for advice on the matter. The
Act of Uniformity 1559, which she passed shortly after ascending the
throne, required the use of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer in
church services. Communion with the Catholic Church had been reinstated
under Mary I, but was ended by Elizabeth. The Queen assumed the title
"Supreme Governor of the Church of England", rather than "Supreme
Head", primarily because several bishops and many members of the
public felt that a woman could not be the head of the Church.
In addition, the
Act of Supremacy 1559 was passed requiring public officials to take
an oath acknowledging the Sovereign's control over the Church or face
severe punishment. Many bishops were unwilling to conform to the Elizabethan
religious policy. Those bishops were removed from the ecclesiastical
bench and replaced by appointees who would agree with the Queen's decision.
She also appointed an entirely new Privy Council, removing many Catholic
counsellors in the process. Under Elizabeth, factionalism in the Council
and conflicts at court were greatly diminished. Elizabeth's chief advisors
were Sir William Cecil, as her Secretary of State, and Sir Nicholas
Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.
the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis established on April 3, 1559, bringing
peace with France. She adopted a principle of "England for the
English". Her other realm, Ireland, never benefited from such a
philosophy. The enforcement of English customs in Ireland proved unpopular
with its inhabitants, as did the Queen's religious policies.
Earl of Leicester painted by Steven van der Meulen.Soon after her accession,
many questioned whom Elizabeth would marry. Her reason for never marrying
is unclear. She may have felt repulsed by the mistreatment of Henry
VIII's wives, her mother's death always in her mind, or perhaps psychologically
scarred by her rumoured childhood relationship with Lord Thomas Seymour
while in his household. Contemporary gossip was that she had suffered
from a physical defect that she was afraid to reveal, perhaps scarring
from smallpox. There were also rumours that she would only marry one
man, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, with whom she was deeply
in love and whom she appointed her Master of the Queen's Horse. However,
her council refused to sanction the marriage because of his status and
his family's participation in the Lady Jane Grey matter (and for the
early part of her reign Dudley was already married to Amy Robsart who
later died in somewhat suspicious circumstances, although Dudley was
acquitted of any involvement in this). Some believe Elizabeth decided
that if she could not have him, she would not marry at all. The most
likely cause, however, was probably her reluctance to share the power
of the Crown with another and her fear that a marriage with a foreigner
would provoke the same hostility as that of her sister Mary's disastrous
marriage to Philip II. She also did not want to risk making England
a foreign vassal and possibly involving it in the unprofitable and unpopular
wars that Mary's marriage had done, while marriage to a high-born Englishman
would involve England in factional dispute at court. Given the unstable
political situation, Elizabeth could have feared an armed struggle among
aristocratic factions if she married someone not seen as equally favourable
to all factions. What is known for certain is that marrying anyone would
have cost Elizabeth large amounts of money and independence as all of
the estates and incomes Elizabeth inherited from her father, Henry VIII,
were only hers until she wed.
Conflict with France
The Queen found a dangerous rival in her cousin, the Catholic Mary Stuart,
Queen of Scotland and wife of the French King Francis II. In 1559, Mary
had declared herself Queen of England with French support. In Scotland,
Mary Stuart's mother, Mary of Guise attempted to cement French influence
by providing for army fortification against English aggression. A group
of Scottish lords allied to Elizabeth deposed Mary of Guise and, under
pressure from the English, Mary's representatives signed the Treaty
of Edinburgh, which led to the withdrawal of French troops. Though Mary
vehemently refused to ratify the treaty, it had the desired effect,
and French influence was greatly reduced in Scotland.
Upon the death of
her husband Francis II, Mary Stuart had returned to Scotland. In France,
meanwhile, conflict between the Catholics and the Huguenots led to the
outbreak of the French Wars of Religion. Elizabeth secretly gave aid
to the Huguenots. She made peace with France in 1564; she agreed to
give up her claims to the last English possession on the French mainland,
Calais, after the defeat of an English expedition at Le Havre. Elizabeth,
however, did not give up her claim to the French Crown, which had been
maintained since the reign of Edward III during the period of the Hundred
Years' War in the fourteenth century, and was not renounced until the
reign of George III during the eighteenth century.
Elizabeth and the
1559 Religious Settlement
Signature of Elizabeth I of EnglandCatholicism had been restored under
Mary I, but Elizabeth herself was a Protestant, and thus was keen to
create a Protestant Church. Parliament was summoned in 1559 to consider
the Reformation Bill and create a new Church. The Reformation Bill defined
the Communion as a consubstantial celebration as opposed to a transubstantial
celebration, included abuse of the Pope in the litany, and ordered that
ministers should not wear the surplice or other Catholic vestments.
It allowed ministers to marry, banned iimages from churches, and confirmed
Elizabeth as Supreme Head of the Church of England. The Bill met massive
resistance in the House of Lords, as Catholic bishops as well as the
lay peers voted against it. They butchered much of the Bill, changed
the litany to allow for a transubstantial belief in the Communion and
refused to grant Elizabeth the title of Supreme Head of the Church.
Parliament was prorogued
over Easter, and when it resumed, the government entered two new bills
into the Houses — the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity.
The Bill of Supremacy confirmed Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the
Church of England, as opposed to the Supreme Head. Supreme Governor
was a suitably equivocal phrasing that made Elizabeth head of the church
without ever saying she was, important because in the sixteenth century,
it was felt that women could not rule a church.
The Bill of Uniformity
was more cautious than the initial Reformation Bill. It revoked the
harsh laws against Catholics, removed the abuse of the Pope from the
litany and kept the wording that allowed for both consubstantial and
transubstantial belief in the Communion.
was dismissed, Elizabeth, along with William Cecil, drafted what are
known as the Royal Injunctions. These were additions to the Settlement,
and largely stressed continuity with the Catholic past — ministers
were ordered to wear the surplice. Wafers, as opposed to ordinary baker's
bread, were to be used as the bread at Communion. There had been opposition
to the Settlement in the shires, which for the most part were largely
Catholic, so the changes were made in order to allow for acceptance
to the Settlement.
changed the Religious Settlement despite Protestant pressure (previously
thought to originate from the Puritan choir) to do so and it is in fact
the 1559 Settlement that forms much of the basis of today's Church of
Plots and rebellions
At the end of 1562, Elizabeth fell ill with smallpox, but later recovered.
In 1563, alarmed by the Queen's near-fatal illness, Parliament asked
that she marry or nominate an heir to prevent civil war upon her death.
She refused to do either, and in April, she prorogued Parliament. Parliament
did not reconvene until Elizabeth needed its assent to raise taxes in
1566. The House of Commons threatened to withhold funds until the Queen
agreed to provide for the succession. On 19 October 1566, Sir Robert
Bell boldly pursued Elizabeth for the royal answer despite her command
to leave it alone; in her own words "Mr. Bell with his complices
must needs prefer their speeches to the upper house to have you my lords,
consent with them, whereby you were seduced, and of simplicity did assent
Mary Queen of
ScotsDifferent lines of succession were considered during Elizabeth's
reign. One possible line was that of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's elder
sister, which led to Mary I, Queen of Scots. The alternative line descended
from Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk; the
heir in this line would be the Lady Catherine Grey, Lady Jane Grey's
sister. An even more distant possible successor was Henry Hastings,
3rd Earl of Huntingdon, who could claim descent only from Edward III,
who reigned during the fourteenth century. Each possible heir had his
or her disadvantages: Mary I was a Catholic, Lady Catherine Grey had
married without the Queen's consent and the Puritan Lord Huntingdon
was unwilling to accept the Crown.
Mary, Queen of Scots,
had to suffer her own troubles in Scotland. Elizabeth had suggested
that if she married the Protestant Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester,
then Elizabeth would "proceed to the inquisition of her right and
title to be our next cousin and heir." Mary chose her own course,
and in 1565 married a Catholic, who also had a claim to the English
throne, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Lord Darnley was murdered in 1567
after the couple had become estranged. Darnley was a heavy drinker and
had approved the murder of Mary's secretary David Rizzio, with whom
he wrongly suspected her of having an affair. Mary then married James
Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was widely believed to be responsible
for Darnley's murder. Scottish nobles then rebelled, imprisoning Mary
and forcing her to abdicate in favour of her infant son, who consequently
became James VI.
In 1568, the last
viable English heir to the throne, Catherine Grey, died. She had left
two sons, but they were deemed illegitimate, owing to the absence of
any living witnesses to the marriage, or to any clergy who could attest
to having performed it. Her heiress was her sister, the Lady Mary Grey,
a hunchbacked dwarf. Elizabeth was once again forced to consider a Scottish
successor, from the line of her father's sister, Margaret Tudor, Queen
of Scots. Mary I, however, was unpopular in Scotland, where she had
been imprisoned. She later escaped from her prison and fled to England,
where she was captured by English forces. Elizabeth was faced with a
conundrum: sending her back to the Scottish nobles was deemed too cruel;
sending her to France would put a powerful pawn in the hands of the
French king; forcibly restoring her to the Scottish throne may have
been seen as an heroic gesture, but would cause too much conflict with
the Scots; and imprisoning her in England would allow her to participate
in plots against the Queen. Elizabeth chose the last option: Mary was
kept confined for eighteen years, much of it in Sheffield Castle and
Sheffield Manor in the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury,
and his redoubtable wife Bess of Hardwick.
4th Duke of NorfolkIn 1569, Elizabeth faced a major uprising, 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. Pope Pius V aided the Catholic Rebellion
by excommunicating Elizabeth and declaring her deposed in a papal bull.
The Bull of Deposition, Regnans in Excelsis, was only issued in 1570,
arriving after the Rebellion had been put down. After the Bull of Deposition
was issued, however, Elizabeth chose not to continue her policy of religious
tolerance. She instead began the persecution of her religious enemies,
giving impetus to various conspiracies to remove her from the throne.
She also permitted the Church of England to take a more explicitly Protestant
line by allowing Parliament to pass the largely Calvinist 39 Articles
in 1571 which acted as a declaration of Church of England faith.
Elizabeth then found
a new enemy in her brother-in-law, Philip II, King of Spain. After Philip
had launched a surprise attack on the English privateers Sir Francis
Drake and John Hawkins in 1568, Elizabeth assented to the detention
of a Spanish treasure ship in 1569. Philip was already involved in putting
down a rebellion in the Spanish Netherlands, and could not afford to
declare war on England.
Philip II participated
in some conspiracies to remove Elizabeth, albeit reluctantly. The 4th
Duke of Norfolk was also involved in the first of these plots, the Ridolfi
Plot of 1571. After the Catholic Ridolfi Plot was discovered (much to
Elizabeth's shock) and foiled, the Duke of Norfolk was executed and
Mary lost the little liberty she had remaining. Spain, which had been
friendly to England since Philip's marriage to Elizabeth's predecessor,
ceased to be on cordial terms.
In 1571, Sir William
Cecil was created Baron Burghley; a wise and humorous man, who always
advised caution in international relations, he had been Elizabeth's
chief advisor from the earliest days, and he remained so until his death
in 1598. In 1572, Burghley was raised to the powerful position of Lord
High Treasurer; his post as Secretary of State was taken up by the head
of Elizabeth's spy network, Sir Francis Walsingham.
Also in 1572, Elizabeth
made an alliance with France. The St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in
which thousands of French Protestants (Huguenots) were killed, strained
the alliance but did not break it. Elizabeth even began marriage negotiations
with Henry, Duke of Anjou (later King Henry III of France and of Poland),
and afterwards with his younger brother François, Duke of Anjou
and Alençon. During the latter's visit in 1581, it is said that
Elizabeth "drew off a ring from her finger and put it upon the
Duke of Anjou's upon certain conditions betwixt them two". The
Spanish Ambassador reported that she actually declared that the Duke
of Anjou would be her husband. However, Anjou, who was reportedly scarred
and hunch-backed, returned to France and died in 1584 before he could
Conflict with Spain
In 1579, the Second Desmond Rebellion began in Ireland with the arrival
of an invasion force funded by Pope Gregory XIII; but by 1583, the rebellion
had been put down after a brutal campaign waged by fire, sword and famine,
in which a large part of the population of the then County Desmond,
the north-western part of the province of Munster died; chilling, albeit
approving, observations on the campaign are set out in A View of the
Present State of Ireland by the poet, Edmund Spenser (first licensed
for publication in 1633, four decades after it was written).
Also in 1580, Philip
II annexed Portugal, and with the Portuguese throne came the command
of the high seas. After the assassination of the Dutch Stadholder William
I, England began to side openly with the United Provinces of the Netherlands,
who were at the time rebelling against Spanish rule. This, together
with economic conflict with Spain and English piracy against Spanish
colonies (which included an English alliance with Islamic Morocco),
led to the outbreak of the Anglo-Spanish War in 1585 and in 1586 the
Spanish ambassador was expelled from England for his participation in
conspiracies against Elizabeth. Fearing such conspiracies, Parliament
had passed the Act of Association 1584, under which anyone associated
with a plot to murder the Sovereign would be excluded from the line
of succession. However, a further scheme against Elizabeth, the Babington
Plot, was revealed by Sir Francis Walsingham, who headed the English
spy network. Having put the court on full proof of the charge, Mary
Stuart was convicted of complicity in the plot on foot of disputed evidence
and executed at Fotheringhay Castle on February 8, 1587.
Portrait of Elizabeth
made to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), depicted
in the background. Elizabeth's international power is symbolized by
the hand resting on the globe.In her will, Mary had left Philip her
claim to the English throne; under force of the threat from Elizabeth's
policies in the Netherlands and the East Atlantic, Philip set out his
plans for an invasion of England. In April 1587, Sir Francis Drake burned
part of the Spanish fleet at Cádiz, delaying Philip's plans.
In July 1588, the Spanish Armada, a grand fleet of 130 ships bearing
over 30,000 men, set sail in the expectation of conveying a Spanish
invasion force under the command of the Duke of Parma across the English
Channel from the Netherlands. Elizabeth encouraged her troops with a
notable speech, known as the Speech to the Troops at Tilbury, in which
she famously declared, "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 I think it foul scorn that Spain or Parma or any
prince of Europe should dare invade the borders of my realm". Thus
the legend of Good Queen Bess was born.
The Spanish attempt
was defeated by the English fleet under Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard
of Effingham and Drake, aided by bad weather. The Armada was forced
to return to Spain, with appalling losses on the North and West coasts
of Ireland. The victory tremendously increased Elizabeth's popularity,
but it proved far from decisive, and an ambitious strike against Spain
in the following year (the English Armada) ended in complete failure.
The war continued in the Netherlands, where the Dutch Estates were seeking
independence from Spain. The English government also involved itself
in the conflict in France, where the throne was claimed by a Protestant
heir, Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France). Elizabeth sent 20,000
troops and subsidies of over £300,000 to Henry, and 8,000 troops
and subsidies of over £1,000,000 to the Dutch.
continued to attack Spanish treasure ships from the Americas. The most
famous privateers included Sir John Hawkins and Sir Martin Frobisher.
In 1595 and 1596, a disastrous expedition on the Spanish Main led to
the deaths of the ageing Hawkins and Drake. Also in 1595, Spanish troops
under the command of Don Carlos de Amesquita landed in Cornwall, where
they routed a large English militia and burned some villages, before
celebrating a mass and retiring in the face of a naval force led by
Sir Walter Raleigh.
In 1596, England
finally withdrew from France, with Henry IV firmly in control. He had
assumed the throne (by agreeing to convert to catholicism), commenting
that, "Paris is worth a mass". The Holy League, which opposed
him, had been demolished, and Elizabeth's diplomacy was beset with a
new set of problems. At the same time, the Spanish had landed a considerable
force of tercios in Brittany, which expelled the English forces that
were present and presented a new front in the war, with an added threat
of invasion across the channel. Elizabeth sent a further 2,000 troops
to France after the Spanish took Calais. Then she authorised an attack
on the Azores in 1597, but the attempt was a disastrous failure. Further
battles continued until 1598, when France and Spain finally made peace.
The Anglo-Spanish War reached a stalemate after Philip II died later
in the year. In part because of the war, Raleigh and Gilbert's overseas
colonisation attempts came to nothing, and the English settlement of
North America was stalled, until James I negotiated peace in the Treaty
of London, 1604.
Portrait by unknown c.18th centuryIn 1598, Elizabeth's chief advisor,
Lord Burghley, died. His political mantle was inherited by his son,
Robert Cecil, who had previously become Secretary of State in 1590.
Elizabeth became somewhat unpopular because of her practice of granting
royal monopolies; the abolition of which Parliament continued to demand.
In her famous "Golden Speech", Elizabeth promised reforms.
Shortly thereafter, twelve royal monopolies were ended by royal proclamation;
further sanctions could be sought in the courts of common law. These
reforms, however, were only superficial; the practice of deriving funds
from the grants of monopolies continued.
At the same time
as England was fighting Spain, it also faced a rebellion in Ireland,
known as the Nine Years War. The chief executor of Crown authority in
the North of Ireland, Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, was declared
a traitor in 1595. Seeking to avoid further war, Elizabeth made a series
of truces with the earl; but during this period, Spain attempted two
further armada expeditions against Northern Europe, although both failed
owing to adverse weather conditions. In 1598, O'Neill offered a truce,
while benefiting from Spanish aid in the form of arms and training;
upon expiry of the truce, the English suffered their worst defeat in
Ireland at the Battle of the Yellow Ford.
In 1599, one of
the leading members of the navy, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex,
was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and given command of the largest
army ever sent to Ireland, in an attempt to defeat the rebels. Essex's
campaign was soon dissipated, and after a private parley with O'Neill
— in which the latter sat on horseback in the middle of a river
— it became clear that victory was out of reach. In 1600, Essex
returned to England without the Queen's permission, where he was punished
by the loss of all political offices and of the trade monopolies, which
were his principal income.
The succession to
the throne had been the ultimate political concern in England since
Mary Stuart's arrival in Scotland in the 1560s, and by the end of the
century there was only one question in the minds of Elizabeth's advisors:
who next? It is in this context that the behaviour of Essex is best
explained. In 1601, he led a revolt against the Queen, but popular support
was curiously lacking, and the former darling of the masses was executed.
8th Baron Mountjoy, a bookish man who liked to wrap himself up in scarves,
was sent to Ireland to replace Essex. With ruthless intent, Mountjoy
attempted to blockade O'Neill's troops and starve his people into submission;
the campaign effectively cast the English strategy of the earlier Desmond
Rebellion (1580-83) into a larger theatre, with proportionately greater
casualties. In 1601, the Spanish sent over 3,000 troops to aid the Irish,
with the justification that their intervention countered Elizabeth's
previous aid to the Dutch rebels in the campaign against Spanish rule.
After a devastating winter siege, Mountjoy defeated both the Spanish
and the Irish forces at the Battle of Kinsale; O'Neill surrendered a
few days after Elizabeth's death in 1603, although the fact of her death
was concealed from the supplicant rebel with great skill and irony on
During her last
ailment, the Queen is reported to have declared that she had sent "wolves,
not shepherds, to govern Ireland, for they have left me nothing to govern
over but ashes and carcasses" (The Sayings of Queen Elizabeth (1925)).
Elizabeth's successor promoted Mountjoy to the office of Lord Lieutenant
of Ireland, an office in which he showed skill and moderation, until
his early death in 1605.
Fictional portrayal of Elizabeth handing the throne of England to King
James VI of ScotlandElizabeth I fell ill in February 1603, suffering
from frailty and insomnia. After a period of distressing reflection,
she died on March 24 at Richmond Palace, aged sixty-nine, the oldest
English sovereign ever to have reigned; the mark was not surpassed until
George II, who died in his seventy-seventh year in 1760. Elizabeth was
buried in Westminster Abbey, immediately next to her half-sister Mary
I. The Latin inscription on their tomb translates to Partners both in
Throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the
hope of one resurrection.
The will of Henry
VIII declared that Elizabeth was to be succeeded by the descendants
of his younger sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk, rather than by
the Scottish descendants of his elder sister, Margaret Tudor. If the
will were upheld, then Elizabeth would have been succeeded by Lady Anne
Stanley. If, however, the rules of male primogeniture were upheld, the
successor would be James VI, King of Scotland. Still other claimants
were possible. They included Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp of Hache
(the illegitimate son of the Lady Catherine Grey) and William Stanley,
6th Earl of Derby (Lady Anne Stanley's uncle).
It is sometimes
claimed that Elizabeth named James her heir on her deathbed. According
to one story, when asked whom she would name her heir, she replied,
"Who could that be but my cousin Scotland?" According to another,
she said, "Who but a King could succeed a Queen?" Finally,
a third legend suggests that she remained silent until her death. There
is no evidence to prove any of these tales. In any event, none of the
alternative heirs pressed their claims to the throne. James VI was proclaimed
King of England as James I a few hours after Elizabeth's death. James
I's proclamation broke precedent because it was issued not by the new
sovereign himself but by a Council of Accession, as James was in Scotland
at the time. Accession Councils, rather than new sovereigns, continue
to issue proclamations in modern practice.
Statue of Elizabeth I at the Church of St Dunstan-in-the-West LondonElizabeth
proved to be one of the most popular monarchs in English or British
history. She placed seventh in the 100 Greatest Britons poll, which
was conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2002, outranking
all other British monarchs. In 2005, in the History Channel documentary
Britain's Greatest Monarch, a group of historians and commentators analysed
twelve British monarchs and gave them overall marks out of 60 for
greatness (they were marked out of 10 in six categories, such as military
prowess and legacy). Elizabeth I was the winner, with 48 points.
however, have taken a far more dispassionate view of Elizabeth's reign.
Though England achieved military victories, Elizabeth was far less pivotal
than other monarchs such as Henry V. Elizabeth has also been criticised
for her problems in Ireland.
Elizabeth was a
successful monarch, helping steady the nation even after inheriting
an enormous national debt from her sister Mary. Under her, England managed
to avoid a crippling Spanish invasion. Elizabeth was also able to prevent
the outbreak of a religious or civil war on English soil. Elizabeth's
Accession Day of November each year was celebrated for many years after
her death by Pope-burning processions. Her achievements, however,
were greatly magnified after her death. She was depicted in later years
as a great defender of Protestantism in Europe. In reality, however,
she often wavered before coming to the aid of her Protestant allies.
As Sir Walter said in relation to her foreign policy, "Her Majesty
did all by halves".
Many artists glorified
Elizabeth I and masked her age in their portraits. Elizabeth was often
painted in rich and stylised gowns. Elizabeth is often shown holding
a sieve, a symbol of virginity.
In the arts, Gioacchino
Antonio Rossini wrote his first Neapolitan opera on the subject of Elizabeth
I, Elisabetta, regina d'Inghiliterra, in 1814-15, ultimately based on
a three-volume Gothic romance novel, The Recess, by Sophia Lee. Benjamin
Britten wrote an opera, Gloriana, about the relationship between Elizabeth
and Lord Essex, composed for the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II of
the United Kingdom. Henry Purcell wrote a 1692 semi-opera adaptation
of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream called The Fairy Queen, named
to honour Elizabeth, one of whose nicknames was the Faere Queene. The
instrument called the virginal was not named after Elizabeth, as it
was known before her time. Queen Elizabeth Hall, opened in 1967 as part
of the South Bank Centre arts complex in London, is named after Elizabeth
There have been
many novels written about Elizabeth. They include: Legacy by Susan Kay,
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 spliced
with her mother's in Maxwell's book The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn.
Maxwell also writes of a fictional child Elizabeth and Dudley had in
The Queen's Bastard. In the early 1950's, Margaret Irwin produced a
trilogy based on Elizabeth's youth: Young Bess, Elizabeth, Captive Princess
and Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain.
In children's and
young adults' fiction, Elizabeth's story is told in Elizabeth I, Red
Rose of the House of Tudor, a book in the Royal Diaries series published
by Scholastic, and also in Beware, Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer.
writings, which were considerable, were collected and published by the
University of Chicago Press as Elizabeth I: Collected Works.
Notable portrayals of Queen Elizabeth in film and television have been
plentiful; in fact, she is the most filmed British monarch. Those who
have made an impression in the role of Elizabeth in the last 100 years,