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Elizabeth I
Queen of England


'Queen of France', 1558-1603†
'Queen of Ireland', 1558-1603†
Defender of the Faith, 1558-1603†


In 1535 her father opened a negotiation for a marriage between Elizabeth and the Duke of Angouleme, son of Francis I of France; but the alliance was not effected. In 1548 she was addressed by the ambitious Lord Seymour, with whom she indulged in a brief flirtation. She was endowed with superior mental powers, which were diligently improved by study, and, under the tuition of Roger Ascham, she attained a proficiency in classical learning. Before the age of seventeen she was mistress of the Latin, French, and Italian languages, and had read several Greek works. She was attached by her education to the Protestant Church. Her sister, Queen Mary, who regarded her with jealousy, committed her to the Tower in 1554, on the pretext that she was concerned in Wyatt’s rebellion. Much apprehension was felt by the people that attempts might be made upon her life; but she was released from the Tower after the lapse of a few months, and removed to Woodstock.[Q35A]

In 1558 she declined an offer of marriage from Eric, King of Sweden. On the 17th of November, 1558, Mary died, and Elizabeth, with the general approbation, was proclaimed queen. Her popularity was doubtless increased by the contrast between her and the late sovereign. She acted with politic caution in her design of restoring the Protestant religion, retaining a number of Romanists in her privy council. She appointed William Cecil secretary of state, and Nicholas Bacon keeper of the great seal. She began the religious reform by ordering that a large part of the service should be read in English, and forbade the host to be elevated in her presence. The Catholic bishops refused to officiate at her coronation, excepting the Bishop of Carlisle, who, it seems, acted his part reluctantly. When Parliament met in 1559, a bill was passed which vested in the crown the supremacy claimed by the pope; the mass was abolished, and the liturgy of Edward VI restored. 'Thus,' says Hume, 'in one session, without any violence or tumult, was the whole system of religion altered by the will of a young woman.'[Q35A]

At her accession Elizabeth found England at war with France and in alliance with Philip of Spain, who made her an offer of marriage, which she declined. In 1559 Francis II of France having assumed the arms and title of England in right of his wife, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth retaliated by sending an army to Scotland, which drove the French out of that kingdom. In 1562 she supported with money and troops the French Huguenots, who were then engaged in civil war with the Catholics. The next year the Parliament, anxious respecting the succession, voted an address to the queen, in which they entreated her to choose a husband; but she returned an evasive answer, and was equally averse to decide in favour of any claimant to the succession or of any suitor for her hand. Besides the suitors already named, she gave encouragement to the Archduke Charles of Austria, the Duke of Anjou, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the last of whom was the chief favourite from the early part of her reign until his death in 1588.[Q35A]

After the treaty with the French in 1564, England was at peace with foreign nations for more than twenty years, a period of national prosperity and progress, in which commerce flourished and the naval power of the kingdom was greatly increased. Cecil, Lord Burleigh, was Elizabeth’s prime minister and adviser during the greater part of her reign.[Q35A]

As the representatives of opposite interests in religion, Elizabeth and Philip of Spain had long felt a mutual hostility, which in 1588 resulted in the famous enterprise of the Invincible Armada, fitted out by Philip for the invasion of England. This armament, which consisted of more than 130 vessels and about 30,000 men, was commanded by the Duke of Medina Sidonia. The English harassed the Armada in the Channel by partial attacks, and defeated the Spaniards in a general action on the 8th of August. The Spanish admiral then retreated northward, intending to sail home by that circuitous route; but, a violent storm having arisen near the Orkney Isles, more than fifty of the ships were wrecked and their crews perished. The Spanish loss was probably not less than 20,000 men. About this time Elizabeth began to show a decided partiality for the Earl of Essex. Hostilities still continued between the English and Spaniards; and, while Philip subsidized the French Catholics, Elizabeth sent an army to aid Henry IV in 1590 and in several ensuing years.[Q35A]

The reign of Elizabeth was considered eminently beneficial and glorious to the nation. It was illustrated by such names as Spenser, Shakespeare, Sidney, Bacon, and Raleigh. Her personal character was deformed by selfishness, inconstancy, deceit, heartlessness, and other unwomanly faults; but she has generally been regarded as a ruler of eminent ability as well as courage. Before she died, she stipulated in her will that King James of Scotland should succeed her.[Q35A]

Place of birth: Greenwich Palace, Kent[71]
Place of death: Richmond Palace, Surrey[71]
Place of burial: Westminster Abbey[71]



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