15 January 1559, at Westminster Abbey, London
24 March 1603, Richmond Palace, Surrey
James VI of Scotland, and I of England (cousin)
lizabeth was born a princess, the pampered daughter of a mighty monarch. When her mother was executed for adultery, Elizabeth was disinherited and bastardized. Thereafter, she was, in turn, ignored by her father, feared and threatened by her older sister, and adored by the populace.
The traumas of Elizabeth’s early life developed her strength of purpose and considerable political acumen. She was also fortunate in being served by able and loyal advisers.
Elizabeth established a moderate Protestant church. Throughout her reign she pursued religious compromise, only finally pushed to persecution by threats against her throne. Many of these constant plots were in support of the claims of her Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. Mary fell into Elizabeth’s hands and was eventually executed.
Under Elizabeth’s rule, England was blessed with a vast expansion of trade and prosperity. English ships under Frobisher, Gilbert, Drake and Raleigh sailed the globe, seeking adventure, profit and new lands. Elizabeth’s crowning glory, the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1589, was made possible by superior English seamanship. Literature – Shakespeare, Spenser, Marlowe – flourished.
A 1795 history of England describes Elizabeth:
“Wisdom and strength were in her right hand, and in her left were glory and wealth. She spoke and it was war; she waved her hand and the nations dwelt in peace. Her ministers were just, her counsellors were sage; her captains were bold, and her maids of honor ate beefsteaks for breakfast.”
Elizabeth engaged in a series of “courtship dances,” for political gain and personal amusement. She never married, however, and became irate with any courtier who did. She used her image as semi-divine “Virgin Queen” to advantage. Her spectacular portraits still dazzle us today. She died after a reign of forty-five years, naming the son of her rival, Mary Queen of Scots, as her heir.
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