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Elizabeth I
Darnley stage 3.jpg
The "Darnley Portrait" of Elizabeth I (c. 1575)
Queen of England and Ireland (more...)
Reign 17 November 1558 –
24 March 1603
Coronation 15 January 1559
Predecessors Mary I and Philip
Successor James I
Born 7 September 1533
Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, England
Died 24 March 1603(1603-03-24) (aged 69)
Richmond Palace, Surrey, England
Burial Westminster Abbey
House House of Tudor
Father Henry VIII
Mother Anne Boleyn
Religion Anglican
Signature Elizabeth I's signature

Elizabeth I of England (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was the Queen of England, Ireland, and nominal claimant to Queen of France. She reigned from 17 November 1558 until she died in March 1603. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn, his second wife. Elizabeth was the last of the Tudor dynasty of monarchs. When Boleyn was disgraced at court and executed, Elizabeth's life became a troubled one, including imprisonment in the Tower of London.

Despite her troubles, Elizabeth reigned with intelligence and hard work. Her reign was distinguished with great achievements in the arts, trade, and exploration. She ably defended her country through the days of the Spanish Armada. She never married, but had several favourites, including the Earl of Leicester. At her death in 1603, King James VI of Scotland was named her successor.

Early life

Elizabeth was born in 1533 at Greenwich, England. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII of England and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. She had an older half-sister Mary, and, in time, a younger half-brother Edward.

Elizabeth was given a good education. She could speak and read six languages: her native English, as well as French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, and Latin.

When she was thirteen and a half years old, on 28th January, 1547 King Henry died. Elizabeth's half-brother, Edward, became King Edward VI of England. He died age 15. Mary succeeded him in 1553, and after Queen Mary's death in 1558, Elizabeth became Queen.

Achievements as Queen

Elizabeth I in coronation robes
Elizabeth I in her coronation robes

Mary I had re-established the Roman Catholic religion in England. Elizabeth returned the nation to the Protestant faith established by her father. She did however retain some of the Catholic traditions. She wanted her subjects to exhibit at least an outward show of conformity to the Protestant faith.

The years of Elizabeth's reign were marked with many artistic achievements. William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, and other writers created enduring drama and poetry. Composers Thomas Tallis and William Byrd worked at Elizabeth's court.

During her reign, many men sought adventure abroad. Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Humphrey Gilbert, and other "sea dogs" looted Spanish ships. They also sailed to the Americas. In 1580, Drake became the first Englishman to sail around the world. The expeditions of these men prepared England for an age of colonisation and trade expansion. In 1600, Elizabeth herself established a trading company known as the East India Company.

Spanish Armada

Elizabeth I (Armada Portrait)
"Armada Portrait" of Elizabeth

England and Spain had long quarreled. Elizabeth encouraged Protestants in the Spanish-held Netherlands to rebel against Spain. She also encouraged her "sea dogs" to raid Spanish ships. In 1588, King Philip II of Spain sent an armada (a large fleet of ships) to invade England.

Elizabeth met her troops at Tilbury telling them: "I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king - and of a King of England too."

The armada was met by England's smaller, more maneuverable ships on 29 July 1588. The armada was defeated not only by Englands troops and their smaller ships, but by bad weather over Scotland and Ireland as the remaining Spanish ships sailed for Spain.

Elizabeth's death

Elizabeth died at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603. The Protestant King of Scotland James VI became King of England. He was the son of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.

Elizabeth I was the last Tudor monarch, and reigned for 44 years. Her accession date was a national holiday for two hundred years.

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