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English queen Elizabeth I

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Elizabeth grew up at Hatfield Place with her half-sister Mary after the execution of her mother Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth lived the life of a princess but still her governess had to complain to Henry VIII that she did not have enough clothes to live in. When Henry VIII did visit his daughters, Mary was locked in her room while the king spent his time with Elizabeth.

When her father died, Elizabeth's half-brother Edward VI became king. Elizabeth maintained the strictest courtesy to her half-brother and now her king. When they ate together she sat at a table below him and she always curtsied when Edward approached her. Edward's death in 1553 meant that Mary was now queen. This could have been very dangerous to Elizabeth as Mary was Roman Catholic and Elizabeth was Protestant.

Mary's ascent to the throne was clouded with the actions of the Duke of Northumberland and Lady Jane Grey. Mary, suspicious of others, believed Protestants were plotting against her. Elizabeth was arrested and sent to the Tower of London as a prisoner. Mary had Elizabeth released from the Tower and Elizabeth maintained a low profile in religiously tumultuous England until Mary's sudden death left the throne to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is credited with taking England near the heights of its power. Arts (ie, Shakespeare) and sciences (ie, Marlow) flourished under her and the nation became a dominant sea power with men like Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh traveling to the new world.

Elizabeth did not like war and considered conflict a rash indulgence. Nevertheless, growing political tension embroiled England in a great war with Spain. This culminated in the launch of the Spanish Armada to invade England, though England's worse weather and superior seamanship caused the Armada's destruction. The great victor was considered an act of God and Elizabeth was hailed as Gloriana.

At the end of her reign Elizabeth became very unpredictable and hence dangerous. Explanatory theories abound, including that she wore so much white paint makeup that she suffered cranial lead poisoning that interfered with her rational thought. After her death in 1603, many hailed her reign as a Golden Age. After her death the crown passed to her cousin's son James Stuart king of Scotland, thus ending the Tudor age and commencing the Stuart age.


Winchester City Mill Museum