Elizabeth I (queen of England)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Elizabeth I (queen of England)

Elizabeth I, 1533–1603, queen of England (1558–1603).

Early Life

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she was declared illegitimate just before the execution of her mother in 1536, but in 1544 Parliament reestablished her in the succession after her half-brother, Edward (later Edward VI), and her half-sister, Mary (later Mary I). Elizabeth was well educated by a series of tutors, most notably Roger Ascham.

In 1553 she supported the claims of Mary I over Lady Jane Grey. After Mary was crowned, Elizabeth was careful to avoid implication in the plot of the younger Sir Thomas Wyatt (1554). Nevertheless, since Elizabeth's potential succession to the throne inevitably furnished a rallying point for discontented Protestants, she was imprisoned. She later regained a measure of freedom through outward conformity to Roman Catholicism.

Reign

When Elizabeth succeeded her sister to the throne in 1558, religious strife, a huge government debt, and failures in the war with France had brought England's fortunes to a low ebb. Elizabeth came to the throne with the Tudor concept of strong rule and the realization that effective rule depended upon popular support. She was able to select and work well with the most competent of counselors. Sir William Cecil (Lord Burghley) was appointed immediately, and Sir Francis Walsingham in 1573.

At her death 45 years later, England had passed through one of the greatest periods of its history—a period that produced William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Francis Bacon, Walter Raleigh, Martin Frobisher, Francis Drake, and other notable figures in literature and exploration; a period that saw England, united as a nation, become a major European power with a great navy; a period in which English commerce and industry prospered and English colonization was begun.

Although Elizabeth has been accused, with some justice, of being vain, fickle, vacillating, prejudiced, and miserly, she was nonetheless exceedingly successful as a queen. Endowed with immense personal courage and a keen awareness of her responsibility as a ruler, she commanded throughout her reign the unwavering respect and allegiance of her subjects.

Domestic Developments

One of Elizabeth's first acts was to reestablish Protestantism (see England, Church of) through the acts of Supremacy and Uniformity (1559). The measures against Roman Catholics (see Penal Laws) grew harsher over the course of her reign, particularly after the rebellion of the Catholic earls of Northumberland and Westmorland (1569), Elizabeth's excommunication by the pope (1570), and the coming of the Jesuit missionaries (1580). But the persecution of the Catholics was due, at least in part, to a series of plots to murder Elizabeth and seat the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. English Puritans, like the Catholics, objected to the Established Church, and a severe law against conventicles (unauthorized religious assemblies) in 1593 kept the separatist movement underground for the time.

At the beginning of her reign, Elizabeth's government enacted needed currency reforms and took steps to mend English credit abroad. Other legislation of the reign dealt with new social and economic developments—the Statute of Apprentices (1563) to stabilize labor conditions; the poor laws (1563–1601) to attempt some remedy of widespread poverty; and various acts to encourage agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing.

Foreign Affairs and the Spanish War

Elizabeth had many suitors, including King Philip II of Spain; Francis, duke of Alençon and Anjou; and her own favorite, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. For a combination of personal and political reasons, she was reluctant to choose a husband and remained unmarried, although she often used the lure of marriage as a weapon of diplomacy. Elizabeth engaged in a long series of diplomatic maneuvers against England's old enemy, France, and the new enemy, Spain, but for 30 years she managed to keep the country at peace.

In 1559 she concluded a treaty ending her sister's unfortunate war with France and refused the marriage offer of Philip of Spain. The next year the Treaty of Edinburgh initiated a policy toward Scotland, successful in the long run, of supporting the Protestant lords against the Catholic party. By lending unofficial aid to French Huguenots she managed for some time to harass France and Spain without involving England in an actual war. As part of her marriage negotiations she later supported the duke of Alençon's participation in the Dutch war against Spain.

The major problem posed by Elizabeth's refusal to marry was that of the succession. The chief claimant was Mary Queen of Scots, but her Catholicism made her a threat to Elizabeth. In 1568 after Mary's forced abdication from the Scottish throne, Elizabeth gave her refuge but then kept her prisoner for nearly 19 years. Despite the numerous plots, both real and alleged, on Mary's behalf, Elizabeth resisted until 1587 her counselors' advice that Mary be executed.

By that time Spain had emerged as England's main enemy. English sailors had been unofficially encouraged to encroach on Spanish monopolies and raid Spanish shipping. In 1588, Philip launched the long-planned expedition of the Spanish Armada as a great Catholic crusade against Protestant England. The Armada was defeated by the skill of such leaders as John Hawkins and Francis Drake and by storms, rather than planning on Elizabeth's part, but the victory strengthened English national pride and lowered the prestige of Spain. An indecisive war with Spain dragged on until Elizabeth's death. From the beginning of the reign Ireland had been the scene of civil wars and severe rebellions, culminating with that of the earl of Tyrone, which was suppressed by the campaigns of Lord Mountjoy from 1600 to 1603.

Declining Years

After the Armada, Elizabeth's popularity began to wane. Parliament became less tractable and began to object to the abuse of royally granted monopolies. The rash uprising of Elizabeth's favorite, Robert Devereux, 2d earl of Essex, darkened her last years. She refused until on her deathbed to name her successor—the son of Mary Queen of Scots, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England.

Bibliography

See biographies by T. Maynard (1940), E. Jenkins (1958), P. Johnson (1974), A. Somerset (1992), and A. Weir (1998, repr. 2008); A. L. Rowse, The England of Elizabeth (1950) and The Expansion of Elizabethan England (1955); J. E. Neale, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments (2 vol., 1953–57); J. Hurstfield, Elizabeth I and the Unity of England (1960); N. Williams, The Life and Times of Elizabeth I (1972); A. Plowden, The Catholics under Elizabeth I (1973).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Elizabeth I (queen of England)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.