Pick of the Day A Queen without Equal; ONE TO WATCH: Great Briton (BBC TWO, 9pm)
While some aristocrats have ascended to the throne and made little impression, Elizabeth I's strength of character and impact on the nation ensured her fame in future generations. Both are qualities which have made her a leading candidate for the number one spot in the list of Great Britons. Michael Portillo is convinced she deserves the title, despite the fact that she ``was impossible. She flirted outrageously with her courtiers, threw tantrums, changed her mind and was absurdly vain''. Elizabeth should never have been queen. Born in September 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she was brought up by governesses and tutors at Hatfield House from the age of two after her father had her mother beheaded.
On Henry's death in 1553, his only legitimate son Edward became king. An intelligent but sickly youth, he died while still in his teens, leaving Elizabeth's oldest sibling, Mary, to succeed to the throne. Mary was a devout Catholic who tried to turn the country away from its Protestant faith, imprisoning various followers of the religion - including Elizabeth, whom she regarded as a threat.
When Mary died in 1558, Elizabeth was finally crowned. At the time, England needed a strong hand to rebuild the confidence of the people, outlaw the religious fanaticism of her sister's reign, regain land on foreign shores and battle Spain, then the world's most powerful country, which threatened the realm's security.
Elizabeth provided the strength needed, and despite skirmishes with her arch rival Mary Queen of Scots, largely achieved her goals. …