Queen Elizabeth I
Last of the Tudor Line
Elizabeth, queen of England, and the last sovereign of the house of Tudor, was born at Greenwich, September 7, 1533. She was a daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Her childhood was passed in comparative quietness, and people who favored reformed religion educated her. She learned the Latin, Greek, French, and Italian languages with ease.
In 1554, Elizabeth was confined in the Tower by order of Queen Mary, who believed her to be implicated in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion against the queen, and regarded her with jealousy because she was the favorite with the Protestant party. She narrowly escaped death, for some of the bishops and courtiers advised Mary to order her execution. After she had passed several months in the Tower, she was removed to Woodstock and appeased Mary by professing to be a Roman Catholic (Jackson, Women Who Ruled, p. 63).
On the death of Queen Mary, on November 17, 1558, Elizabeth ascended the throne, and the majority of the people rejoiced at her accession. She appointed William Cecil secretary of state, and Nicholas Bacon keeper of the great seal. She retained several Roman Catholics in her privy council, but she refused to hear mass in the royal chapel.
The Protestants were the majority in the Parliament, which met in 1559, and they abolished the mass, adopted the Thirty-Nine Articles as the religion of the State, and recognized the queen as the head of the Church. She declined an offer of marriage made to her by Philip of Spain. Her foreign policy was that of peace. She waged no war for
conquest, but to promote the stability of her throne she aided the Protestant insurgents in Scotland, France, and the Netherlands, with money and troops.
In 1563, the Parliament, anxious that she should have an heir, entreated her to marry, but she returned an evasive answer, and would neither accept the hand of any of her suitors nor decide in favor of any claimant of the throne.
Mary, Queen of Scots, fleeing from her rebellious subjects, took refuge in England in 1568 and was detained as a prisoner by Elizabeth. Elizabeth regarded Mary as a dangerous rival, because the English Catholics wished to raise her to the throne of England, and formed several plots and conspiracies to make that happen. Elizabeth had
Mary beheaded on February 8, 1587. This was the darkest stain on the memory of Elizabeth.
Her reign was one of the most prosperous and glorious in English history. The Elizabethan age was almost unequaled in literature, and was illustrated by the genius of Shakespeare, Spenser, Bacon, Sidney, and Raleigh. Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603 and was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England.