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Queen Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603)

Name: Queen Elizabeth I
Born: September 7, 1533 at Greenwich Palace
Parents: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Relation to Charles III: 1st cousin 14 times removed
House of: Tudor
Ascended to the throne: November 17, 1558 aged 25 years
Crowned: January 15, 1559 at Westminster Abbey
Married: Never Married
Children: None
Died: March 24, 1603 at Richmond Palace, Surrey, aged 69 years, 6 months, and 15 days
Buried at: Westminster
Reigned for: 44 years, 4 months, 5 days
Succeeded by: her 3rd cousin James of Scotland

Queen of England (1558–1603), the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Through her Religious Settlement of 1559 she enforced the Protestant religion by law. She had Mary Queen of Scots executed in 1587. Her conflict with Roman Catholic Spain led to the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Elizabethan age was expansionist in commerce and geographical exploration, and arts and literature flourished. The rulers of many European states made unsuccessful bids to marry Elizabeth, and she used these bids to strengthen her power. She was succeeded by James I.

Elizabeth was born at Greenwich, London on 7 September 1533. She was well educated in several languages. During her Roman Catholic half-sister Mary's (Mary I) reign, Elizabeth's Protestant sympathies brought her under suspicion, and she lived in seclusion at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, until on Mary's death she became queen. Her first task was to bring about a broad religious settlement. Many unsuccessful attempts were made by Parliament to persuade Elizabeth to marry or settle the succession. She found courtship a useful political weapon, and she maintained friendships with, among others, the courtiers Leicester, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Essex. She was known as the Virgin Queen.

The arrival in England in 1568 of Mary Queen of Scots and her imprisonment by Elizabeth caused a political crisis, and a rebellion of the feudal nobility of the north followed in 1569. Friction between English and Spanish sailors hastened the breach with Spain. When the Dutch rebelled against Spanish tyranny Elizabeth secretly encouraged them; Philip II retaliated by aiding Catholic conspiracies against her. This undeclared war continued for many years, until the landing of an English army in the Netherlands in 1585 and Mary's execution in 1587, brought it into the open. Philip's Armada (the fleet sent to invade England in 1588) met with total disaster.

The war with Spain continued with varying fortunes to the end of the reign, while events at home foreshadowed the conflicts of the 17th century. Among the Puritans discontent was developing with Elizabeth's religious settlement, and several were imprisoned or executed. Parliament showed a new independence, and in 1601 forced Elizabeth to retreat on the question of the crown granting manufacturing and trading monopolies. Yet her prestige remained unabated, as shown by the failure of Essex's rebellion in 1601.

Queen Elizabeth I's Signature


‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too’ – Queen Elizabeth I (speech as the Spanish Armada approached)

‘I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England’ – Queen Elizabeth I (on being pressed by Parliament to marry)

‘There is no marvel in a woman learning to speak, but there would be in teaching her to hold her tongue’ – Queen Elizabeth I (on being praised for her linguistic skills by the French ambassador)

‘Better beggar woman and single than Queen and married’ – Queen Elizabeth I (her father Henry VIII had executed her mother Anne Boleyn) 

Timeline for Queen Elizabeth I

Year Event
1558Elizabeth becomes Queen on the death of her half-sister, Mary.
1559Elizabeth is crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey in January.
1559Mary Queen of Scots in Paris declares herself Queen of France, Scotland and England when her husband Francis becomes King of France. He dies a year later and Mary returns to Scotland.
1559Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity restore the Protestant Church in England and make Elizabeth Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
1559The Revised Prayer Book of Elizabeth I is issued. It is less extreme than its predecessors
1560Elizabeth founds Westminster School
1562Hawkins and Drake make first slave-trading voyage to America.
1562Elizabeth gives aid to the Protestant Huguenots in the French Wars of Religion. English troops occupy Dieppe and Le Havre.
1563John Foxe’s The Book of Martyrs, the story of religious persecution, is published in England.
1563-1564 17,000 die of the Plague in London which is believed to have been brought back by troops returning from Le Havre.
1564Peace made between England and France at Troyes.
1565Sir Walter Raleigh brings potatoes and tobacco from the New World
1566Elizabeth forbids Parliament to discuss her marriage prospects.
1568Mary Queen of Scots, flees to England from Scotland and is imprisoned by Elizabeth.
1569Elizabeth I approves Sunday sports
1570Pope Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth from the Catholic Church.
1577- 1580 Francis Drake sails around the world in the Golden Hind.
1579Francis, Duke of Alencon, secretly comes to England to try and marry Elizabeth.
1581Francis Drake knighted by Queen Elizabeth on the deck of The Golden Hind.
1584Sir Walter Raleigh founds the first American colony and names it Virginia after Elizabeth the Virgin Queen
1584Oakham School founded by Archdeacon Robert Johnson
1585William Shakespeare leaves Stratford for London to become an aspiring playwright
1586Babington Catholic plot to assassinate Elizabeth I
1586Mary Queen of Scots, who had fled from Scotland to England, is implicated in the Babington plot and is sent to trial.
1587Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed at Fotheringhay Castle on charges of treason.
1587Drake attacks the Spanish fleet in Cadiz.
1587Raleigh's second expedition to New World lands in North Carolina. Drake destroys the Spanish fleet at Cadiz.
1588Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and a favourite of Elizabeth, dies.
1588A Spanish Armada of 130 ships sailing against England is defeated by bad weather and the English fleet under Admiral Drake and John Hawkins using fireships. Many were wrecked trying to return by sailing round the north of the British Isles. The English dominance of the sea leaves the way open for English trade and colonisation of America and India.
1588Earl of Essex leads an expedition to Ireland.
1589An English Counter-Armada of around 140 ships under Drake sails for Spain aiming to destroy the remaining Spanish ships and install English influence in Portugal and the Azores. The expedition is a disaster. 40 ships and 15,000 men are lost.
1589John Harrington invents the first flushing water closet at his house at Kelston, Bath. He calls it 'Ajax' a pun on the Elizabethan slang word 'Jakes' for a privy. Elizabeth I orders a Harrington WC to be installed at Richmond Palace.
1590Shakespeare writes Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
159315,000 Londoners die of the Plague. All theatres are closed for one year. Playwright Christopher Marlow is murdered.
1595Sir Walter Raleigh makes his first expedition to the South American continent. He explores 300 miles of the Orinoco searching for El Dorado.
1599Earl of Tyrone leads a rebellion against the English in Ireland.
1599The Globe Theatre is opened in London.
1600East India Company founded
1601Earl of Essex is executed for leading a revolt against Elizabeth.
1601Poor Law is passed introducing a poor relief rate on property owners.
1601First performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
1603Elizabeth I dies at Richmond Palace, Surrey.