Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth was born in Greenwich Palace on September
7, 1533. She died on March 24, 1603, of natural causes. Her
father was Henry VII. His second wife, Anne Boleyn was
Elizabeth's mother. King Henry wanted a son, but received a
daughter, instead, from his second wife. Before Elizabeth's
third birthday, Henry had her mother beheaded in charges of
adultery and treason.
Elizabeth was brought up in a separate household at
Hatfield (not known). King Henry's third wife gave birth to
a son. This boy was named Edward. Edward was declared first
in line for King Henry's throne, while Mary (Daughter of
Henry's first wife) was declared second, and Elizabeth was
declared third and last in line for the throne.
Elizabeth received a thorough education that was normally
reserved for men. She was taught by special tutors of whom,
the most known, was a Cambridge humanist by the name of
Roger Ascham. Roger Ascham wrote about Elizabeth, "Her mind
has no womanly weakness. Her perseverance is equal to that
of a man and her memory long keeps what it quickly picks
up. With the help of these tutors, she was not only fluent
in two languages, but in four languages. She was fluent in
the languages of Greek, Latin, French, and Italian.
When Henry died in 1547, her brother, Edward, took over the
throne at ten years of age. Edward, with a short reign on
the throne, died in 1553, and Elizabeth's half, older
sister, Mary took the throne. Mary, like Edward, died on
November 17, 1558, after a short time on the throne.In
October 1562, Queen Elizabeth almost died of small pox.
In 1584, Europe's other major protestant leader, William of
Orange, was assassinated. For the first time in her life,
Elizabeth showed some concern. She was now, the only major
protestant leader in Europe. At this time, Elizabeth's
Privy council drew up a Bond of Association which pledged
that its signers, in an attempt on Elizabeth's life, would
kill the assassins along with the claimant to the throne
who the attempt was made for.
In the mid 1580s, it was clear that a direct military
confrontation between England and Spain was unavoidable in
the near future.
Word reached London that the Spanish king, Philip II, had
started to assemble together an enormous fleet that would
sail to the Netherlands, and join forces with a waiting
Spanish army led by the duke of Parma. After joining
forces, this fleet would proceed to invade and probably
conquer the now protestant England.
The always conservative queen reluctantly had authorized
sufficient funds to maintain a fleet of maneuverable,
well-armed fighting ships, to which other ships from the
merchant fleet would be added.
In July 1588, the "Invincible Armada" reached the English
water and the queen's ships. In one of the most famous
naval encounters of history, the queen's ships defeated the
enemy fleet, which then in an attempt to return to Spain,
was all but destroyed by terrible storms.
At the time when the Spanish invasion was expected, Queen
Elizabeth decided to review in person, a detachment of
soldiers assembled at Tilbury. She was dressed in a white
gown and a silver breastplate and she rode through the camp
and proceeded to deliver a celebrated speech. Some of her
councilors had cautioned her against appearing before a
large and armed crowd. But she told them that she would not
distrust her faithful and loving people. Also, she was not
afraid of Parma's army.
At this time, she says, "I know I have the body of a weak
and feeble woman, but I have a heart and stomach of a king,
and of a king of England too." She then promised, "in the
word of a Prince."
Francis Bacon wrote, a few years after Elizabeth's death,
"She imagined, that the people, who are much influenced by
externals, would be diverted by the glitter of her jewels,
from noticing the decay of her personal attractions."
Bacon's cynicism reflects the darkening tone of the last
decade of Queen Elizabeth's reign, where her control of her
country's political, religious, and economic forces and
over her representation of herself began to show severe
Bad harvests, continued inflation, and unemployment caused
strain and a loss of public morale. Charge of corruption
and greed led to widespread popular hatred of the Queen's
favourite, to whom she had given large and much-resented
Queen Elizabeth continued to make brilliant speeches, to
exercise her authority. But she suffered from bouts of
melancholy, ill health, and showed signs of increasing
debility. As Sir Walter Raleigh remarked, "a lady surprised
On march 24, 1603, having reportedly indicated JAMES VI as
her successor, Queen Elizabeth died quietly. The nation
accepted the new King quite enthusiastically.
But long before her death, she had transformed herself into
a powerful image of female authority.