Queen Elizabeth I


Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from November 17, 1558 until her death in 1603. Sometimes referred to as The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth I was the fifth and final monarch of the Tudor dynasty, having succeeded her half-sister, Mary I. She reigned during a period of great religious turmoil in English history.

In 1558, upon Mary I's death, Elizabeth ascended the throne. She was far more popular than her sister, and it is said that upon Mary's death, the people rejoiced in the streets.

Elizabeth was crowned on January 15, 1559. There was no Archbishop of Canterbury at the time; Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Roman Catholic holder of the office, had died shortly after Mary I. Since the senior bishops declined to participate in the coronation (since Elizabeth was illegitimate under both canon law and statute and since she was a Protestant), the relatively unimportant Owen Oglethorpe, Bishop of Carlisle had to crown her.

The communion was celebrated not by Oglethorpe, but by the Queen's personal chaplain, to avoid the usage of the Roman Catholic rites. Elizabeth I's coronation was the last one during which the Latin service was used; future coronations used the English service. She later persuaded her mother's chaplain, Matthew Parker, to become Archbishop. He only accepted out of loyalty to Anne Boleyn's memory, since he found working with Elizabeth difficult at times.

One of the most important concerns during Elizabeth's early reign was religion; she relied primarily on Sir William Cecil for advice on the matter. The Act of Uniformity (1559) required the use of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer in church services. Papal control over the Church of England had been reinstated under Mary I, but was ended by Elizabeth. The Queen assumed the title "Supreme Governor of the Church of England," rather than "Supreme Head," primarily because several bishops and many members of the public felt that a woman could not be the head of the church. The Act of Supremacy (1559) required public officials to take an oath acknowledging the sovereign's control over the church or face severe punishment.

Many bishops were unwilling to conform to the Elizabethan religious policy. These were removed from the ecclesiastical bench and replaced by appointees who would submit to the Queen's supremacy. She also appointed an entirely new Privy Council, removing many Roman Catholic Counsellors in the process. Under Elizabeth, factionalism in the Council and conflicts at court were greatly diminished. Elizabeth's chief advisors were Sir William Cecil, as Secretary of State, and Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.

Elizabeth also reduced Spanish influence in England. Though Philip II aided her in ending the Italian Wars with the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis, Elizabeth remained independent in her diplomacy. She adopted a principle of "England for the English." Her other realm, Ireland, never benefited from such a philosophy. The enforcement of English customs in Ireland proved unpopular with its inhabitants, as did the queen's religious policies.

Soon after her accession, many questioned whom Elizabeth would marry. Her reason for never marrying is unclear. She may have felt repulsed by the mistreatment of Henry VIII's wives. Alternatively, she may have been psychologically scarred by her rumoured childhood relationship with Lord Seymour.

Contemporary gossip was that she had suffered from a physical defect that she was afraid to reveal, perhaps scarring from smallpox. It is also possible that Elizabeth did not wish to share the power of the crown with another. It could also have been that given the unstable political situation Elizabeth could have feared an armed struggle among aristocratic factions if she married someone not seen as equally favorable to all factions. What is known for certain is that marrying anyone would have cost Elizabeth large amounts of money and independence as all of the estates and incomes Elizabeth inherited from her father, Henry VIII, were only hers until she wed.

Too much happened during Elizabeth's reign to include herein. For more information, scroll to the bottom of this page for a link with much more information.

In 1598, Elizabeth's chief advisor, Lord Burghley, died. His political mantle was inherited by his son, Robert Cecil, who had previously become Secretary of State in 1590. Elizabeth became somewhat unpopular because of her practice of granting royal monopolies. Parliament continued to demand the abolition of monopolies. In her famous "Golden Speech," Elizabeth promised reforms. Shortly thereafter, twelve royal monopolies were ended by royal proclamation; further sanctions could be sought in the courts of common law. These reforms, however, were only superficial; the practice of deriving funds from the grants of monopolies continued.

At the same time as England was fighting Spain, it also faced a rebellion in Ireland, known as the Nine Years War. Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, had proclaimed himself King, and was declared a traitor in 1595. Seeking to avoid further war, Elizabeth made a truce with Lord Tyrone, who promptly sought Spanish aid in his rebellion. Spain attempted to send two further Armadas, but both expeditions were foiled. In 1598, Lord Tyrone offered a truce; upon its expiry, the English faced their worst defeat in the Irish rebellion at the Battle of the Yellow Ford.

One of the leading members of the navy, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and put in charge of the attempt to crush the Irish rebellion in 1599. He failed utterly, and returned to England without the Queen's permission in 1600, and was punished by the loss of all political offices. In 1601, Lord Essex led a revolt against the Queen, but was executed.

Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy, was sent to Ireland to replace Lord Essex. Lord Mountjoy attempted to blockade Lord Tyrone's troops and starve them into submission. The Spanish, meanwhile, sent over 3,000 troops to aid the Irish. The Spanish felt that they were justified in intervening, since Elizabeth had previously aided the Dutch rebellion against Spain. Lord Mountjoy defeated both the Spanish and the Irish troops at the Battle of Kinsale; Lord Tyrone surrendered a few days after Elizabeth's death.

Elizabeth I fell ill in February of 1603, suffering from frailty and insomnia. She died on March 24 at Richmond Palace. At the age of sixty-nine, she was the oldest English sovereign ever to reign; the mark was not surpassed until George II died in his seventy-seventh year in 1760. Elizabeth was buried in Westminster Abbey, immediately next to her sister Mary I. The Latin inscription on their tomb translates to "Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection".

The will of Henry VIII declared that Elizabeth was to be succeeded by the descendants of his younger sister, Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk, rather than by the Scottish descendants of his elder sister, Margaret Tudor. If the will were upheld, then Elizabeth would have been succeeded by Lady Anne Stanley. If, however, the rules of male primogeniture were upheld, the successor would be James VI, King of Scots. Still other claimants were possible. They included Edward Seymour, Baron Beauchamp (the illegitimate son of the Lady Catherine Grey) and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby (Lady Anne Stanley's uncle).

It is sometimes claimed that Elizabeth named James her heir on her deathbed. According to one story, when asked whom she would name her heir, she replied, "Who could that be but my cousin Scotland?" According to another, she said, "Who but a King could succeed a Queen? Finally, a third legend suggests that she remained silent until her death.

There is no evidence to prove any of these tales. In any event, none of the alternative heirs pressed their claims to the throne. James VI, the only viable successor, was proclaimed King of England as James I a few hours after Elizabeth's death. James I's proclamation broke precedent because it was issued not by the new sovereign him or herself, but by a Council of Accession, as James was in Scotland at the time. Accession Councils, rather than new sovereigns, continue to issue proclamations in modern practice.

Much more about Queen Elizabeth I can be found on wikipedia.org. Click Here.


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