Elizabeth I was queen from 1558 to 1603. In her reign, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed and the Spanish Armada was defeated. Elizabeth I never married so the Tudor dynasty ended with her death in 1603. Her legal heir was James VI of Scotland. He, a Stuart, became James I of England. Elizabeth’s father was Henry VIII and her mother was Anne Boleyn.
Elizabeth’s reign is remembered for many reasons but two of the more important were:
1) the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1587
2) the Spanish Armada of 1588
Elizabeth’s personality: Elizabeth was a very intelligent person. She could speak Latin, French and German. As a young girl she had had a private tutor and her father’s investment in her education proved sound. She did not suffer fools lightly and Elizabeth was famous for her temper – inherited from both her mother and father.
Her early years: Elizabeth did not live in the some household as her father. She was sent to Hatfield Place, north of London with her half-sister, Mary. Here she lived the life of a princess but regardless of her status, her governess still had to complain to Henry VIII that she did not have enough clothes to live in. When Henry VIII did visit his daughters, Mary was locked in her room while the king spent his time with Elizabeth. When her father died, her half-brother, Edward VI, became king. Elizabeth maintained the strictest courtesy to her half-brother and now her king – when they ate together she sat at a table below him and she always curtsied when Edward approached her. Edward’s death in 1553 meant that Mary was now queen. This could have been very dangerous to Elizabeth as Mary was a Roman Catholic and Elizabeth was a Protestant.
Mary’s ascent to the throne was clouded with the actions of the Duke of Northumberland and Lady Jane Grey. Mary, suspicious of others, believed that Protestants were plotting against her. Elizabeth was arrested and sent to the Tower. Elizabeth must have feared the worst. Her anger spilt over when she sat on the steps of the Tower and refused to go any further. She was left by the Constable of the Tower who was not in a position to manhandle her. Eventually, the cold and probably hunger, drove Elizabeth to seek the warmth of her accommodation at the Tower.
Mary had Elizabeth released from the Tower and until, 1558, she maintained a low profile in a country undergoing yet more religious trouble. However, Elizabeth never returned to the Tower of London despite the fact that it was a royal palace!
As queen of England, she is credited with taking England to nearly the heights of its power. But in the final years of her reign, she became very unpredictable and, in this sense, dangerous. Many theories have been forwarded for this behaviour. One is that she put so much white ‘paint’ onto her face, that she suffered from lead poisoning to the brain and this hindered her ability to think rationally. Certainly, her death in 1603, was not greeted with nationwide mourning. Her subjects were sorry but the ‘spark’ that had existed in the earlier years of her reign had gone. However, the 45 years of her reign are considered by some to be an era of glory.