In 1558, Princess Elizabeth became Queen of England. After her cousin Lady Jane Grey and her half-sister Mary Tudor failed to develop a successful reign. Marilee Hansen writes, "she inherited a bankrupt nation, torn by religious discord, a weakened pawn between the great powers of France and Spain" (2). She was well educated and ready for anything coming her way and not with the help of a husband, because she refused to marry during her years as queen. Loved by many of England's people, she was supported greatly, especially because she was a big supporter of the Protestant religion. Her main goals were to bring peace and prosperity to England. She would soon be the single best queen that England had ever known.
The story begins with King Henry VIII, King of England from April 1509 to his death. When he became king he married his brother's widowed wife, Catherine of Aragon. After many miscarriages' and the early death of a child, Catherine gave birth to Princess Mary, in 1516. Longing for a male heir, Henry eventually fell out of love with Catherine of Aragon and started seeking a mistress, Anne Boleyn. Through the power of King Henry's VIII reign, he made it possible to get his marriage annulled from Catherine of Aragon in 1529. King Henry VIII soon married Anne Boleyn and it was not long before they were expecting their first child. September 7, 1533 another princess was born, Princess Elizabeth. Henry was not happy, he was still in need of a male heir and his marriage to Boleyn did not last long. Boleyn was arrested and executed on May 19, 1536. Although many believed that Princess Mary was the King's only heir, Princess Elizabeth turned out to resemble her father the most.
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After the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry married Jane Seymour. Finally, the king had an heir, Prince Edward. He was born in October 1537. As a result, Jane died after the birth of their son; she died of childbed fever. Henry was in need of a wife and married Anne of Cleves, that marriage did not last long. Henry married another woman, Catherine Howard. Howard eventually cheated on him and she was executed. All the while, Elizabeth was affected by having so many different step-mothers and little attention from her father. Later, she would show the effects of it as she becomes queen. She spent most of her time getting tutored; her father rarely came to visit her. "It was Henry's sixth and final wife, Katharine Parr, who had the greatest impact upon Elizabeth's life" (Hansen 4).
Parr believed in getting a good education and was deeply religious. It was she that really enforced a good education on Elizabeth. Elizabeth was educated by a team of Cambridge humanists led by Roger Ascham (Biography Resource Center). Making her "educated as well as any legitimate prince, and she displayed a genuine love and aptitude for her studies" (Hansen 4). Elizabeth studied "classical subjects as rhetoric, languages, philosophy, history, and theology" (Hansen 4). The languages she learned were Greek, Latin, French and Italian.
When Elizabeth's father died in 1547, her brother Edward took the title of king. Although he was technically not old enough to rule, his uncle Lord Protector Edward Seymour took reign and Elizabeth was removed from their home and sent to live with Katharine Parr. While living with Parr, Elizabeth continued to be educated and had the best time of her adolescence. Parr remarried and became pregnant. She married Thomas Seymour, the younger brother of Lord Protector Somerset and uncle to the new King Edward (Hansen 5). Elizabeth left their home in May 1548, soon after, Parr died of childbed fever in September 1548. Seymour was very jealous of his brother's position and he was easily influenced by a man named John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. Dudley, on the other hand, wanted the brothers to come to ruin and he wanted to take over their power. After Parr passed, Seymour became interested in Elizabeth. Seymour wanted to marry her so that he can secure his position as king if her brother should die. Elizabeth was not interested and so eventually Seymour's plans were revealed and he was arrested and charged with thirty-three crimes and was executed on March 20, 1549. His brother, Edward Seymour (Duke of Somerset) was also executed shortly after. Dudley became Lord Protector, also titled duke of Northumberland (Hansen 7). He was the first non-royal Englishman given that title (Hansen 7). Dudley thought very fondly of Elizabeth, because they shared the same interests in the Protestant religion. Mary Tudor, Elizabeth's older half-sister, practiced Catholicism. Edward VI gave Dudley Hatfield House then in turn, he gave it back to Elizabeth "for lesser lands in her possession and he passed the patents to her lands" (Hansen 7) which gave Elizabeth the advantage of having more income.
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The people of England viewed the princesses differently, Mary, a typical Catholic princess who dressed in all the glittering and garish finery she could afford, and Elizabeth, who dressed plainly, most often in severely cut black or white gowns (Hansen 7). Elizabeth matured into a tall, slender and striking girl, with a fair, unblemished complexion and the famous Tudor red hair (Hansen 7). With all the education Elizabeth was receiving, she was known to be intelligent, strong, and respected. Elizabeth did not have a good relationship with her step-sister Mary Tudor; but got along well with her step-brother Edward, after all they shared the most important interest which was the same protestant beliefs.
King Edward (Elizabeth's half-brother) lived only a short while and died in 1553. He wanted to leave Elizabeth the throne because he wanted to "preserve the Protestant regime in England" (Hansen 8). Unfortunately, "like Mary Tudor, Elizabeth had her illegitimacy established by an act of Parliament during King Henry VIII's reign" (Hansen 8). During this time England's people were mostly Protestant and were pleased that Lady Jane Grey took the throne. Grey's time at the throne did not last long and quickly after, Elizabeth's half-sister Mary Tudor took the throne, many were unhappy because she practiced Catholicism. Mary Tudor's Catholic sympathies triggered Protestant reaction in England that led to a series of plots against her government (Historic World Leaders). Mary Tudor did not like this and she hated Elizabeth because Elizabeth was the people's first pick for the throne. Eventually, Mary feared that Elizabeth would over power her so she had her arrested and sent to the "Tower of London and later to Woodstock" (Historic World Leaders). During the time that Elizabeth was imprisoned, she was rarely allowed to talk to anyone or send out letters. She did continue to educate herself by reading books that were brought to her. Although, Mary Tudor disliked her half-sister, before her death she named her as her successor. By 1558 Mary Tudor died and Elizabeth became England's most powerful queen.
The image Queen Elizabeth I portrayed was one of "female authority and regal magnificence combined with extravagant dress and rich jewels" (Historic World Leaders). Queen Elizabeth's chief secretary was Sir William Cecil, who would soon become Lord Burghley. They both [Queen Elizabeth and Sir William Cecil] appreciated England's limited position in the face of France and Spain, and both knew that the key to England's success lay in balancing the two great Continental powers off against each other, so that neither could bring its full force to bear against England (Biography Resource Center). Early in Queen Elizabeth's reign, she experienced attacks by both Catholics and Puritans as she stood as the supreme governor of the church. At first, it was difficult for her to gain control because the people of England "had experienced both a sharp swing to Protestantism under Edward VI and a catholic reaction under Mary Tudor" (Biography Resource Center). The people of England also expected her to get married, although there were many suitors, Queen Elizabeth I refused to marry anyone. As a result, "her councilors argued that she should seek a husband but, as she explained to parliament in 1559, when she was 25 years, it would suffice her to have engraved on her tombstone that she had lived and died a virgin" (Warnicke).
Aside from trying to keep the people of England happy with a religious reform Elizabeth suffered greatly with altercations with her first cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary was the queen of France through her husband Francis II. After Francis II died, Mary had many lovers, eventually she was accused of murdering one of them, earl of Bothwell, through an entangled love affair. Being related to Elizabeth, Mary looked for refuge in England. There, in 1567, Elizabeth placed her under house arrest for the murder of Bothwell (Historic World Leaders). Mary Queen of Scots was devious towards Elizabeth because she knew that she was next in line to become queen of England. Various plots to kill Elizabeth were discovered and most of them were engineered by Mary. Until, the Babington Plot against the queen was uncovered in 1586, secret correspondence in Mary's handwriting was intercepted and in February 1587, Elizabeth caved in to the outcry against the queen of Scots as a menace to the realm and had Mary beheaded (Biography Resource Center).
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Due to the death of Mary and her connections to France, it created a threat to England and Elizabeth. By the Treaty of Edinburgh [a treaty created by the Parliament of Scotland] in 1560, Elizabeth was able to close off a good part of the French threat as posed through Scotland (Biography Resource Center). The treaty was created to end the Auld Alliance with France. The terms of the Auld Alliance were that if Scotland or France were attacked they would come together and invade the English territory. The events leading after created the fall of the Roman Catholic Church and in turn Scotland adopted the Protestant religion.
Spain also created problems for Elizabeth. The years from 1570 to 1585 were ones of neither war nor peace, but Elizabeth found herself under increasing pressure from Protestant activists to take a firmer line against Catholic Spain (Biography Resource Center). During this time, Elizabeth had to prove herself to be a strong and admirable queen to the people of England. The Spanish Armada in 1588 began with Phillip II of Spain, [who was married to Mary Queen of Scots] he wanted to take Elizabeth away from the throne and have Catholicism rise again. He planned an invasion into England, all the while, Elizabeth also planned a defense. With help from Medina Sidonia, troops were gathered and sent by sea to invade England. The first time around Sidonia's crew was attacked and they retreated. The second time they tried to invade England, they also went by sea, and encountered deadly weather, and most of the ships were damaged before they got to England. The defeat of Spain was mainly due to luck but the people of England were happy and Elizabeth was held high for her attempts to protect her people.
During Elizabeth's reign, the people of England were satisfied at most of her decisions and happy that she showed she cared for the people. She had made a speech to her people known as the Golden Speech, "And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving" (Biography Resource Center). She tried hard to bring peace and prosperity to England, for the most part, the people of England were satisfied and showed great love for her. She also kept her word in not marrying anyone that would greedily try to take her position. Before her death, Elizabeth named her successor James VI of Scotland. He is the son of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Peacefully, Elizabeth died shortly after making her decision in 1603.