Queen Elizabeth was born on 7 September 1533. Her father, Henry VIII had wanted a strong, strapping young lad to rule the country after his death but was never granted the request. Instead, he was given a daughter who would come to change the course of the country’s history and leave an incredible mark on its pages.
Before Elizabeth was 3 years old, her mother was beheaded by Henry VIII. His true reasons were that he had gotten fed up with Anne Boelyn’s inability to have a child, but he concocted other reasons that led to her beheading. This led to Elizabeth being declared an illegitimate child and was sent away to be raised elsewhere. Elizabeth’s rise to the throne was troubled by attempts on her life and the deaths of a succession of rulers.
Henry VIII had eventually managed to have a son, Edward, with another wife, Jane. Edward’s mother died soon after his birth and Henry again remarried Katherine Parr. With this marriage, Katherine returned Elizabeth and her half-sister Mary to the court. When Henry finally passed, Katherine took the throne as the Dowager Queen and a member of Jane’s family, Edward Seymour donned the role of Lord Protector of England.
Elizabeth lived with Dowager Queen Katherine for a time, until she was forced to leave. Apparently, she been caught either kissing or in bed with Katherine’s husband, Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth left the court again and Katherine died soon after. Edward VI, Henry’s son, was now old enough to take the throne, and he did. It was during this time that several attempts were made on Elizabeth’s life, because she was indeed a heir of Henry and in line for the throne. She survived all the attempts on her life with the help of high ranking officials from the court.
Edwards VI died in 1553, the throne going to Lady Jane Grey, a descendant of Henry VIII’s sister. Elizabeth and her sister rode into the court and Mary claimed her rightful title as heir. Shortly after, Elizabeth was perceived as a great threat by Mary and she was imprisoned in the tower for months before she was released under semi-house arrest. Queen Mary eventualy became what she thought was ‘pregnant’ but no baby came. She died with her belly swollen. Many believe she had died from an ovarian cyst. There were no more heirs to the throne now, just Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth’s Reign
Queen Elizabeth the First was crowned on 15 January 1559. The ceremony that took place for one night cost what would be the equivalent of $3.5 million dollars today. Her most famous claim of not being married had started shortly after. She was met by dozens of suitors but never married any of them. Historians speculate on exactly why. Possibly she was traumatized by the way her father treated his wives and the idea of marriage repulsed her. There are many theories. Nonetheless, she was never wed.
Her attention soon focused on Mary, Queen of Scots, as she had a very legitimate claim to the throne. Mary fled her own country around the 1560s and took refuge in England. She had expected Elizabeth to take her in, in safety. Elizabeth knew the threat that presented itself and took the opportunity to be rid of it for good. She had Mary imprisoned and eventually beheaded in 1587.
During this time, Spain sailed it’s Armada towards England and Elizabeth, although being accused of having terrible military strategies, won the battle and was declared an incredible naval power. The Spanish armada had worse luck and many miscalculations; enough to give England the edge and send the Spanish home in pieces.
Elizabeth’s reign was largely defensive and she took great measures to ensure that no country brought arms against her, although they did at times. Her largest offensive move during her reign was sending the English armies to help defend the Dutch rebels from Philip II. This was what would begin the Anglo-Spanish War which lasted until 1604. She constantly was taking measures to ensure that the Spanish had no means of invading England.
Even though Ireland was part of Elizabeth’s kingdom, she faced a serious threat from Catholic Irish who were constantly attempting to defy her and garner favor towards her enemies. She gave land to her courtiers there in order to prevent the Spanish from gaining a spot to attack. There were numerous uprising of the Irish during this time, and the Crown’s armies took on violent and barbarian tactics to suppress the land. They burned villages and murdered men, women and children alike. Even though Elizabeth was quoted as saying the Irish were a ‘rude and barbarian nation’, she told her commanders that they be treated well, even if she did show no regrets when blood and fire were percieved as the only course of action.
In her later years, Catholics became unruly and their oppression rose. In a failing economy, she commisioned authorities to keep a watch on Catholic households. She heavily relied on spies and propaganda, so she could maintain that everything was well in the kingdom of England.
On 24 March 1603, Elizabeth’s health declined enough that she died. She was sorely missed by many of her subjects. Some of them felt relief at her death. Elizabeth was largely thought of as a heroine after her reign and her time was considered a Golden Age when court, religion and government ruled together in perfect synchronicity. The age came to be known as the Elizabethan Era.
Her reign was a difficult but long one. Elizabeth faced many trials during her life, even since the age of three when her mother had been beheaded. Amazingly, she made it to the throne alive against all odds and became one of the most well known Queens to have ever taken the throne. For 44 years, her successful rise to power changed the course of history and today has historians all over the world speculating on the details of her life and her legacy.
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