Queen Elizabeth I – Notable Women in History Series

Photo Courtesy: womenshistory.about.com

Queen Elizabeth I has a story many are familiar with, no doubt due in great part to the actions of her infamous father, King Henry VIII of England. One such example is the treatment of her mother, Anne Boleyn, who is remembered for being beheaded by her then husband, King Henry, on questionable charges of adultery and conspiracy.

Elizabeth’s young life was tumultuous and complex. Her father had a habit of making decisions and reversing them. As such, her place in the line of succession varied, as did that of her sister, Mary. At the birth of their brother, Edward, both daughters were declared illegitimate, in an effort to pave the way for Edward’s reign upon King Henry's death. Both daughters were later reinstated.

After a relatively brief rule by her sister, Queen Mary, Elizabeth ascended to the throne at the age of 25. She inherited a number of problems from her sister’s rule, including war with France, which proved to be financially draining, along with a near tangible tension between the Roman Catholics and Protestants. Elizabeth acted quickly to resolve these issues. She re-established the Church of England in 1559 and ended the war with France, with the assistance of her advisor, William Cecil. In 1588, the English navy defeated the infamous Spanish Armada at her direction.

A clever strategist, Elizabeth used the empty throne next to her as a means to political ends. Though she received numerous marriage proposals, she chose never to marry. Over time she cultivated her image as a Queen married to her work and her people, resulting in her nickname, “The Virgin Queen.”
Elizabeth was also a marked supporter of the arts and they flourished under her reign. The likes of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Edmund Spenser might not have had such an impact on the arts today, if not for her patronage.

44 years after Elizabeth ascended the throne, she drew her last breath on March 24, 1603, effectively ending the Tudor line that had ruled England since the late 1400’s. While the end of her reign had been rocky, Elizabeth is largely regarded as one of the great rulers in history, providing her country with relative peace, consistency, and stability. She cunningly navigated complex political challenges and served her subjects faithfully until her death.