Elizabeth I was Queen of England in the seventeenth century. She was born in 1559 to Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. She died amidst friends and loyal followers in her royal palace in 1603.
Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s father, had three children between his six marriages. Mary, by his first wife Catharine of Aragon, Elizabeth by his second wife Anne Boleyn, and Edward VI by his third wife Jane Seymour.
Edward VI became king when Henry died. He was still a boy and let his counselors and officials take care of the ruling. He devoted his short life to developing the Protestant Church of England that his father had started and established. Right before he died at the age of eighteen, he decreed that his cousin Lady Jane Grey would be his successor. She ruled for only nine days, and thus earned the nicknamed ‘Nine Days Queen.’
After coming to the throne, the first thing Mary did was to try to undo all the changes her father and brother had done to the Church in England. She tried to press her staunch Roman Catholic faith on the people, even to the extent of burning 300 Protestants at the stake. Because of all these horrible deeds she earned the nickname ‘Bloody Mary.’ At the end of her rule the country was a mess.
When Elizabeth came to power after Mary all of England breathed a sigh of relief. The first thing Elizabeth did was to end the existing wars between England and France. Once this was done she turned her attention to the Church. She made the independent Church of England officially Protestant, but allowed all the people to worship in whatever faith they chose.
Personally she was a beautiful woman. She was also very cultured. She always wore the latest fashion and had a dramatically pale complexion because of a powder made of white lead and vinegar that she applied to her face. It is rumored that this affected her health. She was very stylish and loved art, music and poetry. She established many theaters all over England.
Parliament wanted her to get married. “A woman,” they said, “is not fit to rule by herself.” But Elizabeth resolutely refused. However, she did seem to have some feelings towards a member of her court, a certain Robert Dudley. She appointed him to high positions such as Earl of Lester, and she always had him with her in her retinue.
Mary’s husband, Philip II of Spain, offered to marry Elizabeth, but the unflagging answer was ‘No.’
Elizabeth is credited with the defeat of the Spanish Armada, at that time the most powerful navy in Europe.
Towards the end of her reign she started to have failing health. Bouts of depression and illnesses started to be frequent. Some attribute this to the loss of some of her close and trusted friends.
Elizabeth died in 1603 and was buried in Westminster Abbey alongside her sister Mary. As she left no heirs, James I of Scotland succeeded her.
Because she did so many good deeds for England during her reign, the people affectionately nicknamed her ‘Good Queen Bess’. Although she died in the seventeenth century, her legacy lives on.