The daughter of England’s King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was born in 1533 in Greenwich, England. Despite a turbulent childhood that included the beheading of her mother at the age of two, Elizabeth became one of England’s most popular monarchs and her reign has been described as England’s Golden Age. Her defeat of the Spanish Armada, her establishment of England’s Protestant church, and her support of the arts added much to the glory of her rule.
Although she was born with the title of princess, Elizabeth lost her title and was declared illegitimate when her mother was beheaded for what most historians deem trumped-up charges. In essence, Henry wanted to marry someone else who would produce a male heir. Elizabeth was, however, provided with one of the best educations that any woman of that period could boast. After Henry VIII died, his son Edward VI ruled briefly; his rule was followed by the bloody rule of Mary I who became infamous for burning Protestants at the stake. Despite Elizabeth’s Protestant upbringing and even a stint in the Tower of London for suspected plotting against her half-sister Mary I, she was crowned queen in 1559 at the age of twenty-five upon her sister’s death.
Elizabeth’s reign spanned forty-four years. While she controversially refused to marry, her status as the “Virgin Queen” was eventually celebrated in art as evidenced by Edmund Spencer’s famous Faerie Queene published 1590. Her Protestant church eventually transformed into the Church of England. While some historians believe she was too cautious in matters of foreign relations, her reign is perhaps most famous for the English military’s defeat of the Spanish Armada. It must also be noted that when Elizabeth inherited the crown, England was impoverished; yet, by the time of her death in 1603, England had become one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world under her rule.
Elizabeth I was a popular supporter of the arts—Shakespeare wrote during the period of her rule as well as other great writers. She was dedicated to the governing of her people, but also enjoyed music, pageants, horse riding, and hawking. Scholars consider that she had one major love interest in her life—Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The idea of their marriage, however, was adamantly opposed by her council and so Elizabeth remained unwed. Elizabeth’s execution of Mary, Queen of Scots is also a notable action of her reign; Mary, Queen of Scots was executed for plotting against Elizabeth. However, after Elizabeth’s death, Mary, Queen of Scot’s son, James I, became the King of England. Elizabeth I is buried at Westminster Abbey.