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"I have already joined myself in marriage to a husband, namely the kingdom of England"
Elizabeth Tudor, famously known as "the Virgin Queen", was considered to be the greatest monarch in English history. When she was crowned Queen in 1558, she was a victim and survivor of scandal and danger. She inherited a nation that was bankrupt, torn by religious conflict and had severed ties with France and Spain. Queen Elizabeth is famously depicted in modern media - through television shows, documentaries and films such as Cate Blanchett's depiction of Elizabeth Tudor in Elizabeth I and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Father: King Henry VIII, infamous for having six wives and creating the Church of England (Protestant).
Mother: Anne Boleyn, second Queen to King Henry VIII, was beheaded due to high treason charges.
Half-siblings: Mary the 1st, Edward the 6th.
Elizabeth faced a rather difficult childhood after the downfall and execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn in 1536. Though she was too young to feel the considerable changes in her lifestyle, she had been stripped of her titles as "Princess" and became simply, "Lady Elizabeth". After the beheading of her mother, she was sent away from court as she was a reminder to Henry of Anne. Henry later wed Jane Seymour who then bore him a son called Edward before dying shortly afterwards. Their son would later be King Edward VI. Like Elizabeth, Edward too had grown up motherless and the two half-siblings formed a close bond. However, Elizabeth and Mary were never that close with major differences in each of them - religions (Mary was Catholic, Elizabeth was Protestant), they were of different ages (Mary was seventeen years older), family connections and personality-wise.
rom an early age, Elizabeth was given a rather impressive education - she was tutored in Latin, Greek, Spanish, French, history philosophy and mathematics. She also learnt many musical instruments and enjoyed dancing.
Henry's fifth wife (his fourth one being with Anne of Cleves which was quickly annulled), Katherine Howard was Elizabeth's cousin and she had a much more lasting impact on her. When she first dined in public, she gave Elizabeth the place of honour opposite to her . To young Elizabeth, who had spent most of her life away from court and in the shadows of country life and her education, this occasion must have been rather momentous for her. However this content state of affairs did not continue when Katherine was discovered to have committed adultery and was condemned to death at Tower Green just like Elizabeth's mother. Elizabeth was only eight years old.
Her father, King Henry VIII had married his sixth and last wife Katherine Parr in 1543 and this stage of his life proved overwhelming with his weight and a great ulcer on his leg physically hindered him immobile. He later died on the 28th of January, 1547.
Elizabeth was with her brother, Edward at the Royal Palace of Enfield when they were told of their father's death and the orphans both acknowledged that their lives were about to change considerably. Their tears may have been from grief of the death of their magnificent and tyrannical father as well as fear of the future and what may come.
When Edward was king she enjoyed a relatively good period of lifetime before he died on the 6th of July, 1553. Lady Jane Grey, was to inherit the throne as Edward did not want the crown to fall to his older half-sibling, Mary. By the 12th of July, Mary Tudor and her supporters assembled a massive military source at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. Lady Jane was deposed on the 19th of July and she and her husband, Guildford Dudley were imprisoned in the Tower of London before being beheaded due to high treason charges.
Shortly after becoming Queen, Mary wed Prince Philip of Spain which caused much disapproval and several rebellions and uprisings were made in Elizabeth's name (although she may have had little or no knowledge of them). Mary though sensed the danger from her younger sibling and imprisoned her in the tower, becoming yet another famous prisoner of the Tower of London. Queen Mary I was later known as Bloody Mary for her ruthless executions of hundreds of Protestants due to their beliefs - many were burnt at the stake. Elizabeth was released from the Tower after a few months of imprisonment and then was sent to Woodstock. She was no longer seen as a significant threat to the throne with rumours of the Queen's 'pregnancy' which later proved to be a hysterical one. News of Mary's death reached Elizabeth at Hatfield on November 17, 1558 where she was sitting under an oak tree. Upon hearing her inheritance to the throne she famously quoted 118th Psalm's 23rd line in Latin: "It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes". She was a survivor of the turbulent reigns of her father, her brother and sister and was finally Queen of England.
Many of her influences came from her education, upbringing and most of all - religion. She was raised religiously and became a strict and stout Protestant. Other influences also included many of her advisors in her earlier years of her reign who assisted her in important state affairs such as the famous Babington Plot, the threat of the Spanish Armada etc.
Elizabeth Tudor was the Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603. She was known famously as the Virgin Queen, Gloriana (a nickname penned for her by writers, poets and singers) or Good Queen Bess with her reign (Elizabethan era) nicknamed the Golden Age.
Major noteworthy achievements:
Some of the major accomplishments of Queen Elizabeth I included:
She survived the questioning she endured at the Tower of London where she was imprisoned by her half-sister Mary Tudor aka Blood Mary. She was accused of being a co-conspirator in a Protestant rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt.
Her reign saw many rebellions such as the "Rising of the North" and the Essex rebellion and various Catholic plots and conspiracies such as the Babington Plot - all of which she defeated.
She established the Poor Laws in which she achieved a new framework of support for the needy and impoverished.
Queen Elizabeth encouraged the new way of scientific thinking and men such as Sir Francis Bacon and Doctor John Dee thrived during this era.
Queen Elizabeth's reign was coined the Elizabethan era and it saw a wide increase in literacy and the arts with great poets and playwrights emerging during her era such as William Shakespeare.
Up to her death in 1603, Queen Elizabeth maintained an excellent reputation for being a wise ruler, loved by her people, loyal to her friends, accomplished in the arts and many foreign languages and achieved recognition across Europe as a leading power.
Queen Elizabeth may have seemed immortal by some but by the end of the 16th century, she started to display a very human frailty to her. By the late winter of 1602/03 she was feeling rather unwell and caught a chill and a sore throat. In the early hours of the 24th March 1603, the Queen fell into a deep sleep and passed away. The day was a Thursday, which was coincidentally the death day of her father and her sister and the eve of the annunciation of the Virgin Mary. The Queen's death was met with sadness by the general public and when it was announced on the streets of London the following morning, witnesses described the eerie silence of the stunned crowd. Queen Elizabeth had ruled for about 45 years and for some, knew no other way of life.
Queen Elizabeth's legacy was immortalised by her unforgettable reign of nearly 45 years in which she conquered rebellions, conspiracies and the hearts of her people. She was a fiery monarch who lead England as a free Queen with no King in what was very much a man's world back then. Her profound impact on English (as well as European) and medieval history changed forever due to her intelligence, impressive education, wit, loyalty to her friends and endurance. Queen Elizabeth, was famous for being known as the Virgin Queen and Gloriana, married to her country and to no man and under the sovereign's rule, this period was known as the Golden Age.
September 7, 1533 - Queen Anne Boleyn gives birth to Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII.
March 18, 1554 - Queen Mary issues the arrest, imprisonment and interrogation of Elizabeth. This imprisonment in the Tower of London lasts for 8 weeks under the false charges of leading/being involved in the Protestant rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger.
November 17, 1558 - Queen Mary I dies and Elizabeth succeeds her Catholic sister as Queen of England and re-establishes the Protestant Anglican Church.
January 13, 1559 - Elizabeth Tudor is crowned Queen of England in Westminster Abbey.
October 25, 1586 - Mary, Queen of Scots is beheaded for involvement in the Babington Plot - an assassination attempt and conspiracy against Queen Elizabeth in which Anthony Babington was the leader of the plot.
August 8, 1588 - The Spanish Armada, which included 132 ships was defeated by the English fleet of 34 ships and 163 merchant vessels led by Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins.
February 25, 1601 - Robert Devereux, previously Earl of Essex who was one of the Queen's favourite courtiers, is beheaded under the crimes of high treason and murder.
March 24, 1603 - Queen Elizabeth passes away and she is succeeded by James I of England.
Elizabethan sixpence coin
Size: 25 mm
Weight: 2.9 grams
The primary source below is a Elizabethan sixpence coin which was made in 1576 - as the tails side shows the year. This source can reveal to historians about the type of currency and money used in the Elizabethan era. The heads side of the coin displays the side view of the monarch, with her Crown jewels and ruffs of her gown. The perspective of Elizabeth based on this source is that it shows her in a rather powerful way - a sixpence coin would be seen everywhere in day to day Tudor life and the engraving of her face would further impact her influence around England.
The Coronation Portrait
This primary source is a painting known as "the Coronation Portrait". It shows the Queen, wearing an elaborate gold gown and an ermine fur throwover. She is holding the orb and sceptre - which are symbols of her authority. Note that she is also wearing the crown/crown jewels which again, maintains a clear depiction of the "Virgin Queen" aspect, of royalty and youth. This portrait is dated back to around 1600 and is probably a copy of the lost original, circa 1559. This source can reveal to historians that it has a sharp portrayal of a strong monarch - the elaborately decorated gown, the Crown, her orb and sceptre against a navy backdrop. In most of her portraits, Elizabeth always demanded that they were to be flattering depictions of her - not mostly out of vain but of maintaining the "Virgin Queen, Gloriana, a fierce and fiery English monarch" image. This can be seen in the portrait - her face, her long flowing hair and her ornate gown. Her modest display emphasises her obvious youth, beauty and virginity. She is wearing the same gown which she wore at her coronation of the 15th of January, 1559 and an ermine fur - the "Sumptuous Laws" back then stated that only royalty was permitted to wear ermine. This again symbolises her royal status as a Tudor and Queen of England. The perspective shown of Queen Elizabeth in this portrait is of a powerful, ruthless and compelling sovereign. This painting obviously wanted to show the general public a young Queen Elizabeth - modest yet majestic, young yet powerful. Essentially, this portrait was used as an attempt to convince the English community to love her and support her.
The Common Prayer Book by Thomas Cranmer
Following Elizabeth's coronation, the Act of Uniformity was passed and it restored religious worship to the way it was under King Henry VIII's rule. The Book of Common Prayer was written while Edward VI was king and it was re-established with some additions. The church still had a Catholic look however some of its activities such as pilgrimages and rosary reciting were gone, all services were spoken in English and priests were allowed to marry. This source can reveal to historians about Queen Elizabeth's life as strictly religious and Protestant. She had grown up as a stout Protestant - her father, King Henry VIII had created this new religion under the Church of England during the Reformation along with the aid of his lover and mistress at the time, Anne Boleyn. Anne would become queen and mother to Elizabeth and later, was beheaded on false accusations of high treason and adultery charges. Most of the legacy that Elizabeth created was around her success in uniting England, religiously. At her death in 1603, she had managed to unify a religiously conflicted country into a Protestant England. All of this started when the Act of Uniformity was passed and the Book of Common Prayer was reinstated. Based on this source, the perspective of Queen Elizabeth is not shown physically in the book but the reinstatement of the Protestant prayer book showed Queen Elizabeth as a strict Protestant who made it compulsory for everyone to attend Protestant church on Sundays.
Princess Elizabeth, 1546-7 at Windsor Castle, by an unknown artist
“The Coronation Portrait” circa 1600, a copy of the 1559 lost original painted by an unknown artist
“The Hampden Portrait” circa 1563, painted by Steven Van Der Meulen
“Queen Elizabeth I” circa 1565 – 1570, artist unknown perhaps Hans Eworth
“The Darnley Portrait” circa 1575, painted by unknown artist, perhaps Federico Zuccaro
“The Ditchley Portrait” circa 1592, painted by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
“Queen Elizabeth I with a Fan”, circa 1585 – 1590, painted by an unknown artist
The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
This book written by Alison Weir is a capturing biography which records her whole life in definite detail, documenting her lifetime from birth to death and all the noteworthy events in between. The text clearly demonstrates Alison Weir's extensive research into every little thing. This book is recommended for anyone who wants to study or learn about Queen Elizabeth, the backdrop of the Elizabethan court, the splendour of court life as well as the Church of England.
Elizabeth I: Queen of Tudor England by Myra Weatherly
This book, published in 2006, is a short biography written by Myra Weatherly which documents and summarises the key points of Elizabeth Tudor's life - from birth and early childhood to her last days as England's monarch and burial place. This book is historically accurate with the dates of significant events however, it does not further comment on them in explicit detail. It is only recommended as a brief and short overview of Elizabeth's life.
The Life and World of Elizabeth I by Struan Reid
This book, which was published in 2003, is a brief overview of Queen Elizabeth's childhood and adolescent years, her reign as Queen, Elizabethan court life, dangers to the throne, her personal life and death. This hardback biography displays many images - some are scans/photos of primary sources such as gowns, portraits and the palaces Elizabeth lived or grew up in.
, by Heather Thomas, self-published from 1998-2011
This site gives accurate descriptions of many events that happened during Elizabeth Tudor's lifetime. The website is easily accessible and legible with a "Contents" page, categorised pages based on certain events, timelines, significant people and religious conflicts with accurate and reliable information.
Queen Elizabeth I: Biography, Portraits, Primary Sources
, by englishhistory.net
This site shows the reader an extensive knowledge of Elizabeth Tudor's early life, her reign as well as primary sources from the time and place such as letters and portraits.
Elizabeth I Gallery
, by tudorhistory.org
This website offers a range of portraits and other various documents that were drawn up during the Elizabethan era.
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