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Elizabeth I - An Introduction

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 27 Oct 2018

Elizabeth I was Queen of England from 1558-1603, succeeding her sister, Mary I after her death in 1558. Elizabeth was the second child of Henry VIII and her mother was the Protestant Anne Boleyn. Throughout her reign Elizabeth never married, and died childless in 1603, ending the House of Tudor.

Early Life

Elizabeth was born in 1533 at Greenwich Palace. During her early life she was the heir to the Tudor throne. At around aged two, her mother Anne Boleyn was executed and shortly after she lost her position as heir when her half brother Edward was born. Elizabeth spend most of her childhood in the care of various ladies who acted as Lady Mistress. She was an educated girl who would write in English, Latin and Italian. She quickly became one of the most educated women of the time.

Under the reign of Mary, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London as a result of plots and rebellions against Mary.


Elizabeth’s reign is often seen as less divisive than the reigns of previous Tudor Monarchs and was definitely very different to the reign of Mary. Elizabeth did not seek to hunt down and kill Catholics, like Mary had done to Protestants.

Elizabeth created the Church of England and made herself Supreme Governor. These actions formed the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. Whilst Elizabeth was tolerant of Catholicism, the Pope excommunicated her in 1570 and ended the loyalty of citizens to the Queen, resulting in a number of plots against her. One of these plot - the Babington Plot in 1586 eventually resulted in the execution of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.

Looking abroad Elizabeth often played France and Spain off against each other and at times weakly supported other Protestant nations in Europe such as the Netherlands. The biggest foreign policy success that Elizabeth endured was that of the Spanish Armada in 1588, which she successfully defeated.

The Elizabethan Era is also known for its theatre with great playwrights including WIlliam Shakespeare. The era also saw the beginnings of the English Empire with the discovery of the New World and the attempted colonisation of Virginia.

Significant Events:

Elizabeth faced a number of significant events during her reign including the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, the Spanish Armada and numerous plots against Elizabeth, specifically the Throckmorton, Babington and Ridolfi Plots.

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