Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was born Elizabeth Tudor on September 7, 1533. She was the first daughter of King Henry VIII and only child of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Portrait of Elizabeth
George Gower (ca. 1540-1596) “Plimpton Sieve Portrait.” Image courtesy of Folger Digital Image Collection

King Henry had her mother executed when Elizabeth was three years old, partly because Anne was unable to give birth to a male heir. Although Elizabeth had replaced her sister Mary, Henry’s daughter with his first wife Katherine of Aragon, as heir to the throne, when Anne was beheaded, she lost primacy in the line of succession. Ultimately, Henry’s son Edward IV would succeed his father, followed by Lady Jane Grey (the nine days’ queen), Mary, and then Elizabeth.  

From an early age, Elizabeth received a rigorous education, unlike many women during the time period. At age eleven she translated a poem from French to English. By the time she took the throne, Elizabeth was fluent in Greek, French, Italian, and Latin. She was also well-versed in Math, History, Geography, and Astronomy.

When Mary took the throne, she determined Elizabeth was a threat to her reign. A devout (if arguably fanatic) Catholic, Mary had returned England to the “old faith,” and many subjects wanted the Protestant Elizabeth to rule instead. Mary ordered Elizabeth locked in the Tower of London from 1554 until her own death in 1558.

When she took the throne in 1558, Elizabeth followed her father and returned England to Protestant rule. This created an uproar between the Catholic church and Queen Elizabeth I. The Pope even went as far as to tell the people of England that killing the Queen would not be viewed as a sin. 

One of Queen Elizabeth’s greatest accomplishments was defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588. Philip of Spain had attempted to invade England and force them back to Catholicism in the name of the Catholic Church. The Spanish invasion was thwarted by a storm, and England was victorious. This victory brought Queen Elizabeth adoration from her subjects, and a large sense of pride surged throughout the country. 

Despite her advisors urging her to marry and produce an heir, Queen Elizabeth I notoriously refused. Instead, she chose to marry her country; England would be her husband and its people her children. She was referred to as “The Virgin Queen.”

Elizabeth’s lack of an heir, however, worried her people, especially as she grew older. Eventually, she named James IV of Scotland as her heir, the second son of Queen Mary of Scots, one of Elizabeth’s enemies who she’d had executed in 1587.

Queen Elizabeth I died on March 24, 1603 after reigning for 45 years.

The words on her tomb in Westminster Abbey read, “Here lyes interr’d Elizabeth, A virgin pure untill her Death.”

Queen Elizabeth I
%d bloggers like this: