Portrait of Elizabeth I as a Princess

Born in 1533, Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Before she was three years old, her mother was beheaded, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. She was mostly neglected by her father until his last wife, Catherine Parr, brought his children together. Catherine Parr took charge of Elizabeth and ensured she received a good education.

When she was thirteen years old, her father died and her younger brother, Edward, became king. After his untimely death, her elder sister, Mary, took the throne. This was a dangerous time for Elizabeth. She was a Protestant and Mary was staunchly Catholic. In 1554, Elizabeth was briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London following an attempted rebellion. Elizabeth denied all knowledge, and Mary let her sister live.

In 1558 at the age of 25, Elizabeth became the Queen of England after Mary’s death. She once again brought the country under the Church of England, with herself at the head. Unlike her sister, Elizabeth was mostly tolerant of other religions. She even allowed some Catholic traditions to be maintained.

Elizabeth remained unmarried throughout her reign. She often used marriage as a political tool but maintained that she was married to the country. She did, however, cause a scandal throughout Europe with her relationship with Robert Dudley. Robert Dudley was a childhood friend of Elizabeth’s who was married but kept his wife in the country while he remained at Court. Elizabeth kept Robert Dudley close at all times: she even had his rooms moved to next to hers. This caused the gossip mill to churn and many speculated they were lovers. When Robert Dudley died, Elizabeth kept to her room for days, unable to face the court.

During Elizabeth’s reign, England flourished as trade and travel expanded. Sir Francis Drake became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. The arts thrived, and Shakespeare was probably the most famous Elizabethan artist. Elizabeth also successfully fended off the Spanish Armada. After forty five years of rule, she died on 24 March 1603 at Richmond Palace.

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