Elizabeth was born in 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. After her mother was beheaded she was declared illegitimate. Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London for much of Mary’s reign on suspicion of plotting with Protestants to remove Mary from the throne and take her place. She had been excluded from the succession by Edward VI due to her illegitimacy but this was overturned by the government following Mary’s death.
Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 15th January 1559.
As Queen, Elizabeth needed to win the support of her people, both Catholics and Protestants, and those who believed that a woman could not rule a country by herself. One of the best ways for a monarch to win support was by making a tour of the country and showing themselves to the people. However, Elizabeth had many Catholic enemies and it was not safe for her to travel around the country. She chose, instead, to use portraits to show herself to her people. It was, therefore, essential that the portraits showed an image of Elizabeth that would impress her subjects. At intervals throughout her reign the government issued portraits of Elizabeth that were to be copied and distributed throughout the land. No other portraits of the Queen were allowed.
From the time of her accession, Elizabeth was pursued by a variety of suitors, eager to marry the most eligible woman in the world. However, Elizabeth never married. One theory is that she never married because the way that her father had treated his wives had put her off marriage, another is that she was abused by Thomas Seymour while under the care of Katherine Parr, a third theory suggests that she was so in love with Robert Dudley that she could not bring herself to marry another man. When Elizabeth became Queen, Robert Dudley was already married. Some years later his wife died in mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth could not marry him because of the scandal it would cause both at home and abroad.
As queen, Elizabeth established a moderate Protestant church with the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Her action led to her excommunication by the Pope and also made her subject to Catholic plots to remove her from the throne and replace her with her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. This ultimately led to Elizabeth being forced to sign the warrant for Mary Queen of Scots’ execution.
Her foreign policy was largely defensive, however her support of the Dutch against Spain was a contributory factor that led to the invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Elizabeth died in 1603. Her death marked the end of the Tudor dynasty. She was succeeded by Mary Queen of Scots’ son James.