While there was no law in Tudor England preventing appointment of a woman on the throne, the ruling of a woman was considered unfavorable. Women were not normally held high in command because it was believed that women could not rule well. During a time where the role of women was contained, Elizabeth I of England proved her power and remained the only unmarried queen in England’s history. She reined England from 1558 to 1603 and has become the symbol of an age, a symbol of the power of a woman who strived to govern.
Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, is one of the most important rulers of English history by winning the confidence of her people in the ability to govern them, sophisticated all the characteristics of a politician to secure her right to be obeyed, created stability for her kingdom, and aided in creating an identity for England. Elizabeth’s conception greatly influenced the way she lived and the nobility she acquired in being the Queen of England.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were expectedly waiting, for many reasons, the birth of their child to be a male heir.
For the King, Henry needed a legitimate son to preserve the kingdom and independence of England for he had broken English ties with the Catholic Church. For the Queen, Anne was unpopular among the English people and to keep her place next to the King as his Queen highly depended on the sex of their baby. Though Henry already had one child, Mary, with his previous wife, Catherine of Aragon, the thought of a woman succeeding the throne after him was something he could not possibly let happen; he needed a son to lead a kingdom whose existence was still too new to be governed by a woman.
On September 7th, 1533, Anne and Henry gave birth to a daughter. While Elizabeth’s birth was disappointing, she was still cherished as a member of the royal family and heir to the throne. Anne was executed for adultery when Elizabeth was merely three thus rendering Elizabeth illegitimate. Considering family life was usually the center of a child’s existence, she did not grow up unhappy. She focused her time on schooling as Waldman explains, “The change in her position in no way diminished the care and thought given to her education.
She was still the King’s daughter, after all, and even if ineligible for the throne, more important than one else’s daughter; and daughters were considered, at least amongst the upper classes, entitled to have as much care given to their educations as sons. ” While she was no longer a heir to the throne, Elizabeth was treated no different; she was still the daughter of the King. Personal disappointment of no longer being a heir to the throne was nonexistent. In fact, she took this opportunity and excelled in her education.
Specialized tutors taught Elizabeth to be fluent in Latin, Greek, French, and Italian, and explored arithmetic, astronomy, physics, logic, rhetoric, music, and sports such as riding horses and archery. She had a well-rounded education, one that would qualify to the people in being a leader, which impressed many. Ascham, one of Elizabeth’s wisest tutors, spoke to a friend of her demeanor, “’She has just passed her sixteenth birthday, and her seriousness and gentleness are unheard of in those of her age and rank. Her study of the true faith and of good learning is most energetic.
She has talent without a woman’s weakness, industry with a man’s perseverance. ” Elizabeth developed an outstanding education, an opportunity that was not given to most women during this time. Once she had finished her formal education, she was considered the best educated woman of her generation. She became an intellectual, which paved the way in being a successful and influential Queen. Elizabeth’s accession to the throne was one of the most disputable crises of royal children in sixteenth-century history and was the first sign of support from the English people.
When Elizabeth was fourteen, her half brother, Edward, took the throne as King Edward VI in 1553, but died from illness leaving Mary, second in heir, to succeed the throne. During her reign, Queen Mary persecuted Protestants and tried to reestablish Catholicism in England. Already, Mary was becoming unpopular in the eyes of the English. However, her reputation began a downward spiral. Mary and Elizabeth became very different especially in their religious views.
A rival began and Mary, “For her, more particularly, it was above all important to have an heir who would exclude Elizabeth and secure the future of the Catholic faith in England. This meant Mary needed to marry in a position where Elizabeth could not succeed the throne thus she looked to Prince Philip, the son of the emperor of Spain. Spain was the greatest power in Europe during this time, and the English believed this alliance would put the nation in the hands of the Spanish. Thomas Wyatt led a rebellion against Queen of Mary, and The Commons looked for an alternative with Edward Courtenay and if their plan proved true, “Elizabeth was to marry Courtenay and thus assure a native-born succession to the throne. ” Ultimately, this would prevent a foreign power to the English throne.
Wyatt wrote to both Elizabeth and Courtenay with his intentions of overthrowing the government in hopes that the two would be placed on the throne. Mary and her advisors intercepted the letter and questioned Elizabeth of treason. She was locked away and examined by the Council. Elizabeth wrote a letter to her sister: Therefore once again kneeling with humbleness of my heart, because I am not suffered to bow the knees of my body, I humbly crave to speak with your Highness, which I would not be so bold to desire if I knew not myself most clear as I know myself most true.
And as for the traitor Wyatt, he might peradventure write me a letter but on my faith I never received any from him; and as for the copy of my letter sent to the French King, I pray God confound me eternally if ever I sent him word, message, token or letter by any means, and to this truth I stand it to my death. Elizabeth pled her innocence – her character true and loyal to her sister – and Mary denied to meet with Elizabeth. The English stood by their Lady’s side, “when bystanders shouted ‘God save the Queen’, there was no response when the cry was ‘God save the Lady Elizabeth’, the answer came, ‘so be it’. The people favored Lady Elizabeth over Queen Mary. When there was no evidence to prove Lady Elizabeth’s involvement against this treason, she was let go upon Wyatt’s confession that neither Elizabeth or Courtenay had any involvement in the rebellion. The importance of the dispute is that the English supported Lady Elizabeth over their own Queen. The nation’s religious state was most comparable to Elizabeth’s – she was protestant – and the Queen was, in their eyes, putting the fait of their country in reach of one of the most powerful nations during that time.
The English supported Lady Elizabeth, even before she became Queen. Queen Mary married Philip, ruled, and died shortly after in 1558 just before she declared Elizabeth her heir. Elizabeth was now declared Queen of England. The people favored Elizabeth above all candidates for the throne for she showed character that Mary did not have. The ability to handle political rivalries proved her worthy of having characteristics of a politician, and with their support, she won the confidence of her people in the ability to govern them.
Her disputable accession to the throne not only made a mark in history, the beginning of many in being an influential leader, but it also proved her popularity amongst the people. The New Queen’s first task was to create a unified, stable nation under one religion. Before Elizabeth’s reign, England faced divisions in the nation, contests for the throne, and death of princes. The kingdom had known no stability and while they had faith in Elizabeth, all were waiting to see what she could do. Repairs were called to restore the nation to good working order, and the nation was seeing if, finally, they had the leader they were looking for.
Twenty years before her reign, the country claimed three different kinds of religion: Anglo-Catholicism under Henry VIII, Protestantism under Edward and Catholicism under Mary. It was not allowed, during this time, for a person to worship a religion they most believed in. “All had to worship the same way, and each change had been accompanied by persecution and left a legacy of hatred amongst those who preferred another way. ” The Queen was at discourse either way in that selecting one religion would create enemies, and to select none would be worst of all – different divisions would fight amongst the others until one had diminished the rest.
While there was pressure to aid other Protestants in Europe and fight against Catholicism, the Queen established a compromise church, an English Protestant Church in 1559, where it preserved as much as possible from the Catholic church while also adopting fundamental ideas of Protestantism. Elizabeth dubbed herself the Supreme Governor over the Church of England believing that the position was rightfully hers. To validate her position, the Queen found it important to establish the Act of Supremacy.
Under this, “The Act of Supremacy also recognized the right of the Supreme Governor to delegate her authority in certain ecclesiastical matters to commissioners, and established a Court of High Commission, also known as the Ecclesiastical Commission. The commissioners were empowered to punish crimes against ecclesiastical law, to settle ecclesiastical disputes, and to enforce religious uniformity. ” In no way did this mean she was head of the church but left her, along with bishops, the responsibility of shaping the national church and carrying out the law. In order to politically constitute her church, Elizabeth formed the
Act of Uniformity, the official doctrine. It accommodated the compromise church and, “re-establishing the second Edwardian prayer book as the only lawful form of worship, with the one small but significant alteration in the words of administration in the sacrament of holy communion, an alteration which threw a crust to the adherents of the old faith but also reflected Protestant uncertainties about the true nature of the sacrament. ” These principles were straightforward; she forced people to attend Sunday service and was bound by law to follow the Book of Common Prayer, the sacraments, rights, and ceremonies of the church.
Elizabeth’s Protestant regime proved to be incredibly successful, because the English people left their traditional views behind and the nation was finally united under one religion. Around one to two percent of the population remained Catholic at the end of Elizabeth’s reign. Queen Elizabeth I greatest legacy is establishing the Church of England, proven to be one of the most important rulers of English history. Queen Elizabeth’s defeat of the Spanish Armada is considered one of the most famous events in English history.
She was already considered a hero among the English people, but now she demonstrated it through conquering against the most powerful country in the sixteenth-century. Though Spain and England once had friendly ties, Philip of Spain and Queen Mary had been married, their relationship slowly crumbled. Spain became furious with England for many reasons: Spain was Roman Catholic while the England prided itself on successfully establishing a Protestant state, English ships seized treasure from Philip’s ships on its’ way back from the New World, and for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587.
Outraged, Philip planned to invade England and take over the throne, the throne he believed was rightfully his both by decent and being married to Queen Mary. Elizabeth prepared for the attack. While the Spanish Armada, consisting of over 18,000 men in about 150 ships, made their way up the English Channel on July 19th, 1558, the English were prepared with 163 ships waiting for battle. Their plan was to meet the Armada before the Spanish reached the coastline. English ships were more superior in sailing abilities and had stronger gun-power, thus greatly damaging ships of the Spanish fleet.
On August 8th, Queen Elizabeth encouraged forces with her speech at Tilbury: I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust.
I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you.
In the mean my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble and worthy subject; not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valor in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people. The Queen asked her people to fight for their country. No one should have the right to invade their country. It was time to prove their worth. Elizabeth put confidence and hope in her people.
The English followed Spanish ships to the sandbanks of the Netherlands where they were weakened by the attack, fled and were forced to sail around Scotland and Ireland, abandoning the invasion. English ships proved their ships to be faster and war tactics stronger. England and Queen Elizabeth successfully defeated the Spanish Armada in September 1588. When England was considered small, many enemies, and little wealth, they conquered the Spanish Armada against the greatest power during the sixteenth-century.
Queen Elizabeth’s defended her country and won the confidence of her people in the ability to govern them. Before Elizabeth’s reign, England faced divisions in the nation, contests for the throne, and death of princes. She emphasized national identity and successfully stabilized the Kingdom of England – something that rulers, including males, had not accomplished. Her accession to the throne was brought by her winning popularity amongst the English people.
Her greatest achievements, creating an identity for England, establishing the Church of England, and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, won the confidence of her people in the ability to govern them and has made her one the most important English rulers of all time. When men undermined the role of women, Queen Elizabeth I became the Ruler of the Golden Age, an image that maintains its hold on the English people to this day.
Barton, Edwarde and Pears, Edwin. “The Spanish Armada and the Ottoman Porte. ” The English Historical Review, Vol. , No. 31 (Jul. , 1894): 439-466. Hibbert, Christopher. The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. , 1924. Loades, David. Elizabeth I. Hambledon and London, 2003. Levin, Carole. The Reign of Elizabeth I. Palgrave, 2002. MacCaffrey, Wallace. Elizabeth I. Edward Arnold, 1993. Waldman, Milton. Queen Elizabeth I. Archon Books, 1966. “Queen Elizabeth I Against the Spanish Armada. ” The History Place: Great SpeechesCollection. Web. 8 Apr. 2010. <http://www. historyplace. com/speeches/ elizabeth. htm>.
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