Queen Elizabeth I was one of the most influential and respected British monarchs. Here are some fascinating facts about her life and reign.
Did You Know?
The great empress Elizabeth was utterly terrified of mice!
Birth: September 7, 1533
Death: March 24, 1603
Dynasty: House of Tudor
Parents: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Reign: Nov 17, 1558 – March 24, 1603
Also Known As: The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, Good Queen Bess
Interesting Facts About Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne of England on November 17, 1558 and ruled until her death in 1603. Also referred to as the Virgin Queen, the Good Queen Bess, the Faerie Queen, and Gloriana, she was the 5th and the last Tudor ruler. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife.
Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed when Elizabeth was two, and she was declared illegitimate. This, coupled with the birth of Prince Edward — the long-awaited male heir — after Henry VIII’s marriage to Jane Seymour, eliminated any chance of Elizabeth being the heiress. Before the birth of Edward, Elizabeth had been next-in-line to take over from Henry VIII. Elizabeth was now third in line to the throne, the first being Edward, and Mary Tudor, her half-sister, the second. Mary (Mary I) was the daughter of Henry VIII from his first marriage, to Lady Catharine of Aragon.
When Henry VIII died, Edward, who was just 10 years of age, became the king as Edward VI. Both Edward and Elizabeth were brought up in the Protestant faith, whereas Mary Tudor, their half sister, grew up as a staunch Catholic. This would later prove crucial in the power struggles of post-Henry VIII Britain.
Mary succeeded to the throne in 1553 upon the death of Edward, and immediately installed Catholicism as the religion of the state. She had Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower of London for two months, suspecting her of hatching a plot with the Protestants to take over the throne. However, when Mary I died in 1558, Elizabeth, who had always been regarded as the natural (and possibly unwilling) leader of the Protestants, finally became the Queen of England.
The approximate cost of the Queen’s coronation was somewhere around 16,800 pounds, which in modern currency equals almost 3 and a half million pounds!
Despite being a bit whimsical and autocratic, Elizabeth was blessed with shrewd political savvy, which led to her choosing her ministers wisely, such as: Francis Walsingham, the head of the intelligence; Christopher Hatton, the Lord Chancellor; and William Cecil, the Secretary of State.
The 45 years of her rule is generally regarded as one the most glorious periods in the history of England. She oversaw the establishment of a reformed Church of England, with its doctrines being instituted in the 39 Articles created in 1563, which was a compromise made between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. This compromise was accepted by most of her subjects, and it is thought that this settlement prevented England from experiencing the religious wars that beset France in the latter part of the 16th century.
Elizabeth led Britain to a sustained period of prosperity. She lessened the hostilities that England had previously held with other countries, going to war only in self-defense. This included the legendary defeat of the Spanish Armada.
It was during Queen Elizabeth’s reign that England forged a powerful national identity. England became a political, military and cultural hub during her reign, and, despite her defensive tactics, a feared European power.
Under the leadership of Queen Elizabeth I, England also expanded on exploration and trade. In fact, the final years of her rule are referred to as the “Golden Age of England”. The coasts of North and South America were first explored during her reign, with the first colonies being set up in the so-called “New World”. The American state of Virginia, which was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh, one of Elizabeth’s favorite courtiers, was in fact named after her, the Virgin Queen.
Queen Elizabeth I was also a good poet and loved writing poetry. She also translated books from French and Latin into English.
Elizabeth was well-educated and was a polyglot, being fluent in English, Flemish, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, French and Greek.
Some of the most famous writers, poets, musicians, and scholars in English history flourished during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The examples include the famous poet Edmund Spencer, influential philosopher Francis Bacon, playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, and, of course, the greatest of them all, William Shakespeare.
Elizabeth I is the ninth-longest serving British monarch in history. Her rule brought about stability and peace in Britain, and is often mentioned as one of the best periods in the history of the UK.
Elizabeth never married, despite several courtships. This led to her being named the Virgin Queen. The most famous of her courtships was with childhood friend Robert Dudley. After Dudley’s wife became terminally ill, it became an open secret that the Queen wanted to marry Dudley. But she was foiled, as Dudley chose Lettice Knollys as his second wife. Angry at her rejection, the Queen banned Dudley and his wife from court.
Queen Elizabeth I was notorious for her bad temper. She swore and cursed, and allegedly threw a slipper at one of her courtiers and spat on another because she didn’t like the way they dressed!
Elizabeth I liked to study, and devoted at least a couple of hours everyday to reading.
Elizabeth I sometimes disguised herself as an ordinary citizen, so that she wouldn’t attract attention.
Elizabeth I grew up very fond of fashion, and would dress up extravagantly when going out in public, in dresses embroidered with jewels! Although she wanted her courtiers to dress well, no one was allowed to dress better than her!
During the Elizabethan Era, baths were considered a luxury, and were not indulged in very often, certainly not everyday. Queen Elizabeth I had a bath every few weeks, which was still considered pretty frequent at that time!
Queen Elizabeth I was really fond of sweets; so much so that many that her teeth turned black due to decay, and a few even fell out. She was scared of having her decayed teeth extracted, and had one of her archbishops extract two of his own teeth, so that she could see for herself that the pain was tolerable!
Queen Elizabeth I also applied layers of heavy make up to hide the scars from a bout of smallpox she had suffered.
Elizabeth had a lot of hobbies, such as music
(she played the lute very well), horse riding (she was so fond of it that her courtiers were scared she would harm herself from riding too much!), dancing (she danced every morning to keep herself fit), singing and hunting. She also loved the arts, especially dramas.