Elizabeth I And The Elizabethan Period

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The very fact that Elizabeth became Queen at all almost indicates some predestination toward greatness and defiance of normal expectations. The daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn (who later was executed for treason), Elizabeth was third in line of succession, following her younger half-brother Edward (son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour) and her older half-sister Mary (daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon). Under normal circumstances, it would be unlikely that she would ever assume the throne. However, as has often happened throughout history, events did not follow their predicted course. The nine-year old Edward became King Edward VI on the death of Henry VIII in 1547, but he had little opportunity to establish himself as a monarch, dying at the age of 15. He was succeeded by Mary I (1553-1558), whose relentless efforts to return England to Catholicism brought about a true reign of terror and stifled any possibility of forward movement in the nation. When Mary died suddenly in 1558, Elizabeth I became Queen.
In both intellect and temperament, Elizabeth was well-suited for the role of monarch. She was exceptionally well-educated, having been tutored at her fathers court by Roger Ascham, one of the most outstanding scholars and thinkers of the age. Her intellectual interests were broad, ranging from history and science to art, literature, and philosophy, and she was a remarkably astute political strategist. Not only did she return the country to internal political and religious stability in the wake of Bloody Marys reign, she directed Englands course as it became a powerful force among European nations. Both Spain and France felt the effects of Englands growing strength and audacity under Elizabeths rule. Furthermore, Elizabeth shrewdly perceived that great political advantage could be gained from her status as an unmarried monarch, and throughout her reign various political alliances via marriage were hinted at but never finalized. Sir Francis Drakes circumnavigation of the globe (1577-1580) added to the nations prestige and competitiveness in navigation and exploration. However, the pinnacle of Englands power at sea was the triumphant defeat of the mighty Spanish Armada in 1588, which secured the nations position as a world power. Eleven years later, in 1599, England entered the arena of world trade and colonization, which it would dominate for the next three centuries, with the chartering of the East India Company. The Queens tastes in fashion set the standard for the aristocracy and the rest of society; her love of music, drama, and poetry fostered an atmosphere in which many of Englands greatest writers found encouragement and financial patronage. Under Elizabeths leadership, England experienced the true cultural reawakening or renaissance of thought, art, and vision which had begun in Italy a century earlier. Elizabeths court was a magnet which attracted the most talented ...

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