Princess Elizabeth was born on September 7, 1533. Her father was Henry VIII, the King of England, and her mother was Queen Anne. She was heir to the throne of England.
Queen Elizabeth by Unknown
King Henry Wanted a Boy
Unfortunately, King Henry did not want a daughter. He wanted a son who would be his heir and take over as king someday. He wanted a son so bad that he divorced his first wife, Catherine, when she didn't have a son. When Elizabeth was just three years old, the king had her mother, Queen Anne Boleyn, put to death for high treason (although it was really because she did not have a son). Then he married another wife, Jane, who finally gave him the son he wanted, Prince Edward.
No Longer a Princess
When the king remarried, Elizabeth was no longer heir to the throne or even a princess. She lived in her half-brother Edward's household. However, she still lived much like the daughter of a king. She had people who took good care of her and tutors who helped her with her studies. She was very bright and learned to read and write in many different languages. She also learned how to sew and play a piano-like musical instrument called the virginal.
Elizabeth's father, King Henry VIII continued to marry different wives. He married a total of six times. His last wife, Katherine Parr, was kind to Elizabeth. She made sure that Elizabeth had the best tutors and was raised in the Protestant faith.
Her Father Dies
When Elizabeth was thirteen years old her father, King Henry, died. Her father left the throne to his son Edward, but he did leave Elizabeth a substantial income on which to live. While Edward was king she enjoyed living the life of a wealthy lady.
Sister to the Queen
Soon, however, young King Edward became sick and died at the age of fifteen. Elizabeth's half-sister Mary became Queen. Mary was a devout Catholic and demanded that all of England convert to the Catholic religion. Those that didn't were thrown in prison or even killed. Mary also married a Spanish prince named Philip.
The people of England didn't like Queen Mary. Queen Mary became worried that Elizabeth would try and take over her throne. She had Elizabeth put in prison for being a Protestant. Elizabeth actually spent two months in a jail cell at the Tower of London.
From Prisoner to Queen
Elizabeth was under house arrest when Mary died. In just a few moments, she went from prisoner to Queen of England. She was crowned Queen of England on January 15, 1559 at the age of twenty-five.
Elizabeth worked hard at being a good queen. She visited different towns and cities in England and tried to keep her people safe. She set up a council of advisors called the Privy Council. The Privy Council helped her when dealing with other countries, working with the army, and taking care of other important issues. Elizabeth's most trusted advisor was her Secretary of State William Cecil.
Plots Against the Queen
Throughout Elizabeth's long forty-four year reign as queen, many people tried to have her assassinated and to take over her throne. This included her cousin Queen Mary of Scots who tried to have Elizabeth killed numerous times. Finally, Elizabeth had the Queen of Scots captured and put to death. In order to know who was plotting against her, Elizabeth set up a spy network throughout England. Her spy network was run by another member of her Privy Council, Sir Francis Walsingham.
War with Spain
Elizabeth avoided fighting wars. She did not want to conquer other countries. She only wanted England to be safe and prosper. However, when she had the Catholic Queen Mary of Scots killed, the King of Spain would not stand for it. He sent the powerful Spanish Armada, a fleet of warships, to conquer England.
The outgunned English navy met the Armada and was able to set fire to many of their ships. Then a huge storm hit the Armada and caused many more of their ships to sink. The English somehow won the battle and less than half of the Spanish ships made it back to Spain.
The Elizabethan Age
The defeat of the Spanish ushered England into an age of prosperity, peace, and expansion. This time is often referred to as the Elizabethan Age and is considered by many to be the golden age in the history of England. This era is perhaps most famous for the blossoming of English Theatre, especially the playwright William Shakespeare. It was also a time of exploration and the expansion of the British Empire into the New World.
Queen Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603 and was buried in Westminster Abby. She was succeeded by James VI of Scotland.
Interesting Facts about Queen Elizabeth I
In 1562 she became sick with smallpox. Unlike many people who died from the disease, she managed to survive.
Elizabeth liked to have pictures painted of her. There were more portraits painted of her than any other English monarch.
After becoming queen, Elizabeth enjoyed dressing in fancy gowns. The style of the times followed her lead becoming full of ruffles, braids, wide sleeves, intricate embroidery, and lined with jewels.
By the end of her reign, there were around 200,000 people living in the city of London.
She was a huge fan of William Shakespeare's plays.
Her nicknames include Good Queen Bess and The Virgin Queen.