Queen Elizabeth: Golden Age

Elizabeth’s Golden Age Elizabeth was Queen of England from 1558-1603. During that time England was a strong country and she was a successful queen. Many people thought Elizabeth would not last long without a powerful husband but they were proved wrong. In fact Elizabeth was very clever in not choosing a husband. She didn’t choose a husband because she didn’t want anybody taking over her throne. There were four men that she could have married but said no to. The first man was Philip of Spain. Philip of Spain had married Elizabeth’s sister Mary and was expecting Elizabeth to say yes to his proposal.

Elizabeth turned him down though because she didn’t want to marry the same man as her sister and also Philip was a devout Catholic. The English didn’t like foreigners and hated Catholic ones even more. There had been a rebellion when Mary had married Philip. This was another reason why Elizabeth decided not to marry Philip. Another man whom Elizabeth could have married was Charles of Austria. She decided against him as well though because she thought that he would use England to fight his own wars and she didn’t want England to get caught up in other countries squabbles.

Elizabeth could have also married a wealthy nobleman from a powerful English family but decided against him too as if she had married him then the other noblemen could have got jealous and started a rebellion. She was also clever in not marrying a nobleman because if she kept them all guessing then they would all remain loyal as they would all think that they had a chance to get some wealth and power. The last man of which she turned down was Robert Dudley who was a good looking man and whose wife had just passed away. Elizabeth turned him down too though as she thought that he might take the chance to steal her throne away from her.

Even though Elizabeth was very clever in not choosing a husband that would take over all her power, some sexist historians will argue that although Elizabeth didn’t have a husband she had excellent Male advisors who helped and supported her throughout her reign. One of these men was William Cecil or Lord Burghley. During his time, William Cecil helped Elizabeth through her reign and was always there for her. He served her as secretary, served her as position of Lord Treasurer and together with the help of Sir Francis Walsingham devised an intricate spy network that helped uncover the Babington Plot.

He was also instrumental in having Mary Queen of Scots executed and even when he had lost his hearing at the age of seventy, continued to serve Elizabeth who looked upon him as a father figure. He carried on serving Elizabeth all the way until his death in 1598. One of her greatest challenges was to hold England together despite the religious divisions amongst her people. Elizabeth did this by setting a middle road. Elizabeth wanted England to have peace and not be divided over religion. She tried to find ways which both the Catholic and Protestant sides would accept and be happy.

She made Protestantism the official religion in England. She did not call herself the Head of the Church of England, instead she was known as the Supreme Governor of the English Church. To please the Protestants she made all churches use the prayer book in English that Edward had used and allowed the priests once again to marry. To please the Catholics she made some changes to some words in the prayer book and also let priests were special vestments. She did not give way to extremists though and would punish them. Even though she would punish Protestants and Catholics she would always punish Catholics more severely.

If a protestant extremist wrote a book saying anything bad or wrong about Elizabeth’s decisions to divide the country peacefully would have their writing hand chopped off to stop them writing any more books. But if a Catholic extremist was caught trying to convert someone to Catholicism then they would be arrested, tortured and then eventually hanged. Elizabeth’s treatment of the extremists may have seemed horrible but it got the message across and England ended up much better than it had started off. Elizabeth dealt with opposition from inside the country effectively.

She didn’t only deal with extremists but also dealt with Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary returned to Scotland after her first husband’s death. She married again to her first cousin, Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley) four years later but their union was unhappy and in February 1567 there was a big explosion at their house and Darnley was found dead in the garden, apparently strangled. She soon married James Hepburn who was actually the main murder suspect for Lord Darnley’s murder. But soon after, following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in a castle.

After an unsuccessful attempt to reclaim the throne, Mary fled to England to seek protection from her first cousin, once removed, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had Mary arrested though as soon as she was in the country. This was because of the threat that Mary presented, who had previously claimed the throne to be her own. Mary spent nineteen years in custody, guarded in castles and manor houses across England until she was tried and executed by Elizabeth for her involvement in the Babington plot, a plot to assassinate Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s treatment of Mary not just helped stop the Babington plot but helped Elizabeth’s control of England too. This is because Elizabeth had executed one of the head Catholics which make the others think again and had also helped her since Mary would have been the next in line to the throne after Elizabeth. A successful ruler needs to keep her country safe. Elizabeth did this by defeating the Spanish Armada. Philip of Spain thought Elizabeth as an illegitimate ruler of England. Elizabeth had also helped the Dutch in the Dutch revolt against Spain.

As retaliation, Philip sent out a fleet of ships, Armada, to invade and conquer England. The fleet set out with 22 warships and an intention of sailing through the English Channel. Philip’s plan was going well and the Armada had reached its first goal, to anchor at the coastal border area between France and the Spanish Netherlands. While awaiting communications from the army that would invade the South East of England, it was driven from its anchorage by an English fire ship attack. England had already defeated many of the Spanish ships so the Spanish fleet decided regroup and withdraw north.

A return voyage to Spain was plotted and the fleet sailed into the Atlantic, past Ireland but severe storms disrupted the fleet’s course. More than 24 vessels were wrecked insuring that England had victory. There was one thing that got the Englishmen ready and motivated and that was Elizabeth’s speech. During her speech she said “ I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and soul of a King, and a Kind of England too! ” Throughout her reign Elizabeth saw the importance of maintaining an image.

She got artists to paint portraits of her throughout her life. But she didn’t just have normal portraits painted, she had them painted with significant things in. An example of this is that she would be wearing very expensive clothes to show she had wealth. During her paintings she could also have a bible in her hand to show that she held power over the religions, she could have a map in her hand to show that she ruled over the world and in one of her portraits she had Elizabeth Regina (Elizabeth Queen) written behind her.

She is also clever in one of these photos as if you look at the top of the portrait you see the Spanish Armada sailing out to invade England on the left, Elizabeth herself is in the middle and then you have the wrecks of the Spanish Armada on the right. If we look for one single thing that made Elizabeth successful it must be her intelligence. I have chosen this because she was clever in not choosing a husband, she sorted out the religious divisions, she defeated an Armada with a single speech and also maintained a perfect image throughout. This is why, even today, her reign is known as The Golden Age. By Joe Tapper.

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