Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I of England was born at Greenwich, London on September 7th 1533.
She was one of Henry VIII's three children. She was the third child to take over the throne after her half-brother Edward VI and her half-sister Mary I. Each child was born to a different mother.
Elizabeth became Queen in 1588 and ruled until 1603. Her reign became known as 'The Elizabethan Age'.
The first problem for Elizabeth was religion. She pretended to be a Catholic while her Catholic sister (Mary I) was Queen. However, immediately after Mary's death Elizabeth declared herself a Protestant - her true religion inherited from her father, Henry VIII.
One of Elizabeth's most difficult political problems was what to do about Mary, her Roman Catholic cousin and Queen of Scotland. Mary had asked Elizabeth for shelter in England after she was run out of Scotland by her half-brother, James Stuart. However, Elizabeth had to imprison Mary. Some people believed that Mary was the true Queen of both England and Scotland, so Elizabeth kept Mary a prisoner for many years until she finally decided to have her executed in 1587.
This gave the Catholic King Philip II of Spain good reason to declare war on England. He sent a fleet, the 'Spanish Armada', to invade England in 1588, but he lost this battle when he was beaten by Sir Francis Drake. England took over from Spain as the master of the seas.
In Elizabethan times, England became a rich and powerful country. It had famous sailors such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Martin Frobisher. Many famous writers including Shakespeare created their greatest works.
It was also a powerful Protestant country. Elizabeth's first Parliament was mainly Protestant. Parliament passed laws that supported the Church of England so that it became the most important Church in the land. Roman Catholics were left out of important decisions and treated badly.
Elizabeth became more unpopular as she grew older. Many thought she was too extravagant and too powerful. She was alone and unhappy in the last years of her life.
She died in Richmond, Surrey on March 24th 1603, at the age of 69.
As she had never married, there were no children to take over the English throne, and it passed to James VI, the son of Mary Queen of Scots.
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