Elizabeth I of England (1533 – 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed two and a half years after Elizabeth’s birth. Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Roman Catholic Mary, in spite of statute law to the contrary.
Edward’s will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary’s reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
Elizabeth’s reign is known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer and a dogged survivor in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardized their thrones. Such was the case with Elizabeth’s rival, Mary, Queen of Scots, whom she imprisoned in 1568 and had executed in 1587.