Government and Politics

The Tudors

Why did Queen Elizabeth I have an entire age named after her?

Ascending the throne in 1558, Queen Elizabeth (1533–1603) remained in power until 1603, a 45-year period during which England dominated the seas to become a European power; colonization began, with Sir Walter Raleigh (1554–1618) and others establishing British settlements in North America; culture flourished, with the likes of William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593), and Sir Edmund Spenser (1552–1599) producing literary masterpieces; and industry and commerce boomed. This was the Elizabethan Age, one of England’s high-water marks.

One of the most well-known events of Elizabeth’s reign was England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada in July-August 1588. This event has an interesting twist. The only child of Henry VIII (1491–1547) and his second wife, Anne Boleyn (c. 1507–1536), Elizabeth had succeeded her half-sister Mary Tudor (1516–58) as queen. In the summer of 1588, the “invincible” Spanish fleet, which was headed for invasion of England, had been dispatched by none other than Spain’s Philip II (1527–1598), Mary Tudor’s former husband. Though the English were severely outnumbered (having only 34 ships to Spain’s 132), they were aided by weather and defeated the Spanish Armada on August 8. This victory at sea opened the world to English trade and colonization.

Queen Elizabeth was the last of the Tudor rulers, who are credited with strengthening the monarchy in England. They were succeeded by the House of Stuart in 1603, when James I (1566–1625), who ruled from 1603 to 1625, ascended the throne. It is that James who gave the world the King James version of the Bible. He is also notable for having been the son of Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587), whom Elizabeth I had reluctantly put to death.


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