The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she was declared illegitimate just before the execution of her mother in 1536, but in 1544 Parliament reestablished her in the succession after her half brother, Edward (later Edward VI), and her half sister, Mary (later 秃鹰pcpMary I). Elizabeth was well educated by a series of tutors, most notably Roger Ascham.
In 1553 she supported the claims of Mary I over Lady Jane Grey. After Mary was crowned, Elizabeth was careful to avoid implication in the plot of the younger Sir Thomas Wyatt (1554). Nevertheless, since Elizabeth's potential succession to the throne inevitably furnished a rallying point for discontented Protestants, she was imprisoned. She later regained a measure of freedom through outward conformity to Roman Catholicism.
One of Elizabeth's first acts was to reestablish Protestantism (see England, Church of) through the acts of Supremacy and Uniformity (1559). The measures against Roman Catholics (see Penal Laws) grew harsher over the course of her reign, particularly after the rebellion of the Catholic earls of Northumberland and Westmorland (1569), Elizabeth's excommunication by the pope (1570), and the coming of the Jesuit missionaries (1580). But the persecution of the Catholics was due, at least in part, to a series of plots to murder Elizabeth and seat the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. English Puritans, like the Catholics, objected to the Established Church, and a severe law against conventicles (unauthorized religious assemblies) in 1593 kept the separatist movement underground for the time.
At the beginning of her reign, Elizabeth's government enacted needed currency reforms and took steps to mend English credit abroad. Other legislation of the reign dealt with new social and economic developments—the Statute of Apprentices (1563) to stabilize labor conditions; the poor laws (1563–1601) to attempt some remedy of widespread poverty; and various acts to encourage agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing.
After the Armada, Elizabeth's popularity began to wane. Parliament became less tractable and began to object to the abuse of royally granted monopolies. The rash uprising of Elizabeth's favorite, Robert Devereux, 2d earl of Essex, darkened her last years. She refused until on her deathbed to name her successor—the son of Mary Queen of Scots, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England.
See biographies by Theodore Maynard (1940), Elizabeth Jenkins (1958), Paul Johnson (1974), and Anne Somerset (1992); A. L. Rowse, The England of Elizabeth (1950) and The Expansion of Elizabethan England (1955); J. E. Neale, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments (2 vol., 1953-57); Joel Hurstfield, Elizabeth I and the Unity of England (1960); Neville Williams, The Life and Times of Elizabeth I (1972); Alison Plowden, The Catholics under Elizabeth I (1973).
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