Elizabeth I as she appears in Civilization Revolution.
|Date of birth||1533 AD|
|Date of death||1603 AD|
Born to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, who her father had executed for failing to give him a male heir, Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603 AD) had a rocky start to life. Growing up an unwanted daughter of an insane father who was destroying England's ties to the Catholic Church and engaging in civil war so that he could legally marry another woman (several other women, in fact), Elizabeth had to use all of her wits to survive. Elizabeth received an excellent education at the hands of various tutors, including the great scholars of the day. She was an outstanding student, and could speak five languages fluently.
When King Henry VIII died, the throne passed to his young son, Edward. At fifteen Elizabeth was implicated in a plot to overthrow him. She came close to being executed, surviving only because she was able to convince her skeptical interrogators that she knew nothing of the plot.
When King Edward died in 1553, Elizabeth's older sister, Mary, assumed the throne. An ardent Catholic, Mary was quite unpopular with a number of Protestant noblemen, who attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow her in 1554. Once again Elizabeth was implicated, but once again she charmed her way out of execution.
Queen Mary died in 1558, and Elizabeth became Queen. Elizabeth was an extraordinary ruler. She established the Protestant Church as the official Church of England. However, she attempted to stem the persecution of Catholics in the country - at least as much as was possible when the Catholic nobility were actively plotting her demise. She restored the debased currency of England, and she made England a center of culture, where great artists like William Shakespeare flourished.
Elizabeth used all of the tools available to her to achieve her goals. She received countless offers of marriage from nobility and indeed from kings across Europe. But she accepted none of them, instead using her unmarried state to control her friends and foes alike; if one faction got too strong, she could drive them back into line by suggesting that she was considering marrying someone from an opposing faction.
Militarily, Catholic Spain was England's greatest threat. Spain was the great continental power of the day, and its leader, King Philip, had upon more than one occasion expressed the intent of invading England. In 1588 he tried, building a huge armada to conquer the upstart nation. Elizabeth quickly organized the country's navy to fend off the fleet, and by a combination of superior tactics, ship design, and some foul weather at just the right moment, they defeated their often-thought undefeatable Spanish foe. England was not to be seriously threatened with invasion for about 400 years.
Elizabeth died in 1603, having left her country in far better state. No better words can serve to describe her than her own: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king."
Because she never married and (to our knowledge) took no consorts, Queen Elizabeth was known as "the Virgin Queen." The American colony of Virginia was named to honor her chastity.