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On September 7, 1533 Elizabeth was born on the outskirts of London, England. The child s father was King Henry VIII, mistakenly known as Bluff King Hal. The child s mother was Anne Boleyn, the second of King Henry s eight wives. Henry s first wife was Catherine of Aragon. She had one surviving child, which she named Mary. Henry wanted a male heir to the throne, so he pleaded with the pope to annul the marriage.
Because the pope refused, Henry left the Roman Catholic Church and made himself the head of the Church of England. Right after this decision, he married Anne. However, when Elizabeth was the age of three, Henry had her beheaded. Elizabeth spent most of her childhood away from the court. Her father gave Elizabeth a house of her own. Because of this, he paid very little attention to her.
Even though her father was not around her, she showed a love for learning. Henry provided excellent tutoring for her. One of her tutors was Roger Ascham, who influenced Elizabeth greatly. He said, Her (Elizabeth) perseverance is equal to that of a man, and her memory long keeps what is quickly picks up.
She talks French and Italian as well as she does English. When she writes Greek and Latin, noting is more beautiful than her handwriting. She delights as much as music as she is skillful in it. Henry s third wife was Jane Seymour. She gave birth to a son who she named Edward. When Henry died, Edward was at the age of ten.
The young boy came to the throne as King Edward VI. As the years passed, and many wives later, Henry married Catherine Parr. She became very fond of Elizabeth and brought her back to the court. She remained in charge of Elizabeth after Henry s death. Catherine decided to take no part in the political intrigues following the coronation of Edward.
Both Elizabeth and Edward were brought up in Henry s new church. However, their half-sister Mary was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church. When Edward died in 1553, Mary came to the throne. She made Catholicism a state religion. Elizabeth became a partisan of her sister Mary, refusing to support the revolt led by the English soldier Sir Thomas Wyatt's. Since Mary was a devout Roman and Catholic and her sister was a devout Protestant, she was afraid that Elizabeth would become a potential menace as an heir to the throne.
Because of this, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two months. Her charge (which was false) was of having been implicated in Wyatt's rebellion. When she was released, she superficially professed Roman Catholicism, and regained Mary s favor. When Mary died in 1553, there were two claimants to the throne. If Elizabeth did not succeed, the next heir to the throne would be Mary Stuart of Scotland, a Catholic. Mary was going to be married to the dauphin Francis of France.
If she had become Queen, both Scotland and England would be joined to France. Other countries were on the side of Elizabeth though. Ambassador Phillip II of Spain was one of them. Even though he was a Catholic, he was on the side of Elizabeth because he was jealous of France s power. Nevertheless, Elizabeth became queen.
By this time, she was 25 years old. She was tall and slender. She eyes were bright and her hair was long. She had a pale face, which was surrounded by a mass of curly long locks. She enjoyed hunting during the day and dancing in the night. Even with all the activities she enjoyed, she had an adult-like attitude.
She would spend time with her secretaries, read dispatches, dictate, and carefully examine the accounts. She was a magnificent speaker when she addressed the Parliament or the people. Her speeches were elegant and witty, however sometimes coarse. She would laugh loudly when she was amused, and would throw little temper tantrums when she was angered. She had a genius for diplomacy and understood finance, being very frugal in the expenses of the government.
The queen chose as her chief advisor, Sir William Cecil (Lord Burghley), a man who was conservative and cautious like herself. Elizabeth s initial problem as queen was religion. She reverted to Catholicism immediately after Mary s death, but retained many features of Catholicism including bishops and archbishops. She optimized that this would bring unity to the state, but the Catholics were not reconciled. The Catholics would plot from time to time with Spain or France to have a revolution so Mary Stuart would become queen. Since Spain and France were rivals though, Elizabeth was usually able to play one against the other.
When Mary Stuart returned to Scotland in 1561 after the death of her husband, King Francis, she was compelled to flee across the English border and ask for Elizabeth s help. When she did so, Elizabeth kept her prisoner for nineteen years. Mary was hen accused of having a part in the so-called Babington plot that would have had Elizabeth assassinated. When Parliament heard of this they immediately demanded her execution. In the end Mary Stuart was beheaded in 1587. In the first thirty years of Elizabeth s reign, England was at peace.
The commerce thrived, and the English ships were venturing to the West Indies. While there were in the West Indies, there was hostility between Spain and Portugal, which both owned and ruled the New World and claimed a monopoly of trade. English seamen such as Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins waylaid Spanish ships on their way home and seized their gold. Because of these English actions, Phillip II decided to put an end to the attacks by invading and conquering England. With years of preparation, Phillip constructed of his best warships, called by the Spanish the Armada. In 1588 the Armada invaded the English Channel.
However the English were waiting for them. In a nine-day battle, the Spanish Armada suffered an inglorious loss to the English. In the later years of Elizabeth s reign, there was a splendid period of English literature, called the Elizabethan Age. People such as Edmund Spenser wrote the Faerie Queen in her honor. When Elizabeth was fifty-five years old, the English defeated the Spanish Armada. Her happiness with the triumph soon turned into great sorrow.
Two months after the Spanish, her chief advisor, Lord Burghley died. Elizabeth died in 1603, two years later. She was buried at the Westminster Abbey and Mary Stuart s son James VI of Scotland was proclaimed James I, thus uniting the crowns of the two kingdoms. During the Elizabethan era, the most important factors were the religious question, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and the flourishing of literature. What were also important about her era were the hundreds of laws on agriculture, shipping, poor relief, commerce, roads, industry, and currency reform. These laws that she shaped lived on in the English Parliament two centuries after her reign had ended.
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