The last in the line of the Tudors, Elizabeth’s 44-year reign is noted to have brought stability to England.
When it comes to discovering the woman behind the monarch, it can often be a challenge to distinguish her character from her actions.
Looked at retrospectively, Elizabeth’s life is rife with impressive feats, interesting speeches and defining moments – each one of these recorded events shows us a little of the great woman’s character and combines to create an overall picture of a monarch who understood and respected the responsibility that she was given to run the country.
Religious Pacifist and Political Prisoner
When Mary and Elizabeth first rode into a ruler-less London, they were greeted with the cheers of a populace that were eager for change but also stability. After Mary was crowned, Elizabeth spent a brief period of time eschewing her Protestant religion in favour of the Catholicism that her sister practised. After a failed rebellion was crushed Elizabeth was accused of conspiracy and locked away in the Tower of London – despite denying all of the accusations.
Elizabeth as Pirate Queen
Although Queen Victoria would go on to become recognised as the monarch that truly solidified the British Empire, it was arguably Elizabeth I who laid the groundwork for a kingdom that would cover two fifths of the world. Through the rigorous hiring of merchant sailors and mercenaries, Elizabeth was always sure to keep a constant presence in the seas. At any given time she could have thousands of sailors at her command, ready to harass her Spanish enemies or run trading routes for their Queen.
The Great Economist Elizabeth
When comparing the Tudor rulers on the basis of their legacy, it’s easy to group together Henry VII and his grand-daughter Elizabeth as being cut from the same cloth. To start with they both had a reluctance to engage in military endeavours which led to long periods of stability for their people. Most importantly, they both had a steady hand on their country’s finances. Unlike Henry VIII, Elizabeth did not lust after status symbols and instead invested in the prosperity of her own country first.
The Virgin Queen
In a time when ‘right to rule’ was synonymous with having an heir apparent, Elizabeth amassed huge public support as a perpetually single female woman with no plans concerning having children. Despite the uncertain future that staying unmarried and childless doomed the country to, Elizabeth managed to win over the population with a number of well repeated public statements that helped to humanise her – often claiming that she was married to her role, and therefore the country, by referring to : ‘all my husbands, my good people‘.
Having efficiently ascended the throne with the permission of her half-sister Mary I, Elizabeth was uncharacteristically reticent in regards to the succession of her own power.
She had grown increasingly melancholic in her later years, due to a series of deaths close to her, often remaining seated in the same position for an entire day. Thanks to the machinations of one of her most trusted allies, Elizabeth’s power was safely transferred to James VI, hours after her passing, allowing the country to grieve whilst saving it from the calamitous risks that a power vacuum might have created.
Elizabeth might not have ruled without fault, but she no doubt provided a stable hand to govern the country for nearly half a century – allowing Britain to grow – culturally, diplomatically and economically.