World History of 1550-1650
The center of Western civilization is safely grounded in the era of world history of 1550-1650. The daughter of Henry the VIII, Queen Elizabeth I (or “Good Queen Bess” as she was known to her subjects) had an enormous influence on British and European history, tempering the social, political and religious landscape of the times.
Elizabeth was just 25 years old when she assumed the British throne, the last of the Tudor dynasty to be so honored. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was the second wife of Henry the VIII, and lost her life along with her head on charges of adultery and more.
The Church of England
Elizabeth’s agonies as queen started long before she assumed the throne. Her cousin, Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, was a Catholic and the figurehead of a long-standing war between Catholics and Protestants in Great Britain. Issues between the cousins came to bear when Elizabeth inherited the throne from her sister Mary (the daughter of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon) upon Mary’s death.
Mary Stewart was Queen Regnant of Scotland from 1542 to 1567. She was just nine months old when she inherited the throne. She was the only daughter of King James V and her son would later be King James VI. Despite support from the Spanish throne, her plots against Elizabeth led to her death in 1587. Mary’s death dealt a blow to the Spanish plot to influence and overthrow the British crown.
The Catholic Spanish influence also found a ready home in Catholic Ireland, and that caused Elizabeth no end of trouble. Her problems with Irish uprisings lasted the entirety of her reign. The only way Elizabeth maintained control was by giving land to her close confidants, and allowing them to move to Ireland and populate it with loyal Protestants.
That issue caused trouble for Britain well into the 20th century. Elizabeth saw religion as a huge issue in her day. She intended to rule humanely and rationally. One of the first things she did to quell the religious, sectarian unrest in Britain was to formally install the Church of England as the national church of the land.
In world history of 1550-1650, there were few leaders who had as much of a lasting impact on their country, and the world, as Queen Bess.
World History of 1550-1650
Unlike her father, Elizabeth wasn’t a gung-ho leader. She preferred to take her time, study the affairs of state, and not make fatal errors that had plagued monarchs before her. She lived by the Latin phrase, “video et taceo” (translated, I see, and say nothing.) Elizabeth’s reign was not known for a huge number of disasters, the type of history that easily characterized other rulers of her era.
In 1588, under Elizabeth’s command, the English navy defeated the much-vaunted Spanish Armada. The decimation of the Spanish fleet ended English fear of Spanish invasion. The defeat of the Spanish Armada would soon put paid to Spain’s attempts on the British crown and established England as a formidable world power.
Elizabeth’s win - known as one of the greatest naval battles in Western history - also spread Protestantism in the Dutch Low Countries, such as the Netherlands, which were finally free of Spanish rule.
The Beloved Virgin Queen
Elizabeth’s rule was soon looked upon as an ideal time in British history. It was under Elizabeth, a great patron of the arts, that William Shakespeare (a favorite of the Queen) flourished, as did other famous and influential playwrights, such as Christopher Marlowe.
The era during which Elizabeth reigned became know as the Elizabethan era, a time still renowned among Brits as one of the best epochs the country ever had.
Elizabeth never married, something extremely unusual for her day. She was known then, as now, as “the Virgin Queen” because of her single status.
Elizabeth ruled for 44 years, dying in 1603. She named as her heir, James VI, the son of her cousin Mary Stewart. James VI would become King James I of England and Scotland. He would continue his Aunt’s renaissance, encouraging playwrights and artists from Shakespeare to Chaucer. He would also commission the English version of the bible (the King James version), putting the word of the God into the hands of the people.
Elizabeth’s reign over England remains a formidable chapter of renaissance in social thought, religious conviction and political landscape.