Elizabeth, second queen regnant of England, and last sovereign of the Tudor line, daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn, born at the palace of Greenwich, Sept. 7, 1533, died March 24, 1603. She was virtually made heiress presumptive to the throne immediately after her birth, by act of parliament, to the exclusion of her sister Mary, daughter of Catharine of Aragon, who was more than 17 years her senior. The king, though bitterly disappointed in the sex of the child, showed attachment to her, and interested himself in her education. He purposed wedding her to the third son of Francis I. of France. In her third year her fortunes were clouded by the occurrence of that tragedy which sent her mother to the scaffold. Elizabeth was in her turn declared illegitimate, and fell into contempt. The birth of her only brother, afterward Edward VI., happened in 1537, and her first public act was to bear the chrism at his christening, she being herself carried in the arms of Lord Hertford. She was educated by Lady Bryan, a superior woman, and early showed talent. She became attached to her brother, and was on the best of terms with Henry's last three wives. At 10 years her hand was offered to the earl of Arran, but refused.
A marriage between her and Prince Philip of Spain was talked of in 1545. The preceding year she had been restored to her right of succession, but the act declaring her illegitimate was never repealed. She already understood the Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, and Flemish languages. She translated a work from the Italian, and dedicated it to her last stepmother; but her favorite study was history. She shared the instruction received by her brother from some of the most learned men of England. Henry dying in January, 1547 (N. S.), Elizabeth found herself by his will the next person in the order of succession to Mary, and in other respects liberally provided for. Lord Seymour of Sud-ley, an uncle of the king, endeavored to get her for his wife; but he failed, and married Catharine Parr, Henry's last wife, at whose instance Elizabeth had rejected him. Her studies were continued, and she became the pupil of Roger Ascham, on the death of "William Grindal, when she was 16. With him she read in Latin the works of Livy and Cicero, and in Greek those of Sophocles, the select orations of Isocrates, and the New Testament. Elizabeth was residing with her stepmother, and the freedom she allowed Lord Seymour caused much scandal and led to her removal to Hatfield. After his wife's death Seymour renewed his acquaintance with Elizabeth, but his arrest and execution on the charge of treason prevented the success of his designs.
Elizabeth on hearing of his death merely said that there had died a man of much wit and very little judgment; words which accurately described him. She was now regarded as being in some sort the rival of Mary, and as the chief person in the Protestant party, as Mary was at the head of the Catholics; but this rivalry was ended by the plot of Dudley, duke of Northumberland, to exclude both from the throne, and to secure it for Lady Jane Grey, whom he had caused to marry one of his sons. Edward VI. was Northumberland's tool, and was not allowed to see Elizabeth in his last days. On his death the duke offered Elizabeth a large sum of money and a valuable grant of lands if she would acquiesce in the new order of things; but she referred him to Mary, during whose life she had nothing to resign. She joined Mary soon after her success, in 1553, at the head of a body of troops. In a month however they became enemies. Mary's adherence to the Roman Catholic faith offended many of her subjects, who looked to Elizabeth as their future sovereign, the queen having passed middle life and being single. Their relative positions were sufficient to cause enmity between them, and Elizabeth's refusal to attend mass offended the sovereign and her Catholic advisers.
After much quarrelling the princess affected to give way, and attended the queen at mass. Her object was to have her right to the succession admitted at the coronation, in which she succeeded. The estrangement between the sisters was however renewed when an act of parliament was passed, declaring valid the marriage between Henry VIII. and Catharine of Aragon, from which Elizabeth's illegitimacy followed, though it was not set forth in words. After considerable disagreement and contention at court, Elizabeth was allowed to retire to the country, where she refused to marry either the duke of Savoy or the prince of Denmark. Growing out of the general discontent in regard to the proposed marriage of Mary with Philip II. of Spain, there was a plot to marry Elizabeth to Cour-tenay, earl of Devonshire, and to elevate them to the throne. Some persons even resolved to resist the Spanish alliance by arms. Sir Thomas Wyatt undertook to raise Kent, and seemed at first successful, but soon his rebellion was put down, and some of the rebels accused Elizabeth of being in the plot, while there were other circumstances that bore against her. A royal commission was sent to remove her to London, which was done, though she was very ill. She was lodged at Whitehall, Mary refusing to see her.
The royal councillors were divided, some being in favor of her execution, while others were more merciful. Finally she was sent to the tower, March 17, 1554, where she was examined. She was forced to hear mass. Wyatt exonerated her on the scaffold from being privy to his intended rebellion, but his language was ambiguous, and there seems little reason to doubt her complicity in the plot. The ambassador of Charles V., anxious for the interests of Philip, Mary's intended husband, warmly urged Elizabeth's execution. Mary would not listen to his entreaties, and soon gave orders for her sister's removal from the tower. She was sent to Woodstock, where she remained in detention for some time, and professed herself a Catholic. Mary was married to Philip II. in July, 1554, and her belief that she was to give an heir to the crown had a good effect on Elizabeth's fortunes; she was now taken to London, had an interview with the queen, and appeared publicly at court. Though treated with much respect, she was not made free until some months later, when she was allowed to reside at Hatfield, but with a sort of keeper in her household. She was visited by the queen, and went herself to court.
The object of many plots, her life continued to be unpleasant, and at one time she thought of flying to France. Overtures of marriage were made to her from various quarters, but she would not listen to them. Philip, who now treated her with marked friendship, on politic grounds, was anxious that she should marry Philibert of Savoy, but all his endeavors were fruitless, and he could not prevail upon his wife to coerce her sister's inclinations. The sisters were on good terms during the last months of Mary's life. The queen, anticipating her husband's request, declared Elizabeth her successor shortly before her death, exacting, however, a profession of adherence to the old religion. Affecting to feel hurt that her Catholicism should be doubted, the princess "prayed God that the earth might open and swallow her alive if she were not a true Roman Catholic." She declared that she prayed to the Virgin, and on the day before she became queen the Spanish ambassador wrote to his master that she had told him that she acknowledged the real presence in the sacrament. Mary died Nov. 17, 1558, and Elizabeth ascended the throne without opposition. Cecil was appointed her principal secretary of state, and Nicholas Bacon lord keeper.
The queen continued to conform to the Catholic worship until Christmas morning, when she took the final step that placed her at the head of the Protestant world, by refusing to hear mass in the royal chapel. Other changes were made, but her coronation was according to the forms of Catholicism. She sent friendly messages to Protestant sovereigns, and directed her minister at Rome to assure Paul IV. that no violence should be done to the consciences of Englishmen; but the pontiff made only sharp comments on the message, declared that she was not legitimate, and required her to submit her claim, as against that of Mary Stuart, to his arbitration. She recalled her minister, whom the pope frightened into staying at Rome under the threat of excommunication. A bull was issued against Elizabeth soon after, but she was not expressly named in it. The religious change went on, though Elizabeth was averse to innovations, and would have preferred to proceed so slowly as to have virtually kept things in the state she had found them. Catholic and Protestant services were strangely mixed up in her public worship; but this could not last, and 13 bishops were deprived of their sees by parliament for refusing to take the oath of supremacy.
The church of England was restored, and the use of the Bible in English was legalized. Philip of Spain sought her hand, and wrote to her often; but though she was anxious not to offend him, England being in a very depressed state, she would not accept the offer By the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis (April, 1559) peace was restored, France agreeing to give up Calais in eight years. Six months after her accession the Catholic service was finally discontinued in Elizabeth's private chapel. At first she would not take the title of head of the church, assuming that of its governess; but at a later period she asserted her supremacy arbitrarily. In France the English throne was claimed for Mary, queen of Scots; a foolish pretension, destined to have bloody consequences. Elizabeth early began to interfere with Scotch affairs, and the party of the reformation was enabled to triumph there through her aid. Pope Pius IV. sought to win the queen back to the church of Rome, but unsuccessfully. She restored the currency to sterling value in 1560, a reform that did much to promote the prosperity of her subjects.
Aid in money, arms, and men was sent to the French Huguenots, and secret assistance to the Protestants of Flanders. When the queen of Scots sought a safe passage from France to Scotland, Elizabeth refused her request, and it is believed that she endeavored to seize her person. In 1563 parliament entreated the queen to marry, the question of the succession being one of much interest to all classes of her subjects, who were not yet free from the terror caused by the wars of the roses. Candidates for her hand continued to spring up at home and abroad. The most prominent Englishman who aspired to the honor was Henry Fitzalan, 18th and last earl of Arundel of that name. Though she was entreated to acknowledge Mary Stuart as her heiress presumptive, she would not do so, and the question was left open. She recommended Lord Robert Dudley as a husband to Mary Stuart, before he had been made earl of Leicester, though his object was to marry herself. She was offered the hand of Charles IX. of France, but though pleased with the offer she would not accept it. Another suitor of the highest rank was the archduke Charles, son of the German emperor. Leicester approved of this match.
The fortunes of this new noble were rapidly rising, and though he and the queen occasionally fell out, they were soon reconciled, and to his increased gain. Their intimacy began early, in the days of Elizabeth's adversity, and lasted until the earl's death, causing scandalous stories to obtain currency. Her marriage with the favorite was expected daily. The marriage of Darnley and Mary Stuart annoyed her; and the birth of a son from that union caused alarm in England, as showing that the crown might pass to a Catholic. Parliament being summoned in October, 1566, one of the first acts of the commons was to vote that the bill for supplies should be accompanied by one for the settlement of the succession; for this Elizabeth hotly rebuked them. Even Leicester, whose schemes had been traversed by Cecil, was one of the leaders of the opposition on this occasion. In November she was waited upon by a deputation from both houses, and entreated to marry or to name a successor. She endeavored to reason them out of their obstinacy, and as to the succession, she said, they should have the benefit of her prayers. The commons were stubborn, but the dispute was compromised, the queen taking half the money without naming her successor.
The murder of Darnley led to the overthrow of Mary Stuart, and to her flight to England the next year (May, 1568), when she was made Elizabeth's prisoner. Mary submitted her case to be tried by English commissioners. Serious internal troubles now began, and those from without assumed a critical character. The asylum England afforded to those who fled from persecution in Flanders offended Spain. The English flag was insulted in the gulf of Mexico, and the English minister at Madrid badly treated. The queen retaliated by seizing treasure found in Spanish vessels which had taken refuge in English ports; and when Alva laid an embargo on Englishmen and their property, she arrested all the Spaniards in England, not even excepting the ambassador. She corresponded directly with Philip II., but that monarch took a high tone, and threatened war. The duke of Norfolk had become attached to Mary Stuart, and Elizabeth bade him be on his guard. He was arrested and imprisoned. The great northern rebellion broke out (1569), headed by the Catholic earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland, but was rapidly crushed by the earl of Sussex, and 800 of the rebels were executed.
In 1570 the queen was excommunicated by Pope Pius V., and a copy of the bull was fastened on the gate of the episcopal palace of London by a Catholic named Felton, who was put to the rack and executed. After the failure of another attempt to bring about a marriage between the queen and the archduke Charles, it was proposed that she should marry the duke of Anjou, afterward Henry III. of France, and last of the Valois. When the council was informed of this, one of them observed that the duke was rather young for the queen (Anjou was 20 years old, Elizabeth 37), which enraged her. In this, as in all her negotiations of a similar character, she does not seem to have been sincere; but it was always a source of anger when any one of her suitors saw fit to marry some other lady. Cecil was now created Lord Burleigh, and made lord high treasurer, and Sir Thomas Smith principal secretary of state. Hatton now began to attract attention, being high in the queen's favor because of his personal accomplishments and beauty; and her reputation has been assailed on account of her fondness for him. For his good she despoiled the bishop of Ely of much church property, and wrote him a truculent epistle in three lines.
The French marriage project halting, Anjou's mother proposed his younger brother Alengon in his place, who was Elizabeth's junior by 22 years, and as ugly in person as he was morally depraved. Subsequently the negotiation with Anjou was resumed. The emperor Maximilian II. offered the hand of his son Rudolph to the queen, who was more than old enough to be his mother. Henry of Navarre was also placed at her disposal. She favored Anjou most, but finally rejected him, ostensibly on religious grounds. Philip II. was now engaged in a plan involving the assassination of Elizabeth, with which Norfolk and Mary Stuart had some connection. It was discovered, and Norfolk was executed. The Alencon marriage project was now resumed. Parliament passed a bill to put Mary Stuart to death, but Elizabeth would not give her consent to it. Meantime, in 1572 occurred the St. Bartholomew massacre, which made the English clamorous for the death of Mary. Elizabeth would not directly consent to this; but she agreed to a project for giving Mary up to her Scottish subjects, who it was understood would at once put her to death.
In 1575 the Dutch offered their government to Elizabeth, whom they respected as descended from Philippa of Hainaut. She did not at first help them, and it was not till 1578 that she agreed to aid them with money and men, on conditions by which she could not lose anything. Ireland gave her great trouble, and the contest which was waged there by Lord Mountjoy was called by the Irish "the hag's war," in derision of the queen. Conspiracies began to multiply around her, naturally having Mary Stuart for their central figure. The Jesuits were conspicuous in these plots, in one of which the Spanish minister Mendoza was implicated, and forced to leave the country. Many persons were executed and others imprisoned. Philip Howard, earl of Arundel, son of the duke of Norfolk, was condemned to death, and died in the tower after a long imprisonment. An association to protect the queen against "popish conspirators" was formed by Leicester, and was converted into a statute by parliament, which actually prepared the way for the murder of Mary Stuart, should Elizabeth be assassinated in her name. The discovery of a conspiracy, in which Anthony Babington was a leading actor, which aimed at the simultaneous assassination of Elizabeth and the liberation of Mary, proved fatal to the latter.
Her trial has been the subject of bitter discussion. She was convicted of complicity in the conspiracy, and was executed at Fother-ingay, Feb. 8,1587. Elizabeth professed great grief and anger at her execution. It is now pretty well established that her signature to Mary's death warrant was a forgery, and it is beyond doubt that it was sent to Fotherin-gay castle without her knowledge or sanction. Burleigh was the sender of it, and the forgery is supposed to have been perpetrated by the order or under the direction of Walsingham. Angry as she was, Elizabeth dared to punish no one but the secretary Davison, who was only a tool of the higher ministers; for not only had foreign affairs assumed a serious aspect, but the killing of Mary was unquestionably a popular act with the ruling classes and party. The Scotch people were enraged, and gladly would have assailed their old enemy; but nothing was done. The condition of France left no room for fear on that side; but the pope and the king of Spain were active enemies. Sixtus V. anathematized Elizabeth, and proclaimed a crusade against her.
Philip II. laid claim to the English crown, as legitimate heir of the house of Lancaster, in virtue of his descent from two daughters of John of Gaunt, who had been queens of Portugal and Castile. He made open preparations to enforce this claim, and the pope promised large conditional aid. Meantime, Drake ravaged the coasts of Spain, preyed on her commerce, and made a successful attack on the shipping in the harbor of Cadiz. The English were not backward in preparing to meet Philip's attack. All parties, Catholics and Puritans, as well as the rest of the people, showed a patriotic spirit. A fleet of 180 sail was got ready, commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham, Drake, Frobisher, and Hawkins. Two armies were raised, numbering over 60,000 men. The Spanish armada sailed May 29, 1588, but a storm compelled it to return; and it was not till the end of July that the two fleets met and joined battle near the English coast. After a series of actions that lasted several days the Spaniards were utterly routed, the elements greatly assisting the English, whose commanders had been seriously hampered by the indecision, perverseness, and avarice of the queen, who would not supply them with provisions or ammunition in anything like sufficient quantities.
The country was thus delivered from present fear of invasion. In 1589 an expedition was sent to effect the liberation of Portugal; but though the army was landed and marched to the suburbs of Lisbon, the undertaking signally failed. Aid in men and money was sent to Henry IV. of France, then contending with Spain and the league, in 1590-'91. A parliament met in 1593, and the commons after some contention with her submitted to the sovereign. The decision of Henry IV. to abandon the Protestant faith annoyed Elizabeth, and she sought to influence his mind to remain firm, but ineffectually. A plot to poison her was detected, and her physician, Roderigo Lopez, a Spaniard of Jewish extraction, who had been in her service for some years, was executed for his part in it. Religious persecutions were now common, and several noted Puritans were put to death. The war with Spain was carried on with vigor, and Cadiz was taken in 1596, by a fleet and army commanded by Howard of Effingham and Essex. The latter was now the principal subject in England, but the infirmities of his temper prevented him from profiting fully by his position and the queen's regard. The court was full of intrigues, and Essex, the most generous and imprudent of men, was the victim of all who chose to play upon him.
Philip II. having formed a plan to place his daughter on the English throne, Essex was sent to assail the Spaniards at home and on the ocean. He accomplished nothing, which offended the queen; but he soon recovered her favor, and was enabled to beard Burleigh, until the latter discovered that he was in correspondence with the king of Scotland. Henry IV., having resolved upon peace with Spain, to the anger of Elizabeth, offered to mediate a general peace. Burleigh favored this, and Essex took the other side. In a consultation on Irish affairs, in the royal closet, Essex turned his back contemptuously on the queen, who struck him on the head, and told him to "go and be hanged! " After a display of rashness and temper the earl left the presence. While efforts for a reconciliation were making, Burleigh died, Aug. 4, 1598. Six weeks later died Philip II. Essex returned to court, and shortly after was appointed lord deputy of Ireland, which was in a miserable state. The office was given less in love than in anger, and was the gift of enemies.
A politician rather than a statesman, and a knight rather than a soldier, Essex failed entirely in Ireland, whence he returned without permission and entered upon a reckless course of action that ended in his death on the scaffold in 1601. Sir Robert Cecil, a son of Burleigh, was now Elizabeth's most powerful minister, and he was in correspondence with the king of Scotland. The queen sought to have Henry IV. visit her at Dover, he being at Calais, but he contented himself with sending M. de Rosny, later the duke de Sully, as his ambassador. Their interviews were interesting, and in the first she spoke of the king of Scotland as her successor, who, she said, would be king of Great Britain. This title originated with her. Another embassy was sent to England by Henry, and was well received. Elizabeth's last parliament met in October, 1601. It made great opposition to the oppressive monopolies she had granted, and she gracefully gave way. In the early part of 1603 (N. S.) she suffered from a complication of complaints, but the immediate cause of her death, which took place at Richmond, was a cold.
She was buried April 28. Her reign is justly considered one of the most important England has known. "The Elizabethan age" is one of the most brilliant periods of English history, and the numerous statesmen, soldiers, scholars, and other intellectual personages who then existed, achieved for it a place in the world's annals that has never been surpassed. - The leading events in the life of Elizabeth are unquestioned. Of her personal character various and wholly diverse views have been formed. Froude at the close of his elaborate history thus sums up his judgment respecting her: "Her situation from the very first was extremely trying. Her unlucky, it may be almost called culpable, attachment to Leicester made marriage unconquerably distasteful to her, and her disappointment gave an additional twist to her natural eccentricities. 'Circumstances more than choice threw her originally on the side of the reformation. She found herself compelled against her will to become the patron of heretics and rebels, in whose objects she had no interest, and in whose theology she had no belief. She resented the necessity while she submitted to it, and her vacillations are explained by the reluctance with which each successive step was forced upon her, on a road which she detested.
Her keenness of insight was not combined with any profound concern for serious things. She was without the intellectual emotions which give human character its consistency and power. One moral quality she possessed in an eminent degree: she was supremely brave. For 30 years she was perpetually a mark for assassination, and her spirits were never affected, and she was never frightened into cruelty. She had a proper contempt also for idle luxury and indulgence. She lived simply, worked hard, and ruled her household with rigid economy. But her vanity was as insatiate as it was commonplace. No flattery was too tawdry to find a welcome with her; and as she had no repugnance to false words in others, she was equally liberal of them herself. Her entire nature was saturated with artifice. Except when speaking some round untruth, she could never be simple. Obligations of honor were not only occasionally forgotten by her, but she did not even seem to understand what honor meant. Vain as she was of her own sagacity, she never modified a course recommended to her by Burghley without injury both to the realm and to herself. She never chose an opposite course without plunging into embarrassments, from which his skill and Walsingham's were barely able to extricate her.
The great results of her reign were the fruits of a policy which were not her own, and which she starved and mutilated when energy and completeness were needed. That she pushed no question to extremities has been interpreted by the result into wisdom. She gained time by it, and her hardest problems were those which time alone could resolve satisfactorily. She wished only to reign in quiet till her death, and was contented to leave the next generation to settle its own difficulties. Mercy was the quality with which she was the most eager to be credited. Her tenderness toward conspirators was as remarkable as it was hitherto unexampled. Unlike her father, who ever struck the leaders and spared the followers, Elizabeth could rarely bring herself to sign the death warrant of a nobleman; yet without compunction she could order Yorkshire peasants to be hung in scores by martial law. She was remorseless when she ought to have been most forbearing, and lenient when she ought to have been stern; and she owed her safety and her success to the incapacity and the divisions of her enemies, rather than to wisdom and to resolution of her own."