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1533 - 1603

Elizabeth’s father was Henry VIII. His first wife, Catharine, was Spanish. After 20 years of marriage, their only child was a girl named Mary.

With Henry wanting a male heir, he began looked for another wife and fell in love with Anne Boleyn. Due to his Catholic religion not allowing him to divorce and re-marry, Henry looked at ways of changing Catholicism in England.

In late 1532, Anne became pregnant. Henry then divorced Catherine and married Anne. On the 7th September 1533, Henry and Anne’s daughter Elizabeth was born.

The Popes response to the divorce and marriage was to excommunicate Henry. Soon after, Henry was declared Supreme Head of the Church of England, with payments that would have gone to the Pope, then going to the crown.

Henry had the bible translated into English, allowed priests to marry and allowed divorce. Through time, the protestant preaching's of the German, Martin Luther, filtered into England where the Church of England adopted the Protestant religion.

Elizabeth was three when Henry had her mother tried for adultery and treason. Anne Boleyn was beheaded 19th May 1536. Henry then had Parliament declare his marriage invalid, that making Elizabeth illegitimate.

In 1537, Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to their son Edward. In all, Henry had 8 children and six wives.

When Henry VIII died in 1547, he left the throne to his son Edward who was a Protestant. Edward died aged 16 in 1553 of consumption. Henry's first child, Mary, then became Queen. She married Philip II of Spain.

As Mary was a strong Catholic, she tried to restore Catholicism to England. About 300 Protestants were burned as heretics at that time, earning her the nickname Bloody Mary. She even had her half sister, Elizabeth, a Protestant, locked up in the Tower of London for a while.

When Mary died suddenly of an illness 17th November 1558, Elizabeth was elected queen in favour of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, who was the granddaughter of Henry VIII.

Queen Elizabeth image

Queen Elizabeth

As the population of England was growing rapidly, Elizabeth adopted a new currency. She also made all the local parishes responsible for their poor and had people sent to work on the farms.

With the English and Welsh economy under control, she set up trading stations in Turkey, Russia and the East Indies. She also funded the expeditions of Francis Drake, Humphrey Gilbert and Walter Raleigh. Those expeditions established the first English outposts in North America. The building of the British Empire had begun.

Tension grew between the English sea traders and the Spanish at that time. When the Spanish slaughtered 200 English sailors in the Mexican port of Vera Cruz, Elizabeth was forced to expand her navy to protect her trading vessels. Also, at that time, there were rumours the Catholics were plotting to assassinate Elizabeth to allow Mary Queen of Scots to replace her.

Mary was accused of plotting to kill Elizabeth and locked in Fotheringhay Castle. After her conviction, it took three months of persuasion by her advisors before Elizabeth signed the death warrant, Mary was beheaded 8th February1587.

Elizabeth began sponsoring privateering raids on Spanish ships and ports. Although she acquired much of the Spanish gold and treasures, Elizabeth always denied any involvement in the raids. Those raids though meant war with Spain was inevitable.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots

In July 1588, the Spanish sent about 130 ships to transport its army from Flanders to invade England. Sir Francis Drake led the English Navy out of port to meet the Spanish Armada.

Although the English ships failed to sink many Spanish ships, they did succeed in driving the Armada into the North Sea. Of the 130 Spanish ships, only 67 managed to make it back to Spain by rounding the treacherous north coast of Scotland and west coast of Ireland.

Before Elizabeth died, 24th march 1603, aged 70, she designated James VI of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots son, as her successor.

By 1913, the British Empire was the most extensive empire in world history. The empire had a population of about 458 million people, approximately one-quarter of the world's population. It covered about 14.2 million square miles (36.6 million square km).

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_I_of_England People List