Elizabeth I was born on September 7, 1533 at Greenwich Palace, London, England, an estate of her Father, King Henry VIII. Elizabeth's mother was Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth became Queen of England in 1558 and reigned until her death in 1603. Her reign is often called the Golden Age of England because it was a time of great achievement and prosperity.
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Elizabeth never married. She entertained both Protestant and Catholic suitors while committing to no one. She used her single status as a policy tool. By entertaining Catholic suitors she kept hostile Catholic monarchs at bay, and English Catholics loyal to her government. At one point it appeared she was interested in one of her subjects, Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She avoided entering a marriage with Sir Robert because the match lacked any political benefits.
Elizabeth succeeded in furthering England's interests in the face of foreign threats and religious unrest at home. Highlights of her reign include making the Church of England (a Protestant denomination) the state religion, while avoiding war with the powerful Roman Catholic nations of Europe; the English navy defeated of the Spanish Armada; English merchant ships challenged Spanish pre-eminence on the high seas; the first settlers were sent to America to open the way for a great colonial empire, and England's economy flourished. The English court became a center for writers, musicians, and scholars. English literature thrived during this period, with Francis Bacon composing his Essays, and William Shakespeare writing his great works of drama and poetry.
Problems at home marked the end of Elizabeth's reign. The Irish rebelled and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex led a rebellion against the government.
On March 23, 1603, Elizabeth died. When she came to power England was an insignificant country. When she died it was a major European power. Elizabeth was the last legitimate decendant of Henry VIII. She was succeeded by James I, son of Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband, Elizabeth's cousin Lord Darnley