- (1533-1603)Queen of England from 1558. A daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she grew up at court under the cloud of her mother's execution on charges of adultery, lived a life sheltered from politics during the brief reign (1547-1553) of her half-brother Edward VI, and then lived in great danger during the reign of her half-sister Mary I (1553-1558) both because of her known Protestant sympathies during a time of Catholic restoration and also because, as the childless queen's next heir, she became the unwilling focus of plots by religious and political opponents of Mary. Although the England she took charge of in 1558 was militarily, financially, and politically weak, Elizabeth surrounded herself with statesmen of great ability and by the end of her long reign had made England a stable monarchy, a major European power, and the international leader of Protestantism. She reversed Mary's religious policy, restoring the independent status of the Church of England as it had existed at the end of her father's reign and maintaining a moderately Protestant and tightly controlled national church that pleased neither the relatively few zealous defenders of Catholicism nor the increasingly numerous Protestant extremists, commonly called Puritans.Elizabeth made her court the center of an elegant aristocratic society that became noted for its italianate and classicizing poetry and for its musical life. Especially after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the queen became the symbol of England's emerging greatness, and throughout subsequent centuries, her reign has been associated with political and military success and with the brilliant achievements of the era that came to be called "Elizabethan." Although the queen herself was not a very generous patron, her astute political leadership and the large number of wealthy patrons and talented artists and authors drawn to London by the presence of her court made the Elizabethan age one of the high points in English history and the supreme moment of Renaissance civilization in England. Elizabeth received an excellent humanistic education under the direction of Roger Ascham, had a good command of Greek, Latin, French, and Italian, and as a young woman translated literary works of Margaret of Navarre and Erasmus from French and Latin. She often surprised foreign ambassadors with her mastery of languages and her familiarity with classical literature.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.
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