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Elizabeth, Queen of England

Born in Greenwich, Sept. 7, 1533; daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn. Under the tuition of Roger Ascham she acquired much proficiency in classical learning, and before she was seventeen years of age she was mistress of the Latin, French, and Italian languages, and had read several works in Greek. By education she was attached to the Protestant Church, and was persecuted by her half-sister, Mary, who was a Roman Catholic. Elizabeth never married. When quite young her father negotiated for her nuptials with the son of Francis I. of France, but it failed. She flirted awhile with the ambitious Lord Seymour. In 1558 she declined an offer of marriage from Eric, King of Sweden, and also from Philip of Spain. Her sister Mary died Nov. 17, 1558, when Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen of England. With caution she proceeded to restore the Protestant religion to ascendency in her kingdom. Her reform began by ordering a large part of the church service to be read in English, and forbade the elevation of the host in her presence. Of the Roman Catholic bishops, only one consented to officiate at her coronation. In 1559 Parliament passed a bill which vested in the crown the supremacy claimed by the pope; the mass was abolished, and the liturgy of Edward VI. restored. In one session the whole system of religion in England was altered by the will of a single young woman. When Francis II. of France assumed the arms and title of King of England in right of his wife, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth sent an army to Scotland which drove the French out of the kingdom. She supported the French Huguenots with money and troops in their struggle with the Roman Catholics in 1562. In 1563 the Parliament, in an address to the Queen, entreated her to choose a husband, so as to secure a Protestant succession to the crown. She returned an evasive answer. She gave encouragement to several suitors, after she rejected Philip, among them Archduke Charles of Austria, the Duke of Anjou, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The latter remained her favorite until his death in 1588. During the greater part of Elizabeth's reign, Cecil, Lord Burleigh, was her prime minister. For more than twenty years from 1564 England was at peace with foreign nations, and enjoyed great prosperity. Because of the opposite interests in religion, and possibly because of matrimonial affairs, Elizabeth and Philip of Spain were mutually hostile, and in 1588 the latter sent the “invincible Armada” for the invasion of England. It consisted of over 130 vessels and 30,000 men. It was defeated and dispersed (Aug. 8), and in a gale more than fifty of the Spanish ships were wrecked. On the death of Leicester the Queen showed decided partiality for the Earl of Essex. Her treatment and final consent to the execution, by beheading, of Mary, Queen of Scots, has left a stain on the memory of Elizabeth. She assisted the Protestant Henry IV. of France in his struggle with the French Roman Catholics, whom Philip of Spain subsidized. Her reign was vigorous, and is regarded as exceedingly beneficial to the British nation. Literature was fostered, and it was illustrated during her reign by such men as Spenser, Shakespeare, Sidney, Bacon, and Raleigh. Elizabeth was possessed of eminent ability and courage, but her personal character was deformed by selfishness, inconstancy, deceit, heartlessness, and other un- [216]

Queen Elizabeth.

womanly faults. She signified her will on her death-bed that James VI. of Scotland, son of the beheaded Mary, should be her successor, and he was accordingly crowned as such. She died March 24, 1603.

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