Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I was famous for her non-disastrous rule over England. Born in 1533 as yet another non-male heir to Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s status proved a problem to herself and others. When she was fourteen, the first of many suitors tried to secure the throne for themselves by getting into her proverbial pants. He lost his head. Some relatives took to the throne between her father’s death and her ascension, but were without male issue. (It’s difficult to produce a male heir after you’re dead, by all accounts.) Elizabeth became queen at twenty-five.

One of the first orders of business for Elizabeth was to sort out what religion she (and by extension, everyone else) was. She took her father’s excuse for a divorce and turned it into an organized faith. As head of the new Protestant Church of England, historians have praised her for not killing all of the Catholics.

During her reign, Elizabeth was expected to marry Lord Robert Dudley, Philip II of Spain, Archduke Charles of Austria, Duke Henry of Anjou, and Duke Francis of Alençon, among others. Some made the best of the situation by depicting her as a virgin goddess. This would have surprised her lovers. On occasion she would address all her people as “her husbands”, which wasn’t seen as inappropriate.

Elizabeth proved England’s military might by having a storm sink the invading Spanish Armada. Otherwise, her Dutch expedition floundered and she lacked control over Protestant actions in France. She oversaw the slaughter of women and children during the campaign in the “rude and barbarous nation” of Ireland, though, which is a success of sorts.

As the years went on, Elizabeth went from “most eligible bachelorette” to “least fooling anybody with that make-up”. She was half-bald and scarred with smallpox, which didn’t hide well except for in portraits. Her courtiers still praised her beauty, but when you start preferring dark rooms to light, you probably know something is up.

Elizabeth I’s reign was alright, I guess. She played it safe, and most of the hallmarks of the “Elizabethan Era” weren’t her responsibility. Some people can be pleased just by not becoming Spanish.

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