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Elizabeth I was the long-ruling queen of England, governing with relative stability and prosperity for 44 years. The Elizabethan era is named for her.
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There was also great tension between different religious factions after Mary worked to restore England to Roman Catholicism by any means necessary. In fact, she earned the nickname Bloody Mary for ordering the execution of 300 Protestants as heretics.
Elizabeth acted swiftly to address these two pressing issues. During her first session of Parliament in 1559, she called for the passage of the Act of Supremacy, which re-established the Church of England, and the Act of Uniformity,
which created a common prayer book. Elizabeth took a moderate approach to the divisive religious conflict in her country between the Puritans and the Catholics. "There is one Jesus Christ," she once said. "The rest is a dispute over trifles." The Roman Catholic Church took a dim view of her actions, however. Pope Pius V excommunicated her in 1570.
With the assistance of her key advisor, William Cecil, Elizabeth ended the war with France. She was able to avoid clashing with the two other superpowers of the age, France and Spain, for much of her reign. In 1585, Elizabeth entered the fray to support the Protestant rebellion against Spain in the Netherlands. Spain then set its sights on England, but the English navy was able to defeat the infamous Spanish Armada in 1588. According to several reports, the weather proved to be a deciding factor in England's victory.
Elizabeth also had to fend off internal efforts to remove her from the throne. One of the greatest threats came from Mary Stuart, queen of Scots. The daughter of King James V of Scotland, she united her country with France in 1558 when she married the future King Francis II. After Francis's death, Mary returned to Scotland in 1561. She was raised Catholic and was considered by many English Catholics to be the rightful monarch of England. Elizabeth and Mary were cousins, and Mary had previously lay claim to the English crown. Elizabeth jailed her cousin in 1567 in connection with several assassination attempts, including the Babington Plot. Elizabeth kept Mary imprisoned for nearly 20 years, before she finally agreed to have her cousin executed in 1587.
Succession became an another pressing issue for Elizabeth once she took the throne. She showed her talents as a diplomat, managing a number of suitors and potential royal matches during her reign. Through her father and her sister, Elizabeth had seen the troubles and challenges of royal marriages. Mary had made an unpopular choice in marrying Phillip II of Spain, who shared in her devotion to the Roman Catholic faith. In the hopes of reuniting their two countries once more, Phillip even offered to wed Elizabeth at one time.
Other suitors for Elizabeth's hand included the king of Sweden, Archduke Charles of Austria, and the future King Henry III of France. She used her availability as a means to political ends, but she never agreed to marriage. She herself seemed to have some interest in a member of her court, Robert Dudley, and their relationship was the subject of much gossip and speculation.
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Aside from their gender, female leaders don't have much else in common. Some have brought peace to troubled lands, while others have strewn discontent. Some have been competent or brilliant, others inept or corrupt. They come from political positions ranging from arch-conservative to ultra-leftist and represent all the world's religions.
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