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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.
Elizabeth I - Mini Biography (3:05)
Queen Elizabeth I was born in 1533 in England. She was a princess but declared illegitimate, eventually claiming the throne at 25. She held it 44 years and kept England in the ascendant through economic, political and religious turmoil.
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Though little is known about William Shakespeare's personal life, his works such as "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," and "King Lear," have influenced literature and theater for over 400 years.
During Christopher Marlowe's short career, he produced one of the most controversial and well-known plays of all time, "Doctor Faustus." The truth behind his sudden death still remains suspicious and unresolved.
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Both parties came under suspicion after the mysterious death of Dudley's wife.
Elizabeth, however, seemed to have no interest in sharing power with a spouse. Over time, she cultivated her image as a queen married to her job and her people. For this dedication Elizabeth earned the nickname, the "Virgin Queen."
While she worked hard at court, Elizabeth took time for leisurely pursuits. She loved music and could play the lute herself. Thomas Tallis and William Byrd were among her court musicians. Elizabeth also enjoyed dancing and watching plays. The arts flourished during Elizabeth's time with the creation of works by such greats as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Writers paid tribute to the queen in many literary forms. The poet Edmund Spenser based his character of Gloriana in The Faerie Queen on Elizabeth, and she was sometimes referred to by this name.
Artists also honored Elizabeth by painting her portrait. These images reveal that she was an early fashionista in many ways. She loved beautiful clothing and jewelry. Her garments were often made with gold and silver. With the help of make-up, Elizabeth cultivated a dramatically pale look. Unfortunately, her cosmetic concoction, called the spirits of Saturn, was made by mixing white lead and vinegar, which may have impacted her health.
Troubled times marked the final years of Elizabeth's reign. The country suffered from failed crops, unemployment and inflation. There were riots over food shortages and rebellions in Ireland. Elizabeth faced many challenges to her authority, including from one of her favorites, Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex. She had sent him to Ireland to quell the rebellion led by Hugh O'Neill. Instead Essex returned to England and sought to start his own rebellion. He was executed for treason in 1601.
Despite her fading power, Elizabeth still showed her devotion to her people. She gave one of her most famous speeches in 1601 to the Parliament. During what is referred to as her "Golden Speech," a self-reflective Elizabeth seemed to look back on her long reign. "Of myself I must say this, I was never any greedy, scraping grasper, nor a strait, fast-holding prince, nor yet a waster. My heart was never set on worldly goods but for my subjects' good."
Queen Elizabeth drew her final breath on March 24, 1603, at Richmond Palace in Surrey. With her death came the end of the house of Tudor, a royal family that had ruled England since the late 1400s. The son of her former rival, Mary Stuart, succeeded her on the throne as James I.
While her end of her reign had been difficult, Elizabeth has largely been remembered as being a queen who supported her people. Her lengthy time on the throne provided her subjects with stability and consistency, and her sharp wits and clever mind helped navigate the nation through religious and political challenges. Sometimes referred to as the Golden Age, the arts had a chance to blossom with Elizabeth's support.
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