Elizabeth's Background and Character

The Tudors

  • The Tudors were a relatively new dynasty, having only come to power with Elizabeth’s grandfather at the end of the War of the Roses

  • As a child, Elizabeth was third in line to the throne (behind Edward VI and Mary I), so it was universally unexpected that she would become queen.

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  • Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1588 was only due to the death of her two siblings, Edward VI and Mary I.
  • Edward came to the power at only 9 years old, so Nobles governed the country for him. During his 6 year reign the Church was made more Protestant, poverty grew and taxes rose.
  • After Edward’s death in 1553, Mary ascended to the throne. She was a devout Catholic who restored the link with Rome, and had anyone who continued to be Protestant burned at the stake.

  • She also married Phillip of Spain which rose concerns of Spanish influence.

  • However, Mary died without an heir in 1558 – leaving the throne to Elizabeth.

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  • In 1533, Henry VIII had divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn.
  • Divorce was forbidden in the Catholic Church, so many believed that Henry’s marriage to Anne was invalid and their daughter, Elizabeth, illegitimate.
  • This weakened her claim to the throne and a lot of Catholics in England thought that Mary Queen of Scots had more right to rule.
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  • In the 16th century, most people believed the monarch should be a man and thought that rule by a woman was unnatural.
  • Even if she did become Queen, they thought that Elizabeth should let her male counsellors take control or find a husband to govern for her.


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  • Elizabeth had a difficult upbringing and sometimes feared for her life. In 1554, she was accused of conspiring against Queen Mary I, and placed under house arrest for almost a year.
  • However, she was intelligent, confident and well educated, which made her a powerful and effective leader.
  • Elizabeth could also be very indecisive and reluctant to make decisions without carefully considering their possible consequences. This made her cautious and trusting of only a few close advisers
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As a monarch, Elizabeth could...

  • Appoint ministers, bishops, judges, generals and admirals
  • Be head of the Church of England (after 1534)
  • Control's the country's coinage
  • Command the army and navy
  • Declare war
  • Call meetings of Parliament
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