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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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