Page 7 - SAMPLE Great Britons
P. 7

   Elizabeth knew how to keep attention focused on her. Court ladies were only allowed to wear black or white, so that Elizabeth stood out when she wore bright colours!
But Elizabeth was clever and cunning, and managed to survive under Mary’s eye until her half-sister died, in 1558. At last, Elizabeth became the queen of England. People were happy, but cautious – would Elizabeth be as cruel as Mary? And whom would she marry? Almost everyone expected that Elizabeth’s husband would take
a big role in ruling the country, so they were anxious about who she would choose. But Elizabeth had no
intention of marrying. Wearing expensive, richly jewelled dresses, the beautiful young queen declared that
she was married to her kingdom, and set out to create a glamorous, spectacular court with herself at the centre. She surrounded herself with clever, powerful men, but she never married any of them, and she never allowed anyone to forget who was in charge.
 Though Elizabeth spent a lot on her dresses, she was very clever with money when it came to her kingdom;
within six years of coming to the throne, she had paid off all the country’s debts. During Elizabeth’s reign, England became one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. She also told Parliament to pass laws to help resolve the bitter fights between English Protestants and Catholics, which became known as the Elizabethan Religious Settlements. These didn’t get rid of religious conflict altogether, but they made it easier for Catholics and Protestants
to live side by side.
However, Elizabeth’s most famous achievement was the defeat of the Spanish Armada. In 1588, King Philip II of Spain, sent 130 ships carrying 18,000 soldiers to invade England. Elizabeth was praised as a great leader throughout the crisis. When troops were gathered at Tilbury in case the Spanish invaded, she addressed
them with a famous speech, in which she announced: “I am come amongst you . . . to lay down
for my God, and for my kingdoms, and my people, my honour and my blood even in the dust.” Eventually, storms and clever tactics from the English fleet sent the defeated Armada sailing home again.
Elizabeth was very fond of theatre. She stopped playhouses being closed down by people who thought they were wicked, and was a major patron (or supporter) of playwrights, including William Shakespeare (see page 90). This meant many wonderful new plays were written and performed during her reign.
As Elizabeth grew older, she knew that people would take her less seriously as a queen if she showed any signs of aging or weakness – so she refused to age. She covered up scars from smallpox, which she had survived when
she was 29, with thick, lead-based make-up (which may actually have made her more ill). Eventually, though, she was too exhausted by ruling to fight off any more illness. She died, aged 69, in the spring of 1603, as crowds
of her grieving citizens filled the streets to mourn her. The Elizabethan Age – stable, peaceful, prosperous and creative – is still considered a ‘Golden Age’ in British history. Not bad for an
    unwanted, motherless little girl whom no one thought would ever be queen.

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