Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth at 13 years of age (unknown artist)Elizabeth at 13 years of age (unknown artist)

Good Queen Bess, as she is known, was the daughter of Henry VIII and the second of his six wives. It seems that she did not inherit her father’s love of the other sex, because she never married. She probably did not have time, because more happened when she was on the throne of England than during the reigns of most other kings and queens. She ruled the country at a time when it was a great military and economic power. She was also queen during one of the most important periods in English culture, when Shakespeare was writing his masterpieces.

Elizabeth ruled for 44 years, from 1559 to 1603. During this period England founded its first colonies in America, an English ship under the command of Francis Drake sailed around the world, Walter Raleigh came home from the New World and brought potatoes and tobacco to Europe, and the English navy, with a good deal of help from the weather, defeated the Spanish fleet. English goods were sold in faraway countries, and English sailors – some people would call them pirates – returned from sea with gold and silver they had taken from foreign ships.

But Elizabeth was a hard woman. She put down rebellions in Ireland and her soldiers killed thousands of people there. She was tough on her political enemies, too, and several were executed in the Tower of London. So perhaps this is the real reason why she did not get married: no man wanted to live with her?


Activity

Find words and phrases in the text which mean the same as these:

  1. female child
  2. periods in which monarchs rule
  3. established
  4. globe
  5. distant
  6. revolts
  7. hard
  8. put to death


Activities for the links below

1) Read the account of the Spanish Armada at the first link. Then use your own words to answer the questions below.

  1. Why was England wealthy in the 1560s?
  2. Why was Philip II angry with England?
  3. Why did the Protestant Dutch territories sign an alliance with England?
  4. How did Francis Drake make life difficult for the Spaniards?
  5. Did Drake hurry to meet the Spanish fleet?
  6. Which navy had the better guns?
  7. What part did the weather play in the battle?
  8. There is a modern theory about why the Armada was defeated. What does it claim?


2) The second link contains information on three of the most famous British monarchs. Read the sections headed “Key Achievements” and “Personal Qualities”, and identify who is referred to here:

  1. He or she surprised people by achieving so much.
  2. He or she was responsible for a lot of important building.
  3. He or she modernized the monarchy.
  4. He or she had more sense of humour than we are often led to believe.
  5. He or she was very talented in a number of fields.
  6. He or she did not like going to war, but sometimes had to.