A great woman named Queen Elizabeth I once said, “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.” Queen Elizabeth, may have been not only the best monarch in English history, but also the most powerful woman in Western history. The Renaissance was a time when new arts, technology and discoveries reshaped the world. Queen Elizabeth, a woman who had struggled to come to power and had to fight to overcome opposition, endorsed the spread of new arts, and sciences throughout England during her long reign. Elizabeth’s great accomplishments as the Queen of England made a huge impact on society during the Renaissance, and even influenced modern society.
An important aspect of Queen Elizabeth was that she survived the dangerous Tudor fight for power to become Queen, and then she reigned for forty-four. Queen Elizabeth had to learn strength early in her life. She was born on September 7, 1533 to Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, during a time of great transition in England. Her mother was beheaded for adultery (on made-up charges) when she was only two years old. Her father went on to have four more wives. When her father died, there was lots of confusion over who should be the monarch. First, Elizabeth’s Protestant half-brother Edward reigned. But the sickly teenager died quickly, and a cousin, Jane, was put in by Edward’s advisor’s to try to keep the crown Protestant. Jane reigned for nine days before being overthrown and eventually beheaded. Mary, Elizabeth’s Catholic half-sister came to power and ruled for five years. During this time, Elizabeth had to try to stay under the radar and out of trouble. Finally, in 1558 Elizabeth became Queen, and reigned as “The Virgin Queen” for forty-four years. Just surviving the scuffle to become Queen was an accomplishment in itself; but Elizabeth went on to do many more great things.
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Even though many people thought she would be just a weak woman because of the sexism of the time, Elizabeth was a strong Queen who defeated the mighty Spanish Armada, brokered peace with France, and made her Kingdom great again through Arts and exploration. She re-established the Church of England, but allowed for more religious freedom, which was an amazing accomplishment. Throughout the struggle for the throne, there had been violent killing between Catholics and Protestants, with many true believers on both sides being burned at the stake. With Elizabeth, there was finally one stable religion and monarch, and she was not as vengeful against Catholics as her sister, Mary had been against Protestants. Because she was Protestant, though, the Spanish Empire hated her, and England faced an attack from the mighty Spanish Armada. Even though she was “just a woman” she was able to defeat them with the smaller British force, a huge military victory. One of the heroes of that battle, Sir Francis Drake, went on to be sponsored in his explorations of the globe by the adventurous Elizabeth. Furthermore, Elizabeth I made peace with France, a country that England had been at war with for over one hundred years. In addition to her military, religious and diplomatic accomplishments, Elizabeth I made the Arts popular through England. She sponsored Shakespeare and other playwrights and poets, helping the arts to flourish. During Elizabeth’s reign, it truly was the Renaissance in England; a Golden Age for the people, discovery, the arts and science.
All these accomplishments made Queen Elizabeth one of the most famous monarchs of all time, and a leading Renaissance figure. Her reign is known as the “Golden Age” of the Arts in England: poetry, Shakespeare, paintings and music were sponsored by her, which gave them a better status; they had been considered low-class before. In addition, she encouraged exploration and science, as with her sponsorship of Sir Francis Drake. Additionally she is known for being dedicated to her people, and was an early model for a strong female leader. Based on her family history and the way monarchies worked, she knew that if she got married she’d have to share power with a man, who would probably take it from her anyway. She was incredibly well-educated, and smart enough not to get married. Instead, she became “The Virgin Queen” and think of her subjects as her children and devote her time to them. This didn’t mean she did not face opposition or sexism around her; Queen Elizabeth survived many inside attempts on her life and throne. Lastly, Queen Elizabeth was far more religiously tolerant than the Kings and Queens before her, and calmed down some of the anger between Catholics and Protestants.