Background to Elizabeth's reign

Elizabeth came to power in 1558 and inherited an unstable kingdom. England was divided by religion, poverty was increasing and foreign enemies were growing more powerful. She became queen after both her brother, Edward VI, and her sister, Mary I, had died. Despite inheriting all of these problems she brought many strengths, ruled well and brought stability back to England.

Elizabeth’s strengths:

  • Parents: She had English parents, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. This meant that she would be more likely to be free from overseas influences.
  • Education: Elizabeth had a difficult childhood and had to use her intelligence in order to survive during the reign of her Catholic half-sister. Elizabeth spoke French, Flemish, Italian and Spanish, and many other languages; she was one of the most educated women of her generation.
  • Popularity: Elizabeth was popular with many people in England and her reign was seen as a fresh start.
curriculum-key-fact
Remember PEP - Parents, Education and Popularity

Elizabeth’s challenges:

  • Gender: Some feared a female ruler meant that England would continue to be seen as a weak country. France and Spain were the most powerful nations, and both were ruled by kings. There were worries about who Elizabeth might marry; a foreign prince could end up taking control.
  • Religion: Religious conflict was a major issue. Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, had broken away from the Roman Catholic Church and started his own Church of England. When Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, came to the throne she restored the Pope and made England a Catholic country again. Elizabeth now had to settle the situation, maintaining security and establishing an agreement that would keep her people content.
  • Invasion: Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, had a claim to the throne. Mary was a Catholic and married to the heir to the French throne. They could try to invade and threaten Elizabeth’s position.
  • Money: Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, had left debts of £250,000, which was a great deal of money at the time.
curriculum-key-fact
Remember GRIM - Gender, Religion, Invasion and Money