Elizabethan England Key Topic 1

  • Created by: holly6901
  • Created on: 28-04-19 18:21

Elizabeth and her reign

  • No one expected Elizabeth to become Queen.
  • Her mother, Ann Boleyn, was executed for treason on the orders of her father, King Henry VIII.
  • Her elder sister, Mary I, saw her as a threat to her own rule.
  • She was the second of Henry's three children and both Edward and Mary came before her in the line of succession.
  • She was only 25 when she was crowned in 1558.
  • The government had a clear structure in 1558 and most of the power was held by her privy councillors.
  • She ensured support through patronage, which was awarding titles, land and monopolies in exchange for support.
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Court life and power sharing

Court life

  • The Royal Court and the government weren't the same things.
  • The court was made of the officials, servants and advisors that surrounded Elizabeth.
  • It was the centre of power and also the place for the new trends.
  • The court was made of the privy council however, the government was made of the queen and her closest advisors.

Power sharing

  • Lord Lieutenants were appointed by the Queen and responsible for running an area of the country. A lot of Lord Lieutenants were on the privy council.
  • Justices of the Peace were like police officers and were responsible for enforcing the law.
  • Parliament was responsible for passing laws and had an influence on taxes. The Queen was free to ignore the advice of Parliament.
  • The privy council was run by the secretary of state and were responsible for the day-to-day running of the country. In theory, Elizabeth could elect whoever she wanted to the privy council, in reality, she had to elect wealthy landowners to prevent rebellion.
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The problems with succession, religion and foreign


  • Elizabeth was the last child of Henry VIII and had no children so there were worries about an heir.
  • In 1562, she nearly died of smallpox. This made senior leaders want to marry her off as soon as possible.


  • England's official religion changed several times during the Tudor period which created violence and instability.
  • Many Catholics didn't trust Elizabeth and some questioned her legitimacy.
  • There was a number of Puritans who tried to take control of the church and make it more extreme, which could have damaged the religious settlement.

Foreign policy

  • Catholic countries wanted influence over England and had the backing of the Pope.
  • One key area of tension was the Netherlands, where the Protestant people were in conflict with its Catholic leaders.
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The problems with Taxation, Mary, Queen of Scots


  • The country was short of money and Elizabeth had to raise taxes.
  • Poverty was widespread and raising taxes would be unpopular.

Mary, Queen of Scots

  • With no heir, the next in line to the throne was Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. Many Catholics saw her as an alternative to Elizabeth which made her a major threat.


  • In 1559, there was a major rebellion against Elizabeth in Ireland, this was the first of several in her reign.
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Arguments for and against marriage

Arguments for marriage

  • It would create an alliance with a foreign country or guarantee the loyalty of a powerful English family.
  • It would produce an heir and stop Mary, Queen of Scots from succeeding Elizabeth.

Arguments against marriage

  • Loss of authority, without marrying Elizabeth kept her independence.
  • Giving birth was very risky for the mother.
  • Her experience of both her father and her sister's marriage were unhappy.
  • It meant foreign dignitaries would be nicer to her and flirt with her.
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Potential suitors

Francis, Duke of Anjou and Alecon

  • The French king's brother.
  • By the time he proposed, Elizabeth was beyond the age of having children. This could mean England eventually falling under French control.
  • He was Catholic.

King Phillip II of Spain

  • One of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world.
  • Was married to Mary I but was a childless marriage.
  • He was also Catholic.

Robert Dudley

  • A childhood friend of the Queen.
  • Many assumed they were in love.
  • A key figure in the Royal Court and a member of the Privy Council.
  • He was free to marry Elizabeth after his wife died, but rumours of his involvement meant marriage was almost impossible.
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Parliamentary issues

Marriage and succession

Many decided it was their duty to find Elizabeth a husband. In 1556 they started to discuss the issue openly. Elizabeth banned them from discussing it as she thought it was a personal issue.


The majority in both houses were Protestants and supported her religious settlement. A number of powerful Puritans tried to introduce laws to change the Church of England.

Freedom of speech

Peter Wentworth MP was arrested three times for arguing free speech for MPs. One of his arrests was organized by MPs to show their loyalty to Elizabeth

Crime and poverty

Poverty and crime were significant issues. Many MPs tried to introduce Poor Laws but didn't succeed until 1601.

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Parliamentary issues


It was an important way to maintain loyalty. In 1571, Robert Bell MP called them unfair and others joined him and called for change. Elizabeth agreed to some changes but MPs pushed for more. In 1601, she gave a speech agreeing to make changes without agreeing to much at all.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Parliament saw Mary as a significant national threat. A significant number called for her execution. This pressure may have swayed her to execute Mary.

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Essex's rebellion


  • Essex had been a loyal subject during Elizabeth's reign. He became a privy councillor in 1595.
  • During his time at court Essex developed a rivalry with Robert Cecil, son of William Cecil.#
  • Essex successfully attacked Cadiz in 1596.


  • Essex became involved in an argument with the queen. Elizabeth hit Essex when he turned his back on her. He nearly drew his sword but was stopped by others. 
  • Later, the Queen sent him to deal with a rebellion in Ireland. He failed to defeat them and settled a truce against Elizabeth's orders.
  • When he returned to England he rushed into the Queen's chamber and caught her without her wig.
  • Elizabeth refused to renew Essex's monopoly, meaning he lost most of his wealth.
  • Essex plotted a rebellion against Elizabeth.
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Essex's rebellion


  • In 1601, Essex took 4 privy councillors hostage and took them to his home in London with 200 supporters.
  • Robert Cecil labelled Essex a traitor.
  • Many of his supporters left and others panicked and released the hostages without permission.
  • Essex and his remaining followers were arrested.


  • Essex was tried and sentenced to death for treason.
  • During his interrogation, he named other rebels.
  • He was executed in private on 25 February 1601.
  • Some of his followers were executed but most were just fined.
  • Elizabeth had to make it clear that she wouldn't accept challenges to her reign.
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The rise of the gentry and Hardwick Hall

The rise of the gentry

Before her reign, most money was owned by the nobility. The stability of her reign changed this. People could make money from trade and the gentry grew. They began to fill powerful positions such as MPs and Justices of the Peace.

Hardwick Hall

Elizabeth Shrewsbury built Hardwick Hall between 1590 and 1597. It was one of the grandest houses at the time and showed her wealth and power. 

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  • Writers like William Shakespeare produced new works every year such as comedies, tragedies and histories.
  • Acting was a male profession with female roles played by boys.
  • Popular actors, such as Richard Burbage, became very famous and returned to roles many times.
  • Plays were performed by theatre troupes. Companies were named after the patron. Being a patron was a good way to impress the queen.
  • Performances usually began at 3 pm and went into the evening.
  • The ticket price depended on where you sat or stood
  • Audience members would push and shove to get a better view.
  • It was a cheap day out for the poor and a chance for the rich to show how cultured they were.
  • The rich and poor watched the same play.
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Accomplishments of the Golden Age


Portraits became popular and contained symbolism. Decorative silverware and textiles became signs of wealth.

Peace, power and pride

Before the Tudors, there was rivalry over the throne. Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I brought political stability but religious turmoil. Elizabeth brought security and stability to England. England's growing wealth and military success made her subjects very proud.

Science and technology

Significant breakthroughs in navigation, astronomy and a growing understanding of magnetism. The printing press allowed the quick spread of ideas.


It was seen as increasingly important. Wealthy boys and some girls got an education but the poor didn't 

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Accomplishments of the Golden Age


Europeans 'discovered' new lands. England became a major world power.


Theatre was popular with all levels of society. The first permanent theatres were built in the Elizabethan Era.


Many great stately homes were built in this period. For the first time, houses weren't built for defence.


Many great plays were written in this era. Poetry was popular and some nobles wrote poems whereas, others wrote sonnets.

BAT SLEEP - buildings, art, theatre, science and technology, education, exploration and peace, power and pride

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