1533 – 1603

Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. The daughter of Henry VIII, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate.

Her half-brother, Edward VI, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, cutting his half-sisters out of the succession. His will was set aside, Lady Jane Grey was executed, and in 1558 Elizabeth succeeded the Catholic Mary I, during whose reign she had been imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

Her reign is famous above all for the flourishing of English drama.


Catherine Champernowne, better known by her later, married name of Catherine “Kat” Ashley, was appointed as Elizabeth's governess in 1537, and she remained Elizabeth’s friend until her death, when Blanche Parry succeeded her as Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She clearly made a good job of Elizabeth’s early education: by the time William Grindal became her tutor in 1544, Elizabeth could already write English, Latin, and Italian. Under Grindal, a talented and skilful tutor, she also progressed in French and Greek. She is also reputed to have spoken Cornish.

After Grindal died in 1548, Elizabeth received her education under Roger Ascham, a sympathetic teacher who believed that learning should be engaging. By the time her formal education ended in 1550, she was the best educated woman of her generation.

It has been noted by many scholars that the Shakespearean history plays are an effective set of propaganda pieces that legitimize and glorify the Tudor dynasty, commissioned by Secretary of State William Cecil, principal minister to the Queen.