Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This date in history: Elizabethan Age Begins

"It is the Lord's doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.--Psalms 118:23, quoted by Queen Elizabeth I of England upon hearing of her accession to the throne.

On November 17, 1558, at 6:00 in the morning, the English Queen Mary I died at St. James Palace in London. Parliament convened and by 8:00 decided that Mary's half-sister Princess Elizabeth should succeed her. Mary and Elizabeth, the daughters of King Henry VIII by his first and second wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, respectively, had had a troubled relationship for the five years of Mary's reign. Mary, like her mother, was a devout Catholic and had earned the nickname "Bloody Mary" for her intense anti-Protestant legislation. Some of her Protestant subjects attempted to overthrow her and put Elizabeth on the throne, leading Mary to arrest Elizabeth and put her in the Tower of London on suspicion of complicity in the plot. However, on her deathbed, Mary accepted that Elizabeth would inherit her throne.

Queen Elizabeth I, known as the Virgin Queen because she refused to marry and share power with a husband, reigned for 44 years, bringing stability to the country and seeing the emergence of England as a world power. Her reign coincided with the flowering of the English Renaissance and has been called the "Golden Age" of England.

We have several good works available in the library about Elizabeth I, including the splendid biography by Alison Weir [DA355.W36 1999], some of the Queen's own writings [DA350.A25 2000], several historical novels and the 1998 Polygram Entertainment film starring Cate Blanchett (trailer below courtesy of Youtube). You can also read more about her accession in this article from History Today, which I found in our World History Collection database.

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