1.9 Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
Elizabeth’s reign is considered the Golden Age
in the History of England. For she ushered in political stability
and with it trade, commerce and the fine arts flourished. The English
language was also polished and tempered at this time.
Elizabeth was not in a hurry to solve the question
of religion. She wanted to solve this very delicate problem with
the help of the Parliament who represented the people. She took
the advantage of the popular public feeling and acted accordingly.
With suave diplomacy, she adopted the policy of ecclesiastical compromise.
She founded a National Church i.e. the "Anglican Church,"
which borrowed principles from both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant
faiths. Thus, she won the hearts of the followers of both faiths.
The religious policy of England (Elizabeth) was
not liked by Philip of Spain. He attempted to murder the Queen,
but could not succeed in it. With the financial help of Pope Sixtus
V, he decided to invade England, but was badly defeated. This event
established the supremacy of England and its trade and commerce
also flourished. It checked the progress of Catholicism. England
also became a major naval power in Europe.
On the fine arts front, Elizabeth invited talented
artists from various parts of Europe to settle in England and spread
their skill and knowledge. In the field of agriculture too, there
was improvement. People were encouraged to grow more food grains
in the country. This ensured self-sufficiency as regards food. Besides,
she was very popular among the poorer classes because of the generous
provisions of her poor laws.
For Elizabeth inculcated in the people love for
the country. Popular poets and playwrights were also largely responsible
for the development of this patriotic fervor. Thus, Nationalism
brought the English people closer together.
The English Parliament acquired a special place
during the reign of Elizabeth. The Parliament acquired the right
to vote and the right against unwarranted arrest of its members.
The Parliament also acquired the power to punish those who gave
bribes during elections.
Elizabeth had special love for music and literature.
According to Trevelyan, "Europe recognized Elizabethan England
as the country of music par excellence." Besides instrumental
and vocal music, people were interested in architecture, theater,
dance, acting etc. All forms of art and literature attained great
heights during the time of Elizabeth.
1.9a Foreign Relations of Elizabeth
Elizabeth was a true politician. She framed her
foreign policy with the intense ambition that England emerge as
an important nation, socially, politically, religiously and even
economically. She encouraged internal differences and revolts in
Spain, France etc. By this the neighboring countries would remain
occupied with their own national problems. This would give England
room to grow powerful in the community of European nations.
Philip of Spain desired to help England to win
back some of the territory she had lost in France, but on
the conditions that he marry Elizabeth and dominate her foreign
policy. Elizabeth refused to compromise on these terms so the issue
The Anglo-Spanish relations had already deteriorated
but Elizabeth did not desire to have the same quality of relations
with France at this moment of time. So Elizabeth decided to remain
neutral when the Protestants of Scotland requested her to help them.
Later on she did help them against France, but very secretly. This
way she could maintain relations with both, France and Scotland.
A revolt broke out in Ireland during the time of
Elizabeth after the Pope ex-communicated her. At this time she sent
the Earl of Essex etc. to suppress the revolt. After this Ireland
completely came under the control of England.