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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 remained unresolved.
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.