Elizabeth’s parents were disappointed when she was born. They desperately wanted a son. But Elizabeth eventually became one of England’s greatest rulers.


Elizabeth Tudor was born in 1533. Her father, King Henry VIII of England, had Elizabeth’s mother beheaded so he could marry again. He wanted to have a son to be king after him.

Young Elizabeth was smart and stubborn. She studied history, learned to speak several languages, and loved music and dancing. In 1547, King Henry died. Elizabeth’s younger brother, Edward, became king. Edward only lived for a few years after he took the throne. Elizabeth’s older sister, Mary, became queen when he died, but she also lived only a few more years. When Mary died in 1558, Elizabeth was crowned queen.

She faced a very difficult situation. Protestants and Roman Catholics were fighting over religion. Harvests failed, and food was expensive. Poor people roamed the countryside, stealing food. France and Spain, the two strongest countries in Europe, were enemies of England. Mary Stuart, queen of neighboring Scotland, dreamed of ruling England as well.


Most men thought that because Elizabeth was a woman, she was not fit to rule. But she proved them wrong! She chose wise advisers to help her rule, and persuaded Parliament (England’s lawmakers) to support her plans. She set up a new Church of England that pleased most of her people. She gave more power to local governments in towns and counties. She made England richer by encouraging exploration and trade with other countries. William Shakespeare and many other writers and artists produced great works during her reign.

Elizabeth was very successful at protecting England against enemies. She showed great courage in 1588, when Spain sent an armada (fleet of warships) to attack. The armada was wiped out by the English navy. Many princes and even kings asked Elizabeth to marry them so that they could become king of England. Elizabeth refused to marry so that England would not have a foreign king.

By the time Elizabeth died in 1603, England had been transformed. It was strong, proud, and successful. Looking back, people said that the time Elizabeth ruled was a golden age. They fondly called her Good Queen Bess.

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