Queen Elizabeth I: England’s most iconic Queen


This is one of the most famous portraits of Queen Elizabeth I.

Olivia Howell, Opinion-Editorial Editor

Queen Elizabeth is one of the iconic figures in history. One look at her pale skin and flaming red hair and it is obvious who the portrait is of. People know of her but don’t actually know her, but who was she? 

Daughter of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Elizabeth was born in 1533. While she was not the oldest child of King Henry, she became Queen of England in 1558 and ruled until her death in 1603.


Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII. His first marriage to Catherine of Aragon was annulled on a technicality and his child from that marriage was therefore illegitimate. 

King Henry tried to divorce Anne Boleyn, but Boleyn fought to keep their marriage and child. Eventually the king was able to frame her for treason, adultery, incest, and witchcraft. 

The King had Boleyn executed. Boleyn could’ve lived if only she had gone along with the divorce, but she wanted her only daughter to have the perks of being the heir to the throne of England.

Unfortunately, King Henry was able to convince parliament to make his marriage to Anne Boleyn illegitimate. This made Elizabeth illegitimate. 

King Henry was able to have a son through his third marriage to Jane Seymour. Elizabeth was then third in line for the throne after her brother Edward and her older sister Mary.

Ascension to the Throne

In 1547 King Henry VIII died and Edward became King at the age of 10. He quickly became a pawn of various members of the government. 

In 1553 Edward caught tuberculosis and died. Before he died, he changed his will so that Elizabeth and her older sister Mary were no longer in line for the throne and instead a relative would rule.

This relative, Lady Jane Grey, was only Queen for nine days before she was overthrown and Mary took over.

Queen Mary (not to be confused with Mary Queen of Scots) took over the throne in 1553 and made immediate changes. She first made her parents’ marriage legitimate again and executed those involved in its original break. She then started moving the monarchy back towards Catholicism after a switch to being Protestant during her father’s reign. 

To the ire of the Protestants, Mary married a Spanish Prince, but did not have any children with him.

Queen Mary started persecuting the protestants by burning them at the stake and jailing them. She even killed some of her father’s friends. 

She died in 1558 and Elizabeth was then put onto the throne. Elizabeth was able to calm the feud between Catholicism and Protestants. 

Spain eventually tried to take over England, but Elizabeth and the Royal Armada were able to defeat them. This was a major accomplishment at the time since the Spanish Armada was considered the best at the time.

Other than this one spat of war, Elizabeth’s reign was relatively peaceful. It allowed the people of England to flourish economically and in art. 

Elizabeth is also known for being the only unmarried English queen. Some say she decided not to for fear of foreign influence, and some say that she simply did not want to marry. She did have several suitors, but none that she married or created an heir with. 


Queen Elizabeth ruled England successfully for 44 years despite financial hardships, insurrections, and wars, yet when some of her friends started dying, it sent her into the thralls of depression, and she never fully recovered.

She died on March 24, 1603. Before she died she said she did not want a post-mortem done on her, so we will never know for sure how she died. Some historians think that it was cancer, pneumonia, or strep throat, but the most interesting theories are that the makeup that made her so pale gave her blood poisoning or that her coronation ring somehow killed her because it had grown into her hand from never being removed since her coronation. 

Overall, Queen Elizabeth I created a period of general stability during her reign and is considered one of England’s most successful monarchs. Her decision to not marry makes her an iconic figure in a time when marriage was expected if not demanded from women. Her legacy stretched to title the time period she reigned in, creating the Elizabethan era.