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Queen Elizabeth I
[author: Giulia Corso - postdate: 2007-11-18]


Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 - 24 March 1603) was Queen of England, France (in name only), and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. She is sometimes referred to as The Virgin Queen. She reigned for almost 45 years, during a period marked by increases in English power and influence worldwide, as well as great religious turmoil in England.  In her forty-five years as queen, she created only nine peerage dignities, one earldom and seven baronies in the Peerage of England, and one barony in the Peerage of Ireland.


She also reduced the number of Privy Counselors from thirty-nine to nineteen, and later to fourteen. Despite the fact that she did not leave a male heir, her forty-five years as Queen allowed a certain stabilization which had not been possible for the monarchs immediately preceding her. In particular, her reforms of the Church of England established a compromise between Catholic and Protestant positions.


The Queen found a dangerous rival in her Catholic cousin's daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, the wife of the French King Francis II. Mary had declared herself Queen of England in 1559 with French support. In Scotland, Mary Stuart's mother, Mary of Guise, attempted to cement French influence by providing army fortification against English aggression. A group of Scottish lords allied to Elizabeth deposed Mary of Guise and, under pressure from the English, Mary's representatives signed the Treaty of Edinburgh, which led to the withdrawal of French troops. Though Mary vehemently refused to ratify the treaty, it had the desired effect and French influence was greatly reduced in Scotland.


Mary Stuart had returned to Scotland upon her husband's death. In France meanwhile, conflict between the Catholics and the Huguenots led to the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion.


Elizabeth secretly gave aid to the Huguenots. She made peace with France in 1564, agreeing to give up her claims to the last English possession on the French mainland, Calais, after the defeat of an English expedition at Le Havre; but not to her claim to the French crown, which had been maintained since the reign of Edward III during the period of the Hundred Years' War in the 14th century, and was not renounced until the reign of George III during the 18th century (a few years after the French Revolution).


Later, several conspiracies aimed at bringing England back into the Catholic Church centered around Mary, Queen of Scots. Secret letters in her own hand were presented as evidence of conspiracy to overthrow Elizabeth, and the latter reluctantly had her executed for treason in 1587.