The Elizabethan Era was a time of great prosperity and triumph. Led by Queen Elizabeth I, England launched into a Golden Age and soon became one of the world’s most influential and powerful nations. The age was a time of cultural growth, religious unity, economic expansion, and military success. Once Elizabeth took the throne and demonstrated her ability to govern her people, England developed a greater sense of national identity through educational, theatrical, literature, and religious ways. The Tudor epoch, beginning at the end of the War of the Roses, was a time of continuous change, as Western Europe experienced a shift from the Medieval to Early Modern Age. This period saw the emergence of new religious and societal practices, government administration, and internal relations. England was constantly fluctuating, as rulers after Henry VIII only lasted a few years and had their own various views on religion, foreign policy, Parliament’s importance, the image of the monarchy, and relations with the people. The short reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey, and Mary I did little to bridge divides and establish peace in a kingdom split against itself. In stark contrast to these rulers, Elizabeth created a time of peace, stability, and prosperity through her governmental policies, guidance of the people, religious tolerance, and military success. Prior to the Elizabethan Era, England was divided and its people had many differing ideas and viewpoints, especially regarding religion. Most individuals were willing to fight and die for their right to worship, who they believed in, how they could decorate their churches, and their ability to go on pilgrimages. Significant religious conflict first began when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church in 1534 and formed his own church – the Church of England, or Anglicanism. The King implemented the Dissolution of Monasteries, in which he ordered the closing of Catholic churches, abbeys, and convents. This act greatly reduced the power of the Catholic church, and gave Henry VIII the authority and influence over it. Even with Henry VIII creating a new church, England remained Catholic, and it wasn’t until his son, Edward VI, took the throne did England become a Protestant country. Edward VI was a devout Protestant, being raised by Protestant teachers and advisors. He changed the religion greatly, weakening its power by introducing a new prayer book, making churches less ornate through the removal of stained glass windows, allowing priests to marry, and changing the language of the services to English, allowing the common people to understand what was being said. Catholic people were treated terribly, often being unfairly convicted of crimes and discriminated against. Bishops and other Catholics in high positions were locked up, spending years in jail, only to be released when Mary I took the throne. Before Mary’s ascension, there was a brief period of nine days in which Lady Jane Grey ruled. Similar to Edward, Jane was a Protestant and believed in many of the same ideas. She was the cousin of Edward, and due to her indirect connection to the Crown was an unpopular ruler. According to Henry VIII’s will, Mary I was the rightful heir, allowing her to gather support and rally a sizeable army. She and her followers marched to London and imprisoned Jane, proclaiming Mary as the new Queen. When Mary took the throne, England was a Protestant nation, still following the principles of Edward. The new Queen, a pious Catholic, disagreed with her previous ruler’s policies and reinstituted Catholicism. She took a violent way of going about this, burning almost 300 Protestants at the stake and exiling around 800. Mary imprisoned leading Protestant clergymen, enforcing her ideas by punishing anyone who disagreed with her principles. These killings were so unpopular among the English people that even her own supporters disagreed with them, and her enemies gave her the nickname, “Bloody Mary”. Her death in 1558 led to the rise of a popular new queen, Elizabeth. In 1577, Raphael Holinshed depicted her ascension with this passage: “After all the stormy, tempestuous and blustering windy weather of Queen Mary was overblown….it pleased God to send England a calm and quiet season, a clear and lovely sunshine…a world of blessing by good Queen Elizabeth.” (footnote pg 17 time traveler’s guide).The Crown did not come easy for Elizabeth, as she was faced with many problems before she could assert full control, including: succession, rebellions, weak previous monarchs, foreign policy with France, poverty, and religion. Elizabeth refused marriage, determined not to be controlled by anyone, a result of her mother’s beheading, her father’s execution of another wife, fear of childbirth, and a traumatizing childhood. Footnote: Life in the Time of Shakespeare, p 15 This left the English people wondering if they would have a king or an heir, as in 16th century England, it was not believed that women could be powerful and successful. In 1545, Thomas Elyot, an English philosopher, wrote, “In the partes of wisdom and civile policy, women be found inapt, and to have little capacity.” footnote ibid, pg. 16-18. Many English people felt marrying could promote international relations and elevate their opinion of the Queen. Elizabeth promised a very different reign, and from the start in her coronation speech, she pledged herself to her subjects. Her devotion to England and its people was evident, as she stated, in her first speech to Parliament, “I am already bound unto a husband, which is the kingdom of England…everyone of you, and as many as are English, are my children and kinsfolks.” Footnote Elizabeth and her Court, pg 9 By dedicating herself to her subjects she, in effect, was married to all, her “faithful and loving people”. Footnote Elizabeth and her Court, pg 10. She had known some would be skeptical of her rule, but she proved them wrong by her shrewd tactics and military prowess. Elizabeth was able to guide her country though prosperous times, make England into a great military power, and positively steer the culture of her nation. She fostered an environment in which talented musicians, playwrights, and scientists emerged, expanding England culturally. Englanders proudly credit themselves for producing the great William Shakespeare, the genius scientist Francis Bacon, and well-known poet Edmund Spenser. Elizabeth’s imperial actions and discoveries in new lands, especially North America, increased the demand for natural philosophers and scientists to explain and explore these findings.As Queen, Elizabeth faced many who disagreed with her decisions and policies, and tried repeatedly to have her removed. Rebellions and revolts occurred throughout England and were a major problem to her rule. In order to shut down this rioting, Elizabeth placed an emphasis on having military units in every town, having over 200,000 soldiers in London alone. Due to her militaristic policies, the number of rebellions drastically decreased during Elizabeth’s time, as people knew they would be immediately stopped. Additionally, her deployment of a standing army led to fewer revolts, which caused more people to accept England’s policies without opposition. The widespread acceptance of her policies allowed Elizabeth to freely implement laws and acts in accordance to her plan. Elizabeth instituted two main ways of combating and controlling her nation: surveillance and militarism. She created a network of spies who were dispersed across the country, determining what problems the lower class were facing, what they disliked about Elizabeth, and if any rebellions were brewing. This information was then brought to Elizabeth who enacted policies accordingly. She also had this group of people distribute propaganda, displaying Elizabeth as god-like figure, putting fear and admiration into the people. They used torture to their advantage, finding out anything the Queen needed to know with ease. This allowed Elizabeth to learn about the plans of her enemies and determine ways to combat them before they happened. The surveillance group was grounded in secrecy, becoming a source of power the public didn’t know about. Queen Elizabeth also used the tactic of militarism, having naval and ground engagements with nearby countries and her own people. She had campaigns against Scotland and Ireland, putting them under her control as well. In order to further demonstrate her power, she consolidated her forces and placed a large emphasis on the military to defeat the Spanish, the most powerful nation at the time. The win against Spain was significant for Elizabeth, as it demonstrated her true strength to her people and foreign countries. Elizabeth came out the victor in many important battles, showing her subjects that they were safe in England, but also that if they opposed her, they would be shut down. These principles and actions taken by Elizabeth helped to set up a strong and stable nation after a time of fighting and disagreement, which led to fewer people leaving England, and more uniting under her rule. The rulers before Elizabeth had reigns filled with problems they weren’t able to control, specifically Edward ascending at a young age, Jane’s illegitimacy, and Mary’s unpopularness. Elizabeth was faced with just as many problems, and the people of England believed that she would shortly fall, similar to her predecessors. To overcome this, she developed a strong central image, mainly through her use of propaganda, instituted good advisers, and kept Parliament in check. The members of her court, faithful and devoted advisors, were made to stay extended hours and days in the Royal Palace, separated from their families, and were often viewed as being courted by the Queen. Although Elizabeth lost some power during the end of her reign, she created a period of strength and stability. Elizabeth inherited the throne when England had bad relations with France, as they had recently suffered a defeat against France and has loss Calais. As France was engulfed in the French Wars of Religion, Elizabeth was able to take some territorial holds and assert an English presence on the French West Coast. This movement created a realization in France that England still had some power over them. In fear of losing more land, France sought to improve some relations with England. However, their allegiance really solidified when Catherine de Medici became regent. Charles IX, the existing ruler of France, was not fond of Elizabeth and believed that Mary was the rightful queen, however, his mother, Catherine de Medici, was not sympathetic to Mary’s cause. Catherine withdrew French support for Mary in Scotland, allowing Elizabeth to take the throne. From that point on, Elizabeth started to advance the newfound relationship through diplomatic measures, and even offered her hand in marriage to Catherine’s son, Francis, Duke of Anjou. This was a very unusual motion, and caused an uproar in England. Elizabeth was known as the Virgin Queen and denied marriage to many Englishmen. The people of England believed that if she didn’t marry someone English, she shouldn’t marry anyone. There was too much turmoil around Elizabeth and marriage never occured. Even though Elizabeth didn’t marry into France’s hierarchy, the gesture was still there, proving to France that England wanted to be allies. The peace between these two nations lead to important changes in both England and France. It allowed for each country to have political representatives in the other, who talked about diplomatic relations and further improved their alliance. There was also a newfound progression into England of French artisans, scholars, teachers, and dignitaries, looking to spread their ideas, customs, and technology. These people resolved previous disagreements and misunderstandings, including the debate about Elizabeth’s marriage. Elizabeth believed that the only way she would be able to defeat the Spanish would be if she was allied with another powerful nation. She believed that this alliance would prevent Spain from attacking England again, therefore protecting them from their only real major threat. The two countries traded with each other frequently and England gained lots of French books, texts, and other literature. These works were translated into English and helped England form their own ideas and thoughts on many world and societal problems. England was also faced with high poverty, especially in the countryside, due to bad harvests and high prices. To combat this, Elizabeth passed the Poor Law in 1601, which provided relief to those who couldn’t work. These people, mainly those who had disabilities or were bankrupt, were cared for in poorhouses. The ones who were able to work were given jobs in Houses of Industry, places that provided food, water, lodging, and other means of assistance, in exchange for work. The Poor Act also allowed some children to take on apprenticeships, which was critical in getting them, and their families, back on track, as it ensured money in the future, therefore ending their cycle of poverty. This Act led to the creation of other similar ordinances, mainly the English Poor Laws, which are systems of poor relief still used today. Her introduction of the Poor Law not only prevented England’s main source of food production, the countryside, from falling, but also increased prosperity and caused surpluses. This allowed many people to move to the towns and cities to study other professions, creating a large artisan class and planting the seeds for cultural emergence. Elizabeth became the center of Protestant hopes, as she and Parliament established a new religious order that was predominantly Protestant. She used the Act of Supremacy to restore royal control over the Church by proclaiming herself as Supreme Governor and requiring people to take an oath to the Queen, swearing their allegiance. Elizabeth utilized the Act of Uniformity to restore Protestant liturgy and regulate religious observance which was done through a modified version of the second Book of Common Prayer. Protestant translations of the Scriptures, the German Bible, and other writings were beneficial and influential, as, for the first time, the English people had a bible in the vernacular designed for use of the laity. This common bible allowed for more people to study religiously and understand church services and their religion. Elizabeth was raised by Protestant advisors and teachers, and even though she was committed to this faith, Elizabeth was tolerant of other religions, a mindset not seen anywhere else at this time. Elizabeth created the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, in which she agreed with the policies of many religions and allowed people to follow any faith, as long as they conformed to, and were loyal to Elizabeth. The English people were required to attend an Elizabethan church service every week and were fined if they did not attend. Elizabeth revised the Book of Common Prayer, which was read at these services, in order to appeal to as many Englishmen as possible. The compliance of both Catholics and Protestants helped to distinguish themselves from separate religious groups, and see themselves as what they all were: English. Elizabeth’s reign brought forth a period of great prosperity and higher standards of living. People remodeled their homes on a grand scale and many homes were constructed in the shape of the letter “E” to pay tribute to the Queen. The higher standards brought about an emphasis on education, with children either being tutored at home with advisors or sent to grammar schools. At the age of 14, boys were expected to attend universities in Cambridge or Oxford, well established colleges during this time. Students spent eight years learning music, astronomy, mathematics, religion, philosophy, grammar, and history, earning bachelors and masters degrees. Elizabeth’s stepmother believed that Elizabeth should be educated as well as any prince would have been, and hired an advisor for her. She became multi-lingual and translated numerous works into English for herself and her people. Elizabeth continued to study with her tutor even after she became Queen and her love of books flowed over to her staff, as she often instructed her Maids and Ladies to read as well. Before the Elizabethan Era, most of education was religious, as people desired to read religious scriptures and writings. The focus of education shifted from religious matters to increasing literacy, promoting civilizing forces, serving the Commonwealth, instilling good manners and discipline, enhancing social status, and providing vocational training. The laity played a large role in education, more in England than in any other place. They founded schools, provided training for their sons, and became teachers. Elizabeth encouraged this by creating a demand for lay administrators and diplomats. This demand was reinforced by the emergence of trade inside England, as it led to a need for literacy. Literacy expanded significantly during Elizabeth’s reign. At the time of her accession, rates were approximately 20% for men and 5% for women, this number rose to 30% for men and doubled for women to 10% during her reign. In London, this was much higher, with the craftsmen at around 60% for men and 16% for women. Footnote Daily Life in Elizabethan England page 42. Another result of the educational shift was preparation for service of the Commonwealth. Many schoolmasters believed students should learn multiple trades and master them to greatly help the Commonwealth. Apprenticeships were instituted in order to teach these trades and further benefit this association. Elizabethans saw education as a means to expand their children’s knowledge and the power of England and through their increase in literacy rates, more people were able and willing to translate other countries’ texts, specifically Italian, into English. The Italian Renaissance affected England greatly, as England took many ideas and principles from Italy. Geoffrey Chaucer was an English writer who travelled to Italy to learn about their literature. He translated Petrarch’s sonnet, “S’amor non è, che dunque è quel ch’ io sento?” into the words: “If no love is, O God, what fele I so?” He derived the concept of gentillesse, which encouraged a virtuous lifestyle, from Dante and learned thematic content and narrative strategy. Chaucer’s biggest source of inspiration was Boccaccio. He learned narrative elements from Boccaccio’s novel, Teseida, which allowed him to write numerous books himself. Sir Thomas Wyatt was an English poet, playwright, ambassador, and translator who travelled to Italy to learn more about its culture. He introduced the sonnet to England and translated over 30 of Petrarch’s sonnets and canzonis. Wyatt also translated poems from Serafino, d’Aquila, Dragonetto Bonifacio, Giusto de’ Contri, Marcello Filosseno, and Jacopo Sannazzaro. He introduced satire, expressive art, and representative usefulness into England, which became an influence to famous playwrights such as Shakespeare. The huge increase in interest in Italian literature led to era of Italianate literary imitation where book importation increased, prints and translations spread, and English scholars united, as they all worked with the same focus: Italian literature.Before the Elizabethan Age, people rarely had time for leisure, but as they became increasingly more wealthy, they wanted to enjoy their lives. One way of doing this was through viewing and financing drama. William Shakespeare was a main proponent of theater and he, along with Christopher Marlow, Francis Beaumont, and John Fletcher, used plays not only for providing entertainment, but for transferring knowledge. The drama created by these authors became known as English theater. They were embraced across the nation and gave everyone common topics to talk to about. It was often noted that people who had never met before talked about Shakespeare as a way to find similarities and spark conversation. One of Shakespeare’s plays, Henriad, focuses on the militaristic aspect of Elizabeth’s rule, and gives insight on what it was, how she used it, and why it is beneficial for the country as a whole. It specifically re-enacts an event called “The Days of Villainy,” which was a revolt against the throne where 700 commoners were murdered. Shakespeare’s depiction of this event clearly showed his sympathy for the people, but also portrayed Elizabeth’s view and her reasoning on why it had to happen. Shakespeare diminished tensions, hatred, and potential future rebellions through Henriad, which overall united the country. Shakespeare became closely associated with the English identity, as his plays brought a sense of nationalism to the English people. Each of his works influenced England greatly, as its people wanted to be known as the people who lived in Shakespeare’s country. They came to love and accept his plays as their own, especially Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Richard II, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Othello, and Henry V. All of Shakespeare’s works contained some degree of history, educating the people of their past and creating pride in where they came from. England’s geographic isolation also led to the sense of patriotism and pride in being English. Due to it being surrounded by water, England was protected from outsiders, which created a mistrust of strangers that further strengthened their own identity. In his play, Richard II, Shakespeare described England as:The other Eden, demi-paradise,This fortress built by nature for herselfAgainst infection and the hand of war,This happy breed of men, this little world,This precious stone set in the silver sea,Which serves it in the office of a wall,Or as a moat defensive to a house,Against the envy of less happier lands,This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.Shakespeare praised England in this play, describing it as a “precious stone” and that its people were a “happy breed of men”. This illustration defined what it was to be English; people believed that they were great and that they lived in the best country. Shakespeare’s plays encouraged this mindset and instilled honor and pride in accepting it. Elizabeth created a scene in which her people were able to thrive in education, theater, literature, and religion through her exceptional ability to shut down rebellions and revolts, efficient ways of promoting her self image, successful creation of peace with neighboring countries, effective enactment of policies to end problems such as poverty, and implementation of religious policies. Elizabeth promoted self-sustainment through trade and agriculture, passing acts and laws to support merchants and farmers. The establishment of self-sufficiency in England created substantial wealth nationwide and brought about a change from the open field farming method to a more efficient system in which individuals legally owned land, encouraged by the Land Enclosure Acts. This new wealth and surplus of food led many people to search for employment in towns and cities. The large groups arriving in villages put more money into circulation, allowing Englishmen to spend money in places that were usually not developed, including education, theater, literature, and religious principles, all of which furthered the development of an English identity. As a result of her strong relationship with the people, effective military policies, ability to resolve problems created by previous rulers, peaceful foreign relations, successful way of combating poverty, and introduction of religious tolerance, Elizabeth was able to create an environment where her people prospered, the economy thrived, arts flourished, technological advances occurred and society overall progressed. The cultural developments during the Golden Age of Elizabeth’s reign led to the creation of a patriotic English identity that many embraced.