17th November 1558 – Elizabeth I Becomes Queen

On this day in history, 17th November 1558, Mary I died after a reign of just five years and Elizabeth I came to the throne and ruled for over 44 years. One sister has gone down in history as “Bloody Mary” and the other as the queen who brought in a golden age and who is known as “The Virgin Queen” and “Gloriana”. One is maligned, the other adored, but both suffered at the hands of a tyrannical father who treated their mothers cruelly and both rose above their pasts to become Queens of England and to make an impact on English history.

Mary I was far more than “Bloody Mary” and please read “The Myth of Bloody Mary” if you believe that. And Elizabeth I was far more than “The Virgin Queen”. Too often are these women remembered by the salacious details of their lives – Mary’s persecution of Protestants, Elizabeth’s relationship with Robert Dudley, Mary’s phantom pregnancies, Elizabeth’s treatment of Mary Queen of Scots… – let’s remember them today for their achievements and here are just a few of them:-

Mary I’s Achievements

In a BBC History Magazine article, David Loades lists Mary I’s achievements as:-

  • Mary I preserved the Tudor succession
  • She strengthened the position of Parliament by using it for her religious settlement
  • She established the “gender free” authority of the crown
  • She restored and strengthened the administrative structure of the church
  • She maintained the navy and reformed the militia

And let’s not forget that she fought successfully for her crown in July 1553.

Elizabeth I’s Achievements

  • Defeating the Spanish Armada
  • Carrying on her father’s work with the Navy and making England a strong naval power
  • Defending England from the Scots and turning Scotland into an ally
  • Expanding England overseas
  • Founding the Church of England as we know it today through her religious settlement
  • Raising the status of England abroad
  • Surviving and defeating the plots and revolts against her
  • Ruling as Queen in her own right
  • Her promotion of the Arts
  • Her understanding that a monarch needed to work with advisers and Parliament, to be able to rule successfully

Both queens should be respected and appreciated, they were both amazing women.

You can read more about Mary I’s death and Elizabeth I’s accession in “The Death of Mary I and the Accession of Elizabeth I”

Notes and Sources

6 thoughts on “17th November 1558 – Elizabeth I Becomes Queen

  1. So true. Both had admirable qualities and did good things and made mistakes. I think Mary’s nickname is unfortunate because she was, I beleive, at heart, generous and forgiving. I think she wanted to be that way. Thanks!

  2. Poor Mary. One addition to the list of Elizabeth’s accomplishments, thought, should be the “Poor Laws” of the 1590s. The “Elizabethan Poor Houses” were part of an attempt to end the harsh punishments for “vagrants” imposed by law under Henry VIII and Edward VI … and were one of the earliest attempts by a government to recognize that governments had to care for the poor when private charity was not doing enough.

  3. Re poor laws, the Elizabethan poor houses were not for “vagrants” but for the “deserving” poor only, as had been Brideswell, given to the City of London by Edward VI, and turned into a prison by Elizabeth. It is not true that her legislation was radically new, in fact governments throughout the Tudor era had seen the problem, at least from Wolsey onwards. The earliest poor law put into practice was passed in January 1552, under Edward VI, and provided for weekly collections in parishes for the poor as well as lists with the local needy (the slavery law of 1547 had been abolished in 1550). This practice was taken up by Elizabeth’s poor law: “The legislation of 1552 was a major advance, effectively laying the foundations of the Elizabethan Poor Law” in the words of Paul Slack, THE authority on English poor laws.

  4. I love Elizabeth’s coronation portrait. Those lovely dark eyes staring back at us were inherited from Anne Boleyn. I would be willing to bet that up in Heaven, Anne was making quite a racket, cheering for her girl, through all the years of Elizabeth’s reign.

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