Elizabeth I, was the daughter of Henry
VIII and Anne Boleyn. It is amazing that she survived, with Henry being
a butcher, beheading English subjects at the rate of 4 1/2 executions a day
during his reign. Also, creating a new religion, to aid his bedroom
conquests, in the quest for a male heir.
surprising then that she believed piracy on the high seas, was acceptable
conduct for a principled monarch. But then the Spanish had been looting Aztecs,
Incan and Mayan
treasures for many a year, in search of silver and
gold, to build their Empires and Armies.
Despite its shaky legal and moral foundation, the practice of privateering formed a key part of Elizabeth’s naval strategy as she developed a ‘supplementary navy’ to help bring piracy on the seas – then in its so-called ‘Golden Age’ – under control. Pirates and freebooters roamed coastal waters virtually unchallenged, plundering ships in the
Atlantic, Caribbean and ever-closer to home which resulted in heavy losses for English commerce.
Essentially a privateer was a privately owned merchant ship (or an individual serving aboard it) equipped at their own expense, that had been commissioned by the Crown with a Letter of Marque to legitimately (used in its loosest sense here) take or raid vessels belonging to an enemy government. Proceeds from the captured ships and their loot were then divided between the shipowners, captains and crew with a percentage of the bounty given back to the government.
As Anglo-Spanish relations to deteriorate during her reign, Elizabeth went one step further in authorising a branch of privateers – the Sea Dogs – as a way to bridge the gap between the Spanish and English navies. The Sea Dogs would sail around and attack the Spanish fleets, picking off and looting ships in order to bring back treasure whilst simultaneously significantly reducing the size of the Spanish navy. By 1585 hostilities with Spain had reached boiling point and war was imminent. The Crown lacked sufficient funds to build an efficient navy, but privateering helped subsidise state power by mobilising armed ships and sailors.
Having been authorised by the Crown, the plundering of Spanish ships by the privateers was technically legal in England – despite the countries not officially being at war with one another. Unsurprisingly, the Spanish did not see things the same way. To them Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs were nothing more than lawless pirates.
SIR WALTER RALEIGH
Having come to the attention of Elizabeth I following his help in suppressing the uprising in Munster, he rose rapidly in the favour of Queen. In 1584 Raleigh entered parliament for Devon and Elizabeth granted him a royal charter authorising him to explore, colonise and rule settlements in the New World in return for a percentage of all the gold and silver which would be mined there.
Appointed Captain of the Queen’s Guard in 1587, Raleigh was never far from Elizabeth’s side. However, in 1591 he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. When Elizabeth discovered the marriage in 1592 both he and his wife were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Eventually released, he remained banished from court for a number of years, but returned to Parliament. It was several years before Raleigh returned to favour. In 1595 he set off on an unsuccessful expedition to find El Dorado, the fabled city rumoured to be located beyond the mouth of the Orinoco River.
In 1596, Raleigh took part in, and was wounded at, the Capture of Cadiz. He also served as the rear admiral of a voyage to the Azores in 1597. Chosen as the Member of Parliament for Dorset in 1597, and Cornwall in 1601, Raleigh was unique in the Elizabethan period in sitting for three different counties. In 1600 he became governor of Jersey, doing much to improve the island’s trade. Yet in 1603, following Queen Elizabeth’s death, he was accused of plotting against her successor, James I of England and VI of Scotland, and arrested. After a suicide attempt, Raleigh was tried at Winchester, found guilty and condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when he was on the scaffold. Sent back to the Tower of London, he turned to writing and scientific study.
In 1616 Raleigh was released again to lead a second expedition to search for El Dorado, but it was a failure and he also defied the King’s orders by attacking the Spanish. Upon his return to England the death sentence was reinstated and Raleigh was executed on 29 October 1618 at Whitehall.
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE
Francis Drake was one of the most profitable and successful Sea Dogs of all time. The eldest of 12 children, in 1563 Drake made his first voyage to the Americas, sailing with his cousin John Hawkins. He made three voyages with this fleet, attacking Portuguese towns and ships on the coast of West Africa and capturing slaves which were sold to Spanish settlers in the ‘New World’. In 1568 Drake took part in the Battle of San Juan de Ulúa, returning to Plymouth with gold and silver worth over £40,000 and in 1570 and 1571 he made two voyages to the West Indies, seizing gold and silver in the Americas and Atlantic, continuing to attack Spanish treasure ships. The Spanish were to become a lifelong enemy for Drake; they in turn considered him a pirate, branding him El Draque (The Dragon).
Drake embarked upon his first major independent enterprise, planning an attack on the Spanish Main at Nombre de Dios, a valuable port target which stored valuable silver and treasures from Peru. Drake left Plymouth on 24 May 1572 with a crew of 73 men in two small vessels, Pascha and Swan. He managed to successfully capture the town in the first raid in July 1572, but he and several of his men were wounded by musket fire and unable to get the treasure. To prevent total failure Drake and his men continued raiding Spanish ships for almost a year. In March 1573 Drake captured the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios, looting around 20 tons of silver and gold and by 9 August 1573 he had returned to Plymouth.
In 1588 Drake was a vice admiral in the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada alongside John Hawkins and Martin Frobisher. According to legend, Drake was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when the Spanish fleet was first sighted. In 1595 he joined his cousin Hawkins on an ill-fated voyage to the West Indies, during which he suffered a number of defeats. Drake died of dysentery in January 1596 and was buried at sea.
SIR JOHN HAWKINS
John Hawkins (1532-1595) was born in Plymouth into a wealthy and sea-faring family. Hawkins’ father was captain who traded overseas and when he died he left a small fleet of ships to his two sons. As he was growing up Hawkins would sail with his father on trading trips and evidently learned about the sea, but his interest lay in slave trading. Despite being known as ‘England’s first slave trader’, Hawkins was not the first to bring slaves back to England but was one of the first to profit from the Triangle Trade, selling supplies to colonies ill-supplied by their home countries and the demand for African slaves in the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Hawkins made several financially lucrative slave trade voyages in the 1560s and in 1564 Queen Elizabeth I invested in him by leasing the 700-ton ship Jesus of Lübeck along with three smaller ships for a more extensive voyage.
Hawkins sailed with his cousin (and soon-to-be Sea Dog) Francis Drake to the West African coast in order to capture slaves for trade in the Caribbean and South America, privateering along the way. Hawkins’ third voyage began in 1567; he and Drake obtained more African slaves for trade and apparently took and looted seven Portuguese ships. The fleet managed to sell most of the slaves at Spanish ports in the Americas using bribery and force, but on the way home encountered a major storm and had to stop to repair and refit. Whilst anchored in the port of San Juan de Ulúa to carry out this re-provisioning the fleet encountered a strong Spanish escort fleet under the command of Don Francisco Luján. Having been informed of Hawkins’s trade, which the Spanish deemed illegal and systematic, Luján attacked Hawkins’s fleet, considering them to be pirates. The Spanish destroyed all but two of the English ships – Minion and Judith – and the voyage home was a miserable one with starvation, dehydration and disease all rife.
Despite only being involved in the slave trade for around five years, Hawkins enslaved between 1,200 and 1,400 people and made so much money that Queen Elizabeth I granted him a special coat of arms which prominently featured a bound slave. Following this third and final voyage, Hawkins turned his attention to counter-espionage for the English government and in 1571 entered Parliament as MP for Plymouth and was later appointed Treasurer of the Royal Navy in 1578. Whilst in charge of the Navy, Hawkins instigated financial reforms and was determined that England should have the best fleet of ships in the world, as well as the best seamen. He petitioned and won a pay increase for sailors and made important improvements in ship construction and rigging resulting in faster more manoeuvrable ships, the effects of which were tested against the Spanish Armada in 1588. Hawkins, as Rear Admiral, was one of the main commanders of the English fleet against the Armada alongside Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher and received a battlefield knighthood for his role in the great sea battle.
Hawkins died at sea off Puerto Rico on 12 November 1595.
Anne Boleyn's execution set the stage for
annulment, and Elizabeth was for a time declared illegitimate. Her half-brother Edward VI ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, the Catholic Mary and the younger Elizabeth, in spite of statute law to the contrary. Edward's will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey. During Mary's reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
Upon her half-sister's death in 1558, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne and set out to rule by good counsel. She depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers led by William Cecil, whom she created 1st Baron Burghley. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the supreme governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement was to evolve into the Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir; however, despite numerous courtships, she never did. She was eventually succeeded by her first cousin twice removed, James VI of Scotland; this laid the foundation for the Kingdom of Great Britain. She had earlier been reluctantly responsible for the imprisonment and execution of James's mother, Mary, Queen of Scots.
In government, Elizabeth was more moderate than her father and half-siblings had been. One of her mottoes was "video et taceo" ("I see and keep silent"). In religion, she was relatively tolerant and avoided systematic persecution. After the pope declared her illegitimate in 1570 and released her subjects from obedience to her, several conspiracies threatened her life, all of which were defeated with the help of her ministers' secret service, run by Francis Walsingham. Elizabeth was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. She half-heartedly supported a number of ineffective, poorly resourced military campaigns in the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. By the mid-1580s, England could no longer avoid war with Spain.
As she grew older, Elizabeth became celebrated for her virginity. A cult of personality grew around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day. Elizabeth's reign became known as the Elizabethan era. The period is famous for the flourishing of English drama, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, the prowess of English maritime adventurers, such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, and for the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Some historians depict Elizabeth as a short-tempered, sometimes indecisive ruler, who enjoyed more than her fair share of luck. Towards the end of her reign, a series of economic and military problems weakened her popularity. Elizabeth is acknowledged as a charismatic performer ("Gloriana") and a dogged survivor ("Good Queen Bess") in an era when government was ramshackle and limited, and when monarchs in neighbouring countries faced internal problems that jeopardised their thrones. After the short reigns of her half-siblings, her 44 years on the throne provided welcome stability for the kingdom and helped to forge a sense of national identity.
Elizabeth was two years and eight months old when her mother was beheaded on 19 May 1536, four months after Catherine of Aragon's death from natural causes.
Eleven days after Anne Boleyn's execution, Henry married Jane Seymour. Queen Jane died the next year shortly after the birth of their son, Edward, who was undisputed heir apparent to the throne. Elizabeth was placed in her half-brother's household and carried the chrisom, or baptismal cloth, at his christening.
Elizabeth's first governess, Margaret Bryan, wrote that she was "as toward a child and as gentle of conditions as ever I knew any in my life". Catherine Champernowne, better known by her later, married name of Catherine "Kat" Ashley, was appointed as Elizabeth's governess in 1537, and she remained Elizabeth's friend until her death in 1565. Champernowne taught Elizabeth four languages: French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish. By the time William Grindal became her tutor in 1544, Elizabeth could write English, Latin, and Italian. Under Grindal, a talented and skilful tutor, she also progressed in French and Greek. By the age of 12 she was able to translate her stepmother Catherine Parr's religious work Prayers or Meditations from English into Italian, Latin, and French, which she presented to her father as a New Year's gift. From her teenage years and throughout her life she translated works in Latin and Greek by numerous classical authors, including the Pro Marcello of Cicero, the De consolatione philosophiae of Boethius, a treatise by Plutarch, and the Annals of Tacitus. A translation of Tacitus from Lambeth Palace Library, one of only four surviving English translations from the early modern era, was confirmed as Elizabeth's own in 2019, after a detailed analysis of the handwriting and paper was undertaken.
After Grindal died in 1548, Elizabeth received her education under her brother Edward's tutor, Roger Ascham, a sympathetic teacher who believed that learning should be engaging. Current knowledge of Elizabeth's schooling and precocity comes largely from Ascham's memoirs. By the time her formal education ended in 1550, Elizabeth was one of the best educated women of her generation. At the end of her life, she was believed to speak the Welsh, Cornish, Scottish and Irish languages in addition to those mentioned above. The Venetian ambassador stated in 1603 that she "possessed [these] languages so thoroughly that each appeared to be her native tongue".
A gift endowed to Cleopatra,
Queen of Egypt.
Edward VI died on 6 July 1553, aged 15. His will ignored the Succession to the Crown Act 1543, excluded both Mary and Elizabeth from the succession, and instead declared as his heir Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry VIII's younger sister Mary Tudor, Queen of France. Jane was proclaimed queen by the privy council, but her support quickly crumbled, and she was deposed after nine days. On 3 August 1553, Mary rode triumphantly into London, with Elizabeth at her side. The show of solidarity between the sisters did not last long. Mary, a devout Catholic, was determined to crush the Protestant faith in which Elizabeth had been educated, and she ordered that everyone attend Catholic Mass; Elizabeth had to outwardly conform. Mary's initial popularity ebbed away in 1554 when she announced plans to marry Philip of Spain, the son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and an active Catholic. Discontent spread rapidly through the country, and many looked to Elizabeth as a focus for their opposition to Mary's religious policies.
In January and February 1554, Wyatt's rebellion broke out; it was soon suppressed. Elizabeth was brought to court and interrogated regarding her role, and on 18 March, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Elizabeth fervently protested her innocence. Though it is unlikely that she had plotted with the rebels, some of them were known to have approached her. Mary's closest confidant, Emperor Charles's ambassador Simon Renard, argued that her throne would never be safe while Elizabeth lived; and Lord Chancellor Stephen Gardiner, worked to have Elizabeth put on trial. Elizabeth's supporters in the government, including William Paget, 1st Baron Paget, convinced Mary to spare her sister in the absence of hard evidence against her. Instead, on 22 May, Elizabeth was moved from the Tower to Woodstock, where she was to spend almost a year under house arrest in the charge of Sir Henry Bedingfeld. Crowds cheered her all along the way.
On 17 April 1555, Elizabeth was recalled to court to attend the final stages of Mary's apparent pregnancy. If Mary and her child died, Elizabeth would become queen, but if Mary gave birth to a healthy child, Elizabeth's chances of becoming queen would recede sharply. When it became clear that Mary was not pregnant, no one believed any longer that she could have a child. Elizabeth's succession seemed assured.
King Philip, who ascended the Spanish throne in 1556, acknowledged the new political reality and cultivated his sister-in-law. She was a better ally than the chief alternative, Mary, Queen of Scots, who had grown up in France and was betrothed to the Dauphin of France. When his wife fell ill in 1558, King Philip sent the Count of Feria to consult with Elizabeth. This interview was conducted at Hatfield House, where she had returned to live in October 1555. By October 1558, Elizabeth was already making plans for her government. Mary recognised Elizabeth as her heir on 6 November 1558, and Elizabeth became queen when Mary died on 17 November.
Elizabeth became queen at the age of 25, and declared her intentions to her council and other peers who had come to Hatfield to swear allegiance. The speech contains the first record of her adoption of the medieval political theology of the sovereign's "two bodies": the body natural and the body politic:
" My lords, the law of nature moves me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that is fallen upon me makes me amazed, and yet, considering I am God's creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all ... to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth. I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel."
As her triumphal progress wound through the city on the eve of the coronation ceremony, she was welcomed wholeheartedly by the citizens and greeted by orations and pageants, most with a strong Protestant flavour. Elizabeth's open and gracious responses endeared her to the spectators, who were "wonderfully ravished". The following day, 15 January 1559, a date chosen by her astrologer John Dee, Elizabeth was crowned and anointed by Owen Oglethorpe, the Catholic bishop of Carlisle, in Westminster Abbey. She was then presented for the people's acceptance, amidst a deafening noise of organs, fifes, trumpets, drums, and bells. Although Elizabeth was welcomed as queen in England, the country was still in a state of anxiety over the perceived Catholic threat at home and overseas, as well as the choice of whom she would marry.
Elizabeth's personal religious convictions have been much debated by scholars. She was a Protestant, but kept Catholic symbols (such as the crucifix), and downplayed the role of sermons in defiance of a key Protestant belief.
Elizabeth and her advisers perceived the threat of a Catholic crusade against heretical England. The queen therefore sought a Protestant solution that would not offend Catholics too greatly while addressing the desires of English Protestants, but she would not tolerate the Puritans, who were pushing for far-reaching reforms. As a result, the Parliament of 1559 started to legislate for a church based on the Protestant settlement of Edward VI, with the monarch as its head, but with many Catholic elements, such as vestments.
The House of Commons backed the proposals strongly, but the bill of supremacy met opposition in the House of Lords, particularly from the bishops. Elizabeth was fortunate that many bishoprics were vacant at the time, including the Archbishopric of Canterbury. This enabled supporters amongst peers to outvote the bishops and conservative peers. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was forced to accept the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England rather than the more contentious title of Supreme Head, which many thought unacceptable for a woman to bear. The new Act of Supremacy became law on 8 May 1559. All public officials were to swear an oath of loyalty to the monarch as the supreme governor or risk disqualification from office; the heresy laws were repealed, to avoid a repeat of the persecution of dissenters practised by Mary. At the same time, a new Act of Uniformity was passed, which made attendance at church and the use of an adapted version of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer compulsory, though the penalties for recusancy, or failure to attend and conform, were not extreme.
THE QUESTION OF MARRIAGE
From the start of Elizabeth's reign it was expected that she would marry, and the question arose to whom. Although she received many offers, she never married and remained childless; the reasons for this are not clear. Historians have speculated that Thomas Seymour had put her off sexual relationships, or educated her in the ways of other satisfactions. She considered several suitors until she was about fifty. Her last courtship was with Francis, Duke of Anjou, 22 years her junior. While risking possible loss of power like her sister, who played into the hands of King Philip II of Spain, marriage offered the chance of an heir. However, the choice of a husband might also provoke political instability or even insurrection.
THE VIRGIN QUEEN
Elizabeth's unmarried status inspired a cult of virginity related to that of the Virgin Mary. In poetry and portraiture, she was depicted as a virgin, a goddess, or both, not as a normal woman. At first, only Elizabeth made a virtue of her ostensible virginity: in 1559, she told the Commons, "And, in the end, this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin". Later on, poets and writers took up the theme and developed an iconography that exalted Elizabeth. Public tributes to the Virgin by 1578 acted as a coded assertion of opposition to the queen's marriage negotiations with the Duke of Alençon. Ultimately, Elizabeth would insist she was married to her kingdom and subjects, under divine protection. In 1599, she spoke of "all my husbands, my good people".
This claim of virginity was not universally accepted. Catholics accused Elizabeth of engaging in "filthy lust" that symbolically defiled the nation along with her body. Henry IV of France said that one of the great questions of Europe was "whether Queen Elizabeth was a maid or no".
A central issue, when it comes to the question of Elizabeth's virginity, was whether the queen ever consummated her love affair with Robert Dudley. In 1559, she had Dudley's bedchambers moved next to her own apartments. In 1561, she was mysteriously bedridden with an illness that caused her body to swell.
In 1587, a young man calling himself Arthur Dudley was arrested on the coast of Spain under suspicion of being a spy. The man claimed to be the illegitimate son of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, with his age being consistent with birth during the 1561 illness.
He was taken to Madrid for investigation, where he was examined by Francis Englefield, a Catholic aristocrat exiled to Spain and secretary to King Philip II. Three letters exist today describing the interview, detailing what Arthur proclaimed to be the story of his life, from birth in the royal palace to the time of his arrival in Spain. However, this failed to convince the Spanish: Englefield admitted to King Philip that Arthur's "claim at present amounts to nothing", but suggested that "he should not be allowed to get away, but [...] kept very secure." The king agreed, and Arthur was never heard from again.
WARS AND OVERSEAS TRADE
Elizabeth's foreign policy was largely defensive. The exception was the English occupation of Le Havre from October 1562 to June 1563, which ended in failure when Elizabeth's Huguenot allies joined with the Catholics to retake the port. Elizabeth's intention had been to exchange Le Havre for Calais, lost to France in January 1558. Only through the activities of her fleets did Elizabeth pursue an aggressive policy. This paid off in the war against Spain, 80% of which was fought at sea. She knighted Francis Drake after his circumnavigation of the globe from 1577 to 1580, and he won fame for his raids on Spanish ports and fleets. An element of piracy and self-enrichment drove Elizabethan seafarers, over whom the queen had little control.
THE SPANISH ARMADA
Sir Francis Drake had undertaken a major voyage against Spanish ports and ships in the Caribbean in 1585 and 1586. In 1587 he made a successful raid on Cádiz, destroying the Spanish fleet of war ships intended for the Enterprise of England, as Philip II had decided to take the war to England.
On 12 July 1588, the Spanish Armada, a great fleet of ships, set sail for the channel, planning to ferry a Spanish invasion force under the Duke of Parma to the coast of southeast England from the Netherlands. A combination of miscalculation, misfortune, and an attack of English fire ships on 29 July off Gravelines, which dispersed the Spanish ships to the northeast, defeated the Armada. The Armada straggled home to Spain in shattered remnants, after disastrous losses on the coast of Ireland (after some ships had tried to struggle back to Spain via the North Sea, and then back south past the west coast of Ireland). Unaware of the Armada's fate, English militias mustered to defend the country under the Earl of Leicester's command. Leicester invited Elizabeth to inspect her troops at Tilbury in Essex on 8 August. Wearing a silver breastplate over a white velvet dress, she addressed them in one of her most famous speeches:
" My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourself to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people ... I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm."
When no invasion came, the nation rejoiced. Elizabeth's procession to a thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral rivalled that of her coronation as a spectacle. The defeat of the armada was a potent propaganda victory, both for Elizabeth and for Protestant England. The English took their delivery as a symbol of God's favour and of the nation's inviolability under a virgin queen. However, the victory was not a turning point in the war, which continued and often favoured Spain. The Spanish still controlled the southern provinces of the Netherlands, and the threat of invasion remained. Sir Walter Raleigh claimed after her death that Elizabeth's caution had impeded the war against Spain:
"If the late queen would have believed her men of war as she did her scribes, we had in her time beaten that great empire in pieces and made their kings of figs and oranges as in old times. But her Majesty did all by halves, and by petty invasions taught the Spaniard how to defend himself, and to see his own weakness."
Though some historians have criticised Elizabeth on similar grounds, Raleigh's verdict has more often been judged unfair. Elizabeth had good reason not to place too much trust in her commanders, who once in action tended, as she put it herself, "to be transported with an haviour of vainglory".
In 1589, the year after the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth sent to Spain the English Armada or Counter Armada with 23,375 men and 150 ships, led by Sir Francis Drake as admiral and Sir John Norreys as general. The English fleet suffered a catastrophic defeat with 11,000–15,000 killed, wounded or died of disease and 40 ships sunk or captured. The advantage England had won upon the destruction of the Spanish Armada was lost, and the Spanish victory marked a revival of Philip II's naval power through the next decade.
EAST INDIA COMPANY AND LATER YEARS
The East India Company was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region and China, and received its charter from Queen Elizabeth on 31 December 1600. For a period of 15 years, the company was awarded a monopoly on English trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Straits of Magellan. Sir James Lancaster commanded the first expedition in 1601. The Company eventually controlled half of world trade and substantial territory in India in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The period after the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 brought new difficulties for Elizabeth that lasted until the end of her reign. The conflicts with Spain and in Ireland dragged on, the tax burden grew heavier, and the economy was hit by poor harvests and the cost of war. Prices rose and the standard of living fell. During this time, repression of Catholics intensified, and Elizabeth authorised commissions in 1591 to interrogate and monitor Catholic householders. To maintain the illusion of peace and prosperity, she increasingly relied on internal spies and propaganda. In her last years, mounting criticism reflected a decline in the public's affection for her.
During the last years of her reign, Elizabeth came to rely on the granting of monopolies as a cost-free system of patronage, rather than asking Parliament for more subsidies in a time of war. The practice soon led to price-fixing, the enrichment of courtiers at the public's expense, and widespread resentment. This culminated in agitation in the House of Commons during the parliament of 1601. In her famous "Golden Speech" of 30 November 1601 at Whitehall Palace to a deputation of 140 members, Elizabeth professed ignorance of the abuses, and won the members over with promises and her usual appeal to the emotions:
" Who keeps their sovereign from the lapse of error, in which, by ignorance and not by intent they might have fallen, what thank they deserve, we know, though you may guess. And as nothing is more dear to us than the loving conservation of our subjects' hearts, what an undeserved doubt might we have incurred if the abusers of our liberality, the thrallers of our people, the wringers of the poor, had not been told us!"
The seeds of commercial corruption thus ignored, continues unabated in the Commons and House of Lords. Her namesake too, put a telescope to a blind eye in the 2000s, leading to Debts of £2.4 trillion pounds and mounting. And not a Spanish Galleon in sight to ease the taxpayers burden (borrowing).
The queen's health remained fair until the autumn of 1602, when a series of deaths among her friends plunged her into a severe depression. In February 1603, the death of Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham, the niece of her cousin and close friend Lady Knollys, came as a particular blow. In March, Elizabeth fell sick and remained in a "settled and unremovable melancholy", and sat motionless on a cushion for hours on end. When Robert Cecil told her that she must go to bed, she snapped: "Must is not a word to use to princes, little man." She died on 24 March 1603 at Richmond Palace, between two and three in the morning. A few hours later, Cecil and the council set their plans in motion and proclaimed James King of England.
Elizabeth was lamented by many of her subjects, but others were relieved at her death. Expectations of King James started high but then declined. By the 1620s, there was a nostalgic revival of the cult of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was praised as a heroine of the Protestant cause and the ruler of a golden age. James was depicted as a Catholic sympathiser, presiding over a corrupt court.
Though Elizabeth followed a largely defensive foreign policy, her reign raised England's status abroad. "She is only a woman, only mistress of half an island," marvelled Pope Sixtus V, "and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all".
Under Elizabeth, the nation gained a new self-confidence and sense of sovereignty, as Christendom fragmented. Elizabeth was the first Tudor to recognise that a monarch ruled by popular consent. She therefore always worked with parliament and advisers she could trust to tell her the
truth - a style of government that her Stuart successors failed to follow.
Boris Johnson, one of the least truthful prime ministers of the modern age, set the stage ripe for an abolition makeover and a constitution written resolutely. Since Queens and Kings so easliy Pied Pipered, are liabilities a nation can ill afford in a highly competitive world of international
Samuel - Black
- English Teach and the Queen
Anne - Pirate
Sir Francis - Privateer
England - Irish pirate, Edward Seegar
Age of Piracy
John - Privateer
Benjamin - Privateer Captain
Roger - Pirate flag
William - Captain Kidd, privateer/pirate
Henry - Privateer, Sir
Henry Governor of Jamaica
of the Caribbean, Disney's film
Jack - Calico Jack
Sir Walter - Privateers
Mary - Pirate
Bartholomew - Black
Bellamy - Black Sam, the pirate
and Crossbones - Pirate flag
to buried gold and jewels - Island
Charles - Pirate captain