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Roman Catholics, indeed, always considered her illegitimate and she only narrowly escaped execution in the wake of a failed rebellion against Queen Mary in Elizabeth succeeded to the throne on her half-sister's death in November Her year reign is generally considered one of the most glorious in English history. During it a secure Church of England was established.

Its doctrines were laid down in the 39 Articles of , a compromise between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Elizabeth herself refused to 'make windows into men's souls Most of her subjects accepted the compromise as the basis of their faith, and her church settlement probably saved England from religious wars like those which France suffered in the second half of the 16th century. Overall, Elizabeth's administration consisted of some officials administering the great offices of state, and a similar number dealing with the Crown lands which funded the administrative costs.

Social and economic regulation and law and order remained in the hands of the sheriffs at local level, supported by unpaid justices of the peace. Elizabeth's reign also saw many brave voyages of discovery, including those of Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and Humphrey Gilbert, particularly to the Americas.

These expeditions prepared England for an age of colonisation and trade expansion, which Elizabeth herself recognised by establishing the East India Company in at the very end of The arts flourished during Elizabeth's reign. Country houses such as Longleat and Hardwick Hall were built, miniature painting reached its high point, theatres thrived - the Queen attended the first performance of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. James's Palace. The image of Elizabeth's reign is one of triumph and success.

Investing in expensive clothes and jewellery to look the part, like all contemporary sovereigns , she cultivated this image by touring the country in regional visits known as 'progresses', often riding on horseback rather than by carriage. Elizabeth made at least 25 progresses during her reign. However, Elizabeth's reign was one of considerable danger and difficulty for many, with threats of invasion from Spain through Ireland, and from France through Scotland.

Much of northern England was in rebellion in A papal bull of specifically released Elizabeth's subjects from their allegiance, and she passed harsh laws against Roman Catholics after plots against her life were discovered. One such plot involved Mary, Queen of Scots, who had fled to England in after her second husband, Henry, Lord Darnley's, murder and her subsequent marriage to a man believed to have been involved in his murder, James, Earl of Bothwell.. As a likely successor to Elizabeth, Mary spent 19 years as Elizabeth's prisoner because Mary was the focus for rebellion and possible assassination plots, such as the Babington Plot of Mary was also a temptation for potential invaders such as Philip II.

In a letter of to Mary, Elizabeth wrote, 'You have planned I never proceeded so harshly against you. In , aided by bad weather, the English navy scored a great victory over the Spanish invasion fleet of around ships - the 'Armada'. During Elizabeth's long reign, the nation also suffered from high prices and severe economic depression, especially in the countryside, during the s. The war against Spain was not very successful after the Armada had been beaten and, together with other campaigns, it was very costly. Though she kept a tight rein on government expenditure, Elizabeth left large debts to her successor.

William Cecil (1st Baron Burghley) (The Diary of Samuel Pepys)

Despite the combination of financial strains and prolonged war after , Parliament was not summoned more often. There were only 16 sittings of the Commons during Elizabeth's reign, five of which were in the period Their personal relationship was respectful and trusting, but quite unlike the emotional relationships that Elizabeth had with some of her other advisors — the Earls of Leicester and Essex, or Sir Christopher Hatton, for example.

This was done in the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy of The results were probably more conservative in doctrine than Cecil would have liked, but it was a structure he could support. The other key policy objective of the s for Cecil was to persuade Elizabeth to marry and beget an heir. This she avoided doing, whether for emotional or political reasons can never be conclusively determined.

Failure by Elizabeth to produce an heir was very likely to result in the inheritance of her throne by Mary, Queen of Scots — an idea which Cecil loathed. By the end of the decade, the succession problem and the religious problem had fused into one when the Queen of Scots was deposed by her rebellious nobles and sought help from Elizabeth. Elizabeth was inclined to give it, but Cecil made every effort to dissuade her.

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The poorly organised Rising of the Northern Earls in , followed by a Bull of Excommunication against Elizabeth from the Pope hardened her attitude to both Mary and her Catholic subjects, whose secret continuance in the old faith she had been inclined to ignore. In the s, Cecil, who was ennobled as Baron of Burghley in and appointed as Lord Treasurer shortly afterwards, worked hard, in concert with Sir Francis Walsingham, to protect the Queen from overthrow assassination.

Between them, Burghley and Walsingham built up a comprehensive network of informers that enabled them to foil a number of plots although some of them may have originated in the fertile brains of the two of them. There was also increasing pressure for England to intervene in the war in the Netherlands, where local leaders were desperate to throw of the rule of Spain.

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Elizabeth was reluctant to involve England in foreign wars, for lack of money, and also for fear of encouraging rebellion against lawful authority. Burghley certainly believed in helping his co-religionists, but was well aware of the financial difficulties and of the risks of goading Spain too far. Increased penalties for Catholics were introduced, and Burghley finally found evidence to implicate Mary, Queen of Scots in a plot to murder Elizabeth.

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He persuaded the Queen to have her cousin tried. Following conviction, it was many weeks before Elizabeth could be induced to sign the death warrant, and when she did, almost immediately recalling it, Burghley took the initiative and had had Mary executed as quickly as possible. This resulted in a clash with Elizabeth that banished him for several months. Following the victory over the Armada in , Burghley, by then in his late sixties, hoped to slow down. Her twin refusals, to marry or to name a successor, placed her directly at odds with Cecil, but for Elizabeth these decisions were hers alone, so near as they were to her heart and to the mystery of her royal prerogative.

The queen never visited Ireland. She also knew a great deal less about Ireland than England, the country of her birth, the place where she lived her entire life and which was the centre of her world. Ireland was a domestic concern in so far as it was not an independent territory like the kingdom of Scotland or France; but Ireland was not England and remained in many respects foreign to Elizabeth. Ireland had always occupied an ambiguous place in both the Tudor state and Tudor thinking.

It was, like England, a kingdom, and part of a wider multiple monarchy, which Elizabeth ruled over and which was subject to the laws of England. Neither Elizabeth nor the men who acted in her name could make up their minds whether the native population were her subjects at all, nor whether the state could accept Irishness as a legitimate form of cultural identity alongside Englishness. Their identity was increasingly called into question as the century wore on.

Cecil is depicted in the lower right-hand corner, seated impatiently on an hourglass; Nowell, the cartographer, is slumped in the opposite corner, driven to drink.

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Cecil was said to have carried this map of the Tudor kingdoms with him wherever he went; the folds are visible still. British Library. Bridging this divide between the Tudor kingdoms was William Cecil. Like his queen, he never set foot in Ireland, but unlike her he worked throughout his career to understand the kingdom and its inhabitants.

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Where Elizabeth showed herself in her interview with Howth to be badly uninformed about the sensitivities that were attached to language in Ireland, Cecil understood the subject so well that he could manipulate language itself. How, we might ask, did Cecil acquire such an intimate knowledge of Ireland? He peered into corners of the realm which had yet to be touched by royal government along with those that had through the many maps which were drawn at his behest and which often bear his notes locating key people and places.