The first Queen of America!

Coronation portrait of Elizabeth I

Here is a glittering portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn – that you can see at the National Portrait Gallery.

Elizabeth I lived from 1533-1603 and reigned from 1558-1603.  This portrait was by an unknown English artist in c.1600 and is known as ‘The Coronation portrait’ – because the Queen is wearing the cloth of gold that she wore on her coronation on 15 January 1559.  The Queen holds the orb (a symbol of God’s authority) and sceptre (a symbol of the Queen’s authority as head of the Church of England).

Anne Boleyn gave up her life (by refusing a marriage annulment) in the hope that her daughter Elizabeth would, one day, take the crown of England.  Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne after the bloody reign of her older half-sister; Mary I.  Elizabeth skilfully navigated a difficult period of Christian worship in England.  She secured the Church of England by establishing a protestant ‘Anglican’ faith that retained many Catholic appearances and practices such as; the liturgy, vestments, hymns, stained glass windows and symbols.  It was a very effective religious compromise.

Queen Elisabeth lived at Whitehall Palace and St James’s Palace in Westminster. She never married, but Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, and childhood friend, sought, and got close, to win her hand in marriage.

The threat of invasion by Spain was a constant throughout much of her early reign but thanks to Elizabeth’s close advisers, the Cecil’s and her naval leaders, notably Sir Francis Drake, the Spanish Armada of 1588 was defeated and scattered.

Elizabeth died on 24 March 1603 and is buried at Westminster Abbey. Her tomb rests directly above that of her half-sister; Mary I.  A touching epitaph reads; ‘Partners in throne and grave, here we sleep Elizabeth and Mary, sisters in the hope of one Resurrection.

Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh were instrumental in expanding English influence in the New World and America.  In 1577 Sir Francis Drake went south, round the tip of the Americas, and in 1585 Sir Walter Raleigh sent ships to establish a colony at Roanoke Island – he named it Virginia in honour of Queen Elizabeth I.  The colony returned due to hardship, but brought with it potatoes and tobacco – and an appreciation of a new world to return to!  The early settlements were built upon in the subsequent reign of King James I.   The first permanent settlement in North America was at Jamestown, Virginia (1607) by Captain John Smith and then, famously, at Plymouth Rock in 1620 – where William Bradford and his fellow Mayflower pilgrims arrived – today, celebrated as the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the United States of America.

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