Elizabeth the Great (1958), by Elizabeth Jenkins, is a biography of Queen Elizabeth I of England, ‘‘Good Queen Bess,’’ who reigned from 1558 until her death in 1603.
Elizabeth I was born in 1533, the daughter of King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn. When Elizabeth was only two years old, her father ordered the beheading of her mother. When Henry VIII died in 1547 he was succeeded by his son, Elizabeth’s half-brother, the nine-year-old Edward VI. After Edward VI died in 1553, Elizabeth’s halfsister became Queen Mary I of England. Mary, who was Catholic, earned the name Bloody Mary for her persecution of Protestants during her reign. Because Elizabeth was Protestant and because Mary feared Elizabeth might plot against her life, Elizabeth was imprisoned throughout most of Mary’s reign.
Upon Mary I’s death in 1558, Elizabeth was named Queen of England. Elizabeth was masterful at creating a public image for herself that appealed to the emotions of her citizens and allayed their concerns about being ruled by a female monarch. Elizabeth’s refusal to marry, and therefore to bear heirs, was a significant point of conflict between herself and her Parliament throughout her reign. Meanwhile, she maintained a close companionship through much of her life with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom she also refused to marry.
Throughout her reign, Elizabeth was threatened by various plots to murder her and place the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. A number of conspiracies against her life and crown were uncovered, resulting in many executions for treason, including the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. However, upon Elizabeth’s death, King James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, was named as her successor, making him King James I of England.