Was Elizabeth the First called the "Good Queen Bess"? If so, why?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elizabeth I was called "Good Queen Bess" in part because Bess is a nickname for Elizabeth. In addition, during her reign (1558–1603), Elizabeth maintained stability and prosperity in England, putting an end to a period of instability and turbulence.

Elizabeth was immediately preceded by Mary, Queen of Scots, who was a devout Catholic and who angered Protestants and Catholics alike by marrying the man who was accused of killing her husband. In contrast, Elizabeth was called the "Virgin Queen," as she never married. Her decision not to marry resulted in stability in England, as she did not become embroiled in romantic or diplomatic intrigues. In religious matters, she reinstated the Church of England as the official church with the Act of Supremacy in 1559. Unlike her predecessors, she took a (comparatively) tolerant view toward religion and toward Catholics. She also brought about peace with France by ending a war that was causing financial strain for the English throne, and, under her, English forces defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. This victory ushered in a period of English supremacy on the seas and made England an imperial power. During the Elizabethan age, as her reign is known, English arts flourished, and Shakespeare and Marlowe wrote for the stage. "Good Queen Bess" ruled over a powerful and stable England. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elizabeth encouraged her troops with a notable speech, known as the Speech to the Troops at Tilbury, in which she famously declared, "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 I think it foul scorn that Spain or Parma or any prince of Europe should dare invade the borders of my realm". Thus the legend of Good Queen Bess was born.

Also, in many biographies of the Tudor family including, but not limited to King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, it is recorded that Henry's nickname for Elizabeth was "Bessie" which may be where the term of endearment "Good Queen Bess" originated.

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

She was in fact called Good Queen Bess. This was an affectionate nickname the country had for her, showing their support. Elizabeth was known to be brave, and to have a sense of humor, and both of these endeared her to the common populace, who called her this informally, showing both approval and a kind of identification.

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Elizabeth the Great

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