Queen Elizabeth 1 was one of Europe's greatest monarchs. She ruled England for 45 years, from 1558 to 1603. During her reign, England faced one of its most terrifying invaders.
My loving people. . . let tyrants fear!. . . I know I have the body of a weak ans feeble woman but I have the heart and courage of a king, and a king of England too, and think foul scorn that. . . any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm.
These are the words shouted by Elizabeth to her troops in August 1588.On this day the Spanish Armada was somewhere off the English coast. An Armada is a fleet of warships. Everyone knew that the enemy Spanish Armada had come to invade England. But would armada succeed?
When the Spanish Armada entered the English Channel, it met Elizabeth's fleet of warships. Led by Francis Drake, the English set fire to some of their own ships. Winds and currents carried the burning ships into the close ranks of the Armada. To avoid the blazing hazards, the Spanish broke up their tight formation.
Now the smaller, faster English ships with their better guns began pounding the giant Spanish ships. As guns boomed and masts split, a furious storm came up and scattered the damaged Armada. The Spanish decided to give up their invasion and sail home. However, more storms wrecked many of their ships. Only half the mighty Armada made it back to Spain. And Elizabethan England entered its height of power and influence. Elizabeth herself was a product of the Renaissance. Not many rulers before or since could boast the ability to speak English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek.
In England the Renaissance was most visible in London, England's capital city. London became one od Europe's largest cities in the late 1500s. There were probably more than 200,000 Londoners celebrating Francis Drake's victory over the Spanish Armada.
Elizabeth's London hummed with activity. The city walls had been built in the Middle Ages and enclosed an area of only one square mile. Within that square mile, houses were so close together that neighbors could reach out their second-story windows and shake hands across the narrow streets.
Because the streets were so clogged with crowds and food carts, the fastest way through the city was the Thames River. Boatmen waited along each bank of the Thames to offer rides, as taxi drivers do today. The ride along the river was usually faster, but sometimes a bit dirty. Garbage was known to fall on travelers on the Thames, especially as they passed under London Bridge. People who liked fo take risks might order the boatman to take a chance and shoot under the bridge. Less daring riders would remember the old English proverb:
London Bridge was made for wise men to walk over and fools to go under.
Nowhere in England could one see a greater variety of people than in London. Observing the activity of daily life in London was William Shakespeare, a man who became a masterful writer. Shakespeare was the greatest Elizabethan writer. He wrote both poetry and plays. Even Queen Elizabeth loved to go to the theater to watch his plays. Like Ancient Greek theater, the plays of Shakespeare are world-famous and often performed.
The Tower of London was originally built to protect the king. Under Elizabeth, it was a jail for important prisoners.
Elizabeth's England was very different from the cities-states you have studied. It was even very different from its own European neighbors in its own time. As England's power and culture grew, it also developed a strong, central government. Even under Elizabeth's strong leadership, Parliament, or the governing body that makes the country's laws, built upon the legacy of the Magna Carta.
After Elizabeth's death in 1603, many different conflicts emerged between England's new monarchs and Parliament. You know, for example, that some religious tensions drove the Pilgrims from England in 1608.
In 1689 Parliament wrote the Bill of Rights. This document qas a giant step for freedom. No other European country had limited the power of their monarchs aa clearly as the English. Before the Bill of Rights, England was an absolute monarchy, or was ruled by a monarch with complete power to govern. After 1689 England became a constitutional monarchy, or a government whose ruler was bound by the laws of a constitution. No monarch could change the laws without the agreement of Parliament.
The King does not have the right to end laws without the consent of Parliament.
The King does not have the right to collect money without the consent of Parliament.
All people have the right to petition the King.
There can be no army during a time of peace without the consent of Parliament.
The election of members of Parliament ought to be free.
The freedom of speech and debates in Parliament should not be questioned in any court.
Bails, fines, and punishments should be fair and just...
Parliament should meet often to amend, strengthen, and preserve the law. . .