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Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I in royal regalia

About Elizabeth Tudor

Queen Elizabeth I ruled England during most of Shakespeare’s lifetime. She was born on September 7, 1533, in Greenwich, and she died on March 24, 1603, in Richmond, Surrey, after 45 years as queen.

Early life

The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth received the education of a prince. She knew five languages and was a talented musician, dancer, and horsewoman.

Becoming queen

The dangers that surrounded Elizabeth during the reign of her Catholic sister Mary only served to make her politically savvy at an early age. When Mary died in November 1558, Elizabeth was prepared to take on the responsibility of the throne at the age of 25. She was crowned in January 1559.

Victory over the Spanish Armada

During her reign, England defeated the Spanish Armada. Because the Spanish navy was considered superior to the British navy, this victory raised the status of England in Europe.

“The Virgin Queen”

Queen Elizabeth I never married. She is sometimes called “The Virgin Queen.”

More portraits of Elizabeth I in the Folger collection:

Portrait of Elizabeth in the Trevelyon Miscellany, 1608.
Francis Delaram. Elizabetha Regina. Engraving after Nicholas Hilliard. ca.1617-19.
After John de Critz. Queen Elizabeth I. Oil on panel, after 1620

Elizabeth I and Shakespeare

When Shakespeare was born in 1564, Elizabeth had been Queen of England for just 5 years. While most of his plays were written after her death, we do know she saw a few of Shakespeare’s plays and that he performed at Court.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

For instance, we know she saw The Merry Wives of Windsor performed thanks to a published copy of the play proclaiming: “As it hath been divers times Acted by the right Honorable my Lord Chamberlaines servants. Both before her Majestie, and else-where.” The Lord Chamberlain’s Servants was Shakespeare’s acting troupe and Elizabeth is referenced by her title of “Majestie.”

Love’s Labor’s Lost

Similarly, we know that Elizabeth saw a performance of Love’s Labor’s Lost because of the play’s title page stating: “A pleasant conceited comedie called, Loues labors lost. As it vvas presented before her Highness this last Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented by W. Shakespeare.”

The Merry Wives of Windsor title page, 1602
Love's Labor's Lost title page, 1598.

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