Question One

Now that you have completed the Timeline, I will ask you some questions about the material. As everyone selects their own answers, we should be able to create a sense of the important events and interpretations going into the midterm.


Answer the following question with a substantial 1-2 paragraph answer, complete with specific examples. Then look through your classmates’ answers, understand that material, and reply to one or two students with additional material.

“Was Queen Elizabeth a smart, measured politician, or a restricting, cheap monarch that benefited from unmitigated good fortune?” Select two ways you can support your argument — for example, two themes of her reign, or two specific events. As a tip, keep in mind that both views of Elizabeth could be described as accurate, so challenge yourself to see how you could argue both sides in a midterm situation.


73 thoughts on “Question One

  1. Hannah Sandgren says:

    I think that, overall, Queen Elizabeth was a smart monarch. She was hesitant to go to war with anyone, especially Spain. She didn’t want to tax the people of England unless absolutely necessary, which is good for the poor. I always thought that if I was Queen in her time I would grant freedom to everyone, like we have today. After learning more about Queen Elizabeth, I can see that that may not have been so easy. She was a Protestant and tried to let the Catholics lead their lives. However, with the Ridolfi Plot and The Northern Rebellion, it was evident that Catholics wanted her to change instead of just accept her.
    During the Ridolfi Plot I think she handled herself fairly well. She was upset by it, yes, but she was very hesitant to execute Mary Queen of Scots, which shows a little bit of generousity. Eventually she did execute her, and we’ll never really know how she felt, but she seemed to have a good heart. Elizabeth did the best she could during her time, I believe, and I think that she truly loved her country and people which was what is a big part of why I think she was a good Queen. Also, she was a woman which brought a lot of extra difficulty on her and she handled that with good humor.

    • Maggie Rasmussen says:

      You bring up a good point that although she truly wanted to remain tolerant, there came a time for her, as a smart queen, to be more harsh on Catholics and get rid of Mary Queen of Scots. Monarchs have difficult decisions to make, and sometimes in order to be successful, they can’t always do what they want, but need to do what’s best overall.

  2. Tyler Phelps says:

    Elizabeth demonstrated political intelligence and strength as a monarch through her resistance and control of the Catholic threat during her reign. Her use of propaganda and exploitation of anti-Mary sentiment at her accession showed foresight into the troublesome years ahead. In the years following, she also consolidated religious power in England by use of the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy. She responded justly to the threats on her life and the life of her Church – the Northern Rebellion, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the arrival of vocal Jesuits, and plots of assassination – with laws like the Treason Act of 1581.

    The opposing view can be taken, claiming Elizabeth’s survival to be a matter of pure good fortune and cheap decisions. Her main rival, Mary, Queen of Scots ran straight into her arms, creating a way to easily monitor threats against her. Also, Elizabeth’s survival of major threats to her throne abroad, such as the Ridolfi plot, created an opportunity for her to push heavy-handed legislation that silenced Catholic fervor. Though this argument can be convincing, Elizabeth’s strength and cunning use of threats against her and anti-Mary sentiment had longer lasting effect – she did have quite a lengthy reign.

    • Skousen says:

      Food for thought: I wonder what would have happened had Elizabeth executed Mary with Norfolk after the Ridolfi Plot in 1571, and if that would have been close enough to the Papal Bull to create a Catholic uprising/invasion from the Continent?

      • Tyler Phelps says:

        An interesting proposal. I would believe that it would have been enough to create a Catholic invasion from the Continent, and especially uprising within England. If Mary had been executed in 1571 along with Norfolk, Catholics would have had a substantial amount of firepower and drive to rebel – especially with the Papal Bull from the year before. Considering one of the Pope Pius V’s motives for deposing Elizabeth in the first place was to incite rebellion and support Catholics in the battle against Elizabeth, it is quite probable that she would have faced a stronger threat than she ever actually did.

        • Alison Carriere says:

          I also agree with that an earlier execution of Mary would have invited an invasion from the continent. Also Elizabeth was extremely lucky that the Spanish Armada hit bad weather in the channel and scattered the Spanish fleet. And just to add to this what if scenario perhaps an earlier invasion would have meant that Elizabeth would not have gotten as lucky with a scattered Spanish fleet. Overall I agree that there were defiantly times when Elizabeth had good fortune and avoided major conflicts.

  3. Gabby Huerta says:

    I think the biggest evidence to the fact that Elizabeth was a shrewd and measured politician was how she resolved years of religious feuding and turmoil through the Act of Uniformity and the Act of Supremacy. By doing this she did what no other ruling monarch did before her, by allowing elements of each faith shine through and by no forcing people to change what they believed in their heart. At least initially. Also her decision to refrain from naming a successor until the very end. It was wise of her to not give into the intense pressure of finding an heir and getting married because she knew that once she did that she was only asking for political division and plots against her life. By not naming a successor she potentially elongated her reign and gave much need social and political stability to England and its territories.

    However, it is questionable how successful those early religious acts would have been had they not been established after Mary I’s previous, bloody reign. It’s reasonable to state that by the time Elizabeth ascended the throne, most of the common people were tired of religious burnings and executions and waited warily for Elizabeth to act fairly. Evidence that they might not have been as successful pre-Mary is that there were still a lot of people who did not find the Acts just or compelling, but agreed mostly for the sake of peace.
    On not naming an heir, she might have spared people political heart-attacks about what would happened if she died, especially since she had so many close calls throughout the course of her reign.

    • Jenny Vogel says:

      I think the success with how Elizabeth handled religious division at the beginning of her reign was both a stroke of luck, and calculation on her part. Elizabeth herself was raised staunchly Protestant, and really believed in that faith. She could have decided to act in the same manner as her sister to bring back Protestantism as the one true state Church, and severely punish those who would not convert or practice in they ways she dictated, but she chose to be lenient. She knew people were tired of the fighting and killing and really played on this facet to establish security and peace in her new reign.

  4. McKenzie Bruce says:

    It was Elizabeth’s expert political ability that kept her long reign stable relative to those who came before and after her. Elizabeth’s policy of avoiding war was a very intelligent and successful in keeping a positive relationship with Parliament. In avoiding many large expensive wars, Elizabeth was saved from requesting additional money/taxes from Parliament. Though Elizabeth did increase the Crown’s debt, she did not antagonize Parliament by requesting increased taxation or instituting new methods of collecting money, as done by James I.

    Additionally, Elizabeth’s ability to use marriage and succession as a tool to promote stability demonstrates her political skillfulness. Having observed Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain, Elizabeth learned that marriage to a foreign husband could be viewed as a threat to English interests as she would be subordinate to her husband. However, Elizabeth used marriage negotiations to create allies. By not naming a successor, Elizabeth avoided giving cause to assassinate her in order for the successor assume the throne more quickly. Elizabeth’s policial ability, along with advice from educated advisors, is what provided steadiness during her long reign.

    • Preston Easterday says:

      I felt the same way about Elizabeth’s reign. She tried to stay out of war and avoid from sending the crown into debt. However, due to the presence of Mary Queen of Scots and all of the Catholic rebellions she faced, it was tough to keep from spending money when she was constantly trying to put these rebellions down. I also thought that her use of persuading many of the domestic noblemen definitely was to her advantage. She avoided becoming subordinate to a male authority, which helped her maintain the power she had over Parliament in England. Marrying a foreigner would’ve been a very bad decision for her, but having learned from Mary she knew this would not be a wise thing for her to do. She provided a stability in ruling England that had not been seen since Henry 7.

    • Robbie Sass says:

      I tend to think that Elizabeth’s policy of avoiding war was less about keeping a positive relationship with Parliament and more because she was cheap and concerned about maintaining her power base. I see it as a parallel of what Henry VII tried to do when he avoided war to strengthen the royal finances and avoid Parliament altogether. Additionally I think that avoiding war had several negative effects. If she had intervened in the Dutch revolt sooner, she could have struck a blow against Spain and possibly have avoided the situation with the armada. Additionally, if the Dutch revolt had failed, Spain would have been in an even greater position to threaten England.

      • :Lindsey Mullarkey says:

        Although I agree with you, Robbie, I tend to think that maybe Elizabeth also did not want to wage international war because she was concerned with maintaining unity within England and only wanted to intervene internationally in cases that threatened England’s national security, such as the launch of the Spanish Armada in 1588. I think she really was just looking out for the best interests of England.

  5. emilyduff says:

    I think Elizabeth was a smart and calculated monarch. She demonstrated tolerance, especially in religious policy which allowed her to keep peace within her country during her reign. Elizabeth maintained a moderate religious policy which was Protestant in doctrine but still had Catholic ceremonies, molding the two religions together and gave opportunity for both factions to conform to the English church. She was lenient on her religious policies until felt that the Catholic regime was a threat and was forced into making harsher punishments for that population. Overall, this type of religious stance allowed her to rule for 45 years with little rebellion.
    Another way Elizabeth demonstrated she was a good political monarch was through her cautiousness to engage in foreign wars. This is exemplified through the situation of the Netherlands. While in rebellion the Netherlands pressed Elizabeth to send troops to help defeat the Spanish but she was reluctant. Instead, she used other tactics like taking the ship from the Genoese bankers while on its way to to help the Spanish. This way she was able to help the Netherlands in their rebellion without spending money on expensive warfare.

    • Skousen says:

      Oh, I like your Genoese example! But to turn this on its head, what if the Netherlands rebellion had failed and Spanish interests took on England from there? In some ways, it seems like disaster was always following Elizabeth and she just barely escaped, time and time again.

  6. Preston Easterday says:

    One could argue that Queen Elizabeth was more a smart, measured politician, rather than a restricting, cheap monarch that benefited from unmitigated good fortune. One example of her making a smart and measured decision as Queen can be observed when looking at the Religious Settlement of 1559. Elizabeth always tried to walk the line of moderation in terms of religion; this is apparent in both the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. In the Act of Supremacy, Elizabeth played to both Protestants and Catholics by taking the name of Supreme Governor of the English Church: Catholics did not believe that a woman could be called the Supreme Head of the Church, so by using the term Supreme Governor she was able to appease them while still essentially being the leader of the English Church. Also, in the Act of Uniformity Elizabeth appeased both Catholics and Protestants by having the words “in remembrance” used during the Christ’s last supper portion of mass: this allowed for both Catholic and Protestant interpretations of communion simultaneously. Another example of Elizabeth making smart, measured decisions as Queen can be observed when looking at her refusal to get married. She enjoyed her independence and ability to rule and not be ruled over by a King, so she avoided marriage altogether despite flirting with it on several occasions. Many people weren’t fond of foreigners and despised the notion of Elizabeth marrying one. On the other hand, there were very few noble Englishmen that would be worthy enough to marry Elizabeth, and she also didn’t want any noble family to gain too much power and cause strife among the other nobility. By remaining unmarried, Elizabeth was able to maintain her independence from sharing power with a husband that would be King alongside her and allowed her to remain accountable to only herself.

    • Samantha Hersil says:

      I agree completely that Elizabeth’s cautious measured approach was a political device in order to keep control and popularity in the time of her reign. Also the wording of ‘in remembrance’ is such a smart move, because how can someone argue with such ambiguity! Her indecisiveness to commit is almost reminiscent of Henry’s last days when the factions were fighting over religious and succession issues. Also I think that James may have also modeled this monarchal ambiguity in the beginning of his own reign when he was dealing with people seeking favors from him.

    • Matt Kulju says:

      I really like the point you bring up about Elizabeth refusing to get married in tandem with the idea that it was difficult for Elizabeth to establish her power because of her gender. It’s interesting to think of her refusal to marry as a way for her to retain power, while doing so simultaneously would stop the throne remaining “Tudor.” Though I think it’s interesting to think that perhaps Elizabeth did want to marry somebody (Leicester, anybody?), and MAYBE she viewed potential suitors with more scrutiny simply because she wanted to hold the power in marrying someone; and if that meant abstaining from marriage, so be it.

  7. Alexis Puzon says:

    Because of the disastrous reigns of Edward VI and the Mary I, Elizabeth I was a very cautious leader. Elizabeth I decided it was better to stay less contentious than either Edward VI or Mary I, specifically in terms of religion. By staying in the middle of the warring factions in religion, with the Act of Uniformity and the Book of Common Prayer which kept some Catholic ideas like vestments and ceremonies, but kept the vernacular Bible and service. Elizabeth I used the lords’ prejudice against women to her advantage. By making herself seem indecisive and “womanly” she was able to lure the men in charge into thinking that she knew little of what she wanted to do. However, from her handling of Mary Queen of Scots’ treason, it is clear that Elizabeth always knew what was going on around her, but used her indecisive nature to throw off the men that would fear a woman who seemed to strong in her ideas. By putting the power in the hands of her advisors in the execution of Mary, she was able to keep herself clean from regicide, but also get rid of her rival. She may have decided to play it this way because of Mary I’s own staunch views, and how disliked she became for this reason. Elizabeth paid attention to the past, and knew she had to use her quiet cleverness to succeed. This is just one interpretation because there are many ways to view Elizabeth. Some see her reign as too cautious, and her caution was not in her own power as shown by her constant switching especially in the war with Spain.

    • Elizabeth Mathis says:

      I am not sure if I completely agree with this. I do agree that she was very ambiguous and vague on her approach to religion, and hesitant with many other things in politics. But I don’t think I agree that it was all a ploy to make her male advisers think that she was incompetent as a female monarch. When it came to Mary’s execution, I believe that Elizabeth simply truly did not believe that it was her place, her right, to behead another monarch. She was relieved when it finally happened and it was not her doing, but she really did struggle with the responsibility of it, and it wasn’t just for appearances’ sake.

    • John Hildebrand says:

      I agree that Elizabeth had the tendence to sway between exerting power and being indecisive. I’m not sure however if I would go as far as to say she “lured” her male staff to do her dirty work, but it is a very interesting topic to consider. Overall I think this strategy worked in Elizabeth’s favor and never portrayed her in a poor light.

  8. Samantha Hersil says:

    I believe that Elizabeth was a very intelligent monarch, she was very collected, reserved, and frugal; however, I believe that when you are the supreme head of an entire people it is vital to act in that way. She showed that she was tolerant of all her subjects, by keeping a fairly open religion which did not favor one side too strongly, and was hesitant to persecute any one group unless she felt threatened. This meant that she was fairly popular with her subjects on the religious front overall (disregarding the radicals who wanted an all or nothing religious reformation) and kept rebellions at an all-time low, when considering the length of her reign. Furthermore, in order to keep power, she was very cautious about who or if she would marry at all. In that way she was able to keep complete power of her kingdom and she was also able to control political ties with her potential courtship to any one country. This kept countries that were interested in marrying her to one of their own monarchs or nobles out of war with England. True, she did not readily go to war the moment the treat was made available with Spain. However, she did eventually declare war, which ultimately led in a favorable English outcome under James. Therefore, I think that, although Elizabeth may be criticized for her level of cautiousness or for her indecisiveness, she ultimately was using both of these normally perceived faults to a political and monarchial advantage.

    • Skousen says:

      I think as her reign wrapped up her nobles began to get tired of her overly cautious ways. They were shouldering her debt and didn’t get to prove themselves in battle or enjoy the spoils of war. Then comes James, and I think it put their hopes up (boy would those get dashed!)

  9. Will Hoffman says:

    I would say that Elizabeth was an intelligent monarch. The two themes that stand out to me. One, her wariness of getting married, knowing that in the male dominated society she lived in, her power would greatly diminish. Her recognition of this and the fact that despite pressure put on her to marry, she avoided marrying shows that she was a crafty politician. The second theme that stands out to me is her, especially in the earlier parts of her reign, to be more tolerant of all religions. By trying to be tolerant of Catholics and mixing both sects of Christianity together, Elizabeth hoped to avoid the religious conflict that was consuming the rest of Western Europe. This contrasts greatly with Mary I and her active persecution of Protestants. By recognizing that religious strife would be terrible for the country, it shows that Elizabeth was an intelligent monarch.

    • Victoria Sviridova says:

      I think one could also argue that since Elizabeth did not marry, she didn’t have anyone in the succession besides James and well we know where his actions led England. So if Elizabeth would have married and had kids of her own, then 17th century might have been more peaceful.

      Elizabeth also might have been able to avoid future plots if she wouldn’t have been so moderate. If she would have clearly established that Protestant values should be strictly enforced on the religious front and made sure that it was enforced, then there could have been less plots against her (not necessarily, of course).

      I don’t know if I actually believe what I just said above, but I think one could argue that she created future problems in England all on her own.

      • Cat Lenander says:

        Who would she have married though? After the disaster of Mary I’s marriage to Philip II no one seriously wanted a foreign man becoming king and taking control of England, as would be expected if Elizabeth married. As for marrying someone from the country, that would be handing too much power to one of the carefully balanced factions at court. There’s also be that issue over “destroying the natural order of things,” since a queen shouldn’t stoop to marrying beneath her, like marrying a Duke or an Earl.

  10. Victoria Sviridova says:

    Since there are so many replies for Elizabeth being a smart, measured politician, I decided to see what I can find for the other side of the argument. In general, Elizabeth benefited a lot from events that happened before her reign. Mary didn’t kill Elizabeth when she could have and she didn’t even try to change the way the succession would go just like James tried before her. Overall, Mary didn’t do much to harm Elizabeth at all when she had the power to do so. Also, Mary conveniently died from stomach cancer or influenza in 1558, within 5 years of beginning her reign. As a result, Elizabeth rose to power because many events before her accession simply fell into place.

    When Elizabeth did rise to power, she avoided all wars because they were expensive and Elizabeth was not into spending her money when it wasn’t necessary. She ended the wars with France and Scotland as soon as it was possible and even tried to keep her distance from Spain. All of these actions allowed her to save her money at the beginning of her reign. This all happened despite some of her councilors including Dudley and Walsingham advising her to help the Dutch. But as usual Elizabeth ignored her advisors and did what she wanted. All of these examples could demonstrate that Elizabeth was a restricting, cheap monarch that benefited from luck, but I still feel that there is more evidence that she was a very smart, measure politician.

    • Alexis Puzon says:

      I think it is good to point out that Elizabeth did come in to power at very tumultuous time for England. People just wanted security and stability, and Elizabeth was definitely able to give that to the people. I do have to admit that Elizabeth was sometimes too stubborn, leaving the decisions to the last minute, like Spain, where getting involved earlier may have actually helped stop them permanently in the long run. Elizabeth’s role as a cautious ruler was good fro the people at the time who wanted a more calm rule, but I do have to agree that she benefited from the poor reigns of Edward VI and Mary I. Also you could add that Elizabeth played to her favorites too much. For example, Earl of Essex was a favorite of hers for no other reason than his charm. He did not even come from that noble of a family. Elizabeth let him get away with too much, and as such let the court see her as an indecisive and easily swayed. This would not be the ideal role for Elizabeth as a monarch.

      • Cat Lenander says:

        You both make some excellent points to playing devil’s advocate. On the same line I guess I’d add that Elizabeth’s inaction cut England off from having any allies in the 1584, since she let France ally with Spain and her unwillingness to actively help the Dutch meant they would be unwilling to help her. This indecisiveness was also probably part of the reason why so many people became terrorists and took potshots at her. Even after Elizabeth was finally pushed into war in 1585, her juxtaposing actions and constant flip-flopping didn’t win her any allies. If the Scottish had decided to take offense at Mary’s execution they could have seriously hurt England here because Elizabeth had just killed a ruler without any strong bonds to other rulers to protect her.

  11. Alison Carriere says:

    Queen Elizabeth was a smart, measured politician. These characteristics can be in Elizabeth’s decisions concerning her marriage. Elizabeth was stuck in a hard position to either marry a foreigner or her own subject. Through out her reign Elizabeth was had suitors from many countries, such as the Archduke Charles Habsburg. Charles Habsburg courted Elizabeth from May 1559 until the spring of 1560. Although the idea of Elizabeth marrying a foreigner troubled many Englishmen, Elizabeth knew that it was important for Archduke Charles to court her as she needed the protection of Philip II against France. Again Elizabeth made a smart calculated decision in the matter of marriage with the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley. However because of a scandal that surrounded the death of Dudley’s wife in 1560, Elizabeth chose not to marry Dudley. Yet scandal was no the only reason why Elizabeth did not marry. Elizabeth was female and social protocol of the day was that women were subordinate to their husbands. Essentially this meant that if Elizabeth married beneath her rank she made a contradiction in social hierarchy and if she married a foreign King, she allowed a foreign power to come in and take “control” of England. Instead Elizabeth made the politically smart decision to remain single throughout her reign.
    Elizabeth was also a smart and measured politician in the way she handled foreign rebellions. Elizabeth believed men should not rise up against their monarchs, as monarchs were put on their thrones by the will of God. This affected the way she handled the situation in the Netherlands Elizabeth waited as long as possible in both situations until there was no other option and her involvement was needed to protect England and herself. When the protestant Netherlands rebelled against the Spanish King Philip II, Elizabeth hesitated as long as possible to intervene. It wasn’t until it was clear that not aiding the rebels meant possible Spanish control of the Channel and would greatly damage English trade, did Elizabeth get involved with the Rebellion. This was smart decision to wait because it allowed Elizabeth to not anger Spain more than necessary by aiding the rebels. It was then later a calculated decision to help the rebels as it was the only way of ensuring that English trade with the Netherlands stayed in good terms.

    • J.P. Cheng says:

      This is a sound argument for Elizabeth’s competence as a monarch. Apart from her coyness in marriage and her handling of what today would be called anti-feminist tracts, you may consider her religious settlement as well, and how that demonstrates her ability. You may also want to address the cheap and restricting argument as well, and how luck played a role in her success (e.g. the weather’s role in defeating the Sp. Armada., her inheritance of her half-sister’s financial reforms). That is to say, her cautious policies can be construed as her being cheap and restricting as well.

  12. Cat Lenander says:

    I tend to think of her as being a brilliant politician. Yes, she’s cheap and conservative—in the sense that she doesn’t change things, not that she was Catholic—but many times no action turned out to be the best policy. Mary’s rash actions in her attempt to “burn the Protestant out of England” ended with her people hating her. Elizabeth, on the other hand, allowed everyone to privately be whatever faith they chose with little action against any group until she was pushed to change her ways by the Northern rebellion and the pope, who destroyed the delicate balance of ten years peace with rash action. Elizabeth always reminds me of Henry VII, who I also liked, in her way she avoids rocking the boat and instead just building up her power base.

    Another example of how caution was the better part of valor for Elizabeth was the war with Spain. If she had taken action sooner against Phillip II Spain and England would have entered war sooner. Perhaps the war would have ended sooner if England had attacked sooner while the Dutch were still in better shape, but it’s also possible the war would have lasted even longer or that Spain would have won. I’m certain that if war had started when the Dutch first revolted in 1568, before Mary Queen of Scots was deposed in Scotland, Mary would have joined the fray while England’s forces were preoccupied with Spain. Then England would have been fighting a two-pronged battle “against the Catholic faith,” which would probably also get those Northern rebels that came the year after involved. No matter how amazing Elizabeth was, I doubt she could have rallied enough support to fight the Spanish, the Scots, and part of her own country. Inaction was the best policy.

    • Chloe Karaskiewicz says:

      I like your point about Elizabeth building a power base and not rocking the boat. I think it was very important for her, as a woman, to have strong support so that when she needed to do something controversial she could coast on her popularity and the loyalty of her advisers and people. Unlike with Henry VIII and Mary there were few real uprisings against Elizabeth and her politics–the biggest problems Elizabeth had were with Catholics trying to put Mary Queen of Scots or Philip on the throne. She knew how to be the people’s queen with her public appearances and tours of the country and she learned from her predecessors about avoiding extremes.

      • Jocelyn Piller says:

        I do agree, but playing devil’s advocate…
        Was Elizabeth a good ruler or was she just a “model monarch”, someone to be looked at and adored while society just coasted. There are not many cases of Queen Elizabeth advancing the English society, more examples of just keeping it at bay until an uproar of some sort and/or a decision needed to be made.

    • Jenny Vogel says:

      I really agree with your point about her hesitation to make changes. I think in general the public (of any time or nation) dislikes drastic changes if they think things are at least okay from where they stand. Much of Elizabeth’s power stemmed from her popularity with with public, and because of this we often hear her referred to as “The People’s Queen.” Whether or not public approval really shapes the majority of state actions, it would be very difficult for the parliament or other areas of government to get rid of, or minimize, a sovereign who received so much love and devotion from her subjects.

  13. Elizabeth Mathis says:

    I have to agree that yes, Elizabeth was cheap. She did not join the Dutch until it was absolutely necessary to make sure the French or Spanish did not have complete control of the coast, and even then she paid for it mainly out her pocket. She was cheap and refused to tax the people for the war, yet she did not have all good luck. In the 1590s after multiple bad harvests and with the rising population, the quality of life had gone down for many of the poor. If Elizabeth had introduced a tax to pay for the war, it is probable that it would have created much more suffering for the people who would have had to pay for the war. So in fact her cheapness and refusal to pay for many wars most likely helped her and her people in the long run.

    Elizabeth did have some incredible luck that certainly helped her against the Spanish. An obvious example of this is the Spanish Armada in 1588 that sailed to the Netherlands to pick up the Duke of Alva and his army and then sail on to England to invade. The Armada was almost practically destroyed, though, by the “Protestant winds” that blew it into the coast of Ireland, but the destruction of the Armada wasn’t just from luck. Alva couldn’t meet with the Armada as he was being thwarted by enemy forces. Also the fire ships that Elizabeth sent into the Armada took its toll on the fleet as well. Elizabeth may have had luck with the fight against the Spanish, but it also was the doing of her decisions and actions.

    • Skousen says:

      This is a really good way to think about things. It’s so easy to look at the many times that Elizabeth faced an impossible choice yet somehow came out shining. But in the moment, it was terrifying. She could have died at any time — you know what death rates were like. She handed the country to Leicester when she had smallpox. Her financial, military, and mariital policies could have just as easily ended in disaster as success. In some ways, we could paint her entire reign as a series of crises for which she received incredible good fortune — the Spanish Armada is a great example of that.

      But people missed her a lot after James and Charles came to the throne, so they whitewashed that experience and began calling QE “Gloriana” and her reign the “Golden Age.”

    • Cat Lenander says:

      Elizabeth did introduce more taxes during the way and Parliament approved them. The problem was that they never brought in enough money. This was because the people who assessed the wealth for taxing gave grossly undervalues of properties. Like William Cecil had his property assessed for ₤100 tax a year, then eventually raised it to ₤200 a year, but his estates were actually earning him ₤1000s a year. Everyone practiced this, which is why Elizabeth had to pay so much out of her own pocket. That was why she had to sell off a lot of her lands, thereby lowering her overall income, going into debt, and setting the situation that caused so much strife between James and Parliament.

      You are completely right about the battle with the Armada.

  14. Chloe Karaskiewicz says:

    Though not raised to be Queen, Elizabeth was well educated and very bright. I believe she put her education and talents to use as a monarch and though she was more like her grandfather, Henry VII, than her father, Henry VIII, she was anything but a passive figure benefitting from good luck. We learned in discussion and lecture that Elizabeth was very good at using her femininity to control Parliament: saying she would be offended if they disagreed with her and that she could not withstand great arguments due to her delicate female nature. And yet her reign was filled with strength. She used her position as a woman, usually considered a hindrance in politics, to cunningly play on the chivalrous men and culture around her. Additionally, Elizabeth knew that her power would be significantly diminished if she married—as women were supposed to be subordinate to their husbands—and further diminished if her husband were a foreign king. Therefore she resisted foreign and male influence by not to marrying. As for her financial policy, Elizabeth was considerably more financially conservative than her father but she did spend money militarily against the Spanish in 1584 to support the Protestant rebellion in the Netherlands and in 1588 against the Armada. It can be argued that it took her far too long to support the Protestant rebels but other factors must also be examined: Elizabeth ostensibly felt very strongly about the rights of monarchs—an idea that also came into play in her reluctance to execute Mary Queen of Scots after the Babington Plot. But even in her concerns over the morality of assisting rebels in overthrowing their sovereign monarch there lies a calculating political element. Perhaps Elizabeth truly believed it was wrong to overthrow one’s monarch, but it can also be surmised that Elizabeth did not want to help set a precedent for overthrowing monarchs because she did not want to be overthrown by her own people and she certainly did not want foreign powers to help. Her approach to domestic and foreign relations showcases her calculating and intelligent approach to ruling and though she was frugal, she was willing to spend money to support England’s interests religiously and militarily.

    • Jake Stroth says:

      I would argue that the defeat of the Armada was quite lucky for Elizabeth, and had very little to do with her politics. However, I do agree with your analysis of the Babington plot as an example of Elizabeth’s political acumen.

  15. Molly Gerber says:

    I believe Elizabeth was a smart, measured politician, a fact that can be best illustrated by her religious settlement. She rose to the throne in an England that did not know what to expect from her religiously. Edward VI pushed the country to the extreme Protestant end of the spectrum, while Mary I shortly after pushed it to the extreme Catholic side. Elizabeth, on the other hand, seemed to decide the best course of action would be to create a moderately Protestant state on the outside, but allow people to worship as they pleased in private. She wanted to find some kind of balance between religious that would keep peace between her different subjects. The Act of Uniformity referred to communion was “in remembrance,” an ambiguous phrase that allowed individuals to interpret. The Act of Supremacy placed Elizabeth as Supreme Governor, quelling concerns that a woman could not be “head” of the church. She furthermore allowed some aspects of Catholicism to remain, such as the vestments and other Catholic ornaments such as crucifixes and candle sticks. Elizabeth hoped to find peace between Catholics and Protestants and end the years of extreme intolerance. This religious settlement was successful in many ways. Although there were rebellions from extreme religious sects which forced Elizabeth to become more religiously strict, there was arguably less religious unrest than in Edward or Mary’s extreme reigns.

    However, you can also argue that luck kept Elizabeth from facing potentially deadly religious consequences during her reign. The Rebellion of the Northern Earls, for example, prompted Pope Pius V to send a Papal Bull which officially backed the rebellion and formally excommunicated and deposed Elizabeth. Luckily for the queen, this Bull arrived in England after the rebellion was stopped. Had it arrived sooner, the rebellion may have gained more support and posed a more serious threat to the crown. Furthermore, Mary Queen of Scots timely arrival and imprisonment in England allowed Elizabeth to monitor the most immediate and direct Catholic threats to her person by scanning all letters sent to and from Mary. Without this ability, any of the plots against her may have been successful.

    • McKenzie Bruce says:

      I agree that Elizabeth did benefit from some good fortune during her reign, however I, too, think the success of her reign was more due to her great political ability. Her ability to remain moderate created a stability that Edward and Mary, who were Protestant and Catholic, could not achieve. Elizabeth was also able to recognize threats to this stability and take action against them. For instance, Elizabeth saw Presbyterianism as a threat to stability, as this radical movement wanted to eliminate her as Supreme Governor of the Church and would disrupt the work she had done to stabilize religion in England.

  16. Robbie Sass says:

    On the whole, I would say that the majority of the good things that came out of Elizabeth’s reign were a result of good fortune and that Elizabeth was a cheap and restricting monarch. First off looking back it would seem like Elizabeth would have had no real chance at being queen. She was the third child, and second daughter of Henry VIII and declared illegitimate to boot. If it were not for the fact that Edward VI was sickly and unable to have a child, and that Mary was old upon ascending to the throne and also unable to have a child, Elizabeth would not have been able to become queen. Also, in a perhaps less likely scenario, if Lady Jane Grey had been able to assume the throne ahead of Mary, Elizabeth would have been even further from power. Even after assuming the throne, she was fortunate that she survived her bout with smallpox early in the reign.

    Elizabeth was not just fortunate when coming to the throne, though. She greatly benefited by the events that happened before she came to power. She was able to enact the moderate religious settlement because of the radical Protestant policies of her brother and the radical Catholic policies of her sister. She was fortunate that her main rival, Mary Queen of Scots ran right into her arms. If Mary had been roaming free, she would have been much more dangerous. Without the constant surveillance for instance, Mary’s various plots against Elizabeth may not have been discovered and Elizabeth might have had a much shorter reign. Perhaps Elizabeth’s greatest stroke of luck came with the Spanish Armada. If it were not for unfortunate weather and several tactical blunders on the Spanish side, Spain could have easily defeated the English. This would come to bite Elizabeth back for being cheap and avoiding war when she could have intervened and assisted the Dutch rebels much sooner. Instead she waited to act until it was almost too late. On the other hand, what can be said for Elizabeth was that she did often take advantage of those moments of good fortune and use them to further strengthen her position. Still, at the end of the day Elizabeth’s reign having the good reputation that it does is simply a result of the immense good fortune of her situation.

    • Molly Gerber says:

      I think you make an excellent point at the end of your response. The line between good fortune and being an intelligent ruler can be blurred, it is not necessarily a question of one or the other. Yes, she had the good fortune of having Mary Queen of Scots walk into her country, but she also had the foresight to handle that good luck and all that resulted from it in such a way that she would be benefited. For example, when she decided to blame Mary’s execution on her secretary, it may seem like a cold move. However, it minimized the Catholic backlash she had to face because she claimed she did not know what was going on and she would have stopped it had she known.

  17. Jake Stroth says:

    Queen Elizabeth I benefited, like so many of the great rulers in history, from a combination of considerable political skill and a healthy dose of luck. Elizabeth certainly had political skill. She often played on her femininity to disarm male politicians and get them to do what she wanted. One example of Elizabeth using her gender is in the act of uniformity where she was referred to as the supreme governor rather then head of the church. This was likely done so as to not offend puritans or Catholics, and shows that she was considering this important aspect. The Death of Mary Queen of Scots also demonstrates Elizabeth’s political skill as she not only removed a very serious threat to her own power, but also shifted the responsibility onto others and kept her hands clean. She even managed to placate Mary’s son James, to the point where they became friends.
    Now Elizabeth also benefited from a good deal of luck as well. The Spanish Armada was defeated as much by Spanish mistakes and weather as it was the English navy. She also had some very talented ministers serving under her, such as the Cecils, and this made her job much easier. Elizabeth made her share of mistakes too, she jumped at a chance for peace with Spain before the armada sailed and when Philip published this it upset her Dutch allies. Despite all this, Elizabeth’s skill as a ruler is undeniable and she was certainly a savvy politician.

  18. John Hildebrand says:

    When taking into consideration the previous two rulers of England, Queen Elizabeth I was by all means an efficient and level-headed Monarch. I believe that above all, her ability to compromise made her the infamous Queen that she is renowned as today. For example, when faced with the task of settling religious differences, Elizabeth adopted a strategy that few Monarchs would have even considered–toleration. After re-establishing an English Protestant church, Elizabeth allowed the Catholic priests to remain in their congregation and even tolerated the Catholic iconography and symbols, such as the crucifix. Whereas the reigns of Henry VIII and “Bloody” Mary were somewhat ruined by the problem of religion. Another example, as Jake already stated, was when she assumed the title of supreme governor rather than “head” of church. Although mere words, Elizabeth’s willingness to compromise proved to advert further problems between Catholics and Protestants.
    Another example of Queen Elizabeth’s tolerance is best exemplified by the Ridolfi Plot. Despite having clear evidence to kill the Queen, Elizabeth had to be almost convinced before she sent Mary to the block, and afterwards she even denied having consent to her stepsister’s execution.

    • Skousen says:

      Jack, you might have confused some of the family tree. And it’s understandable! Mary Queen of Scots was a second cousin, once removed, to Elizabeth. She was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. Elizabeth’s Step-sister Mary was Mary Tudor, or Bloody Mary, who died in 1558 and left England to Elizabeth.

      So Elizabeth couldn’t consent to her step-sister’s execution, because her step-sister had already been dead for 20 years.

  19. Matt Kulju says:

    I think that the way you look at Elizabeth – in that whether she was a smart monarch or a lucky monarch – really depends on if you’re viewing her from a protestant-friendly viewpoint or a catholic-sympathetic viewpoint. Personally, I think that she was a monarch who was smart, measured politician that did her best to unify her country and act as an amiable head of state.
    One of the things that immediately sets Elizabeth in good favor is that she is frugal; she didn’t favor unnecessary gifts, she passed the poor laws in 1567 to aid her subject, and most importantly, she was hesitant in going to war with any country, and as we know, wars are expensive (to say the least)! Her commitment to not taxing her people without A) necessity and B) the consensus of parliament made her even more measured and likeable.
    Another important aspect of Elizabeth was that she was a brilliant politician: many of the things she did, she did solely for the purpose of creating an image of herself, her country, or her administration, and to make it, at the very least, look like she was a nice woman. For example, Elizabeth was hesitant in executing Mary Queen of Scots; so hesitant, that her council had to trick her into signing the execution order. Her hesitancy came not only from being nervous in committing regicide (and the affects that would have on other monarchs’ view of killing her), and because she knew it would be a bad move for a Protestant queen to execute a Catholic queen. Spain was itching to go to war with England, France was still catholic and would not be happy with Mary’s execution, and Catholics within Elizabeth’s own country were still trying to regain power. Though Mary’s execution eventually proceeded, it is important and noteworthy that Elizabeth was thinking about the ramifications of her actions.

    • John Nielsen says:

      I really like this post. Elizabeth governed effectively by being calculated and choosing adept advisers, some of which carried over from the reign’s of her step siblings. However I think it is also interesting that you mentioned setting up an image, which she was able to do so successfully. Her political moves always seemed to be based around appeasing the most amount of people and garnering the most support, and this is part of the reason I feel she was so successful. She was able to endear herself so much to her nation and Parliament that they were more willing to support her and have feelings of national pride fixated on her figure. I also like the fact that you brought up perspective, because I completely agree. However shrewd and successful she was, it always seemed as though she was perpetually dodging disaster. Multiple times in her reign she could have potentially lost it all, but due to various factors and what can be seen as just plain luck, she always seemed to get away with it (Except for invading France).

  20. J.P. Cheng says:

    Her foreign policy and domestic religious policy suggest that Elizabeth was a shrewd, able, and pragmatic monarch. Apart from aiding the Scots in their successful war against French domination and her disastrous intervention on the side of the Huguenots in Le Havre (1562), she stayed out of the foreign wars which had been a financial drain on her three predecessors. Thus, she maintained good relations with Europe for thirty years until the attempted Spanish invasions from 1588 onwards, which she successfully repelled with the Royal Navy that she had expanded and modernised in the meantime. With her moderate Religious Settlement of 1559, she avoided the Papist-Prostestant stife that had torn England apart during the reigns of Henry and Mary in particular. She only began taking a (justified) harder line against Papists after the Northern Rebellion of 1569. These two aspects of her reign suggest that she was a shrewd and able monarch who only moved away from peaceful and moderate policies when attacked by her enemies.

    However, her reign undoubtedly benefitted from good luck. She inherited the fruits of sound financial reforms from her predecessor Mary, like the 1558 Book of Rates which increased royal dues from trade and the 1557 coin reforms which took debased coinage out of circulation. Moreover, her successful defence of England from the Spanish Armada’s invasion of 1588 owed at least as much to the bad weather in the Channel as to the efforts of the Royal Navy. However, her reign was plagued by bad luck as much as it was by good luck. When Mary Queen of Scots fled to England 1568, discontent English Papists suddenly had a focal point for rebellion, since they could put the Papist Mary on the throne if they managed to dispose Elizabeth. Sure enough, the Northern Rebellion happened the next year, and Mary’s execution in 1587 (when Walsingham discovered her in another Papist plot against Elizabeth) prompted Philip to invade England. Thus, Elizabeth had to contend with both good and bad luck, and her successful navigation of the latter only affirms her ability.

  21. Jenny Vogel says:

    While luck was certainly a factor in the success of Elizabeth I’s reign, I think she was a calculating monarch who used this good fortune to her advantage. One example is the pomp and pageantry leading up to her coronation. It was very calculated, portraying her as truly English (unlike her Spanish sister Mary), as well as emphasizing her position as the daughter of Henry VIII, and granddaughter of Henry VII – who brought together the nation in a similar time of turmoil – calling to the minds of her subjects that she too would bring a similar reign of peace back to England. Another aspect of Elizabeth’s calculating nature is the fact that she never married. As a woman on the throne, it was felt she was not able to rule alone without a man guiding her, and as the queen she was very limited in her choices of a husband – he must be royal himself. Elizabeth knew that whoever she chose to marry, someone would be disgruntled and it would cause upset in the nation. Instead of simply stating she never intended to marry, she claimed to be interested in marriage, courted a few marriage offers over the years, but never took the plunge, thus shrewdly keeping peace in her nation.

    • Jordan Moxon says:

      I felt the pageantry at Elizabeth’s coronation was less a result of her own calculations, and more a response of England to the hopes that she might bring it out of the turmoil that ‘Bloody’ Mary had brought. And perhaps a bit of an overstep, at that. To me it seemed the coronation themes were so optemistic that no ruler could live up to the expectations present, and so may not have been a wise strategic choice, if it had been a tactical choice on the part of the rulership. The point of Eliizabeth’s strategy in marriage is a good one, however, especially as it allowed Elizabeth to personally keep power, rather than allowing Marriage to place power in the hands of a husband.

  22. Jordan Moxon says:

    Elizabeth could be regarded as being an intelligent and measured monarch, especially when she is inevitably contrasted with her sister, Mary, who preceded her. Elizabeth implemented religious reforms, which substantially reduced the religious outrage and turmoil that had plagued the english people since her father’s reign. In addition, she implemented these religious reforms in such a way that neither catholics nor protestants were excluded as a practice, allowing a truce in religious matters. She also managed to secure her spot as the essential head of the church of england (called by a different name, of course), using her acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. Finally, Elizabeth enacted the Poor Law of 1601, which would act as a template for social poverty alleviation for centuries to come.
    However, a great deal of Elizabeth’s triumph may have come simply as a matter of the time in which she ruled. First, she followed her sister Mary, which allowed her to be an easy target on which England could rest its hopes for the future, as demonstrated by the celebrations surrounding her coronation. Additionally, during Elizabeth’s reign, while she did strengthen the Crown’s power in religious matters, she simultaneously weakened it by selling of royal land to pay for the costly war with spain. This, too, she was famous for the good handling of, while the truth may be that she was simply the benefactor of fantastically good luck. The major victory in this conflict was the Invincible Armada, when the spanish invasion was decicively defeated before reaching the shores of England. However, a great factor in this was the storm that beset the Spanish, scattering their navy. It is uncertain how the battle at sea would have concluded if the storm should not have hit, or how events would play out should the Spanish have reached English shores.

  23. John Nielsen says:

    Elizabeth was a cautious monarch who above all was interested in stability in England, an ideal she placed before all other issues.
    The most obvious example of this would be her stance on religion, the divisive issue of the era, and her ability to placate the religious masses. Following the legacy of rigid religious policy that characterized the reigns of Edward and Mary, Elizabeth marked her rule with religious leniency from the start. The Religious Settlement of 1559 created a Protestant fusion church with Catholic vestments and rituals maintained. However, the key point in the settlement was the vague interpretation of Communion and especially Elizabeth’s own refusal to give a clear interpretation. However, this alone was not the only display of Elizabeth’s commitment to religious acceptance, as she also allowed for Puritan influence in the Church. If priests had moral objections they were allowed to discard vestments or alter worship. It was even said that Elizabeth herself dabbled in both Protestant and Catholic ideas. Overall, the reasoning behind this was most likely just to maintain political stability, putting secular matters in front of religious confrontation. After seeing religious rebellion in Edward and Mary’s reigns (Kett’s Rebellion and Wyatt’s Rebellion), Elizabeth was wise to take a moderate path and tolerate religious differences in order to maintain peace. This method was for the most part very effective, as there were relatively few substantial internal religious rebellions during her reign outside of the plotting of Mary Queen of Scots.
    Another point that can be made about Elizabeth was her dedication to keeping a neutral position in foreign policy. She was wise to avoid conflict with other major European powers, and maintained the position of balancing France and Spain with one another. This is best demonstrated by two events. The first would be the Spanish conquest of the Netherlands. Although this Protestant region was under attack by Catholic forces, Elizabeth stayed out of the way and maintained a diplomatic policy as opposed attempting military force. It was only when England’s safety was directly threatened that she finally moved forward to aid the Netherlands and set off the European domino effect. Another excellent example of Elizabeth’s foresight in political matters was her handling of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Executing her would have profound effects on England’s relationship with all of the major European powers, and also effected their closest neighbors, the Scots. She set up the execution in a way that she could take minimal blame, saying she was blind sided by her own court, and punishing individuals accordingly. In this way she was able to removal a rival claimant and threat, yet also maintain England’s tenuous position in the European political scene. Not only did these courses of action keep England away from a collision course with stronger countries, it also helped Elizabeth hold on to money that the financially struggling Crown could not afford to give up.

  24. :Lindsey Mullarkey says:

    I tend to think of Elizabeth as an intelligent, rational, reasonable, and calculated monarch. I respect the fact the Elizabeth was a pacifist and was reluctant to involve herself and England in conflict, especially internationally. For example, she refused to go to war with Spain until it became an absolute necessity for protecting her sovereignty. Once it was becoming clear that Philip was planning on launching his Armada beginning in 1558, Elizabeth knew that the only way to protect England and her throne was by intervening militarily.

    The same could be said for Elizabeth’s reluctance for killing Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth knew that if Mary’s death were to be traced back to her, this would have been seen by Mary’s supporters and many Catholics as an unfavorable action and could lead to uprisings to overthrow or execute her. Elizabeth’s council actually went behind her back to convict and execute Mary, leaving Elizabeth technically innocent of regicide but creating tension between her and her council. I think both of these actions show that Elizabeth was wise to avoid conflict unless it was necessary for national security.

  25. Maddie Hagerman says:

    Queen Elizabeth I was both a smart, measured politician and a restricting, cheap monarch, but not in a bad way. Elizabeth was a fiscal and social conservative. Her Religious Settlement of 1559 demonstrates the pinnacle of her pragmatic politics while English involvement in the Dutch Revolution shows the extent of her miserliness. Elizabeth governed England judiciously for 45 years. In one of her first acts after her ascension in 1558, Elizabeth sought to end the religious tensions of the preceding decades. In her religious settlement Elizabeth pursued a “via media,” seeking to unite Catholics and Protestants into a moderately Protestant religion. She famously stated, “I have no wish to make windows into men’s souls,” suggesting that Elizabeth valued peace over religious doctrine. Taking a cue from the bankrupt treasury throughout the end of her father’s reign that continued through the reigns of her siblings, Elizabeth also sought to rehabilitate the English treasury. Most of her foreign policy involved diplomacy over war. The Netherlands, however, resented this pragmatism. Engaged in a rebellion from Spain, the Protestant Dutch states looked to Protestant England for support. but Elizabeth kept England out of war until she could not ignore the threat of Spain anymore.

  26. Rebecca Bauer says:

    While Queen Elizabeth I often benefited from luck and skilled administrators, she was also a smart and skilled politician. Elizabeth was able to maintain religious tolerance for quite a while, and while both Catholic and Protestant extremes were unhappy with her moderate policy, most people were content to be free of persecution for their beliefs. Elizabeth also used her femininity to secure the Religious Acts of Supremacy and Unity in 1559, which made her head of the Church of England and implemented a new Prayer Book that clearly leaned Protestant but still called for traditional ceremonies and vestments. By being moderate about religion, Elizabeth was able to, in general, keep religious peace in England.

    Elizabeth was extremely frugal and disliked spending money. She tried hard to stay out of war because war is expensive, and she was reluctant to ask Parliament to raise taxes on the English people. While she may have been “cheap,” Elizabeth strove to keep her spending down to benefit her country as a whole, showing her awareness and competence in politics and finances.

    • Peter LaForge says:

      I would dare to contradict the idea that Elizabeth was cheap. She raised taxes to pay for her campaign to ensure crown authority in Ireland beyond the pale. Though successful this campaign was ver expensive and also provoked reactions from nationalists and Roman Catholic alike. Even more, these taxes when combined with the economic crisis between 1594-97 caused food prices to skyrocket and even to famine in some areas hit by bad weather and poor harvest.

    • Brady Andersen says:

      I agree with you in that Elizabeth’s commitment to religious compromise at the beginning of her reign is a sign of her political prowess. She held onto tolerant policies until it became a dangerous threat to the country as a whole. She calculated the risks and benefits of both tolerance and persecution and only changed tack after careful consideration. I feel like someone benefiting from luck alone would not weather that kind of religious onslaught with the same level of tact and pragmatism.

  27. Maggie Rasmussen says:

    Elizabeth showed that she was an intelligent, measured politician through many of her calculated and cautious decisions. She took a very moderate approach to her religious settlement, compromising practices from both the Catholic and Protestant faiths. Some could argue, though, that she had been fortunate in seeing the effects and failures of her siblings’ reigns in the religious aspect, who were much more radical. Their mistakes would push her to take a stance that was more in the middle, so no faction would be too offended to revolt. She only took action after she saw the Catholic faction as a legitimate threat.
    She was also very cautious and reluctant to engage in a war with any other nation. She, like her grandfather Henry VII, was hesitant to spend money. Unlike her father, she did not seek out war for glory and immortality. This helped her to remain fairly amicable with nations of Europe. This also was a great relief to the public, who encountered financial hardships, famine, and unemployment during her reign. War would mean imposing taxes on the people, who were already struggling. However, she did get fairly lucky with the Spanish Armada. The Spanish defeat can attributed to the weather and failed tactics just as much, if not more, than the strength of the English navy. Overall, I think she was a smart and measured politician. Her political decisions, as well as some instances of luck facilitated her successes during her lengthy reign.

  28. Peter LaForge says:

    The success of Elizabeth’s I reign is often viewed as a result of her reserved and prudent character, her success as a ruler was a combined result of her ability and fortunate circumstances. In contrast to the often rash and controversial actions of Mary, Elizabeth took a calculating conservative approach to her rule. Indeed, the precocious Elizabeth was probably a welcome relief from the emotional Mary whom made decisions with little regard to public sentiment. And while Mary’s actions in theory would seem beneficial(England gaining wealth from the Spanish marriage), in reality they only served to detract from her popularity as many English feared a foreign dependency on Spain. Elizabeth, in contrast, was excruciatingly careful in matters of marriage and most likely learned from Mary’s marriage to Philip by recognizing the negative consequences of an unpopular marriage. By reinforcing her prerogatives as queen, Elizabeth recognized the importance of keeping the goodwill of the people and gentry in addition to practical matters of domestic and foreign policy. In addition to the topic of marriage, Elizabeth was also conservative in her religious policy insofar as how she pandered to both the Protestant radicals and Catholic conservatives. Elizabeth was careful not to alienate either side of the religious fence, again, recognizing the power of public sentiment.
    Though Elizabeth’s prudence was a major factor contributing to her success as a monarch, she undoubtedly benefitted from sheer dumb luck. Had the Spanish Armada not been dispersed as a result of the storm it is very likely Elizabeth would have been deposed and the Spanish would have taken control of England. This is one example of how luck helped Elizabeth during her reign, however, in general it was Elizabeth’s ability that ensured her a successful reign.

  29. mgogle says:

    I feel that Elizabeth was a smart, calculated ruler rather than one that was unusually lucky (though her good luck helped). Her stance with religion and establishment of the religious settlement in 1559 is I think the biggest piece of evidence that shows that Elizabeth was a smart ruler. Knowing that the previous three rulers had each taken different, extreme stances on religion, Elizabeth decided to take a middle-of-the-road stance, where she didn’t take any extreme side, and instead stayed neutral. Her stance was such that it allowed her to keep both Protestants and Catholics relatively happy, so that neither felt persecuted. While members of both religions weren’t satisfied with the stance that Elizabeth took, most of both sides weren’t so upset that they would rebel against the Queen (at least not until the Pope broke ties with the English church again). Being smart enough to not take sides, especially after what Bloody Mary had done during her reign, shows that Elizabeth was a good ruler.

    Elizabeth also showed her smarts with her handling of Mary Queen of Scots. When Mary was dethroned in Scotland and escaped to England, Elizabeth stayed wary of Mary and kept her under house arrest in England. Elizabeth also balked on going to war on Mary’s side in order to keep peace with her northern border and with France, which could have otherwise ended in disaster for Elizabeth and England. Siding with Mary would have also probably shown that Elizabeth favored Catholics, which would have been counterproductive to her staying relatively neutral between Catholics and Protestants. Elizabeth even kept good ties with James since he was little, in order to ensure that she would have a personal ally in the future. Keeping Mary under house arrest did drive her to want to assassinate Elizabeth, but Elizabeth was smart and had strong allies in court, so she was safe for the most part, and keeping the country out of war whenever possible was far more important at the time. Elizabeth was also smart enough to not kill Mary right away as well, which allowed her to start to build ties with Scotland and ensure that when Mary did die, the county wouldn’t crumble from the news.

  30. Mario Magnarini says:

    I believe that Elizabeth was a calculating politician, much like Henry VII. Attempts to stay out of war and to surround herself with competent advisers were smart moves and set her up for success and continuity. She also handled the religious turmoil of the country pretty well considering how much circumstances had been changing over the past few decades before her reign. She was aggressive but cautious, and did her best to avoid rubbing people the wrong way. This seems to be how she handled many issues while on the throne. She probably learned from the issues that beset many of her predecessors and found moderation to be a more advantageous way of approaching problems. The biggest knock against Elizabeth in my opinion is the debt she left at the end of her reign, which set up James for many problems.

    • Tasia Williams says:

      I like how you draw a connection between Elizabeth and her predecessors. I feel that Elizabeth, unlike James, knew how unstable the English throne could be. She was brought up in a family that was torn apart and was brought up with stories about the Wars of the Roses. Maybe she did admire her grandfather. After all, he rescued England from chaos after the war and established a very secure throne for his son. Maybe this is why she was so fiscally conservative.

    • Joshua Torres says:

      I agree that Elizabeth was a calculated politician and the connection between her and Henry VII. Elizabeth, like Henry VII, received the country in a time of political turmoil. Henry reacted by probing the allegiances of nobles after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and Elizabeth followed suit with her courtiers seeking a middle religious ground. In addition, they both had rivals to the throne. Henry survived the ordeal with Perkin Warbeck and Elizabeth with MQS. Although, differences arise in the reigns by the financial situation that both monarchs left behind. While they both attempted to stay out of financial breaking war, Henry VII left Henry VIII in prime monetary value and Elizabeth left James inheriting debt.

  31. Brady Andersen says:

    I believe that Elizabeth was a competent and careful leader who made the best of the lucky breaks presented to her. She certainly benefited from the foundations of economic policy from Mary as well as other favorable opportunities, but she was skilled enough in politics to take advantage of the hand she was given. In religious affairs, she is known for her compromise and her at least beginning tolerance of Catholics. Another monarch at the same time could have easily followed in the footsteps of Edward and Mary and take a strong stance on either side of the religious issue, but was able to form a compromise after the negative feelings toward the religious policy of the past reigns. As it was, Elizabeth maneuvered trough the political atmosphere and deftly dealt with threats that came out of the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots and the Ridolfi plot. These turned out to be opportunities that Elizabeth took advantage of after careful consideration. Her reign certainly was lucky in a certain sense, but Elizabeth had ample skill and intellect to turn threats into political motivations and capitalize on opportunities that arose.

  32. Tasia Williams says:

    I think that Elizabeth was a very smart ruler. She often used her disadvantage of being a women as an advantage. She constantly strung along the rulers of Europe in order to ensure peace. She also played upon the chivalric instincts of her MPs when she wanted them to do something for her. In addition, she chose a middle path when it came to religion. England had many radicals on both sides religion and Elizabeth tried to make the Church of England as tolerable as possible. She had low recusancy fines and retained many elements of the Catholic mass.

  33. Thomas Schmidt says:

    Queen Elizabeth’s successes in her reign can be attributed to both luck and political prowess. Accomplishments in Elizabeth’s reign can not sufficiently be argued as only being attributed to her intelligence without considering the beneficial events that her leadership had little to no effect on. The defeat of the Spanish Armada was mostly due to Spain’s misfortune in terms of weather for their excursions. Elizabeth cannot be praised for the victory over the Spanish Armada, but the Armada’s defeat nevertheless greatly benefited her rule and the safety of England.

    One area where Elizabeth’s political prowess shined was in her dealings with the Church. Elizabeth, through various laws, did not fully please any religious sects completely in England, but did not displease enough people for major resistances. The passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1558, requiring all individuals to attend the same church strengthened her position by creating penalties for not being complacent with the changes to the Church. The enforcement of her position of power over the church was amplified when in 1581 it became treasonous to practice Catholicism in England under the Treason Acts. Catholicism was a genuine threat to Elizabeth’s rule, as was later demonstrated by the Throckmorton and Babington plots. It was a calculated decision by Elizabeth to keep many Catholic aspects in the English Church while still enforcing other changes to please neither party and limit opposition.

  34. Troy Migut says:

    Although much of Elizabeth’s success and control of the prevailing threat of Catholicism was due to fortunate events, she played a large role in quelling the possibility of a rebellion. By openly claiming to not want to peer into “another man’s soul” and exuding toleration to existing Catholics close to her, she made it clear from the beginning that respecting her authority would garner respect from her. Until the series of the Northern Rebellion, Papal Bull, and attempt to place Mary on the throne occurred, Elizabeth’s diplomacy with the clergymen was successful. The Papal backed Catholic uprising forced Elizabeth to utilize means of suppression that were seemingly not her original intent. These could be seen through the Treason Act of 1581 that would outlaw all practice of Catholicism.

    However, many of Elizabeth’s accomplishments could be attributed to good fortune. The Spanish Armada of 1588 came at a time immediately after the fall of Mary Queen of Scots, the one possible usurper of Elizabeth, and was partly defeated by a freak storm on the Northwestern coast of Ireland. Despite these events, it was clear that Elizabeth exuded the strengths of a good leader.

  35. Jocelyn Piller says:

    As i stated in an earlier reply to a reply post, “Was Elizabeth a good ruler or was she just a “model monarch”, someone to be looked at and adored while society just coasted?”

    There are not many cases of Queen Elizabeth advancing the English society, more examples of just keeping it at bay until an uproar of some sort and/or a decision needed to be made.

    She did not quite choose a religion for England, she basically said here let just take Catholicism on one and and Protestantism on the other and *clap* we have a religious settlement. She was not advancing her society, she was only keeping it at bay from many uprisings. Another example of her inaction was keeping Mary alive. She could have chosen to let Mary go or to execute her. Instead she flirted with that decision for years until finally her Council made it for her.

    Are these qualities of a smart politician or a cheap monarch? In all honesty, depending on how you look at it, it can be either. By keeping everything at bay, she avoided much conflict and disruption. However, by her inaction, the government of England didn’t prosper; it was more or less stagnant.

    At this time, was it better to lead a stable government that lacked advance or might it have been better to take a stand and deal with the consequences?

  36. Joshua Torres says:

    I view Queen Elizabeth I as a smart and calculating politician. Elizabeth coming directly off of the reign of her half sister Mary had to overcome to major challenges which were intertwined: Catholicism and the Spanish threat. Mary, the devout catholic that she was, reinstated the Pope in England and all of the Catholic practices abandoned over the Reformation outside of monastic lands. Elizabeth, being a protestant herself, turned these practices around. She restored the monarch as Supreme Governor and edited the Prayer books and practices to a Protestant feel. This created tension with her and Catholics, a tension that culminated with the Revolt of the Northern Earls in 1569. This revolt, led by the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland was a Catholic movement backed by the Pope in Rome to removed Elizabeth from the throne. Unfortunately for the rebels, the papal decree did not reach England until after they were already thwarted and the revolution dead. Secondly, the Spanish threat of Philip II of Spain attempting to invade England and return Catholicism to England. This threat materialized in the Spanish Armanda of 1558. Philip promised that once the Armanda landed, the English Catholics would rejoice and join arms with him to restore the faith to England.
    Elizabeth carefully maneuvered around both instances. She appeased internal religious squabbles by accommodating both the liberals and conservatives. She did this by creating loose religious laws that allowed Protestants to worship openly and Catholics to still secretly congregate in their homes by placing light fines on missing mass. Elizabeth also bided her time with the Spanish threat, not overeating and entering in to war prematurely. Because of this, she was able to build a solid domestic foundation that allowed her to overcome the Spanish once the armada hit. Elizabeth did benefit from the lack of stability of the reigns of both Edward and Mary. Coming off of the cruelty seen by the executions under Mary, Elizabeth was seen as caring. In addition, as her reign endured time, she was seen as powerful simply because she was the only monarch known to around half of the population that was too young to remember Mary or Edward.

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