The world has just witnessed the platinum jubilee of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. To rule for 70 years is an accomplishment, never before witnessed in Britain. The event marks a fantastic reign, but also makes one think of the previous Queen Elizabeth, who is also one of the most well-remembered monarchs in British history.
Queen Elizabeth I, also made history in the late 1500s, not for the length of her reign, as she was only on the throne for a mere 45 years, but for bringing England into the so-called Golden Age. Times were certainly different then, as the monarch had all the power. The young queen was faced with numerous obstacles, but there was little she could not overcome.
Elizabeth lost her line to succession when her father had her mother executed for adultery and treason in 1536, and Henry VIII disowned her. Eventually she was welcomed back into the family and reinstated, but was third in the line of succession.
When Henry died, his 10-year-old son, Edward, Elizabeth’s younger half-brother (and son of wife number 3, Jane Seymour), took the throne. He was not a healthy child and died when he was quite young. This led to Mary, Elizabeth’s older, half-sister ascending the throne.
Mary was a religious zealot who was bent on returning England to the Roman Catholic faith. She had Elizabeth arrested, and sent to the Tower of London. It was by sheer luck, by the death of Mary, that Elizabeth escaped the same fate as her mother, and was now next in line for the throne.
Many believed Elizabeth’s inner spirits lay with Catholicism, but she kept her personal feelings hidden, and was adamant about returning England to her father’s wishes. The new queen restored Protestantism, and made it clear there would be no return to Catholicism, but there would be religious tolerance for outward obedience.
Given the experiences of her mother, father, and half sister Mary, securing an heir was a challenging issue. She knew marrying a foreigner would bring international entanglements, but to marry and Englishman risked domestic issues. Her solution was an unselfish simple one: she would remain single indefinitely.
Political situations arose which had to be dealt with decisively: Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, wanted to overthrow the monarchy and restore Catholicism. Spain did not like the way the English values were changing, and built a massive armada to attack the island nation. Elizabeth was strong, and defeated the Spanish with great humiliation. Mary was executed, putting an end to that problem. Time went on and Elizabeth remained true to her values. She never married, and everything she accomplished was for the betterment of England.
Britain’s current queen has also sacrificed her life for the betterment of her country. Perhaps one day there will be a Queen Elizabeth III, who will have quite a challenge of living up to the legacy of her predecessors.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.