Frequently Asked Questions
12. What were Queen Elizabeth's greatest accomplishments?
I have listed below what I consider to be Queen Elizabeth's greatest accomplishments. However, please note that this is only my opinion, and others may have differing opinions. If asked this as an essay or exam question, you will answer it better if you think for yourself what her greatest accomplishments were.
1. She survived and succeeded in a world that was male dominated, proving that a woman could rule as well as any man. Until her successful reign, it was thought a woman could not rule, and the reign of her halfsister, Queen Mary, had done nothing to change this train of thought.
2. She succeeded in uniting her people in a world that was divided by religious conflict. Elizabeth managed to make her religious settlement of 1559 work, despite the conflicting religious interests in her country. She managed to restrain Catholic opposition and hold back the Puritan threat to her church. When she became Queen, the majority of her people were probably Catholic. When she died, the majority of her people were Protestant and content with the church as she established it. The fabric of her church is still in existence today.
3. By careful manipulation of her public image, she gained the popularity and affection of her people, and managed to retain this even when she was in her declining years. She presented herself, in Walter Raleigh's words, as a "queen of the poor aswell as the rich", and while she was always graceful in public, she was never aloof and had a common touch that won her the hearts of the common people.
4. She was careful and cautious in her approach to politics. She never acted hastily or embarked on a course of action unpopular with her people. She was a determined politician, but a practical one, and would yield on unpopular issues. She backed down on the granting of monopolies in 1601 after public opposition to them, and may well have held back from marrying Francis, Duke of Alencon, because of hostile public opinion.
5. While Elizabeth knew when to back down politically, she never abandoned any of her ministers or favourites because of hostile public opinion or because of internal court pressure. She continued to favour Robert Dudley, despite hostile public opinion, and supported William Cecil when almost the entire Privy Council demanded his resignation. Elizabeth chose her advisors well and gave posts only to those she considered able to do the job.
6. Elizabeth encouraged the arts and patronised scholars, enouraging her courtiers to do so too. She enouraged the theatre, despite the moral objections of the Puritans, and this allowed for the flourishing of the arts and drama and the work of great men like William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
7. Elizabeth managed to successfully lead her people in war. She defeated the most powerful man in the world, King Philip II of Spain, when he sent his Armada against the country in the summer of 1588. Elizabeth had been careful to nurture the navy, and her efforts had paid off well. The defeat of the Armada was her finest hour, and has gone down in history as one of the greatest English victories at sea.
8. Elizabeth encouraged overseas exploration.
9. Elizabeth believed in the merits of peace rather than the glories of war, and the years of peace she gave England, meant that the country prospered while other countries fell apart due to their internal conflicts. As soon as she became Queen, Elizabeth reversed the debasing of the coinage. She encouraged trade in London, the Foreign Exchange, and the learning of skills from foreign refugees.
10. When Elizabeth became Queen in 1558, her country was poor, torn apart by religious squabbles, and a second rate power in the world. When she died in 1603, England was one of the most affluent and powerful countries in the world.