Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland, 1533-1603

Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, in 1558 succeeded her half-sister to the throne. One of her first actions as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church. Despite numerous courtships, she never married or produced an heir. She was cautious in foreign affairs, manoeuvring between the major powers of France and Spain. England's great military victory against the Spanish Armada in 1588 became associated to her name. As she grew older, Elizabeth became celebrated for her virginity. Her reign became known as the Elizabethan era, famous for the flourishing of English drama (Shakespeare and Marlowe), and for the seafaring prowess of adventurers such as Drake.