(1533 - 1603)
The only child of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558 after the deaths of her half-brother, Edward VI (son of Henry and Jane Seymour) and her half-sister, Mary I (daughter of Henry and the Catholic Catherine of Aragon). She ruled England for nearly half a century, during which time England defeated Spain at sea, securing the British Empire’s position as the dominant seafaring power of the sixteenth century. Culture, too, flourished under Elizabeth, with the dramas of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe being particularly associated with her reign. She had a wide array of nicknames, though none so lasting as the Virgin Queen, a nod to the fact that Elizabeth never married, choosing instead to use the promise of union to secure favors from nobles at home and abroad.