Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

In the Days of Queen Elizabeth

Historical Note

THE reign of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) was a period of great glory. The discoveries of her bold sea-captains, Drake, Frobisher, and others, widened the boundaries of the world, commerce flourished, the East India Company and other great trading corporations sprang into existence, and the wealth of England grew apace.

In 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots, fled to England, but was imprisoned by order of Elizabeth. During her long confinement several conspiracies were devised by the Catholics to set her on the throne in place of Elizabeth. In one of these she was implicated, and after some hesitation, Elizabeth signed a warrant for her execution. To avenge her death, and restore Catholicism, which had been superseded in England by Protestantism on the accession of Elizabeth, Philip II of Spain prepared to invade England. English troops had aided the Netherlanders in their revolt against Spanish rule, English freebooters had looted the Spanish treasure-ships returning from the New World, and to make the punishment for all these offenses swift and sure, a fleet was prepared for the invasion so powerful that it was christened the "Invincible Armada." But the confidence of Spain was short-lived; the Armada was defeated by the English fleet; the work of destruction begun by Drake, Howard, and Hawkins was completed by the storm-swept Atlantic; and only one third of the mighty Armada returned to tell Philip of the disaster that marks the beginning of the downfall of Spanish supremacy in Europe.

The Elizabethan period is called the Golden Age of English literature. The old mystery plays continued far into Elizabeth's reign; but the drama was fast coming to its own. High among the poets and dramatists are Spenser, Jonson, and Marlowe, while above them all towers the figure of Shakespeare, the crowning glory of the Elizabethan age.

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