Sunday, January 05, 2014

Question from Jessica - Elizabeth I and Empire

Hi, I am 15 and in AP world history. for our Christmas assignment we were given a ruler and I receiver Queen Elizabeth I. Well the assignment is to answer the following questions the teacher gave us in the rulers point of view and I've answered most but I cant seem to find these two. The questions are: "How does your empire establish legitimacy?" and "what are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of your empire?" I am at a loss, can you help? Thank you!


Karen Kidd said...

Hi Jessica!

I'm quite impressed with your teacher to be asking such advanced questions. If these are only two, then I can only imagine what the others are like.

On the first, "How does your empire establish legitimacy?", the question itself is a little confusing. While Elizabeth certainly sowed the seeds of empire, it wasn't an empire to begin with. I would have to make some assumptions here and wonder/hope your teacher wants to know how Elizabeth would have maintained her right to the throne was legitimate. If that is correct, I recommend you look into the Third Succession Act that granted her father, Henry VIII, the right to name his successors in his will; and that Henry VIII placed Elizabeth third in line behind her brother Edward and sister Mary (assuming, of course, they had no issue; which they didn't). You might also mention that Mary herself confirmed Elizabeth as her heir.

On the second question, "what are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of your empire?", that could get very lengthy. After all, Elizabeth reigned a long, long time and the great strengths and weaknesses at the beginning would not be the same as at the end. I would recommend you compare the shape the kingdom was in when she came to the throne ("The Queen poor; the realm exhausted; the nobility poor and decayed; want of good captains and soldiers; the people out of order. . .") to how things were at the end (all that wondrous Gloriana stuff slightly dampened by Elizabeth's own assessment, "All the fabric of my reign, little by little, is beginning to fall"), harbinger of the civil war only a couple of generations away.

I hope that is of some help to you. Good luck!

kb said...

Hi - Here are some more ideas to think about. On the question of how does Elizabeth's empire establish legitimacy, consider that the other truly dominant empire at the time was Spain. Spain included some of what we now call The Netherlands/Belgium/Luxembourg. Also some parts of Italy were under Spain's control. However, Spain was kept afloat financially as an empire through the import of wealth from the New World. If Elizabeth, England, could compete with Spain in the Atlantic world, on the seas, then England was more than a small island nation. It was legitimate power playing in the big leagues with the biggest empire - Spain.

At the same time, Elizabeth kept trying to bring parts of Ireland under English rule. This was mostly a disaster but any part of Ireland that could be considered as subject to the queen would have contributed to England's status as a growing empire. Most European kingdoms were out exploring and trying to conquer new lands. If England could do the same, then it would be legitimate - so to speak.

In terms of strengths and weaknesses, the Irish situation was pretty bad. It took a lot of money and men and didn't return a lot of benefit to England's imperial status or treasury. Another weakness might be that England was not as successful as Spain at exploiting the wealth of the New World directly. English adventurers were much better at piracy, stealing from the Spanish, than in establishing permanent footholds in the Americas. That would come later, starting most forcefully in the early part of the next reign (James VI and I). In the latter part of Elizabeth's reign there was also the fairly certain prospect that Scotland would unite with England under a single crown, that of her successor James. As far as strengths go, the longevity of Elizabeth's rule was a strength. The constancy of a single monarch, and therefore a single religion, and mostly consistent foreign policy, kept the country fairly safe. This safety was enhanced by England's natural geographic defenses - it's an island. The flourishing of the arts, especially in the latter part of her realm (think Shakespeare and theatre) is in many respects testament to that sense of safety.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

FWIW, the Act in Restraint of Appeals, for example, claimed that England was an "empire" to show that it was independent of Papal authority. This will provide some leads:


Melanie V Taylor said...

Jessica, you might also like to look at the various portraits of Elizabeth I, especially the Pelican Portrait, painted in around 1573/4. You will see two symbols of Tudor monarchy - the rose and a crown. The crown is a 'closed' crown, which is a symbol of Empire and to have an empire you have to have lands across the sea. At the time England had lost Calais, so no longer had any territory in Europe and had yet to make any claim to land in America. Therefore to have a crown symbolising Empire was a bit of a cheek.

This type of crown also appears on the Hilliard miniature of Elizabeth 1 dated 1572.

Sometimes not all evidence is written, which is why you should also look at the portraits. The visual symbols within these are massive and if you have any problem with your teacher about using these, I am quite happy to talk to them as I teach Tudor history and art history.

Kate said...

How does your empire establish ligitmacy? Well England at the time Elizabeth I was rulking wssnot an empire but the seeds of empire had been sown with the dogged determination to retain Ireland as a territory and with the establishment of an English colony on Roanoke Island in VA,but it was a long way from being the empire it would become later on. Also previous monarch's had lost all of the territories held in France, the last Calais was lost during the reign of Mary Tudor, so the question may not apply. You may i light of this want to explore the legitmacy of the monarch herself. This is espically interesting with Elizabeth as she had fought the catorization of bastard most of her life both at home and abroad as did her sister Mary albiet it for different reasons but instigated largly by their father. The act of succession and the practice of primogeneture. It would also be interesting to research why Henry VIII will superceeded that of his son Edward's who ruled after him and who changed the succession.To go back a little furthur the Tudor right to reigh was tenous at best and so look at the war of the roses and how the Tudor reign came about in the first place. The second question on the strengths and weaknesses of the country is mush more straight forward. Elizabeth herself was the greatest strength, the length of her reign, the condition the country was in when she came to the throne vs when she died. Good luck with your report, lucky you to have been assigned such an interesting and wonderful woman

shtove said...

First, define empire.

Kate raised the overseas element, which I say includes Ireland, so you can find all the issues of legitimacy in that horrible history. Good luck!

Calais is also a good case study that shows empire thinking in regard to France and the continent.

Overall, have a look at John Dee on colonisation and exploration.

For strengths and weaknesses read Elizabeth's golden speech in 1601 - her reign did not end well:,%201601