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After Lady Jane Grey and her own half-sister Queen Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, Queen Elizabeth I was the third woman to rule England alone. When she ascended the throne following the death of Mary there was great apprehension in the country with regards to how she would fare as a monarch, but Elizabeth was made of sterner stuff than most people at the time gave her credit for. When she was told that her sister had died and that she was the new Queen of England, she famously said, “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” Elizabeth went on to become one of the most famous English monarchs in history, a place well deserved, since she proved herself to also be one of the most competent and intelligent.

In order to fully understand and appreciate this story, it is necessary to have a bit of background information about Elizabeth. A student familiar with this period of history may skip the prologue and proceed straight to part one; for anyone a little shaky with the Tudors, however, it is advised that you read this bit first.

Here is a brief timeline of England’s national religion by monarchs prior to Elizabeth’s enthronement:

King Henry VIII – famous for his six wives. The only ones of concern are the first three: Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish noble who bore him a daughter, Mary; Anne Boleyn, a less well-bred English individual who bore him his second daughter, Elizabeth; and Jane Seymour, who finally bore him the son he desperately wanted, Edward. Henry and Catherine were both Roman Catholics. The Pope refused to allow Henry to divorce Catherine when he requested it, so in order to do so Henry switched the national religion to the ‘Church of England’ with himself at the head. To all intents and purposes, the Reader may consider this the same as Protestantism. Protestantism, Catholicism and the Puritan faith are all branches of Christianity. Catholics do not allow divorce and did not consider any of Henry’s marriages after Catherine of Aragon to be legal, so in their eyes his second two children, Elizabeth and Edward, were illegitimate. In her time, Elizabeth was often referred to by her enemies as ‘the bastard Queen’.

King Edward VI – Edward succeeded the throne when Henry died at the tender age of nine. He did not rule for long and was heavily influenced by his advisors. Edward continued to keep Protestantism going in England. In defiance of his sister Mary, he passed the throne to Lady Jane Grey when he died. He had always been a sickly child and had never been expected to live long.

Lady Jane Grey – Queen for nine days, her reign is often omitted from timelines and records. Mary quickly took the throne and had her executed.

Queen Mary I – Also known as “Bloody Mary”; she reverted the country back to Catholicism and proceeded to burn heretics (people who did not follow the national religion, such as Puritans and Protestants) at the stake, hence the nickname. She married King Philip of Spain. Spain was very strongly Catholic (this was at the time when the Spanish Inquisition tortured and executed heretics) and the marriage was intended to bring the two nations together. Mary’s sister, Elizabeth, had been raised a Protestant. Following advice from her courtiers, Mary had Elizabeth locked up in the Tower of London under suspicion of treason, but Elizabeth was still alive and well when Mary died of a tumour.

As you can see, the country had been hopping back and forth from Catholic to Protestant for a few years. England was a Catholic country when Elizabeth was crowned, but she herself was a Protestant. Spain, France, Italy and all the other major surrounding countries were Catholic, but Catholicism had made itself unpopular under Mary’s reign and there were a large number of hopeful Protestants in England. With due care, Elizabeth turned the country Protestant again, but she was more lenient on heretics than Mary had been. Providing everyone publicly worshipped in a Protestant church, she decreed that they could worship however they liked in private. This prevented a rebellion in England.

King Philip offered his hand in marriage several times to Elizabeth but she refused each time. For many years, on the surface she was supportive and cooperative of Spain, but quietly she encouraged the English pirates who raided Spanish ships and delivered some of their treasures to her. Over the years, Philip’s temper started to fray. Elizabeth was also encouraging anti-Catholic feelings in the Netherlands where Spain was influential. After the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, a devout Catholic, and the excommunication (banishment from the Catholic religion) of Elizabeth by the Pope, Philip finally decided that enough was enough and he started building his fleet against her.

Unfortunately for Philip, his leading Admiral had died in 1586. When the Armada set sail in mid July 1588, it was under Medina Sidonia, a competent enough Admiral but one who had never sailed before. Conditions on board were so bad that he became seasick and the Armada had to return to port. Meanwhile, Elizabeth, who had long anticipated an attack from Spain, had been sending spies there and was being constantly updated on the situation.

Credit where credit is due, in the end the man of the hour for England was Sir Francis Drake. For the purpose of entertainment and the working in of obviously non-existent characters, this story does not praise him as much as it perhaps should. It was Drake who caused trouble in Cadiz, delaying the Armada and buying the British time. It was also Drake who engineered the flaming ships. British victory over the Spanish was down to a combination of tactics (designed to break up the Armada’s crescent formation; once this was done, it was easy for the smaller and faster British ships to pick them off), planning (Elizabeth foresaw the attack and was well prepared for it) and luck (the storm which drove the Spanish away; the British, playing at home base, were able to take cover in their own port). Although it was a crushing defeat for Spain, British victory was not down to British superiority, and it should be made plain to the Reader that Spain remained a very powerful nation even after the defeat of the Armada.

So without any further ado, let us begin. The opening is set in the late June of 1588, spanning across the remainder of the year as the story progresses. The Reader should remember that this account is designed to be used as entertainment and not as a history lesson; there are doubtlessly numerous places where historical accuracy has given way to creativity. As a historian, I can only apologise for these blunders.

    • part one. -
    • part two. -
    • part three. -
    • part four. -
    • part five. -
    • part six. -
    • part seven. -
    • part eight. -
    • part nine. -
    • part ten. -
    • epilogue -

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