The ELIZABETHAN ERA is the epoch in the
This "golden age" represented the apogee of the English Renaissance
and saw the flowering of poetry, music and literature. The era is most
famous for theatre , as
The Elizabethan Age contrasts sharply with the previous and following reigns. It was a brief period of internal peace between the English Reformation and the religious battles between Protestants and Catholics and then the political battles between parliament and the monarchy that engulfed the remainder of the seventeenth century. The Protestant/Catholic divide was settled, for a time, by the Elizabethan Religious Settlement , and parliament was not yet strong enough to challenge royal absolutism.
The one great rival was Spain, with whom
* 1 Romance and reality
* 2 Government
* 2.1 Plots, intrigues and conspiracies
* 3 Distinctions * 4 Religion * 5 Science, technology and exploration
* 6 Social history
* 6.1 Health
* 6.2 Homes and dwelling
* 6.3 Poverty
* 6.4 Education
* 6.5 Food
* 6.6 Gender
* 7 High culture
* 7.1 Theatre * 7.2 Music * 7.3 Fine arts
* 8 Popular culture
* 8.1 Pastimes
* 8.2 Sports
* 8.3 Festivals, holidays and celebrations
* 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Further reading
ROMANCE AND REALITY
ELIZABETH USHERS IN PEACE AND PLENTY. Detail from The Family of
Henry VIII: An Allegory of the Tudor Succession, c. 1572, attributed
Lucas de Heere
Victorian era and the early 20th century idealised the
Elizabethan era. The
Encyclopædia Britannica maintains that "he long
reign of Elizabeth I, 1558–1603, was England's Golden Age... 'Merry
In response and reaction to this hyperbole, modern historians and biographers have tended to take a more dispassionate view of the Tudor period.
PLOTS, INTRIGUES AND CONSPIRACIES
The Elizabethan Age was also an age of plots and conspiracies,
frequently political in nature, and often involving the highest levels
of Elizabethan society. High officials in Madrid, Paris and Rome
sought to kill Elizabeth, a Protestant, and replace her with Mary,
Queen of Scots , a Catholic. That would be a prelude to the religious
The Essex Rebellion of 1601 has a dramatic element, as just before the uprising, supporters of the Earl of Essex, among them Charles and Joscelyn Percy (younger brothers of the Earl of Northumberland ), paid for a performance of Richard II at the Globe Theatre , apparently with the goal of stirring public ill will towards the monarchy. It was reported at the trial of Essex by Chamberlain\'s Men actor Augustine Phillips , that the conspirators paid the company forty shillings "above the ordinary" (i. e., above their usual rate) to stage the play, which the players felt was too old and "out of use" to attract a large audience.
Bye Plot of 1603, two Catholic priests planned to kidnap King
James and hold him in the Tower of London until he agreed to be more
tolerant towards Catholics. Most dramatic was the 1605 Gunpowder Plot
to blow up the
House of Lords
ROYAL NAVY AND DEFEAT OF THE ARMADA
The Spanish Armada fighting the English navy at the Battle of Gravelines in 1588.
While Henry VIII had launched the
Parker has speculated on the dire consequences if the Spanish had
landed their invasion army in 1588. He argues that the Spanish army
was larger, more experienced, better-equipped, more confident, and had
better financing. The English defenses, on the other hand, were thin
COLONISING THE NEW WORLD
Main article: English colonial empire
The discoveries of Christopher Columbus electrified all of western Europe, especially maritime powers like England. King Henry VII commissioned John Cabot to lead a voyage to find a northern route to the Spice Islands of Asia; this began the search for the North West Passage . Cabot sailed in 1497 and reached Newfoundland . He led another voyage to the Americas the following year, but nothing was heard of him or his ships again.
In 1562 Elizabeth sent privateers Hawkins and Drake to seize booty
from Spanish and Portuguese ships off the coast of
West Africa . When
the Anglo-Spanish Wars intensified after 1585, Elizabeth approved
further raids against Spanish ports in the Americas and against
shipping returning to Europe with treasure. Meanwhile, the
Richard Hakluyt and
John Dee were beginning to
press for the establishment of England's own overseas empire. Spain
was well established in the Americas, while Portugal, in union with
Spain from 1580, had an ambitious global empire in Africa, Asia and
South America. France was exploring North America.
Martin Frobisher landed at
Frobisher Bay on
From 1577 to 1580, Sir
Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe.
Combined with his daring raids against the Spanish and his great
victory over them at Cadiz in 1587 , he became a famous hero —his
exploits are still celebrated—but
In 1584, the queen granted Sir
Walter Raleigh a charter for the
colonisation of Virginia ; it was named in her honour. Raleigh and
Elizabeth sought both immediate riches and a base for privateers to
raid the Spanish treasure fleets. Raleigh sent others to found the
Roanoke Colony ; it remains a mystery why the settlers all
disappeared. In 1600, the queen chartered the
East India Company
Elizabeth managed to moderate and quell the intense religious passions of the time. This was in significant contrast to previous and succeeding eras of marked religious violence.
Elizabeth said "I have no desire to make windows into mens' souls". Her desire to moderate the religious persecutions of previous Tudor reigns — the persecution of Catholics under Edward VI, and of Protestants under Mary I — appears to have had a moderating effect on English society. Elizabeth reinstated the Protestant bible and English Mass, yet for a number of years refrained from persecuting Catholics.
In 1570, Pope Pius V declared Elizabeth a heretic who was not the legitimate queen and that her subjects no longer owed her obedience. The pope sent Jesuits and seminarians to secretly evangelize and support Catholics. After several plots to overthrow her, Catholic clergy were mostly considered to be traitors, and were pursued aggressively in England. Often priests were tortured or executed after capture unless they cooperated with the English authorities. People who publicly supported Catholicism were excluded from the professions; sometimes fined or imprisoned.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND EXPLORATION
Lacking a dominant genius or a formal structure for research (the
following century had both Sir
Isaac Newton and the
Much of this scientific and technological progress related to the
practical skill of navigation. English achievements in exploration
were noteworthy in the Elizabethan era. Sir Francis Drake
circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1581, and Martin Frobisher
Historians since the 1960s have explored many facets of the social history, covering every class of the population.
See also: Health and diet in Elizabethan England
Although home to only a small part of the population the Tudor
municipalities were overcrowded and unhygienic. Most towns were
unpaved with poor public sanitation. There were no sewers or drains,
and rubbish was simply abandoned in the street. Animals such as rats
thrived in these conditions. In larger towns and cities, such as
London, common diseases arising from lack of sanitation included
smallpox , measles , malaria , typhus , diphtheria ,
Outbreaks of the Black Death pandemic occurred in 1498, 1535, 1543, 1563, 1589 and 1603. The reason for the speedy spread of the disease was the increase of rats infected by fleas carrying the disease.
Child mortality was low in comparison with earlier and later periods, at about 150 or fewer deaths per 1000 babies. By age 15 a person could expect 40–50 more years of life.
HOMES AND DWELLING
The great majority were tenant farmers who lived in small villages. Their homes were, as in earlier centuries, thatched huts with one or two rooms, although later on during this period, roofs were also tiled. Furniture was basic, with stools being commonplace rather than chairs. The walls of Tudor houses were often made from timber and wattle and daub , or brick; stone and tiles were more common in the wealthier homes. The daub was usually then painted with limewash , making it white, and the wood was painted with black tar to prevent rotting, but not in Tudor times; the Victorians did this afterwards. The bricks were handmade and thinner than modern bricks. The wooden beams were cut by hand, which makes telling the difference between Tudor houses and Tudor-style houses easy, as the original beams are not straight. The upper floors of Tudor houses were often larger than the ground floors, which would create an overhang (or jetty ). This would create more floor-surface above while also keeping maximum street width. During the Tudor period, the use of glass when building houses was first used, and became widespread. It was very expensive and difficult to make, so the panes were made small and held together with a lead lattice, in casement windows . People who could not afford glass often used polished horn, cloth or paper. Tudor chimneys were tall, thin, and often decorated with symmetrical patterns of molded or cut brick. Early Tudor houses, and the homes of poorer people, did not have chimneys. The smoke in these cases would be let out through a simple hole in the roof.
Mansions had many chimneys for the many fireplaces required to keep the vast rooms warm. These fires were also the only way of cooking food. Wealthy Tudor homes needed many rooms, where a large number of guests and servants could be accommodated, fed and entertained. Wealth was demonstrated by the extensive use of glass. Windows became the main feature of Tudor mansions, and were often a fashion statement. Mansions were often designed to a symmetrical plan; "E" and "H" shapes were popular.
Main article: Poor Law A woodcut from circa 1536 depicting a vagrant being punished in the streets in Tudor England.
About one-third of the population lived in poverty, with the wealthy expected to give alms to assist the impotent poor . Tudor law was harsh on the able-bodied poor , i.e., those unable to find work. Those who left their parishes in order to locate work were termed vagabonds and could be subjected to punishments, including whipping and putting at the stocks.
The idea of the workhouse for the able-bodied poor was first suggested in 1576.
There was an unprecedented expansion of education in the Tudor period. Until then, few children went to school. Those that did go were mainly the sons of wealthy or ambitious fathers who could afford to pay the attendance fee. Boys were allowed to go to school and began at the age of 4, they then moved to grammar school when they were 7 years old. Girls were either kept at home by their parents to help with housework or sent out to work to bring money in for the family. They were not sent to school. Boys were educated for work and the girls for marriage and running a household so when they married they could look after the house and children. Wealthy families hired a tutor to teach the boys at home. Many Tudor towns and villages had a parish school where the local vicar taught boys to read and write. Brothers could teach their sisters these skills. At school, pupils were taught English, Latin, Greek, catechism and arithmetic. The pupils practised writing in ink by copying the alphabet and the Lord\'s Prayer . There were few books, so pupils read from hornbooks instead. These wooden boards had the alphabet, prayers or other writings pinned to them and were covered with a thin layer of transparent cow's horn. There were two types of school in Tudor times: petty school was where young boys were taught to read and write; grammar school was where abler boys were taught English and Latin. It was usual for students to attend six days a week. The school day started at 7:00 am in winter and 6:00 am in summer and finished about 5:00 pm. Petty schools had shorter hours, mostly to allow poorer boys the opportunity to work as well. Schools were harsh and teachers were very strict, often beating pupils who misbehaved.
Education would begin at home, where children were taught the basic etiquette of proper manners and respecting others. It was necessary for boys to attend grammar school , but girls were rarely allowed in any place of education other than petty schools, and then only with a restricted curriculum. Petty schools were for all children aged from 5 to 7 years of age. Only the most wealthy people allowed their daughters to be taught, and only at home. During this time, endowed schooling became available. This meant that even boys of very poor families were able to attend school if they were not needed to work at home, but only in a few localities were funds available to provide support as well as the necessary education scholarship.
Boys from wealthy families were taught at home by a private tutor. When Henry VIII shut the monasteries he closed their schools. He refounded many former monastic schools—they are known as "King's schools" and are found all over England. During the reign of Edward VI many free grammar schools were set up to take in non-fee paying students. There were two universities in Tudor England: Oxford and Cambridge . Some boys went to university at the age of about 14.
England's food supply was plentiful throughout most of the reign; there were no famines. Bad harvests caused distress, but they were usually localized. The most widespread came in 1555–57 and 1596–98. In the towns the price of staples was fixed by law; in hard times the size of the loaf of bread sold by the baker was smaller.
The poor consumed a diet largely of bread, cheese, milk, and beer, with small portions of meat, fish and vegetables, and occasionally some fruit. Potatoes were just arriving at the end of the period, and became increasingly important. The typical poor farmer sold his best products on the market, keeping the cheap food for the family. Stale bread could be used to make bread puddings, and bread crumbs served to thicken soups, stews, and sauces. At a somewhat higher social level families ate an enormous variety of meats, especially beef, mutton, veal, lamb, and pork, as well as chickens, and ducks. The holiday goose was a special treat. Many rural folk and some townspeople tended a small garden which produced vegetables such as asparagus, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, beans, cabbage, carrots, leeks, and peas, as well as medicinal and flavoring herbs. Some grew their own apricots, grapes, berries, apples, pears, plums, currants, and cherries. Families without a garden could trade with their neighbors to obtain vegetables and fruits at low cost.
At the rich end of the scale the manor houses and palaces were awash with large, elaborately prepared meals, usually for many people and often accompanied by entertainment. The upper classes often celebrated religious festivals, weddings, alliances and the whims of the king or queen. Feasts were commonly used to commemorate the "procession" of the crowned heads of state in the summer months, when the king or queen would travel through a circuit of other nobles' lands both to avoid the plague season of London, and alleviate the royal coffers, often drained through the winter to provide for the needs of the royal family and court. This would include a few days or even a week of feasting in each noble's home, who depending on his or her production and display of fashion, generosity and entertainment, could have his way made in court and elevate his or her status for months or even years.
Special courses after a feast or dinner which often involved a special room or outdoor gazebo (sometimes known as a folly) with a central table set with dainties of "medicinal" value to help with digestion. These would include wafers, comfits of sugar-spun anise or other spices, jellies and marmalades (a firmer variety than we are used to, these would be more similar to our gelatin jigglers), candied fruits, spiced nuts and other such niceties. These would be eaten while standing and drinking warm, spiced wines (known as hypocras) or other drinks known to aid in digestion. One must remember that sugar in the Middle Ages or Early Modern Period was often considered medicinal, and used heavily in such things. This was not a course of pleasure, though it could be as everything was a treat, but one of healthful eating and abetting the digestive capabilities of the body. It also, of course, allowed those standing to show off their gorgeous new clothes and the holders of the dinner and banquet to show off the wealth of their estate, what with having a special room just for banqueting.
The Procession Picture, c. 1600, showing Elizabeth I borne along by her courtiers.
While the Tudor era presents an abundance of material on the women of the nobility—especially royal wives and queens—historians have recovered scant documentation about the average lives of women. There has, however, been extensive statistical analysis of demographic and population data which includes women, especially in their childbearing roles. The role of women in society was, for the historical era, relatively unconstrained; Spanish and Italian visitors to England commented regularly, and sometimes caustically, on the freedom that women enjoyed in England, in contrast to their home cultures. England had more well-educated upper class women than was common anywhere in Europe.
The Queen's marital status was a major political and diplomatic topic. It also entered into the popular culture. Elizabeth's unmarried status inspired a cult of virginity. In poetry and portraiture, she was depicted as a virgin or a goddess or both, not as a normal woman. Elizabeth made a virtue of her virginity: in 1559, she told the Commons, "And, in the end, this shall be for me sufficient, that a marble stone shall declare that a queen, having reigned such a time, lived and died a virgin". Public tributes to the Virgin by 1578 acted as a coded assertion of opposition to the queen's marriage negotiations with the Duc d'Alençon.
In contrast to her father's emphasis on masculinity and physical prowess, Elizabeth emphasized the maternalism theme, saying often that she was married to her kingdom and subjects. She explained "I keep the good will of all my husbands — my good people — for if they did not rest assured of some special love towards them, they would not readily yield me such good obedience," and promised in 1563 they would never have a more natural mother than she. Coch (1996) argues that her figurative motherhood played a central role in her complex self-representation, shaping and legitimating the personal rule of a divinely appointed female prince.
Over ninety percent of English women (and adults, in general) entered marriage at the end of the 1500s and beginning of the 1600s, at an average age of about 25–26 years for the bride and 27–28 years for the groom, with the most common ages being 25-26 for grooms and 23 for brides. Among the nobility and gentry , the average was around 19-21 for brides and 24-26 for grooms. Many city and townswomen married for the first time in their thirties and forties and it was not unusual for orphaned young women to delay marriage until the late twenties or early thirties to help support their younger siblings, and roughly a quarter of all English brides were pregnant at their weddings.
A reconstruction of the Globe Theatre in London, originally built in 1599 and used by Shakespeare Main article: English Renaissance theatre
Main article: Music in the Elizabethan era
Travelling musicians were in great demand at Court, in churches, at
country houses, and at local festivals. Important composers included
William Byrd (1543–1623),
Portraiture of Elizabeth I
It has often been said that the Renaissance came late to England, in
contrast to Italy and the other states of continental Europe; the fine
Main article: Elizabethan leisure
The Annual Summer
Watching plays became very popular during the Tudor period. Most
towns sponsored plays enacted in town squares followed by the actors
using the courtyards of taverns or inns (referred to as Inn-yards)
followed by the first theatres (great open air amphitheatres and then
the introduction of indoor theatres called Playhouses.) This
popularity was helped by the rise of great playwrights such as William
Miracle plays were local re-enactments of stories from the Bible. They derived from the old custom of Mystery Plays , in which stories and fables were enacted to teach lessons or educate about life in general. They influenced Shakespeare.
Festivals were popular seasonal entertainments
There were many different types of Elizabethan sports and entertainment. Animal sports included bear and bull baiting , dog fighting and cock fighting .
The rich enjoyed tennis , fencing , and jousting . Hunting was stricly limuited to the upper class. They favoured their packs of dogs and hounds trained to chase foxes, hares and boars. The rich also enjoyed hunting small game and birds with hawks, known as falconry .
Other sports included archery, bowling, hammer-throwing, quarter-staff contests, troco , quoits , skittles , wrestling and mob football .
Gambling And Card Games
Dice was a popular activity in all social classes. Cards appeared in
Spain and Italy about 1370, but they probably came from Egypt. They
began to spread throughout Europe and came into
FESTIVALS, HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS
A wedding feast, c. 1569.
During the Elizabethan era, people looked forward to holidays because opportunities for leisure were limited, with time away from hard work being restricted to periods after church on Sundays. For the most part, leisure and festivities took place on a public church holy day. Every month had its own holiday, some of which are listed below:
* The first Monday after Twelfth Night of January (any time between 7 January and 14 January) was Plough Monday . It celebrated returning to work after the Christmas celebrations and the New Year. * 2 February: Candlemas . Although often still very cold, Candlemas was celebrated as the first day of spring. All Christmas decorations were burned on this day, in candlelight and torchlight processions. * 14 February: Valentine\'s Day .
* Between 3 March and 9 March:
Shrove Tuesday (known as
Mardi Gras or
Carnival on the Continent). On this day, apprentices were allowed to
run amok in the city in mobs, wreaking havoc, because it supposedly
cleansed the city of vices before
The day after
Shrove Tuesday was
Ash Wednesday , the first day of
Lent when all were to abstain from eating and drinking certain things.
Lady Day or the feast of the Annunciation, the first of the
Quarter Days on which rents and salaries were due and payable. It was
a legal New Year when courts of law convened after a winter break, and
it marked the supposed moment when the Angel
* 25 October: St. Crispin\'s Day . Bonfires, revels, and an elected
'King Crispin' were all featured in this celebration. Dramatized by
Shakespeare in Henry V .
28 October: The Lord Mayor\'s Show , which still takes place today in
All Hallows Eve or
Halloween . The beginning celebration
of the days of the dead. * 1 November: All Hallows or All Saints\'
Day , followed by All Souls\' Day .
* 17 November:
Accession Day or Queen's Day, the anniversary of
Queen Elizabeth's accession to the throne, celebrated with lavish
court festivities featuring jousting during her lifetime and as a
national holiday for dozens of years after her death.
* 24 December: The
Twelve days of Christmas
* ^ John Guy (1988) Tudor England, Oxford University Press, p. 32
* ^ From the 1944 Clark lectures by
C. S. Lewis ; Lewis, English
Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Oxford, 1954) p. 1,
* ^ Elizabeth I and England\'s Golden Age. Britannica Student
* ^ See
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and The Sea
Patrick Collinson (2003). "Elizabeth I and the verdicts of
history". Historical Research. 76 (194): 469–91. doi
* ^ Melissa D. Aaron, Global Economics (2005), p. 25. In the later
decades of the reign, the costs of warfare — defeating the English
Armada of 1589 and funding the campaigns in the
* Arnold, Janet: Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (W S Maney and
Son Ltd, Leeds, 1988) ISBN 0-901286-20-6
* Ashelford, Jane. The Visual History of Costume: The Sixteenth
Century. 1983 edition (ISBN 0-89676-076-6 )
* Bergeron, David, English Civic Pageantry, 1558–1642 (2003)
* Black, J. B. The Reign of Elizabeth: 1558–1603 (2nd ed. 1958)
survey by leading scholar online edition
* Digby, George Wingfield. Elizabethan Embroidery. New York: Thomas
* Elton, G.R. Modern Historians on British History 1485-1945: A
Critical Bibliography 1945-1969 (1969), annotated guide to history
books on every major topic, plus book reviews and major scholarly
articles; pp 26-50, 163-97. online
* Fritze, Ronald H., ed. Historical Dictionary of Tudor England,
1485-1603 (Greenwood, 1991) 595pp.
* Hartley, Dorothy, and Elliot Margaret M. Life and Work of the
People of England. A pictorial record from contemporary sources. The
Sixteenth Century. (1926).
* Hutton, Ronald :The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual
Year, 1400–1700, 2001. ISBN 0-19-285447-X
* Morrill, John, ed. The Oxford illustrated history of Tudor survey
essays by leading scholars; heavily illustrated
* Shakespeare's England. An Account of the Life and Manners of his
Age (2 vol. 1916); essays by experts on social history and customs vol
* Singman, Jeffrey L. Daily Life in Elizabethan
* t * e
Kingdom of England
* Norman conquest
* Wessex * Knýtlinga * Normandy * Angevin * Plantagenet * Lancaster * York * Tudor * Stuart * Orange-Nassau
* Politics * Law
House of Lords
* Council of State * Lord Protector
* Peerage * Privy Council * Ministries * Secretary of State
* Star Chamber * Whigs * Tories
* Acts of Parliament: to 1483 * 1485–1601 * 1603–1641 * 1642–1660 * 1660–1699 * 1700–1706
* Anglo-Saxon military
* Ships * History
* Counties * Islands * Places * Towns * Castles * Palaces
* English language
* Anglo-Saxon * English Gothic * Tudor * Elizabethan * Jacobean * Queen Anne * Georgian
* National flag (list ) * Heraldry
* Coat of arms
* St George
* St George\'s Day
Articles on the history of
* v * t * e
* Economic * Empire * Maritime * Military
* Lakes and lochs * Mountains * Rivers * Volcanoes
* Energy /Renewable energy
* Biodiesel * Coal * Geothermal * Hydraulic frac. * Hydroelectricity * Marine * North Sea oil * Solar * Wind
* English * Scottish
* Flora * Forestry * Mining
* Constitution * Courts * Elections
* Foreign relations
* Human rights
* Intersex * LGBT * Transgender
* Judiciary * Law * Law enforcement * Legislation
* House of Commons
House of Lords
* Political parties
* Civil service * Departments
* Prime Minister
* Budget * Economic geography * Manufacturing * Pound (currency) * Stock Exchange * Taxation * Telecommunications * Tourism * Transport * British Rail
* Affordability of housing * Crime * Demography * Drug policy * Education * Ethnic groups * Health care * Immigration * Innovation * Languages
* Food banks
* Prostitution * Public holidays * Social care * Social structure
* Art * Cinema * Cuisine * Identity * Literature
* Music * Religion * Sport * Symbols * Theatre
COUNTRIES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
* social * timeline
* Geography * Politics * Law
* Education * Health care * Culture * Religion * Symbols
* History * Geography
* Assembly * Executive * First Minister and deputy
* Education * Health care * Culture * Religion * Symbols
* Parliament * Government * First Minister
* Education * Health care * Culture * Religion * Symbols
* History * Geography * Welsh Government
* Assembly * First Minister
* Education * Health care * Culture * Religion * Symbols
* Outline * Index
Links: ------ /wiki/Tudor_period /wiki/History_of_England /wiki/Elizabeth_I_of_England /wiki/Golden_age_(metaphor) /wiki/Britannia /wiki/John_Guy_(historian)