Queen Elizabeth

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There have been two ruling Queens of England called Elizabeth - though only one of Scotland.

Elizabeth I

Born 1533; succeeded her half-sister Mary1558; never married; died 1603.

In this great monarch's long reign, England was highly successful. The Protestant Reformation was firmly established; the great victory over the Spanish Armada (1588) was achieved; and the arts, most particularly literature, flourished. Shakespeare's career was launched in her reign, along with many of the greatest English playwrights like Marlowe, Ben Jonson and Thomas Kyd, and great poets such as John Donne, Edmund Spenser and Philip Sidney. Elizabeth I was known by several respectful, indeed flattering nicknames: Good Queen Bess to succeeding generations; Gloriana (one of the names by which she is known in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene - which may be considered an allegorical representation of her - and other contemporary works); Cynthia (an allusion to the goddess of the moon) and Astraea (another reference to a heavenly body). The state of Virginia in the USA was named after her, in reference to her unmarried state, by her courtier Sir Walter Raleigh on its first colonization in 1584, and later in 1587, when he left a settlement at Roanoke Island, whose fate is a mystery. Elizabeth's handling of government, and especially her parliaments and with them the taxation of the realm, is regarded as highly successful. Her refusal of all marriages had much to do with this, as she was never inextricably linked to any of the foreign powers, nor to any individual subject. Among those mentioned in this context were Philip II of Spain (her brother-in-law), Archduke Charles of Austria, the French François, Duke of Anjou (her "frog") and Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester (1532-1588).
Elizabeth II

Born 1926; married HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 1947; succeeded her father, George VI 1952.

The current (2010) Head of State of the United Kingdom is customarily described as Elizabeth II, although she is the second Queen Elizabeth of England only. She is the first ruling Queen of Scotland, and thus the first Elizabeth to have ruled the United Kingdom. Her reign is now (2015) the longest recorded in the British Isles.

There have been attempts to use Elizabethan to describe the reign of Elizabeth II, the current (2009) monarch of England (though only the first Elizabeth of Scotland, and thus of the United Kingdom) - notably in a move, at her accession, to call the second half of the twentieth century the "New Elizabethan" age. This has not caught on.