Elizabeth's Life and Times

A timeline of dates pertaining to the Tudor queen.

1520 Birth of William Cecil.

1527  Henry VIII tries to have his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled.

1533 Henry’s secret marriage to Anne Boleyn (Jan). Annulment of Aragon marriage (May). Birth of Elizabeth at Greenwich Palace (Sept 7th).

1534 Elizabeth’s christening (Feb. 10th). Act of Supremacy, whereby Henry is declared Supreme Head of the Church of England.

1536 Death of Katherine of Aragon (Jan). Boleyn marriage is declared invalid and Elizabeth made illegitimate (May 17th). Execution of Anne Boleyn (May 19th). Henry marries Jane Seymour (May 30th).

1537 Birth of Prince Edward (Oct 12th).

1543 Elizabeth attends wedding of Henry to Katherine Parr (July 12th).

1544 Act of Succession: Elizabeth is restored to the line of succession. William Grindal becomes Elizabeth’s tutor.

1545 Elizabeth gives Henry VIII a translation of Katherine’s devotional writings as a New Year’s gift (Dec 31st).

1547 Death of Henry VIII (Jan 28th) and accession of Edward VI; Katherine Parr marries Lord Thomas Seymour.

1548 After Grindal’s death, Roger Ascham is appointed Elizabeth’s tutor. Elizabeth leaves Seymour establishment (May). Death of Katherine after childbirth (Sept).

1549 Arrest of Thomas Seymour (Jan); interrogation of Elizabeth at Hatfield (Feb).

1550 William Cecil is appointed surveyor of Elizabeth’s estates.

1553 Edward disinherits his sisters (June) and dies (July 6th). Brief reign of Lady Jane Grey. Accession of Mary (July 19th).

1554 Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion (Jan), followed by imprisonment of Elizabeth in the Tower (March 17th). Elizabeth leaves Tower for house-arrest at Woodstock (May). Mary I’s marriage to Philip of Spain is celebrated (July).

1555 Elizabeth leaves Woodstock for Hampton Court (April) and is allowed to go to her home at Hatfield (Oct). Foundation of Muscovy Company.

1556 Arrest of Kat Ashley and others in Elizabeth’s household (May).

1556 Accession of Philip II as king of Spain.

1558 Mary Stewart marries the dauphin (April). Death of Mary I and accession of Elizabeth (Nov 17th); Hatfield speech.

1559 Elizabeth I’s coronation (Jan 15th). New Elizabethan Prayer Book is endorsed by Parliament (April). Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis (Apr) between France and Spain. Death of Henry II of France and accession of Francis II; his wife Mary Stewart becomes Queen of France.

1560 Death of wife of Robert Dudley (Sept). Treaty of Edinburgh allies England with Scotland, breaking the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France. Re-coinage of debased coinage (Dec). Death of Francis II of France (Dec) and accession of his ten-year-old brother Charles IX.

1561 Mary returns to Scotland from France.

1562 Elizabeth falls ill with smallpox (Oct). First war of religion breaks out in France.

1563 Convocation draws up 39 Articles of Faith (Jan). Parliament calls for Elizabeth to marry and name a successor. Francis, Duc de Guise, is assassinated by a Protestant in France.

1564 Negotiations begin for a marriage between Elizabeth and the Archduke Charles of Austria. Robert Dudley is created Earl of Leicester.

1565 Marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to Henry Lord Darnley.

1566 Birth of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. Birth of James Stewart.

1567 Murder of Darnley at Kirk O’Field (Feb); deposition of Mary, her infant son James VI succeeds her. The second war of religion breaks out in France.

1568 Mary flees to England (May).

1569 Northern Rising (Nov).

1570 Papal bull of excommunication (Feb). Rebellion in Ireland, suppressed by Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

1571 Ridolfi plot to depose Elizabeth with Spanish assistance. William Cecil is created Lord Burghley.

1572 Execution of Norfolk for supporting the Ridolfi plot (June). St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestants in France (Aug). Marriage of Henry of Navarre to Margaret Valois.

1573 Sir Francis Walsingham is appointed principal secretary.

1574 Death of Charles IX; accession of Henry III to French throne.

1575 Death of Matthew Parker (May) and Edmund Grindal becomes archbishop of Canterbury. Kenilworth entertainment (July).

1576 Martin Frobisher begins first of three voyages to find Northwest Passage.

1577 Frobisher’s second voyage; Sir Francis Drake sets out on a voyage that was to be his circumnavigation of the globe (Nov).

1578 Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s voyage to America; Frobisher’s 3rd voyage. Opening of the Anjou match (Aug).

1579 Anjou courts Elizabeth in England (Aug), despite domestic opposition to the marriage. Outbreak of rebellion in Ireland.

1580 Drake returns to England (Sept).

1581 Elizabeth knights Drake (Apr). Anjou’s second visit to England (Nov). Execution of the Jesuit, Edmund Campion (Dec). Execution of the Earl of Morton, Anglophile regent in Scotland.

1582 James VI of Scotland is seized in the Ruthven raid.

1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert drowns on voyage back from America. John Whitgift becomes Archbishop of Canterbury.

1584 Ralegh’s Ist Roanoke expedition. Death of Anjou (June). Termination of the Spanish embassy.

1585 2nd Roanoke expedition. In Treaty of Nonsuch Elizabeth promises military help to the Dutch against the Spanish (Aug). Drake sets out to raid the West Indies. Leicester leaves for the Netherlands (Dec).

1586 Ralegh made captain of the guard. Babington plot (July) to assassinate Elizabeth; trial and conviction of Mary Queen of Scots (Oct).

1587 Elizabeth signs Mary’s death warrant (Feb 1st); Mary’s execution (Feb 8th). Drake’s command in Netherlands (Oct); 3rd Roanoke expedition.

1588 Defeat of the Spanish Armada (July-August); death of Leicester (Sept).

1589 Francis Drake and Sir John Norris lead a campaign to Portugal. Assassination of Henry III of France, succeeded by Henry of Navarre (Henry IV). James VI of Scotland marries Anne of Denmark.

1590 Death of Sir Francis Walsingham (Apr); Roanoke colony is found abandoned by a relief expedition.

1591 Death of Sir Christopher Hatton (Nov).

1593 Peter Wentworth raises question of succession in Parliament and is sent to Tower.

1594 Beginning of a series of bad harvests. Frobisher dies. Outbreak of Tyrone’s rebellion in Ulster.

1595 Ralegh’s voyage to Guiana. Spanish land in Cornwall (July). Death of Hawkins on Panama expedition (Nov); publication of John Davis’ The Seaman’s Secrets.

1596 Death of Drake on Panama expedition (Jan). Essex leads a successful raid on Cadiz (June-Aug). Robert Cecil is appointed principal secretary.

1598 Death of Burghley (Aug). Edict of Nantes brings French wars of religion to an end. Death of Philip II of Spain, succeeded by Philip III.

1599 Essex’s unsuccessful campaign in Ireland; he is arrested after returning without Elizabeth’s consent. Elizabeth grants charter to new East India Company.

1601 Essex’s revolt (Feb 8th), and execution (Feb 25th). Defeat of Tyrone and his Spanish allies at Kinsale.

1603 Death of Elizabeth I (Mar 24th) and funeral (Apr 28th); accession of James I. Tyrone accepts terms in Ireland.

1604 Peace treaty with Spain.

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