The Elizabethan Era Facts for Kids

  • The Elizabethan Age was the period when Queen Elizabeth I was in power.
  • This time saw a lot of new things, including the full flowering of English literature and poetry. 
  • There were many more theaters, including one with William Shakespeare, who wrote plays.
  • There were religious changes, with some people becoming Protestants after the Church split apart.

The Elizabethan Era Facts: Queen Elizabeth I

A portrait of Elizabeth I, who was a Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death in 1603.

Queen Elizabeth I was a Protestant. She wanted the Church of England, which people went to in England, to be the only church. But she didn’t ask about people’s beliefs even though there were laws about how they could pray and what kind of services they could have. Keep reading to learn more about the Elizabethan Era facts.

Elizabeth I succeeded in finding a balance between Catholics and Protestants. She did this to avoid any serious religious conflict within England.

People liked Elizabeth, especially after she defeated the Spanish Armada, which Spain sent to conquer England and restore Catholicism.

Elizabeth never married, so she could keep England safe. She was the Queen of England. 

It is different from now because she had more power than any other leader in today’s government. Her government worked on a system arranged by rank, with her at the top of the list.

Elizabeth had all the power in the land, and she could give out important jobs to anyone. She used a system called patronage to keep her people happy and loyal to her.

The people who helped Elizabeth rule came together at the Privy Council. Elizabeth chose these men from nobles, gentry, and members of the church.

Sir Francis Walsingham was a good spymaster. He helped Queen Elizabeth I to keep her crown safe. He used trickery and deceit to make sure that she was safe.

Walsingham was the head of the Secret Service and put agents in France, Spain, and Italy. His information gathering helped lead Francis Drake to success. It helped convict Mary, Queen of Scots and gave a warning for the Spanish Armada. He is considered to be one of the fathers of modern intelligence.

Daily Lives in the Elizabethan Era

The Elizabethans believed that there was a system of order for everything. This also included the order of society, animals and plants, and even the place minerals had in daily life.

The queen was at the top, and she controlled how much money you had and what your life would be like. People who were lower on this system accepted their place in society because they did not have other options.

Some people might find it shocking, but Queen Elizabeth did this in 1559. It was a special show for the French ambassador.

There you could watch animals trying to kill each other. For example, dogs and horses fought each other. Sometimes monkeys rode on the dogs and bit them.

Bears and English mastiffs also fought with each other, as did mastiffs and bulls. The bears that were in London were known by their nicknames, just like modern football players.

There were many bows and arrows. Some people used them to shoot instead of guns. But all males had to be able to shoot arrows, even if they did not want to use them in battle anymore.

Wrestling and football were two sports that appealed to young men. They often cooled off by taking a bath in the Thames.

Nobility in Elizabethan times would play a musical instrument, such as a violin or a viol. They came in different sizes. The smaller ones are like a modern violin, and the bigger ones are like double basses.

Queen Elizabeth was good at playing the virginals. She liked to play and do surprises. For example, she played for the French ambassador when he came to visit her.

England was a male-run society even though it had a queen. Historians have looked at old pictures of family life and say that women had some freedoms too.

Poverty in Elizabethan times was mainly thought to be the fault of the person living in poverty. However, with more and more people living in poverty and fear of social unrest growing, Elizabeth introduced the Poor Laws.

These laws helped support poor people and unemployed people. They were also one of the first forms of welfare that we know about today.

Court Life

Spanish and French styles influenced Elizabethan Court fashion. For women, the farthingale is notable. Men wore military styles like the mandilion. Both sexes wore ruffs.

The Elizabethan era also saw a great flowering of embroidery for clothing and furnishings. The most popular style was done in tent stitch on canvas, but blackwork in silk on linen was also common.

At the end of the reign, people gradually started to use more colors instead of just black. They embroidered in silk instead of just in wool.

At this time, people ate a lot of different food. They had things like oatmeal that was cooked with beans or peas. People also ate meat from all types of animals and lots of fruit and vegetables. They sometimes had a dessert called a banquet.

Christmas Celebrations

The biggest and perhaps most loved festival of all was 12 days long. The Christmas season, the 12 days of Christmas, started on the 24th of December and lasted until Epiphany on January 6th.

A Lord of Misrule was chosen. He chose his council to help him. Together, communities planned parties and managed merrymaking. Sometimes a King of the Bean was selected by cooking a bean into a cake, and the person who found the bean became king/queen for that day. A pea might be cooked in, and the Queen of the Peas chosen too. The Queen of the Peas could be a boy or girl.

Carolers would sing for money, and mummers would perform. Carolers might ask for money or food. It is bad luck if you do not give them something.

Kings and lords were expected to have a lot of food in their houses. Marchpane, or marzipan, was one of the most popular things.

The yule log was brought in. The greenery, such as holly and ivy, was used.

On New Year, instead of Christmas Day, people give gifts. The Lord of Misrule had the biggest party on Epiphany, and this ended the Christmas season.

Pirates and Exploration

Sir Francis Drake was an English explorer, sea captain, privateer, slave trader, naval officer, and politician in Elizabethan Era.

In the Elizabethan period, England was a time of growing patriotism. Many English seamen traveled the globe and established new trade routes after the cloth trade in Europe collapsed. The English explorers tried to find new trade routes and expand their trade in the Spanish colonies in the Americas.

Sir Francis Drake was a pirate appointed by Elizabeth I to help beat the Spanish Armada. He also sailed around the world.

Sir Walter Raleigh was famous as a writer and poet. He also explored, fought, worked at the court, wrote books, and didn’t believe in religion.

Raleigh was a man who wrote about new worlds as well as exploring them. He fought in wars and wrote poems. Raleigh liked to study different things like geography, theology, and poetry. He also studied how to govern people.

When Elizabeth I was queen, English people first began to colonize the eastern coast of America. This happened because people disagreed with how she and the next two kings ruled.

In the latter part of Elizabeth’s reign, people tried to set up colonies in North America. These early attempts were unsuccessful.

Sir Walter Raleigh made an idea to explore and colonize the New World. His plan was for Virginia, which includes North Carolina and Virginia. He had a problem on Roanoke Island, but it paved the way for other colonies.

They might have been more successful if they had tried to establish trading links with India. James Lancaster’s voyages to India led to the East India Company. This company traded with India.

The Elizabethan Era Facts: Mary, Queen of Scots

In 1560, the Scottish Parliament mainly became Protestant. The Pope was not allowed to have power. People could not go to Catholic services.

Mary Stuart was the queen in Scotland. She became queen when she was 1 week old because her father died.

When she was a kid, she spent a lot of time in France. When she came back to Scotland, it caused many arguments between people. When her husband died, people thought that Mary had something to do with it, and so she left for England.

Mary gave her throne to her son James VI. Mary was Elizabeth’s cousin and hoped she would help her. But Elizabeth thought that Mary wanted to take over the English throne, so she kept her prisoner for 20 years. In the end, Mary was executed because she could have plotted against Elizabeth I.

Read more about Mary, Queen of Scots

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in England. He wrote many poems and plays. His most famous play is A Midsummer’s Night Dream, one of his earliest works.

He was an influential writer who wrote about ordinary English people. He also wrote about kings and queens. Shakespeare made up some words that are still in use today.

Many people think Shakespeare is the best playwright ever. His plays and poems are still performed today, even though he died long ago. The Globe Theatre in London is a copy of the theatre where his plays were first performed.

War against Spain

England had a big fight with Spain. It happened both in Europe and in the Americas.

King Philip II of Spain made plans to invade England in 1588. The Spanish Armada defeated him. But in 1589, England attacked Spain and was unsuccessful.

Spain helped the Irish Catholics in their fight against England. Spain’s forces were good at beating England’s forces. They did this many times, which hurt the English.

Until 1604, the English had carefully restored their economics. They would not be able to do more colonization and trade until they signed a treaty in 1604.


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