Elizabeth I in Parliment Robes

Elizabeth I and her Illustrious Education

Elizabeth I is often thought of as one of the greatest monarchs in British history and she  demonstrated considerable show of strength and courage that would guide her through the darkest periods of her reign. Perhaps much of the success of her reign was also due in part to her great intelligence and education that was luckily offered to her from a young age.


Elizabeth was educated by some of the brightest minds from Cambridge university whom she shared with her brother Edward, who was due to be king. They were mainly brought up at the palace of Hatfield and Elizabeth would enjoy her time there and no doubt would remember her days there with fondness. Elizabeth was born with an appetite for knowledge and was extremely intelligent. This was encouraged and celebrated throughout her life. Her governess, Kat Ashley, was her first tutor and would teach her the foundations of her education, such as English language and grammar.

As a royal child, Elizabeth would have had access to a wide-ranging education that included Mathematics but also theology, history, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, and music as well as languages. Roger Ascham became Elizabeth’s tutor for languages. Elizabeth spoke six languages including Welsh, French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Latin. Ascham noted and applauded her ability to learn languages with ease and for her excellent memory.

Elizabeth also practised the common pursuits of a lady of her time and station, such as sewing and embroidery, of which she was very accomplished. She also practised dancing, riding, and archery. Her political education was for a time left out and it was reserved for her brother, Edward but she was later to become politically astute as an adult. Katherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry the eighth, Elizabeth’s father, was a learned woman herself and
encouraged the education and saw to the well-being of all her stepchildren.

Elizabeth often showcased her skills by gifting translations of texts and embroidered items to those who she cared for and respected. The most notable example, and one that still survives, was given to Queen Katherine Parr by an eleven-year-old Elizabeth in 1544. The book was a translation of Queen Marguerite de Navarre’s ‘The Miroir or Glasse of the Synneful Soul’.

Elizabeth I left behind forty-five years of dutiful and skilful governance of her realm. The arts flourished under her, and it seems, for a time religious divisions were mediated. A child, who once was dubbed illegitimate and of no use to her father, became a glorious and powerful ruler, without a king or prince by her side. There can be no doubt that her shrewdness, intelligence, and love of knowledge and the arts, as well as her marvellous education would earn the respect and adoration of her people. It is no wonder that her reign is often referred to as ‘the golden age’.


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