How far did the popularity and effectiveness of Elizabeth’s government decline after 1588?
It has been claimed that the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was the ‘zenith’ (Starkey) of Elizabeth’s reign. Moreover, historians such as Christopher Haigh have claimed that the final decades of Elizabeth’s reign saw her government decline in effectiveness while her personal popularity dwindled. When writing about such issues it is important to remember that popularity and effectiveness are not the same thing. A teacher may not be liked when he sets his students extra homework, but he might still be effective in helping them to get a good grade. However there is no doubt that the two things are linked together: it is generally easier to be popular if you are effective, and vice versa.
Exam questions on this topic may ask you about:
- how popular?
- how effective?
- how serious (were the problems facing Elizabeth)?
This is a good key question to look at towards the end of your studies. This is because it draws on many of the other areas of the course. Indeed, you would be wise to use your notes from these to add further detail, e.g. finance. It is also a nice question to write about as you can really link together the issues, and discuss relative importance.
This video summarises some of the key factors to consider:
A set of revision notes can be downloaded.
Once you’ve watched the video and read the detailed notes, you can play one of these revision games:
Elizabeth I: An Overview, By Alexandra Briscoe Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/elizabeth_i_01.shtml
The 1590s proved a difficult decade for Elizabeth. The question of how to govern Ireland had created terrible problems for the Queen over the years but 1594 saw the start of the Nine Years War in which hundreds of English troops were killed. Elizabeth sent out the impetuous Earl of Essex who only managed to create further difficulties. Her most trusted ministers, including Burghley and Walsingham, passed away. Leicester, to whom she had remained close, died in 1588 and Elizabeth kept his last letter beside her bed until her own death.
The Queen herself was not as sharp as she once had been. Ministers often dealt with matters without consulting her, and she became paranoid about the threat of assassination. But by now Elizabeth was nearly seventy…
Elizabeth’s greatest achievement lay in the relationship she had forged with her people.
The mourning which followed her death was unprecedented. However, details of the legacy she left the country are open to interpretation. Certainly, her reign had seen England prosper and become a major player in Europe. Protestantism was now firmly established as the country’s religion. The people had enjoyed stable government, and Poor Laws had created a new framework of support for the needy. But problems remained. There was widespread corruption amongst ministers involving the abuse of monopolies and tax evasion. Local government was inefficient. Elizabeth had often shied away from making difficult decisions and this had sown the seeds for future conflict, particularly in Ireland.
Elizabeth’s greatest achievement lay in the relationship she had forged with her people. She was ahead of her time in her grasp of public relations, and her popularity had remained undimmed…