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Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
This daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boeyln, ruled as Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until her death. She was the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. During her long reign, Elizabeth practiced skillful political intrigue -- undermining her enemies and strengthening her allies. England consolidated its position as a world power during the Elizabethan era. The period was marked by literary achievements of giants such as William Shakespeare, part of the so-called English Renaissance. The 1590s was a time of economic hardship brought on by questionable fiscal policies and famine. Though Elizabeth was known as 'the Virgin Queen' there is evidence that she engaged in various romantic attachments with members of her court, especially Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Ultimately, however, she was "married" to her kingdom. With no direct heirs, she was succeeded by James VI of Scotland.