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Elizabeth I was the last English monarch truly to rule the nation; she inherited a weak and divided kingdom yet relentlessly fashioned it into a major world power, and decisively defeated the mightiest invasion fleet ever to approach our shores. Her relationships with the key men in the kingdom were vital to the success of her reign. Her greatest attributes were a shrewd judgement of human nature coupled with the unerring ability to choose and motivate men. During a long and glorious reign, she surrounded herself with the ablest, most energetic and fearless minds in the kingdom. Her retinue was entirely male but the only man she did not choose was a husband, although there was certainly no shortage of suitors. Elizabeth was devoutly religious but embraced the new learning with calculated discrimination. She inspired magnificent architecture, whilst her sea captains sailed great oceans to discover new shores and founded a mighty overseas empire. Centre stage in these heady days of new ideas and new horizons was the royal court, a colourful kaleidoscope of glittering courtiers and important foreign dignitaries, all trying to impress, all jostling for her favours - all the queen's men.

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