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Elizabeth I (known simply as "Elizabeth" until the accession of Elizabeth II; 7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called "The Virgin Queen", "Gloriana", or "Good Queen Bess", Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. The daughter of Henry VIII, she was born a princess, but her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed two and a half years after her birth, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Her half-brother, Edward VI, bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, cutting his two half-sisters, Elizabeth and the Catholic Mary, out of the succession in spite of statute law to the contrary. His will was set aside, Mary became queen, and Lady Jane Grey was executed. In 1558, Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister, during whose reign she had been imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.

Elizabeth set out to rule by good counsel, and she depended heavily on a group of trusted advisers led by William Cecil, Baron Burghley. One of her first moves as queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church, of which she became the Supreme Governor. This Elizabethan Religious Settlement later evolved into today's Church of England. It was expected that Elizabeth would marry and produce an heir so as to continue the Tudor line. She never did, however, despite numerous courtships. As she grew older, Elizabeth became famous for her virginity, and a cult grew up around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.

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