I have always contended that Queen Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudor monarchs, was the greatest English monarch, if not the greatest monarch in the history of monarchs. Bold claim, I know!
But consider the situation that she inherited: England in the throes of the Protestant Reformation, a half-sister, Mary, who easily could have executed her while Elizabeth occupied the Tower of London even though she only remained there for two months, and of course, the execution of her own mother, Anne Boleyn on May 19, 1536. Precipitous times in England, but Elizabeth, Good Queen Bess, ascended the throne on January 15, 1559. The following list lays out my reasons for my claim as to what made Elizabeth I the greatest monarch of England!
Her reign (of 44 years) was peaceful, economically prosperous and oversaw and laid to rest (for the time being) the tumultuousness of the previous monarchical bloodbaths. She chose not to marry which undoubtedly helped to create that sense of calm.
She effectively presided over the thwarting of Spain's "Invincible Armada" in dispatching England on July 29, 1588. Her unloosing of privateer (read Pirate) Francis Drake and Lord Howard of Effingham to pursue and harass the Armada after that initial repulse of it on July 29 led to a near rout of the Armada and doused the hapless King Philip of Spain's plans to create Catholic hegemony in Europe.
She led the way culturally in England. She frequented the stage and invited various theater companies to perform in her presence. During the apt-dubbed "Elizabethan Age", writers including Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser, and Jonson flourished with great works of literature that we still enjoy and study today!
She presided over a flurry of religious activity that helped to solidify England's future tolerance of various faiths - thus fostering the beginnings of the Industrial age. Legislation such as the Act of Supremacy (1558)-making England's church distinctly separate from that of Rome-and the Act of Uniformity (1559) which allowed a compromise between Protestant beliefs and Catholic practices helped pave the way of making the Anglican Communion the second largest Christian body in the world.
She was well-educated and she used that education to her advantage. She learned four languages and even translated classical works. To add, she was an exceptional orator and had wit but was practical. “I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too.”