Q:

What was the political atmosphere of Britain during 1550 to 1650?

A:

The period between 1550 and 1650 in Britain was dominated by Queen Elizabeth the Great, who ruled by herself over an ascendant empire. It was marked not only by a rising pride in the power of the British Isles but also by religious struggles between Catholic and Protestant factions, a struggle that resulted in a Protestant revolution in 1642. Additionally, Elizabeth's single status made political intrigues and plots commonplace.

Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, despite his propensity for trading in wives, had left behind a strong, organized central government. This freed Elizabeth to focus on growing Britain's power, which she frequently did by playing one faction off against another, often using her unmarried status as leverage. In 1588, the Spanish attempted an invasion of England with the goal to destroy Britain's growing maritime power and reclaim the country for Catholicism. The Spanish were soundly defeated both by the British navy and by the unpredictable weather of the English Channel.

When Elizabeth died in 1603, she was succeeded by her nephew James I of Scotland. James cemented Protestantism in England, even funding the English translation of the Bible named after him. His son Charles I, however, found himself increasingly at odds with the Puritans, a religious and political faction that wanted a Protestantism cleansed of all ceremonial trappings. Unfortunately for him, Charles was a clumsy and unrefined politician; his autocratic indulgence in art and courtly trappings plunged England into debt, which the Puritans used as an excuse to push forward their own agenda. At last, Parliament itself revolted against him, leading to a civil war, Puritan rule over Britain and, ultimately, Charles' beheading in 1649.


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