Elizabethan Era, was a period of English history during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, from 1558 to 1603. Elizabeth was a strong ruler who gained the loyalty and admiration of her subjects. The Elizabethan Age is sometimes called theGolden Age, because it was a time of great achievement in England.Elizabeth never married, and she used her single status as a foreign policy tool. She encouraged both Catholic and Protestant suitors, but committed herself to no one. By avoiding marriage to a Protestant, she gave encouragement to her own Catholic subjects, who remained loyal with few exceptions. Elizabeth's flirtations with Catholic suitors kept King Philip II of Spain, a Catholic, from taking direct military action against her for several years while the Church of England gained popular support. For a time, Elizabeth seemed to be in love with one of her subjects, Sir Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. However, Elizabeth's cautious nature kept her from entering a marriage that lacked political benefit.
Not everyone prospered during the Elizabethan Age. Strict rules regulated clothing, land ownership, marriage, and religion. In the latter half of Elizabeth’s reign, she actively persecuted Catholics. Some radical forms of Protestantism also were not tolerated. A number of people were executed for activity opposing the established church. By law, such action could be regarded as treason. In 1587, Elizabeth executed her cousin Mary Stuart, the former Catholic queen of Scotland. Mary had been the willing focus of several Catholic plots against ElizabethIn 1585, Elizabeth sent an army to help Protestants in the Dutch Netherlands fight Spanish rule. She also encouraged English ships to raid Spanish fleets. Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and other "sea dogs" looted several Spanish ships.
In 1587, Drake destroyed 30 Spanish ships in port at Cádiz. These events and the execution of Mary Stuart led King Philip II of Spain to approve an invasion of England. He assembled an armada and sent it to England in 1588. But the smaller and swifter English vessels routed the Spanish fleet. Fierce storms then wrecked many of the fleeing Spanish ships off the coasts of Ireland and Scotland. Spain's power was seriously damaged, but the war went on for 16 years.In 1588, the English navy defeated the powerful Spanish Armada, a fleet of armed ships that tried to invade England. English merchants and sailors then challenged the Spanish with greater confidence around the world. England's economy prospered during the Elizabethan Age