Queen Elizabeth I

A Booke of Christian Prayers, Collected Out of the Auncient Writers, and Best Learned in Our Tyme, Worthy to be Read with an Earnest Mynde of All Christians.
London: John Daye, 1578. (00573)

Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603), the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, ascended to the throne of England at age twenty-five and reigned for more than forty-four years. Victorious over threats from Spain and France as well as rivals at home, she became perhaps the most powerful woman the world had ever seen. She successfully reestablished the Protestant Church of England and ruled over England’s great “Elizabethan Age” of religious tolerance, cultural enrichment, and economic prosperity. Although failed crops, unemployment, and an Irish rebellion undermined her last years, she remained a devoted ruler of her people. As she declared in a Parliamentary speech in 1601, “My heart was never set on worldly goods, but for my subjects’ good.”

First printed in 1569 for Elizabeth I, and known as “Queen Elizabeth’s Prayer Book,” this compilation of daily devotions was reissued for general use in 1578. Its striking woodcut frontispiece depicts the kneeling Queen as she looks steadfastly upward from her tiny prayer book. This imagery may be viewed as an intentional Protestant displacement of older traditions of worship, as Catholic prayer books, especially Books of Hours, would have depicted the Virgin Mary in a similar attitude of prayer. The quotation below the image, from II Chronicles 6:14, is King Solomon’s prayer: “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keepest covenant, and showest mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their hearts.”

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Women of the Renaissance
Queen Elizabeth I