Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Elizabethan Daily life

Queen Elizabeth Ist

"Queen Elizabeth Ist"

Elizabethan Daily life

Daily life in Elizabethan England varied according to status and location. This page reflects the general daily life for the majority of the English people and the some of the major events which effected their lives. It was the time of the Renaissance - new ideas in science and technology.

The Introduction of the theatre and the work of playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe and great poets such as John Donne and Edmund Spenser. Changes in leisure and entertainment, increase in trade, changes in the countryside with the wool trade and discoveries in the New World. For specific facts and information about America please refer to Colonial America.

Elizabethan Daily life - the Monarchy
Queen Elizabeth I ruled England. She was a popular monarch and the English people loved her. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII  and well versed in the art of rhetoric. She inspired the English people with some great speeches which confirmed her position as a strong leader of the country. One of her finest speeches was made when she addressed to the English army at Tilbury Fort, when invasion by the mighty Spanish Armada was imminent:

"...I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I myself will take up arms..."

Queen Elizabeth had never married and therefore never been subject to the wishes of a husband - she had not brought a foreign prince to influence the everyday lives of the English people. Her leadership skills provided a sense of security and stability to the people of England and Elizabethan Daily life.

Elizabethan Daily life - Religion
Prior to the reign of Queen Elizabeth had England undergone massive religious changes. The break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England by her father led to massive changes in Elizabethan Daily life. This major event occurred in 1531 when the Commons acknowledged the king as their "only and supreme lord and, as far as the law of Christ allows, even supreme head." In the Act of Supremacy of 1534, the caveat "as far as the law of Christ allows" was deleted.  England no longer answered to the Pope in Rome. The Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII  followed between 1536 and 1540 put vast sums of money into the royal coffers and saw Monks and Nuns homeless and many poor people without a place of refuge. These events had a profound effect on Elizabethan Daily Life. In just a few short years from 1531 religion in English Daily life changed according to the reigning monarch. The following information highlights the swift changes in religion which were dictated by the Kings and Queens of England immediately prior to the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth provided stability to Elizabethan Daily life.

  • 1509 -1547: King Henry VIII - Catholic then established the Church of England in 1531 adhering to many Protestant doctrines
  • 1547 -1553: His son, King Edward VI, adhered to the Protestant religion. Edward died young and was succeeded by his Protestant cousin Lady Jane Grey
  • 1553: Queen Jane only reigned for nine days and was replaced by Edward's sister Mary
  • 1553 -1558: Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic - she obtained the name Bloody Mary for her persecution of Protestants
  • 1509 -1547: Queen Elizabeth succeeded Mary. She adhered to the Protestant religion but was tolerant to Catholics

Elizabethan Daily life - Education
Grammar schools were available to the Middle classes. The development of printing produced more books and cheap pamphlets which were in the reach of most Englishmen. Between 1550 and 1570 many of England's famous schools and colleges were founded.

Elizabethan Daily life - Career Opportunities
The Medieval Feudal system had broken down. Outbreaks of the plague had reduced the population - even peasants were paid for their labour. The wool trade provided opportunities for Englishmen. There were opportunities for young Englishmen to become apprentices and learn a trade which would bring them a good standard of living. A Wealthy Merchant class was emerging in England. Elizabethan Daily life provided many opportunities which had been denied to previous generations.

Elizabethan Daily life - Leisure
The Elizabethan era saw the introduction of the Theatre. A cheap form of entertainment for the Lower Classes. A means to influence the masses ( which was therefore tightly regulated). The history of England was played out in the vivid historical plays by playwrights such as William Shakespeare.

Elizabethan Daily life - the New World
Explorations across vast oceans into the New World. New lands to be claimed increasing the wealth of England. New foods were introduced such as the tomato and the turkey. New spices.

Elizabethan Daily life - the Movement from Country life to Town life
Changes in agriculture during the Elizabethan period led to people leaving the countryside and their village life to search for employment in the towns. The wool trade became increasingly popular during the Elizabethan age, which meant that land which had been farmed by peasants was now dedicated to rearing sheep and a process known as land enclosure meant that the traditional open field system ended in favour of creating larger and more profitable farming units which required fewer people to work on them. Village life was changing and the movement towards town life started during the Elizabethan era.

Elizabethan Life
Elizabethan Era Index

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