Elizabeth's Childhood and Youth Elizabeth was born near London on Sept. 7, 1533. Her father was Henry VIII, "bluff King Hal". Her mother was Anne Boleyn, the second of Henry's six wives. Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had only one surviving child, Mary. Henry wanted a male heir, so he asked the pope to annul the marriage. Because the pope refused, Henry broke away from the Roman Catholic church and set himself up as head of the church in England. Then he married Anne. He was disappointed that Anne's child also was a girl. Before Elizabeth was 3 years old, he had her mother beheaded.
Henry gave Elizabeth a house of her own in the country. He paid little attention to her, and her governess complained that the princess "hath neither gown, nor kirtle, nor petticoat." Henry provided excellent tutors, however, and Elizabeth showed a love for learning.
One of her tutors, Roger Ascham, wrote: "Her perseverance is equal to that of a man, and her memory long keeps what it quickly picks up. She talks French and Italian as well as she does English. When she writes Greek and Latin, nothing is more beautiful than her handwriting. She delights as much in music as she is skillful in it."
Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to a son, Edward. Henry died when Edward was 10 years old, and the boy came to the throne as Edward VI. Elizabeth and Edward were both brought up in Henry's new church. Their half sister Mary was brought up a Roman Catholic. When Edward died in 1553, Mary became queen and at once made Catholicism the state religion. Mary suspected Elizabeth of plotting with the Protestants to gain the throne and had her imprisoned for two months in the...