Why Is Part of the Renaissance in England Called the Elizabethan Age?
Much like the Victorian era would later be named to honor a queen, the Elizabethan age would become known as such in deference to the influential reign of one of England’s longest-serving monarchs. Queen Elizabeth I took the throne in 1558 and remained there until her death in 1603, ruling toward the end of the three-century Renaissance period -- a time of relative peace and stability, and cultural vibrancy.
1 The Queen
Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth ascended to the throne after the death of her half-brother Edward, and the death of the subsequent queen, her half-sister, Mary. Elizabeth ruled after the peak of the Italian Renaissance, when aesthetic innovation and achievement in poetry and literature was largely centered in southern Europe. Elizabeth oversaw a time of comparative political stability, when religious turmoil between the Catholic Church and newly formed Protestant Church was held at bay. Meanwhile, England’s external issues with France were muted.
2 The Era
The Elizabethan era is widely regarded as England’s Renaissance, and the language arts flourished. Theater arts reached a new level of popularity, with an average of two companies performing six days a week in London. Wordsmiths, like playwrights, often found work -- including the English language’s best known playwright, William Shakespeare, who wrote and staged his plays during this period.