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England

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HISTORY > Elizabeth I and England's Golden Age

Elizabeth I, Mary's half sister, in turn repealed Mary's laws. In her reign the Church of England took the form it has today. It kept the Catholic governmental organization of archbishops, bishops, and deans, but it rejected the headship of the pope. It permitted the clergy to marry, and it again ordered the reading of the English Prayer Book. Many people accepted this “middle way.” But it was bitterly opposed by the Roman Catholics (Papists), and also by the extreme Protestants (Puritans), who insisted on a simpler, “purer” form of service with no “Popish rites.”

The long reign of Elizabeth I, 1558–1603, was England's Golden Age. The Renaissance, which began in Italy in the 14th century, at last reached the northern island. “Merry England,” in love with life, expressed itself in music and literature, in architecture, and in adventurous seafaring. William Shakespeare, poet and dramatist, mirrored the age in verse that lifted the English language to its fullest beauty. (See also Elizabeth I; English Literature; Shakespeare.)

Throughout the land could be heard the sound of hammers and saws of builders—a sure sign of prosperity. Elizabethan manor houses, usually built around an open court, blended the English style with the new Italian. English glassworks supplied small clear panes for lattice windows. The increasing use of brick made it easier to build chimneys and fireplaces even for common houses.

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