Elizabeth I (Online)


This course will examine the life and reign of Elizabeth I, from her troubled childhood to the death of the aged Virgin Queen. But what do we really know of this iconic queen? Can her reign be accounted a success?

The reign of Elizabeth I witnessed some of the most famous, transformative events in English history. The Elizabethan religious settlement finally established Protestantism as the official religion in England; the defeat of the Armada in 1588 played an important role in the formation of English national identity. Most of all, the image of the queen, iconically depicted in contemporary art and literature, has come to dominate historical accounts of the period. And yet we know very little about the queen herself. Elizabeth left few personal documents and no direct testimony about the key unanswered questions of her reign, such as her personal religious beliefs or why she never married. This course will address these questions and the other key issues of Elizabeth's 45 year reign, looking beyond the posthumous 'myth of the Virgin Queen to assess the success and effectiveness of her rule.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

1. The young Elizabeth

  • Context
  • Birth
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Living in Katherine Parr’s household
  • Education and life during Edward VI’s reign
  • Life under Mary

2. Elizabeth's accession

  • William Cecil
  • The Elizabethan religious settlement
  • Elizabeth’s personal religion
  • Elizabethan religion
  • Challenges

3. Monarcy and government

  • Monarchy and counsel
  • Court politics and the queen
  • Attending the court
  • The Privy Chamber
  • The Privy Council
  • Parliament
  • The Church
  • Elizabethan government

4. The marriage debate

  • Expectations and assumptions
  • The candidates
  • Reasons for and against marriage
  • The Kenilworth entertainments
  • Was Kenilworth a marriage proposal?
  • The arrival of the Virgin Queen
  • Why didn’t Elizabeth marry?
  • First assignment

5. The succession question

  • The Grey claim
  • Mary Queen of Scots in France and Scotland
  • Mary Queen of Scots in England
  • Plots
  • The death of Mary Queen of Scots
  • James VI of Scotland

6. Elizabeth's relationship with her nobility

  • Life at court
  • Elizabeth and her nobility and gentry
  • Loyalty to the queen
  • The Bond of Association
  • Disloyalty to the queen
  • Elizabeth and her Catholic nobility

7. Crises of foreign policy: France; the Netherlands and Spain; The Armada

  • France
  • The Netherlands
  • A worsening situation
  • The Armada
  • Aftermath and consequences
  • Assessment

8. The challenges of the 1590s: Essex and Cecil; Essex rebellion; Ireland

  • Robert Cecil
  • The earl of Essex
  • Essex and Cecil
  • Essex’s military adventures
  • Ireland
  • The fall of Essex
  • Assessing the 1590s
  • Second assignment

9. The contemporary image of Elizabeth: Portraiture; Speeches; The 'cult' of Elizabeth

  • The public queen
  • The ‘cult of Elizabeth’
  • Portraiture
  • Miniatures
  • Courtly love
  • Accession Day celebrations
  • Speeches
  • The ageing queen

10. The posthumous myth of Elizabeth

  • Reviewing the reign
  • Historical assessments of Elizabeth and her reign
  • Current scholarship
  • Modern representations of Elizabeth
  • Conclusion

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £350.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Janet Dickinson

Janet Dickinson specializes in the cultural and political history of elites in early modern England and Europe. She has recently worked on a collection of 'drowned books' from a seventeenth century shipwreck and what they can tell us about travel and cultural exchange. She has won a series of teaching awards for her work with students at OUDCE.

Course aims

Study and evaluate the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Course Objectives

  • To explore the key events and developments of Elizabeth's reign.
  • To break down the 'myth' of Elizabeth to evaluate Elizabeth's skills as a ruler.
  • Develop a range of historical skills through the evaluation of primary sources and historiography.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • The key events of Elizabeth's reign and how her government dealt with them.
  • The construction of the queen's reputation by her contemporaries and since her death.
  • How to use primary sources in order to develop and support historical arguments.


By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to write analytical and critical evaluations of the key events and issues of Elizabeth's reign.
  • The ability to assess the success or otherwise of Elizabeth's reign, with an awareness of how far her reputation has been shaped by later accounts.
  • The ability to compare, evaluate and interpret primary sources in order to develop and support historical arguments and to communicate their own ideas successfully to debates about Elizabeth's reign.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/english-language-requirements


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.