The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she was declared illegitimate just before the execution of her mother in 1536, but in 1544 Parliament reestablished her in the succession after her half-brother, Edward (later Edward VI), and her half-sister, Mary (later Mary I). Elizabeth was well educated by a series of tutors, most notably Roger Ascham.
In 1553 she supported the claims of Mary I over Lady Jane Grey. After Mary was crowned, Elizabeth was careful to avoid implication in the plot of the younger Sir Thomas Wyatt (1554). Nevertheless, since Elizabeth's potential succession to the throne inevitably furnished a rallying point for discontented Protestants, she was imprisoned. She later regained a measure of freedom through outward conformity to Roman Catholicism.
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