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William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was born and died on April 23 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He was born in 1564 and died in 1616.

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Religious Struggles in England
Henry VIII was the King of England from 1509 to 1547. During this time, England was experiencing religious changes.

England had been a Catholic nation and followed the Catholic Church in Rome. Henry wanted a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. However, divorces were not allowed by the Catholic Church. Therefore, Henry broke ties with the Church.

In 1533, Henry established the Church of England and declared himself the Supreme Head of the Church. It was a Protestant Church. The people of England were forced to join the Church of England and swear their loyalty to Henry VIII. This was difficult for many people because they had been Catholics all their life.

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Queen Elizabeth I Brings Stability to England
In 1547, Henry VIII died. His son, Edward VI became King for a short time. Edward VI did not have any children. When Edward died, his half-sister, Mary, became Queen.

Queen Mary I was Catholic. During her reign, there was fighting between Catholics and Protestants. Many Protestants were burned at the stake for their beliefs, and Mary was called "Bloody" Mary for her actions. In 1558, Mary died and did not leave any children.

The throne was passed to her half-sister, Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth I was Protestant. The religious turmoil continued in England, but it was not as severe as it had been in recent years. Elizabeth was more tolerant than her sister "Bloody" Mary.

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The Elizabethan Era
Elizabeth's reign is known as the Elizabethan Era. She ruled from 1558 to 1603 and gave England peace and stability. England's navy became very powerful. In 1588, it defeated the Spanish Armada which boosted the national pride of England.

Elizabeth supported exploration. During this time, Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to sail around the world, and Sir Walter Raleigh founded the Virginian colony in the New World.

Literature also prospered under Elizabeth's reign. She enjoyed the theater and gave protection to its actors. One of these actors was William Shakespeare. His acting company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, was invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth more than any other acting group.

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James I of England
When Elizabeth died in 1603, she did not have any children. The line of succession went back to Henry VII. The next heir to the English thrown was Henry VII's great-great grandson, James VI of Scotland. James VI of Scotland also became James I of England.

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