The dark side of Elizabethan England

The Elizabethan era is often painted as a golden age. Yet, says James Sharpe, for thousands of people life was anything but golden, blighted by violence, vagrancy and crushing hunger

An illustration of Edmund Spenser’s poetic work ‘The Shepheardes Calender’

This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Interest in Elizabeth I and her reign (1558–1603) seems limitless, and invariably suffused with admiration – an attitude epitomised in The Times  of 24 March 2003, on the quatercentenary of the queen’s death:

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