As she came into the world on the eve of the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, so Elizabeth I died on the eve of the feast of the Annunciation in 16o3. Without her and her own vision of the Christian faith and the Church, there would be no Anglicanism. With what her half sister Mary had done in terms of her Spanish marriage with the introduction into England of the Spanish inquisition, any lingering sentiment for the Roman See and the Roman faith was largely vanished. But without Elizabeth's policy of re-introducing the Book of Common Prayer and supporting the English Church, it would have been overwhelmed by the doctrine of either Geneva or Zurich. Instead she returned it as close as it was humanly possible to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church as she herself put it of "the earliest bishops and Catholic fathers."
There have been many who have attempted to portray her as a person largely without religious faith. If that had been true it would have been much easier for her to have retained the Roman religion in England. But her actions, and chiefly those kept from the scrutiny of the world, reveal her as a person of deep faith. She attended daily morning and evening prayer in her own chapel. And there the Eucharist was celebrated with her bishops, largely against their will, acting as priest, deacon and subdeacon (to quote one of them) "in the golden vestments of the papacy" with music provided by Byrd and Tallis. In addition it was her practice to read a chapter of the New Testament in Greek and a chapter of the Old Testament in Hebrew every single day while the book in which she wrote prayers of her own composition remained a secret until her death.
Many Anglicans know of the quote which once graced the newletter of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen and has appeared in many Anglican blogs including this one, But let me conclude this post with another. "There is one thing higher than Royalty: and that is religion, which causes us to leave the world, and seek God." Elizabeth could not leave the world because she saw her rule as an act of service to her people, but in her very first interview with the Spanish ambassador after she became queen she told him that her colours were black and white, those of a vowed religious. I doubt if he understood but he reported everything she said faithfully to Philip, his master. And we, from the long view of history, have a much better chance of knowing that she meant every word so that in the end, she, more than any other, deserved the title of "Defender of the Faith."