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Queen Elizabeth I's ascension to the throne at the youthful age of twenty-five ushered in the English Renaissance. During her reign, the graphic arts, theater and literature flourished, with William Shakespeare perhaps being the most famous writer of this period. In addition, Francis Drake became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe; Francis Bacon laid out his philosophical and political views; and English colonization of North America took place under Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Additionally, under Elizabeth's leadership, neighboring countries of Spain and France experienced the effects of British power. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 marked a climax of England's political power. In 1599, England chartered the East India Company, and became a contender in international trade. Elizabeth's death in 1603 signified not only the end of the Tudor line of rulers, but a grand era of English history.

In other parts of the world, the Huguenots received limited toleration from the Peace of Amboise in 1563, only to later experience the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572. France experienced a series of Wars on Religion during this tumultous period, while the Spaniards occupied the Philippines. Japan opened its port of Nagasaki for overseas trade, and Hideyoshi later established a dictatorship in Japan. The Turks were involved in numerous wars including battles with Hungary, Cyprus and Venice. Russia's Ivan the Terrible died in 1584.