Let's start with a brief overview of the politics and culture leading to Elizabethan England. Religious issues were intertwined with domestic politics and foreign policy. Tensions between Catholics and Protestants made both politics and foreign policy uncertain. The rule of Henry VIII was complicated. He had six wives and, in that day, marriages reflected domestic and foreign political alliances. His were constantly shifting. One result at home was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in England. Another result was his son by Jane Seymour who became Edward VI. He died young but advanced Protestantism. Then came Mary I who was Henry VIII's daughter by Catherine of Aragon. She was a Roman Catholic and persecuted Protestants. She married Prince Philip of Spain who was a Habsburg. She died childless and thus Elizabeth, Henry VIII's daughter by Anne Boleyn, succeeded to the throne. Elizabeth I had to navigate the treacherous political conditions arising from foreign intrigue and domestic religious tensions. The reign of "Good Queen Bess" set the stage for British subjects to settle the New World.
In competition with the Spanish and French Empires, Elizabeth I authorized voyages of exploration and colonizing in the New World. Her grandfather, Henry VII, first promoted exploration of the New World by authorizing the Cabot Voyages. During Elizabeth's reign, Sir Walter Raleigh promoted the voyages to what is today North Carolina. The "Lost Colony" was briefly established on Roanoke Island. It served to inspire the settlement of Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement, in 1607. Sir Walter's half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, paved the way in what is today Canada. Sir Walter and Sir Humphrey were strong Christians. The tyrant James I King of England executed Raleigh. Sir Humphrey died at sea.