1. A woman sat on the English throne as absolute monarch. A single, childfree woman, one might note. Elizabeth was the best educated prince in Europe, a woman of wit and wisdom who genuinely wished to see her people prosper.
2. This was a time of change, which is something I look for in a story setting. The long peace of Elizabeth allowed the English to expand in every direction: art, music, literature, obviously; but also mathematics, mining, map-making, and many things that did not begin with M. Society took a giant step toward the secular, in spite of — or more probably, because of — the constant tug-of-war between religious factions. The middling sort — yeomen, craftsmen, merchants and lawyers — prospered, educated themselves, and began to think of themselves as persons of consequence. These were golden years for many people, but there was also plenty of conflict to keep a novelist happy. Enclosures threw poor farmers off their land and into vagabondage; religious controversy set neighbor against neighbor and kept the government in a state of perpetual crisis. The growing population stressed nascent social services. Recurrent plague turned over the population of London once or twice a decade.
What: you thought this was post was going to go all pointy-headed and philosophical?