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|Centuries:||15th century – 16th century – 17th century|
|Decades:||1530s 1540s 1550s – 1560s – 1570s 1580s 1590s|
|Years:||1558 1559 1560 – 1561 – 1562 1563 1564|
|1561 by topic|
|Arts and science|
|Lists of leaders|
|Birth and death categories|
|Establishments and disestablishments categories|
|Ab urbe condita||2314|
|English Regnal year||3 Eliz. 1 – 4 Eliz. 1|
— to —辛酉年十一月廿五日
|- Vikram Samvat||1617–1618|
|- Shaka Samvat||1483–1484|
|- Kali Yuga||4662–4663|
|- Ǹrí Ìgbò||561–562|
|Japanese calendar||Eiroku 4
|Juche calendar||N/A (before 1912)|
|Julian calendar||1561 MDLXI|
|Minguo calendar||351 before ROC
|Thai solar calendar||2104|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 1561|
- January 31 – The Edict of Orleans suspends the persecution of the Huguenots in France.
- March 1 – Kingston Grammar School is founded in England.
- April 14 – The citizens of Nuremberg see what appears to be an aerial battle followed by the appearance of a large black triangular object and a large crash (with smoke) outside the city. A news notice (an early form of newspaper) is printed on (April 14) describing the event.
- May 8 – Madrid is declared the capital of Spain by Philip II.
- June 4 – Old St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London is badly damaged by fire and the spire is destroyed after being struck by lightning. The spire is not rebuilt.
- June 6 – Sweden conquers Livonia (modern Estonia).
- June 29 – Erik XIV is crowned King of Sweden.
- July – Killing of the hated encomendero Pedro de Avendaño and two other Spaniards triggered the Second Great Rebellion of the Mapuche in the Arauco War.
- July 12 – Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow (started in 1534) is finished.
- August 19 – Mary, Queen of Scots, is denied passage through England after returning from France. She arrives at Leith, Scotland on August 19.
- September – The Protestant reformer John Knox has a three-day debate in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland with Quintin Kennedy, commendator of Crossraguel Abbey, on transubstantiation. The result is inconclusive but Kennedy is fighting a losing battle against the Reformation, which had been confirmed by the Scottish government in 1560.
- October 18 – Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima: Takeda Shingen defeats Uesugi Kenshin in the climax of their ongoing conflicts.
Date unknown 
- The first Calvinists settle in England after fleeing Flanders.
- Publication of the Anglo-Genevan metrical psalter including the "Old 100th", the version of the hymn "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" made from Psalm 100, attributed to the probably-Scottish clergyman and biblical translator William Kethe, exiled in Geneva.
- Ruy López de Segura develops modern techniques of chess playing in Spain.
- Between 1561 and 1670 3,229 witches are executed in southwestern Germany, most by burning.
- January 6 – Thomas Fincke, Danish mathematician and physicist (d. 1656)
- January 22 – Sir Francis Bacon, English philosopher, scientist, and statesman (d. 1626)
- June – Samuel Harsnett, Archbishop of York (d. 1631)
- July 11 – Luís de Góngora y Argote, Spanish poet (d. 1627)
- July 17 – Jacopo Corsi, Italian composer (d. 1602)
- August 4 – John Harington, courtier, inventor and writer (d. 1612)
- August 20 – Jacopo Peri, Italian composer (d. 1633)
- August 24 – Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk (d. 1626)
- August 25 – Philippe van Lansberge, Dutch astronomer (d. 1632)
- September 10 – Hernando Arias de Saavedra, Spanish colonial governor (d. 1634)
- September 29 – Adriaan van Roomen, Belgian mathematician (d. 1615)
- October 27 – Mary Sidney, English writer, patroness and translator (d. 1621)
- December 7 – Kikkawa Hiroie, Japanese politician (d. 1625)
- December 9 – Edwin Sandys, English founder of the colony of Virginia (d. 1629)
- date unknown – Stephen Bachiler, non-conformist minister and pioneer settler of New England (d. 1656)
- January 31
- February 26 – Jorge de Montemayor, Spanish writer (b. 1520)
- March 25 – Conrad Lycosthenes, humanist and encyclopedist (b. 1518)
- May 16 – Jan Tarnowski, Polish nobleman (b. 1488)
- June 6 – Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, painter (b. 1483)
- July 19 – Henry Lauder, Lord St Germains, Lord Advocate of Scotland
- September 1 – Edward Waldegrave, English policitian and recusant
- October 27 – Lope de Aguirre, Basque rebel and conquistador (b. 1510)
- November 11 – Hans Tausen, Danish reformer (b. 1494)
- December 10 – Caspar Schwenckfeld, German theologian
- date unknown
- probable – Luis de Milán, Spanish composer (b. 1500)