The Growing Confidence of Parliament under Elizabeth I, 1558-1588

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  • The Growing Confidence of Parliament under Elizabeth I, 1558-1588
    • Parliament under Elizabeth I
      • Like her siblings, Elizabeth was forced by precedent to use her parliament to reverse the changes undertaken by Mary and to restore Royal Supremacy
        • In 1559, she had difficulties in achieving this, mainly because of religiously conservative peers and bishops in the House of Lords
          • This opposition may have led to more of a compromise than Elizabeth had originally intended
        • However, the problems that Elizabeth encountered from her Parliaments were more the result of an increasingly confident Commons
    • Developments in Parliament under Elizabeth I
      • Even without a determined, organised opposition to Elizabeth, the role of Parliament did change under Elizabeth
        • The number of MPs in the House of Commons had grown from 302 in 1512 to 402 in 1559 and 462 in 1586.
          • This growth in numbers helps explain why the Council felt the need to 'manage' parliamentary business more
      • In some areas of policy, parliament was growing more assertive
        • In 1563 and 1566, encouraged by the Council, the Commons dared to raise the issue of marriage and succession with the Queen.
          • This is something that would have been considered unimaginable during the reign of Henry VIII
          • Led to some conflict between the Queen and her Parliaments concerning their right to freedom of speech
            • Elizabeth argued that her Parliament was free to discuss matters of the 'commonweal' (concerning the common good of the country) e.g. poverty, but did not have the right to discuss 'matters of state' e.g. her marriage, the succession and religious policy.
        • The Parliamentary Commons tended to ignore Elizabeth's wishes, leading to tensions between the Crown and Parliament.
          • 1566- The Council was forced to allow Parliament time to debate marriage and succession.
            • In return, parliament agreed to discuss a grant of taxation, which they had threatened to withhold.
        • There were also attempts by a minority of religious radicals (e.g. Anthony Cope) to introduce more radical Puritanism via Parliament
          • Cope and his allies were promptly imprisoned in the Tower of London by the Speaker.
      • Elizabeth and her Parliament were on the same side.
        • Elizabeth did try to restrict Parliament's claims to freedom of speech in 1566 and 1576
          • This was more to do with her royal prerogative than an attempt to reduce parliament's powers.
        • Where Parliamentary pressure was apparently brought to bear on Elizabeth, were a result of trying to get the indecisive Elizabeth to make a decision
          • Examples:
            • Discussions regarding her marriage and succession in 1563 and 1566
            • Debates over the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1572 and 1586-87
        • However, in the 1590s, the relationship between monarch and parliament did become strained as a result of the political tensions of the last decade of Elizabeth's reign.


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