Elizabeth I Foreign Policy notes and interpretations (Edexcel A2 History)

Notes on Elizabeth's foreign policy, with interpretations, for edexcel a2 history - Protest Crisis and Rebellion

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ELIZABETH I 1558 - 1588
Was religious foreign conflict unavoidable?
Elizabeth was cautious in foreign policy. She avoided a religious war as it would split the English
and was concerned with the sheer power held by Spain
Spain declared war after the execution of the Catholic Mary of Scots, seeming to show that
religion sparked conflict. However, this can be said to have just been a justification for war, as if
conflict was unavoidable purely on religious grounds, it would have happened sooner as Elizabeth
has always been protestant and Phillip had always been Catholic. = using a religious justification
for war
She was close with the catholic French and nearly married into France = not to do with religion
She didn't defend the Huguenots (protestants) of France, but this maybe partly to do with not
having the resources
Instead of religion, it could be said that England and France had a common interest against Spain,
so joined forced against it
Elizabeth seemed to put politics over religion. Phillip was a very pious Catholic, but Elizabeth was
quieter about her religious disposition. War may have happened a lot faster if both Elizabeth and
Phillip put religion over politics
It was more the actions and decisions of Elizabeth, rather than religion that led to foreign
conflict, such as refusing to send back booty stolen by English pirates from the Spanish ships. If it
as purely religion, war would have taken place long before.
Examples of her decisions: Choosing to support Spain's enemy (the Dutch Rebels) which essentially
sets a declaration of war. She was also more reluctant to execute Mary of Scotland in fear of the
neighbouring French, rather than Spain, as Mary of Scots was French.
Elizabeth's refusal to reign in people such as Francis Drake, perhaps due to not wanting to be seen
as backing down (weak). She also gained financially from such "pirates", allowing Drake to keep
half the money he stole from Spain, and keeping half for her! This was an immense provocation,
breaking all courteous laws of the sea. (The affair of the Spanish Bullion)
There is little evidence that religion was a driving force behind Elizabeth's foreign policy,
although it was clearly an issue for many of her councillors. Her refusal to intervene directly and
send an army to help the Dutch rebels angered some members of her council and has led to
criticisms from historians.
A decline in England's traditional alliance with Spain. Although a lot of differences had been
patched up by 15 73, many Englishmen were beginning to believe that some sort of religious
conflict was inevitable.
Elizabeth's foreign policy in the first part of her reign sprang largely from her domestic situation.
She needed time, and a period of peace, to establish the new Elizabethan Church, and she had

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Was Elizabeth too cautious/did she try to avoid war?
Feared that Spain would completely rule England, were they to lose the war to them
She was cautious as she saw the Hapsburgh family as dominating and she feared their influence in
England. She did, however, hate the Hasburghs due to them preventing/prolonging the marriage of
Henry to her mother Anne Boleyn.…read more

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English Pirates- Elizabeth refused to stop English pirates stealing from Spain: perhaps due to not
wanting to look weak by backing down. But this made Spain MAD
Spain encouraged the Northern Earls to revolt! Did not make Elizabeth happy.
The Ridolfi plot ­ Ridolfi plotted a catholic uprising and Spain agreed to join in once the first
steps of the revolt had been completed. However, ridolfi was found out, so the plot did not
commence.…read more

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Cessation of trade with Spain coupled with high taxes caused real economic problems and
resentment. RB Outhwaite claims later Elizabethan inflation down to war with Spain and rebellion
in Ireland, which increased demand for goods thus forcing up prices, leading to widespread
But may have had a long term economic benefit as the war with spain offered opportunities for
privateers to get money!
War led to improvements in the English Army and navy.…read more

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Henry was most focused on, arguably, person prestigue, aiming to use foreign policy as a means to
achieve the title of "Warrior King" and the "New Napoleon"
Arguebly Henry;s FP was greatly driven by aggression towards other countries, even trying to
restart the 100 Years war
In Edwards reign, Seymour can be seen as being somewhat similar as Henry due to contiueing the
war with Scotland, attempting to gain personal prestige.…read more


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