Elizabeth I & Court

  • Created by: cieran32
  • Created on: 08-11-18 23:00

Elizabeth I and her Court

The court was the centre of political and social life for England’s ruling classes. The queen used it to build a network of loyal supporters dependent on her for their status

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Government and court

  • The monarch was the centre of government and the court was wherever the monarch was.
  • Officials had to attend court to get royal permission for their actions.
  • Nobles had to attend to get noticed and be rewarded with patronage. They might hope to become a favourite with the queen.
  • Elizabeth promoted loyal, competent men at court to posts in the Privy Council or her Household.
  • She also promoted favourites, who then became the target of jealousy and court politics.
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Key courtiers from the gentry

  • Sir William Cecil - Lord Burghley from 1573. He was Elizabeth’s most important and trusted adviser. His son, Robert Cecil took his place in 1596.
  • Sir Christopher Hatton - his close friendship with Elizabeth was especially resented by the nobility.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh - a favourite from the 1580s. Hatton was jealous of him.
  • Sir Francis Walsingham - a staunch Protestant. He developed an extensive spy network and was instrumental in Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution.
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Key courtiers from the nobility

  • Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester from 1564.
  • The Earl of Sussex was from the old nobility.
  • The Earl of Essex was Elizabeth’s last great favourite, but it ended disastrously.
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The household and the Privy Chamber

  • The Household was the monarch’s domestic staff.
  • Headed by the Lord Chamberlain, it employed 1500 people.
  • It was divided into departments according to its work. For example:
    • Robe.
    • Bakehouse.
  • The Privy Chamber fulfilled the same domestic function as before but was becoming less important
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  • Patronage means being given gifts such as lands, office, monopolies (having the sole right to produce or sell a good) and titles in return for loyalty.
  • The Queen and key ministers, such as Cecil, bestowed patronage.
  • Being given an office was the most valued gift from the monarch. Offices might be in the Church, central government, the law or the Royal Household.
  • Elizabeth only gave 18 titles (making people peers) during her reign. By the end of her reign in 1603, there were fewer nobles than at the start of her reign in 1558
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Elizabeth I and her ministers

Elizabeth I's ministers advised her in government. William Cecil, later Lord Burghley, was the Queen's longest-serving minister.

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role of Elizabeth I's ministers

  • Elizabeth I's ministers were trusted advisors who helped her govern the kingdom.
  • That said, they were there to advise Elizabeth I, not tell her what to do. Elizabeth I believed she had a 'divine right' to rule (meaning she was chosen specially by God)
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  • Elizabeth I's ministers also helped shaped the Queen's image and how it was communicated to her subjects and foreigners.
  • This 'propaganda' (information which aims to influence an audience) presented Elizabeth I as a powerful, Protestant Queen who could overcome the weaknesses usually associated with her sex.
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William cecil

  • Cecil first served Elizabeth I as Secretary of State and later as Lord Treasurer.
  • Elizabeth I favoured Cecil because of his administrative skills.
  • Cecil's political views were aligned with Elizabeth, relatively conservative and focussed on maintaining stability
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Factional Rivalries in Elizabeth's Court

Elizabeth's court was filled with factions (groups with a common interest). These groups all had rivalries with each other. The members of a faction could change depending on the issue at hand.

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Conservative Court factions

Conservative Court factions

  • A conservative faction at Court included:
    • The Duke of Norfolk, the Earls of Sussex and Shrewsbury, Sir James Croft and Sir Christopher Hatton.
    • Conservative influence (except for Hatton’s) waned in the 1570s after the Northern Rebellion (a rebellion in 1569 where Catholic nobles tried to overthrow Elizabeth I and put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne) and Ridolfi Plot (a plot to assassinate Elizabeth I and put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne).
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protestant Court factions

The Protestant faction at Court included:

  • Sir William Cecil, Sir Walter Mildmay, Sir Francis Walsingham, the Earls of Leicester, Warwick and Bedford.
  • These men formed an ‘inner ring’ around Elizabeth from the 1570s
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Early Privy Council Factions

  • Cecil and Leicester had their own followings at court and often disagreed on political issues. They conflicted over Elizabeth’s potential marriage in the 1560s.
  • In the 1570s and the 1580s, factional rivalry was limited. Courtiers co-operated and Elizabeth managed any rivalries effectively
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Late Privy Council Factions

Late Privy Council Factions

  • By the 1590s, a new generation of courtiers dominated. Factional rivalry grew after the deaths of Leicester (1588), Walsingham (1590) and Hatton (1592).
  • Cecil’s ill health diminished his influence after 1592. His son, Robert, eventually replaced him.
  • In the late 1590s factions formed around Robert Cecil and the young Earl of Essex. Essex lost Elizabeth I’s favour and was executed for treason in 1601 
  • A group with common interests 
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