Elizabeth I and Religion

The religious settlement, Protestant and Catholic threat 

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What the specification says..

The establishment of the political authority of Elizabeth I; the ideas and policies of Elizabeth and reactions to her church settlement of 1559 Challenges to Elizabeth’s church settlement from Puritans and Catholics in England – the Northern rebellion. The impact of Presbyterianism and radical Puritans; the impact on English Catholics of Mary Stuart’s presence in England and the influence of missionary priests and Jesuits; the dangers from internal Catholic rebellion against Elizabeth; Catholic plots and the role of Mary Stuart Divisions among English Catholics; the growing influence of Puritanism; the religious situation at the accession of James I in 1603 the extent to which political and religious unity had been achieved by 1603

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Key Questions

Was the 1559 settlement imposed by the Queen or upon the Queen? To what extent have historians differed in their views of the 1559 settlement? How much influence did the Queen have over the settlement? How much influence did the Lords/Commons have? Was 1559 continuity from Henry VIII’s moderation? Was 1559 more in-keeping with Edward VI? Was it a compromise between radicalism and conservatism?

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Traditional interpretation ‘The Middle-Way’

The middle way, it was moderate. Disputes as to why Elizabeth opted for the ‘common sense’ route when others had not. A F Pollard – sceptical/indifferent JR Green – untouched by theological beliefs and purely political. Agreement that she was in firm control over the process whether it was because she was a protestant, moderate or pragmatist.

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Criticisms of the traditional interpretation

It ignores strong pressure from protestants that had been nurtured under Northumberland and then denied during the reign of Mary. JE Neale, compromise between a conservative Queen and Protestant influences. The settlement was shaped by parliament. The Puritan choir put pressure on her to move as far away as possible from Catholicism towards Calvinism. These were recently returned exiles

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Revisionist interpretations

Moderation but because of external influences. WL Sheils – settlements not just because of one group but because of a need to balance a variety of forces. D MacCulloch Catholic voices in the Lords as important as Protestant ones on the commons. As were the roles of Cecil and his associates – mindful of the delicate diplomatic and political situation. The Queen played her own position with skill, keeping her own ideas under wraps, she preferred to take advice and bend with the wind. N L JonesThe Queen herself navigated the change.

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Evidence to support the revisionist interpretation

Supreme Governor rather than supreme head. Communion in both kinds Vestments and ornaments

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Opinions of the settlement

“Like most compromises it was inherently flawedLee WRD Jones: “It glossed over tensions that were never completely resolved, and established an equilibrium which at the time must have appeared both provisional and precarious. Yet it was to endure as the permanent basis of the English church.”

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What role did Elizabeth play in enforcing the sett

Consensus that the Queen was central to the settlement and its execution (Williams) and blocking both conservative Catholicism and and radical Protestantism.  

Warren “It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Queen seldom acted as “the nursing mother of the church”. At best she was a very selfish parent, concerned with her own needs and authority and rarely responding to the needs of her offspring.”

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The settlement and Catholicism

1559 settlement was designed to build up Protestantism to undermine Catholicism  so it would wither away without having to be stamped out. Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity made efforts to starve Catholicism.

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First decade and a half from 1558

Catholicism posed little direct threat, many Catholics (members of the nobility and JPs) preferred to pay lip service rather than become recusants. It was tolerated because it did not pose a direct threat and it was difficult to enforce the law and secure convictions.

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1570s – a perceived catholic threat

1570 Papal Bull Duke of Alva = Southern Netherlands return to Spanish rule. MQS became centre of catholic hopes for the future. Plots of the 1570s and 1580s. The Catholic mission

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Government reaction – justified?

187 Catholics executed – mostly by the old medieval punishment for treason. Torture used to extract information – Elizabeth was fully aware of it and personally authorised it on two occasions. Agents and informants were used. Topcliffe. 16th century law dictated that a woman should be burnt alive if she poisoned her husband. A L Rowse points out that there was no other choice, her subjects had been encouraged to rebel and invasion had been promoted – politicisation provided justification for the extreme measures.

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Argument 1 – early reign = rapid decline, slowed b

A G Dickens – an insignificant number of catholic clergy refused the oath of supremacy – there was little open defiance. In desperate trouble by the early 1570s, it was rescued (McGrath) as a result of the missionaries. Elton, they ended the government’s hopes of destroying popery – the missionaries consolidated a catholic minority into a body able to survive persecution. Internal factors were paramount to its decline but external factors saved it from obliteration.

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Argument 2 – the survival of Catholicism was not e

J Guy Recusancy was nurtured by the ex-Marian clergy not the missionary priests. Haigh survival of conservative belief. Guy & Haigh missionaries efforts amounted to “heroic failure” Not as many seminary priests as thought, mainly in the south and east – which only contained 20% of the recusant population. They did re-mould the social fabric of Catholicism.

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Key Questions

How useful is the term ‘Puritan’? How much of a threat were the Puritans? Did this threat level vary over time? How effective and how justified were the measures taken towards the Puritans? Why is there so much disagreement about the nature of the Puritan threat?

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In every parliament of her reign there was a struggle between the queen and the Puritans, accompanied by a demand for freedom of speech. This organised opposition group forced the queen into adopting a more radical settlement in 1559 than she originally intended.

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Hi! Is this the Eexcel spec? Thanks!

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