Elizabethan England


Elizabeth's Background

  • Queen Elizabeth I was from the Tudor House                                                            
  • The Tudor family ruled England since Henry VII became king in 1485.                                                                                  
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Elizabeth's Character

  • Elizabeth was Henry VIII’s second child, the daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
  • Elizabeth was third in line to the throne, unexpected to become Queen.                                 
  • Had a difficult upbringing and sometimes feared for her life. In 1554, accused of conspiring against half-sister, Queen Mary I and placed under house arrest for almost a year.                  
  • Very cautious, trusted few close advisers.
  • Was indecisive – reluctant to make decisions without carefully considering consequences.       
  • She was intelligent, confident and well educated. Despite little training in how to govern, powerful and effective leader.
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Why Some People Didn’t Want Elizabeth To Be Queen


  • Monarch should be man (woman = unnatural).                                                 
  • Most expected Elizabeth would let male councillors to control or find husband to govern for her.
  • Elizabeth determined to rule in own right, refused to let councillors take over.                                                           


  • 1533, Henry VIII divorced first wife, Catherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn.             
  • Divorce forbidden in Catholic Church, many Catholics believed Henry’s marriage to Anne was invalid so daughter, Elizabeth was illegitimate.                                                         
  • Illegitimate children weren’t usually allowed to inherit, so the issue of Elizabeth’s legitimacy weakened her claim to the throne. Some thought that Mary, Queen of Scots, had more right to rule.
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Court Was The Centre Of Elizabeth’s Social Life

  • Royal Court – Large group of people surrounded monarchs all the time.
  • 1000+ attended court, including Elizabeth’s personal servants, members of privy councils, members of nobility, ambassadors, foreign visitors and Elizabeth’s favourites.
  • Robert Dudley – Close, made Earl of Leicester 1564, considered marrying.
  • Christopher Hattin – 1587, Lord Chancellor, little relevant experience.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh – Came 1581, gave him invaluable gift, right to colonise New World.             
  • Courtiers flatter Elizabeth, show gifts, pretend to be in love.                                               
  • Courtly pastimes = Plays, concerts, hunting, jousting, tennis. Balls and grand meals.           
  • Members of court travelled with Elizabeth when moved between palaces. When great processions held and royal progresses (house of wealthy noblemen).  
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Political Power Relied On Access To The Queen

  • Queen = centre of government and political power revolved around her. Closest to Elizabeth = greatest influence and power.                                                                                   
  • Court = centre of political life. To get ahead and increase political power, must be placed at court.
  • Courtiers didn’t hold government positions – powerful through close relationships with the Queen.
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Patronage Ensured Loyalty And Stability

  • Patronage = handing out titles, offices or monopolies, giving men source of income. Many offices to give away and high positions in Church. Royal patronage distributed at court.             
  • Patronage ensured loyalty. Receivers of patronage dependent on Queen for small/all income, status so likely to be loyal to her.                                            
  • Patronage distributed widely. Ensured political stability. Members of elite had chance to be rewarded by Queen, unlikely to rebel.
  • Patronage - way to reward courtiers without spending royal revenues. Important as English economy was weak and income limited. 
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Privy Council Central To Elizabethan Government

  • Privy Council gave advice to queen and manage administration of the government.                                                                                 
  • Council =  20 men, chosen by Elizabeth. Members of the privy council were Queen’s closest and most trusted advisors. Some key ministers served on the councils for many years.                                               
  • Queen didn’t have to follow advice, councillors had to carry out her instructions, even if against advice. 
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William Cecil Was Elizabeth’s Closest Advisor

  • When Elizabeth queen (1558), made Cecil her Principle Secretary. Closest advisor, leading Privy Council and ensuring government ran smoothly.                           
  • 1571, gave Cecil title Lord Burghley. Next year, made him Lord High Treasurer, gave control over royal finances. Served Elizabeth until death, 1598.                                                            
  • Other key ministers = Nicholas Bacon (Lord Chancellor, 1559 – 1579) and Francis Walsingham (Principle Secretary, 1573).
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There Were Two Chambers Of Parliament

  • House of Lords wasn’t elected – members of nobility and senior churchmen                         
  • The House of Commons was elected – men who owned property over certain value allowed to vote. Elections weren’t free – the Crown controlled who got elected in some areas, in others, powerful local figures controlled who was chosen. 
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Parliament’s Main Functions

  • Advice – Parliament was important point of contact between central government and leading figures in local government throughout country. Enabled queen and her councillors to gauge mood of country and levels of support for their policies.                                                                 
  • Taxation – When queen needed extra revenue, had to ask Parliament’s permission to raise tax. 
  • Legislation – The Queen needed Parliament’s approval to pass new laws. Could issue royal proclamations instead. 
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Parliament’s Power Was Limited

  • Elizabeth had the power to punish and dismiss Parliament. Disliked working with Parliament and used little as possible – called 13 sessions of Parliament during 44 year reign.                     
  • Parliament was not free to decided what topics debated. Had to have permission from Queen to discuss matters of state (e.g. religion, succession, foreign policy). Most parliamentary businesses focused on local matters and social or economic issues. 
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Privy Council Helped Elizabeth Manage Parliament

  • Privy Council managed relationships between Elizabeth and Parliament effectively. Cecil highly skilled at convincing MPs to support Queen’s policies.                                                                
  • Some members of Privy Council sat in Parliament. Acted as royal spokesmen and steered debates in favour of royal policies.                                                           
  • The Speaker, kept everything in order in House of Commons, chosen by Queen and closely monitored by members of Privy Council. Helped Queen’s councillors control Parliament and convince MPs to support royal policy.                                                                                             
  • Elizabeth was strong public speaker. Made number of powerful speeches in Parliament which helped to persuade MPs to obey her wishes.    
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There Were Some Disagreements But Elizabeth Stayed

  • During Elizabeth’s reign, Parliament didn’t always agree with her policies.              
  • Throughout her reign, MPs concerned who would rule England after Elizabeth’s death. Tried to persuade her to marry or name an heir.                                                                                   
  • Some Puritan MPs challenged religious settlement and tried to make England more Protestant.
  • MPs worried about threat from Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Catholic Plots surrounding her. Tried to convince Elizabeth to take action against Mary.                                                        
  • Occasionally, MPs tried to force the Queen to change her mind by threatening to refuse taxation. Elizabeth never gave into parliamentary pressure.
  • Effective management by Privy Council, combined with Elizabeth’s powers to dismiss Parliament and select topics debated, meant remained firmly in control.
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Elizabeth Expected To Marry And Produce An Heir

  • People believed women couldn’t rule effectively, pressure for Elizabeth to find husband who could rule for her.                                
  • Concerns about succession. If Elizabeth died without an heir, risk of civil war, different groups would compete for the throne. To prevent this, Elizabeth expected to marry and produce an heir quickly.                                                 
  • The Privy Council and Parliament deeply concerned about succession. Repeatedly asked Queen to marry or name heir but always refused. When asked Elizabeth to find husband in 1563, refused to discuss husband.  
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It Was Difficult To Find A Suitable Husband

  • If Elizabeth married European prince or king, gives foreign country too much influence over England. In past, Queen Mary I’s marriage to King Philip II of Spain forced England to be involved in expensive war with France.       
  • If Elizabeth chose a member of English nobility, create anger and resentment among those who weren’t chosen.                                     
  • Religious settlement made England a Protestant country, so difficult to marry a Catholic. Growing anti-Catholic feeling in England, would make Catholic husband unpopular and undermined support for Elizabeth’s rule. 
  • Elizabeth reluctant to marry anyone – women expected to obey husbands so would lose power and freedom if she married. 
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Considered Many Suitors, But Rejected All

  • Early in reign, Elizabeth received proposals from foreign rulers, including King Phillip II of Spain, Archduke Charles of Austria and King Eric of Sweden. 
  • Elizabeth seemed to be in love with Robert Dudley, seriously considered marrying him. Members of Privy Council and nobility, strongly opposed and didn’t go ahead.                           
  • 1570s, Elizabeth courted by Duke Francis of Anjou, brother of the King of France. Strong opposition to idea of marrying a French Catholic so marriage negotiations were abandoned.   
  • Refused to name successor as concerned successor would be focus of plots to overthrow her. Towards end of her reign, her advisers made negotiations secretly for James VI of Scotland to become heir. After Elizabeth died (1603) James became King of England. 
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Court Split Into Rival Groups In The 1590s

  • Makeup of Elizabeth’s Privy Council changed towards the end of reign. Several of key ministers, including Christopher Hatton and Francis Walsingham died around 1590. William Cecil died in 1598 and succeeded by son, Robert Cecil.                                                              
  • 1593, Elizabeth made Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, member of the Privy Council. Essex’s rise led to growth of two conflicting groups at court: Essex vs Cecils.                                         
  • Constantly competing for royal patronage and influence. Disagreed over important matters, especially strategy in war with Spain. Elizabeth’s inability to control conflict undermined her authority. 
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Essex Launched A Rebellion In 1601

  • 1599, Elizabeth sent Essex to Ireland at head of huge army. Task = crush Tyrone’s Rebellion which had been going on since 1594.                                                        
  • Essex made limited attempts to fight rebels, unsuccessful, so made truce with them. Abandoned post and returned to England without Queen’s permission.         
  • Punishment = house arrest for time, banished from court & public offices taken away. November 1600, took away main source of income, a monopoly on distribution of sweet wines.                                                                                                    
  • Loss of political power and income, drove Essex to revolt. 8th February 1601, launche rebellion in London. Aim = seize Queen & force her to replace closest advisers, especially Cecil, with himself and his followers.   
  • Essex’s rebellion failed within a few hours. No support from ordinary Londoners, most of his  supporters abandoned him. Essex  arrested, tried for treason & executed 25th February 1601.
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Conflict At Court Undermined Elizabeth’s Authority

  • Lack of popular support for Essex’s rebellion shows wasn’t serious threat to Elizabeth’s rule. Still popular, respected Queen and no desire to overthrow her or her government.                   
  • However rebellion does suggest Elizabeth’s authority over court became weaker towards end of reign.1590s, no longer using patronage as effectively as she had in the past.                       
  • Instead of balancing different groups at court, let the Cecils become too popular while failing to promote others. Led to build up of anger and resentment, which risked fuelling challenges to her authority – like Essex’s revolt.                                                                        
  • Conflict at the court in the 1590s made Elizabeth’s government less effective. Constant competition and in-fighting between groups made more difficult to make decisions and get things done.
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Religious Changes Meant Less Support For Poor

  • 1536 - 1541, Henry VIII closed down England’s monasteries and sold off most of their land (dissolution of the monasteries).     
  • The monasteries had performed important social functions, including providing support for many poor, ill and disabled poor.
  • The dissolution of the monasteries removed valuable source of assistance for people need.                                                                                                       
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Population Growth Led To Rising Prices

  • In 16th century, England’s birth rate and death rate fell. Led to huge population growth – during Elizabeth’s reign, population went from 3 million to 4 million.
  • Food production didn’t keep pace with growth in population so food prices rose, sometimes food shortages.                                                                                                       
  • Prices for foods and other goods rose faster than wages. Standards for living fell as many struggled to afford necessities, many forced into poverty.                               
  • Because of rapid population growth, growing competition for land so rents increased. Trend made worse by changes in farming practices.
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Developments In Agriculture Left Many Unemployed

  • Traditional farming methods involved many farmers renting strips of land in large open fields. This was subsistence-level farming – each farmer only grew enough crops to supply himself and his family.                
  • This kind of farming inefficient,16th century, landowners began changing farming techniques to try and make more money for land. Instead of sharing open fields among many farmers, enclosed these fields to create a few large farms.                            
  • These new enclosed farms required fewer labourers, so farmers who rented land evicted, leaving them unemployed and homeless.
  • Exporting wool to Europe more profitable than selling grain, so many landowners stopped growing grain and began sheep farming. Fall in grain production led to rising food prices. Higher risk of food shortages when there was a bad harvest.  
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Poverty Got Worse In The 1590s

  • The problem of poverty reached crisis point towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign.
  • Late 1580s and 1590s,England suffered several failed harvests, led to several food shortages and higher food prices.
  • Pushed more people into extreme poverty – in some areas, starved to death.
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The Government Became More Involved In Poor Relief

  • Traditionally, main source of support for poor was charity – rich made donations to hospitals, monasteries and other organisations that helped the poor.
  • However, during Elizabeth’s reign tproblem of poverty became so bad that donations weren’t enough.                                                                                 
  • People began to realise society as a whole had to take responsibility for helping poor so government began to take action to tackle the problem. 
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Believed The Poor Could Be Split Into Categories

  • The helpless poor – Those who are unable to support themselves, including young orphans, the elderly, sick, or disabled.                                                                                                        
  • The deserving poor – People who wanted to work but couldn't to find job in hometown or village.                               
  • The undeserving poor – Beggars, criminals and people who refused to work.
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The Poor Laws Gave Help To Helpless And Deserving

  • 1560s onwards, government brought in series of Poor Laws to deal with growing problems of poverty.                                                                                                       
  • Voluntary donations no longer sufficient to fund poor,1560s, government passed Poor Law which introduced a tax to raise money for poor.                                                         
  • Further Poor Laws passed in 1597 and 1601 in response to poverty crisis of the 1590s. Under these laws, tpoor rate became a national system of compulsory taxation. Collected locally by official overseer of poor.                                                                              
  • Poor rates used to provide hospitals and housing for elderly, sick, and disabled. Poor children given apprenticeships, lasted at least 7 years, local authorities expected to provide financial support or work for deserving poor. Poor people sent to prison if refuse to take work.
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The Undeserving Poor Were Treated Harshly

  • Under the Poor Laws of the 1590s, undeserving poor were to be publicly whipped and forced to return to their home parish.
  • Repeat offenders sent to prison.                                                                        
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The Gentry Became Richer During Elizabeth’s Reign

  • Population growth & changes in farming practices good for landowners, especially members of the gentry. 
  • Enclosures meant land was farmed more efficiently. At same time, rents increasing and prices of agricultural products like grain rising. Landowners earning a lot more money from land.     
  •  As a result, land owning gentry much wealthier during Elizabeth’s reign & members of nobility also saw incomes increase.   
  • Growth of towns and the development of national and international trade allowed some merchants to become very rich. Often used money to buy land and became part of the gentry. 
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Some Members Of The Elite Built New Houses

  • From 1570s, many members of gentry and nobility improved homes or built new ones. This is sometimes called great rebuilding. 
  • These building projects enabled members of elite to show off wealth. New houses often had many large windows – glass very expensive so using lots of it = sign of prosperity. Large landscaped gardens also a popular way to display wealth.                     
  • The ‘Great Rebuilding’ improved living standards for the wealthy because the new houses much more comfortable. The large windows made lighter and bigger chimneys, fireplaces meant better heated. 
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Art, Literature And Education Highly Fashionable

  • Nobility and gentry had money to spend on elaborate decorations for homes. Portraits, miniatures (very small portraits), tapestries and embroidery all popular.               
  • Also fashionable to take interest in literature – some collected large libraries, & members of elite supported works of poets & playwrights. Elite support playwrights and acting companies contributed to flourishing of Elizabethan theatre.
  • More could afford to give children education. Some noble families employed private tutor. More children from nobility & gentry went to grammar schools and university.                                 
  •  Members of elite wore elaborate clothing to show off wealth & status. Made off expensive fabrics with detailed embroidery. Womens' dresses = full sleeves, large skirt, supported by hoop skirt which gave it shape. Men and women wore wide, ruffled collars, called ruffs.  
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No Permanent Theatres In England Until 1570s

  • At start of Elizabeth’s reign, England didn’t have permanent theatres. Instead, companies of actors travelled around, performing in village squares or courtyards of inns.          
  • First theatres built in London in 1570s. Included The Theatre & The Curtain. Usually round, open-air buildings with raised stage that stretched out into audience (‘apron stage’).      
  • The stage usually had roof, called the ‘heavens’. Actors could be lowered onto stage from heavens or enter through trapdoor in stage floor. Also several entrances at back of the stage. Behind the stage was the ‘tiring house’ where actors got dressed and waited to enter.        
  •  Some theatres very large – The Globe could hold up to 3000 people. Poorer audience members, called ‘groundlings’, stood in open yard around stage, while richer people sat under cover around the theatre’s walls.  
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Elizabeth’s Reign Was ‘Golden Age’ For Playwrights

  • Plays performed by acting companies. Often worked on shareholder system, where members of company contributed to costs and received share of its profits. Two of important Elizabethan companies = Admiral’s men & Lord Chamberlain’s Men (Shakespeare’s company). 
  • Women weren’t allowed to perform onstage so actors all male – boys played female roles. One of the most famous actors was Richard Burbage. Member of Lord Chamberlain’s Men and played lead in many of Shakespeare’s plays.
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Theatre Very Popular, But Faced Some Opposition

  • Theatre appealed to both rich and poor. Ticket prices started at 1p, affordable for most people. However, different social groups sat in different parts of theatre and didn’t usually mix.   
  • Elizabeth enjoyed plays – never attended public theatre, but often had plays performed at court. Supported favourite performers and even set up acting company, The Queen’s Men.       
  • The City of London authorities opposed to it as they thought was disruptive and encouraged crime. As result, many theatres, including The Globe, built just outside the city of Southwark.   
  • Some members of Elizabeth’s government were worried that theatre may be used to spread pro-Catholic/anti-government messages. As theatre grew in popularity, government introduced censorship measures to try and control what playwrights wrote.                                  
  • Many Puritans also opposed the theatre because they thought that it encouraged immorality.
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English Slow To Take Interest In Exploration

  • The Portuguese and Spanish first to explore the world beyond Europe. By the time Elizabeth became Queen in 1558, both countries has established many colonies in America.            
  • It was only from the 1560s that English sailors began to take an interest in global exploration. 
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Explorers Attracted By The Economic Opportunities

  • Spanish trade with American colonies, successful – treasure ships returned to Europe full of silver & gold. Wealth of region attracted English privateers (men who sailed own vessels) who hoped to get rich by trading with Spanish colonies & raiding Spanish settlements & ships.                                   
  • John Hawkins = first English privateer to take part in Atlantic slave trade. 1560s, made 3 slave-trading voyages. 2 of these trips, bought slaves in West Africa, and sold them to Spanish colonies in American.                                    
  • The Spanish didn’t want English sailors to trade with Spanish colonies, so his activities fuelled growing tensions between England and Spain.               
  • Hawkins’ first two voyages very profitable, but on last expedition, confronted by Spanish ships in battle of San Juan de Ulúa and most of his fleet destroyed.                                       
  • From 1570s, English merchants interested in trade with Asia, began exploring routes to region. 
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Francis Drake, Second Man To Sail Around The World

  • Francis Drake was John Hawkins’ cousin & travelled with Hawkins on two of his slave trading expeditions. 1577 – 1580, Drake circumnavigated the world.                                       
  • Drake probably wasn’t trying to sail around world. Seems was sent by Elizabeth to explore coast of South America, looking for opportunities for English colonies and trade. May have planned to make money by raiding Spanish colonies & treasure ships.                                      
  • Drake explored South American coastline, raiding many Spanish settlements as he went. In the Pacific, captured two very valuable Spanish ships. In order to get treasure home safely, had to return by different route. Spanish sent ships to intercept him off the South American coast, so couldn’t return the way he came.                                                              
  • Instead, Drake sailed west, across the Pacific to Indonesia. Then made way across Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope and back to England.                                                       
  • When he returned, Drake was knighted by Elizabeth aboard his ship, The Golden Hind. The royal recognition and vast wealth Drake brought back from the journey, encouraged more English sailors to set out on long-distance journeys. 
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Drake’s Circumnavigation Was A Huge Achievement

  • Drake’s expedition was only second successful global circumnavigation, and first by English sailor.             
  • Navigating across vast oceans = difficult. Elizabethan sailors knew how to use sun and stars to work out how far north or south of equator they were (latitude) but couldn’t measure how far east or west travelled (longitude).                                                   
  • Many of places Drake visited never explored by European sailors before so no detailed maps or charts to help him navigate.                                                                                             
  • Many sailors died of disease during long journeys – one of Drake’s ships had to be abandoned after crossing Atlantic as so many of crew died.                                                                    
  • Bad weather could blow ships off course or sink them. Storms destroyed one of Drake’s ships as attempted to sail around bottom of South America and forced them to turn back.   
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Raleigh’s Attempts To Colonise Virginia Failed

  • Walter Raleigh was member of gentry family from Devon. Family involved with internal exploration. Raleigh first visited America, 1978.Powerful position in court (favourite).       
  • 1584, Elizabeth gave Raleigh permission to explore & colonise unclaimed territories. Wanted him to establish a colony on the Atlantic coast of North America.                                      
  • 1585, Raleigh sent 108 settlers to establish permanent colony on Roanoke Island, Virginia (after Queen Elizabeth, Virgin Queen). Settlers ran low on supplies and when Drake visited in 1586, many abandoned colony and returned to England.                                                       
  • Second group of planters reached Roanoke, 1587. Expecting supplies from England 1588, but fleet delayed by Spanish Armada.                                             
  • When supply ships reached Roanoke in 1590, planters had disappeared and never found. Known as ‘Lost Colony’.                                                                      
  • Raleigh partly responsible for colony’s failure – funds too limited and project poorly planned. Other factors like bad luck and lack of supplies played a part.   
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Raleigh’s Career Had Ups And Downs

  • Despite his failure, Raleigh still favourite.                                       
  • 1592, disgraced when Elizabeth found out he secretly married one of her ladies-in-waiting. Was banished from court and briefly imprisoned.
  • Wasn’t end of career, after release continued to play important role in politics. Became member of parliament and still heavily involved with Royal Navy.      
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Constant Religious Changes Since 1530s

  • When Elizabeth became queen (1558), England  suffered years of religious turmoil with national region switching repeatedly between Catholicism and Protestantism.
  • Henry VIII – Until 1530s, England was Catholic but Henry rejected Pope’s authority and made himself head of the Church of England.                                                  
  • Edward VI – Strong supporter of Protestantism and tried to reform English Church to make more Protestant.                                                                                                                   
  • Mary I – Devout Catholic. Made England Catholic – restored Pope as head of Church and removed Edward’s Protestant reform. Protestants harshly persecuted under Mary (280+ executed, many fled to Protestant countries in Europe).                                                          
  • Elizabeth raised as Protestant and deeply religious, determined to end disagreement by creating stable, lasting religious settlement.   
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Act Of Supremacy Gave Elizabeth Control Of Church

  • Henry VIII and Edward VI had used title Supreme Head of the Church of England.
  • In her Act of Supremacy (passed 1559) Elizabeth altered title to make herself Supreme Governor of English Church.    
  •  Gave Elizabeth control over English Church without calling her it’s ‘Head’. Compromise satisfied those who thought woman couldn’t lead Church. 
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Act Of Uniformity Made Moderate Protestant Reforms

  • The Act of Uniformity and Royal Injunctions (both passed 1559) imposed moderate Protestant reforms on English Church but made some concessions to English Catholics. 
  •  Reforms – Going church compulsory (fined for missing), new Book of Common Prayer issued (had to be used in all Churches), all parishes had to have copy of Bible in English.
  • Wording of communion service kept deliberately vague to be accepted by both, churches allowed to keep decorations and priest had to wear certain Catholic vestments (robes).
  • Religious settlement made England a Protestant country with some elements of Catholic belief and practice. The middle way designed to satisfy majority who held moderate religious beliefs and willing to make compromises for peace and stability. Couldn’t win over extreme Catholic or Puritans.  
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Mary, Queen Of Scots - Strong Claim To Throne

  • Mary only child of James V of Scotland. Related to Tudors through grandmother, Margaret Tudor.
  • Margaret was Henry VIII’s sister, wife of James IV and mother of James V.
  • As granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, Mary had strong claim to English throne. Mary was Catholic so claim supported by English Catholics.                                        
  • Mary became Queen of Scotland in 1542, when she was six days old. Her mother acted as regent (ruled on behalf) while Mary was raised in France.
  • 1558, when Mary was 15, married heir to French Throne. Husband died 1560, Mary returned to Scotland.                                                          
  • Mary wanted to be heir but Elizabeth scared would encourage Catholic plots (at home and abroad) to overthrow her and make Mary queen.   
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Mary Fled To England In 1568

  • 1565, Mary married Scottish nobleman Lord Darnley. Unhappy marriage. Darnley hated Mary’s personal security David Rizzio, thought were having an affair. 1566, group of Scottish nobles (including Darnley) stabbed Rizzio to death.
  • 1567, Darnley murdered. Many believed Mary and close friend, Earl of Bothwell responsible. Suspicions confirmed when two married a few months later.                         
  • Marriage unpopular with Scottish nobles, who rebelled against Mary. Imprisoned her and forced her to abdicate (give up throne) in favour of 1 year old son, James. 1568, Mary escaped prison and raised army. Forces defeated in battle and she fled to England. 
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Mary Was Imprisoned But Still Posed A Threat

  • Mary hoped Elizabeth would help her regain control of Scotland. Elizabeth was not willing to do this. Mary’s claim to throne meant there would be constant threat of invasion from north.      
  • Instead, Elizabeth had Mary imprisoned and set up inquiry to investigate whether involved in Darnley’s murder.                                                                                     
  • Elizabeth didn’t want enquiry to find Mary guilty. Guilty verdict would lend support to actions of Scottish nobles, who had overthrown Mary, their legitimate Queen.                                       
  • Enquiry didn’t reach verdict, so Elizabeth kept Mary in captivity. Hoped imprisoning Mary would prevent her becoming centre of Catholic plots. 
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The Northern Nobles Unhappy For Several Reasons

  • Many northern nobles still committed Catholics. Wanted to see restoration of Catholicism in England under Catholic monarch. Arrival of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1568, gave hope Elizabeth would be replaced with Mary.   
  • Elizabeth confiscated large areas of land from the Earl of Northumberland and shared them between Northumberland’s main rival in north and southern protestant. Northumberland also angry Elizabeth claimed all profits from copper mines discovered on his estates.                         
  • Elizabeth reduced power of northern nobles and increased control in north. Did through Council of North which helped govern region. Under Elizabeth, Council controlled by southern Protestants. Northern nobles deeply resented this.
  • The northern nobles blamed Elizabeth’s advisers for these policies. Believed some privy councillors, especially Cecil, too powerful. Wanted to remove evil councillors and replace with men more sympathetic to their interests.              
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The Northern Rebellion Broke Out In November 1569

  • 1569, Duke of Norfolk (wealthiest landowner in England) hatched a plan to marry Mary & have her recognised as Elizabeth’s heir. Plan supported by Catholic nobles, including Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland as meant Elizabeth succeeded by Catholic queen.        
  • When plan uncovered, Earls feared execution for involvement. In desperate attempt to escape punishment, rebelled and tried to overthrow Elizabeth.               
  • November 1569, the Earls captured Durham, where celebrated Catholic Mass in cathedral. Then marched south, probably making for Tutbury in Derbyshire, where Mary was imprisoned.
  • Before rebels reached Tutbury, large royal army forced them to retreat. Many of troops deserted and two Earls fled to Scotland. Elizabeth showed rebels little mercy. Westmorland fled abroad but Northumberland was executed, as were at least 400 rebel troops.  
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The Revolt Was Serious Threat To Elizabeth’s Rule

  • Northern Rebellion was most serious rebellion of Elizabeth’s reign. Posed major threat to Elizabeth’s rule & showed danger Mary represented rallying point for English Catholics. 
  • News of rebellion created widespread fear amongst English Protestants about threat posed by Catholics and contributed to growing anti-Catholic feelings. Views fuelled by memories of harsh persecution of Protestants during reign of Queen Mary I.                                                 
  • Little support for revolt among rest of Catholic nobility and ordinary people – when given choice between Elizabeth and their religion, most Catholics chose to support Queen. 1569 -70, last time English Catholics tried to remove Elizabeth by force.
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The Pope Expelled Elizabeth From The Catholic Chur

  • 1570, Elizabeth excommunicated (expelled from Catholic Church) by Pope. This meant Catholics no longer had to obey Elizabeth and were encouraged to overthrow her.           
  • Together with the Northern Rebellion, the excommunication changed Elizabeth’s attitude towards Catholics. Now seen as potential traitors, so Elizabeth & her government became less tolerant of recusancy (refusal to go Church) by Catholics.
  • In response to excommunication, Parliament passed the Treasons Act in 1571. Under this Act, anyone who claimed that Elizabeth wasn’t England’s legitimate ruler could face death penalty.  
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Missionary Priests Strengthened English Catholic

  • 1568, William Allen found a missionary college at Douai (now in France) to train English Catholic priests. Once trained, missionary priests would return to England and secretly minister to English Catholics. First missionary priests reached England, 1574.                                    
  • 1580, missionaries, Robert Parsons and Edmund Campion (both trained at missionary college, Rome) entered country. Campion executed for treason in December 1581.                               
  • 1560s, Elizabeth tolerated recusancy as believed English Catholicism would gradually die out as religious settlement became more firmly established. 
  •  However, arrival of missionary priests from 1570s changed things, with support of these highly-committed missionaries, unlikely Catholicism in England would fade away on its own. The strengthening of Catholicism was major threat to religious settlement.
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Catholic Plots Aimed To Put Mary On English Throne

  • 1571-1585, several Catholic plots to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. Included Ridolfi Plot (1571), the Throckmorton Plot (1583), and the Babington Plot (1586).          
  • Ridolfi Plot – Letters sent by Mary implicated her in Ridolfi Plot. 1572, Parliament urged Elizabeth to execute Mary for part in plot. Elizabeth refused as was someone who was legitimate monarch.                                                                                                  
  • Plots involved Catholic conspirators in England and Europe. Supported by Pope and Catholic rulers, especially King Philip II of Spain.                                                                                 
  • Plots were real threat to Elizabeth’s rule and religious settlement. Mary’s strong claim to throne made them seem credible, and Philip II’s involvement meant there was a risk it could lead to a Spanish invasion.                                                                                                            
  • None of plots succeeded. Partly because little public support for Catholic revolution. By 1580s, Elizabeth’s Principle Secretary, Francis Walsingham established highly efficient spy network, ensured plots were uncovered before carried out. 
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Persecution Of Catholics Increased In 1580s

  • 1584, Dutch Protestant leader, William the Silent, assassinated by Catholic. Combined with arrival of missionary priests and Catholic plots against Elizabeth made government more concerned about Catholic threat in England.                
  • Persecution of Catholics increased. Anti-Catholic laws of 1581 and 1585 led to execution of 120+ Catholic priests and deaths of many more in prison. Anti-Catholic laws enforced more strictly than earlier in Elizabeth’s reign, 1585, Parliament passed two new laws:                  
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, wouldn’t be allowed to be Queen if Elizabeth was assassinated. Hoped would put stop to plots involving Mary.                           
  • Missionary priests had 40 days to leave the country. Any priests who didn’t leave could be executed, as could anyone who tried to help them.                  
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The Babington Plot Led To The Execution Of Mary

  • 1586, Walsingham used spy network to gather evidence of Mary, Queen of Scots’ involvement in Babington plot. Intercepted and decoded Mary’s letters, including one which approved plans to assassinate Queen and free Mary from prison.                                                           
  • Mary implicated in Catholic plots before but Elizabeth refused to take action against her. Evidence gathered finally convinced Elizabeth to put her on trial.                                             
  • October 1586, Mary found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Despite guilty verdict, Elizabeth reluctant to execute Mary. Parliament and Privy Council believed execution vital to weaken Catholic threat and protect religious settlement so put pressure on Elizabeth to sign Mary’s death warrant.                                                                                                                 
  • After hesitating for several months, Elizabeth eventually agreed to the execution. Mary executed on 8th February 1587  
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Mary’s Execution Reduced Threat From Catholics

  • The execution of Mary, removed Catholic threat to Elizabeth at home.
  • English Catholics now had no one to rally around and lost hope in overthrowing Elizabeth and reversing religious settlement.
  • No more major Catholic plots during Elizabeth’s reign.  
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Mary’s Execution Increased Threat Abroad

  • 1587, relations with Spain at low point – two countries now at war over Netherlands, King Philip II had been preparing for attack on England since 1585, Mary’s execution made situation worse. Philip now more determined to invade.            
  • Danger that Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland would seek revenge for his mother’s death. Fears he would form an alliance with other Catholic powers in order to invade England.       
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Puritans Wanted To Make English Church More Protes

  • Puritans = committed Protestants. For them, religious settlement of 1559, only first step in purifying Church of England. Wanted further reforms to make Church more Protestant. 
  • Strongly anti-Catholic and wanted to remove all traces of Catholicism from the Church.              
  • Believed preaching (explaining word of God) very important. Thought all priests should be well-educated so could preach. At time unusual as many priests lacked education and didn’t preach at all.             
  • Puritans also encouraged education of ordinary people, so tcould read and understand the Bible for themselves. Very strict and godly living (obeying all God’s commandments).               
  • Some Puritans radical, wanted to get rid of Church hierarchy which was threat to Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church – head of hierarchy
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The ‘Prophesying’ Taught Priests How To Preach

  • By 1570s, Puritans were concerned about lack of educated Priests able to preach. So introduced ‘Prophesying’ – training to teach priests how to preach.                 
  • Elizabeth thought ‘prophesying’ would encourage more Puritan opposition to religious settlement. 1576, ordered Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Grindal, to put a stop to them.      
  • Grindal (a moderate Puritan) thought ‘prophesying’ was good for the Church so refused to obey order. Made Elizabeth furious so she suspended Grindal and put him under house arrest.                                                    
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Archbishop Whitgift Tried To Suppress Puritanism

  • 1583, Grindal died and Elizabeth made John Whitgift Archbishop of Canterbury. With Elizabeth’s support, Whitgift launched attack on Puritan clergy – all priests had to accept regulations of Church of England or face suspension. Between 200 and 300 Puritan priests were suspended.                                                                   
  • Whitgift’s campaign made some Puritans feel there was no hope in reforming Church of England. Instead, decided to break away and form separate church. His campaign also faced some opposition from Privy Council and Parliament. Elizabeth overcame this by threatening to dismiss council members who opposed it and refusing to let Parliament discuss the matter.    
  • Puritan separatists seen as major threat to religious settlement. Government introduced censorship laws to prevent them spending their ideas and in 1590 several of their leaders were arrested.   
  • Threat from Puritan separatists probably wasn’t as serious as Elizabeth and her government thought. Weren’t many of them and didn’t have support from powerful members or elite. Most Puritans were moderates who worked within the Church of England.        
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There Were Tensions With Spain

  • King Philip II of Spain was married to Queen Mary I of England & two countries had been allies. Elizabeth and Philip tried to maintain good relations but tension grew.         
  • Political – Spain was great imperial power. In Europe, Philip ruled Spain, the Netherlands, parts of Italy and (from 1581) Portugal. Also had large empire in the Americas. By 1570s, England started to have ambitions for an empire of its own. Led to growing rivalry and tension between the two countries.
  • Religious – Philip was devout Catholic and disliked Elizabeth’s religious settlement. Became involved in Catholic plots against Elizabeth in 1570s and 80s which damaged Elizabeth’s trust. 
  • Economic – Elizabeth encouraged privateers to trade illegally with Spanish colonies, raid Spanish ships & attack the treasure fleets carrying gold and silver from the Americas to Spain.
  • 1560s, English fleet, commanded by John Hawkins traded with Spanish colonies although Spain banned them from doing so. Led to Battle of San Juan de Ulúa in 1568. Francis Drake raided many Spanish colonies in South America during his round-the-world voyage of 1577-80.                     
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England & Spain Went To War Over Netherlands

  • 1581, Protestant rebels in Netherlands declared independence from Spain. 1584, rebel leader, William the Silent, was assassinated, and revolt in danger of being defeated. 
  • Elizabeth decided to help rebels – 1585 signed Treaty of Nonsuch, which promised military assistance. Religious, economic and military factors influenced her decision:                             
  • Elizabeth wanted to protect Dutch Protestantism & prevent Philip forcing Catholicism on Netherlands.                   
  • English exports to Europe vital to English economy & many English goods reached European market via Dutch ports, especially Antwerp. Elizabeth needed to ensure English merchants would have access to Dutch ports.                         
  • If rebels defeated, Philip may use Netherlands as base for invasion of England.                         
  • Philip saw Treaty of Nonsuch as declaration of war on Spain. In response, began building huge fleet (an Armada) that he planned to use to invade England.                                                     
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Drake - Disrupt Spanish Preparations For Armada

  • Elizabeth sent Drake to spy on Spanish preparations & attack ships & supplies. April 1587, Drake attacked Spanish port of Cadiz. Destroyed up to 30 ships and seized many tonnes of supplies.                                                                         
  • Delayed Armada by more than a year. Obtaining fresh supplies and weapons were very expensive and seriously strained Spain’s finances.                                                                   
  •  During his raid, Drake captured planks made from seasoned wood, which needed to make barrels used to carry food and water.                                                                                         
  • As a result, Spanish made barrels from unseasoned wood, couldn’t preserve food & water very well. Caused supply problems for Armada and affected morale of Spanish troops and sailors. Fresh water supplies were lost and many tons of food rotted as fleet sailed to England in 1588.   
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Armada Planned To Meet Duke Of Parma At Dunkirk

  • By spring 1588, Spanish Armada complete and Philip ready to launch his ‘Enterprise of England’. Armada was a huge fleet of up to130 ships, manned by almost 8000 sailors and carrying an estimated 18,000 soldiers.
  •  Philip appointed Duke of Medina Sidonia to lead Armada. Philip respected Duke’s high social status & trusted him to obey instructions. However, the Duke had little military or naval experience and tried unsuccessfully to turn down the command.                                                
  • The Spanish had thousands more soldiers stationed in the Netherlands under the leadership of the Duke of Parma. Philip’s plan was for Armada to meet Parma’s army at Dunkirk. The combined forced would then sail across the Channel to England under the protection of Armada’s warships.           
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The Armada Reached The English Channel In July 158

  • The Armada set out in May 1588, but delayed for several weeks by bad weather in the Bay of Biscay and by attempts of the English fleet to intercept it. 
  • July, Spanish fleet sighted of Cornwall and beacons (signal fires) lit along the south coast to send news to Elizabeth in London. English ships set sail from Plymouth to meet Armada.         
  • Armada sailed up Channel in crescent formation. Effective defective strategy which used large, armed gallons to protect weaker supply and troop ships.                                         
  • The English navy carried out a few minor raids but unable to inflict much damage.                            
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English Attacked Spanish At Calais & Gravelines

  • Having sailed up Channel, Medina Sidonia anchored at Calais to wait for Parma’s men and troops. However, Parma and his men were being blockaded by Dutch ships and weren’t able to reach the coast in time.                                                               
  • In middle of the night, English sent eight fireships (ships loaded with flammable materials & set on fire) amongst the anchored ships. Caused panic among Spanish sailors, who cut their anchor cables, broke their defensive formation and headed for open sea.
  • The Spanish ships regrouped at Gravelines but weather made impossible for them to return to their defensive position at Calais. The English moved in, following battle lasted for many hours. Five Spanish ships were sunk & rest of fleet forced to sail away from French coast and into North Sea.                                                                                                         
  •  An English fleet followed the Spanish at far north as Scotland to ensure didn’t regroup and return to collect Parma’s army.
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The Armada’s Journey Back To Spain Was A Disaster

  • Medina Sidonia decided to call off attack on England & return to Spain by sailing around Scotland and Ireland. Spanish sailors unfamiliar with very dangerous route and encountered several powerful Atlantic storms.            
  • Many ships sank or wrecked on Scottish & Irish coasts where local inhabitants showed survivors little mercy. Those ships that completed the journey ran short on supplies and many men died of starvation and disease. In all, less than half fleet and fewer than 10,000 men made it back to Spain.                                        
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Factors Contributing To Defeat Of The Armada

  • English strengths:
  • English improved ship building, giving several technological advantages. Spain relied on large ships - heavy & difficult to handle whereas English built long, narrow ships - faster and easier to handle. English cannons could be reloaded faster than Spanish.                         
  • English tactics more effective as Spanish aimed to come alongside  opponents, board vessels & overcome enemy in hand to hand fighting. Spanish couldn’t use tactic against English as used greater mobility to stay out of range. Instead of boarding Spanish ships, English fired broadsides (massive barrages of cannonballs) which could sink them.               
  • Spanish weaknesses:                  
  • Most Spain’s men lacked experience of naval warfare but English fleet manned by experienced sailors.                                                                         
  • Spanish plan to meet Duke of Parma at Dunkirk was flawed. Spain didn’t control deep water port where Armada could anchor safely so ships extremely vulnerable to attack while waited for Parma’s troop to escape Dutch blockade.                                                                                                                                                                                                            
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Factors Contributing To Defeat Of The Armada

  • Luck:                                                                                                                                  
  • The death of Spain’s leading admiral, Santa Cruz, February 1588, led to appointment of inexperienced Duke of Medina Sidonia to lead Armada.               
  • Weather made it impossible for Spanish fleet to return to Channel after battle of Gravelines, forcing it to travel into dangerous waters off the Scottish and Irish coasts. 
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England’s Victory Removed Threat Of Spanish Invasi

  • Philip sent two further Armadas in 1590s but both unsuccessful. Although war with Spain continued for 15 years, Armada of 1588 was last serious Spanish threat to Elizabeth’s throne. 
  • The victory of 1588 contributed to England’s development as a strong naval power to rival Spain. English ships went on many voyages of discovery and established valuable trade routes, especially with India and Far East. By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, the navy was also playing an important role in attempts to set up English colony in North America.                                       
  • The English victory boosted Elizabeth’s popularity and strengthened the Protestant cause – seen as sign that God favoured Protestantism. 
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