Elizabeth's Church Settlement 1559-66

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Elizabeth’s decision in 1558

  • Largely Protestant House of Commons and Privy Council
  •  House of Lords – Catholics/Marian bishops
  • Elizabeth steered a middle way, her religious bills sought to introduce a Protestant doctrine, but to keep a traditional Catholic structure
  • Wanted Uniformity – wanted to establish a national church acceptable to all
  • Wanted Conformity – conform to the demands of her religious settlement
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1559 Religious bills & Easter disputation

1559 Religious bills

  • 3 bills introduced, establish monarch as head of church, established a Protestant form of worship
  • February combined to one bill, passed by Commons but rejected by Lords
  • Lords refused to repeal Marian heresy laws

Easter disputation

  • suspended Parliament without conclusion
  • A disputation held between Catholics and Protestants
  • Catholics barely able to say their case
  • Bishops sent to tower for contempt, some bound over, so Elizabeth won dispute
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Act of Supremacy & Uniformity

Act of Supremacy

  • Elizabeth made Supreme Governor of the Church of England
  • Heresy laws repealed
  • Kept familiar hierarchical structure, Archbishop presides over
  • Passed easily in both Lords and Commons

Act of Uniformity

  • Appearance of churches focused on
  • Book of Common Prayer had to be used, punishments for those who failed to
  • Words sufficiently ambiguous to please everyone
  • Fine of one shilling if not at church
  • Passed through the Commons without trouble, struggle in the Lords. In the end, passed only because Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln still in tower
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Puritans - extreme Protestants

  • John Neale, 20th Century historian, says Elizabeth planned on being Anglo-Catholic but Puritan opposition in House of Commons forced radicalism
  • Opposition termed ‘Puritan choir’
  • Evidence for Puritan influence in 1570s and 80s but not in 1559
  • Norman Jones says 25 MPs Puritan, out of 400 in Commons so not big impact
  • greater challenges come from House of Lords
  • Royal Injunctions 1559
  • Uniformity amongst bishops
  • clergy told to denounce papal supremacy and follow Elizabeth
  • Catholic practices banned
  • Unlicensed preaching forbidden – attacked Puritans
  • English Bible
  • Clerical dress
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  • too radical for Elizabeth’s liking
  •  wanted them to represent her and enforce her decisions
  • made exiles from Mary’s reign bishops, such as Edmund Grindel
  • regarded settlements as starting point for reform
  • bishops thought they were being used as tools for the crown
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led by bishops, ensure acts enforced well, Catholic things were destroyed, not what Elizabeth wanted


had to take oath of Supremacy, 400 refused, obliged to resign, were 8000-9000 parishes at that time so number was actually low that refused

Vestiarian controversy

Archbishop Parker reprimanded clergy involved, issued ‘Book of Advertisements’, not what Elizabeth wanted so not enforced

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By 1566

Protestant settlement had been largely successful

Largely Catholics had accepted it, churches slow to accept doctrines but this fulfilled Elizabeth’s wished to not be too radical

Lower clergy had, for the most part, accepted settlement, over 8000 took oath

Position of Supreme Governor of the Church was secure and she was able to enforce her wishes through bishops relatively easily

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