How serious were religious divisions in England during the reign of James I?
The Anglican Church and Puritanism, James I’s attitude, the Hampton Court Conference, the development of Arminianism, the growth of a Puritan opposition, attitudes to Catholics.
The Anglican Church / Church of England - The national church was created by Elizabeth I in 1559. It took parts of catholic worship and parts of protestant worship to create a broad and tolerant church in which all but the most extreme Catholics and Puritans could worship in.
Protestant - A type of Christianity which thought the Catholic church was corrupt and did not accept the Pope as God's representative on earth. This was the majority of the English population at this time.
Puritan - Extreme Protestants. Puritans took their religion very seriously. They hated Catholics and wanted all elements of catholicism removed from the CofE.
Catholic - Christians who thought that the Pope was God's representative on earth. Because the Pope was not English this meant their loyalties were divided between their King and their God. Catholics made up less than 7% of the population of England.
Arminian - A new Christian religious group who were more 'high-church' than most in the Church of England. Their way of worship looked like Catholicism to many people as it was very decorative which made people suspicious. Arminians were useful to the monarch because they were very loyal to the king.
Timeline of Key Religious Events (Part 1)
1603 - James I becomes King of England.
1603 - Puritans present the Millenary Petition - a list of their demands for reform
1604 - James meets Puritans at the Hampton Court Conference for discussion
1604 - Archbishop Bancroft issues Canons (church laws)
1605 - Extreme Catholics carry out the Gunpower Plot to try and kill James
1606 - The Oath of Allegiance is drawn up to separate moderates from extreme Catholics.
Timeline of Key Religious Events (Part 2)
1610 - George Abbott is made Archbishop of Canterbury, pleasing Puritans
1611 - A new Bible is issued, the King James Bible
1618 - Book of Sports allows games on Sundays, angering Puritans.
1618 - Thirty Years War breaks out in Europe causing anti-Catholicism to increase
1622 - Preachers ordered to stop mentioning foreign policy in sermons.
1623 - Charles and Buckingham visit Madrid to try and arrange the Spanish Match
1625 - James dies.
Overview of Religion under James I
1) Because James was brought up as a Calvinist yet had a Catholic mother, he was met with demands from Puritans and Catholics at the beginning of his reign as both thought he would be sympathetic. His handling of opposition groups in England, at the Hampton Court Conference (1604) and after the Gunpowder Plot (1605) allowed James to stamp his authority on the English Church. Between 1603 and 1610 James showed that he was able to manage the religious situation with skill and sensitivity.
2) The period between 1610 and 1618 was generally quiet as James successfully consolidated his control over the Church using his Bishops.
3) However, from 1618 to 1625 events in Europe made religious harmony harder to maintain in England. The outbreak of the Thirty Years War and the rise of Arminianism increased anti-Catholic feeling in England and made religion an explosive issue. The Puritan voice was becoming stronger in parliament and protested against James's foreign policy which they saw as too generous to foreign Catholic powers.
James's Aims for Religion
1) Keep the Church of England broad and tolerant so that all the different religious groups in England feel comfortable worshipping within it.
2) Separate moderate Catholics and Puritans from the extremists who refuse to accept his authority.
3) Ensure that any religious problems do not affect his relationship with parliament.
Religious Situation in 1603
The Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 had made England a Protestant country with a national Church called the Church of England.
Elizabeth had tried to make the Church broad and tolerant by taking elements of Catholic worship and elements of Protestant worship. This was to keep everyone happy. Everyone in the country was ordered to attend a Church of England service on Sundays. Most people were satisfied and this brought a period of religious stability to England after the religious rollercoaster under the previous Tudors.
About 7% of the population were Catholic. Some were willing to go to the Church of England services and practiced Catholicism in private. However, a small minority refused to accept the authority of the monarch and go to CofE services. They were called recusants and were fined. By the end of Elizabeth's reign these fines were as much as £20 per month.
Elizabeth viewed extreme Puritans (those who wanted Bishops removed from the CofE) as the most dangerous group as she believed they threatened the authority of the Crown. Elizabeth punished anyone who spoke against the CofE.
James's views in 1603
- James was more tolerant to Catholics than Elizabeth. He liked to make compromises and be seen as a peacemaker.
- It was important to James, as a Scot and a new King, that he get as many people in Britain to be loyal to him as possible. This meant including the moderate Catholics.
- James recognised that the Pope was powerful and might turn Catholic foreign powers against him if he was too anti-Catholic.
- James was always willing to be tolerant towards those who accepted his authority and were loyal. However, he hated and feared extremists.
- Unlike Elizabeth, James recognised that there were some problems in the Church of England and was willing to consider some changes.
- James was interested in theology and liked to discuss religious issues.
1603 - Millenary Petition
- Moderate Puritans expected a lot from James I. They wanted to find out if he was willing to make reforms to the Church of England to improve it.
- 1000 clergy signed the Millenary Petition presented to James I in 1603.
- The petition acknowleged that James I was the Head of the Church and made only moderate demands so it was not a threat to James.
The main demands were:
- Changes should be made to church services including not using the cross during baptism, not bowing at the name of Jesus, and not wearing the cap and surplice.
- The quality of the clergy in England and Wales should be improved and clergy should only have to work in one parish instead of lots (pluralism).
- That excommunication from the church (expelling people) should only be used rarely and only for really important cases.
James was happy to acknowledge this petition as it showed respect to him, however he did not welcome a series of other petitions which came after it.
1604 - Hampton Court Conference
James sensibly decided to respond to the Millenary Petition by calling the Hampton Court Conference to discuss the moderate proposals made. The conference was calm as James listened to Puritan requests.
Key agreements made:
- James promised to issue a new version of the Bible (achieved in 1611)
- James promised to reduce pluralism and educate the clergy.
- James agreed the Sabbath should be observed more strictly.
- James agreed that excommunication should be used only for serious cases.
- However, James was clear change would be carried out by the Bishops.
Areas of disagreement:
- A Puritan representative raised the idea of more involvement of lower clergy in organising the Church. James was angered and declared 'no Bishops, no King!' because he saw this as a threat to his authority.
- James did not get rid of the sign of the cross or the cap & surplice.
1604 - Bancroft's Canons
The Hampton Court Conference had been successful for James to assert his authority over the Church and show his sympathy to moderate Puritans. It was now crucial for James to use his Bishops to ensure everyone followed the new rules and respected his authority over the Church.
- Archbishop Bancroft issued Canons (church laws) in 1604. These defined the rules of the Church so everyone knew what was expected of them.
- The most important Canon was 36. It required the clergy to declare loyalty to James as Head of the Church and use the Book of Common Prayer.
- Only about 90 out of 9,000 (1%) clergy refused to agree and left the Church. This showed that the majority were satisfied with James.
- James was willing to turn a blind eye to some clergy who agreed with Article 36 but would not carry out other parts of services such as wearing the cap.
- However, some moderate Puritans continued to make petitions for more changes but James ignored them and took a tough line against them.
- Also, while parliament was in session from 1604 to 1610 some Puritan MPs made calls for the 90 clergy who had been asked to leave to be brought back.
James and the Church of England from 1610 - 1618
- Richard Bancroft had not been sympathetic to Puritans. He died and was replacement in 1610 by George Abbott who tried to reduce divisions in the Church and was therefore popular with Puritans.
- The Authorised Version of the Bible was released in 1611. This was a great success as it was very popular and people could understand it.
- James ignored complaints from Bishops such as William Laud who was anti-Puritan and wanted to enforce his views on the Church. He carefully selected Bishops with lots of different views to keep the Church tolerant.
- However, James and the Bishops were unsuccessful at improving the quality and education of the clergy. This would require more money and Parliament were unwilling to help reform the tithes (Church taxes) system.
Generally from 1604 to 1610 James's religious policies for the Church of England were a success. The Church of England remained broad and tolerant. Most people were happy to worship within it. Most people respected James's authority as Head of the Church.
James and the Church of England from 1618 - 1625
The Declaration of Sports: In 1618 James decided to allow sports on Sundays. He thought it would appeal to Catholics who would see the CofE as more fun. However, Puritans were furious and complained so much that James did not enforce the Declaration. This showed his ability to compromise and his sensitivity to difference religious groups.
The outbreak of the Thirty Years War: War breaking out between Catholics and Protestants in Europe worried English Protestants and made them more radical and encouraged anti-Catholicism. This increased the Puritan voice in the Parliament's of 1621 and 1624. Puritans in Parliament demanded that James abandon the Spanish Match and go to war against Catholic Spain.
Directions to Preachers: James was worried by the increasing criticism of his foreign policy from a religious point of view as he felt this threatened his authority and royal prerogative. In 1622 he issued a declaration that clergy were not allowed to discuss foreign policy in their sermons (speeches) to people. This showed how important religion and the Church was to maintaining stability in England.
The Growth of Arminianism
- English Arminians were Protestants who stressed 'the beauty of holiness'.
- They respected the Catholic Church as the 'mother' of the Church of England, even though they felt it had been spoiled by corruption.
- However, to most people in Britain Arminianism meant fancy rituals and ceremonies which just looked like Catholicism and was frightening to them.
- The most prominent Arminian bishop was William Laud, who Buckingham had introduced to Court by the end of James's reign.
- Another important Arminian was Richard Montagu, who wrote about religious issues. His pamphplet 'A New Gag for an Old Goose', highlighed the Catholic origins of the English church. This produced a Puritan backlash which was debated by MP's in the Parliament of 1624.
- Puritans were increasingly concerned that Arminianism was a step towards Catholicism, and in light of the foreign policy developments and the Spanish Match began to fear that England might become Catholic.
- Although James had no intention of turning England Catholic, the fear caused by the rise of Arminianism showed how strongly people felt about religious issues and how hard James had to work to balance all of the different religious groups.
James and the Catholics (1603-1606)
- Attendance at the CofE was compulsory for everyone and those who did not attend were fined. These were called recusancy fines.
- In 1603 approximately 7% of the population were Catholic.
- Most Catholics in England accepted the authority of the English Crown.
- In 1603 James reduced the recusancy fines by 75% which pleased Catholics.
- However, Puritans in the 1604 Parliament objected and said he was encouraging the Catholics. They passed a bill asking for penal laws against Catholics to be enforced properly.
- Because James wanted to get the 1604 Parliament onside he agreed.
1605 - The Gunpower Plot
The Gunpowder Plot
- In 1605 a group of Catholics tried to dig a tunnel under the Houses of Parliament hoping to blow up both Parliament and King James.
- This resulted in James being more popular and improved relations with Parliament as they were relieved he had survived the plot.
- However, it made Parliament even more anti-Catholic.
- Parliament passed an Act in 1606 which: banned Catholics from living in or near London, banned Catholics from being lawyers, banned Catholics from important positions of responsibility, ordered Catholics to take the Oath of Allegiance, ordered Catholics to have their children baptised as Protestants, and ordered Catholics to pay recusancy fines of £20.
Impact of the Plot
- The Plot forced James to stop being as tolerant of Catholics because of the serious consequences for himself and his government.
- However, he continued to try and separate extremists from moderates.
1606 - The Oath of Allegiance, and 1614 - Addled P
The Oath of Allegiance
- James wanted to separate moderate from extreme Catholics.
- He made Catholics swear an oath which said they accepted James as the lawful King and rejected the Pope's calls to overthrow him.
- At first lots of Catholics took the Oath to prove that they were loyal to James.
- However, after the Pope said the Oath was wrong less people agreed to take it.
Catholics and the Addled Parliament
- The Howards were an important Catholic family in James's Court.
- The Howards were accused of bribing members of the 1614 Parliament and spreading rumours to cause tension between the King and Parliament.
- Also, the Spanish ambassador was very popular in Court at this time.
- Parliament became suspicious and fearful of the influence of Catholics over the King which caused mistrust.
James and Catholics - 1618-1625
- After the Thirty Years War broke out anti-Catholicism became a strong force in Britain. Public and parliamentary opinion was strongly anti-Catholic.
- Anti-Catholicism became more of a threat to James and stability than the Catholics themselves!
- In the last two Parliaments of James's reign (1621-22 and 1624-25) anti-Catholicism played a key role.
- In the 1621 Parliament, anti-Catholic feeling encouraged Parliament to comment on the proposed Spanish Match.
- The House of Commons issues the Protestation of 1621 which claimed the right to free speech. James was furious, ripped the page out of the parliamentary record and dismissed the Parliament.
- Anti-Catholic feeling also encouraged Parliament to claim the right to discuss foreign policy and possible intervention in the Thirty Years War.
- This showed that anti-Catholicism caused conflict between Parliament and the King as they became more forceful in challenging the royal prerogative on issues relating to religion.
- After the failure of the Spanish Match, anti-Catholicism in Parliament became almost hysterical - encouraged by Charles and Buckingham.
Final Summary of James and Religion
- James attempted a compromise in religion throughout his reign.
- James valued conformity and loyalty over everything else, he was happy for the Church of England to be broad and tolerant.
- He achieved this by separating moderates from extremists.
- James successfully managed to incorporate moderate Puritan and Catholic views into the Church and create a balance.
- He was particularly successful at the start of his reign, but the compromises became more difficult to maintain towards the end of his reign.
- After 1618, due to events abroad, it became very difficult to balance Puritans and Catholics due to increasing anti-Catholicism in England.
- Religion caused increasing problems in Parliament as anti-Catholicism encouraged Puritans to challenge the royal prerogative.
- The religious situation James passed onto Charles in 1625 was relatively stable, particularly considering the ongoing religious wars in Europe.
- However, there were inherent problems and even James had struggled at times to balance the different groups.
- This was to prove too much for Charles, who lacked James's sensitivity and skill when it came to managing the Church.