Parliament 1566-88

elizabeth's parliament

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Counter Neale Thesis

  • it became firmly established that Neale's Puritans choir was a figment of the imagination, based on a misunderstanding of the central piece of evidence. Some members of Neale's puritan choir were in fact the followers of members or the Privy Council.  In fact some of the individuals identified by Neale as members of the so called “Puritan Choir” were not even puritans. 
  •  the argument that the councillors influenced the MPs, in order to push their views forward. Parliament was being used by the ministers as an additional lever in their attempts to persuade their mistress to take action where she was proving reluctant to do so.
  •  there is no doubt that from time to time there was considerable discontent between the Queen and Parliament. The main opposition was over Elizabeth was over Elizabeths over her prerogative rights. Graves has demostrated beyond question that Elizabeth's parliaments never sared to challenger her royal prerogatives.
  • Elton has been able to establish that the norm was coorperation between the Crown and Commons, that the House of Lords was of much greater importance than Neale thouht and that the attempts made by the Commons were knee-jerk responses by MPs who were temporarily stung into action by being bought face to face with the inferiority of their position 
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  • religion - queen had considerable trouble in securing the settlement as the Lords had a majority of bishops committed to Catholicism. Neale had thought that the Puritans then in turn formed an organised opposition which devised parliamentary strategies and coordinated their activities in the Commons. Elizabeth however not only preserved the religious settlement unchanged but also denied Parliaments right to raise the question.  She objected to Puritan bills on the grounds that Parliament had no right to raise the questions, her display generally causes the measures to be abandoned, but not always immediately; Strickland proposed a bill to reform the prayer Book, Elizabeth's order to exclude him from the commons caused members to such angry protest that she re-admitted the offender. 
  • Marriage and succession- Elizabeth rebuked the commons in 1559 for pressuring to urger her to marry. In 1566 the commons supported the Lords apparently resolved to hold up the subside Bill until Elizabeth settled the succession. When she issued an express commandment that commons should stop discussion of the matter, Wentworth  led the members in protests in defence of liberty of free speech. Elizabeth withdrew her order and gave up 1/3rd of the subsidy but she  refused to be bound further on the marriage and succession.
  • Mary Queen of Scots-  Parliament urged her execution. Elizabeth refused to accept Parliaments right to initiate measures against a fellow monarch. the successful deamnd for her execution was made by Parliament 1586-7 the only one which did not involve conflict. 
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Neale Thesis

  • the puritan choir- this was a group of puritan MPs which Neale identified as working together in an attempt to force Elizabeth to adopt policies and to strengthen the rights of Parliament - this choir forced Elizabeth to adopt a more Protestant Settlement. 
  • he was able to identify numerous occasions of conflict - involving areas of religion foreign policy, the succession and marriage. The choir was known for stirring up trouble in 1563&66 over the Queens failure to marry or to name a successor, as well as agitating for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and the Duke of Norfolk and campaigning to reform the COE
  • Redress of grievances- 1566 the Commons attempted to postpone agreeing to the Queen's request for money until she ha satisfied their grievances. 
  • Wentworth's speech criticising Elizabeth's policies and calling for freedom of speech is evidence of parliamentary opposition. 
  • as far as Neale was concerned there could hardly be clearer evidence of the struggle for power between the monarch and parliaments lower house
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  • Parliament considered and passed a much greater number of laws than their predecessors, averaging 33 acts per session.
  • there was no substantial opposition to the great majority of its proposals. 
  • Parliament proved compliant even in areas where one might have expected members to hold strong views - subsidy bill went through easily and speedily 
  • parliament hardly ever intruded into the royal prerogative to conduct foreign policy despite the high level of Protestant discontent with Elizabeth's unwillingness to support the dutch rebels 
  • there is no evidence of a significant Puritan opposition which was willing or able to lead the commons against the crown.
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Government controlling Parliament

  • crown directly controlled the elections of a few MPs 
  • the great men who generally supported the Queen's government controlled perhaps 40% of the seats 
  • the speaker of the commons was officially elected by that House, but the candidate proposed by the government was invariably elected so he was effectively a royal nominee
  • the queen could dissolve a troublesome parliament as she did in 1567
  • In almost every case the veto was used to block bills of little political importance, but the awareness that the power existed meant that bills to which she objected were often abandoned 
  • the crown could use sedition laws forbidding the discussion of parliamentry business outside, it was under the latter that Peter Wentworth was imprisoned. 
  • numerous men who wished to attract the favour of the monarch were often keen to settle affairs quickly- opposition could not be fashioned out of such material. 
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Co-operative or not?

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Not very cooperative- view supported by Neale

  • according to neale there were quite a few puritans in Parliament who constantly put pressure on the Queen concerning her prerogative rights
  • they also tried to gain more parliamentary rights such as freedom of speech.
  • there were also instances of redress of grievances
  • there were more MPs with training in law and they were growing in confidence
  • since the Henrician Reformation Parliament had become more conscious of its own importance

Yes they were cooperative-

 Neale misunderstood the evidence- there weren't that many Puritans in Parliament 

  • instances of Parliament oppostion were instigated by royal councillors 
  • calls for freedom of speech were rare 
  • there were no real cases of redress of grievances 
  • By and large parliaments were cooperative on most issues
  • Government had control over the House
  • Parliament was loyal to the Queen
  • Neale had more evidence for Elizabeth reign cause it was so long, there would have been conflicts in other reigns
  • Any discussions etc that there was, was just part of the debating process
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