Queen Elizabeth I

Summary of the Elizabeth unit for AQA History, with exam questions (for some topics).

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  • Created on: 14-04-19 10:23

Elizabeth's Background and Character

  • Elizabeth became queen in 1558, after her sister Mary's death
  • She was coronated in 1559
  • She reigned until her death in 1603
  • She was Henry VIII's second child, the daughter of Anne Boleyn - a Protestant
  • She had a difficult upbringing
  • In 1554, the was accused of conspiring against her half-sister Mary, and out under house-arrest for a year
  • She was very cautious, and only trusted a few close advisors
  • She could often be indecisive, and was unwilling to make decisions without throroughly thinking through the consequences - this was shown when she was deciding whether to sign her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots', death warrant
  • Elizabeth was also intelligent, confident, and well educated
  • She spoke multiple foreign languages
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Initially, many people didn't want Elizbeth to rule. There were two main reasons for this - her gender, and her illegitimacy


  • Most people thought the monarch should be a man, and that rule by a woman was unnatural
  • Most people expected her to act as a figurehead, without any real power. They thought she should let her male counsellors take control, or find a husband to govern for her
  • Elizabeth was determined to rule in her own right, and refused to let her counsellors take over


  • In 1533, Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon, so he could marry Anne Boleyn
  • As divorce was forbidden in the Catholic Church, many Catholics believed his marruiage to Anne Boleyn was not valid, and therefore that Elizabeth was illegitimate
  • Illegitimate children weren't usually allowed to inherit, so this weakened her claim to the throne. Some people thought Mary, Queen of Scots more right to rule
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The Elizabethan Court

  • The royal court was a large group of people who surrounded the monarch at all times
  • More than 1000 people attended the court, including her personal servants, members of the Privy Council, members of he nobility, ambassadors, other foreign visitors, and Elizabeth's favourites
  • Courtly pastimes included plays, concerts, hunting, jousting, and tennis. There were also balls, and grand meals
  • Members of the court travelled with Elizabeth when she moved between her palaces, and on progresses
  • Progresses were when Elizabeth (and her court) would travel around the country, visiting the houses of wealthy noblemen
  • Progresses gave Elizabeth an excuse to show off her power and wealth, and were a way of rewarding noblemen - they all wanted Elizabeth to stay at their house
  • The Queen was the centre of the government, and members of the court all wanted to get closer to her, in order to gain more power
  • Patronage involved handing out titles, offices or monopolies, which gave men a source of income
  • Patronage helped to ensure loyalty to Elizabeth, as those who received it became dependent on her for their wealth and status
  • She distributed patronage widely, meaning all courtiers felt that they had a chance to be rewarded, and were less likely to rebel

         Explain what was important about Elizabeth's Royal Court.                    [8 marks]

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The Privy Council

  • The Privy Council advised Elizabeth, and managed the administration of the Government
  • It was made up of her closest and most trusted advisors
  • Key members of the Privy Council included William Cecil, Robert Dudley, Francis Walsingham, and Christopher Hatton
  • Nicholas Bacon was Lord Chancellor from 1559 to 1579
  • Towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, after the deaths of many important members of the Privy Council, it began to split into two opposing groups. They were constantly competing, and disagreed over important matters. Elizabeth's inability to control this conflict undermined her authority

William Cecil

  • When she became queen (1558), she made him Prinicpal Secretary
  • 1571 - gave him the title Lord Burghley 
  • 1572 - made him Lord High Treasurer - giving him control over royal finances
  • She trusted him completely
  • Highly skilled politician
  • Moderate Protestant

Robert Dudley

  • Childhood friend of Elizabeth, she may have considered marrying him
  • 'Master of the Horse' - personally responsible for her safety
  • Radical and a Puritan
  • Often disagreed with Cecil regarding the succession, religion, and foreign policy
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Privy Council cont.

Sir Francis Walsingham

  • Fervent Puritan, and fiercely loyal to Elizabeth
  • Ally of Dudley, frequently disagreed with Cecil
  • Spy master, and in charge of her 'secret service'
  • Appointed to the Privy Council in 1573, and made Secretary of State
  • Served as an ambassador to Paris in the early 1570s

Sir Christopher Hatton

  • Elizabeth was impressed with his dancing at Court, and promoted him
  • He became a gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard
  • Moderate Protestant - hated Puritans, and sympathised with Catholics
  • Lord Chancellor in 1587 - in charge of judges and law courts

Divide and rule

  • In order to maintain control of the Privy Council, she showed affection and rewarded people, but also showed displeasure, and used a policy of 'divide and rule'
  • She appointed men who were hostile towards each other, meaning they would not work together against her
  • They gave her contrasting advice, which allowed her to carefully measure her decisions, and meant that whatever decision she made, she would always have some support
  • She excluded both Walsingham and Dudley from the council at various points, imprisoned others, and executed Norfolk and Essex for treason - this helped her to maintain control
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  • Over the course of Elizabeth's reign, Paliament was called 13 times
  • It was called twice to discuss religion, 11 times for taxes, and once to discuss the Queen's safety (once, it was called to discuss two things - hence why 2+ 11 + 1 = 14, not 13)
  • Elizabeth didn't like Parliament, and described it as an 'inconvenient necessity'
  • Elizabeth made sure she was always present at Parliament, but allowed the Privy Council to meet without her - this shows her distrust for Parliament
  • MPs became more confident during Elizabeth's reign, and argued with her more. This is partly because they were better educated than previously (over half of them had a University degree)
  • MPs often made complaints about issues that were not on the agenda, such as marriage, trading monopolies, and religious problems
  • Elizabeth had the right to block measures proposed by MPs through the royal veto
  • Elizabeth had the right to appoint the Speaker, who could control what topics were discussed, and steer the direction of the debate
  • She imposed limits on MPs' rights to speak freely, and imprisoned awkward MPs, such as Peter Wentworth (who argued for free speech)
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Parliament cont.

  • Used the Privy Council to control Parliament
  • Elizabeth could dissolve a troublesome Parliament
  • MPs were carefully considered for Parliament before they were selected
  • Many had to remain loyal to Elizabeth, as they owed their seats to the patronage of the Queen or her counsellors, meaning their behaviour and independence was severely restricted
  • Parliament was made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords
  • The House of Lords was made up of members of the nobility and senior churchmen
  • The House of Commons was elected, but only people who had property over a certain value coulde vote
  • Elections weren't free - the Crown controlled who got elected in some areas, and in others powerful local figures controlled who was chosen

Write an account of how Elizabeth used Government to gain control of England.           [8 marks]

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As many people believed that women couldn't rule effectively, she was under constant pressure to marry.

Elizabeth was reluctant to marry a European prince or king, as this would give a foreign country too much control over England

Queen Mary I's marriage to King Philip II of Spain had forced England to become involved in a expensive war with France. The marriage was also very unpopular, and led to protests

If she chose a member of the English nobility, this would create anger and resent among those who weren't chosen

The religious settlement had made England a Protestant country, so Elizabeth did not want to marry a Catholic

Elizabeth would lose power and freedom if she married, as women were expected to obey their husband

The Privy Council and Parliament were deeply concerned about marriage and the succession. They repeatedly asked her to marry or name an heir, but she refused. When they asked her to find a husband in 1563, she refused to discuss the matter

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Possible Suitors

Philip II

  • His family was England's traditional ally against France
  • Experienced ruler
  • Powerful
  • Catholic
  • Treated Mary badly
  • Mary's choice of husband (him) was so unpopular it caused rebellion

Duke of Alencon

  • They were fond of each other - after they separated, she wrote a poem, 'On Monsieur's Departure'
  • He was 20 years younger than her
  • He was Catholic
  • The Privy Council was divided
  • He was unpopular - pamphlets against the marriage were published
  • The French were unpopular - on the St Bartholemew's Day Massacre (1572), thousands of Puritans were murdered
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Possible Suitors cont.

Robert Dudley

  • He wasn't foreign
  • Many historians think she loved him
  • Within 2 years of her becoming Queen, there was a strong belief at Court that she had decided to marry him
  • Puritan
  • Trusted friend
  • He married the Countess of Essex in 1578, to Elizabeth's fury (without asking Elizabeth's permission)
  • His wife died under suspicious circumstances - it would be suspicious for him to then marry Elizabeth

Prince Eric of Sweden

  • Would provide an alliance
  • Negotiated for several years

Holy Roman Emperor Charles of Austria

  • Negotiations continued until 1567
  • Catholic
  • Didn't want to live in England - reason they didn't marry
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The Succession

  • In 1562, Elizabeth got smallpox
  • Doctors told Cecil she wouldn't survive, but she did (although her face was permanently scarred)
  • Three-way split in the Privy Council about what to do if she died
  • Parliament urged her to marry or nominate an heir after she recovered
  • She refused to do either, saying she would marry only when the time was right, and that nominating a 'second person' would only endanger her
  • Henry VIII's will confused things - it said that if all of his children died without heirs, the throne would pass to the descendants of his younger sister, Mary, the Duchess of Suffolk
  • Her granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey, was executed in 1553
  • There were still 2 younger girls, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary, both of whom were Protestant and potential heirs
  • In 1561, Elizabeth seemed to be warming to the idea of making Catherine Grey the official heir
  • Both Catherine and Mary married without Elizabeth's permission
  • Catherine was imprisoned in the Tower of London for the rest of her life, and Mary was placed under house arrest
  • However, there was a Stuart claim as well as a Suffolk claim, and there was a surplus of heirs
  • Mary, Queen of Scots had a stronger claim than the Greys
  • She had been brought up in France, and was a devout Catholic
  • Elizabeth tried to get her to marry Dudley, to keep her under Elizabeth's influence, but Mary refused
  • Instead, she strengthened her claim by marrying her cousing, Lord Darnley

            What was important about the succession crisis?                          [8 marks]

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Essex's Rebellion

  • In 1599 Elizabeth sent Essex to Ireland at the head of an army, in an attempt to end Tyrone's Rebellion, which had started in 1594
  • After making some limited attempts to fight the rebels, Essex made a truce with them and returned to England - without the Queen's permission
  • As a punishment, Elizabeth put Essex under house arrest, banished him from court, and took away most of his public offices. In November 1600, she took away his main source of income - a monopoly on sweet wines
  • The loss of his political power and income caused Essex to revolt. On 8th February 1601, he launched a rebellion in London
  • Essex aimed to seize the Queen, and force her to replace her closest advisors, especially Cecil, with himself or his followers
  • Essex failed. He received no support from ordinary Londoners, and most of his supporters quickly abandones him
  • Essex was arrested, tried for treason, and executed on 25th February 1601
  • The lack of support for Essex shows that it wasn't a serious threat to her rule, She was still a popular and respected Queen, and there was little desire to overthrow her or her government
  • The rebellion suggests that Elizabeth's authority at over her court became weaker towards the end of her reign. By the 1590s, she was no longer using patronage as efficiently as before
  • Instead of balancing the different groups at court, she let the Cecils become too powerful, and failed to promote others. This led to anger and resentment, which risked fuelling challenges to her authority, such as Essex's revolt
  • The conflict at court made Elizabeth's government less effective 
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Growth of Poverty

During Elizabeth's reign, the amount of poverty grew, as a result of population growth, rising food prices, developments in agriculture, and religious changes which resulted in less support for the poor.

Population Growth

  • In the 16th century, birth rate increased and death rate decreased, leading to population growth
  • During Elizabeth's reign, the population rose from about 3 million people to at least 4 million people
  • Growing population also caused increased competition for land, which led to an increase in rent

Developments in Agriculture

  • Farming techniques changed in the 16th century
  • Previously, farmers rented strips of land, and grew enough for themselves and their families. This was very inefficient, and landowners began to change farming techniques. Instead of sharing open fields, they enclosed the fields to make fewer, larger farms
  • These new farms needed fewer labourers, so farmers who rented land were evicted, leaving them unemployed and homeless
  • These people were often forced to leave their villages and migrate to towsns or cities in search of work. The government viewed them as 'vagabonds', and feared that they would encourage rebellions
  • This created more poverty
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Growth of Poverty cont.

Dissolution of the Monasteries

  • Monasteries had performed important social functions, such as providing support for the poor, ill and disabled
  • The dissolution of the monasteries, between 1536 and 1541, removed a valuable source of assistance for people

Rising food prices

  • Food production couldn't keep up with the population growth. This led to rising food prices, as well as food shortages
  • Food prices rose far faster than wages did. As workers struggled to afford necessities, living standards fell
  • Monopolies also aided growth in food prices. As monopoly holders had no competition, there was nothing to keep the prices down. This made monopolies incredibly unpopular
  • Exporting wool to Europe became more profitable that selling grain. This caused many landowners to stop growing grain, and start sheep farming, which led to a fall in grain production, which contributed to rising food prices
  • In the late 1580s and 1590s, England suffered several poor harvest. This further increased food prices and shortages, pushing more people into poverty
  • The rising food prices and shortages led to a dramatic increase in the amount of poverty
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Poor Laws

  • Traditionally, the main source of help for the poor was charity
  • However, the problem of poverty during Elizabeth's reign became so bad that charity was no longer enough
  • People began to realise that society as a whole would have to take reponsibility for helping the poor, and the government began to take action to takly the problem
  • People believed the poor could be split into three categories:

    • The helpless poor - those who were unable to help themselves, such as young orphans, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled
    • The deserving poor - people who wanted to work, but were unable to find a job in their town or village
    • The undeserving poor - beggars, criminals, and people who refused to work, as well as migrant workers ('vagabonds'), who left their homes and travelled, looking for work
  • From the 1560s onwards, the government brought i a series of Poor Laws to deal with the problem
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Poor Laws cont.

  • In the 1560s, the government passed a Poor Laws, which introduced a tax to raise money for the poor, known as a poor rate
  • Further Poor Laws were passed in 1597 and 1601 in response to the poverty crisis of the 1590s
  • These laws made the poor rate into a national system of compulsory taxation
  • The poor rate was collected locally, by an Overseer of the Poor
  • Poor rates were used to provide hospitals and housing for the elderly, sick, and disabled
  • Poor children were given apprenticeships (these usually lasted seven years)
  • Local authorities were expected to provide financial support or work for the deserving poor
  • Poor people could be sent to prison if they refused to work
  • Under the Poor Laws of the 1590s, the underserving poor were to be publicly whipped and returned to their home parish
  • Repeat offenders could be sent to prison
  • Thomas Harman wrote a book in 1597 about poverty, in which he described all of the different ways a beggar might try to trick you out of your money

Write an account of the ways in which poverty affected Elizabethan England.                   [8 marks]

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The Gentry

  • Members of the gentry owned and, and lived off of the income it provided
  • They also helped run the country
  • Lived comfortably with large houses and servants
  • They were educated, and could 'vote'
  • They were educated
  • Justices of the Peace
  • Lots of members of the gentry were MPs
  • Travelled lots
  • Enclosures, increased rent prices, and increased food prices meant they earned more money than previously
  • This meant they had more disposable income
  • This was spent on art, theatre, fashion, architecture, ...

              Explain the importance of the gentry.                                    [8 marks]

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'Golden Age'

Despite the high levels of poverty, Elizabeth's reign is often seen as a 'Golden Age'. The growing prosperity of the elite contributed to architecture, the arts, and education flourishing.


  • From the 1570s, many of the nobles and gentry improved their homes, or built new ones
  • This was known as the 'Great Rebuilding'
  • This enabled members of the elite to show off their wealth and status
  • New houses often had large windows, as glass was very expensive - large windows were a sign of wealth and prosperity
  • Houses also often had an 'E' as part of the floor pattern, more storeys than previously, and large, landscaped gardens
  • Montcute House and Longleat House are examples of houses
  • Robert Smythson was a leading architect


  • Laws (the Statutes of Apparel) were passed in 1574, strictly controlling what people coud wear
  • Fashion was an important status symbol
  • Elizabeth used it to show off
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'Golden Age' cont.


  • Portraits were painted to glorify Elizabeth
  • Key portraits included the Phoenix Portrait (1575), the Pelican Portrait (1575), the Sieve Portrait (1583) and the Rainbow Portrait. These were all symbolic
  • Nicholas Hilliard was a famous artist
  • Elizabeth's ministers controlled her image, and destroyed any portrait she didn't like 
  • Portraits of Elizabeth were used as visual progpaganda
  • As portraits became more fashionable, demand increased, meaning artists became richer


  • As people had more money, they had more to spend on getting a good education for their children
  • Some noble families hired a private tutors, while other nobles and the gentry sent their children to university
  • It also became fashionable to take an interest in literature
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'Golden Age' cont. - Theatre


  • Previously, Medieval Mystery Plays, which told Bibe stories, were the only sort of theatre
  • Rather than having theatres, in the past actors travelled around and would perform at inn courtyards
  • As society became more secular, theatre became more popular
  • Puritans disapproved of theatre, thinking it was sinful
  • The first theatres weere built in London in the 1570s, and included 'The Theatre' and 'The Curtain' (1577)
  • The theatres were normally round, open air buidings
  • Some theatres were quite large - the Globe could hold around 3000 people
  • Poorer people were known as the 'groundlings', and stood in the pits, while richer people sat under cover in private boxes
  • Playwrights included William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson
  • Actors were unpopular, and distrusted. People also thought theatres led to an increase in crime
  • In 1572 a law was introduced saying actors had to be licensed, because of people's (and the government's) dislike of actors. This encouraged actors to organise themselves, which lead to the building of theatres. Actors formed companies, which were sponsored by the rich. This was known as patronage, and was a way for the rich to increase their wealth and status
  • Another law was also introduced, saying all theatres had to be built outside of the city walls (this was as a result of the belief that theatres were places of crime)
  • Elizabeth never went to a theatre, but often invited companies of actors to court
  • Plays were controlled by the Privy Council, and used as propaganda
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Causes of Exploration

  • By the time Elizabeth became Queen in 1558, Spain and Portugal already had colonies in the Americas
  • Spain and Portugal had become incredibly rich and powerful, because of exploration
  • This promptd Britain to join in, as people could see the benefits, but also didn't want Spain and Portugal to become far more powerful than Britain
  • People began to realize that the Earth was round, rather than flat. This meant they could, for example, sail to the north of Russia or the south of Africa without falling off of the edge of the world
  • In 1492, Christopher Columbus inadvertantly discovered the 'New World', which gave the potential for countries to establish colonies
  • In 1487, the porugese explorer Bartholemew Diaz sailed around the southern tip of Africa, proving that it was possible
  • New technological advances made exploration easier, prompting more people to participate
  • The printing press meant that maps and geographical literature were more readily available, and the astrolabe meant a ship's position could be accurately plotted. The magnetic compass also made navigation far easier
  • Developments in ship design made exploration easier. Steering was now easier, and the triangular lateen sail meant ships could sail in whichever direction they wished, regardless of wind direction
  • The Ottoman Empire made prompted people to try to find new trade routes that didn't go through Ottoman lands
  • Many explorers were funded by monarchs who were keen for national glory - making Elizabeth more eager to fund expeditions
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Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh

Francis Drake

  • Second person to circumnavigate the globe, first British person (1577-1580)
  • Puritan
  • MP
  • Hated the Spanish, and devoted his life to attacking them
  • Key to the defeat of the Spanish Armada
  • Involved in establishing the slave trade
  • Stole £600,000 from the Spanish (and gave most of it to Elizabeth)
  • Privateer

Walter Raleigh

  • In 1584, Elizabeth gave him permission to explore and colonise unknown terrritories. She wanted him to set up a colony on the North Atlantic coast of North America. (Privateer)
  • in 1585, he set up a colony - however, poor planning, limited funds, and lack of supplies caused this to fail
  • Tried, and failed, to set up several other colonies
  • Breifly banished from court in 1592 after secretly marrying one of Elizabeth's ladies in waiting, but regained favour in 1593
  • Knighted in 1585, one of Elizabeth's favourites
  • MP
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Consequences of Exploration

  • Increased hostility between Spain and England - helped bring about the Spanish Armada
  • Brought wealth to merchants and nobles who sponsored voyages - increased disposable income, which was spent on arts, theatre, fashion, ...
  • Wealth and glory helped to contribute to Elizabeth's personal image
  • Led to the establishment of colonies
  • Laid the foundations for the British Empire and Britain's position later on as a global superpower
  • Established more trade links, making Britain richer then and later on
  • Led to a powerful navy, which later dominated the seas
  • Contributed to the idea of a 'Golden Age'
  • International status
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Importance of Religion

  • Most of Europe was Catholic, and within England there were both Catholics and Protestants
  • Religion contributed to the marriage problem, as Elizabeth didn't want to marry a Catholic
  • Religion influenced society
  • Elizabeth had a 'divine right to rule'
  • Religion explained the inexplicable
  • The religious divide caused tension and turmoil
  • Mary killed around 300 Protestants
  • England broke with Rome so her father could marry her mother
  • Elizabeth was Protestant - she was deeply religious, and commited to Protestantism
  • Mary, Queen of Scots was Catholic - dangerous
  • Spain, France, Ireland and the Pope (Catholics) could make powerful enemies
  • There were many attempts on Elizabeth's life, eg. the Babington Plot, that were related to religion
  • Religion prompted many of the rebellions during Elizabeth's Reign 
  • Religion was a major cause of the Spanish Armada
  • When ELizabeth became Queen in 1558, Britain had suffered 30 years of religious turmoil, with the nation switching repeatedly between Catholic and Protestant
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Religious Settlement

The Act of Uniformity, Act of Supremacy, and Royal Injunctions were passed in 1559, and attempted to keep religion under control. They aimed to please both Catholics and Protestants, while keeping England a Protestant country, in what later became known as Elizabeth's 'Middle Way'. The new Church kept Catholic appearances, but had Protestant beliefs.

Trying to please Protestants

  • The Act of Supremacy reestablished the break from Rome
  • The Church created was Protestant
  • A book of common prayer was issued, with Protestant beliefs
  • Traditional Catholic Mass was abandoned
  • Bible was written in English, and services were held in English
  • The clergy were allowed to marry
  • Catholic practices, such as pilgrimages and saints' images, were banned
  • The altar was replaced with a communion table

Trying to please Catholics

  • Ornaments such as crosses and candles could still be placed on the table
  • Priests wore traditional Catholic style vestments
  • Kept espiscopal structure
  • Elizabeth called herself the Supreme Governor rather than Supreme Head, though she still had total control
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Religious Settlement cont.

The wording of the communion service was deliberately vague, so that it could be accepted by both Protestants and Catholics.

The Court of High Commision monitored people, and prosecuted (mostly through a fine) people who seemed disloyal.

Chruch attendance was made compulsory, and recusants were charged a fine of 1 shilling. Only nobles and gentry could afford to pay, meaning everyone else had to go to Church. This forced people to attend Church, but without violence.

Elizabeth was both Queen, and Supreme Governor. This meant anyone who disobeyed was going against the monarch and religion, and therefore commited both treason and heresy.

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Opposition to the Religious Settlement

Despite Elizabeth's attempt to please both Catholics and Protestants, extreme Catholics and extreme Protestants (known as Puritans) were still unhappy.

Because of the fine for recusants, most people still attended Church - they couldn't afford to pay.

In 1568, William Allen set up a school for training seminary priests in the Netherlands. It aimed to train English Catholics as missionaries to go back to England and keep Catholicism alive.

The Northern Rebellion happened in 1569. It was an attempt to overthrow Elizabeth and put the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne.

In 1570, the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth. This meant Catholics no longer had to be loyal to her, and ordered them to disobey her laws or be excommunicated themselves. It also meant anyone who plotted against Elizabeth effectively had the Pope's blessing.

This meant Elizabeth was increasingly threatened by Catholic plots and assassination attempts. In reponse, she introduced a Treason Act in 1571.

          Explain what was important about the Papal Bull of 1570.                        [8 marks]

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Treason Act and Jesuits

1571 Treason Act

  • Denying Elizabeth's supremacy and bringing the Papal Bull (which excommunicated Elizabeth) were both punishable by death
  • Anyone who left the country for more than six months had their land confiscated - this was an attempt to stop English Catholics going abroad to train as missionaries

1572 - St Bartholemews's Day Massacre in France. Thousands of French Prtoestants were killed in mob violence. This increased fear and hatred of Catholicism in England.


  • From the 1580s
  • Relgious group, dedicated to serving the Pope
  • Jesuit priests had rigorous training, and were sent to England as educators
  • They intended to gain influence over rich and powerful families, and turn them against the Queen and the Anglican Church
  • Once in England, they helped smuggle other priests out of the country
  • Edmund Campion was a famous Jesuit priest
  • In the north of England, they hid in caves
  • Hid in priest holes
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Response to Catholics

  • In 1581, new laws were passed, in reponse to increased Catholic activity.
  • These laws raised the fine for reusancy to £20
  • Any attempt to convert people to Catholicism was made a treasonable offense
  • in 1585, Parliament passed another law called the Act Against Jesuits and Seminary Priests
  • This made becoming a priest treason
  • All priests were ordered to leave England on pain of death
  • Pursuivants raided safe houses. Their searches could last up to a week, and could result in houses being ripped apart
  • The Jesuit Edmund Campion was caught within a year of his arrival in England
  • He was located by Walsingham's spy network, and taken to the Tower of London. Campion was offered his freedom if he converted to Catholicism, but he refused. Even when tortured on the rack, he denied plotting against Elizabeth, bus was still executed for treason in 1581
  • Some people did escape - the priest-hole builder Nicholas Owen helped to mastermind the escape of a Jesuit, John Gerard, from the Tower of London in 1597
  • In 1593, large gatherings of Catholics were made illegal, and Catholics' freedom of movement was restricted - they were allowed to travel no further than 5 miles from their homes
  • It is estimated that by 1603, only 10% of the population were Catholic sympathisers, and only 2% were recusants]
  • The Pope appointed a Jesuit, George Blackwell, 'Archpriest' of England - even though he was an unpopular choice
  • The Pope and Spain encouraged plots against Elizabeth. However, most English Catholics did not do this. A few did commit treason by plotting with England's enemies, but this reinforced the idea that Catholicism was dangerous, unpatriotic, and 'foreign' 
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Puritan Opposition

Puritans were also dissatisfied with Elizabeth;s compromise. For them, the Roman Catholic Church was corrupt, and too many of its traditions were based on superstition, not the Bible. They found the Catholic parts of Elizabeth's 'Middle Way' offensive. They were particularly angry about the continued existence of bishops, and the vestments worn by the clergy.

From the 1570s, Puritans became a problem. Many senior people at Court, in the Church, and in Parliament were sympathetic to Puritans. Robert Dudley, one of Elizabeth's favourites, was Puritan.

Thomas Cartwright delivered a series of lectures at the University of Cambridge in 1570, He called for the abolition of the bishops, and made no mention of Elizabeth as 'Supreme Governor'. Elizabeth was horridied at the suggestion that the Church hierarchy should be removed, seeing the idea as dangerous, and a revolutionary threat to her authority.

Puritan printing presses were destroyed in 1572, after two pamphlets criticising the structure and beliefs of the Church were published. Parliament regularly tried to discuss Puritan ideas. Elizabeth rejected any bills proposed by Puritans, and in 1576 stated that MPs were no longer allowed to discuss religious matters without her permission (this led to Peter Wentworth being imprisoned).

Write an account of the ways in which Elizabeth and her governement enforced the religious settlement.                                                                                            [8 marks]

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Puritan Opposition cont.

The Puritan threat also ked to disagreement between Elizabeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Grindal. She was concerned about the practice of prophesying (prayer meetings where the Bible was discussed). Elizabeth was concerned that these were a dangerous opportunity for spreading Puritan ideas. Grindal refused to close these down, so Elizabeth put him under house arrest (where he remained for seven years, until his death).

Grindal was replaced with John Whitgift, a strict Anglican. He immediately issued the Three Articles, forcing all members of the clergy to swear absolute acceptance of bishops, the Prayer Book, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563. In the same year, a Puritan called William Stubbs had his hand cut off for writing a pamphlet criticising Elizabeth. 300 ministers were suspended as a result of this, indicating that a mixture of opinions still existed within the Elizabethan Church.

Whitgift's harsh approach pushed a few Puritans into breaking away from the Anglicans, to become Separatists, or Brownists.

In 1589, anonymous Puritan pamphlets were published. Their course language and disrespectful tone shocked many, turning more people against Puritans. This gave the government an excuse to further attack Puritans.

In 1593, the Act Against Seditious Sectaries was passed, enabling the execution of anyone accused of being a Separationist. In the same year, Richard ****** published an influential book, 'The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity', defending the 'Middle Way' and dismissing Puritan critics.

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Mary, Queen of Scots

  • Mary, Queen of Scots was Catholic
  • She was raised in France
  • In 1558, she married the heir to the French throne. However, when he died in 1560, she returned to Scotland
  • In 1565, she married her cousin, Lord Darnley
  • In 1567, Darnley was murdered, and a few months later, Mary married the Earl of Bothwell
  • The marriage was unpopular with Scottish nobles, who rebelled against her and forced her to abdicate
  • In 1568 she escaped from prison and raised an army. They were defeated in batte, and Mary fled south to England
  • Mary hoped Elizabeth would help her to regain control of Scotland
  • Instead, Elizabeth put her in prison - she was worried that Mary's claim to the English throne would mean there was a constant threat from the north if Mary regained power in Scotland
  • Elizabeth hoped that putting her in prison would stop Mary from being involved in Catholic plots. This did not turn out to be the case, as Mary was involved in several
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The Northern Rebellion, 1569

  • The Northern Rebellion took place in 1569
  • It started as a Court conspiracy
  • The Duke of Norfolk (Elizabeth's cousin) resented Cecil's power, and felt that his political talents were underrated by Elizabeth and her regime
  • Elizabeth had confiscated large areas of land from Northumberland, and shared them between his main rival in the north, and a southern Protestant. She also claimed all the profits from copper mines discovered on his estates. This made him very angry
  • Norfolk planned to marry Mary, and set her up as Elizabeth's heir
  • The Dukes of Norfolk and Northumberland would get Mary out of prison, take her to London, marry Mary to the Duke of Norfolk, and overthrow Elizabeth - setting Mary up as Queen of England and Scotland
  • They burnt Protestant Bibles and prayer books (symbols of the new religion), then attended a Catholic Mass in Durham (attendance at Mass was punishable by a fine, performing Mass was punishable by death)
  • Rebels took control of Durham - an important city, that could easily be turned against Elizabeth
  • The Duke of Norfolk was in London at the time
  • Elizabeth moved Mary south, though not as far as London, into the middle of Protestant land
  • Elizabeth sent her army north, and the rebels fled to Scotland
  • Elizabeth killed the rebels and the Duke of Northumberland, and left their bodies hanging
  • She put the Duke of Norfolk in prison
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Ridolfi Plot, 1571, & Throckmorton Plot, 1583

Ridolfi Plot - 1571

  • Roberto di Ridolfi was a Catholic Italian banker, who lived in London
  • The plot involved Mary, Queen of Scots, the Pope, Philip II of Spain, and the Duke of Norfolk
  • Elizabeth was to be assassinated and replaced by Mar. 6000 Spanish troops were to land at Harwich in Essex, led by the Duke of Alba
  • Letters were found, containing details of the plot
  • Duke of Norfolk was left in prison for 5 months
  • Elizabeth didn't want to kill him - he was her closest male relative
  • Signed and destroyed the death warrant three times, before eventually killing him

Throckmorton Plot - 1583

  • French Catholic force, backed by Spanish and Papal money, were to invade England
  • Mary would be freed from house arrest, and there would be a Catholic uprising involving Jesuits, seminary priests, and the English Catholic population
  • Elizabeth would be captured and murdered, and Mary would be installed as Queen
  • Walsingham found out about the plot
  • Throckmorton was tortured, and confessed
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Babington Plot, 1586 and Mary's Execution

  • Mary got bored (before the Throckmorton Plot, too)
  • Mary wrote letters to the French Ambassador, and to Sir Anthony Babington
  • Walsingham new about the letters, and decoded them (it was a trap)
  • Allowed the plot to unfold in order to get evidence against Mary
  • Babington was arrested, and in September 1586 he and 6 other conspirators were hung, drawn, and quartered
  • Walsingham had set up the code so that Mary would write incriminating things - it was a trap
  • Mary was put on trial in October 1586
  • December 1585, Cecil prepared a death warrant for Mary, but Elizabeth refused to sign it
  • In February the following year, amid rumours of Spanish landings in Wales and Mary's escape, Elizabeth signed the warrant
  • Elizabeth was very indecisive about signing the warrant, and destroyed it multiple times after signing it
  • When Elizabeth heard news of Mary's death, she was furious
  • She banished Cecil, refusing to see him for six months
  • Her secretary was imprisoned in the Tower of London
  • It is possible that Elizabeth had signed the warrant, but not given it to anyone for Mary to be killed, and the secretary found it. Elizabeth had repeatedly signed and destroyed the warrant. It is not known, and this could be true, or could have been set up by Elizabeth to reduce the consequences of Mary's death
  • She had killed a fellow monarch, her cousin, and Mary could easily have become a martyr
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Mary, Queen of Scots Execution cont.

Write an account of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.                                  [8 marks]

Could write about:

Point 1:

  • Death warrant:
  • Elizabeth was indecisive
  • May have regretted it

Point 2:

  • Consequences:
  • Spanish Armada
  • James succeeded Elizabeth, uniting Scotland and England
  • No more Catholic rebellions
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Causes of the Spanish Armada

  • 1554-58  -  Philip is married to Mary Tudor, Elizabeth's sister
  • 1559  -  Philip proposed to Elizabeth
  • 1566  -  Civil war in the Netherlands
  • 1570  -  Elizabeth was excommunicated
  • 1577-80  -  Francis Drake (known by the Spanish as El Draque) circumnavigated the globe, and stole spanish gold
  • 1581  -  Elizabeth sent rebels in the Netherlands funds to help them to fight against Spanish rule - she wanted to protect Dutch Protestantism
  • 1584  -  the Spanish signed the Treaty of Joinville with the French, increasig Spanish confidence and English fear of invasion
  • 1585  -  the Treaty of Nonsuch was signed between England and the Dutch rebels, and England sent 7000 troops under Dudley's command to support the rebels
  • 1587  -  Mary, Queen of Scots was executed
  • 1587  -  Drake destroyed Armada preparations at Cadiz
  • 1588  -  Spanish Armada left Lisbon

Tension gradually increased until Mary's execution.

The civil war in the Netherlands and Treaty of Nonsuch made Elizabeth involved (in the long term) in Spanish affairs in the Netherlands

The Treaty of Joinville allied two major Catholic Powers - large threat to Elizabeth

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Causes of the Spanish Armada cont.

  • Spain was Catholic, England was Protestant
  • Elizabeth acted against Catholics, with various religious laws
  • Philip wanted control of England, and a larger Empire
  • Drake, and other privateers, stole lots of Spanish gold - Drake stole £600,000
  • Spain and England were enemies, due to the 1585 Treaty of Nonsuch
  • Spain and England were rivals, in terms of economy, trade, and slavery
  • Elizabeth angered Philip by rejecting him - damaged his pride
  • Geography of Spain, England, and the Netherlands - there were 10,000, soon to be 30,000 soldiers 30 miles/1 hour sailing away from England - this was dangerous, and could block trade
  • Philip believed God would help him with his Armada (the opposite turned out to be true - the wind played a major part in the defeat of the Armada)
  • He described it as a religious war, and fighting a heretic
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The English and Spanish Forces


  • England's armada was led by the Lord High Admiral (Lord Howard), and Sir Francis Drake
  • England was poor - thanks to war with Spain, and repeated poor harvests
  • Island - harder to attack others, but easier to defend, isolated


  • 30,000 professional soldiers
  • 130 ships
  • Had planned for a long time
  • Defensive crescent
  • The Armada was led b the Duke of Medina Sidonia - who had no experience, hated boats, and got sea sick
  • This was the largest invasion of England since 1066
  • They didn't have enough supplies or maps, as they had presumed they wouldn't need them
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Drake's Attack on Cadiz

Elizabeth had sent Drake to spy on Spanish preparations and attack their ships and supplies. In April 1587, he attacked the Spanish port of Cadiz. He destroyed around 30 ships, and seized many tonnes of supplies.

This delayed Spain by more than a year. Obtainging fresh supplies and weapons was expensive, and strained Spain's finances.

Drake also captured planks made from seasoned wood, which were needed to carry food and water. The Spanish had to make barrels from unseasoned wood, which couldn't preserve food and water so well. This caused supply problems for the Armada, which affected morale. As the Armada sailed in 1588, fresh water supplies were lost, and many tons of food rotted.

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The Spanish Armada

The Spanish had thousands of soldiers stationed in the Netherlands, under the leadership of the Duke of Parma. Philip planned for the Armada to meet the army in Dunkirk, then sail across the channel together to England.

The Armada set out in May 1588, but was delayed for several weeks by bad weather in the Bay of Biscay, and attempts by the English fleet to intercept it.

In July, the Spanish fleet was spotted off the coast of Cornwall, and beacons were lit along the south coast to inform Elizabeth, in London. English ships set sail from Plymouth to meet the Armada.

The Armada sailed up the channel in a crescent formation. This was an effective defensive startegy, which used large, armed galleons to protect weaker supply and troop ships.

The English navy carried out a few minor raids, but were unable to inflict much damage. Only two Spanish ships were lost, and these were both destroyed by accident.

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The Spanish Armada cont. - Calais & Gravelines

After sailing up the channel, Medina Sidonia anchored at Calais to wait for Parma's troops. However, Parma and his men had been blockaded by Dutch ships, and weren't able to reach the coast in time.

In the middle of the night, the English sent 8 fireships among the anchored Spanish ships. This caused panic among the Spanish sailors, who broke their defensive formation, and scattered to sea.

The ships regrouped at Gravelines, but the weather made it impossible for them to return to their defensive position at Calais. The English moved in, and the following battle lasted many hours.

Five Spanish ships were sunk, and the rest were forced to sail away from the French coast and into the North Sea.

An English fleet followed the Spanish as far north as Scotland, to make sure they didn't regroup to collect the rest of Parma's army.

Medina Sidonia decided to call of the attack on England, and return to Spain by sailing round Scotland and Ireland. The Spanish sailors were unfamiliar with this dangerous route, and they encountered several powerful Atlantic storms.

Many ships sank, or were wrecked on the Scottish and Irish coasts. Many ships ran short of supplies, and men died of starvation and disease. Less than half the fleet, and fewer than 10,000 men made it back to Spain.

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Reasons for the Defeat of the Spanish Armada

Bad weather

  • Spanish were forced to drop anchor near Calais, and never reached the Netherlands
  • Stopped Spanish from returning to their defensive position at Calais, after the fireships scattered them
  • The Armadda stopping at Calais, and favourable winds, made fireships possible
  • Caused many ships to sink off the coast of Ireland

English Strategy

  • Fireships (August 6th)
  • Drake's leadership (and attack on Cadiz)
  • Didn't retreat
  • Elizabeth gave a speech at Tilbury, on August 8th, in armour
  • Better ships than the Spanish (smaller, quicker, more manouevrable, quicker to reload cannons)
  • Spanish soldiers had much less experience than English

Spanish Mistakes

  • Armada was led by the Duke of Medina Sidonia
  • Gave Elizabeth time to prepare (after being spotted at Cornwall)
  • Should have allied with the Irish, and Northern Catholic Dukes
  • Didn't have enough supplies or maps
  • Lots of flaws in the plan to meet the Duke of Parma
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Consequences of the Defeat of the Armada

  • Humiliated Spain - Philip had been convinved of their success, and Elizabeth had first rejected his marriage proposal, then defeated his Armada
  • Propaganda in England
  • Boosted national pride
  • England kept its independence
  • Protestantism was preserved
  • Spain had expected God's aid, and had described it as a religious war
  • The role of the wind in the Spanish defeat showed God's approval of Protestantism
  • Paved the way for England to establish itself as a major naval power
  • English commandeers had been creative in tactics used
  • Showed the importance of guns in battle, and the lighter, more manoueverable ships
  • Philip launched two further Armadas (in 1596 and 1597), but both were driven back by storms
  • English continued to attack Spanish ports and ships
  • England launched an unsuccessful counter armada in 1589
  • Elizabeth continued to aid Dutch rebels

Main consequences:

  • Humiliated Spain
  • Preserved Protestantism
  • Showed England's strength

       Write an account of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.                                   [8 marks]

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