Threats to Elizabeth 1588-1603

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  • Created by: ava.scott
  • Created on: 10-05-14 11:44

Catholic Threat

BIG THREAT- had a new potential queen (Mary queen of scots who arrived back from France in 1561) and a lot of foreign support from Philip II King of Spain.

  • 1569- Northern Rebellion that attempted to match Mary Queen of Scots (MQS) and Norfolk. Spanish help failed to turn up and Norfolk was executed in 1571.
  • Elizabeth excommunicated in 1570!
  • 1571- Ridolfi plot. Plan to rebel against Elizabeth and put MQS on the throne. Helped by Spanish ambassador Ridolfi. Parliament puts forward two bills that name it high treason to challenge or deny Elizabeth's right to the throne.
  • 1583- Throckmorton. Plan to murder Elizabeth and cause a catholic uprising. Throckmorton tortured and executed in 1585, and all priests expelled by the bloody question.
  • 1586- The Babington Plot. Walshingham interrupted a letter from MQS that was conspiring to murder Elizabeth. Parliament persuaded E. that MQS should die, and she was executed in 1587. Babington and supporter's drawn and quartered.
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Puritan Threat

NOT MUCH OF A THREAT- - They support Elizabeth as  queen and merely want to introduce a stricter protestant regime.

  • 1571- Strickland tries to introduce prayer book, but it doesn't reach parliament.
  • 1572- Elizabeth stops parliament from talking about religion (of course they don't.)
  • 1572- Admonition to Parliamt- This critiscied the Cathoolic practices and curruptions in Churches around England. E respinded by imprisoning the ring leaderts and destroying all puritan printers, to reduce their propaganda
  • 1576- Wentworth goes to tower after attacking clerical abuses.
  • 1584- Turner wants a caklvinstic style government, but Hatton performs a strong speech against it.
  • 1588- Marprelate tracts heavily abuse the church of England, and puritans get a bad name for crudeness.
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Foreign Threat- Spain: Armadas and Interventions

The Anglo-Spanish war began due to English interference in the Netherlands, and with French Hugenots. When Mary Queen of Scots was executed (1587), this lead to full scale war.

  • 1587- Cadiz expedition, lead by Drake, very successful (destroyed many fleets and lots of booty.)-'singeing of the spanish king's beard.'
    • 1588-The 1st Armada (sparked by MQS's death in 1587). England defended briliant by Lord Howard and Frances Drake. Brilliant English Tactics and bad luck for the Spanish lead to English success.
  • Expedition of 1588-89 (counter Armada) Huge investment from the queen and London merchants, but £100,000 and 11,000 men were wasted at Corunna, where the sailors got drunk for two weeks, and many died of famine and disease.
    • 1589- Intervention in Normandy/Maine. Although this wa an attempt to keep France as an ally, it meant 800/3600 men were lost, and only 100 through fighting. It ws carried out against the Queen's orders.
  • 1590- Intervention in Brittany. Although tis distracted the Duke of Parma from the Netherlands, it also lost to 700/4000 men dying from disease and the siege of Rouen failed.
  • 1597 and 98- Further Spanish Armadas, but bothe failed due to weather.
  • 1601- Battle of Kinsale- final Spanish Armada failed as English besieged them.
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Foreign Threat- Spain: Privateering Expeditions

Privateers- aim was to raid Spanish treasure fleets and portugese Carracks.

  • 1590- Sir Martin FrobisherJohn Hawkins and the Earl of Cumberland all lead expeditions to the Azores, where they achieved nothing, and an English ship even got captured.
  • 1591- Lord Howard and Grenville encountred a Spanish fleet when trying to intercept a Spanish silver ship. Most escaped, but Grenville continued to fight, causing sgnificant damage to 15 Spanish galleons.

Very little success, as practically no treasure was brought back, and many died from sickness.

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Foreign Threat- Spain: Naval Expeditions

1595- The Battle of San Juan: Long and disatrous campaign, in which Drake and Hawkins failed to cause any damage, and both died, along with 400 other men.

1596- Cadiz expedition. The Earl of Eseex (against E.'s wish) went to Cadiz where they sacked the city, causing significant damage. However, they got no treasure as the Spanish burnt their treasure ships.

1597- Islands Voyage: lead by Essex, Howard and Raleigh. Suffered huge losses, and war of recriminatiosn between Essex and Raleigh. This contributed towards Essex's decline in favour.

1598- Henry IV's conversion to Cathoclism ended English support on France.

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Elizabeth's Foreign Policy

Elizabeth's aims: 

  • avoid invasion from a foreign power.
  • Remain independent in action.
  • Protect nether lands and North-East coast for trade.
  • Dont spend too much!

General's aims:

  • become European power, and get a lot of treasure!

Elizabeths Problems

  • She was a woman, meaning she had less military authority.
  • She wasn't ambitious. Her main priority was national security.
  • She was old, and so was her Privy Council (ave. age 60.) This frustrated many younger men who wanted power.
  • She had no military experience. She could manipulate fiancial, religious and parliamentary conflicts, but war was something else.
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Why did Elizabeth struggle in Foreign affairs?


Elizabeth didn't want thousand of men dying for her war, so many expeditions lack enough men. She had no standing army, but any able-bodied man (16-60) was liable for military service (they would all be untrained and ill equipped.)

1575- 185,000 men were raised from 37 counties. 1/3 of forces died fom disease or deserted. 8000/20,000 died in 1589. 300 deserters in Netherlands 1589.


War cost was huge (e.g training and equpping men, building ships.) Elizabeth invested in many privateering expeditions, but hardly got anything back. This means emphasis was put on treasure than strategic considerations. 

Many soldiers and men were left to die, so they didnt have to be paid!!

The war from 1589-95 cost £200,000 p/a and E had to borrow £1million from abroad.

She also paid by: parliamentary subsidies, selling crown lands and clerical subsidies.

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Was Elizabeths FP successful?


  • She didn't spend too much- ended her reign with a debt of £140,000 with two subsidies to be paid. Considering she was fighting 2 wars, this is very good!
    She had to fight on many fronts.
  • She avoided invasion from Spain.
  • Her defensive position was more sensible and safer.


  •  Wasted a lot of money on badly planned and executed expeditions e.g. Corrunna in 1588-9.
  • She spread her resource stoo thin e.g. Ireland was dealt with half heartedly.
  • She didn't take the opportunity to be ambitious and aggressive with Spain.
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Threat from Below: Reasons and actions

Reasons for Domestic unrest

  • Poor Harvests from 1586-97, which ledd to food shortages, starvation and inflation.
  • Engrossing of Farms- to increase land and profit for a smaller amount of workers.
  • Poor laws were inadequate.
  • Taxation increases.
  • Plague meant a high death rate; london burials doubled 1592-3.
  • Soldiers weren't being paid.

What did people do?

  • Sieze arms e.g. Oxfordshire rising 1596.
  • Many revolts and riots, mainly over food e.g. Somerset and Kent in 1596-7. London against foreign artisans 1590. 
  • Essex rebellion against Queen's privy council and corruption.
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Threat from Below: Goverment response

On helping the needy:

  • 1598- Act for relief of the poor, putting emphasis on Parishes responsibility to oversee poor, and help employ them.
  • Quarintined plagued families, and rates for the sick. 
  • 'Dearth' orders in 1586,92,93 that made it compulsory to sell excess grain.
  • Poor rates- a tax on the middle and upper class. However, only totalled £11,776, and this wouldn't help 2/5 of the population.
  • Churchwardens were to enforce payment of poor rates.
  • 1586- law to prevent the conversion from arable to pasture in 23 countries, and also to prevent engrossing of farms.

On suppressing rebellions:

  • Very meticulous and brutal when subduing rebellions tortured all who turned up.
  • However, this could suggest they thought tehre was a threat.
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Threat from Ireland

Elizabeth employed three main strategies to help establish English Authority in Ireland.

  • Relying on Old English familie's loyalty to England, to recogn ise her authority and establish control in the Pale.
  • Using armies to garrison strategic points and defeat enemies. Scorched land policies starved population into surrender.
  • Colonisation- giving land to English setters to provide a point of English control.

Periods of Crisis

  • 1566- Shane O'Neill's rebellion is squashed by Henry Sidney.
  • 1571- James fitzGerald's rebellion also squashed.
  • 1578- Italian Thomas Stuteville sets off with 600 men, but is diverted to a crusade.
  • 1580- Lord Grey secures surrender from Italian, Spanish and Irish forces then murders them all.
  • 1595- Tyrones rebellion. He anatgonises his English neighbours, and builds up army. Takes Blackwater fort, and Enniskillen.
  • 1596- 2000 Brittany troops moved to Ireland, but truce had to be signed.
  • 1599- Essex had 16,000 men and still had to sign a truce.
  • 1601-3- Lord Mountjoy lead 3 pronged attack, and is very brutal. Peace treat signed 1603.
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