Elizabeth I Historiography


Elizabeth and her Government

  • Traditional historians viewed her as a ‘Great Queen’ who struggled against a confident government.
  • Revisionists perceive her government as stable and co-operative institutions, free of tension.  
  • Haigh believes that Elizabeth undermined her effectiveness by ruling through personal relationships - eg William Cecil, Robert Dudley, Robert Cecil, Robert Deveruax. This would lead to factional rivalry. HOWEVER her councillors were very skilled - MacCaffrey referred to William Cecil as the "dynamo of government" due to his success securing an Anglo-Scottish alliance with the Treaty of Berwick.


Elizabeth and her Parliaments

  • The traditional view of authors such as Neale claim that Elizabeth’s relations with her Parliaments were far from harmonious.  
  • JE Neale argues that Elizabeth faced significant Puritan opposition in Parliament from an organised 'Puritan Choir' - Norman Jones argued that there was "no evidence for a cohesive pressure group in the Commons".
  • Christopher Haigh argues that the Queen placed little emphasis on Parliament to her "Parliamentarians were little boys...always a waste of an intelligent woman's time". Evidence to support this: Elizabeth had 13 sessions with her Parliaments lasting a total of 126 weeks out of a 44 year reign. 
  • Revisionists including Lingard, Elton, Graves, Pollard and Russell believe that Elizabethan Parliaments were based on co-operation, with little tension evident.  Sharpe is also of this view.
  • Dr N Jones argues argues that the new Church was actually established by an alliance of Crown and Commons against the Catholic dominated Lords. 
  • John Guy stated that "Elizabeth controlled her own policy more than any other Tudor" - was not manipulated. The Privy Council advised her and on certain issues rejected their advice and went her own way - notably regarding issues such as marriage, succession and the fate of MQofS. 
  • Lotherington said Parliament grew during Elizabeth's reign -  "Subordinate to the crown in it's medievil youth, it grew to become the dominant institution in English politics".  Neale argeed, arguing that the HoC made significant progress during Elizabeth's reign. An effective opposition arose in the Commons.


Religion: The Elizabethan Church Settlement

  • Traditional writers such as Neale and MacCulloch, viewed the Elizabethan Church Settlement as a compromise, a “Via Media” between all radical forces.
  • Neale proposed that Liz was a conservative who wanted to restore Henrician Catholicism without the Pope; however returning religious exiles forced her to compromise with their demands, voiced through a puritan choir in the HoC. Whilst Dr N. Jones argues that the main struggle Elizabeth faced was with the HoL, which contained Marian bishops.
  • However, the revisionists, who include Williams, Doran, Pollard, Green