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Elizabeth I. Religion and Government. Establishing new government. Her initial goals for England were political stability and national security - above all else, including religion.

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Elizabeth i
Elizabeth I

  • Religion and Government

Establishing new government
Establishing new government

  • Her initial goals for England were political stability and national security - above all else, including religion.

  • She famously said “there is but one Jesus Christ - all else is trifles” - showing that se thought the details of religion were not as important as faith itself.

  • Her first meeting of parliament was in January 1559 (after gaining throne in Nov 1558)

New govt cont
New govt cont..

  • Elizabeth was a good judge of character - most ably shown in her choice of Secretary of State William Cecil.

  • The Privy Council was now made up of mostly Protestants - some had been Catholic but were prepared to be flexible in their personal application of religion in order to serve the Queen

  • All of the new Privy Councillors were either friends or relatives of the Queen or of Cecil.

First job new church
First job - new Church

  • Had little choice but to make England Protestant - BUT it was what Ez wanted.

  • Historians have argued that Elizabethan Settlement was more Prot. than Ez originally intended, but that claim now widely refuted - on basis that centre of parliamentary opposition (if any) was in House of Lords who were mostly Catholic.

  • Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy established a national protestant church.

Supreme governor
Supreme governor

  • Ez had to contend with prejudice towards her as a female - in the end she had to compromise in terms of her title as leader of the church

    • She was called ‘Supreme Governor’ rather than Supreme head of the C of E - meant that bishops were in charge fo religious doctrine not her (a woman)

      • In reality this title made little difference as Ez insisted on obedience to her authority over the church

Godly protestants not happy
Godly Protestants not happy

  • ‘Godly’ Prots (radicals or puritans) not at all happy with Ez’s tolerance of traditional practices in the new church. Traditional essentially = Catholic

  • After 1559 Ez REFUSED to allow any further reformation of the church and this increased frustration.

  • Led to development of presbyterianism = sought an end to influence of bishops (wanted councils or synods to run the church )


  • Ez’s refusal of any further change developed a divided church through the latter half of 16th C. Issues were;

    • In 1560’s - vestments and rituals

    • In 1570’s-1580’s - presbyterianism

    • Discipline campaign of ArchBish Cant. John Whitgift in 80’s and 90’s

  • Also - technically Ez wasn’t particularly good at keeping control of church as ‘Supreme Governor’ should have.

    • pluralism continued; absenteeism; Ez didn’t like sermons so she tried to get rid of them in church, but public (who were mostly illiterate) did want them

Ez and catholicism
Ez and Catholicism

  • In 1558 most subjects in EME were Catholic - by 1603 only around 1 in 50-100.

  • Probably because of her long reign, many gentry simply conformed to new religion as hope of return to Catholic faith looked less and less likely.

  • Ez’s policy of inaction when confronted with a problem - actually helped her in terms of her relationship with Caths.

    • Despite all the Cath. opposition from 1569 through to 1587 (Nthn Rebellion, papal excommunication; Ridolfi, Throckmorton and Babington plots) Ez would NOT persecute Catholics to point of rebellion. She did what she had to do to stay safe, but no more.

Woman on top
Woman on top?

  • Mary was first undisputed Queen of England - parliament had to pass a law saying she had same authority as a king - so Ez was still a relative novelty to the 16th C world of men.

    • William Cecil - her most trusted advisor - had berated a messenger of the Spanish Ambassador for talking directly to the Queen instead of going to him first - “a matter of such weight is too much for a woman’s knowledge”

    • Most men did not want Elizabeth to rule on her own - the Privy Council was adamant she should marry and let her new husband run the country, but each time a proposal was put forward Ez considered it for a while, but always rejected it in the end. The “Virgin Queen” remained

Elizabeth and parliament
Elizabeth and Parliament

  • As we have already read, PMT had four main functions.

  • see Longman write on notes or SG pg 214/ 181 for description of roles




Sounding Board

Ez and pmt cont
Ez and PMT cont..

  • Ez called PMT rarely, and when she did, she kept the sessions short and businesslike. Mostly, she enjoyed a good relationship with both Houses of PMT -and generally got what she wanted (most of the time $$ in form of taxes - subsidies, 15ths and 10ths)

  • House of Lords was small ( only 62 in 1558 and Ez only added 9 more ) Generally members of Lords were powerful patrons who had clients in the Commons so they could exert heavy influence on Commons.

  • Commons was much larger (around 400) and much more parochial with their localised interests and agendas. Ez kept tight control of Commons - using repression when needed and also, privy Councillors such as Walsingham sat as MP’s and made sure the Commons kept to the monarch’s agenda.

Elizabeth s parliaments
Elizabeth’s Parliaments

1st PMT - Read page 61 LWON and 208 of SG

6th PMT

2nd PMT -

7th PMT

3rd PMT

8th PMT

4th PMT

9th PMT

5th PMT

10th PMT

Elizabeth and cecil
Elizabeth and Cecil

  • This relationship the most crucial of Ez’s reign.

  • Despite her wicked temper and occasional verbal abuse of her ministers she stayed loyal to most of them during her reign - particularly Cecil.

  • Cecil had a range of responsibilities under Ez

    • 1558 - 1572 - he was Secretary of State (leader of Privy Council)

    • 1572 - 1598 - Lord Treasurer

    • Master of the Court of Wards 1561 - 1598

Elizabeth and cecil cont
Elizabeth and Cecil cont..

  • Cecil had wide-ranging duties - therefore he commanded a great deal of influence.

  • He and Elizabeth shared conservative and cautious traits as politicians. Some say it was this conservatism by both that ultimately left EME in financial dire straits.

  • But their relationship had boundaries

    • Ez would not tolerate ANYONE incl. Cecil, pushing her on matters of prerogative (marriage, succession etc)

    • Cecil believed that he was answerable to God first, then Queen. That meant if he disagreed with her he would voice his opinion - as not to do so was tantamount to offending God.

      • That also meant that he would be loyal and obedient to Ez, as she was God’s representative on Earth.

Elizabeth and patronage
Elizabeth and Patronage

  • Patronage was a characteristic feature of Elizabethan and Stuart politics.

    • Defined as honours (titles, offices, pensions, trade privileges, leases at low rents etc) granted by the crown to loyal servants, courtiers (attendants to the monarch)

  • Patronage is important for 2 main reasons

    • The State was too poor to pay its ministers, councillors and civil servants salaries that matched their responsibilities - used patronage to supplement their incomes

    • State lacked a permanent military force, or a civil service in rural areas. Used patronage rewards to reinforce loyalty of the governing class (nobles)

Elizabeth and patronage1
Elizabeth and Patronage

  • Patrons and Clients.

    • Patrons = the men who had access to royal favour. e.g. Privy Councillors or personal favourites.

    • Clients = the men who surrounded the patrons clamouring for their assistance of getting some of that royal favour. COuld be in terms of monopolies, cheaper leases on land, less tax.

    • Factions = splits in parliament or the council when men supported one patron over another e.g. Dudley vs Cecil in 1560’s

    • Important patrons also tried to influence government policy - this is where things got dicy.

How did ez manage these men
How did Ez manage these men?

  • Quite skilfully.

  • The key thing about Ez and her management of government was that she managed to balance the pressures, demands and expectations of competing factions, without seeming to favour any particular one.

    • Quote from Smith, Govt of Ez England)

      • “All sections of the Elizabethan political community ... benefited from ... patronage system. This reflected the Queen’s determination to spread ... favours ... among as wide a circle ... as possible.”

How did ez manage these men1
How did Ez manage these men?

  • Even her most ‘favourite’ of all, Robert Dudley, did not enjoy such a special position. One occasion when he went to complain to Ez about one of his clients being refused access to the Queen, she replied;

    • “... my favour is not so locked up in you ... that others shall not share it ... I will have here but one mistress and no master ...”

  • On the other hand, Ez was cautious, maybe even stingy in terms of the honours she did grant - number of nobles and knights actually declined in her reign, and her use of monopolies as cheap patronage caused widespread anger

Elizabeth and essex
Elizabeth and Essex

  • Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex (stepson of Dudley) emerged as the new royal favourite in 1590’s. He attempted to use patronage and his favour with the Queen to change the rules of the game.

  • He demanded a monopoly on the distribution of patronage - this would have given him enormous influence, in effect making him one of the most powerful men in the country. He was in the middle of a power struggle withe Cecils (William and son Robert) for influence over the Queen.

  • Elizabeth was overly nice to him (to the annoyance of many) he even once made as if to draw his sword against her when she angered him about something at court. Anybody else would probably have been dismissed or even publicly flogged, but he got away with it.

Elizabeth and essex cont
Elizabeth and Essex cont..

  • However, his luck would run out eventually.

  • Amid great frustration at Elizabeth who had wisely sided with the Cecil’s rather than Essex and his band of rogues - he was sent to Ireland to defet the rebel Earl of Tyrone.

  • Instead, hating being at war rather than at court, he made a peace treaty with Tyrone (beyond his brief) and returned to England.

  • Elizabeth wasn’t happy with the situation and had her council strip him of his public office (role in govt, not his title) and confined him to his house.

  • Essex responded by gathering his followers and marching into London to force a meeting with the Queen. He was branded a traitor, and executed in Feb 1601.