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Elizabethan Government. Elizabeth Cross-Monarchy Shannon Dworaczyk-Privy Council Rachel Greathouse -Courts, Laws, Local Govt. Sergio Meza-Parliament. Monarchy. Queen Elizabeth 1 ruled 45 years from 1559 to her death in 1603. Role of the Monarch.

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elizabethan government

Elizabethan Government

Elizabeth Cross-Monarchy

Shannon Dworaczyk-Privy Council

Rachel Greathouse-Courts, Laws, Local Govt.

Sergio Meza-Parliament


Queen Elizabeth 1 ruled 45 years from 1559 to her death in 1603

role of the monarch
Role of the Monarch

Ultimate decider- all laws require the queens consent

Picked when parliament would meet and what would be discussed

Decided when country would go to war

Decided all matters of education

Decided what citizens would eat and wear

Decided when to send someone to prison/order an execution

the golden age queen elizabeth i
The Golden Age: Queen Elizabeth I

Born: September 7, 1533 to father Henry VIII and mother Anne Boleyn (who failed to provide a male heir and was executed on false charges).

Was crowed queen on January 15, 1559 at the age of 25.

Though she had many suitors, Elizabeth never married or named an successor.

Nicknamed the “Virgin Queen.”

the queen and laws
The Queen and Laws

Though all laws required the queens consent, she could not pass laws by herself. However, she could have a bill drawn up and approved by parliament. She could  pass a royal proclamation without parliament.

the privy council
The Privy Council

Elizabeth’s group of main advisors.

Their leading purpose was to give different opinions on issues.

Usually controlled routine administration

involved in
Involved in:

Matters of religion

Military matters

The queen’s security


The welfare of the citizens

Dealt with both matters of national and individual interest

Issued proclamations in the queen’s name

Supervised law and enforcement

size of the council
Size of the Council

Thinking that more members would cause more problems, Elizabeth dropped the previous member count of 50 down to her 19. (Thinking that many opinions would cause more problems).

Her first council had 19 members.

By her death in 1603, there were only 13 members.

privy council meetings
Privy Council Meetings

In the early years, the council met 3 times a week

By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, it was almost every day.

The Council delegated a lot of their work to secretaries.

the secretary of state william cecil
The Secretary of State: William Cecil

The Secretary of State led the Council.

Elizabeth’s personal secretary and chief adviser; therefore very influential.

Due to his great administrative abilities, he had a reputation of one of the greatest English statesmen.

The role of the secretary was mainly advising the Queen, overseeing the preservation of law and order, defending the realm against plots, and general security

elizabeth i and her parliaments
Elizabeth I and her Parliaments

Parliament was an important institution, but its sessions were occasional. It sat for about 3 of Elizabeth’s 45 years.

Elizabeth decided when to summon/dismiss Parliament. She could veto any law, for law required the crown's consent as well as that of the two Houses.

The 2 primary functions of parliament were legislation and taxation.

There were 57 male peers when Elizabeth acceded. Along with them in the House of Lords sat 23 bishops.

Each English county elected two members, and each Welsh county sent one.

the house of commons
The House of Commons

Although the Crown created borough seats and worked to obtain places for royal servants, Elizabeth made no direct attempt to interfere in the composition of the Commons.

"Court candidates" were regularly elected:  There were about 60 in Elizabeth's first parliament and about 90 in her last.

The Commons saw considerable turnover in its members. Sixty percent of the Members of the 1586 parliament had not sat in 1584, and the proportion was higher still on other occasions.

The Commons did begin to establish an "institutional memory"; procedures and privileges gradually became firmly established.

Continuity and sophistication were fostered by the increasing educational standards of MPs. Of the 420 MPs in 1563, 139 (33%) had attended university and/or the Inns of Court (law school).  By the 1584 parliament, the figure was 219 out of 460 (47%), and in 1593 this increased to 252 (55%).

the house of lords
The House of Lords

The number of peers remained roughly constant throughout Elizabeth's reign: 57 at her accession; 55 at her death. In 1558, these consisted of one duke, one marquis, 15 earls, two viscounts and 38 barons; in 1603, of one marquis, 16 earls, two viscounts and 36 barons.

14 noble families died out for lack of a male heir, and six noblemen were attainted, but Elizabeth created a few new titles to make up the numbers.

The House of Lords was generally pliable to the royal will, but occasionally they took a stand. In 1563 and 1566, the Lords spearheaded attempts to insist that Elizabeth marry and establish the succession.

23 bishops also sat in the House of Lords. Because, bishops were royal appointees, they tended to vote as the queen wished. There were occasional exceptions: for example, in 1566-67 Elizabeth was infuriated by the protest of two archbishops and 13 bishops when she ordered a church reformation bill stopped in the Lords.

relations with parliament
Relations with Parliament

Parliament had been little more than a rubber stamp in the first half of the sixteenth century. During  Elizabeth's reign, the House of Commons became increasingly confident and assertive.

The belief was widespread that the crown should finance ordinary expenses from permanent revenue sources (chiefly, customs and rents from royal lands.) Direct taxation by parliamentary subsidies was seen as an emergency measure.

Parliament did vote taxation to cover war - against Spain and in Ireland - but the proceeds were inadequate. Elizabeth was forced to sell crown land, thereby decreasing ordinary revenue. Receipts from land were in any case falling, as inflation outpaced rent increases, for land was generally let on long leases.

relations with parliament1
Relations with Parliament

Elizabeth turned to various (dubiously legal) means to increase revenue; e.g. leaving bishoprics vacant so she could pocket episcopal income; e.g. licensing privateers to rob the Spaniards in exchange for a cut of the profits.

These schemes produced political problems - the most notable being the Monopolies Debate of 1601, where there was really significant opposition to royal policies in parliament.

On many issues, however, royal policy was largely in accord with public sentiment. Measures against religious dissent, the Catholic threat, vagabonds, and so on passed easily through parliament because generally popular with the political nation.

elizabethan laws
Elizabethan Laws

Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws:

Wealthy Merchant Class began to arise. These wealthy men were looking above their station. They needed to be kept separate from the Upper Classes of the Nobility.

Dictated what color and type of clothing individuals were allowed to own and wear,  an easy and immediate way to identify rank and privilege.

The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life.

Royal servants and anyone with a license from the Queen was exempt - the Elizabethan Acting Troupes and Actors.

the poor law the poor beggars
The Poor Law – The Poor Beggars
  • Beggars were viewed and treated as criminals.
  • Punishment of the  'poor beggars' was that  they would be beaten until they reached the stones that marked the town boundary. (The beatings given as punishment were bloody and merciless and those who were caught continually begging could be sent to prison and even hanged as their punishment.)
  • 'Deserving Poor' –
    • provided with 'Outdoor Relief’
  • 'Deserving Unemployed' –
    • provided with 'Indoor Relief’
    • The sick were cared for in hospitals
    • Apprenticeships were arranged for the young
  • 'Undeserving Poor' - those who turned to a life of crime or became beggars
    • criminals who turned to theft
    • 'Idle Beggars'  but many have since been referred to as 'Poor Beggars'.
    • extremely harsh punishments

The Elizabethan politics and general overview of the treatment of life was very brutal in comparison to today. In fact, if you were being charged with a severe crime, you may have to endure several types of torture. Many people were tortured to bring out other peoples names if they thought they had necessary details that they wanted.

Committers of high treason and other serious crimes received the death sentence

Those of lesser crimes were sent to prison or the stocks.

local governments
Local Governments

Royal representatives, Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, and Lords Lieutenant, were in every county; they ensured that the queen’s commands and laws were obeyed.

Regional governments helped oversee parts of England that the Privy Council could not supervise.

The Council of the North

The Council of the Marches

Manors were run by nobility and gentry.

Each city and town had its own government, headed by a mayor as well.


The courts made up the judicial system of Elizabethan England.

The most important courts were the Great Sessions Courts or the Assizes, and the Quarter Sessions Courts. These two dealt with most crimes. The Assizes was famous for its power to inflict harsh punishments.

Unimportant crimes were handled by the Petty Sessions Courts, Manor Courts, and town courts. Civil cases were dealt with by various courts, depending on the person’s monetary status; the wealthy were tried by the Star Chamber, one of the highest profile courts which consisted of mostly Privy Counselors. The Court of Chancery also judged criminal cases, the Court of Requests with the poor, Church Courts with religious and moral cases, and other specific courts.


What are two important roles of a monarch?

What was Queen Elizabeth I’s nickname?

How many members were in Elizabeth’s Privy Council by her death?

Who was Elizabeth’s Secretary of State?

What are the two Houses in parliament?

How often did parliament sit during Elizabeth’s reign?

Describe the Poor Law: