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'A religious settlement of her own choosing'. How far is this an accurate view of the settlement of the Church of England under Elizabeth I?

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Introduction

Alex Jockelson 'A religious settlement of her own choosing'. How far is this an accurate view of the settlement of the Church of England under Elizabeth I? The debate has arisen as to whether the Elizabethan religious settlement was actually an accurate reflection of the monarch's true desires or that, in contrast, Elizabeth was pressurised into a decision that she was not altogether content with. Both views have their downfalls but whilst it is hard to convince us that Elizabeth found the settlement altogether agreeable, there is no doubt that she intended from the start to restore royal authority over the Church and probably wished to introduce a Protestant service of some kind, though of what kind is unclear. Elizabeth had been tutored by Protestants, and she never seriously considered maintaining Catholicism as the national religion. Denouncing Protestantism would have been disloyal to her parents, her friends, and her beliefs. The only question was how quickly she would seek to reinstate Protestantism, but this was a question requiring very serious consideration - Elizabeth needed to remain secure on her new throne, and Protestant leanings had the chance of aggravating the powerful Spanish. ...read more.

Middle

The Lords passed the Uniformity bill only 21 to 18, and Elizabeth had imprisoned two Bishops because she suspected they would have voted against the bill. One was also mysteriously absent, and between them these three could have forced a draw in the Lords. The Commons had passed it easily. Elizabeth had introduced these Acts but was the final settlement planned by the Crown or forced upon it by political pressures? The near-contemporary account of William Camden described the settlement as the successful outcome of royal policy formed before Parliament assembled and set out in a document known as 'The Device for the Alteration of Religion'. Dr N.L. Jones also shares this view and has argued that the settlement which emerged in 1559 was essentially what Elizabeth wanted and evidence for it can be found in the document. The 'Device' answered certain questions about the best method to reintroduce the supremacy and alter religion. Written in response to a request from the government, it also makes it clear that a prayer book would be the vehicle for the new uniformity and because it did not distinguish between the books of 1549 and 1552 it is reasonable to assume that the later (the one last in force before Catholic restoration) ...read more.

Conclusion

It is, however, easy to criticize this view and therefore support the idea that the religious settlement was indeed Elizabeth's own choosing. Firstly, once the settlement was established Elizabeth rejected any further desire to reform which suggests she was perfectly happy with the settlement she had instigated. Secondly, if Dr Jones is right and there was indeed no radical Protestant opposition to the crown in 1559 than Neale's picture of such an opposition during the 1560s, that which he sees deriving from the events of 1559, must be questioned. Lastly, Neale's view exaggerates the role of the Protestants whilst at the same time underestimating the great resistance and influence from the Lord's which nearly foiled Elizabeth's plans in passing the Act of Uniformity. The Queen could not instigate her policies without plenty of difficulty and it may be true that she was required to rethink some of her original intentions. However, the real confrontation was between Crown and Lords, and between Lords and Commons, not between Crown and Commons. It is therefore accurate to suggest that the religious settlement was indeed of her own choosing as she played the lead role in its consultation, compromise and adjustment. The input and opinion of substantial groups in Court, Council, Parliament and Clergy in achieving a lasting outcome was indeed just that. ...read more.

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