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Explain the factors which shaped the Elizabethan Religious Settlement reached in 1559

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Introduction

Jane Stiller U6ARD 01/10/01 Explain the factors which shaped the Elizabethan Religious Settlement reached in 1559 When Elizabeth I was proclaimed Queen in 1558 a new era of religious tolerance began. With her religious settlement, Elizabeth had to consider a number of different factors. Without doubt, the most important task following her accession was to resolve the ideological divisions in the country brought about by the religious changes in the past three monarch's reigns. However, when deciding on her own religious settlement, Elizabeth had a number of influencing factors. She had grown up as a 'committed and conventionally pious Protestant' and these views obviously effected the way she ran her household and country, and consequently influenced her decisions over the religious settlement. Another evident influence was the views of the Privy Council and of her chief councillor, William Cecil. It has been argued that their opinions forced Elizabeth into a more protestant settlement that she originally desired. There are also many debates over the role of parliament and how their personal views dictated the outcome of the settlement. In particular, historians argue about whether the Commons or the Lords shaped the religious settlement to a greater degree. It is also important to consider that Elizabeth had to take into account other factors, not just religion, when establishing the settlement. England's political, financial and international situations all had to be considered. ...read more.

Middle

This therefore shows the influence of the Privy Council. However, historians such as Jones believe that the settlement of 1559 was actually a government settlement, influenced by parliament and not the Privy Council or it's members. This idea can also be discredited as many believe that the House of Commons did not have that much influence at this time and it was only the political muscle of the Privy Council discrediting the Catholics which allowed the settlement to be pushed through the Lords. It is therefore crucial to consider the influence of the House of Lords and Chambers on the religious settlement at this time. Within the House of Commons there was a powerful party of influential Protestants. Out of the four hundred and two members of the Commons (in 1559) only two hundred and forty nine were present when the Religious Settlement was passed. There were twenty to twenty five radical Protestants, eight of which had just returned from exile. There were twenty committed Catholics. The concept of the 'Puritan Choir' which Neale introduces, would support the idea that it was the radical House of Commons that forced Elizabeth in to a more Protestant settlement that she had previously wished for. Neale argues that the 'chorist's' such as Percival Wilburn who opposed the return to the conservative 1549 Prayer book, pushed Elizabeth into this more revolutionary settlement. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is clear from this evidence that there were a variety of factors which influenced the religious settlement reached in 1559. It has been argued by many historians that Elizabeth had little control over the decisions made regarding religion. However, from her strong religious upbringing, this is unlikely to be the case. There is no doubt that a number of other factors influenced her decisions. However, it is difficult to gauge and decide which had more impact on the final settlement. It cannot be denied that William Cecil made a number of decisions when regarding the settlement. The power of the Lords and Commons obviously had a noticeable effect also. It can be argued, however, that Elizabeth was a "secular minded reformer" (John Guy) and cared more about politics than her own principles of religion. This would explain acts such as the Act of Exchange and the dissolving of the few restored monasteries. However, it is difficult to conclude how concerned with finances Elizabeth actually was, as there were no pressing foreign policy issues to fund. It can therefore be concluded that there were a number of factors which influenced the Elizabethan religious settlement. All of them were as important as each other, and some were repercussions of others. For example, it is difficult to distinguish whether the House of Commons and Lords acted as a result of manners of the Privy Council and Cecil. The issues in question are therefore all inter-related and it is impossible to judge, without further evidence, which influenced the Queen the most. ...read more.

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