Elizabeth I: There is much debate amongst historians concerning the religious priorities of Elizabeth in formulating the momentous Church Settlement of 1559

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Elizabeth I: The Religious Settlement of 1559 There is much debate amongst historians concerning the religious priorities of Elizabeth in formulating the momentous Church Settlement of 1559, which was to shape the Church of England for years to come. Many factors can lay claim to shaping the Settlement, but in order to judge which one influenced it most strongly; one must look at the Settlement itself, which contains a strong base of Protestantism but with conservative concessions. Taking into account Elizabeth’s own personal beliefs, which were conveniently politically shrewd, Elizabeth seemed to have adopted the pragmatic policy of trying to please everyone and to keep internal peace, with a Settlement containing enough Catholic superficiality to keep her conservative subjects, if not bishops, contented.The traditional view of the Settlement, taken by historians such as J.E Neale, is that it was influenced by Protestant pressure applied by Puritans returning from abroad and that Elizabeth herself favoured the conservative methods. This view relied mainly on evidence about the ‘Puritan Choir’, a group of committed Puritan MPs led by Sir Francis Knollys and Sir Anthony Cooke, making up a quarter of the 404 members of Parliament. After the Protestant burnings of the reign of ‘bloody Mary’, many radical Protestants returned to England from their refuges of Geneva and Strasbourg, both hot-beds of Protestant ideas. Under Elizabeth they perceived a chance to return England to its rightful religion
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and with no compromise with the Catholics. However, the historians following Neale’s theory paint Elizabeth as preferring the Henrician form of religion of her father, with more conservative practices such as keeping a crucifix in the Chapel Royal, even when they had been removed from most of the churches in England. There is a danger when trying to ascertain Elizabeth’s own personal beliefs, as much were dictated by political considerations and so cannot be considered her own personal preferences. Indeed, revisionist historians have rejected Neale’s view as the existence of the ‘Puritan Choir’ has been disproved, in fact Norman Jones ...

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The key strength of this essay is the sharp focus on the issue of weighing up the factors that shaped and influenced the settlement. It also has a confident style and used detail about the period to precisely support the points being made. There is good reasoning and this shows a grasp of the complex situation Elizabeth was in and does not over simplify the issue. If this was for A Level course work there would need to be more use of the views of historians and more carefully selected quotes.