To what extent was the Elizabethan Church Settlement of 1559 - 66 motivated more by political considerations rather than religious?

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To what extent was the Elizabethan Church Settlement of 1559 – 66 motivated more by political considerations rather than religious?

Upon her accession in 1558, Elizabeth inherited a nation that had suffered religious instability between Protestantism and Catholicism for many years. Wanting to get rid of the uncertainty of the three previous reigns, under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I, she introduced a religious settlement in 1559 which formed the foundations of the Church of England, passing four Acts relating to religion. However, it was unclear what Elizabeth really wanted or what her motives were in establishing this settlement. Was Elizabeth intending to sort this out by political means, or was religion the major focus in her mind? In this essay, I will be approaching a conclusion too see the principles of this Church Settlement between 1559 - 66 and whether it was owing to political or religious factors.

        One undeniable factor that made the Church Settlement motivated by political considerations was that it had to be enacted through Parliament. Parliament consisted of two bodies, the House of Commons and Lords; their profession was to pass laws which placed the Religious Settlement into practice and made sure it was done through their call. Elizabeth found it difficult to pass her first settlement through Parliament, in which the Bill of Supremacy confirmed her as Supreme Head of the Church and two Bills of Uniformity which re-adopted Edward VI’s radical prayer book of 1552. Although it was easily accepted through the Commons, both bills were rejected by the House of Lords; they opposed the book which contained Zwingli’s ideas such as the bread held in transubstantiation was just bread and there was nothing special about its presence, referring to the body of Christ. They prevented the title of ‘Head’ of the Church as they believed it to be of the Popes domain and that it was wrong for a woman to be given such authority over the kingdom. The House of Lord was seriously dominated by the Catholic view due to the higher nobility and Bishops of the Marian Church, so Elizabeth had to establish the settlement and work her way around it politically.

        Following that, she was motivated by the political control over the Church Settlement. Eventually accepted by the Lords was the Act of Supremacy which confirmed her as Supreme Governor; an oath had to be taken by clergy’s and royal officials accepting the Governor and making sure that no foreign power, such as the prelate, ought to have authority as her Majesty. Though it showed signs of weakness, this control helped Elizabeth show who was boss and that she could impose Acts. Financial aspects of the settlement helped her control the Crown after the deep economic crisis Mary I had left for England. The First Fruits and Tenths Act of 1559 allowed Elizabeth much needed revenue without increasing taxes on the laity. The Act of Exchange also passed in 1559 gave Elizabeth the right to take over the property once held by bishops. It also stopped them from renting out land lasting more than twenty one years. This Act helped take away considerable wealth from the Church and ensured that the bishops followed Elizabeth’s wishes in religion. So this shows how she tried to establish the state off the country by political control.  

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        It was essential to keep the peace in England with this control, and this was another factor motivated by politics. Elizabeth was aware of the instability of England and that the quarrels over religion would lead to political division making Catholic threat from home and abroad easier and expected. So in order to keep the balance between Protestantism and Catholicism, Elizabeth introduced the Act of Uniformity; the Book of Common Prayer of 1552 was brought back with modification to the communion service. This was a deliberate fudge to allow and satisfy both Protestant and Catholic beliefs, although it infuriated the ...

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