'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?
‘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 religious settlement imposed by Elizabeth to the Church of England was mainly of her own choosing, however compromises were made throughout her reign. The religious settlement was based upon Elizabeth’s need for religious uniformity for the stability of her crown, therefore these compromises were made to keep the nation content with the religious climate to prevent uprisings against Elizabeth that might threaten her stability on her throne. The opposition Elizabeth did face was more of a struggle between the House of Lords, the Queen, and the Bishops over matters that Elizabeth found middle ground on that appeased both religious factions. In principle Elizabeth chose the religious settlement that most suited her political needs.
Organisation of the Church was crucial if Elizabeth was to impose her wishes on the Church of England. Elizabeth chose a Catholic style hierarchy, where the Bishops instructed the clergy on religious matters according to Elizabeth. In theory this meant that Elizabeth could control the Church through the Bishops, leading her religion into the direction she wanted. However this depended on the loyalty of her Bishops, and since all but one of the Bishops refused the Oath of Supremacy, then Elizabeth had to use the Marian exiles living in Europe, who had not proved their loyalty to the crown unlike the previous Bishops. Elizabeth wanted subservient, uniform civil servants not reformers, this is why she chose the Catholic priests first. However because they did not declare loyalty to Elizabeth, she was forced into using the Protestant priests, who were less obliged to the crown. Therefore although the hierarchy of the Church of England was of her own choosing, Elizabeth had to compromise on the Bishops used for the stability of her crown. This institution of episcopacy is key in Elizabeth’s settlement, because it now allows her to dictate what doctrine and religious practices the clergy should teach, in principle it allows her to control the Church.
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The Injunctions of 1559 show us that Elizabeth can choose which religious practices to remain and which religious practices to be banned. These injunctions were important because they needed to appease both Catholics and Protestants, they therefore consisted of a compromise between both Catholic and Protestant practices. This confirms the view that the religious settlement was primarily introduce for the stability of Elizabeth’s crown by introducing a National Church that was acceptable to everyone. The injunctions showed examples of Elizabeth able to pick what practices she thought would be acceptable to both Catholics and Protestants and therefore able to choose her own religious settlement. I.e. Pilgrimages were banned but images were allowed to remain. However she could not install a settlement that was too Protestant, so the injunctions stated that every parish had to contain a book written by Erasmus, who was Catholic. Compromises like this meant that Elizabeth could not totally choose her own settlement, but ensured religious uniformity and in turn the stability of her crown.
The close scrutiny from foreign powers on the religious settlement also restricted Elizabeth from having it totally her way. This is evident from the Crucifix Affair. To appease Catholics both at home and abroad, Elizabeth ordered that each Church should have a crucifix, however this upset the Protestant Bishops who thought it as a Catholic ornament. Elizabeth was forced to back down from this crisis. Showing that Elizabeth had to reach compromises with both religious factions to keep them happy. However a crucifix was to remain in the Chapel Royal to be seen by Catholic foreign powers, so not to upset them. Influences from Protestants and Catholics both at home and abroad caused Elizabeth to back down from certain religious matters so to keep the peace.
Elizabeth could choose a religious settlement of her own choosing; the Act of Exchange shows this. Elizabeth had the power to exchange Church lands with temporal lands. The net result was that the Church lost a lot of money. This was mainly used for patronage, to give nobles favourable leases. This is a typical example of how Elizabeth can choose her own religious settlement. Elizabeth is showing that she can mould her religious settlement to suit her political needs, and impose acts like this to gain money. However she did not have it all her own way, there was some determined opposition from the Bishops over the exchange term. This restricted Elizabeth to just giving out Church lands as patronage. Again showing that some compromises had to be made to keep religious tranquillity.
Elizabeth sought a return of Henrician Catholicism, Catholicism without the Pope. Elizabeth was not so obsessed about the revenue of her father’s reign but the loyalty of his subjects, especially the clergy, to the monarch. Elizabeth therefore chose a religious settlement that would give her this loyalty. This is shown by the Act of Supremacy, it was used to sever the connections with Rome and return the title ‘head of the Church’ to the monarch. Firstly it indicates that Elizabeth could introduce a religious settlement of her own choosing i.e. mildly Protestant. It also shows that above all Elizabeth required absolute conformity from the clergy to the crown, as shown by the oath that the clergy had to swear. Elizabeth was now ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Church of England. Basically meaning that she was in control, in turn meaning that she could decide how the Church should be ran in all aspects. This is shown by the Supremacy Act, which repeals the Marian Heresy Laws and replaces them with the High Commission, which could judge orthodox doctrine.
The fundamental Doctrine between the Protestants and the Catholics were in some cases diverse. Elizabeth had to choose a compromise between them for religious uniformity and therefore the stability of her crown. For example the wording of the Eucharist was chosen by Elizabeth, it was made so ambiguous that neither Protestants nor Catholics could take major offence to it. Mass was retained to the dismay of Protestants, however the raising of the host was refused so again a compromise was made between the two sides. Elizabeth has chosen to find middle ground between the Protestants and Catholics so that she could gain a National Church. What is meant by this is that everyone beliefs the same i.e. uniformity. In this way Elizabeth has chosen aspects of the religious settlement that keep both religious factions content with the religion.
Religious Practices also had to be negotiated by Elizabeth so that she chose a balance between the differences between Protestants and Catholics that appeased both sides. The Act of Uniformity for example shows that Elizabeth chose to retain the Catholics ornaments and vestments, which Protestants thought to be wrong. This choice was mainly down to the perception of Elizabeth that continuation of some Catholic practices might promote uniformity in worship, that the Catholics might find it easier to worship in the altered religious settlement and therefore keep her crown stable. The injunctions also show examples of how Elizabeth designed the religious settlement to her own wishes when considering the differences in religious practices between Catholics and Protestants. For example although the Act of Uniformity allowed Catholic ornaments to remain, the injunctions ban Catholic processions, this would have been in favour with the Protestants. These compromises made over individual matters allow Elizabeth the ability to please both Catholics and Protestants because she can please both sides by instead of pleasing just the Catholics or just the Protestants.
The religious settlement imposed on the Church of England throughout Elizabeth’s reign was mainly of her own choosing. She designed the doctrine, organisation and religious practices in accordance to her own wishes, which were political i.e. to gain religious uniformity for the stability of her throne. For this stability Elizabeth made choices that appeased both Catholics and Protestants either by continuity in practices that pleased Catholics or making moves towards Protestantism. However there were circumstances in religion where Elizabeth had to back down, this was mainly caused by the struggle between the House of Lords, the Queen, and the Bishops. The organisation imposed on the Church of England with Elizabeth was of vital importance because this allowed her to direct the Church to suit her political needs. The settlement was scattered with compromises that were key to keep both religions content, and uniformity in worship.