I was going to create a new node for this, but decided against it.

Elizabeth I's decision to establish a protestant settlement in England

The first taste of Protestantism that England had was Henry's break with Rome, he abolished his Catholic Church in favour of a Lutheran Protestant church, he wanted a divorce so he could re-marry and try for a male heir. Edward took up Protestantism with vigour and turned to a Calvin/Zwingli mix of religious ideas. Some would say that Edward was the equivalent to a modern day Puritan, in fact, he pretty much was.

His successor, Mary (now coined by historians 'Bloody Mary') was a strong Catholic so decided to change the church of England once more, she put her foot down and said "England will be Catholic!". Some would say that Mary doesn't deserve her prefix 'bloody' as she really wasn't that bad. It's just that Catholicism was so unpopular under Mary that contemporaries got mighty annoyed and started calling her names.

It was this unpopularity of Catholicism that was in Liz's favour when she came to making her decision of a Protestant State Religion.

She had to take into account a number of other factors, for example, the international situation. Religion would place her in a certain position politically, both internally and very importantly externally. To Catholic Europe (Italy, France and Spain), being protestant was like being communist in the 1900's. It wasn't a huge advantage.

If she wasn't careful, the Pope would excommunicate her from the Catholic church (he did this too late to have any substantial effect), if this happened then the Catholics of England would no longer be bound to Liz's sovereignty and officially she would no longer be their queen. The Catholics would be encouraged to stand up against Liz! In fact, most Catholics were more patriotic than religious. They chose country over church.

Another factor to take into consideration was that of her illegitimacy through the Catholic Church - because Henry decided to branch off into a different church to get a divorce, Liz was looked upon as a bastard by Catholics; she was born out of wedlock.

It's also worthy to note that Liz was bought up as a protestant, that was her personal belief and this may have proved to be an important part of her decision making process.

The majority of the political nation was protestant! This included a number of Liz's current ministers, for example, Winchester (her current financial minister) was a devout Protestant. Don't be fooled though, there were still some very powerful Catholics in the Peerage and governing class. There were still a number of Catholic Bishops that had a right to go to parliament also.

Liz also had to take into account that there was a claimant to the throne in that of Mary. If she were to decide to go Catholic then the staunch English Catholics would demand that Mary be re-instated and the bastard Liz thrown out.

The last issue to throw into the mix was that of many Protestant returning from the Continent, e.g., such places as Geneva, Zurich and Frankfurt. The return of such strong Protestants was helping mount the pressure for a settlement in favour of the majority.

When it all came down to it, however, the prerogatives of the Monarch reigned supreme over all. The Monarch would decide the religious policy of England. It was Liz's decision, nobody else's.

She was giving out clues before the settlement was established that she was a protestant, for example, on Christmas day in her chapel she walked out as the priest held up the host. She was showing her disapproval of transubstantiation and Catholicism altogether.

Liz chose a protestant settlement, parliament was called in 1559 after amendments were made to the first Bill of Liz's church settlement, the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity were passed.

These were two very key Acts for Liz's first parliament, the former made Liz the supreme governor or the church and the latter was the introduction of the 'book of common prayer'.

Views of a contemporary, Foxe, were that Liz pushed the settlement though in the face of Catholic opposition and as a result her church was not as protestant as she would've hoped.

Historian's views, looking back upon Elizabethan England, are somewhat more differentiated. Neale (1953) was convinced that there was a Puritan Choir in Liz's first parliament, he argued that this Choir pushed Liz in a more protestant direction than she wanted to go. This was dangerous given the international situation.

Later Elton (1984) destroyed any such ideas of a choir.

Jones (1982) seems to be the most accurate historian when he makes the following points.

  • The main opposition came from Catholic bishops in the House of Lords, they forced Liz to modify the Act of Uniformity and it was only passed by 3 votes, even after a few bishops were imprisoned for 'social disobedience'.
  • The settlement contained elements of compromise but a compromise close to her original view.
  • Liz was generally satisfied with what was produced, we know this because afterwards she was unwilling to allow discussion on it or changes to it throughout her reign.

This series of essays (Decision to..) were written in preparation of exams in a weeks time. Wish me luck. Please feel free to /msg me with suggestions of what I could add, remove, edit, etc. Anything that is inaccurate I'd appreciate it if you gave me your opinion :)

For further reading:
The Life of Elizabeth I - Alison Weir
Elizabeth Tudor: Portrait of a Queen - Lacey Baldwin Smith
Elizabeth I: A Feminist Perspective - Susan Bassnett