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Edexcel GCSE History Queen, Government and Religion, 1558–69

This section provides revision resources For Edexcel GCSE History and the Queen, Government and Religion, 1558–69 chapter. The revision notes cover the Edexcel exam board and latest specification. As part of your GCSE History course, you will need to know the following content:

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The Situation on Elizabeth's Acession

The first chapter for Early Elizabethan England, 1558–88 looks at the situation on Elizabeth's accession. For this you will need to know about the following for Edexcel GCSE History:

  • Elizabethan England in 1558: society and government.
  • The Virgin Queen: the problem of her legitimacy, gender, marriage. Her character and strengths.
  • Challenges at home and from abroad: the French threat, financial weaknesses.
Queen, Government and Religion, 1558–69

The year was 1558 and upon the death of Mary, Elizabeth became queen at the age of 25.

The first thing she did to secure her power and ensure her position as queen was not threatened, was to arrange her coronation to happen quickly. She arranged for her coronation for January 1559 and then drew up plans for England's religion. By doing this, Elizabeth would be the ultimate source of political and religious power in England. 

In 1558, Elizabethan society was an incredibly dangerous time period to be alive for a number of reasons. For example, if you were 16 years old, you had already outlived 21% of the people who were born at the same time as yourself. The average life expectancy during this period was only 28 - 41 years old. Unlike today, there was no police force or army to uphold the rule of law and society was based completely on an unequal hierarchal system to keep order. During this period, hundreds of people were also put to death and burned alive by the government for their religious beliefs. Having beliefs different from that of the monarch was extremely dangerous and to further complicate matters, since Henry 8th, religion had changed with every subsequent king or queen.

"During Elizabeth's long reign, England changed dramatically and she is often remembered as one of England's greatest monarchs. She ruled through a time of great religious change, war and even discovery. She encountered huge challenges from abroad and within her own country including attempts to assassinate her and a huge Spanish invasion."

What was the social structure of Elizabethan society?

social structure of Elizabethan society
  • At the top of the social structure was the monarch and the ruler of the country.
  • Followed by the monarch were nobles and gentry who were the landowners of the realm.
  • Yeoman came next and these were men who owned smaller amounts of land and considered the lower gentry.
  • This was followed by tenant farmers who rented the land from the gentry or yeoman.
  • The labouring poor worked on the lands for the yeoman to pay.
  • Right at the bottom, you had the vagrants and homeless who either through choice or disability could not work.
  • Approximately 90% of the population lived in the countryside and this social structure was relied on to keep law and order.
  • Within Elizabethan towns, where the other remaining 10% of the population lived, the social structure there worked slightly differently.

"You owed respect and obedience to those above you in Elizabethan society and had a duty of care to those below you."

Landowners would run their estates according to these ideals and during times of hardship, would be expected to try look after their tenants.

Households in Elizabethan society were run in a similar fashion with the husband or father the head of the household and the wife and children (and any servants) expected to be obedient to him.

The Social Structure of Elizabethan Towns

Social Structure of Elizabethan Towns

In Elizabethan towns, the hierarchy was a little different and based on wealth and occupation.

  • Wealthy merchants were at the top, followed by professionals such as lawyers, doctors and teachers for example.
  • Skilled craftsmen were next in the social hierarchy with silversmiths, glovers, tailors or carpenters, all of which could be wealthy business owners themselves.
  • Craftsmen were organised into guilds which were a form of trade associations that monitored standards such as working conditions and who were able to practice the trade.
  • Unskilled labourers and the unemployed were at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

Elizabethan Government

Key features
What was it's role?
The court was the body of people who lived in, or near, the same palace or house as the monarch. The court consisted of members of nobility including the monarchs key servants, advisers and friends. To attend court, the monarch's permission was required
  • To entertain and advise the monarch.
  • The court was used as a public display of wealth and power.
  • Noble members* of the court had influence with the monarch rather than any actual power (Courtiers*)
Privy Council
The Privy Council was made up of leading courtiers, advisers, nobles and senior government officials.

The Privy Council consisted of approximately 19 members who were chosen by the monarch.

The Council met at least three times a week with the monarch presiding.
  • Debate the current issues faced and advise the monarch on government policy.
  • To ensure the monarch's decisions were carried out.
  • To oversee law and order, the local government and security of England.
  • To monitor the Justices of the Peace.
  • Monitor proceedings of Parliament.
Parliament consisted of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Parliament could only be called and dismissed by the monarch.

Elections were held before each new parliament however very few people actually had the right to vote.

Elizabeth 1st called parliament ten times during her reign.
  • To grant extraordinary taxation, which was additional taxation to pay for unexpected expenses such as war.
  • Parliament also passed Laws.
  • Offered advice to the monarch.
Lords Lieutenant
The monarch would appoint a Lord Lieutenant for each country.

Lord Lieutenants were often members of the nobility and members of the Privy Council.

They were seen as essential to maintaining the monarchs power and England's defences.
  • Lord Lieutenants were in charge of raising and training the local militia and overseeing county defences. the local Militia was a military force of ordinary people raised in an emergency.
  • They also oversaw the enforcement of policies and were part of the local government.
Justices of the Peace (JPs)
The Justices of the Peace were members of the nobility.

They were unpaid and reported to the Privy Council.

The role was a popular job and seen as a position of status.
  • Justices of the Peace made sure all economic and social policies were carried out.
  • They heard county court cases every 3 months for serious crimes.
  • They were part of the local government.

The Role of the Monarch

The government in Elizabethan England was centred around the monarch.

Even prior to the Elizabethan period, monarchs believed they had a right to rule 'by the grace of god'. This would later be known as 'divine right'.

Although she would seek advice from her Privy Council, the monarch would go on to make all the important decisions on government policy as well as:

  • Declare war or make peace
  • Call or dismiss parliament or agree and reject laws they may propose
  • Rule in some legal cases, for example, if the law was unclear or if people appealed a judgement
  • Grant titles or lands, money or jobs.

What is Patronage?

Patronage was used by the monarch to reward people by granting them land, title or for championing a cause which they supported.

  • It was an effective way of getting support from people and controlling them.
  • However, whatever the monarch gave, they could also just as easily take away if unhappy with people.
  • Other wealthy people could also give patronage however it was the queen who was the ultimate patron.
  • Elizabeth 1st was a patron of many explorers and voyages during her reign.

The Secretary of State

The most important member of the Privy Council for Queen Elizabeth 1st was the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State was the person in the government she was closest to and advised the queen on matters important to the Crown.

The most significant person to hold this role was Sir William Cecil, who held the position until 1573.

Sir William Cecil was later named Lord Burghley.

How Did The Monarch and Parliament Work Together?

Although the monarch had a regular income, there would be times of special need where more money would be needed.

To achieve this, raising extraordinary taxation was required however it could only be done with parliaments agreement and so without parliaments agreement, it was not possible to govern effectively. The queen could issue direct orders known as proclamations however, they could not be enforced by the law courts. Acts of parliament could be enforced however, and important policies would be presented to members for their approval.

In theory, it was possible for members of parliament to vote against what the monarch proposed however in practice, this rarely happened. There were some decisions only the monarch could make and the most important of these included foreign policies, marriage and the issue of who was going to succeed the throne after the monarch died.

The power to make such decisions was known as royal prerogative. Queen Elizabeth 1st claimed it was her right as the monarch to stop parliament discussing any issues she didn't want them to discuss.

Elizabethan Parliament

The House of Commons under Elizabeth's rule was very different from the House of Commons we know today.

There were no political parties, no prime minister and only wealthy men could vote or become members of parliament (MPs).

The Privy Councillors usually picked the MPs and elections were mostly unchallenged.

Although MPs claimed the right to free speech, this did not prevent them from being sent to the Tower of London when it was decided, usually by the queen herself, that they had crossed a line and gone too far (they were usually always released).

This meant Elizabeth had considerable control over parliamentary affairs and she would deliver her speeches there when she felt the need to assert her authority.

The Virgin Queen and Problems With Legitimacy

To inherit the throne, it was crucial that the monarch was legitimate which meant they had to be born whilst the reigning king and queen were married and in wedlock. It was not possible to inherit the throne unless they were born in wedlock.

Elizabeth's legitimacy was cast in doubt because her father had divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon in 1533 so he could marry Anne Boleyn as he believed she could provide him with a male heir to the throne. Catherine had given birth many times however only one child lived past infancy: his daughter Mary. Henry wanted a male heir because he believed a woman was not capable of ruling with the same authority as a man. He also believed Catherine could not give him the son he so desperately wanted to pass on the throne to.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, refused to grant Henry the divorce he wanted and this led to one of the most important developments in English history: The English Reformation. Henry VIII instead, created the Church of England, which was separate from the Catholic Church, and placed himself its head. He then granted himself the divorce and married Anne Boleyn on 25th January 1533. Elizabeth was born on 7th September 1533.

Devout Catholics refused to acknowledge Henry's divorce because the pope had not agreed to it. When Elizabeth was born, Catherine of Aragon was still alive and therefore not everyone accepted that Elizabeth was legitimate. This resulted in some Catholics even being executed for refusing to accept her legitimacy.

In 1536, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's mother,  was executed for treason and Henry VIII himself declared her illegitimate which excluded her from succession however he later reversed this decision.

Possible Edexcel GCSE History exam questions:

  • Write about two issues Elizabeth I faced over her suitability to rule England
  • What were Elizabeth I's strengths and weaknesses as a monarch?

Gender and Marraige Issues

A queen ruling on her own without a king was something that was very new and seemed unnatural to 16th century society. The Christian religion taught that women should be under the control of men. In addition, monarchs were still expected to lead their armies into battle.

Benefits for Elizabeth getting married:

  • Marrying a husband could see them fulfil the role of military leader during times of war, which is an important part of the monarchs role.
  • If the queen married, she could have children that would ensure the countrys stability as there would be no dispute over who would be the next monarch. Disputes over the throne could lead to conflict between rival claimants which could distabalise the country.

Costs for Elizabeth getting married:

  • But who could the queen marry? Women are expected to be obedient to their husbands. Marrying a husband would see her sidelined as 16th century prejudice would see the queens husband as the figure of authority.
  • The only man the queen could marry of suitable rank would have to be a prince himself. Marrying a foreign prince would likely cause further problems as they would become the dominant king and likely put their own foreign countries needs before Englands.

Due to prejudice in the 16th century, women were not considered to be physically, mentally or emotionally capable of governing. Even the home was expected to be under the control of the husband or father, so it was unusual for women to be in a position of power. Many people thought Elizabeth should marry but she had no intention of doing this. Elizabeth turned down many offers from some of the most eligible princes of Europe, including her own brother in law, Phillip II of Spain. Other failed suitors included King Eric of Sweden and the Duke of Alencon who was the heir to the French throne.

Mary I, Queen of England

The majority of people thought women were not capable of ruling and this prejudice wasn’t helped by Mary’s reign as Englands first ruling queen regnant. 

Under Mary I, the following happened:

  • England had lost a war against France and morale was low. 
  • The country’s finances were in a poor state as were many of the people.
  • Several bad harvests had led to hunger, poverty and disease.
  • Marys marriage to King Phillip II of Spain had let to rebellion due to how unpopular it was.
  • Mary had also burned almost 300 people for their religious beliefs which made her unpopular.

What were Queen Elizabeth's Character and Strengths?

Queen Elizabeth was highly intelligent and well educated, with a keen eye for detail and an excellent grasp of politics. She spoke several languages including Latin, Greek, French and Italian. She also understood the dangerous world of court politics as she had been kept a prisoner in the Tower of London in 1554 on suspicion of treason against Mary I while she was in power. Elizabeth knew ambitious courtiers schemed and plotted to gain power and influence while living a lavish lifestyle and how high the stakes were: falling out of favour with the queen and it could cost them their life. 

Elizabeth was charismatic and confident and made persuasive speeches that would win over her subjects. She could make others understand her viewpoint and had a temper that people feared. Her Privy Council often found her frustrating as she would take a long time to make up her mind, especially over serious matters.

Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn

In an effort to further legitimise her claim to the throne, Elizabeth campaigned for her mother, Anne Boleyn, to be remembered in a positive light. Henry VIII had executed Anne Boleyn, however Elizabeth wanted her to be remembered as his greatest love, and a martyr to the Protestant cause.

How Queen Elizabeth Was Different

Historian Christopher Haigh interpreted Elizabeth as a strong, independent female leader in his book Elizabeth I (1988)

“Elizabeth sought to present herself, woman though she was, as a fit occupant of the throne of England, and she did not propose to confuse the issue by recruiting a husband or an heir… This was done not by an attack upon the sixteenth century stereotype of a woman. Elizabeth accepted the image and often derided her own sex… she did not seek to change the ideal, but to escape from it, by suggesting that she was no ordinary woman.”

Historian Elizabeth Jenkins wrote about how Elizabeth ruled England in Elizabeth the Great (2001).

“Elizabeth was self-willed and dictatorial…Yet she had qualities that aroused the admiration and emotion of men…pale and frail, glittering with jewels…she rode so fast that it alarmed the Master of the Horse responsible for her safety, and danced and walked as if she could never get enough of rapid motion…Her ministers groaned at the amount of work she exacted and at having to spend their own money in the public service; they exclaimed that they must retire, or at least take a holiday; but they Queen could not spare them, and they were with her until they died”

Challenges at Home and From Abroad: Financial Weakness

Although being king or queen granted great power, they couldn’t, unfortunately, do whatever they liked. They may have been able to take the throne by ‘divine right’ but they needed money and support to rule successfully.

Monarchs could raise money from:

  • Rents and income from their own lands (Crown lands)
  • Taxes from trade (known as customs duties)
  • Special additional taxes known as subsidies, which had to be agreed by parliament
  • Profits of justice fines (fines, property or lands from people convicted of crimes)
  • Loans (sometimes loans were ‘forced’, meaning they were compulsory and never repaid).

When Elizabeth came to power, the government did not have a lot of money as they had fought costly wars prior to her becoming queen and lots of crown lands had already been sold off to raise money to fight them. When Elizabeth took the throne, the Crown was £300,000 in debt which was a huge sum of money during 1558. In contrast, the total income of the Crown at that time was approximately £286,667.

Elizabethan Money

Money during Elizabeth’s time was very different from what we have today.

There was no paper money, and coins had to have a specific amount of silver or gold within them. In an effort to make more money to fight the wars in the 1540s, the government of the time had reduced the amount of silver and gold in each coin. This is known as debasement.

Debasement made the coins less valuable and the consequence was the prices went up. To improve the country's finances, Elizabeth would also need to improve the quality of English money.

To be a strong Queen, Elizabeth needed to be wealthy. Defending the country and her throne was expensive and raising money through taxes would make her unpopular and required Parliament’s agreement. In exchange for agreeing to tax rises, parliament could make demands from Elizabeth. Therefore, she did not want to rely too much on parliament for her income.

The French Threat

One of England’s traditional enemy was France, who was wealthier and had a larger population.

To make matters worse, it was also an ally of England’s other traditional enemy, Scotland. The friendship between France and Scotland was known as the Auld Alliance. Just when things couldn’t get any more complicated, the Scottish monarch was Mary, Queen of Scots who was Elizabeth’s cousin and had a strong claim to the English throne herself. Mary was also half French as she was married to the heir to the French throne Francis II.

When her husband became King of France, she was also temporarily Queen of France however this was short-lived as Francis II died 17 months after taking the throne.

The Auld Alliance Between France and Scotland

France and Scotland had been allies since 1295 in an effort to subdue and control England’s invasions. This became known as the Auld (old) Alliance as it lasted many hundreds of years until 1560 and the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh.

The alliance stipulated that should either Scotland or France be attacked by England, the other country would respond by invading English lands. This meant England would have to defend itself across two fronts from two different countries.

The Scottish and French were intertwined through marriage too. Looking at the above family tree, you can see that Mary, Queen of Scots mother was Mary of Guise. Mary of Guise was French and the daughter of Claude, Duke of Guise, a General for the French Crown. Mary, Queen of Scots herself had also married the heir to the French throne, Francis II, and was briefly Queen of France herself until Francis died and the crown passed to his younger brother.

The border between Scotland was remote and difficult to defend and resulted in constant fighting and raids. Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, was ruling Scotland for her daughter and had French troops stationed there.

France and the Calais Port

England had held the French port of Calais since 1347 and it was an important strategic military base and important trading post in France. In 1550, England had sided with Spain in their war against France as Mary I was married to the Spanish King.

The war ended in 1559 with the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis with one of the agreements being the return of Calais to France by England. Losing the Calais port was an embarrassment for England and one of Elizabeth’s key aim in her foreign policy was to try to regain the Calais port. This would help rectify the mistake of Mary I and reclaim some glory enjoyed by past monarchs that had successfully held the outpost for hundreds of years.

France and Spain

Another concern for Elizabeth was that France and Spain were no longer at war.

This presented a huge threat for Elizabeth that could snowball into something bigger down the line. Although both were great rivals, both countries were Catholic countries unlike Elizabeth I who was protestant. Countries generally took their monarchs religion and although Protestants were Christians too, they did not accept the pope as their religious leader or agree with some teachings such as clergy not being allowed to marry, or church services and the Bible only being in Latin. The differences between Protestants and Catholics had already led to divisions and conflict across Europe.

There was, therefore, the very real possibility that  Catholic Spain and France could unite against England and its Protestant Queen. If Scotland joined in too given the Auld Alliance, England would be drastically outnumbered.

What was Mary, Queen of Scots, claim to the English throne?

When Mary I died, Mary, Queen of Scots, declared herself the legitimate Catholic claimant to the English throne.

She was Elizabeth I’s second cousin and the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret Tudor. Her great grandfather was King Henry VII who also happened to be Elizabeth I’s, own grandfather. Elizabeth effectively made her claim as the monarch through King Henry VII’s son (Henry VIII) while Mary, Queen of Scots made her claim through King Henry VII’s daughter (Margaret Tudor).

In addition, many people did not accept Henry VIII’s divorce and marriage to Anne Boleyn who was Elizabeth I’s mother and this meant they could instead rally to Mary, Queen of Scots claim as the legitimate Catholic monarch.

The Settlement of Religion

For Edexcel GCSE History and The settlement of religion, you need to know about the following for this section:

  • Religious divisions in England in 1558.
  • Elizabeth’s religious settlement (1559): its features and impact.
  • The Church of England: its role in society.

The English Reformation

Religion was central to most peoples lives in the 16th century. 

Until 1517, Catholicism dominated western Europe with baptism, marriage and death all marked by special ceremonies and services. Confession of sins and taking part in mass* were seen as vital ways of keeping your soul from eternal damnation in hell, while prayers from others could help your soul on its way to heaven. Various religious festivals marked the agricultural year including Plough Sunday in January, where ploughs were traditionally blessed, and the Harvest Festival, which gave thanks for a plentiful harvest. Religion was key in guiding peoples morals and behaviour as well as their understanding of how the world worked.

The Reformation* began in Europe as a growing number of people believed the Roman Catholic Church had become corrupt, greedy and no longer represented what a truly Christian life was and thus needed to be reformed. This led to some people who were known as Protestants, abandon the Roman Catholic Church faith altogether and establish their own Churches without the pope.

The English Reformation began with Henry VIII in 1532 when he broke away from Rome. Henry VIII himself was never really a true Protestant and his changes came about because of his desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. It is difficult to appreciate the impact the English Reformation had on people at the time. Beliefs people had held on to for centuries were challenged and this threatened to overturn the established social and political hierarchies. By 1558, the Reformation was tearing Europe apart.

What is Mass?
Mass was a Roman Catholic service where by Catholics are given bread and wine. Catholics believed this involved a miracle whereby the bread and wine is turned into the body and blood of Christ

What was The Reformation?
The Reformation was a challenge to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with the movement believed to have begun in Europe 1517.

Who Were The Protestants?

Most ordinary people were not able to read or write in Latin.

This is important as the Catholic Church believed the Bible should only be in Latin and this meant ordinary people had to simply accept whatever the Catholic Church told them was Gods will. This prevented the people from having any power to interpret the Bible in any other way except what they were told by the Catholic Church. Protestants believed the Bible should be translated into English (or their own languages) so that people could more easily relate, engage and understand their religion.

One people were able to understand and study the Bible for themselves, some extreme Protestants believed in basing their religion solely on what was in the Bible which questioned many of the practices of the Catholic Church.

For example, traditional church decorations such as crucifixes and ceremonies were not in the Bible and nor were some Church offices, such as Bishops. This invariably raises the question by people as to why they are needed if they are not in the Bible and it begins unsettling the order of the Catholic Church and its control.

In response to this threat, the Roman Catholic Church focused on strengthening the Catholic faith and this resulted in many countries being divided. This led to persecution and civil as well as religious wars.

What is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?

Roman Catholicism
  • The pope is the head of the church
  • Beneath the pope, there are cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests.
  • Believe Bible and church services should be delivered in Latin.
  • The Church acts as the intermediary between God and the people.
  • The Church can forgive sins.
  • During mass a miracle occurs when the wine and bread become the body and blood of Christ.
  • Priests are special and should wear special clothing (vestments).
  • Churches should be highly decorated in honour and glory of God.
  • There are seven sacraments (special Church ceremonies)
  • Priests are forbidden from marrying.
  • There should be no pope.
  • Do not believe there needs to be any cardinals, archbishops or bishops.
  • The Bible and church services should be in your own language.
  • The people have their own direct relationship with God through prayer and Bible study.
  • Sins can only be forgiven by God.
  • The bread and wine simply represent The Last Supper in the Bible and there is no miracle.
  • Priests are not special and should not wear special clothing.
  • Churches should be plain and simple so as not to distract from worshipping God.
  • There are only two sacraments: baptism and Holy Communion.
  • Priests are permitted to marry if they wish.

Religious Divisions in England in 1558

Elizabeth I was a Protestant and historians believe that at the time of her becoming queen in 1558, most of her subjects were catholic.

Edward VI (1547-53), Elizabeth’s brother, was the only true Protestant monarch England ever had.

Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church of England but did not really accept Protestant beliefs and many believe he did this so he could divorce his first wife. Elizabeth’s sister, Mary I faced little opposition into making England Roman Catholic again.

Religious conflict was spreading across Europe as Roman Catholics and Protestants fought to establish their faith as the ‘one true’ religion and there was fear by Elizabeth that it could spread to England. There was a good reason for her to believe this as Catholics who had not accepted Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon believed Elizabeth was illegitimate and therefore should not be queen. This was coupled with the fact that they had a Catholic alternative they could support in their claim for the throne which was her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Clergy

The Clergy were religious leaders such as bishops and priests.

In 1558, most of England’s bishops were Catholic and changing the religion of the country needed an Act of Parliament. The House of Commons would most likely agree with Elizabeth but there were many Catholic bishops in the House of Lords. Many priests did end up changing their religion to keep their jobs however, others were committed Catholics and refused to work in a Protestant Church.

Some parts of England were more Catholic than others and this meant the people living there would be less likely to accept Protestantism. Parts of the north-west and areas looked after by bishops such as Lichfield were especially Catholic. 

London, East Anglia and the south-east tended to be more Protestant as they had closer links with the Netherlands and the German states where Protestantism had become popular.

Therefore, Protestant books and ideas often came into England through London and the south-east, where they spread.

The Puritans

During Mary I’s reign as queen of England, approximately 300 Protestants were burned alive for their religious beliefs. Others escaped into exile to more tolerant Protestant countries such as the Netherlands.

When Elizabeth inherited the throne, many returned to England with more radical beliefs.

Radical Protestants were referred to as Puritans because they wanted to ‘purify’ the Christian religion by removing anything that was not in the Bible. Puritan congregations wanted to manage their churches, choose their own ministers, and do away with bishops and the pope.

Under their desired system, there was also no room for the monarch as the head of the church either. Furthermore, Puritan churches would be very basic, without alters or special clothes for priests that some Protestant churches used and Elizabeth liked.

Elizabeth’s Religious Settlement, 1559

Elizabeth wanted to find a compromise when it came to the country’s religion. This would mean establishing a form of Protestantism that Catholics could accept. Elizabeth ruled out a Puritan religion as she did not believe in the extreme version they practised but also because she did not want to turn her Catholic subjects against her.

Puritans wanted to develop their own church, under their own leadership, which would be seen as a challenge to her authority as queen.

It was also generally believed that successful governments needed to follow the religion of the monarch and by not doing this, there would be confusion as to who the people could turn to as the ultimate source of authority; is it the church? Or the monarchy?

There were also some radical Protestants who believed that in some circumstances, the people had the right to overthrow their monarchs.

Features of The Religious Settlement

Elizabeth I’s religious settlement was designed to be accepted by as many people as possible, regardless of whether they were Catholic or Protestant.

The religious settlement was established in 1559 and was broken down into three parts:

  • The Act of Supremacy made Elizabeth supreme governor of the Church of England. All clergy and royal officials had to swear an oath of allegiance to her as the head of the church.
  • The Act of Uniformity established what the appearance of churches was to be and the form the services were to be held.
  • The Royal Injunctions were a set of instructions issued by Sir William Cecil on the queen’s behalf. This was issued to clergy on a range of issues to reinforce the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity and included guidance on how people should worship God and the structure of services.

How Were The Religious Settlements Enforced?

Under the Act of Supremacy, a commission was established with the task of maintaining discipline within the church and enforcing the queen’s religious settlement.

Members of the clergy whose loyalty may have been in doubt could, therefore, be punished.

The Act of Uniformity introduced a set form of church service in the Book of Common Prayer to be used in all churches. The clergy had to use the wording of the Prayer Book when conducting services and anyone who refused to use it was punished.

The wording of the service was made deliberately unclear so that, for example, Catholics could take it as meaning the bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ, while Protestants could take it as simply an act of remembrance. It also made it clear that priests were to wear special clothing.

The Act of Uniformity also ordered that everyone was to attend church on Sundays and other holy days such as Good Friday.

People who failed to attend could be fined one shilling for every absence which was a considerable amount for the poor as there were 12 pence in every shilling.

Although earnings varied widely, the Labourers Act of 1563 stated:

  • Labourers could earn up to 3 pence per day
  • Skilled craftsmen could earn up to 4 pence per day
  • A servant could earn between 8 and 9 pence per week.

Therefore, a fine for not attending church on a Sunday for many people could total a week’s pay, unless you were rich like the nobility.

The Royal Injunctions were issued to further establish the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity and covered a range of issues which included:

  • All clergy were to teach the Royal Supremacy (that the monarch is the head of the church)
  • Anyone who refused to attend church was to be reported to the Privy Council
  • Each parish would receive a copy of the Bible in English
  • No-one was allowed to preach without a license granted by the government
  • Pilgrimages (a journey to an important religious site, monument or shrine) and monuments to fake miracles were banned
  • All clergy were to wear special vestments

Pilgrimages to the burial sites of saints, or where miracles were said to have happened were important to followers of the Catholic religion. Protestants believed these to be simply superstition.

The Royal Injunctions referred to ‘fake’ miracles, which left the possibility that there might be real ones. This could have helped make Elizabeth I’s religious settlement more widely acceptable across the faiths.

The Royal Injunctions also allowed images in the church to keep their familiar look for worshippers and make Elizabeths changes less settling. Puritans, on the other hand, disliked people praying before the statue of saints as the Bible forbade worshipping of idols. Puritans believed that people should only pray to the one true God and that praying to idols was a sin. 

Possible Edexcel GCSE History exam questions:

Identify two features of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement (4 marks)

The Impact of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement

Elizabeth wanted to establish a Protestant Church that Catholics would be willing to accept without making them feel like they had to choose between loyalty to their religion or their queen. Provided her subjects conformed publicly, she did not want them persecuted and had hoped the Catholic faith would simply fade away within the Country as the old clergy died out.

How were the clergy impacted?

All members of the Church were required to take the Oath of Supremacy under the Act of Supremacy if they wanted to keep their posts. There were 10,000 parishes in England at the time, and 8000 priests and less important clergy did take the oath. This shows that the religious settlement was for the most part, largely successful. With bishops, however, only one agreed to take the oath and all the others had to step down. This resulted in Elizabeth appointing 27 new bishops whose support she could not afford to lose given there was a shortage of qualified Protestant clergy in England.

How were people impacted by Elizabeth’s religious settlement?

Even though many held on to their Catholic beliefs, the majority of ordinary people attended the Church of England services. The wording of the new prayer book helped towards this as the meanings could be interpreted differently by Protestants and Catholics according to their beliefs. Parishes like Lancashire, where Catholics were in the majority, were slow to change to the new services, however, Elizabeth made it clear she did not want the settlement enforced too strongly, even if people were unwilling to attend church services. Throughout most of the country, the change of religion was smooth. In some places, however, Protestants welcomed the new Elizabethan Religious Settlement with violent enthusiasm. In London, for example, there was a significant amount of destruction of church ornaments and statues of saints.

How Effective Was Elizabeth's Religious Settlement?

Historians Turvey and Heard examine the effectiveness of Elizabeth’s settlement in Change and Protest 1536-88: Mid-Tudor Crises (1999)

“….the settlement had mixed success. It largely succeeded in establishing a broadly based national Church which exlucded as few people as possible…On the other hand, the Settlement not only failed to attract the Puritans but…devout Catholics were likewise marginalised with the consequence of encouraging opposition and non-conformity”

Barbara Mervyn talks about the effectiveness of Elizabeth’s religious policies in The Reign of Elizabeth: England 1558-1603 (2001)

“By 1568, Elizabeth’s policies seemed to be working. The early problems caused by the settlement seemed to be fading. The majority of Catholics outwardly conformed and, without any leadership from the Pope, were politically loyal”

The Role of the Church of England

The parish church was a central point of village life for most people and religion could have a massive impact on people. This was a time where education and knowledge were not as freely available as it is now and many people turned to the church for answers on a number of matters.

Church courts

For the most part, church courts focused primarily on church matters however, they also had involvement in minor disputes and moral issues. Examples of moral issues the church courts dealt with included marriage (ensuring both parties were consenting to be married and of suitable age), sexual offences like bigamy (being married to more than one person) and slander (false insults).

The Church courts also handled issues in respect of inheritance and wills. For example, all wills had to be proved valid before anyone could inherit.

Lawyers were resentful over the amount of power the Church courts also had.

What Was the Role of the Church of England?

  • The Church controlled what was preached: Priests needed a special license from the government to preach. Elizabeth could use this as a means to ensure the clergy preached only her religious and political message.
  • It gave guidance to communities: People turned to their parish church in times of hardship and uncertainty for guidance and support.
  • They enforced the religious settlements.
  • They explained why the monarch had power and ruled.
  • They ran the Church courts.

How did the Church enforce the religious settlement?

The Church was also responsible for helping to enforce the religious settlement. Bishops conducted inspections (visitations) of churches and clergy to ensure everyone had taken the Oath of Supremacy and were following the terms of the religious settlement.

The first visitations occurred in 1559 and resulted in up to 400 clergy being dismissed from their roles. In other cases, those carrying out the inspections caused a great deal of destruction of statues and decorations in churches. This was more action than Elizabeth wanted as she had made it clear she did not want peoples religious beliefs investigated too closely.

After 1559, visitations took place every 3-4 years and their remit expanded to cover other matters not directly related to the church. For example, not only did clergy have to present their licence to preach, but so did teachers, midwives, surgeons and physicians for their own professions. This allowed the church to monitor other professions on behalf of the government.

Possible Edexcel GCSE History exam questions:

  • Why did Elizabeth create her religious settlement?
  • Which two Acts of Parliament were part of the religious settlement? What did they both say?
  • What were the Royal Injunctions?
  • What was the role of the Church of England in enforcing the religious settlement?
  • Which key features of the religious settlement appealed to a) the Catholics b) the Protestants
  • What evidence is there that Elizabeth’s religious settlement was a) very popular b) not very popular

Challenge to the Religious Settlement

The next section of Early Elizabethan England, 1558-88 will look at challenge to the religious settlement, which includes the following:

  • The nature and extent of the Puritan challenge.
  • The nature and extent of the Catholic challenge, including the role of the nobility, Papacy and foreign powers.

The Nature and Extent of the Puritan Challenge

Puritans hoped that Elizabeth’s religious reforms were the beginning of further Protestant developments to the Church of England. Elizabeth however, felt that the issue of religion in England had been addressed.

During the 1560s, the main Puritan challenge to the religious settlement came from within the Church of England itself, and especially from the Bishops. It was not long before Puritan clergymen started to ignore or disobey parts of the religious settlement.

Elizabeth’s aim of uniformity in the conduct of Church services was not met: for example, should people kneel to receive communion?

Some clergy wanted to get rid of organ music that accompanied hymns and certain holy days (which would likely anger many ordinary people, especially when the holy day was a holiday). This all represented a direct challenge to her authority as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Two of the biggest issues were over crucifixes and clothing.

The Crucifix Controversy

The crucifix controversy

The crucifix represented Jesus Christ dying on the cross. The cross is a symbol of the Christian religion because Jesus was executed by crucifixion in approximately AD 33. To Puritans, the crucifixes represented idols.

Elizabeth, however, liked them and wanted the churches to keep their familiar look and feel. This was an important part of her religious settlement because she did not want to anger her Catholic subjects by changing too much too fast. She, therefore, demanded that each church should display a crucifix.

This resulted in some Puritan bishops threatening to resign and ultimately, Elizabeth backed down. Elizabeth wasn’t able to enforce her will in this situation because she could not afford to ignore their concerns. At this point, there were not enough Protestant clergymen to take the place of any bishops who were dismissed.

Despite this, she insisted on keeping a crucifix in the Royal Chapel.

The Vestment Controversy

The clothing priests wore was another problem with Puritans.

Some Puritans believed priests should not wear special clothing at all while others believed it should be plain and simple. Puritans believed that wearing elaborate vestments set priests apart from ordinary people.

Catholics believed priests were special and had the power to forgive sins and turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Protestants did not believe this, however.

Queen Elizabeth had set out in her Royal Injunctions that she wanted the clergy to wear special vestments. By 1565, it was clear that not all clergy were wearing what the queen had commanded or following instructions on how to conduct church services properly. In 1566, the archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, issued further guidelines for priests in his ‘Book of Advertisements’, which followed Elizabeth’s commands.  A special exhibition was also held in London to show priests what vestments they were meant to wear and when.

Of the 110 priests that were invited, 37 refused to attend and lost their posts.

Unlike the crucifix controversy, the majority of priests consented to Elizabeth’s insistence that special vestments be worn, despite some opposition.

The Nature and Extent of the Catholic Challenge

While the Catholic Church was attempting to tackle the spread of Protestantism by dealing with corruption and other issues throughout Europe, it was also trying to fight back by strengthening Catholicism by supporting local communities, persecuting heretics and encouraging the waging of war against Protestants. The campaign against Protestantism was known as the Counter-Reformation.

In 1566, Pope Pius V issued an instruction to English Catholics that they should not attend the Church of England services. He sent Lawrence Vaux, an English Catholic exile, to carry and spread his message in England.

Lawrence Vaux’s message had limited impact except in some northern parts of England. Most Catholics continued to attend their local Church of England parish church. Although there were penalties for those who did not conform to the religious settlement, they were generally not enforced.

There was, however, punishments for repeat offenders which ranged from fines, imprisonment, loss of property and even life dependant on the crime. Authorities were ordered not to investigate recusants too closely and ignore smaller infractions as Elizabeth did not want to create martyrs.

As a result of this, England was stable for the first decade of Elizabeth’s reign.

  • The papacy: The papacy was the system of Church government ruled by the pope.
  • Heretics: Heretics were people who have controversial opinions and beliefs at odds with those held by the rest of society, but especially those who deny the teachings of the Catholic Church.
  • Recusants: Recusants were Catholics who were unwilling to attend church services laid down by the Elizabethan Religious Settlement.
  • Martyr: A martyr is someone who is killed for his or her beliefs, especially religious beliefs.

England’s Nobility and the Catholic Threat

It is difficult to say for certain how acceptable English Catholics really found the Elizabethan Church. 

It is estimated that in the north-west of England, approximately one-third of the nobility and a significant number of the gentry were recusants. The families of nobles who remained Catholic tended to be from ancient families, particularly in the north of England. For example, Thomas Percy, the 7th Earl of Northumberland and Charles Neville, the 6th Earl of Westmorland had been prosperous under Mary I.

Upon Elizabeth I coming to power, their influence was greatly reduced and they disliked Elizabeth’s prefered Protestant families such as Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, and Sir William Cecil who wasn’t even a noble at all.

In November 1569, the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland started a rebellion in the north of England against Elizabeth.

This became known as the Revolt of the Northern Earls and Rising of the North.

During the Revolt of the Northren Earls, one of the key events that occurred was the capture of Durham Cathedral and the celebration of a full Catholic mass. The earls asked the Catholic nobility to join them however most refused and remained loyal to Elizabeth. Only the Duke of Norfolk, a distant cousin of Elizabeth was part of the plot.

By 24th November 1569, the rebels were forced to retreat. In the end, the rebellion was successfully stopped by royal troops and hundreds of rebels were executed across towns and cities which showed how dangerous Elizabeth thought the rebellion was.

The rebellion and the response by Elizabeth also changed relationship with Catholics living in the country which would become even more strained in the 1570s.

Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland was part of the Rising in the North in 1569.
Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland was also part of the rebellion.

Foreign Powers

England was not the only country where Protestantism was taking hold. Protestantism was also growing in Scotland, France, the Netherlands and parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Catholic powers in Europe were determined to try and stop it from spreading further.

At the time, Spain, Austria, and the Holy Roman Empire were all controlled by the Catholic Habsburg Family.

French Protestants and Religious War

A religious war also broke out in France in 1562. Elizabeth agreed to help the French Protestants however, she wanted Calais in exchange due to its history as having been under English control and to regain past glory. She had already successfully helped the Scottish Protestant lords to rebel against Catholic Rule which led to the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560.

Unfortunately for Elizabeth, this time her plan failed as the French Protestants ended up making peace with the French government without Elizabeth’s help.

Elizabeth’s failure in France led to:

  • Elizabeth I signing of the Treaty of Troyes, which stated Calais belonged to France.
  • Phillip II of Spain was now angry that Elizabeth had supported the French Protestants.

Spain and the Spanish Netherlands

During the 16th century, the Netherlands belonged to the Spanish king, Phillip II.

Phillip II was a strict Roman Catholic and was becoming increasingly annoyed with Elizabeth for helping Protestant rebels in France and Scotland. Elizabeth, however, was getting quite concerned that Spain and France, would form a Catholic alliance against England. A number of factors made this a real possibility and put England at great risk.

In the 1530s, Pope Paul III had expelled Henry VIII and had asked Spain and France to invade England and remove him. In 1563, King Phillip II banned the import of English cloth into the Netherlands as his frustrations with Elizabeth grew. In response, Elizabeth stopped English trade with the Netherlands. This was ultimately bad for both countries and the bans only lasted a year.

However, tensions rose further after the Dutch Revolt.

The Dutch Revolt

Amidst the backdrop of tensions between Catholics and Protestants, there was growing unhappiness in the Netherlands about Spanish interference in Dutch affairs. Although the Netherlands technically belonged to Spain, they were accustomed to governing themselves.

Tensions escalated when King Phillip II decided to reshuffle the Dutch government and Church and brought the Spanish Inquisition to the Netherlands. 

This resulted in Catholics and Protestants uniting against Spain, which led to the Dutch Revolt in 1566.

In response, King Phillip sent the Duke of Alba with an army of 10.000 men to the Netherlands to put down the revolt. By 1568, it had been defeated.

What was the Spanish Inquisition?

The Spanish Inquisition was a religious and political body set up by Spain in 1478 to keep Spanish territories following the Catholic faith. Any person caught that wasnt Catholic could be tortured or burned alive in public executions.

Following the Dutch Revolt, the Duke of Alba created the Council of Troubles in the Netherlands (also nicknamed the Council of Blood).

The Council was responsible for enforcing Catholicism and obedience to the Spanish Crown and was made up of Dutch nobles and Spanish officials. The Council ignored local law and legal processes and condemned thousands of mostly Protestants to death. Thousands of other Dutch Protestants fled into exile with many going to England.

Queen Elizabeth, was getting concerned about Alba’s presence in the Netherlands for two main reasons:

  • Alba had a large army with a mission against Protestantism which was not extremely close to England.
  • Elizabeth didn’t want to be seen as Europe’s leading Protestant monarch and wanted to avoid war at all costs. She openly condemned the Dutch rebels who nevertheless, still came to England.

During this time, many Protestants including Elizabeth’s Privy Council saw events such as the Dutch Revolt as part of a greater international battle between Protestantism and Catholicism. There was a belief that Spain, as the greatest Catholic power, wanted to destroy Protestantism not only in their territories but everywhere including England.

This, therefore, began to place pressure on Elizabeth to try and address the threat posed by Alba’s presence in the Netherlands.

On the other hand, however, she wanted to try to avoid war at all costs as England did not have the resources to take on Spain or worse, Spain and France together if they joined forces. Furthermore, a war fought on religious grounds wouldn’t simply be fought against another country but could also trigger a civil war within England too between Catholics and Protestants.

The Sea Beggars

Some of the Dutch rebels escaped and took to the water. They went on to become known as the Sea Beggars and attacked Spanish ships in the English Channel that were carrying men and resources to support Alba’s army in the Netherlands.

In 1567, Elizabeth began allowing the Sea Beggars shelter in English harbours.

Genoese Loan

In 1568, Spanish ships carrying gold to pay for Alba’s army in the Netherlands took refuge in English ports from the Sea Beggars. The gold had been loaned to King Phillip II from bankers from the Italian city of Genoa. Queen Elizabeth took the gold for herself and argued that since it was a loan, it didn’t belong to Spain but instead to the Italian bankers.

This act greatly angered the Spanish, further soaring relations between England and Spain.

What was Elizabeth trying to achieve?

Elizabeth was attempting to protect English interests without getting into a direct war with Spain.

The goal was to try and make Spain’s job in the Netherlands as difficult as possible in the hope that they would leave and allow the Dutch to continue governing themselves.

Elizabeth’s strategy of trying to harass Spain was incredibly risky and became even riskier in 1568-69 when the Catholic threat from within England became more serious.

The two main factors that caused this threat were:

  1. In 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots, fled Scotland and came to England. Many Catholics believed she had a stronger claim to the throne than Elizabeth I.
  2. In 1569, the Rising of the North, also known as the Revolt of the Northern Earls had taken place. Senior Catholic English Earls started a rebellion and had hoped Alba’s troops would land in Hartlepool to support them. This rebellion encouraged Phillip II and the pope to back further plots against Elizabeth and topple the English queen.

Possible exam questions

  • What were the crucifix and vestment controversies and their outcomes?
  • Give two reasons why the Catholic threat became more serious in 1569?
  • What was the Dutch Revolt about and why was Spain involved?
  • Discuss two reasons why the Dutch Revolt worried Elizabeth?
  • What were two things Elizabeth did that annoyed Spain?

The Problem of Mary, Queen of Scots

The next section of Early Elizabethan England, 1558-88 will look at challenge to the problem of Mary, Queen of Scots, which includes the following:

  • Mary, Queen of Scots: her claim to the English throne, her arrival in England in 1568.
  • Relations between Elizabeth and Mary, 1568–69.

Mary, Queen of Scots was a Catholic with a strong claim to the English throne.

She was King Henry VII’s great-granddaughter and Elizabeth I’s, second cousin with no issues about her legitimacy, unlike Elizabeth.

Born 8th December 1542 and at just six days old, after her father, King James V died, she became Queen of Scotland. Her mother, Mary of Guise, was also from a powerful Catholic and French noble family.

The Treaty of Edinburgh 1560

In 1559, Scotland’s Protestant lords rebelled against Mary of Guise, who was Mary, Queen of Scots mother.

She had been ruling Scotland for her daughter while she was in France with her husband, King Francis II.

The Scottish Protestant lords rebelled because they did not like being ruled by a French, Catholic queen. They approached Elizabeth I for help, however, she was not keen to help in getting rid of a fellow monarch but she knew that, with French help, Mary, Queen of Scots, could attempt to take her throne. Elizabeth therefore secretly sent troops and money to help the Protestant rebels.

The rebellion was successful and ended by the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560, with the Protestant lords taking over the ruling of Scotland.

Mary, Queen of Scots, returned to Scotland after the death of her husband Francis II, however, it was the Protestant lords who controlled the Scottish government as the Treaty of Edinburgh stated Mary would give up her claim to the English throne.

Mary was furious at this as she herself never agreed to the treaty and wanted to be named as Elizabeth’s heir. Considering Elizabeth had no intention of marrying and no children; she could have named Mary, Queen of Scots her heir, however, this would have encouraged Catholics to plot against her, knowing Mary was the new queen in line.

This decision would also have been very unpopular with Protestants in England who did not want another Catholic monarch again.

In 1568, Mary arrived in England seeking Elizabeth’s help.

Mary, Queen of Scot’s Arrival in England, 1568

In 1565, Mary married her second husband, Henry Stuart, also known as Lord Darnley. Lord Darnley was also Mary’s distant cousin and descended from King Henry VII which also gave him a claim to the English throne.

Her first husband was the King of France, Francis II however he had died less than two years into his marriage with Mary which resulted in the French throne going to his brother. Mary was now a loose end in France and so returned to Scotland only for the Treaty of Edinburgh to effectively hand over control of Scotland to Protestant lords and relinquish her claim on the English throne (without her permission).

In 1566, her son, James was born.

In 1567, her husband, Lord Darnley had been murdered and Mary was suspected of being involved as there were rumours of an affair she was having with the Earl of Bothwell (who would go on to be her third husband). Following Lord Darnley’s death and suspicion of Mary’s involvement in the murder, the Protestant Lords rebelled and forced Mary to abdicate* her throne in favour of her son James.

Mary was imprisoned in a castle, however, managed to escape and raise an army in an attempt to win back her throne. Her army was defeated and she fled to England, hoping Elizabeth I would help her against the rebels.

Relations Between Elizabeth and Mary, 1568-69

Mary, Queen of Scots, arrived in England in May 1568, seeking Elizabeth’s help having been forced to flee Scotland. Elizabeth was in a difficult situation and could not decide if she should help or not for a number of reasons.

Firstly, she did not approve of a lawful monarch being overthrown as this could set a dangerous precedent for herself giving the issues around her own legitimacy.

Secondly, Mary was a threat to her own throne and as long as she lived, Catholics could try and rally to her and attempt to overthrow Elizabeth.

Thirdly, Mary was effectively family as she was related to Elizabeth with both descending from King Henry VII. Elizabeth had never met Mary before however, they had exchanged letters. Mary wanted to meet Elizabeth to persuade her that she did not murder her former husband however Elizabeth refused.

In October 1568, a court heard the case against Mary for the murder of Lord Darnley. Mary argued the court had no right to put a queen on trial and wanted Elizabeth to intervene to prevent the court case however she refused.

Was Mary, Queen of Scot’s guilty?

At the end of the trial at court, they could not decide if Mary was guilty or innocent. Elizabeth, therefore, placed Mary in captivity in England where she remained a constant threat for a number of years until her execution.

However, up until this point, Elizabeth was faced with a difficult set of choices on what to do with Mary.

What Were Elizabeth’s Options with Mary?

Option 1: Help Mary Regain Her Scottish Throne

Elizabeth could help Mary as she requested to regain her Scottish throne. However, this would mean overthrowing Protestants in favour of Catholics and this would not go down well with her Protestant supporters. This would also be in contravention of the Treaty of Edinburgh which Elizabeth had agreed to with Scottish lords.

Option 2: Hand Mary to Scottish Protestant Lords

Another option would be to hand Mary over to the Scottish Protestant lords. Mary had escaped captivity in Scotland and fled to England and the Scottish lords wanted her back. If she did this, however, Mary would be removed from power and potentially killed. This wouldn’t be a great example to set because it opened up the possibility of people doing the same to Elizabeth.

Option 3: Allow Mary To Go Abroad

Mary could be allowed to go abroad as she had family in France who could look after her. However, Mary might be able to rally support from France and even Spain as both countries were Catholic and were very much against Protestantism. England was a thorn in the side for both countries as it was safe ground for Protestants and this could open England up to attack. It could even lead to civil war in England as Catholics wanted Mary back in power.

Option 4: Keep Mary In Captivity In England

Mary could simply be kept in captivity in England indefinitely. The problem with this is, as long as Mary, Queen of Scots was alive, she could be the focus of Catholic plots against Elizabeth with attempts to replace her as queen. As the Rising of the North demonstrated, there were still powerful people in England that wanted a Catholic queen back in power.

Option 5: Execute Mary

There were no grounds to execute Mary. She hadn’t been found guilty in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley and executing her without her having broken any English law could cause problems such as a civil war between Protestants and Catholics. In addition, Mary was technically family and executing a queen could also set a dangerous precedent. Considering issues with legitimacy, this could make Elizabeth vulnerable to the same fate in the future.

Historian Susan Brigden discusses the threat Mary, Queen of Scots presented to Elizabeth, in her book, New Worlds, Lost Worlds (2000)

“Whether in England or in Scotland or in France, Mary posed a perpetual menace, for she always pressed her claim to the English throne, and sought by any means to free herself from a protection which became captivity..”

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