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Reigh by Elizabeth I

By 1571, Elizabeth I had solved most of her internal and external problems that she had faced at the beginning of her reign? Assess the validity of this view In 1558 Elizabeth inherited a throne encumbered with various internal and external problems, due to the actions in previous reigns of the ‘little Tudors’. Internal problems referred to predicaments occurring in England and personal issues with the monarch, e.g. the religious settlement of Catholicism in Mary Tudors reign and rebellions posed a significant problem of domestic policy at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign.

External problems refereed to dilemmas occurring outside of England, e.g. Mary’s loss of Calais in 1558 produced the external possibility of French invasion during Elizabeth’s reign. Along with debasement of the coinage and inflationary pressures, it is evident that Elizabeth was presented with formidable problems at the beginning of her reign. The first major internal problem faced by Elizabeth at the start of her reign was her gender.

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The idea of a female monarch met hostility in Tudor England and Elizabeth was faced with criticism by the Protestant preacher John Knox who wrote ‘to promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation or city is repugnant by nature and a insult to God.’ However Elizabeth overcame the issue of her gender in her appointment of administrators and management of political matters. Immediately after coming to the throne, Elizabeth successfully established her royal and political authority by appointing William Cecil as her principle secretary, a successful partnership in government which lasted 40 years.

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Elizabeth then appointed Thomas Parry as controller of the household and Robert Dudley as Master of the Horse. The appointment of her friends and supporters highlight that Elizabeth overcame her internal problem of her gender as Elizabeth had successfully established her authority, despite being a female queen she was supported by influential male figures, thus advocating to Tudor England that the her reign will not suffer from political instability as Edward VI and Mary I reigns did.

Elizabeth was intelligent in not making any further appointments as it made political sense to keep speculation alive of Mary’s councillors being reappointed, a political motive that worked for Elizabeth as 9 of Mary councillors assured Elizabeth of their loyalty. Elizabeth then went on to reduce the number of privy councillors from 39 to 19, 10 of who had served Mary, and Elizabeth kept nobles such as the Earl of Winchester who had long political experience and had shown his excellence as an exchequer. Reducing the number of privy councillors allowed policy making to be more efficient and created a form of collective responsibility and corporate decision making within the council, thus Elizabeth had solved the internal problem of her gender as her changes to the privy council also meant that no individual could exert huge amounts of influence over her and the fixed membership assured Elizabeth of the councillors loyalty, a issue which caused the downfall of Somerset in Edward VI’s reign.

Thus this supports John Guys interpretation of Elizabeth that she ‘controlled her own policy more than any other Tudor’ and her ‘instinct to power was infallible’ Elizabeth further solved the issue of her gender by maintaining good relations with Parliament, Elizabeth managed some issues under royal prerogative and allowed all member of the privy council to play a role in the management of Parliament, especially Cecil who played a important role in the deliberations of the commons with C.Maccafrey describing Cecil as a ‘crowns manager of political business.’ The election of the speaker under Elizabeth’s was a strong political motive as it benefited the crown in enjoying management of the House of Commons. Thus Elizabeth had succeeded in maintaining a strong parliament; supported by John Guy view ‘legislative business was properly directed.’ Elizabeth further overcame her internal problem by using public relations to influence her political authority.

At her coronation on the 15TH January Elizabeth was welcomed as Deborah ‘the judge and restorer of Israel’. To be likened to an influential female is evidence that Elizabeth overcame the issue of her gender at the beginning of her reign, as it highlights the public’s acceptance of her as Queen. However it is debated by a minority of revisionists that Elizabeth did not solve the internal problem of her gender at the beginning of her reign. This is due to the fact that during Elizabeth’s 45 year reign, Parliament only met for a total of 3 years, and 11 out of 13 parliamentary sessions were to ask for revenue. Thus this enforces the view that Elizabeth was unable to work with parliament, supported by the excessive use of royal prerogative over issues Elizabeth did not wish to discuss. It is further argued that Elizabeth did not solve the issue of her gender as she was over ruled by Cecil on many occasions, for example Cecil threatened to resign in 1560 if England did not support him in Scottish policy.

The issue of Bishop Oglethorpe not elevating the host during Elizabeth’s coronation mass is further indication of the unsolved problems which were existent at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. However I believe that Elizabeth did overcome the issue of her gender, as unlike previous monarchs, Elizabeth was never threatened to be overpowered by one of her administrators, and according to her tutor Roger Ascham ‘her mind had no womanly weakness, her perseverance is equal to that of a man’, thus this interpretation supports the fact that Elizabeth overcame the issue of her gender due to her abilities of choosing first rate advisors and having the remarkable gift of winning the devotion of the public. A further internal problem faced by Elizabeth at the start of her reign was the religious settlement after 1558. The legal status of the church had not been altered with the death of Queen Mary thus meaning that the English church remained in communion with the Church of Rome, however Elizabeth was protestant.

Thus Elizabeth solved the internal problem of religion through the introduction of the 1559 religious settlement. The act embraced two sets of parliament, the Act of Supremacy 1559 and the Act of Uniformity 1559. The Act of Supremacy restored the royal supremacy of the church which had been removed under Mary, the act replied heresy laws which had been revived under Mary and re-established communion in both kinds. The act further defined Elizabeth to be ‘Supreme Governor’ and not Supreme Head of the church, reflecting the assumption that only God could be head of the church. The act of Uniformity specified the use of a single Book of Common Prayer, specified that ‘ornaments of the church and of the ministers thereof’ should be those that were there I the second year of the reign of Edward VI and the act further laid down a punishment of a shilling for not attending church. The 1559 religious settlement also enforced the 1559 injunctions, which were a set of rules about the conduct of church services and the government of the church issued in the Queens name as the Supreme Governor.

The first injunction stressed the ‘suppression of superstition’ (catholic practises such as candles). Thus the 1559 religious settlement highlight how Elizabeth overcame the issue of religion as there was a now uniformed principles of church services. Elizabeth overcame the issue of many bishops resigning due to not being able to take the Oath of Supremacy by appointing 27 new bishops, many of whom had opposed Mary’s religious policies and would support Elizabeth in the House of Lords. The appointment of Matthew Parker as archbishop of Canterbury was a conscious strategy to reshape the hierarchy of England and further evidence that Elizabeth overcame the religious issue left by Mary. Elizabeth’s dislike of clerical marriage and prevention of musical culture in cathedrals and catholic colleges highlights the extent to which Elizabeth created a erastian nature of the church.

Although it is argued that Elizabeth did not successfully resolve the internal issue of religion as according to historians such as Peter Lake the religious settlement had a two speed view, Elizabeth’s view that the settlement was final and complete and then the view of bishops that the settlement was simply a interim arrangement and full scale reform needed to be implemented. The religious settlement was not seen final by many historians as Neale argues that the Queen was conscious of the dangerous political situation with France, and therefore used the 1559 religious settlement to gain parliamentary confirmation of royal supremacy and delay any other significant changes in her reign. The puritan challenges to the settlement are further evidence of the religious settlement not being successful. The vestments controversy occurred due to failure of the convocation of Canterbury 1563 to secure reform, thus many bishops decided they did not wish to follow the rules of clerical dress outlined in the Act of Uniformity as they believed the albs and copes to be ‘popish’ and ‘superstitious’.

Thus the Queen summoned Parker to enforce the rules, thus Parker threatened to remove preaching licences of anyone that did not obey and in 1566 issued the ‘Advertisements’. However 37 clergymen refused to sign and were deprived of their posts, this conflict expresses that Elizabeth did not solve the issue of religion as it highlighted that the Queen could not enforce her will in all respects and highlighted fundamental issues in the relationship of the Crown and the Church. However Elizabeth succeeded in her religious settlement and overcame her internal problem, she wished not to make ‘windows into men’s souls’ and thus allowed the survival of Catholics. An external problem faced by Elizabeth at the start of her reign was the issue of her marriage and succession. When Elizabeth inherited the throne in 1558, it was assumed that she would marry a prince and continue the Tudor line, as failure to marry would bring around a troubled succession.

There were a number of suitors for Elizabeth, arguably her favourite being Robert Dudley of whom she arguably had a ‘emotional dependency’ on, however the suspicious death of his wife Amy led to the marriage never occurring, which pleased Cecil who was horrified at the prospect of his own power and influence being eroded. Thus Elizabeth chose not to marry and not to choose a successor, however she overcame the internal problem of this. By remaining unmarried, her authority remained undiminished and Elizabeth maximized the diplomatic advantages from the prolonged marriage negotiations. She used marriage talks as a form of foreign policy, e.g. marriage talks with the Habsburgs minimised the possible Catholic backlash to her Religious Settlement, and she gained financial benefits from Eric of Sweden. Not naming a successor also had benefits for Elizabeth, as it avoided any factions arising in the privy council and any unnecessary competitions for influence and power, as Elizabeth once commented ‘if my successor were known to the world, I would never esteem my state to be safe”.

Although it can be argued that as Elizabeth died the virgin queen, she did not solve the issue of her marriage and succession due to never being married. As Elizabeth did not produce her own natural protestant heir, Elizabeth faced real threats from Mary Queen of Scots. Many English Catholics supported Mary’s claim to the throne and when Mary arrived in England there were several plots to dethrone or assassinate Elizabeth including the Ridolfi, Throckmorton and Babington plots. Although after Elizabeth’s death, James Stewart inherited the throne in a unchallenged succession, thus Elizabeth had solved the problem. The issue of foreign policy was Elizabeth’s biggest external problem during her reign. Elizabeth had inherited the throne at a time where finances were weak, with Sir John Mason declaring ‘our state can no longer bear these wars’. Thus Elizabeth wanted to secure Calais and conclude peace with the Scottish Queen as Elizabeth commented that ‘the greatest burden of these wars resteth uponth Scotland’.

Thus Elizabeth resolved issues of foreign policy in her reign by the signing of the Chaetae Cambersis in 1559 which brought peace along England, Scotland, France and Spain, France would retain Calais for eight years and then would be returned to England providing England had kept peace. However external problems of foreign policy occurred again after the death of Henry II who was succeeded by his son Francis who was married to Mary Queen of Scots. This led to a strong guise faction in France who sought to make Scotland an instrument of French policy making.. Thus England was faced with the threat of invasion from Scotland and France. However Elizabeth resolved this issue by sending the Navy to the firth of forth to block French reinforcements from landing and sending an army to Leith where the bulk of the French force were situated. Elizabeth’s intervention meant the siege failed, and in 1560 the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed which forced Mary Queen of Scots to recognise Elizabeth as Queen and effectively weakened the Franco-Scottish alliance.

Elizabeth had also succeeded in foreign policy with Spain as she avoided having a civil war with Spain, the policy of harassment by taking money from Spanish ships in Cornwell and Devon strengthened England’s finances. However it can be argued that Elizabeth did not solve the issue of foreign policy, Anglo Spanish and Anglo Dutch relations came to a halt after the Spanish harassments meaning that loyalty with Phillip had disintegrated thus Phillip began to support plots against Elizabeth such as the Ridolfi plot and the 1569 Northern Rebellion. Although I believe Elizabeth did solve her external problem to a small extent, as relations were improved but would still be another 14 years until Elizabeth could feel secure from threats to English stability. Thus at the end of her 45 year long reign, it is concrete to state that Elizabeth did successfully conquer most of her external and internal problems she faced at the beginning of her reign.

Known as the ‘Golden Age’ by many historians Elizabeth was able to establish a secure Church of England and her reign also saw significant expansion overseas. Great explorers were encouraged such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir John Hawkins. She achieved an excellent reputation as a good and wise ruler, who was truly loved by her people – she was highly accomplished in the art of rhetoric and Public Relations Queen Elizabeth I surrounded herself with highly intelligent and loyal advisors such as Sir William Cecil, Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Robert Cecil who gave her sound political advice and unlike the reigns of Edward and Mary, Elizabeth was able to expand overseas. Thus the internal and external problems at the beginning of reign soon became insignificant hurdles for the great queen, whose monarch is still described by historians today to be the greatest monarch in England.

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Reigh by Elizabeth I. (2016, Aug 20). Retrieved from

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