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The framing of the church settlement of 1559

Categories: Church

Elizabeth faced numerous obstacles following her accession as Queen of England, but the main sector of concern was the religious aspect of society. England was at war against the France, as they sided with the Spanish, and also the Parliament was a key constituent of Elizabethan religious settlement. The Parliament was a hindrance to Elizabeth’s progress as many of the Parliament members were religious conservatives, which implied difficulty when presenting and passing the bill to the House of Commons. Presenting the bill to the House of Lords would prove toughest to Elizabeth and her ministers.

It cannot be denied that her personal preference and her Counsel’s decisions respectively played a large role in making sure the bill was passed, although it must be acknowledged that she and her councilors had to compromise to achieve their main religious aims. Susan Doran believes that Queen Elizabeth had successfully fulfilled her goal in terms of religious settlement, while her councilors thought the general outcome fell short of her primary plans.

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The complicated international affairs that England was stuck in after Mary’s reign put Elizabeth in a troublesome position. As Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London, proposed, plans for religious settlement were heavily delayed to the desperate search for peace. Elizabeth had to deviate from her main plans for religious settlement has she had to be involved in he ongoing war against Spain, which England had entered in 1557, later into Mary’s reign. Furthermore, to make matters worse, she had to prevent any potential threat to the throne from Mary Stuart, who was in alliance with France.

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In order to prevent Catholic nations from turning against England and to avoid any large-scale domestic uprising amongst English Catholics, Elizabeth was keen on not infuriating Catholics.

She pursued this plan by retaining certain aspects of the traditional Catholic Church. On the other hand, she still showed signs of Protestant settlement, as she had recalled her papal ambassador and had formed alliance with strongly Protestant German princes. The Peace of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559 would emphasise on the link between Elizabethan religious settlement and England’s international affair. Even though, this would result in the loss of Calais, the borders neighbouring Scotland would be soothed and English settlement could be spread more quickly. In addition, retaining hope in Philip II to potentially marry Elizabeth in the nearer future would enable Philip II to make sure the Pope did not take any action against Elizabeth. Although, she does eventually get excommunicated, this is much later on in the reign where Philip II’s hopes have dried up.

After international affairs were gradually settled through the peace treaty, it was her personal preference that played a key role in the religious settlement. It is crystal clear that Elizabeth desired a Protestant settlement but not a radical one. She rejected papal authority unsurprisingly and also denied the concept of transubstantiation, which caused tremors amongst the more conservatives of Elizabeth’s reign. Even with clear motives of Protestant settlement, she was still keen on sustaining certain traditional and conservative aspects of the Church.

She was very fond of Catholic ornaments in the Royal Chapel and had Catholic musicians and choir in her presence. Even though she rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, she still partially accepted the concept that there was some sort of presence in the communion bread and wine, which was a common though amongst Lutherans. Such personal preference were reflected directly in her proposal to Parliament as she wanted to reintroduce the 1552 Book of Common Prayer and break away from papal authority. However, the House of Lords did not allow the bill to be passed, which is why Elizabeth and her ministers had to take a different approach to religious settlement.

Furthermore, Elizabeth’s counsel could be considered another large body to have influenced religious settlement. She had appointed members who had previously served Edward VI, which would imply an already-Protestant mindset. It is acknowledged that there were many members of her Privy Council who were strong Catholics for international affairs of not having Catholic states turn against England. However, as her appointment of Francis Knollys, earl of Bedford, and William Cecil, she was still keen on having the fundamental protestant foundation even within her councilors. For instance, William Cecil and Nicholas Bacon were key members of the Privy Council who were able to advise and guide the Queen before and during initial rejections and failures of passing the Bill. Such failures including Winchester and Shrewsbury voting against the Bill still emphasise the influence the members had on Elizabeth’s decision and the Bill itself.

The last large consideration that influenced religious settlement was the Parliament itself. It had rejected the first bill proposed by Elizabeth until they made amendments for the final settlement. Elizabeth tried to discredit and Marian bishops before the amended bills were to be re-proposed to Parliament. Although Elizabeth was indeed able to hinder the Catholic bishop, there were key amendements made in the bill. For instance, Elizabeth was given the title “Supreme Governor” not “Supreme Head”. It is unclear whether or not this change in title name was for conservative reasons or to calm political stirs of a woman naming herself superior to laymen.

However, it still ensured her to have as much authority as Henry VIII or her brother. Amendements in the Uniformity Bill targeted the concept of transubstantiation as people were not in favour of the complete denial and rejection of this doctrine. Therefore, priests modified the words used in the Uniformity Bill to create deliberate ambiguity. This would allow diverse interpretations to be made by peers allowing less opposition. Last, the “Ornaments Rubric” allowed traditional vestments and ornaments to be sustained in Church. It can be argued that the Catholics Bishops in the House of Lords had finally been given the upper hand; however, it must also be taken into consideration that this could simply have been part of Elizabeth’s personal preference as she was keen on keeping traditional ornaments in her Royal Chapel.

In conclusion, the framing of the religious settlement of 1559 was based on numerous factors. The main influence on the settlement was her personal religious preferences such as the traditional ornaments and a not-so-radical Protestant movement. The international dilemma she was stuck in had indeed hindered her progress of Protestant settlement. However, as this tribulation cleared up, her council members could help her construct her bill to be passed. However, the Parliament’s involvement or influence must also be considered largely as it rejected the first Bill and allowed important amendments to be made.

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The framing of the church settlement of 1559. (2017, Sep 01). Retrieved from

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