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The Elizabethan Settlement

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This essay centres on a significant decision, which is Elizabeth’s choice to institute a protestant religious settlement. Different factors that lead to the decision will be discussed, and the positive and negative outcomes of this settlement of 1559 to 1564.

Firstly, the context of Elizabeth’s religious environment has to be noted. After all, she did succeed a highly unpopular, rigidly catholic queen, Mary Tudor. Nevertheless, even before Elizabeth’s succession in 1559, she had been constantly given the idea of Catholicism being bad, and foreign, and in turn Protestantism being good, and English. This was taught in the protestant education she received, and shown in action by Mary’s suspicious love of her Spanish heritage, and her cruel, bloody intolerance of Protestants. When Elizabeth finally did become queen, England was sore from the catholic whip and was yearning for a patriotism, which Mary had never shown. Spain remained allied with England for some time, but it was a weakening relationship and they were a growing threat. All of the Marian exiles returned to England from hiding and asserted themselves to the queen, being proud, protestant, English and ready to serve her. With this context, although many were cautious of yet another female monarch, the soil was fertile for a religious settlement to be planted.

Other factors also ripened the timing for the settlement. For example, at sight of the new non-catholic queen, many of the catholic bishops resigned. The peace with France, which was agreed in March of 1559 also helped, with more attention able to be focused on the homeland, and a greater sense of security able to be felt. A dominant factor however, was the overall wish of the general public for a firm decision on religion, so England’s people could finally be united. The House of Commons was on the whole sympathetic to the idea of a protestant settlement, but the queen was conscious that a compromise was necessary. She therefore implemented the parliament in her decision, so her subjects had a say in the result.

The settlement was mainly contained within two Acts, the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity. The Act of Supremacy outlined the monarch as the �supreme governor’ or head of the church. This meant the pope was superfluous with the monarch being the top authority. The Act of Uniformity described the doctrines and organisation of the new Church of England, which were to be carried out unvaryingly across England.

The settlement of the church had positive and negative consequences. The use of parliament in creating the settlement meant that they were always eager to discuss religion, something that Elizabeth preferred to avoid, to help keep unity. What she wanted was complete uniformity to her new church, but not persecution for those who did not believe in it. In her own words, she described this as, “I do not want to put windows into men’s souls.” Because of this attitude, the outwardly catholic appearance of the Church of England and the lack of catholic leadership, most Catholics crossed over to the Anglican Church.

However, from 1567 to 1587 Elizabeth



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