Religion became a very decisive factor in the life of people of England when the Catholic Church of Rome was dominated by the idea of protestants. A midway was found out as a solution by Elizabeth.
What was the Elizabethan Settlement of Religion?
The attempt made by Queen Elizabeth I to unite all the contending religious forces that were made in the reign under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I of the 16th century under one church in England, was the Elizabethan settlement of religion.
Brother of Queen Elizabeth, King Edward VI was a strong supporter of Protestantism and under his reign, protestants became more favorite of all.
After his death, Queens Elizabeth sisters, Mary Tudor, took over the throne as Queen. She was a staunch supporter of the Catholic Church and opposed the Protestant reforms in England. She did these changes by reforming the Supremacy Acts which were created by Henry VIII.
When she came into power, she restored England to Roman Catholicism. In her process to do so, she got 300 religious dissenters to be burned at the stake in the Marian Persecutions. This earned her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary‘. After her death at the age of 42 years, she was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VII from his second wife Anne Boleyn.
The act by Queen Elizabeth was made to settle the differences between the Protestants and Catholics and also to unite the people that were having their own differences in terms of beliefs and services. However, the acts encountered many problems as it was not possible to make each and everyone happy as attempted by Queen Elizabeth.
Those loyal to the Catholic Church refused to obey anyone, but only the orders from the Pope himself. They did want to attend the Anglican church services. This created a furor in the minds of the radical Protestants. They were known as the Separatists and wanted to have their own independent congregations established.
What were the Obstacles For Elizabeth in Terms of Religion?
As Queen Elizabeth wanted to reign under a peaceful and stable nation that has a very powerful government without the interference of the foreign allies especially in terms of state and the Church.
However, the problem remained with the allies. If she chose to maintain the state as Catholic then her allies like England would merge themselves to other powers like Spain and France. Also, the consequence would be that her Catholics would surrender themselves to the Superpower nation of Rome.
If she chooses to be Protestantism, then England would declare its merger with the Dutch which was the main trading partner at that time. Consequently, it would also risk its good relation with Spain which was the strongest nation of that time. Returning to Protestantism also risked the fear among the Catholics of England because of expulsion.
The Elizabethan settlement of 1559 also known as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement contained a middle way solution to the Catholicism and Protestantism. She tried to make everyone happy and to at least avoid infuriating any more people.
Religious Settlement Act
Apart from Protestants and Catholics, there were also huge followers of Puritans. Elizabeth had to find a way of compromise between all these religions and that too with acceptance of all. To bring all these groups together and ease the tension of religion, she came up with the acts that were known as Religious Settlement.
Elizabeth then declared the Elizabethan Religious settlement which is also known as ‘The Revolution of 1559’. The settlement was bifurcated into two parts that are called as the two Acts of the Parliament of England. These two Acts which were suggested by the Elizabethan Religious settlement consisted of Act of Supremacy of 1559 and the Act of Uniformity of 1559.
The Act of Supremacy
This was the first act that was passed in February 1559 by the House of Commons which established Queen Elizabeth as the head of the church with a uniformity that deals with the single type of faith and service.
During the reign of King Henry VIII and King Edward, the monarch was called as the ” Head of the Church” in England. But this act made Queen Elizabeth as the “Supreme Governor” of the church of England.
This title, however, pleased the Puritans and Catholics who firmly believed that only Pope could be head of the church. Many of them who believed that woman could not satisfy the title as the head were also in favor of this title. This was because of the reason that during that century people considered women as too inferior in the matter of spirituality and were annoyed with the thought of women having more religious power than men.
However, the act also urged to oath for loyalty for the queen else they would be dismissed from their office. The matter of oath was looked over by an established High Commission.
The Act of Uniformity
This Act of Uniformity was introduced in 1559 which was again introduced in the Book of Common Prayers. The Act set out the norms about what should be the service in the English church should look like. It also focussed on how the interior of the church should be and what dress could be worn by priests.
She came out with a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer that was in line with tradition, however, it was as vague as possible. This meant one could come up with different interpretations of the book
The rule was made out that attendance of Church on all Sundays and holy days were compulsory and if anyone fails to attend then a fixed amount of fine has to be paid. The collected money was then used as a donation to the poor.
It was made sure that the communion words were suitable to both Catholics and Protestants so both can take part in it. However, the vestment and ornaments of the church were kept as it is as were under the reign of King Edward.
Many Catholics were against these bills but with the majority of few votes inside of bill, it got passed.
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