The predecessor of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary, was Roman Catholic. Mary was known to persecute Protestants. When she inherited the throne, one of Elizabeth’s main concerns was the religion of England, which was mainly damaged Catholicism due to the persecutions of the minority.
Not only was religion in England during the Elizabethan era an important facet to even out the chaos imposed by her predecessors Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I, it also became a vital issue affecting her right as a queen as the validity of the marriage of her mother Anne Boleyn and her father, Henry VII was being threatened by the Roman Catholics. This thus inclined Elizabeth to Protestantism.
Come 1559, the Parliament was called to create a new Church of England as Elizabeth cut off the ties with the Roman Catholic Church through the Reformation Bill. The Second House of the Parliament resisted most of the contents of this bill, which appointed Elizabeth as the Governor of the Church of England. When Parliament session resumed, two new bills were entered.
1559 Act of Supremacy
This bill, in a few words, gives full authority of the Church of England to the reigning monarchy, overpowering the Pope in Rome. Elizabeth also declared an Oath of Supremacy, instructing those in church office to swear acknowledge the monarch as head of both Church and state. This bill was passed without much difficulty. The original text of the 1559 Act of Supremacy can be seen here.
Act of Uniformity
This bill passed the House of Commons with flying colors but it only passed by 3 points in the House of Lords. This bill made it a mandate to go to Church every Sundays and holidays, with a twelve pence fine for those who failed to do so. Edward IV’s prayer books were also molded into one new Book of Common Prayer. The Act of Uniformity had a relatively vague text so as to accommodate both Catholic and Protestant practices.
The original text of Elizabeth’s Act of Uniformity can be seen here. With the ambiguity of the Act of Uniformity, some fanatical Catholics and Protestants criticized the caution that the Church of England is doing to adjust to both parties. Due to the changes of religion bills during the Elizabethan era in England, some followers became confused, becoming “neutrals,” and some even “pagans.”
Elizabethan Religion Facts
Elizabeth’s acceptance of Catholicism was closely evaluated by some of her detractors saying that it shows how indifferent she is with her faith but it is believed that she chose such path to maintain peace in the land and to make it easier for Catholics tolerate the Church as it is. When the Parliament dismissed, Elizabeth, together with Sir William Cecil, made the Royal Injunctions patterned from the Edwardian Injunctions.
These were basically the fundamentals such as:
- Clauses about clerical clothes
- Kneeling during prayer
- Bowing when Jesus’ name is said
- Preaching and catechizing regularly
- The spouse of a deacon or a priest has to be interviewed and approved by a bishop and two Justices of Peace
- Wafer is to be used instead of ordinary bread in communion