Under her reign, Spain launched five armadas against England. Sir Walter Raleigh sponsored the English colony of Roanoke, North Carolina, by 1585, but it did not last long. Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. And of course Shakespeare wrote many of his plays. Virginia was named after her, since she never married.
She was not part of the modern Renewal Movements, as defined by this website, but she renewed Christian doctrine through the Reformation.
- Elizabeth was served well by these ministers:
- William Cecil (Lord Burghley from 1571), Principal Secretary (1558-72) and then Lord Treasurer (1572-98) and Master of the Court Wards (1562-98);
- Francis Walsingham, spymaster and second Secretary of State (1573-90), and he was also ambassador to France (1570-73, when St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572;
- Sir Christopher Hatton. Lord Chancellor from 1587-91);
- Robert Dudley, her favorite, earl of Leicester (1564) and member of Privy Council;
- In 1559, shortly after he coronation, Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy was restored, except it read that Elizabeth was “supreme governor,” not head (see the oath below); that is, the queen is the supreme of all persons and causes, ecclesiastical as well as civil.
- In the same year, the Act of Uniformity repealed Mary’s Catholic legislation and imposed a slightly modified version of Edward’s Prayer Book, reducing his articles of religion from forty-two to thirty-nine. It was a blended religion.
- In the Act, the clerics had to renounce papal claims and affirm royal authority. They were allowed to marry with approval of their bishop. On the other side, kneeling at prayer, bowing before a statue of Jesus and clerical vestments were retained. They removed insulting references to the pope from the Prayer Book.
- This is known as the via media, or the Middle Way. But at its core, it was Protestant.
- Hundreds of Protestant exiles under Mary returned to England to help the Protestant cause.
- Yes, refusal to swear to these two acts brought punishments, particularly removal from office and imprisonment, but the fury seen under Mary and still raging on the continent was diminished.
- These two acts did not please Catholics or Puritans. Some formed their own congregations in the Independency.
- Bishop Cuthbert Tunstal used to be the advisor of Henry VIII and guided the king away from Lutheranism. Tunstal and Henry wrote joint papers, and Tunstal produced one of them to Elizabeth, written in Henry’s own hand, proving that Elizabeth’s father would contradict her reforms. He was placed under comfortable house arrest.
- Her choice of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury was wise, for he firmly resolved ecclesiastical disorder.
- Mary of Guise became regent of Scotland, on behalf of her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1560 a Protestant revolt broke out in Scotland, and William Cecil urged Elizabeth to support the Scots. France intervened, and a standoff was the result. The Treaty of Edinburgh in the summer of 1560 ensured English and French withdrawal.
- In 1562 the Duke of Guise massacred French Huguenots at Vassy. This launched the French Wars of Religion.
- Elizabeth decided to intervene on behalf of the Huguenots. She also wanted Calais back, which Mary had lost. English troops landed at le Havre, but the plan fell apart, when the Huguenot and Catholic factions joined forces to repel the English. Apparently, they disliked English incursions worse than each other.
- England was broadly Protestant, though Catholics were always numerous and some fanatics even tried to assassinate her. William and Robert Cecil uncovered many plots against her.
- The Convocation of 1563 established the essentials for the Church of England: the liturgy must be in English, not Latin; no Mass; adoration of the Eucharis blasphemous; transubstantiation and purgatory are denied; no invocation of the saints. The monarch is the supreme head of the church, though Elizabeth favored “governor’ (see Oath of Supremacy, below).
- In Nov 1569 two earls, Thomas Percy of Northumberland and Charles Neville of Westmoreland, staged a minor religious revolt, called the Rising of the North. They barged into Durham Cathedral, pulled down the Communion Table, tore up the English Bible and Book of Common Prayer, and demanded the vicar say Mass in Latin. They rode around in traditional clothing of the Crusades.
- They were defeated at Naworth in Feb 1570. The earls fled into Scotland. Almost 300 suffered death in Durham alone. A total of 900 were executed for treason. It was the most fatal act of reprisal in Tudor history. The Scots sold Northumberland for £2,000, and he was executed, while Westmoreland fled to the Spanish Netherlands.
- In 1570, Pope Pius V excommunicated her and declared her deposed because the reforms went too far. In 1580 a papal decree permitted assassination of the queen “with the pious intention of doing God service not only does not sin, but gains merit” (qtd. in Woodbridge and James 239).
- In 1571 Elizabeth replied to excommunication by saying that anyone who kept her laws would not be molested or have their conscience examined by inquisition; however, she would not tolerate dissent.
- In the same year the Treason Act was published, making it a capital offense to deny she was lawful queen. This shows she was sensitive about her parentage and mother, Anne Boleyn. More than personal sensitivity, it was dynastic and political.
- In spring 1575 a congregation of Anabaptists was uncovered. Though they were Dutch, they were tried before the bishop of St. Paul’s Cathedral for heresy and blasphemy. They were paraded with lighted sticks in their hands and abjured their doctrines. Fifteen of them were shipped overseas. Only two were burned to death.
- No burnings had taken place for seventeen years. John Foxe, author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, protested. (Elizabeth supported him and his book.) “To roast the living bodies of unhappy men erring rather from blindness of judgment than from the impulse of will in fire and flames, of which the fierceness is fed by pitch and brimstone poured over them is a Romish abomination … for the love of God spare their lives” (qtd in Ackroyed 380). Their lives were not spared. People cheered as they were burned.
- Her religion came in a foreign context. It was opposed by the Spanish Netherlands, France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Pope. The French court was supposedly teeming with assassination plots.
- Archbishop Parker died in 1575, and Edmund Grindal succeeded him.
- Elizabeth heard about meetings in which upper clergymen instructed lower clergymen in sermons and doctrines. These meetings were called “prophesyings.” She told Grindal to clamp down on them. He wrote a reply that said he could not violate his conscience and do it. “Remember, Madam, that you are a mortal creature.” She kept him on as archbishop, but she excluded him from real authority.
- Elizabeth never asserted her Divine Right theory, which proved to be the downfall of the Stuarts (the next royal family in England). The Divine Right theory could be pushed so far that the monarch might become tyrannical. Elizabeth did not come across that way (so says historian David Starkey).
- The more restrictive sects in her own realm opposed the reforms because the reforms did not go far enough; the Puritans just now begin their rise. (She was one of the first to use the derogatory term puritan.)
- For example, they opposed the queen’s silver crucifix at her altar in her private chapel, Chapel Royal. It was an idol. Historian David Loades says it was calculated to placate conservatives (Catholics) and to confuse foreign observers.
- One day the Dean of St. Paul’s gave a gift in 1561, a book of woodcuts and prints of saints and martyrs. He laid it near her kneeling cushions. She opened it and slammed it shut, embarrassed. After the service was over she called for her carriage and rode to the vestry. She rebuked the dean. He pleaded it was a gift. “You could never present me with a worse [one]. You know I have an aversion to idolatry, to images and pictures of this kind … Have you forgot our proclamation against Romish relics in the churches” (qtd. in Borman, 2016, 312). The dean humbly admitted his mistake, so the queen relented.
- In Feb 1576 Parliament was summoned, and Peter Wentworth, a supporter of the Puritan cause, delivered an address in which he advocated freedom of speech in Parliament.
- He said in effect that a debate should not be curtailed because rumor told the members of Parliament that the queen might not like the content. His colleagues denounced him as promoting license, not liberty.
OATH OF SUPREMACY
Bishops, archbishops, and all ecclesiastical persons and ministers and judges, justices, mayors, temporal officers or ministers or bureaucrats had to swear to this oath upon the Evangelist:
I, A. B., do utterly testify and declare in my conscience that the Queen’s Highness is the only Supreme Governor of this realm and of all other her Highness’s dominions and countries, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes as temporal, and that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate has or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within this realm; and therefore I do utterly renounce and forsake all foreign jurisdictions, powers, superiorities and authorities and do promise that from henceforth I shall bear faith and true allegiance to the Queen’s Highness, her heirs, and lawful successors and to my power shall assist and defend all jurisdictions, pre-eminences, privileges and authorities granted or belonging to the Queen’s Highness, her heirs and successors or united and annexed to the imperial crown of this realm. So help me God and by the contents of this book.
The act goes on to say that if anyone does not swear the oath, he will lose his office and livelihood and property. If he refuses a second offer to swear it, he will be imprisoned. After a third time, he suffers “the pains of death.”
- Elizabeth also employed Sir Francis Walsingham, a Protestant spymaster for the queen. He uncovered the Throckmorton Plot, involving Sir Francis Throckmorton, who had organized a network of recusant Catholics in the realm and various continental Catholics like Mary Stuart and Spanish ambassador Bernardo de Mendoza.
- After clever sleuthing by Cecil and Walsingham, Throckmorton was apprehended, put on the rack, and executed in 1584.
- The pope clandestinely sent a corps of Catholic missionaries, who might be able to turn England back to Rome from the ground up—a grassroots movement—or even by a full-scale insurgency.
- William Allen led the insurgency. He was forced out of Oxford University in 1561 for refusing the Oath of Supremacy. But he believed England would easily return to Rome.
- In 1567 William Allen went to Rome to establish a missionary college or seminary to supply priests to England. The college was founded in 1568 in Spanish Netherlands as the College of Douai. The missionaries arrived in England in 1574.
- One of the missionaries, Cuthbert Mayne, was arrested in Cornwall in 1576. He carried a copy of an old and irrelevant papal bull and for that he was executed. His death was not about heresy per se, but about danger to the queen.
- The College was moved to Reims, northeastern France, under the protection of the Duke of Guise. The Douai-Rheims (Reims) Bible was a translation from the Latin Vulgate into English, with heavy polemical commentary upholding Catholicism.
- In 1577 Allen joined the Jesuits, the most militant of Catholic orders. Robert Parsons and Edmund Campion were the first Jesuits to infiltrate England in 1580.
- They traveled around England, staying with Catholic families, preached sermons, and published attacks on Protestant ideas by a secret printing press.
- In 1581 Campion was captured, tortured and executed. He was portrayed as a martyr. Parsons fled to Spain.
- In 1583, Francis Throckmorton was a go-between of Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) and the Spanish Ambassador. At the right time Walsingham arrested him. Under torture Throckmorton confessed and exposed many Catholics who would like to see Elizabeth removed. It has been estimated that 11,000 Catholics were confined to a cell or put under house arrest.
- Allen was angered by the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. He wrote to Philip II, telling him to invade England. The Catholics in England were clamoring for one, to punish “this woman, hated by God and man” (qtd. Woodbridge and James 241).
- Richard Topcliffe, a lawyer from Yorkshire, was a lead inquisitor. He bragged about his methods of torture and was shady, abusing his power with sexual harassments and favors.
- In summer of 1583 John Whitgift was appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury. Yes, he opposed Catholics, but Walsingham and Cecil took up the cause against them. He was against the Puritans and other small sects.
- Presbyterians coming over from Geneva, trained by Calvin’s disciple Theodore Beza (1519-1605), did not believe in monarchs overseeing the church. Leaders were elected by congregations. Elizabeth could not allow this.
- In 1584 Dutch defender of Protestants, William of Nassau, prince of Orange, was assassinated, by orders of Philip II.
- In autumn of 1584 Walsingham and Cecil drew up the document known as the Bond of Association, which guaranteed that Elizabeth’s successor would be a Protestant. Members of Parliament and the council signed it. They did this behind her back, and she was furious, but the document was still used as precedent.
- Other missionary priests were already in England, and Elizabeth was alarmed. She banned the Jesuits from England in 1585.
- William Cecil (Lord Burghley) died 4 Aug 1598. Elizabeth promoted his son Robert to the post Court of Wards, a lucrative post that the earl of Essex wanted. But Cecil was much better qualified.
- Now his son Robert Cecil and Walsingham will have to protect the queen. Robert was educated, intelligent, competent, and thoroughly trained by his father. He was extra-short, and Elizabeth referred to him as her “elf” or “pygmy.” He didn’t like it, but he would not contradict the queen. She called Walsingham her “Moor.”
- In any case, they kept her safe from fanatics and assassinations.
FIVE SPANISH ARMADAS
- First Armada (1588): William Allen (see above) was promoted to cardinal by Pope Sixtus V in Aug. 1587.
- Allen wrote a pamphlet An Admonition to the Nobility and People of England, saying, “Elizabeth was an incestuous bastard, begotten and born in sin … an infamous, depraved, accursed, excommunicate heretic, the very shame of her sex” (qtd. in Woodbridge and James 242). It also said the English Catholics should not to fight during the invasion, or else they would be damned.
- However, Allen misjudged English loyalty to the queen. Apparently many were indifferent to religion or much more relaxed about it than Allen was, but they were not indifferent or relaxed about a foreign invasion.
- The Spanish Armada set sail on 12 July 1588, heading for the Netherlands. They anchored near Calais in close formation. At night the English sent fireships loaded with pitch, brimstone, and gunpowder into the Armada.
- Fierce storms arose when Spain returned home, and Philip’s ships suffered more destruction. He allegedly said, “I sent the Armada against men, not God’s winds and waves.”
- Defeat of the Armada in 1588 in the English Channel produced great national rejoicing and a surge in patriotism. Apparently God was on England’s side. God favored the Virgin Queen. England came of age and grew in strength.
- Elizabeth wrote the duke of Florence: “It is as clear as daylight that God’s blessing rests upon us, upon our people and our realm, with all the plainest signs of prosperity, peace, obedience, riches, power and increase of our subjects” (qtd. in Ackroyd 434).
- Meanwhile, the pope had predicted Spain’s defeat, and the Spanish ambassador thanked the pope for the prophecy (sarcasm).
- Ever after, Spain was not the dominant international defender of Catholicism, and English Catholics kept a low profile, except the clandestine assassination plots.
- Second Armada (1596): Philip II sent out the second one on 13 Oct 1596, too late in the season to enjoy much success. It was a fleet of 126 ships, including sixty warships, carrying 15,000 soldiers. But on the night of 17 Oct a south-westerly gale battered it. The surviving ships limped into Ferrol and Coruna.
- Third Armada (1597): Another fleet set sail, but a sudden north-easterly gale scattered it and forced it back home.
- Fourth Armada (1599): In early to late summer, rumors abounded about this one, such that people believed Spanish troops had landed at Southampton and were marching towards London.
- Elizabeth was driven at speed to St. James’ Palace. She wrote to the Turkish Sultan Murad III to open up a new front in his war with the West, arguing that Protestants and Islam hated idols. He said he was preoccupied with other wars. In any case, this threat of the Armada dissipated.
- Fifth Armada (1601): On 24 Aug a fifth one sailed from Lisbon, Portugal. It did land in Ireland, but the troops were substandard, because many of them were forced to join when the Spanish captured foreign ships. The troops were foreigners. Many of them joined the enemy when they disembarked. For the result, see the section, “Ireland.”
TILBURY SPEECH IN 1588
Just before or during the attack of the first Spanish Armada of 1588, Queen Elizabeth rode out to Tilbury (farther down river on the north bank of the Thames R.) to encourage her troops.
Dr. Lionel Sharpe, the earl of Leicester’s (Robert Dudley’s) chaplain and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, was ordered to transcribe the speech verbatim as Elizabeth was delivering it.
My loving people, I have been persuaded by some that are careful of my safety to take heed how I committed myself to armed multitudes for fear of treachery: But I tell you that I would not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let Tyrants fear: I have so behaved myself that under God I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. Wherefore I am come among you at this time but for my recreation and pleasure, being resolved in the mist and heat of the battle to live and die among you all, to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom and for my people, my Honour and my blood even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and of a King of England too, and take foul scorn that [the duke of] Parma or any Prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm. To which rather dishonor shall grow by me, I myself will venture my royal blood. I myself will be your general, judge and rewarder of your virtue in the field. I know that already for your forwardness, you have deserved rewards and crowns, and I assure you in the word of a Prince, you shall not fail of them. In the meantime my Lieutenant-General shall be in my stead, than whom never Prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject. Not doubting but by your concord in the camp and valour in the field and your obedience to myself and my general we shall shortly have a famous victory over these enemies of my God and of my kingdom. (qtd. in Guy, 2016, 108-09)
The most famous line: “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King, and of a King of England.” Surely a reference to her (authoritarian) father.
The troops were encouraged, the speech was printed up, and many people after the victory read it. A national hit. As to its authenticity, John Guy, an iconoclast of her “Gloriana” image, says, “Almost certainly … Sharpe’s version of the speech comes closest to the one Elizabeth delivered on the day” (109).
- On 24 Aug 1572, St. Bartholomew’s Day, French Catholics massacred numerous Huguenots (Protestants) in Paris. The massacre worked its way outward from the capital to the provinces. It’s called St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.
- To celebrate, the pope and his cardinals walked in a procession from shrine to shrine in Rome.
- When this happened, Elizabeth was on a progress to Robert Dudley’s castle, Kenilworth, in Warwickshire. The festivities ceased. She and her councilors wore black. In 1589, when Henri IV inherited the French throne, under the protests of Philip II and the Catholic League.
- Over several years, Elizabeth sent 20,000 troops and £300,000 to support Henri IV.
- Elizabeth did not want an alliance between Spain and France, which would threaten the Channel and English sea power and trade.
- To help Henri when Spain and the Spanish Netherlands and the Catholic League attacked and took Paris, the earl of Essex ordered an attack on a fort, but the ladders were too short by eight feet. Ignominious retreat.
- In 1593 Henri converted to Catholicism by attending mass in the Notre Dame Cathedral. He said pragmatically: “Paris is well worth a mass.” (Historian John Guy doubts Henri said it, 2016, p. 189).
- Nonetheless, the Franco-English alliance survived.
SPAIN AND NETHERLANDS
- The Netherlands (Holland and Belgium) came under Spain in 1516, when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, became King of Spain.
- Protestantism had already gained a foothold there, however, and Charles V and succeeding Spanish kings fought it, including Philip II, Elizabeth’s brother-in-law.
- Due to high taxes and Protestant suppression, Protestants stormed churches and broke images—iconoclasm. Philip sent the Duke of Alba, the “Iron Duke” to crush the revolt in 1567. He executed 1000 people in the “Blood Court.”
- Then William of Orange led the revolt in 1568. At first he just wanted freedom of worship and reduced taxation. But in 1581 the rebels produced the Act of Abjuration, which renounced loyalty to Spain.
- Elizabeth showed sympathy towards the Dutch Protestants. Sir Francis Drake seized five Spanish ships sailing to the Netherlands, carrying £85,000 in gold bullion to pay the Spanish army. Philip arrested all English merchants in the Netherlands. Trade stopped between Spain and England for five years.
- However, when France helped the Protestants in the Netherlands, just to balance out Spain’s power, Elizabeth’s stance was neutral. Let Spain and France exhaust themselves.
- When William of Orange was assassinated on 10 July 1584, Elizabeth signed the Treaty of Nonsuch in 1585, obligating England to intervene directly to help the Dutch. The English army was led by the earl of Leicester, a deficient military commander. He returned to England, defeated.
- The Estates General, the governing body of the Netherlands, turned to Maurice of Orange, son of William, to lead the revolt.
- However, Spain had a larger conflict with France, so Spain signed a truce with the Dutch. The seven northern provinces were in Protestant control, while the ten southern provinces were under Spanish rule.
- Elizabeth was the titular head of Ireland.
- In 1559 Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, ignited a revolt, called Tyrone’s Rebellion.
- The biggest problem was that Spain supported the rebellion, sending money and troops in the fifth Armada.
- Elizabeth had to act fast, or else Spain could invade England from Ireland.
- After several years of fighting, O’Neill surrendered in 1603, a few days after Elizabeth’s death.
- Queen Elizabeth had established Trinity College, Dublin, by letters patent, in 1592, for Protestants, to missionize Catholics and secure Protestantism in Ireland.
Mary: 300 in five years, while she had the support of neighboring nation-states;
Henry 308 people were killed in 14 years, after the Treason Act (Ackroyd 397).
Elizabeth: 200 in forty-five years and only four for heresy (Anabaptists). The other executions were done for challenging her right to rule in a heated context of assassination attempts and plots and international opposition to the point of five Spanish Armadas.
Perspective: These nation-states opposed Elizabeth’s reforms, but supported Mary’s effort to return England to Rome: Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, France, and the Spanish Netherlands.
Written by James Malcolm
ARTICLES IN THE TUDORS AND REFORMATION SERIES
Elizabeth I, Part 5: Reformation and International Policies
RELATED (posted offsite at Live as Free People)
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—, Elizabeth: The Later Years (Penguin, 2016)
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