What was the situation in terms of religious faith in England 1558-1603 and how did central government attempt to change this situation?

Essay by angelus07College, Undergraduate September 2006

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Elizabeth I succeeded the throne of England in 1558 and became Queen to a nation that had previously undergone 25 years of religious turmoil and change. The national Catholicism of her father, Henry VIII had been replaced by Protestant religious reforms during her brother, Edward VI's reign. These changes were then followed by Mary I's attempts to re-establish Catholicism in England after his death. When Elizabeth ascended the throne it seemed clear and inevitable that she would introduce reforms in favour of Protestantism. This view was supported in that Catholic Europe regarded her as an illegitimate ruler and she had been educated by Protestants and therefore held personal Protestant beliefs. It was unclear however, the extent of the type of Protestantism she would adopt. At the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, the majority of the country still held Catholic beliefs which presented a major obstacle to her intended church reforms. The issue of England's war with France, in which England was an ally of Catholic Spain, also contributed to the dilemma of the religious situation.

If England were to adopt a national protestant faith, she risked united opposition and invasion from Catholic powers. The religious issue was also linked closely with foreign affairs in the area of succession. The Catholic Queen of Scots, Mary Stuart was the strongest claimant to the throne on the event of Elizabeth's death and her arrival in England in 1568 created major political and religious problems for Elizabeth. Although these issues caused problems for Elizabeth, it was unlikely that she would keep England a Catholic country and it seemed evident that the current religious situation would undergo a significant change, impacting many areas of faith and people in England.

At the end of Mary's reign, Catholicism was strong in England and many influential members of the...