The Religious Settlement

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The Religious Settlement

Date: 1559

There were 2 main Acts:

Act of Supremacy

Act of Uniformity

In the first Act Elizabeth became Supreme Governor of the Church...

This appeased the Catholics who could only ever consider the Pope to be God's appointed on Earth, and it pleased others who could not bear to think that a human could be God's appointed on Earth - that was Christ. Never mind that God's appointed was this time a woman! Henry would have considered himself of semi-ecclesiastical rank. Elizabeth did not.

The second Act stated that:

  • 1552 Book of Common Prayer should be used under pain of imprisonment.
  • Everyone had to attend church on a Sunday or a Holy day or pay a 12d fine (which went to poor relief).
  • Fines were imposed for slandering the Prayer Book or trying to prevent its proper use.
  • The wording of communion allowed for differing interpretations (including transubstantiation).
  • Church vestaments from the 2nd year of the reign of Edward were to be reintroduced.
  • All members of the clergy were to swear an Oath of Supremacy.
  • It was a mixture between the religious legislation of Edward's reign and that of the reign of Henry VIII.

She also managed to pass through a number of other Acts...

  • She repealed the Marian Heresy laws.
  • She set up a commission to ensure order in the churches, and to stamp out ill practice.
  • Clergy had to preach at least four times per year.
  • Each parish had to have a complete copy of the Bible in English.
  • An article on Eucharist denied the presence of Christ during the Eucharist.
  • The Act of First Fruits and Tenths was passed again. No money to go to Rome.
  • Dissolution of the monasteries and chantries that Mary had restored.
  • Act of Exchange meant that the Queen could claim the revenue from vacant sees.



Physical Force

Imprisoning 3 clerics (2 bishops and the Abbot of Westminster) while the vote was being held in the Upper House. The Bill was passed by 3 votes. The doing of Cecil?


Political Practice

But this Act was not easy to pass. There was strong opposition in the Lords, not just from the spiritual lords but also from those such as Lord Montague.

The Commons largely supported, but there were a few dissenting voices.

Because the clergy had to swear an oath of supremacy many left. All but 1 of the bishops refused to sign. But almost all of the lower orders signed. (4% refused - 300/8000).

Rather than a compromise, it caused division. Some of the Acts appeased neither the Marians that hung on, nor the Lutheran reforming groups. For example the injunction about the presence of Christ at the Eucharist upset both groups.

There were financial rewards to be gained from these Acts. Especially, the First Fruits and Tenths, dissolution of the monasteries and the chanteries and from taking vacant sees. The crown's acquisition of First Fruits and Tenths alone increased the crowns revenue by £40 000 p.a.

The increased revenue was good news as England was still at war with France, and an invasion from Scotland was expected at any time

Strangely enough, the part, which caused greatest controversy in the 1560s, and later lead to a breakaway group of non-conformists was the article about the vestements!

Lotherington maintains that there were no guarantees that there would be a return to Protestantism. (Was it a matter of returning?)

Pollard held that Elizabeth wanted to design a church according to her wishes.

J.E. Neale said that she wanted a return to Henrician Catholicism without the Pope, and it was the return of exiles that made it more radical, i.e. a 'Church of England'.

More recently, N Jones argued that it was the result of a struggle between the House of Lords, the Queen, council, and the Bishops. He says the settlement was a triumph for the Queen.

Regan sides with Jones quite a lot. He says that the Settlement does reflect quite closely Elizabeth's own religious views.

Regan - she wanted to create a church where as many believers as possible would be able to find salvation.