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Why, And With What Success, Did Elizabeth Resist Puritan Attempts To Modify The Religious Settlement?

1269 words - 6 pages

“Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of puritan.” – “O, if I thought that I’d beat him like a dog!”
The word ‘puritan’ was used as a term of abuse in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, yet fifty years earlier John Knox wrote of “the godly and zealous preachers” in his works of 1558. There is a wide scale of debate over where the biggest Puritan threat came from, and the level of success in which Elizabeth dealt with them. Overall, the biggest threat came from separatists who aimed to disband the Church of England. A rise in extreme Puritan ideology would’ve certainly been perceived as a threat. However, these threats were dealt with so effectively by Elizabeth that they could not have developed ...view middle of the document...

She also had the support of powerful orator Chris Hatton, who in 1584 spoke against Peter Turner’s religious bill, forbidding the House of Commons from discussing religion. Moreover, the deaths of Leicester and Warwick in the late 1580s reduced the number of Puritan voices in the House of Commons, thus permitting Elizabeth to easily combat the Puritan threat using her prerogative power.
Historian Peter Lake marks the Puritan threat within Church as a “two-speed settlement” beginning from the 1559 Religious Settlement. To Elizabeth, the settlement was to be a permanent fix whereas to the Puritans, the via media mirrored an idolatrous Church that needed further reform. In the 1560s, the Puritan threat increased through the 1566 Vestiarian Controversy and the appointment to official Church roles e.g. Archbishop Parker of Canterbury, who in 1564 wrote a document of General Notes that promoted Puritan doctrine to local clergy. There was also John Jewel of Salisbury, who called for more reform in his 1562 Apology, showing signs of discontent amongst the ecclesiastical elite. Within the ensuing Convocation, the 39 Articles were approved in 1563 by just one vote, supporting Chris Haigh’s view that Puritanism held a dominating position within the Church. Furthermore, Archbishop Grindal’s opposition to reduce prophesying – backed up by 10 bishops – suggests that there was potential for serious conflict between the Queen and the Church. All these features seem to signify what Lake described as a “gradually mounting crescendo of Puritan complaint and criticism”. However, Elizabeth appeared to deal with these threats with relative ease. The suspension and death of Grindal was followed by the appointment of John Whitgift, who shared Elizabeth’s view of the Puritan threat. Through his 3 Articles of 1583 and ex officio oath policy, Whitgift forced the clergy to sweat acceptance of Bishops, the Prayer Book and the 39 Articles or face suspension. The efficiency of this attempt is most evident in the number of clergy suspended – over 300 in Canterbury alone. There was also a considerable lack of support from the radicals in Zurich and Geneva, who surprisingly shunned the Puritans for not maintaining loyalty towards Elizabeth. This meant that, whilst Convocation remained undeniably Protestant-dominated, Elizabeth could reduce the threat from within without the fear of invading radicals from abroad.
Lake also claims that Whitgift’s appointment provoked local Presbyterians activists into “a renewed bout of activism”. It is important to note that this activism was already present from the early 1570s. Cartwright’s lectures can be seen as the first public demand for a Presbyterian movement, which denied the Queen’s religious authority. The classis movement led by John Field suggested a lack of uniformity and a move towards populism – both were considered unacceptable and dangerous ideologies by Elizabeth. Field himself wrote a “View of...

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