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Old December 1st, 2012, 07:23 PM   #1

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Government of Elizabethan England


I have decided to open this thread in response to comments made in the Charles 1 thread. The first and most important is that Elizabeth prevaricated. I believe this does not do justice to the complexity of the period.People tend to focus on the religious tensions, which of course existed, but I would like to look deeper. What did she do so well that the Stuarts failed to achieve?
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Old December 1st, 2012, 07:34 PM   #2
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My impression of the Elizabethan Period is that Elizabeth had the advantage of a strong Privy Council and when these advisers died off at the end of her rein things fell apart.
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Old December 1st, 2012, 08:28 PM   #3

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Oops, I missed Viking's thread. I started this for the same reason, can they be merged?

http://www.historum.com/european-his...ver-marry.html
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 06:30 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike McClure View Post
My impression of the Elizabethan Period is that Elizabeth had the advantage of a strong Privy Council and when these advisers died off at the end of her rein things fell apart.
Indeed. One thing Elizabeth was good at, was choosing the advisors around her. Sir William Cecil was important, and she had others like Sir Francis Walshingham (who did the dirty work), Sir Robert Dudley, Sir Francis Bacon, etc etc..

Although she didn't always listen to them, and was strong enough to make her own decisions, which was another asset.

All in all the strong government system she implanted under her rule, was effective and efficient, and she was just and wise enough to make the critical decisions.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 06:49 AM   #5

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There is a strong difference between prevaracation and not doing anything. make no mistake about it Elizabeth was very much her own woman, be it in a male chauvanistic society. In fact being a woman in a mans world was somthing she was well aware of. How much of her`female dithering and prevaracation` was calculated brinkmanship. Look how well she played king Philip 11 of spain and just about anyone else who came courting. For certainly she never intended to get married, there would be no strong man to guide her `weak feminine self`
As has been mentioned her choice of councillors did her much credit, their advice and support kept Elizabeth well well informed.
A protestant herself she punished and discouraged catholisism via fines, rather than embark on another round of savage religous persecution.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 07:38 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangekyou View Post
Indeed. One thing Elizabeth was good at, was choosing the advisors around her. Sir William Cecil was important, and she had others like Sir Francis Walshingham (who did the dirty work), Sir Robert Dudley, Sir Francis Bacon, etc etc..
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As has been mentioned her choice of councillors did her much credit, their advice and support kept Elizabeth well well informed.
One of the signs of a great leader, which Good Queen Bess was, IMHO.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 05:25 PM   #7

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One mistake some people make is to see Elizabeth as an absolute monarch. She was acutely aware she ruled a turbulent country by consensus and she did so by skillful conservative moderation. There was the issue of religion with a three way pull but also strong regional differences. Mike McClure's impression is correct the keystone of administration was her Privy Council. It advised her on matters of policy and was the central institution of administration. It is worth looking closely at it because it illustrates Elizabeth's great political skills. One of the most significant features was it's size. In Edward VI's reign there was as many as forty members. Under Mary as many as forty four. Elizabeth realised it was too unwieldy and inefficient. Three days after her accession she made it plain change was needed and she acted. Throughout her reign there was never more than twenty and at one stage as few as nine. In comparison the numbers under Charles I grew to forty four..
She changed the composition of the Council. When she took office there was a large number of magnates. Men who owed power as much to large estates as to the Queen. Over time she reduced them to one. She appointed men on merit and made sure they owed their positions to her and thus secured their loyalty
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 03:12 PM   #8

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Elizabeth killed just as many Catholics as Mary killed Protestants, and her actions in Ireland should put paid any notion that she was intrinsically more humane that other monarchs of her time. These were, however, brutal times.

I said in the previous thread (yes, it was me) that she was indecisive, NOT indecisive because she was a woman. I also stated in the previous thread that by doing nothing, she'd survived the reigns of 4 potentially hostile mothers in law, and 2 potentially hostile half sibling monarchs, plus Lady Jane Grey's short reign.

It was a habit which plainly worked for her- most of the time, and luck always has a hand in these things: sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing.

But her indecisiveness over the Spanish Armada and the series of wars on the Continent and Ireland she half heartedly backed showed. The Armada's defeat, whilst credited to Elizabeth, was defeated more by the weather than anything else.

The religious question? A pig's ear. Let's be absolutely clear about this: the "Act of Supremacy" was NOT a result of Elizabeth's innate theological and religion convictions for "wouldn't it be nice if everyone was nice?".

There are two major (and many minor, but never mind) points here:

(A) Her legitimacy. Under Catholic rules, Elizabeth was illegitimate. She'd already been declared a bastard by the Catholics. This made it a dead cert that she'd be a Protestant.

(B) however, her advisors were well aware that if her settlement was too extreme, a Catholic backed war against England was likely. There was a Papal Bull (an edict from the Pope) called "Regnans in Excelsis" (ruling from high), which condemned the queen and hence England as heretical. It also condemned her advisors as "obscure men, who replaced England's true nobility".

Or, at least, Catholic insurrection and Catholicism still had plenty of supporters, particularly in the north.

The "Puritans" often named, she could not tolerate. It is also important to realise that these were quite a different breed to those associated with Stuart times.

The "Act of Supremacy", passed May 1559, went through the commons easily enough, but (as could be predicted) not through the Lords. The bishops, in particular, were opposed to this act. They could see that it was an act which would please neither Protestant agitator nor true Catholic. However, since so many bishoprics- including the Archbishop of Canterbury! were vacant at the time, by bribery and coercion, the act made it through the Lords, with a major modification: The original bill wanted Elizabeth (and hence all monarchs- this is important) to be the HEAD of the new Church. The final act had the monarch as Governor of the Church of England. Thus putting paid to modern notions of misogyny levelled at the objectors: most monarchs had been men and were likely to be so in the future, and the main objection to the monarch being head of the church had far more to do with past struggles between monarch and church: the Church wanted some independence. Remember Thomas Becket?

The Act of Uniformity (1558) was also a form of back pedalling. It removed, from the Litany, abuse of the Pope and much anti-Catholic rhetoric, made Church attendance compulsory (the importance of this should not be under estimated) and removed much of the heresy laws aimed at Catholics, as well as using a Book of Common Prayer. (The 3rd such, actually)

Thus we can hopefully see that the outcome of Elizabeth's reforms, mostly the result of expedience and good advice rather than personal wisdom or personal wishes (and this is how good governance should be) was rather more Catholic than she would have wanted, and you can bet that being the Governor rather than head of the Church was a blow.

It is entirely wrong to associate Elizabeth with Anglicanism was we know it, the diverse and wide groups which prevailed up until the turn of the 20th century. However, by the time of her death, a group known as the Anglicans had sprung up and were very real enemies to the Puritans. Thus, another bit of luck for Elizabeth: someone to keep the Puritans in check.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 05:03 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Dog View Post
Elizabeth killed just as many Catholics as Mary killed Protestants, and her actions in Ireland should put paid any notion that she was intrinsically more humane that other monarchs of her time. These were, however, brutal times.

I said in the previous thread (yes, it was me) that she was indecisive, NOT indecisive because she was a woman. I also stated in the previous thread that by doing nothing, she'd survived the reigns of 4 potentially hostile mothers in law, and 2 potentially hostile half sibling monarchs, plus Lady Jane Grey's short reign.

It was a habit which plainly worked for her- most of the time, and luck always has a hand in these things: sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing.

But her indecisiveness over the Spanish Armada and the series of wars on the Continent and Ireland she half heartedly backed showed. The Armada's defeat, whilst credited to Elizabeth, was defeated more by the weather than anything else.

The religious question? A pig's ear. Let's be absolutely clear about this: the "Act of Supremacy" was NOT a result of Elizabeth's innate theological and religion convictions for "wouldn't it be nice if everyone was nice?".

There are two major (and many minor, but never mind) points here:

(A) Her legitimacy. Under Catholic rules, Elizabeth was illegitimate. She'd already been declared a bastard by the Catholics. This made it a dead cert that she'd be a Protestant.

(B) however, her advisors were well aware that if her settlement was too extreme, a Catholic backed war against England was likely. There was a Papal Bull (an edict from the Pope) called "Regnans in Excelsis" (ruling from high), which condemned the queen and hence England as heretical. It also condemned her advisors as "obscure men, who replaced England's true nobility".

Or, at least, Catholic insurrection and Catholicism still had plenty of supporters, particularly in the north.

The "Puritans" often named, she could not tolerate. It is also important to realise that these were quite a different breed to those associated with Stuart times.

The "Act of Supremacy", passed May 1559, went through the commons easily enough, but (as could be predicted) not through the Lords. The bishops, in particular, were opposed to this act. They could see that it was an act which would please neither Protestant agitator nor true Catholic. However, since so many bishoprics- including the Archbishop of Canterbury! were vacant at the time, by bribery and coercion, the act made it through the Lords, with a major modification: The original bill wanted Elizabeth (and hence all monarchs- this is important) to be the HEAD of the new Church. The final act had the monarch as Governor of the Church of England. Thus putting paid to modern notions of misogyny levelled at the objectors: most monarchs had been men and were likely to be so in the future, and the main objection to the monarch being head of the church had far more to do with past struggles between monarch and church: the Church wanted some independence. Remember Thomas Becket?

The Act of Uniformity (1558) was also a form of back pedalling. It removed, from the Litany, abuse of the Pope and much anti-Catholic rhetoric, made Church attendance compulsory (the importance of this should not be under estimated) and removed much of the heresy laws aimed at Catholics, as well as using a Book of Common Prayer. (The 3rd such, actually)

Thus we can hopefully see that the outcome of Elizabeth's reforms, mostly the result of expedience and good advice rather than personal wisdom or personal wishes (and this is how good governance should be) was rather more Catholic than she would have wanted, and you can bet that being the Governor rather than head of the Church was a blow.

It is entirely wrong to associate Elizabeth with Anglicanism was we know it, the diverse and wide groups which prevailed up until the turn of the 20th century. However, by the time of her death, a group known as the Anglicans had sprung up and were very real enemies to the Puritans. Thus, another bit of luck for Elizabeth: someone to keep the Puritans in check.
Oh how I love your posts, Its full of common sense, those damn puritans were dangerous idiots, look at what happened when the witch hunts happened in king James/VI of Scotland I of England.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 07:30 PM   #10

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Couple of comments on your current post. First it is plain you are no admirer of Elizabeth. Second is your focus seems to be almost totally religious and in the main a series of one liners. I started this thread to highlight the differences between the way Elizabeth and Charles I handled government so we could see how he got himself into such a mess. I realise religion was a major part of people's existence then and emotions ran high but felt it best to see it as only one facet of the problem. To do more would widen it into examining the religious chaos that was Europe. You cannot go too deeply into British religion without looking at the Spanish Inquisition and the St Bartholomew's Day massacre and their effect on British Protestant thinking. Also we would have to discuss Elizabethan nationalism, the feeling by many that Spain and Papal interference in British affairs would not be tolerated.
Leaving aside religion, for the moment, I was fascinated to see the Armada campaign dismissed in one sentence. I now pity those poor historians who spent years researching and writing on the subject.
While on the subject of the Armada it throws a light on Elizabeth's action in Ireland. It wasn't as simple as subjugation of the Irish. Can explain if you want me to.
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