Like her father, Elizabeth was a Protestant. When she first became Queen, one of the first things it was necessary for her to do was restore the Protestant Church of England. Events that led to the restoration of the Church of England is known as “The Elizabeth Religious Settlement”. It was comprised of two Acts:
1. THE ACT OF SUPREMACY
2. THE ACT OF UNIFORMITY
THE ACT OF SUPREMACY
It was this act that gave Elizabeth ultimate control of the Church of England. In the reign of her father and brother, the monarch had been “Head of the Church in England”, but under Elizabeth, this was modified to “Supreme Governor of the Church in England”. The change may have been made to appease Catholics who could not accept the monarch as “Head of the Church”, seeing the church as the Pope’s domain, or it may have been made because Elizabeth was a woman. In the sixteenth century, women were regarded as inferior to men in spiritual matters, and many were uncomfortable with the idea of a woman being in charge. This act also included an oath of loyalty to the Queen that the clergy were expected to take. If they did not take it, then they would lose their office. A High Commission was established to ensure that the oath was taken. The oath was as follows:
I A. B. do utterly testify and declare in my conscience, That the Queen’s Highness is the only Supream Governor of this Realm, and of all other her Highness 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, hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction, Power, Superiority, Preheminence, 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 promote, 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, Preheminences, 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 OF UNIFORMITY
This was the crux of the Elizabethan Church, establishing a set form of worship. The Prayer books of Edward VI were fused into one, and were to be used in every church in the land. Church attendance on Sundays and holy days was made compulsory, with a twelve pence fine to be collected if people did not attend, the money to be given to the poor. The wording of the Communion was to be vague so that Protestants and Catholics could both participate, and the ornaments and vestments of the Church were to be retained as they had been before the reforms in the second year of Edward’s reign. Although the passage of the Act of Supremacy through Parliament had been relatively easy, passing the Act of Uniformity was much more difficult. A large number of the Parliament, who were still Catholic, opposed the bill, and it was eventually only passed by three votes: 21 to 18.
The religious settlement began to be implemented in the summer of 1559. Despite the problems that sometimes arose, it proved to be a remarkable success.