An attempt made by Queen Elizabeth I to unite all the contending religious forces of the 16th century under one church in England, was the motive of the Elizabethan settlement of religion. However, it encountered many problems because it was not possible to make each and everyone happy at the same time.
The People loyal to the Catholic Church refused to obey anyone, except only the orders from the Pope himself. They wanted to attend the Anglican Church services. This created a furor in the minds of the radical Protestants, who were classed as the Separatists, as they wanted to have their own independent congregations to be established.
What was the Elizabethan Settlement of Religion?
After the death of Kind Edward VI, Mary Tudor (1553 - 1558) took over the throne as Queen. She was the daughter of Henry VIII, and the first wife of Edward VI. She was a staunch supporter of Catholic church, and opposed the Protestant reforms in England.
When Mary came to power, she restored Roman Catholicism in England, and in the process, got 300 religious dissenters to be burned at stake in the Marian Persecutions. This earned her the nickname 'Bloody Mary'. After her death, at the age of 42 years, she was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VII from his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Elizabeth was a Protestant from the very beginning. After coming to power, she thought of finding a midway to unite the religious divides, created during the reigns of her predecessors.
Elizabeth came up with the 'Elizabethan Religious Settlement' also described as 'The Revolution of 1559'. It was divided into two 'Acts of the Parliament of England', which included the Act of Supremacy of 1559 and the Act of Uniformity of 1559.
Acts under Elizabethan Settlement of Religion
The Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 contained a viable solution to the Catholicism Vs. Protestantism conflict. Elizabeth I came up with a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer that was in line with the tradition, however, it was also as vague as possible, so that conflict could be avoided. Anyone could come up with different interpretations of the book.
The Act of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy helped give complete control of the Church of England into the hands of Queen Elizabeth I. Under the reigns of her father Henry VIII and brother Edward VI, the monarch was always the 'Head of the Church of England'.
Under the rule of Elizabeth, she was given the title of the 'Supreme Governor of the Church of England'. This change was made to please the Catholics, who thought that the Church was under the Pope's command. The Act of Supremacy also included the oath of loyalty to the queen. This meant that all the clergy had to either take this oath or lose their office.
Act of Uniformity
The Act of Uniformity was the most important part of the Elizabethan Settlement of Religion. It helped in establishing the standard rules for worship. All the prayer books of Edward VI were integrated into one book. This prayer book was to be used by every church, under the rule of Elizabeth.
It was compulsory for all to attend the church every Sunday, and on holy days. Failure in doing so would result into fine up to 12 pence. Efforts were made so that both the Catholics and Protestants could be a part of the religious meet. The ornaments and vestments of the Church were retained. The act was opposed by many Catholic members of the Parliament.
When was it Implemented?
After a lot of protests and problems, the Elizabethan Religious Settlement was passed by the Parliament. It was implemented in the summer of 1559.
The Settlement proved to be far more successful than the reforms imposed by Mary I. This may have been because Elizabeth I could reign over England for about forty years, and Mary I had just five years to rule.