29th April 1559. Elizabethan Settlement.

In April 1570 Queen Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope which placed her in an uncomfortable position vis a vis the Catholics as she came under constant threat. It is unsurprising one of her mottoes was Video et Taceo (I see and say nothing).(1)

Today in 1559 the Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy were passed by the Elizabethan Parliament. (2)

Her father Henry VIII had declared himself Head of the Church in England after the Pope refused an annulment of his wedding to Catherine of Aragon. It was thus left to Archbishop Cranmer to grant Henry’s wishes, but for his pains was deposed by Rome for heresy.

After which all clerics, apart from Cardinal John Fisher, took the Oath of Allegiance to Henry as Church Head. The result was schism until Cardinal Reginald Pole reclaimed the Church to the bosom of Rome, when Catholic, Mary I became queen in 1553.

However on Elizabeth’s accession in 1558, both Catholics and Protestants refused to accept a woman as Supreme Head, she thus adopted the title of Supreme Governor.

In an effort of conciliation, to cover a spectrum of belief, she abolished the Heresy Laws of her predecessor, but now celebration of Communion was allowed in both kinds: in wine and bread. The 1552 Prayer Book was to be used, but inevitably the extremists were never reconciled.

The hostile, Catholic bishops in the Lords, however were outnumbered and apart from one declined to take the Oath of Allegiance, refusing to consecrate those the Queen appointed as replacements, they thus departed.

Only 4% of lower Catholic clergy refused the Oath, marriage was permitted, but actively discouraged by church and monarch.

Arms of Elizabeth I.

Arms of Elizabeth I.

By the Act of Supremacy  acts of worship now became compulsory with fines for non-attendance. The Royal Arms adorned Church Naves demonstrating that Church and State were now one.

However certain practices were frowned upon for the official homily warning against ‘the Peril of Idols’ was read regularly to parishioners saying: ‘God will be honoured and worshipped not in nor by images of idols, which he hath most straitly forbidden’.

The real test for the protean English Church was now to hammer out a new theology over the next century and it took a civil war for Dissenters to finally decide to tread another path. 

(1a) The Papal Bull under Pope Saint Pius V was issued at St. Peter’s Rome declaring ‘Queen Elizabeth excommunicated: 27th April 1570 of the Incarnation in the fifth year of our Pontificate.’(Regnans in Excelsis).

(1b) The Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 is commonly thought to be the date from which the English Church finally broke from Rome, but some would consider the 1530’s as the major break.

(2) The Queen approved the Bill on 8th May 1559.

Ref: elizabethanfiles.com/act-of-uniformity.

Ref: historylearning site.co.uk/religious-settlement-1559.

Ref: bbc.co.uk/history/Pic of Arms.

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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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