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How Protestant was Elizabethan England?


FloatingVoterTralee

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Philippa Gregory's novel The Other Queen, based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, highlights that 35 years after the passage of the Act of Supremacy, the English religious question was far from settled, with regional and class issues playing major roles in personal adherence. A large percentage of rural aristocrats appear to have remained Catholic, judging by their involvement in various conspiracies, and England's traditional North/South social divide also appears to have come heavily to the fore, with London and the South firmly Anglican, but the rest of the country appearing to practice the old faith in secret. Of course, with most personal faith largely clandestine in nature, true statistics will be thin on the ground, but had Anglicanism truly become established as the majority religion by the end of Elizabeth's reign?
 

Big Brother

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Good question.

I doubt it.

The Elizabethan era brought the rise of an anti catholic elite with access to money and printing presses which were used to propogandise against catholicism (history rarely changes).

Elizabeth also launched vicious genocidal campaigns against catholics in Ireland and the north (while hypocritically washing her hands of them in public).

Her agents also destabilised Scotland and launched a systematic propoganda campaign to discredit teh church there. This is why anti catholic bigotry is such a problem there compared to the south of England: The propoganda in Scotland was much more vicious.

When John Knox said "he who has god on his side is in the majority" he was acknowledgeing that most Scots were catholics when Mary Queen of Scots was deposed.

The proseltysiation of Scotland came later and was intensive.

Scotland wasn't a majority protestant country until late into Elizabeths reign, if even then.

Like most revolutionary movements in history, protestantism in England and Scotland was driven by financial self interest - the lure of church wealth for nobles.

But that wealth was used by teh church to feed and educate the poor.
W
When the monasteries were shut down they were converted into teh wealthy estates and grand family mansions we see in England and Scotland today.

And while catholic Britain was no model of equality there was far less inequality than emerged after protestantism took hold.

Protestantism was basically a mechanism to build England's identity and empire, strengthen the King the nobles and the merchant classes and economically subordinate the people.

Its legacy is proven in that while there isn't perfect fair play in Ireland, we are a far more egalitarian country than England, where any collective morality has disappeared.

500 years on there are strong echoes of what happened in Elizabethan England and Scotland: A clear campaign to take a minority of wrongdoers in the church and use them to destroy its reputation.

Same old same old.
 

Astral Peaks

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Relying on Gregory or Eleanor Hibbert (a.k.a.Jean Plaidy) for ones historical analysis is a risky business.

They were both essentially romance writers.

Try this article, it will help you...

Guild of St. George - A Comparative Guide to Religion in Elizabethan England

I have read this, it is also very comprehensive: Danger to Elizabeth: the Catholics under Elizabeth I. - Alison Plowden - Google Books

If you have Wiley access, this is supposed to be good, referenced in a few other books I have read.

The politics of religion and the religion of politics in Elizabethan England - Collinson - 2008 - Historical Research - Wiley Online Library
 

Dame_Enda

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By the time of James I only around 5% of the English are thought to have been Catholic according to a program I saw about the Gunpowder Plot some time ago. However it was always higher among the nobility. Many of the aristocratic Howards in particular were secretly Catholic ever since the Reformation (our last Lord Lieutenant was was one of them).

Below is a map of Catholic recusancy (failure to attend Anglican church services weekly as required by law) 1715-20:

 

the secretary

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Who cares! :lol:
 

corelli

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Philippa Gregory's novel The Other Queen, based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, highlights that 35 years after the passage of the Act of Supremacy, the English religious question was far from settled, with regional and class issues playing major roles in personal adherence. A large percentage of rural aristocrats appear to have remained Catholic, judging by their involvement in various conspiracies, and England's traditional North/South social divide also appears to have come heavily to the fore, with London and the South firmly Anglican, but the rest of the country appearing to practice the old faith in secret. Of course, with most personal faith largely clandestine in nature, true statistics will be thin on the ground, but had Anglicanism truly become established as the majority religion by the end of Elizabeth's reign?
Seriously, you are relying on Philippa Gregory to come to an accurate conclusion on, well, anything?

She writes historical fiction, not academic text books.

And to answer your question, there was deep seated and vocal catholic opposition until the Act of Settlement and the advent of the Hanoverians, LONG after Elizabeth shuffled off.

James II was forced to abdicate because of his faith, if you remember.

Not being smart, but you do actually remember a Stuart being made a Cardinal and everything, no??
 

Dame_Enda

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Seriously, you are relying on Philippa Gregory to come to an accurate conclusion on, well, anything?

She writes historical fiction, not academic text books.

And to answer your question, there was deep seated and vocal catholic opposition until the Act of Settlement and the advent of the Hanoverians, LONG after Elizabeth shuffled off.

James II was forced to abdicate because of his faith, if you remember.

Not being smart, but you do actually remember a Stuart being made a Cardinal and everything, no??
Well he would say he never abdicated. He fled England and was therefore said by Parliament to have abdicated, but he strongly disagreed.

I think the real religious division in England in the 17th century was between High Church (Catholic in appearance) Protestantism and Low Church (essentially Calvinist) Protestantism. Most Scottish Jacobites were not Catholics but the Episcopalian Scots, while the Presbyterians were Williamites and then Hanoverians. Probably only 2% of Scots were Catholic after the Reformation of 1560.

James II's son would likely have gained the throne peacefully in 1715 had not Queen Anne suddenly appointed a Hanoverian Whig as Lord Treasurer (the Duke of Shrewsbury). Before then the govt was Tory, and they were not Catholic but High Church, and knew the Hanoverians intended to dismiss them for making peace with France in the War of the Spanish Succession. In the 18th century perhaps 25% of Tories were closet Jacobites, but many insisted the Stuarts would have to convert first. There was a schism in the Anglican Church after James II was deposed between Juring and Non-Juring clergy (the latter who refused to recognise the deposition of James II's line). But they were not Catholics but High Church Protestants who saw the monarch as head of their church regardless of his religion.
 
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corelli

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Well he would say he never abdicated. He fled England and was therefore said by Parliament to have abdicated, but he strongly disagreed.

I think the real religious division in England in the 17th century was between High Church (Catholic in appearance) Protestantism and Low Church (essentially Calvinist) Protestantism. Most Scottish Jacobites were not Catholics but the Episcopalian Scots, while the Presbyterians were Williamites and then Hanoverians. Probably only 2% of Scots were Catholic after the Reformation of 1560.
Well, why did he flee England? You are dancing on the head of a pin there! :)

I think the second bit is essentially true of you say the main political division was between high and low church, rather than religious division. After all, Henry VIII was esentially what we would today call a High Church Anglican, with some small differences.
 

Dame_Enda

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Well, why did he flee England? You are dancing on the head of a pin there! :)

I think the second bit is essentially true of you say the main political division was between high and low church, rather than religious division. After all, Henry VIII was esentially what we would today call a High Church Anglican, with some small differences.
Well it was religion too when you consider that the Puritans and their descendents the Nonconformists were persecuted (much less under the Williamite Toleration Acts) since the Restoration of 1660. Google the Sacherevell riots for more info on the High-Low Church divisions.

I'm not entirely certain James II couldn't have survived if he had stayed put. The book "The Army and the Glorious Revolution" argues that it was the commanders who defected to William while the rank and file still supported James until he fled. I think had he might have survived (but that's doubtful I know) had he remained a private Catholic instead of trying to legislate for toleration so soon (especially given the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes 1685 in France which led to massive French Protestant refugee flows to England), and had he not unwisely sacked all the Protestants from his government. Parliament knew he was Catholic before his accession to the throne and they voted him a grant of £6,000,000 - the largest grant to a Stuart monarch until then.

Also, the plan to pack the parliament with people who would repeal the Penal Laws threatened the careers of the existing political class and I think that was also a factor. He was using the Corporation Act to purge the corporations (that elected MPs back then) of those opposed to toleration. The elections in the end had to be cancelled because of the imminent invasion by William and last minute attempts by James to win over those he had alienated (which were not very convincing).
 
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Big Brother

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It gives me faith in this country that we care enough about history to keep a thread like this going.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Witness the Vicar of Bray, and other stories

It might be as pertinent to wonder just how deeply religious conviction — of any kind — ever ran among the commonality of England. I have hanging here a reproduction of the Green Man from the Black Prince's Chantry at Canterbury. Such pagan elements crop up, one way and another, across Britain and Ireland, in the holiest Christian shrines. And what about the odd (some very odd) Síle na gcíoch around more locally (most usually in the areas of strongest Norman influence, it seems)?

The ballad The Vicar of Bray refers to the period from the Restoration through to the Hanoverians: it was first in print in 1736.

The expression (and, by implication, a version of the ballad) clearly predates that: Thomas Fuller in 1684 has this:

For Proverbs. One is peculiar to this County, viz: The Vicar of Bray, will be vicar of Bray still. Bray is a Village here, named from the Bibroges, ancient British Inhabitants. The Vivacious Vicar living under Henry 8, Edward 6, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth was a Papist then Protestant, then Papist then Protestant again. He found the Martyrs fire (near Windsor) too hot for his Temper, and being Taxed for a Turn-coat, Not so, said he, for I always kept my Principle, to live and dye the Vicar of Bray. General Proverb.
You don't have to search to far to find an exact precedent in Simon Aleyn, Vicar of Bray (Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire), from 1557 to 1565. That would mean he was appointed to the parish of St Michael's under Queen Mary, but sufficiently a trimmer to survive under protestant Elizabeth. Doubtless there were many other clerics who managed the same coat-turning. And, if you've a cushy incumbency like Bray and a flexible conscience, who might easily blame him? Which, after all, is the point of of the satire in the ballad.

Before some other smarty-pants chucks it in, the 1937 Stanley Holloway comedy (oh, has it dated!) of the same name transfers the action to Bray, County Wicklow. It was a run-of-the-mill second feature — one of many cooked up to fulfil the quota system imposed by the Cinematograph Films Act of 1927.
 

Liverpoolblue

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By the time of James I only around 5% of the English are thought to have been Catholic according to a program I saw about the Gunpowder Plot some time ago. However it was always higher among the nobility. Many of the aristocratic Howards in particular were secretly Catholic ever since the Reformation (our last Lord Lieutenant was was one of them).

Below is a map of Catholic recusancy (failure to attend Anglican church services weekly as required by law) 1715-20:

Some of my ancestors were among that 20+% in the north west of England. Our region was a bit of a backwater then so was more conservative and traditional. The nobility who lived on the estates around the town of Liverpool were Catholics so a lot of their tenants remained Catholics. When the first major waves of Irish migrants came to Liverpool in the late 18th and early 19th Century they found a welcome amongst these old English Catholic congregations and many married English Catholics. My earliest Irish ancestor married a descendent from one of the old Recusant families.


Lb
 

Trampas

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James II's son would likely have gained the throne peacefully in 1715 had not Queen Anne suddenly appointed a Hanoverian Whig as Lord Treasurer .....

Queen Anne died in 1714, but we mustn't be pedantic. Perhaps the most significant events of her reign were her patronage of John Churchill (ancestor of himself) the glorious victor of the War of the Spanish Succession, and also the unfortunate woman's 17 pregnancies and no living heir, resulting in the reign of a king who couldn't speak english.
 

Boy M5

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Good question.

I doubt it.

The Elizabethan era brought the rise of an anti catholic elite with access to money and printing presses which were used to propogandise against catholicism (history rarely changes).

Elizabeth also launched vicious genocidal campaigns against catholics in Ireland and the north (while hypocritically washing her hands of them in public).

Her agents also destabilised Scotland and launched a systematic propoganda campaign to discredit teh church there. This is why anti catholic bigotry is such a problem there compared to the south of England: The propoganda in Scotland was much more vicious.

When John Knox said "he who has god on his side is in the majority" he was acknowledgeing that most Scots were catholics when Mary Queen of Scots was deposed.

The proseltysiation of Scotland came later and was intensive.

Scotland wasn't a majority protestant country until late into Elizabeths reign, if even then.

Like most revolutionary movements in history, protestantism in England and Scotland was driven by financial self interest - the lure of church wealth for nobles.

But that wealth was used by teh church to feed and educate the poor.
W
When the monasteries were shut down they were converted into teh wealthy estates and grand family mansions we see in England and Scotland today.

And while catholic Britain was no model of equality there was far less inequality than emerged after protestantism took hold.

Protestantism was basically a mechanism to build England's identity and empire, strengthen the King the nobles and the merchant classes and economically subordinate the people.

Its legacy is proven in that while there isn't perfect fair play in Ireland, we are a far more egalitarian country than England, where any collective morality has disappeared.

500 years on there are strong echoes of what happened in Elizabethan England and Scotland: A clear campaign to take a minority of wrongdoers in the church and use them to destroy its reputation.

Same old same old.
Posts like this are the lifeblood of this site.
Lighting dark corners.

Thank you.
 

Boy M5

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Some of my ancestors were among that 20+% in the north west of England. Our region was a bit of a backwater then so was more conservative and traditional. The nobility who lived on the estates around the town of Liverpool were Catholics so a lot of their tenants remained Catholics. When the first major waves of Irish migrants came to Liverpool in the late 18th and early 19th Century they found a welcome amongst these old English Catholic congregations and many married English Catholics. My earliest Irish ancestor married a descendent from one of the old Recusant families.


Lb
Another interestingpost giving a hidden history.
 

Boy M5

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Philippa Gregory's novel The Other Queen, based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, highlights that 35 years after the passage of the Act of Supremacy, the English religious question was far from settled, with regional and class issues playing major roles in personal adherence. A large percentage of rural aristocrats appear to have remained Catholic, judging by their involvement in various conspiracies, and England's traditional North/South social divide also appears to have come heavily to the fore, with London and the South firmly Anglican, but the rest of the country appearing to practice the old faith in secret. Of course, with most personal faith largely clandestine in nature, true statistics will be thin on the ground, but had Anglicanism truly become established as the majority religion by the end of Elizabeth's reign?
Thanks for such an interesting op
 

ocianain

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Feb 24, 2013
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Good question.

I doubt it.

The Elizabethan era brought the rise of an anti catholic elite with access to money and printing presses which were used to propogandise against catholicism (history rarely changes).

Elizabeth also launched vicious genocidal campaigns against catholics in Ireland and the north (while hypocritically washing her hands of them in public).

Her agents also destabilised Scotland and launched a systematic propoganda campaign to discredit teh church there. This is why anti catholic bigotry is such a problem there compared to the south of England: The propoganda in Scotland was much more vicious.

When John Knox said "he who has god on his side is in the majority" he was acknowledgeing that most Scots were catholics when Mary Queen of Scots was deposed.

The proseltysiation of Scotland came later and was intensive.

Scotland wasn't a majority protestant country until late into Elizabeths reign, if even then.

Like most revolutionary movements in history, protestantism in England and Scotland was driven by financial self interest - the lure of church wealth for nobles.

But that wealth was used by teh church to feed and educate the poor.
W
When the monasteries were shut down they were converted into teh wealthy estates and grand family mansions we see in England and Scotland today.

And while catholic Britain was no model of equality there was far less inequality than emerged after protestantism took hold.

Protestantism was basically a mechanism to build England's identity and empire, strengthen the King the nobles and the merchant classes and economically subordinate the people.

Its legacy is proven in that while there isn't perfect fair play in Ireland, we are a far more egalitarian country than England, where any collective morality has disappeared.

500 years on there are strong echoes of what happened in Elizabethan England and Scotland: A clear campaign to take a minority of wrongdoers in the church and use them to destroy its reputation.

Same old same old.
Great post. English propaganda was and is so unrelenting the truth is little known today. I always wondered, "Where did the English peasant go when the Church lands were enclosed and he was forced off the land?" I mean at some time the new landowners had to choose between sheep and people, needless to say they chose sheep...where did the people go. I figured they became breatarians and lived on air and sunshine...I mean it's either that or they starved by the millions.
 

ocianain

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Feb 24, 2013
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Philippa Gregory's novel The Other Queen, based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, highlights that 35 years after the passage of the Act of Supremacy, the English religious question was far from settled, with regional and class issues playing major roles in personal adherence. A large percentage of rural aristocrats appear to have remained Catholic, judging by their involvement in various conspiracies, and England's traditional North/South social divide also appears to have come heavily to the fore, with London and the South firmly Anglican, but the rest of the country appearing to practice the old faith in secret. Of course, with most personal faith largely clandestine in nature, true statistics will be thin on the ground, but had Anglicanism truly become established as the majority religion by the end of Elizabeth's reign?
Great opening post too, Elizabethan England was the first police state, for a great examination of it, as well as Shakespeare see:

Amazon.com: Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare: Clare Asquith: Books
 

Maximilian

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The state of the Catholic Church in England at the time of Elizabeth bears some (obviously, I suppose) comparison with the state of the church in Ireland. Royal supremacy was apparently "far from unpopular during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, although the advent of radical Protestantism under the latter did not enjoy the same positive response". It has been posited that during Elizabeth's reign that an influx of English Officials and clergy created a Calvinist leaning Church of Ireland (resulting in a Church more Calvinist than the Church of England) which contrasted with the "optimistic Erasmian humanism" espoused by "the native reformers". Thus this vision of a reformed church, "philosophically rooted in their pessimistic Calvinist faith" and which also became associated with the planters, was difficult for the natives to accept. Whereas in England, the established church was less zealous in immediate reform, taking a more gradual course which thus brought the people with it to a much greater extent.

Quotes from: 'The Church of Ireland: a critical bibliography, 1536-1992 Part I: 1536-1603' Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 28, No. 112 (Nov., 1993), pp. 345-384.
 
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