Mary I to Elizabeth I

Ways Elizabeth tried to keep the Protestants and Catholics happy.

Elizabeth tries to keep Protestants and Catholics happy

Elizabeth I was brought up a Protestant. She realised that religion had caused a lot of problems for England. She tried to find a 'middle way' that both Catholics and Protestants could accept:

  • She called herself 'Supreme Governor', not 'head' of the Church of England.
  • Church services and the Bible were in English.
  • Many elements of Catholic services were allowed, including bishops, ordained priests, church decorations, music and colourful robes.
  • The English prayer book was brought back, but a Latin edition was also printed.
  • The new prayer book said that Christ was 'really present' in the bread and the wine in the Communion service. This was halfway between Catholic and Protestant beliefs.

There was no question, however, that people could believe what they wanted. The Act of Uniformity (1559) stated that everybody had to attend the Church of England and use the Book of Common Prayer.

She punished the Puritans and any Catholics who refused to go to Church of England services. These people were called recusants.

The key to the ‘middle way’ was that the monarch was responsible for the faith of the state. For Elizabeth, the success of the ‘middle way’ would be a means to extend her control over the country.

Did Elizabeth change her 'middle way' policy?

Towards the end of her reign, however:

  • The Pope excommunicated Elizabeth in 1570.
  • There were plots and rebellions against Elizabeth led by Catholics. The leaders of these were executed.
  • Catholic priests who conducted secret services for Catholics were tortured and executed. Elizabeth executed as many Catholics as Mary burned Protestants.
  • By the end of Elizabeth's reign, England was firmly a Protestant country.