Elizabeth I

There were as many executions of Catholics under Elizabeth as there were Protestants under Mary, though over a reign nine times as long.

David Riss, Elizabeth I and Tudor England (2002)


A basic account

The Elizabethan Settlement


The Middle Way

Elizabeth tried to bring peace in matters of religion.   She tried to find a compromise which moderates on both the Catholic and Protestant sides could accept.   The key points were:

  • she called herself the 'Supreme Governor', not the 'Head' of the Church of England;

  • the English Prayer Book was brought back, and Elizabeth insisted on protestant beliefs BUT she allowed many of the trappings of the Catholic services - bishops, ordained priests, church decorations, music and priests' vestments;

  • She produced a prayer book in English, but allowed a Latin edition to be printed;

  • the new prayer book said that Christ was 'really present' in the bread and the wine in the Communion service.


However, there was no question that people could believe what they wanted.   Elizabeth demanded Uniformity (everybody had to believe and do the same thing) and she punished extreme Protestants and extreme Catholics who opposed her.   Some Catholics tried to organise rebellions against Elizabeth, and these people were tortured and executed.


During Elizabeth's reign, England became a moderate Protestant country.









What to say:

If you are writing about religion under Elizabeth, you must mention at least:

  • the Middle Way, and how it affected both people's beliefs and their churches;

  • uniformity, and the punishment of extremists.