Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I was the Queen of England (1533-1603). She lived during the Reformation era and established the Protestantization of England while struggling with religious and political issues at home and abroad, including a victory over the invincible Armada of Spain.

Life of Elizabeth I

 Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII of England and Anne Boleyn. From an early age, she received a humanistic education and excelled. After the death of Henry VIII, she did not immediately ascend to the throne. Rather, she spent an unhappy period during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, when she was suspected of taking part in plots.

 Reign of Elizabeth I

 After the death of Mary I, Elizabeth I acceded to the throne as queen in 1559. During the reign of Henry VIII, England transitioned to Protestantism, the Church of England. However, during Mary I’s reign, England was drawn back to Catholicism by repealing various laws of the Church of England that had been in place. Protestants went into exile abroad. Mary I married the future King Felipe II of Spain. She restored and strengthened relations with the papacy. She died in 1558.

 Elizabeth I ascended the throne as Queen of England, and in 1559 she enacted the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity, which brought England back to the Anglican Church. These laws became the basis for Elizabeth I’s religious policy and also regarded as the starting point for today’s Anglican Church. In 1563, she enacted the “Thirty-nine Articles.”

 Elizabeth I initially implemented a moderate and middle policies in terms of religion. For she thought that the Anglican Church was to be penetrated first. Also, because there remained many Catholic aristocrats, such as the Nevilles in the north. Therefore, when Elizabeth I established the Book of Common Prayer, she also required ministers to wear ceremonial robes, as Catholics did. However, some Protestants began to oppose this trend, claiming that it was a lack of religious reform regarding the wearing of vestments and the use of organs in churches. They were called Puritans. Elizabeth I dealt harshly with separatists from the Anglican Church, whether Catholic or Protestant.

 Conflicts with Spain and the Papacy

 Around that time, in 1560, the Reformation also began in Scotland. Elizabeth I supported the Protestant lords and played a role in the success of the Reformation. For the Catholic monarchy in Scotland was in league with France and hostile to England. Later, Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots, returned to Scotland from France, where she had married.

 The conflict between Queen Marie, who defended Catholicism, and the Protestant nobles and church, including John Knox, gradually deepened. Finally, they came to war, and Marie was defeated. In 1567, Marie went into exile in England, relying on her relative Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I, however, was wary of Marie. For Marie was one of the heirs to the throne of England. In fact, the Nevilles in the north saw Marie’s arrival as a chance to overthrow Elizabeth I and rose in rebellion. Elizabeth I defeated them. Thus, the northern part of England was pacified.

 At this point, the papacy intervened. In the north, many of the subjects were Catholic. In 1570, Pope Pius V declared Elizabeth I excommunicated and dethroned. As a result, it became doctrinally difficult for English Catholics to submit to Queen Elizabeth I while maintaining their Catholic faith. This was because Elizabeth I was a heretic and no longer a legitimate king if they followed the Pius’s bull. Nevertheless, Elizabeth I did not immediately fall on hard times after that. But Elizabeth I tightened her policy toward English Catholics. As a result, the situation of English Catholics worsened.

 Right around that time, starting in the late 1560s, relations between England and Spain began to deteriorate. During this period, gold, silver, and other commodities were being shipped by sea from Spain’s Latin American colonies to Spain. The British pirates like Hawkins and Drake attempted to seize them. Elizabeth I began to support their privateering activities. In addition, the two countries had different interests in the religious wars in France at that time. These factors led to a deepening conflict between the England and Spain.

 As a result, England faced an economic crisis. Until then, England had profited from its woolen industry. Its main export destination was Antwerp in the Low Countries (present-day Benelux). The Low Countries were under Spanish rule. Therefore, English woolen products were shut out of the Antwerp market. Therefore, England began to look for other markets and tried to find a way to trade with the East. Gradually, it also seriously considered the American trade and began attempting it in North America. However, this would end in failure during Elizabeth I’s reign.

Elizabeth I

 In the late 1580s, Elizabeth I found herself in a difficult situation:In 1587, a plot against Elizabeth I was uncovered, in which the above-mentioned Queen Marie, who was in exile, was complicit. Marie was therefore executed. Spain and the papacy considered this martyrdom.

 In addition, rebellions in the Low Countries added fuel to the fire. Although the Low Countries were under Spanish rule, they were allowed a certain degree of autonomy. However, Felipe II attempted to deprive the Low Countries’ nobles of their privileges in unconventional manners. These led to their revolts against Felipe II by some nobles in 1568. From 1572, they gradually began to win victories over the Spanish. Elizabeth I supported the rebels in the Low Countries because she wanted to keep the Low Countries as a buffer zone between Spain and England. Another reason was that the rebel leaders had good relationship with the Protestants.

 Due to these causes, King Felipe II finally decided to march on England, dispatching the invincible Armada in 1588. However, thanks to the success of Drake and others, the English won the Battle of the Armada. However, the war between the two countries did not end there. Rather, it did not end in Elizabeth I’s time.

 England’s finances deteriorated due to the cost of warfare at home and the cost of military support in the Low Countries and France. In addition, agriculture suffered crop failures beginning in 1594. Plague and inflation struck. Unable to bear the heavy taxes and other burdens, rebellions began to arise. Elizabeth I was unable to escape this predicament and died in 1603.

Recommended or Selected References

青木道彦『エリザベス女王 : 女王を支えた側近たち』山川出版社, 2014

川北稔『イギリス史』山川出版社, 2020

Peter Ackroyd, Tudors : the history of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014

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