Study notes

Elizabethan Religious Settlement

  • Levels: GCSE
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

The Religious Settlement was an attempt by Elizabeth I to unite the country after the changes in religion under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. It was designed to settle the divide between Catholics and Protestants and address the differences in services and beliefs. The settlement itself was written out in two Acts of Parliament, the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity 1559.

Under her reign, Mary I had reintroduced Catholicism in England. She did this by overturning the Supremacy Acts that Henry VIII had created.

When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 she worked with the Privy Council to create a religious settlement that would unite the country into one Church. This meant starting with the Supremacy Acts created under Henry VIII and slightly altering them. This resulted in two acts:

The Act of Supremacy 1559

This Act made Elizabeth the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and ensured that the Roman Catholic Church had no say over the workings and beliefs of the Church of England.

The Act of Uniformity 1559

This Act reintroduced the Book of Common Prayer and set out what the English Church service should look like as well as setting out how the inside of churches should look. The Act also detailed what priests should wear too.

Was it successful?

The Religious Settlement itself was challenged a number of times, which can point to its unpopularity. However, it was an attempt to solve the religious division that existed within England at the time and was never going to please everyone.


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