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Study notes

Privy Council and Elizabeth I

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

The Privy Council was the core group of English nobles that acted as Elizabeth’s main advisors and key members of the government.

The main function of the Privy Council was to provide opinions on the matters at hand and to help the Queen make decisions. When the Queen had made a decision, it was the responsibility of the Privy Council to carry out the wishes of the Queen.

Many decisions of the government were made by the Council, without Elizabeth being present, however, she could overturn any decision that the Council had made.

During the early part of the reign of Elizabeth the Council met around once a week, however by the end of her reign it met almost every day.

Membership of the Privy Council was decided by Elizabeth and, as with the Court, was a great honour. When Elizabeth became Queen the total number of Privy Councillors was around 50, although believing that too many opinions wouldn’t be helpful, Elizabeth reduced the number of councillors first to nineteen and then to eleven.

One key role was the Secretary of State. Elizabeth’s Secretary of State was Sir William Cecil, who was favoured by Elizabeth and trusted above all others. He was a capable councillor who provided huge support to Elizabeth right up until his death.

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