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The Personal Beliefs of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth Explain the Religious Changes of the Years 1547 to 1566


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The personal beliefs of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I explain the religious changes of the years 1547 and 1566, How far do you agree with this opinion?
E Duffy states ''men breathed easier for the succession of a catholic queen'', which implies that Edward was imposing his own protestant beliefs strongly onto the realm, despite their more catholic views, through his religious policy. This therefore suggests that personal beliefs can explain the changes in religion from 1547. However in order to assess the validity of this claim it is important to consider the aspect under investigation, the personal beliefs of the monarchs, views of the people, foreign influences on religion and the finances. The stronger evidence so far seems to suggest that personal belief was the main reason for religious change. However, the answer is never clear cut and may depend on the monarch in power and time.
It can be argued that Edward's religious policy was based on his own personal beliefs of Protestantism. Edward was raised staunchly catholic as his step mother Catherine Parr had him educated with protestant views by scholars. However, other factors did determine the religious changes during his reign as the 1549 Prayer Book under Lord protector Somerset was far from staunchly protestant. This is due to Somerset's fear of Charles V and the threat Spain posed to England if they were too radically protestant , as well as learning from the mistakes Henry made leading to The Pilgrimage of Grace. The Prayer book of 1549 was very ambiguous as it allowed traditional vestments and communion was unclear. However, the moderate prayer book failed to please anybody. Therefore, it is clear that personal beliefs were not all that caused a changed in religion. Similarly as Edward was a minor he was dependant on his Lord Protector to make decisions regarding religious policy, Edward had especially limited power during Somerset's governing as he would not allow him into council meetings, unlike under Northumberland. However, Lord protector Somerset and Northumberland both appeared to share Edwards protestant views and would be more likely to impose more protestant ideas in religious policy. In 1547 Somerset repealed the Act of 6 articles which allowed England to leave the catholic faith by law, one of Edwards main aims as a protestant. Under Northumberland religion became particularly more protestant, such as the 1552 Prayer Book which rejected vestments and enforced consubstantiation, the book was regarded as almost Zwingli, which adheres to Edwards personal protestant beliefs. Edward also spread Protestantism to the most influential in society, depriving four catholic bishops of their seats and replacing them with protestants such as Hooper and Ridley. Overall, it is evident that the personal beliefs of Edward dominated religious policy during his reign, despite the fact that Somerset and Northumberland ruling for him.
Mary's personal religious beliefs were very different to those of Edward as she was catholic and this can explain the changes in religion during her reign. Mary's personal piety was to rescue England from 'Mortal sin' whilst viewing protestants as heretics. She even ignored Charles V and Pope Julius's advice that she was changing too fast from Protestantism to the restoration of Catholicism. However, Mary was influenced in some ways by Phillip of Spain her husband. England's involvement in the French war with Spain, meant that religious reformation had to take a backseat and also limited finances. Similarly, catholic restoration as Mary wanted is much more expensive then Protestantism, as Loades states ''catholic restoration costs money'', therefore Mary had to consider the cost of her religious policies and not just her own personal aims for religion. For example she was stopped by Parliament from returning monastic lands to the crown to restore the monasteries as this would destroy relations between the crown and the nobility that bought them during Henry's reign. It is therefore clear that Mary's strong personal beliefs of Catholicism were not all that influenced religious policy as the finances and foreign influences also played a role in shaping them. However, to counter this these can be viewed as only small policies and that most of Mary's religious policy was based on her own catholic beliefs. In The first act of Repeal of 1553 all religious policy from Edward's reign was reversed, this was furthered by the Second Act of Repeal of 1555 which repealed all religious legislation under Henry from 1529. This meant that Mary would no longer be the supreme head of the church and England would be under papal headship, although not supremacy. Mary was also strong on the imposition of her policies and introduced the burning of anyone who would not recant their protestant faith, also in 1554 before the burnings there was a mass exodus of 800 protestants to the continent. Overall, it is evident that Mary's personal beliefs came first and that the other factors that determined her policy were not as influential as Mary's own staunchly catholic views.
Elizabeth's personal religious beliefs seemed to be more in line with Edward's as she was educated too by Catherine Parr and seen as a heretic in the eyes of strong Catholics, including under Mary's reign. However, historiography states she was a '' moderate protestant'' and Guy states Elizabeth was ''protestant with conservative leanings''. This more moderate belief of Elizabeth's is clear in her Act of Uniformity 1559, which can be described as 'Via Media', this is because it allowed altars and more traditional vestments, however transubstantiation was denied and it was supposedly based on the more protestant 1552 prayer book, it is argued that this is untrue and it is more in line with the 1549. The Act of Supremacy made Elizabeth the supreme governor of the church with no papal supremacy, was more of a move towards Protestantism, however it also restored holy days and banned women and children from cathedrals, which is more catholic. This may reflect Elizabeth's moderate beliefs or suggest she was influenced by other factors, like the views of the population. The views of the people may have had an impact on Elizabeth's religious policy as most of the population outside of London was still Conservative and to avoid the mistakes made in Edwards reign such as the prayer book of 1549 leading to the Western Rebellion or Mary with the extremity of the burning, Elizabeth settled for a more moderate settlement. Similarly to Somerset Elizabeth had foreign threats from Spain as well as France. Elizabeth feared a Spanish invasion and wanted to maintain the alliance with Spain from Mary's reign. In France there was the threat of catholic heir Mary Queen of Scots and England was in the midst of peace negotiations after the war, therefore anything other than a moderately protestant settlement under Elizabeth would have strengthened the foreign threat and security of England. Therefore, despite Elizabeth being more protestant then catholic she had to consider national and foreign threats and opted for less radical policies. In conclusion It is clear that the personal religious beliefs of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I is the main explanation for religious changes in the period 1549 to 1566. The main reason for this is all the monarchs policies reflected their own beliefs in some way for example even though Edward was a protestant Mary undid all of his policies to restore Catholicism in the two act of Repeals. However it does depend on aspect as Elizabeth's policies were less protestant then her own views as she was influenced by the views of the people, foreign influences and the threats they posed. Mary was influenced by the cost and finances needed to fully restore Catholicism in line with her beliefs and Edward under Somerset was influenced by the Spanish threat and views of the people, reflected in the ambiguous prayer book of 1549. The answer is also dependent on the monarch and the time in their reign, for example Edward was much less restricted in religious policy at the end of his reign under Northumberland then he was under Somerset. Elizabeth and Mary were much more restricted in their reigns as Elizabeth had a number of foreign threats she had to consider and Mary's restoration proved too expensive to fully implement.

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