Thursday, July 17, 2008

Question from Liz - Elizabeth I's religion

What exactly was Elizabeth I's religion? I know that she was part of the new faith and did not adhere to Catholic traditions, but what exactly did she believe? Was it like the evangelical church now, I know that that church developed from Henry VIII's spilt with Rome.

I was always under the impression that Elizabeth I did not believe what Luther and other reformists taught, but what did she believe?

Thanks all!


Foose said...

"There is only one Christ Jesus and one faith; the rest is a dispute about trifles." This is what Elizabeth was reported to say on the issue of religion when she was queen. She was essentially a moderate.

But she was officially a Protestant. However, Elizabeth found extremist Protestantism personally noxious and politically dangerous. Historians have recently been making the argument that both Elizabeth and her sister Mary (traditionally depicted as the fanatical Papist) were both actually in practice more "Henrician" - that is, adhering to their father's brand of religion, which retained elements of traditional Catholic practice while abandoning others (like pilgrimages), and denied the authority of the Pope in favor of the monarch as Supreme Head of the Church.

Because of the life and death of her mother, Elizabeth was forced into the embrace of the evangelist party from her birth. To conservative Catholics, she was simply illegitimate, so Elizabeth always had to look to the party of Reformed religion for political support. This had advantages -- Reformers were organized, aggressive, vocal and well-connected -- but on the other hand Elizabeth always preferred keeping her options open and her identification with the Reformed cause made it more difficult to maneuver, especially during Mary's reign.

I think Elizabeth, who had strongly Protestant tutors and had been influenced both by Catherine Parr and the very Protestant reign of her brother Edward, found Reform theology intellectually stimulating - for a while, as a teenager, she was Edward's "sweet sister Temperance," a model of simple dress and Protestant piety, apparently conforming to the increasingly radical program instituted by Edward's bishops (no altars, no images, no vestments, etc. -- the Reformers' idea was to purify religion to get it back to the "primitive church," as Christ and his apostles had lived and preached.) It's hard to say if this was entirely genuine (teenagers often develop temporary enthusiasms) or careful policy and image-making on her part (she had the Seymour scandal and her mother to live down).

During Mary’s reign, when she was being pressured by Gardiner and her sister, she asked for Catholic accoutrements – chasubles, copes, etc. – so she might practice the Catholic religion while in internal exile. This was thought to be politically motivated, rather than genuine. But she had grown up with many of these items still present in the Henrician church, so she might have had no problem with the religious use of these items.

As Queen, she strove for a religious settlement at the beginning of her reign that could be a reasonable compromise for both parties, with herself as Supreme Governor -- Catholics and extreme Protestants disliked it, but it suited more moderate Protestants. She leaned to one side or the other as politics and foreign concerns dictated.

Elements of Elizabeth’s personal religion that might be considered Henrician Catholic:
-She clearly liked fine dress and jewelry, abandoning the simplicity of her youth
-She liked some candles in her chapel as well as a crucifix and good music
-She was pretty insistent that vestments be worn by officiating priests
-She disliked married priests, and made critical comments about them and their wives
-She disliked Protestant extremism in her clergy, and would take steps to have them muzzled (Grindal, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is an example, as is her attitude towards the radical “prophesyings” in Norwich during her reign) or deprived
- She evidently believed in the Supremacy – that the monarch was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and not the Pope

Elements of Elizabeth’s personal religion that might be considered more Protestant:
-She probably did not believe in the Real Presence (that the communion wafer is really the body of Christ, rather than a symbol of it), which was usually the reason that Protestants were burned as heretics during her sister’s reign
-She was apparently indifferent to the veneration of saints
-It is likely that she believed that salvation is through faith and souls are saved through God’s grace alone (Lutheranism) and not through faith and works (Catholicism)
-It is likely that she did not believe in the Calvinist idea of salvation by election (that one is either predestined to be saved or not), as Calvinists annoyed her intensely (like John Knox)
-She supported the use of an English-language service, Bible prayer-book, probably because she sincerely believed that scripture and worship needed to be in the vernacular (a Lutheran idea)
-She maintained the legitimacy of her parents’ marriage, on the premise that the Pope had no authority to dispense the impediment of Catherine of Aragon’s first marriage to Henry’s brother
-She promoted her image as a Protestant heroine (Deborah, for example)

Sorry this is long, but it's a complicated question. Maybe others have more evidence for her Protestant or Henrician Catholic leanings?

Anonymous said...

I think Foose has done an admirable job of addressing this complicated issue in a remarkably concise fashion. I would add only one caveat: As Foose's own repeated use of "likely" demonstrates, much of what we "know" about Elizabeth's personal religious beliefs is, in fact, nothing more than conjecture based on her pattern of behavior over the course of a lifetime. Elizabeth was nothing if not a consummate politician, and religion was a critical political question of the day. Elizabeth approached the question of religion in much the same manner as she approached the question of marriage: She acted in a way that was politically safest, feinted and parried in the face of opposition, and allowed others to think that they (rather than she) held the higher hand. Unlike so many of her male (and some of her female) contemporaries, however, Elizabeth did not leave a treatise or other clear statement of her own religious beliefs. We will thus never really know with certainty what she did or did not actually believe herself. The only thing we CAN say with certainty is that she was, as Foose noted, a moderate who tolerated a fairly broad range of practice, especially when compared to the marked intolerance of some of the other monarchs on the European continent.

Foose said...

Thank you for your kind words, phd historian, I was very nervous about this post because, as you say, there is not a tremendous amount of evidence for the exact nature of Elizabeth's very personal beliefs -- she had learned the value of inscrutability at an early age.

kb said...

Well done foose. I don't think I could have ever summed up this complicated question so well.

As both foose and phd historian have noted Elizabeth was averse to religious extremism. Her specific distaste for the Calvinist John Knox was primarily a reaction to his 'First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Rule of Women' which was a polemic tract railing specifically against Mary of Guise, regent of Scotland and Mary I. In it he advocates rebellion against any female ruler as, he maintained, female rule is against God's will. Elizabeth refused to meet him even after he tried to back track on his position.

Calvin did not agree with Knox's position allowing for the possibility that God might from time to time place a woman in power when no other suitable male candidate was available.

Also, Elizabeth, who was particularly close to her Carey cousins including Katherine Carey Knollys and her husband Sir Francis Knollys, after Katherine's death banned Sir Francis from her presence [twice I think] because he was too extreme in his puritanism.

kb said...

I thought of one more thing.

One of Elizabeth's favorite ladies, Dorothy Stafford, got into a legal dispute with Calvin.

Dorothy Stafford married her cousin William Stafford who was the second husband of Mary Boleyn, Elizabeth's maternal aunt. They married c. 1545 and moved to Geneva as marian exiles. William and Dorothy may have had 6 children. John Calvin stood as godfather to one of their sons. After William died, Dorothy got into a custody battle with Calvin which she terminated by moving with her children and friend Elizabeth Sandys to France.

Dorothy never forgave Calvin. She served in Elizabeth's court for, what appears to have been, the entire reign dying in 1604.

With Dorothy's well-known antipathy towards Calvin and her intimacy with Elizabeth, I wouldn't be surprised if Dorothy fanned Elizabeth's anti-calvinist flames.

Foose said...

I think Elizabeth, having observed the way in which Edward's extreme Protestant advisers had dominated his government with their unending demands to purify religion according to whatever their latest reading of Scripture was, and Mary Stuart's bullying by Knox and the Lords of the Congregation, was already pretty ill-disposed towards Calvinism throughout her career.

Moreover, Calvin's teaching forbade nearly all of Elizabeth's chief amusements: dancing, games, masques, etc.

But she may have endorsed the Calvinist position on the Sacraments -- that there are only two (as opposed to the Catholic seven and the Lutheran three). The 39 Articles, on which the Elizabeth Church was based, stipulates only two Sacraments authorized by Scripture, baptism and the Lord's Supper. I believe Elizabeth in her personal religion might also have repudiated the Lutheran position on the Sacraments because the Lutherans included penance, which required confession. While she could disapprove of predestination without openly breaking with her own Church (predestination was also one of the 39 Articles), practicing "penance" discreetly would have been more difficult. I also think Elizabeth, innately cautious, would have disliked nothing more than "confessing" to a cleric.

Foose said...

kb, now I have a question for you. I was looking through a book called "Ten Remarkable Women of the Tudor Courts and Their Influence in Founding the New World, 15360-1630," by Elizabeth Darracott Wheeler. I will say right away that that the sentimentalized writing style and the overall editing did not inspire confidence.

However, there was a whole chapter dedicated to "Dorothee Stafford, Seigneuress de Rocheford" in which this astonishing (to me) statement was made:

"Dorothy Stafford ... legally inherited the crown jewels of Anne Boleyn ... According to a written will, [Anne Boleyn's] crown jewels were bequeathed to her sister, Mary (Boleyn) Stafford. Following Mary's death, her husband married his cousin Dorothy. Then the pearls, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds of Catherine of Aragon became the exclusive property of his new wife wherever she resided."

Now the first statement is footnoted to the Dictionary of National Biography entry on William Stafford. I haven't been able to find any corroborating evidence in the entry I looked at or anywhere else. So, kb, do you know about this? Can any part of it be true? If Anne was not legally Henry's wife, she may have been eligible to write a will, but Ives and the rest never mention one; I just can't believe that as a divorced wife or no wife at all she could dispose of crown property or that Mary Boleyn would be allowed to keep it; moreover, wouldn't her property descend to her "natural" issue, Elizabeth? Or if Elizabeth is debarred because of illegitimacy, wouldn't the claim revert back to Thomas Boleyn? If Mary did somehow get the jewels, wouldn't they devolve upon her death to her own daughter, Katherine Carey, rather than Stafford's second wife?

I'd appreciate hearing your views on this. A lot of people have been asking on this blog about Anne's jewels and their whereabouts.

Anonymous said...

Though your question was addressed to KB, Foose, I'm going to be bold and offer a response. Anne Boleyn was convicted of treason, among other charges. All persons convicted of treason forfeited all rights to their property ... ALL of their property. Their possessions became the property of the Crown, from lands and manor houses to the chamber pots they contained. This included all jewels. The records of the Exchequer are full of highly detailed inventories of the possessions of a large number of persons whose property was seized by the Crown following conviction and execution. And because they were legally virtually property-less at their death, they also forfeited any right to leave a will that disposed of property, whether real or chattel. Thus IF Anne Boleyn wrote a will (an unlikely "if"), any disposition of property, including jewels, contained within that will was legally null and void. Literally everything she had owned had become the property of the Crown immediately upon her conviction. She legally had nothing to dispose of in a will, not even whatever small jewels she may have worn at her execution (rings and such).

Foose said...

phd historian, thanks! (The question wasn't restricted to kb, I just thought kb might have a special interest because the preceding post brought up Dorothy Stafford and other posts by kb have shown a lot of knowledge about Mary Boleyn.)

You confirm what I rather suspected about Anne's property status at her death. (David Loades pointed out in a recent book that the Tudor people we tend to know the most about are the executed or imprisoned ones, because their property was seized and meticulously inventoried by government agents, so perhaps we ought to have more mixed feelings about various Tudor victims; they died tragically, perhaps, but records of their correspondence, lawsuits and moveable property live forever!)

But I'm mystified as to how the author of the cited book came up with this idea (usually people don't just make it up; there's some sort of antecedent somewhere) about Anne having a will and the crown jewels winding up with a very peripheral Boleyn relation. I was just goggling in astonishment at the passage (Jane Grey is also one of the "Ten Remarkable Women" covered, you'd probably find that chapter very amusing) and after a few weeks decided to put the question out here.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Foose, I have read Wheeler's chapter on Jane Grey. It is appalling. But so is the entire book, in my opinion.

And like you, I wonder where she came up with the story of a will and Anne Boleyn's jewels (but not the "crown jewels") passing to a distant relative. I don't have a copy of her book handy to check footnotes. Do you, or do any of the other regulars to this site? Since the question of the Boleyn jewels has come up repeatedly over the past few weeks, I think it would be great if someone could track it down and see if there is a citation for this story.

kb said...

foose - Thank you for referencing this book. I did not know about having been in tunnel vision mode for the last couple years. Definitely have to find a copy.

I agree with phd historian that there would simply be no way that Anne could have willed the crown jewels to anyone. She probably did gift some personal jewels to her family and ladies while in the tower. But these would have been minor at best. After her death Mary became the sole Boleyn heir and the Boleyn properties were inherited by her Carey children - well mostly Henry.

Mary died three years after Katherine was married and popping out children so it may have been thought that Katherine was sufficiently set and did not need a significant inheritance. Also during this time Henry, the king, was showing singular favour to Katherine and Francis, pushing through an act of parliament confirming ownership of Rotherfield Greys to the young couple jointly. (to be clear here, the king was ensuring Katherine's financial stability who happened to be married to Francis)

I have no information regarding William Stafford retaining Boleyn property and gifting it to his wife Dorothy. However, Dorothy Stafford was descended from George, duke of Clarence and was a Plantagenet and therefore of royal blood.

Wonder where the author got that amazing statement???

kb said...

Oh and - there is no DNB article on William Stafford in the online version. The Dorothy Stafford article was written by Simon Adams and trust me - if he had any such information on the Boleyn 'crown' jewels he would have put it in there.

Anonymous said...

Now I have a question for, KB: You say that Mary Boleyn and her children, especially Henry, became the heirs to the Boleyn properties. I assume you mean by this the properties owned by Anne's father, and not Anne's personal and dower properties? This is your specific area of personal expertise, so correct me if I am wrong, but I have always understood that virtually all of the property that Anne owned in her own right (much of which had been gifted to her by Henry VIII during the "courtship" and marriage) reverted to the Crown upon her conviction for treason and subsequent execution. Did some portion of those personal and dower properties instead pass directly to the Carey line? Or perhaps the king re-gifted them back to the Boleyn-Careys after first taking possession of them for the Crown?

kb said...

phd Historian - I have yet to do a thorough study of Anne's properties and their eventual disposition but it is my understanding that - as you say - they reverted to the crown.

I should have been more specific. Properties of Thomas Boleyn that were not forfeited (and some were when Anne fell) eventually landed in Henry Carey's lap. Mary Boleyn Carey was Thomas Boleyn's only direct heir and Henry Carey the only male direct descendant.

I suspect that part of the reason that Henry Carey's wardship was given to his aunt Anne was that she could derive any financial benefits of his eventual inheritance and could control his future marriage.

So unfortunately I don't have anything to add to your understanding of the disposition of Anne's property. We pretty much agree. Wish I knew more. Isn't that what a postdoc is for? :)

Foose said...

phd historian, regarding the Wheeler book, the source information is baffling. The statement on the jewels is footnoted, as I indicated, to the DNB entry on William Stafford but kb has exploded that notion. All the sources listed for the chapter are either innocuous, standard, solid sources used by scholars -- Garrett's Marian Exiles, for example, or else somewhat older works on Protestantism (possibly biased). But the conclusions Wheeler reaches are just bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, KB, for that clarification. Foose, I have to wonder if perhaps Wheeler was using a very outdated version of the ODNB, one in which the article on Stafford has subsequently been judged lacking in rigorous scholarship and has thus been dropped from current versions. Articles in the ODNB are regularly updated and replaced, as you know, and since Wheeler earned her BA in the 1930s, I assume there have been MANY revisions since she did her research. My conjecture is supported by her apparent reliance on older (outdated?) sources. Perhaps she used a much older version of the ODNB which contained an article on Stafford that was based too much on 19th century myth-making?

Anonymous said...

FINALLY!!!!!! I can move on with my project! Thank you. This was a big help.