Topic 2 – Challenges to Elizabeth at home and abroad, 1569–88
What is this topic about? What the exam board says…
Key topic 2 deals with challenges to Elizabeth at home and abroad in the years 1569–88. It segues neatly into Catholic challenges to Elizabeth’s throne and the alleged role of Mary Stuart in them. You should understand the nature of the threat to the queen posed by the different plots of 1569–86 and the role of her Chief Minister Walsingham and his large network of spies in neutralising them. The execution of Mary Stuart in 1587 ended the primary challenge to the queen’s security, but you should recognise that it was not a decision taken lightly by the Queen and led to a worsening of relations with Spain.
You should be aware of Philip II’s power – as King of Spain and also ruling over the Netherlands, England’s most important trading partner – and that he wanted to restore England to Catholicism. You should be aware that Philip’s empire in the Americas supplied Spain with phenomenal amounts of gold and silver, and that the actions of English privateers such as Francis Drake, who frequently attacked Spanish gold and silver fleets with great success, jeopardised these supplies, leading a bitter Philip to seek a military solution. This, along with
England’s involvement in the Netherlands and the execution of Mary Stuart in 1587, led to the ‘Enterprise of England’, the Spanish Armada of 1588.
This topic builds on what you have learned in topic 1. You will need especially to understand the problems that Catholics had with Protestantism and with Elizabeth’s religious settlement. You will also need to understand some of the background of Elizabeth’s relationship with Phillip II of Spain.