Topic 1 – Queen, government and religion, 1558–69
What is this topic about?
The first key topic is concerned with queen, government and religion in the years 1558–69. You should be aware of the main features of England in 1558 when Elizabeth came to the throne. Elizabeth ascended the throne at a time of turmoil and so having a solid understanding of the issues that she faced in 1558, both nationally and personally, will provide you with a good baseline for the rest of the study. You should understand that, in the face of threats from France and within England, frequent, though unsuccessful, attempts were made throughout this period to persuade Elizabeth to take a husband and ensure the succession to the throne. You should be aware that her refusal to do so marks a break with Tudor tradition; Elizabeth made it clear that giving birth to an heir was not her highest priority.
Elizabeth’s first success was in arranging a religious settlement that kept the peace, in 1559, and you should understand its key features and its consequences, both positive and negative. You should understand that the dissatisfaction of Catholics and Puritans posed a challenge to Elizabeth’s authority and that Mary Stuart’s personal claim to the throne provided a rallying point for Catholics, who also had support from abroad, and from the Pope. The complex nature of the relationship between Elizabeth and her Scottish cousin forms the last section of this key topic.
You will need to understand some of the background to Elizabeth’s reign including the Protestant Reformation and the relationship between Henry VIII and Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn.