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    • Thread Starter

    Hi, I'm studying history at AS level and part of my spec is that I need to learn of Edward's reign including the instability to the monarchy during his reign.
    Can anyone explain why Somerset's over had caused instability to Edward's reign?
    In my textbook it mentions but not in detail and not in a way that I can understand.

    I can't remember too much, but this essay I did last year seems to touch on it- not sure how helpful it is?

    ‘The personal religious beliefs of EdwardVI, Mary I and Elizabeth I explain the religious changes of the years 1547-66.’How far do you agree with this opinion? (30)
    Edward VI, Mary Iand Elizabeth I are each characterised by historians by their religiousbeliefs: Edward and Elizabeth’s Protestantism interrupted by five years ofMarian Catholicism, 1553-8. However, the extent to which the religious changesenacted in their reigns was in direct correlation to their religious beliefs isquestionable. Whilst it is clear that individual belief guided the overalldirection of policy (though this is more tenuous in Edward’s reign, given hisyoung age), the actual religious changes were undoubtedly limited or advancedby the need to compromise, both as a result of Parliament who ultimatelydecided whether to enact religious policy; and in order to assuage politicalallies, most notable in Elizabeth’s reign, and the changes enacted between 1558and 1566. This essay will examine the factors influencing each of the monarchs,arguing that whilst religious belief was the driving force of religiouschanges, pragmatism limited the end result.

    The initial stagesof Edward’s religious settlement were arguably a result of pragmatism ratherthan the personal drive of Edward VI’s own personal beliefs. Whilst the Act ofSix Articles, Treasons Act and Heresy laws were repealed in 1547, it took twoyears for the Act of Uniformity to come into fruition in 1549, establishing theFirst Prayer Book. This could indicatethat Edward’s personal beliefs were only cautiously advanced by Somerset ratherthan actively encouraged. Indeed, there seemed to be a mixed messagesurrounding the religion’s teachings, as the confusion surrounding the royalinjunctions against the veneration of images in 1547 demonstrates: Somerset’sU-turn in policy, first disagreeing then agreeing to a ban on all images asopposed to a ban on the veneration of images indicates that the council feltthe need to test public opinion before advancing too radical policies.

    However, it couldbe equally considered that Somerset’s agreement to ban all images in 1548 was adirect result of the King asserting his own beliefs despite his young age,supporting Loach’s interpretation of the power which Edward held over thecouncil. Indeed, it is clear that Edward VI’s personal beliefs were heavilyProtestant: his stepmother Catherine Parr and his tutor both influenced his religiousvies and both practiced Protestantism. Furthermore, the increasingly radicalpolicies advanced during Edward’s reign, such as the revocation of Henry VIII’sban on clerical married in 1549, could suggest that rather than evidence of thecouncil testing public opinion, they rather demonstrate the increasinginfluence of Edward as he grew older, suggesting his personal religious beliefswere the foremost factor.Furthermore, therole of Northumberland following Somerset’s execution in 1550 could have beento fulfil the wishes of the King more than the previous Protector. The orderedremoval of altars in November 1550 and the Black Rubric of 1552’s Second Act ofUniformity firmly established more radical Protestantism, despite the PrayerBook Rebellion of 1549 demonstrating some distaste for more radical Protestantliturgy, indicating that personal belief of the King outweighed pragmatism as adriving force. This suggests that religious changes post this period showEdward’s voice.

    However, the rebellion may in actuality have contributed to theadvancement of more Protestant policies dissenting voices had been crushed,suggesting that the slower reform of the earlier stages of Edward’s reign weremore a result of pragmatism than evolving personal belief. This is furthersupported by the successful passing of the Second Act of Uniformity in 1552 andthe 42 Articles of Cranmer in 1553 following the removal of conservative clergysuch as Gardiner and Bonner in 1551, replaced by more radical individuals suchas Nicholas Ridley. Whilst the merging of some sees, such as London andWinchester allowed more finances to be directed to the crown, which was in direfinancial difficulties, may have been a motivating factor behind this policy,the overall direction of policy suggests that Edward’s Protestant beliefs werethe primary motivating forces behind religious changes.

    Meanwhile, theMarian Settlement (1553-8) perhaps shows more directly her own personalreligious beliefs, given that she was not a child upon her accession in 1553. TheFirst Statute of Repeal in 1553, and the imprisonment of Protestant Bishops Hopperand Ridley, and Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, created a firm return toHenrican Catholicism, revoking Edward’s religious changes and returning to theAct of Six Articles (1539). However, the lack of recognition of papal authority,despite the efforts of Stephen Gardiner in 1554, suggest that the limitation ofParliament prevented Mary from exercising her religious beliefs fully when sheattempted to bring about change, due to the limitations of a more Protestantleaning House of Commons following Edward’s reign. This supports Elton’sassessment that Protestantism was too entrenched following Edward’s reign to allowa full conversion to Catholicism, despite Mary’s religious beliefs. Furthermore,financial and political considerations prevented Mary’s religious settlementfrom truly reflecting her religious beliefs. Despite the success of the SecondStatute of Repeal in 1555, returning to the 1529 laws and reasserting papalauthority, the purchase of Church land following the Dissolution of theMonasteries between 1536 and 1540 could not be revoked, given the protestswhich would inevitably arise from the men of middling sorts who had newfoundstatus from being landowners. Mary’s donation of £60,000 of crown lands to formmonasteries perhaps indicates that her own personal beliefs strongly leanedtowards the restoration of the monasteries, yet the need for pragmatism and theagreement of both houses of Parliament prevented Mary from fulfilling her aims.Furthermore, attempt to create seminaries which would allow Catholic liturgy tobe effectively taught throughout the realm was severely limited by the poorstate of church finances, only succeeding in York. Thus, Mary’s religiouspolicy did not wholly correlate with her religious beliefs as she was limitedby Parliament and the reality of church and state finances.

    Elizabeth’saccession in 1558 perhaps marked the beginnings of more pragmatic religiouspolicy rather than belief led policy, given the extreme of Mary and Edward’spolicy: the Marian burnings of 1555-7 inevitably resulted in a cult ofProtestant martyrdom rather than destroying the roots of Protestantism in therealm, and the rebellions brought about by Edward’s religious policy perhapssupport this interpretation, indicating that Elizabeth would be influenced bythe failings of her siblings to not enact strong religious policy. Indeed, Elizabeth’sreligious settlement (1558-66) strongly suggests a sense of compromise. The failureof the 1559 bills to restore the monarch as Supreme Head of the Church inEngland illustrates the need for this: the dominance of Marian Bishops in theHouse of Lords suggesting that Elizabeth was forced to compromise her trueProtestant beliefs in order to bring about change. The content of the 1559 billand the fact that Elizabeth was taught by the same tutors as Edward stronglysupports this. The 1559 Act of Supremacy, keeping a hierarchy which reflectsCatholicism, and the adoption of governorship of the Church of England as QueenElizabeth I rather than the Pope indicates that political pragmatism was thechief driving force behind Elizabeth’s religious policy. Furthermore, theneed to appease largely Catholic powers such as Spain and France demanded thatElizabeth keep some semblance of Catholicism as an attempt to prevent ananti-Protestant alliance forming around England, through creating a vague senseof hope that England might one day be persuaded to return to papal authority,for example through keeping an image of the crucifixion on the wall of her personalchapel, persuading potential allies such as the Spanish that her personalreligious beliefs were not so disparate from their own. However, theoverall direction of religious change towards Protestantism was undeniablyguided by Elizabeth herself. Although Neale’s thesis suggests that a Puritanchoir was the driving force behind Elizabeth’s religious changes, this isdisputed by her effective silencing of them through the 1559 Oath of Supremacyand the eventual publication of the 39 Articles in 1563, published in 1571,which create a non extreme version of Protestantism. The freedom of priests tomarry, for example, was limited by two JPs and a bishop, and the words ofcommunion were vague enough to be acceptable to both Catholics and Protestantswhilst overall reflecting Protestantism.

    To conclude, allthree monarchs clearly guided policy in the direction of their own personalreligious beliefs in the years 1547-66. Although there is clear evidence ofcompromise, particularly in the Marian and Elizabethan eras, the policy itselfis clearly characterised by an interpretation of a Catholic or Protestant pointof view. Although Edward was a minor, it is clear that the direction of policyreflected the context of his education and upbringing. Therefore, whilstreligious policy reflected political necessities, particularly duringElizabeth’s reign, it overall was the result of personal religious belied: atthe whim of the monarch which Parliament inherited. >��0��

    (sorry about the dodgy formatting)

    (This website might be helpful too)


    The above essay was for A2, so it's probably not aimed at the same targest as AS, fyi.
    • Thread Starter

    Thank you. The essay didn't didn't talk about Somerset in too much detail but it actually helped me to understand Mary's and Edwards reign which is all the more helpful as there both in the as spec.
    Btw thanks for the link as well

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