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The Tudors – Elizabeth I and the Catholic Problem, 1558-1603

1. Elizabeth's Private Religion

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In this module, we consider Elizabeth's personal religious beliefs, focusing in particular on: (i) the difficulty of working out Elizabeth's personal religious beliefs; (ii) the relative conservatism of the style of worship in the churches under the direct control of the queen, e.g. the chapels royal and royal peculiars; (iii) Elizabeth's antipathy to the pope; (iv) Elizabeth's declaration that she had no desire to "make windows into men's souls"; (v) the minimal level of obedience required by Elizabeth: compulsory attendance of the church, but no requirement to even look like you were listening to what was being said; (vi) the importance of the Thirty-Nine Articles (1571), especially the fact they were not made law in parliament; (vii) her leniency to those who didn't attend church, provided she could be sure of their political loyalty, e.g. the case of Sir Thomas Cornwallis; (viii) the view that Elizabeth is "anti-papal, but not anti-Catholic."


In this course, Professor John Morrill (University of Cambridge) thinks about the treatment of Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). The course begins by thinking about Elizabeth's own religious beliefs, focusing in particular at the practices in her private chapels as well as her treatment of Catholics who were known personally to her. After that, we turn to the Elizabethan Religious Settlement of 1558-59, before moving on in the third module to look at the Penal Laws that were introduced followed the Catholic rebellions in 1569-70. We continue to explore the Penal Laws in the fourth and fifth modules, focusing first on the Catholic response to the laws – especially on the Continent – and then on the enforcement of the laws, before moving on in the sixth module to think about the lives of ordinary Catholics under Elizabeth's rule.


John Morrill was educated at Altrincham Grammar School (Cheshire) and at Trinity College Oxford (BA 1967, DPhil 1971). He was a Research Fellow there (1970-4) and a Lecturer at Stirling University (1974-5) before moving to Cambridge in 1975 as Lecturer, Reader and now Professor. He has been a Fellow of Selwyn College since 1975 and was Director of Studies in History 1975-92, Tutor 1979-92, Admissions Tutor 1982-7, Senior Tutor 1987-92 and Vice Master 1992-2001. He was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 1995 and served as Vice President from 2001-9. He is also an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy and the Academy of Finland, and he holds honorary degrees from several universities and is an Hon. Fellow of Trinity College Oxford and Trinity College Dublin. He is also a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and holds several senior positions in the Diocese of East Anglia (eg Chair of the Commission for Evangelisation and Assistant Director for Diaconal Formation) and he teaches Church History and pastoral theology one weekend a month at St John's Seminary, Wonersh.

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APA style

Morrill, J. (2018, August 15). The Tudors – Elizabeth I and the Catholic Problem, 1558-1603 - Elizabeth's Private Religion [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Morrill, John. "The Tudors – Elizabeth I and the Catholic Problem, 1558-1603 – Elizabeth's Private Religion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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