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

2. The Elizabethan Settlement

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In this module, we think about the nature of the Elizabethan Settlement of 1558-59, focusing in particular on: (i) Conrad Russell's comment that Elizabeth's church "looked Catholic and sounded Protestant"; (ii) the Protestantism of the doctrine of the church, especially the belief in justification by faith alone; (iii) the conservatism of the government of the church and of church law, with the church maintaining the traditional structure of archbishops, archdeacons, deacons, etc.; (iv) the conservatism of English canon law; (v) the hybridity of liturgy: services are a translation of the (Catholic) Sarum Rite, clergy wear vestments that are not fully Catholic, but not fully Protestant either; (vi) the ambiguity order of mass, which seems to simultaneously confirm and deny the real presence of Christ ("The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee [...] take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee."); (vii) the extent to which both Catholics and Protestants were dissatisfied with the Elizabethan Settlement in the earlier part of Elizabeth's reign; (viii) the increased satisfaction with the Settlement in the 1590s, including Thomas Hooker's comment that it was "the best of all churches"; (ix) the lack of any purge of the clergy after Elizabeth's accession to the throne, which meant that many of those serving in the 1560s were religious conservatives that had served under Mary; (x) the events leading to Catholic rebellion in 1569, the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which called for the removal of Elizabeth ("the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime"), and Elizabeth's response to the Catholic threat.


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 - The Elizabethan Settlement [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Morrill, John. "The Tudors – Elizabeth I and the Catholic Problem, 1558-1603 – The Elizabethan Settlement." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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