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To What Extent Did Elizabeth Control Her Government?

1384 words - 6 pages

To what extent did Elizabeth control her government?

To successfully answer this question there are two main aspects off government to consider, her Parliament and her ministers. It can be argued that Elizabeth successfully controlled both her Parliament and her ministers, and I would agree with this. I would also argue however that whilst she was somewhat successful she also lost control at times such as when parliaments formed ‘factions or Essex's revolt. MacCaffrey supports this view saying “ For the most part, she was extremely successful; however it has to be acknowledged that the start and end of her reign was weak in terms of dealing with parliament”

Elizabeths strong ...view middle of the document...

I would say that from this is is obvious that her control over parliament was successful due to her equally successful ability to utilise the powers she had been granted as the monarch.

It could also be said however that she was unsuccessful to an extent. Elizabeth experienced many problems (particularly at the beginning and end of her reign) with ‘factions’ within government. The main culprits were Catholic bishops and Protestants in the commons. She was inexperienced with dealing with matters such as this, and did not know how to control people with such radically different ideas to her. Patronage enabled MP’s to slowly rise through the ranks to become more favourable with the Queen. It allowed strict control whilst maintaining a happy Parliament. MacCaffrey however states that “Elizabeth kept a firm and economical hand on patronage.” This shows that this again, was in general, solely controlled by Elizabeth, showing that her success was due to her, not other ministers to support this view - Elizabeth was granted many of the things she requested by parliament, including a subsidy in 1576, and a strengthening of all Catholic laws in 1571. This shows a fully functioning relationship well into her reign suggesting that she had successfully controlled parliament at least up until the 1580’s.

Many have refuted this however and would say that parliament changed throughout the reign. A.F.Pollard and John Neale claim that parliament grew away from Elizabeth with time. This is because many MPs stood up against the norm, speaking for more freedom and similar ideas. The fact that the amount doing so increased throughout the reign suggests that although Elizabeth many have been in control at the start of the reign, this control certainly lapsed.

I believe there is no doubt that Elizabeth was extremely successful in controlling parliament. There were moments where she proved inexperience, however the vast quantity of methods she employed to control her MP’s such as pleasing them through patronage, or punishing them through various sanctions proves her success.

When it comes to her ministers it can be said that she was well served until the death of Burghley in 1598. Although the two did have some issues. She also experienced trouble exercising her control over he ministers I the seconds half of her reign as her old trusted councillors stated dying and new inexperienced ones took over.

William Cecil or Lord Burghley is known for being one of the Queens most faithful and willing advisors on the council. John Guy has stated that often Burghley served as the principal force behind the initiatives to force Elizabeth to marry or declare a successor, for example after her illness with smallpox in 1566. Indeed in this was he could be seen as her main opponent but he did have both hers and the country's best interest at heart. He was generally sympathetic with Protestant views and his cautious views echoed those of Elizabeth, in...

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