Brexit MK III Elizabeth I: The Pragmatic Problem Solver

Publication Date06 Dec 2018
Pages73-89
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78769-435-420181013
AuthorNigel Culkin,Richard Simmons
5
BREXIT MK III ELIZABETH I: THE
PRAGMATIC PROBLEM SOLVER
I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel.
Elizabeth I (rst speech as queen; Hateld House, 1558)
Following the turmoil of Henry VIIIs Brexit and the reigns of both Edward
VI and Mary I; Elizabeth I faced considerable challenges upon her accession
to the English Throne in 1558. England had been through over 20 years of
deep change, having exited from the European Catholic System in the 1530s
and then re-entered it some 15 years later under Mary I. For example, there
had been revolts from both gentry and peasants, falling real wages and a
huge debasement of the coinage.
BUILDING STABILITY
As the daughter of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeths own legitimacy had been chal-
lenged by her predecessor Mary I. In addition to settling doubts over her
right to the crown, Elizabeth inherited a domestic kingdom under stress.
Elizabeth was immediately pitched into international power politics and the
fractious religious divide between Catholics and Protestants. Protestants on
the continent and in England saw the prospect of Elizabeth taking the
Augsburg Confessionas offering a natural alliance that would bind
England into the emerging family of Protestantnations. By juxtaposition,
many Catholics at home and abroad saw the new Queen as illegitimate and
73
not the rightful heir, so favoured succession by Mary Stuart (who was mar-
ried to the French teenage king Francis II), Queen of Scotland in her own
right. As with Brexit today, the country was deeply divided. There had
already been revolts against Phillip II of Spain in Mary Is reign, and before
this against Edward VI as we see in Box 16.
Box 16. Tudor Brexit and Remain Rebellions
Sir, is your only quarrel to defend us from overrunning by
strangers?
Unknown doubter to Sir William Wyatt in 1554
203
The Tudor Age saw rebellions both before the 1530s Brexit and after it;
so rebellions in a Tudor context should be seen a continuing rather than
exceptional theme. Indeed, the Tudor dynasty itself had come to power in
1485 as the result of a baronial civil war. Having said this, the rebellions
after the 1530s inevitably became enmeshed with a combination of the
changes that had and continued to occur, baronial and court politics and
to a lesser degree, economic change.
Mary Is reign saw a number of risings. The most notable of these was
Wyatts Rebellion of 1554, when Thomas Wyatt marched to London in
the belief that London would rise up against both the marriage of Philip II
to the Queen and the fear of England was becoming re-Catholicised. As
events transpired, London did not rise against its monarch.
204
Elizabeths reign also saw uprisings, most notably the 1569 Northern
Rebellion
205
which again was prompted by a combination of baronial pol-
itics and dissatisfaction with the religious changes brought about by the
Elizabethan Settlement. Its difcult to assess the risks of these rebellions
to the Crown, although undoubtedly, all Tudor rulers would have needed
to keep a watchful eye that the changes they were making would not
destabilise the baronial power brokers and risk stirring up rebellion.
206
As an historical footnote, Ketts Rebellion of 1549 during the reign of
Edward VI seems to have been different (and perhaps a foretaste of some
of the more extreme movements that came to the fore during the English
Civil War). It was typied by a desire to remove property owning rights
from the baronial class, and was triggered by a combination of the chaotic
economic circumstances of the later 1540s and landowner moves to
enclose land. In some ways, the language and idealism of the Kett rebels
74 Tales of Brexits Past and Present

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