How will these resources help you?

During the sixteenth century, many countries experienced great religious and social upheavals. This was certainly most true for England, which experienced four types of reformation in less than 100 years: the Henrician reformation (under Henry VIII), the Edwardian reformation (under Edward VI), the Maritian counter-reformation (under Mary I) and the Elizabethan settlement/reformation (under Elizabeth I). It is important to understand the differences between them, as well as how the religious changes were implemented. By focusing on the Elizabethan settlement, pupils can explore aspects of the ‘via media’ (the ‘middle way’ between Protestantism and Catholicism) and what it meant not only for the clergy, but also for the population.


In-depth discussion

Dynastic Politics and the British Reformations, 1558–1603

by Michael Questier, published by Oxford University Press, (2019), 9780198826330

This well-researched book illustrates the importance of archives and manuscripts when discussing complex topics such as the reformations. The book is structured chronologically, allowing easy selection of the material that pupils would like to study. It goes into greater depth than Doran’s book, and the two would complement each other well, enabling a more in-depth discussion on the implications of religious changes during Elizabeth I’s reign. The book also explores the influence of the Elizabethan reformation after the queen’s death.

Primary sources

The Royal Supremacy in the Elizabethan Church

by Claire Cross, published by Routledge Revivals, (2021, first published in 1969), 9781032011271

This book offers great primary sources that you can use to make the Elizabethan reformation more interesting for pupils. The use of primary sources allows pupils to feel more connected to the past, as well as encouraging them to make their own comments on events that happened centuries ago. One great excerpt in the book is John Knox’s Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, which argues that women should not be allowed to rule. You could use this text to explain how Elizabeth was challenged, and how these challenges inspired her to go further with her religious settlement. Excerpts of royal injunctions can also be found in this book, which would help pupils to better understand the reasons behind the Elizabethan reformation.

A starting point

Elizabeth I and Religion, 1558–1603

by Susan Doran, published by Routledge, (1993), 9780415073523

This short book offers a great summary of the religious settlement during Elizabeth I’s reign. It describes the process of the Elizabethan reformation and explains its roots in England and Europe. The book also reveals how the different religious policies affected the English clergy and population. It is a very good book to start with as it sets out clearly and concisely what happened, which is very useful in understanding the complexity behind the Elizabethan reformation. The role of Elizabeth as the ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Church is also discussed, which could be used as a basis for further discussion regarding the queen’s motivations for implementing her religious settlement.

Audiovisual clips

A History of Britain by Simon Schama - Religion under Elizabeth I

published by BBC, (2000)

A closer look at the actions taken by Elizabeth to achieve what has become known as the Elizabethan media via.
A History of Britain by Simon Schama - Religious reform under Mary I

published by BBC, (2000)

An insight into one of the other reformations which took place during Elizabeth's life, the Catholic one brought forward by her cousin Mary I.

Further Materials


The Tudors: Elizabeth I – Religious Developments – Puritanism and Catholicism Episode 53, published by I’m Stuck: Revision made Easy – GCSE and A-Level Revision, (20 April 2019) Watch this video
Elizabeth I’s religious settlement (background and a summary of the statement as outlined by Elizabeth's spokesman Sir Nicholas Bacon), published by Royal Museums Greenwich Visit this website
Catholics and the ‘Protestant Nation’: Religious Politics and Identity in Early Modern England by Ethan H. Shagan (edited by), published by Manchester University Press, (2009), 9780719080524 Find this book
Dr Estelle Paranque is Assistant Professor in Early Modern History at the New College of the Humanities, part of the Northeastern University Global Network. She has published extensively on Elizabeth I of England, Catherine de Medici, the French kings and queen consorts and Anglo-French diplomatic relations. She is the author of Elizabeth I of England Through Valois Eyes: Power, Diplomacy and Representations in the reign of the queen, 1558–1588 (2019) and Blood, Fire, and Gold: Elizabeth I of England and her French rival Catherine de Medici (2022). 

Text © Estelle Paranque, 2021.