When Elizabeth replaced Mary as queen, she re-established Protestantism as England's official religion. Although people were fined for not attending Protestant church services, little effort was made to persecute the many Catholics that still lived in England.

Some Protestants thought that the Anglican Church was still too much like the Catholic church. These people became known as Puritans. Some of the things Puritans complained about included: ministers wearing surplices (loose, white garments); people kneeling while taking Communion; ornaments, paintings and stained glass windows in churches; the playing of organ music during services and the celebrations of saints' days.

Woodcut from a pamphlet published in 1641.
Woodcut from a pamphlet published in 1641.

Puritans, deeply influenced by the writings of John Calvin, also disliked the power that the bishops had in the church. For example, many Puritans disapproved of bishops appointing church ministers. Instead, they suggested that ministers should be elected by the people who attended church services.

Elizabeth resisted these changes as she saw the Puritans as a threat to monarchical government. She feared that Puritans who complained about the wealth and power of bishops would eventually say the same thing about kings and queens. In time, the type of Protestant church established by Elizabeth in England became known as the Anglican Church.

Primary Sources

(1) J. Harrison, The Common People (1984)

Many Puritans preached in public. The idea of labouring men (and also women) preaching was deeply offensive to the ruling classes.

(2) Christopher Hill, The Century of Revolution (1961)

The pulpit was used for making government announcements... ministers were frequently instructed by the government to preach sermons slanted in a particular way.

(3) W. Weston, The Autobiography of an Elizabethan (c. 1580)

From the very beginning a great number of Puritans lived here. Each of them had his own Bible, turning the pages and discussing the passages among themselves... they would start arguing about the meaning of passages from the Scriptures - men, women, boys, girls, rustics, labourers and idiots - and more often than not, it was said, it ended in violence.

(4) Charles I, comment to one of his ministers (1638)

People are governed by the pulpit more than the sword.

(5) On 30 June, 1637, three Puritans were publicly punished for writing pamphlets criticizing Archbishop Laud. Nehemiah Wallington witnessed the event.

Mr Pryne... went up first on the scaffold, and his wife, immediately following, came up to him... and saluted each ear with a kiss... The executioner came towards him. Mr Pryne spoke these words to him, "Come, friend, come, burn me, cut me, I fear it not. I have learned to fear the fire of Hell, and not what man can do unto me." The executioner... heated his iron to

burn one cheek, and cut off one of his ears so close that he cut off a piece of his cheek.

(6) Lucy Hutchinson, History of the English Civil War (c. 1670)

King Charles... married a Catholic... he became a most submissive husband... all the Catholics were favoured... the Puritans were persecuted and many of them chose to abandon their native country... Those that could not flee were... fined, whipped and imprisoned.