Early toleration

The Elizabethan Religious Settlement of 1559 was meant to provide religious stability to Wales and England, and to a considerable extent it did so in the 1560s. Elizabeth had been shocked by the opposition to her plans by Catholic nobles in the House of Lords. She realised many people were still Catholic, possibly the majority, so she trod carefully in the years following the Settlement.

As a result, a policy of toleration towards Catholics was followed. Protestantism was not rigorously enforced, and recusancy fines were not always imposed. There were several reasons for this.

  • It was possible that the Catholic powers in Europe may try to intervene if the persecution of Catholics took place.
  • There were many powerful Catholic nobles within Wales and England, especially in the north of England.
  • Many people were Catholic, and Elizabeth needed their loyalty to be a successful Queen.

However, by the late 1560s, a series of events began to challenge Elizabeth’s policy of toleration, resulting in a harsher stance being taken. This would be the main threat to Elizabeth for the next 20 years.