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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Were to swear to the ecclesiastical supremacy


In

the Parliament that met immediately after the coronation (which was still celebrated by a Catholic bishop), they began with the question which had most occupied the late assembly, namely, should the Church revenues that had been attached to the crown be restored to it. The Queen's proposal, that they should be left to the crown, was quite the view of the assembly and obtained their full consent.

The Parliamentary form of government however had also the greatest influence on religious affairs. Having risen originally in opposition to Rome, the Parliament, after the vicissitudes of the civil wars, first recovered its full importance when it took the side of the crown in its struggle with the Papacy. It did not so much concern itself with Dogma for its own sake: it had thought it possible to unite the retention of Catholicism with national independence. Under Mary every man had become conscious that this would be impossible. It was just then that the Parliament passed from its previous compliant mood into opposition, which was not yet successful because it was only that of the minority, but which prepared the way for the coming change of tone. It attached itself joyfully to the new Queen, whose birth necessarily made her adopt a policy which took away all apprehensions of a union with the Romish See injurious to the country.

The complete antagonism between the Papal and the Parliamentary powers, of which one had

swayed past centuries and the other was to sway the future, is shown by the conduct of the Pope, when Elizabeth announced her accession to him. In his answer he reproached her with it as presumption, reverted to the decision of his predecessors by which she was declared illegitimate, required that the whole matter should be referred to him, and even mentioned England's feudal relation to the Papacy:[185] but Parliament, which had rejected this claim centuries before, acknowledged Elizabeth as legitimately sprung from the royal blood, and as Queen by the law of God and of the land; they pledged themselves to defend her title and right with their lives and property.

Owing to this the tendencies towards separation from Rome were already sure to gain the superiority: the Catholic members of the Privy Council, to whom Elizabeth owed her first recognition, could not contend effectively against them. But besides this, Elizabeth had joined with them a number of men of her own choice and her own views, who like herself had not openly opposed the existing system, but disapproved it; they were mainly her personal friends, who now took the direction of affairs into their hands; the change which they prepared looked moderate but was decided.

Elizabeth rejected the title of 'Supreme Head of the Church,' because it not merely aroused the aversion of the Catholics, but also gave offence to many zealous Protestants; it made however no essential difference when she replaced it by the formula 'in all causes as well ecclesiastical as civil, supreme.' Parliament declared that the right of visiting and reforming the Church was attached to the crown and could be exercised by it through ecclesiastical commissioners. The clergy, high and low, were to swear to the ecclesiastical supremacy, and abjure all foreign authority and jurisdiction. The punishment for refusing the oath was defined: it was not to be punished with death as under Henry VIII, but with the loss of office and property. All Mary's acts in favour of an independent legislation and jurisdiction of the spiritualty were repealed. The crown appropriated to itself, with consent of Parliament, complete supremacy over the clergy of the land.

The Parliament allowed indeed that it did not belong to it to determine concerning matters really ecclesiastical; but it held itself authorised, much like the Great-Councils of Switzerland, to order a conference of both parties, before which the most pressing questions of the moment, on the power of national Churches, and the nature of the Mass, should be laid.


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