William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559–1577: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

William Cecil and Episcopacy, 1559–1577

1st Edition

By Brett Usher


272 pages

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Hardback: 9780754608349
pub: 2003-12-18
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The figure of William Cecil dominates the court of Elizabeth I, and next to the queen herself, no one did more to shape the political, religious and economic landscape of late sixteenth century England. Nowhere is this influence more evident than in the ecclesiastical settlements that Elizabeth imposed on a country wracked by religious divisions and uncertainty. At the very heart of this settlement lay the question of the role of the bishops, and it is to this problem that Cecil was to devote much time and energy. Broadening our understanding of the Elizabethan Church, this study utilises a number of hitherto underused primary sources to re-examine the vexed issue of the role of bishops. It addresses the question of why certain men were appointed bishops whilst others, often seemingly better qualified, were passed over. Taking a broadly chronological approach, this book argues that Cecil, a committed protestant, hoped to remodel espiscopacy along 'reformed' continental lines. Rather than great princes of the church, Cecil envisaged 'superintendents' shorn of much of their traditional temporal power and wealth. Charting the first two decades of Elizabeth's reign it is shown how Cecil tried to convince the queen to abandon the established economic foundations of 'prelacy' in favour of a properly funded superintendency. In this he failed. Yet as long as Cecil remained a dominating voice at the council table the Church of England, through the mediation of a bench of conscientious and hard-working (if often hard-pressed) bishops, was assured of a broad base and an evangelical future. The remainder of Cecil's career, from 1577 to 1598, will be dealt with in a subsequent volume Lord Burghley and Episcopacy.


'Readers who like detective stories […] will enjoy Usher's verve in turning taxation, land exchanges and long leases into a story of politics, personalities and ecclesiastical intrigue.' The Church Times '… Usher must be admired for his highly engaging literary style and for his respect for the details of history.' Anglican and Episcopal History '… an example of that comparatively rare genre; a piece of genuinely original research… The sequel can only be anticipated with enthusiasm.' Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte '… a significant contribution to our knowledge in rewriting much of the standard account of the Elizabethan settlement and its aftermath… it immediately becomes required reading for all historians of the Elizabethan church…' H-Net Review 'The book highlights the great degree of continuity - in terms of both ideology and personalities - between Edward's reign and that of Elizabeth, and revises historical opinion in two important ways: it puts paid to the idea that Elizabethan government intentionally exploited sede vacante opportunities; and it gives the reader a clear picture of hardworking, conscientious bishops, laying to rest the old chestnut that they were merely timeserving opportunists.' Sixteenth Century Journal 'Usher's careful and impressive book confirms the trajectory of much recent scholarship on the Elizabethan church by mining underused financial records, adding this to the other evidence that has been drawn upon to establish that church as thoroughly Protestant and largely Calvinist, however much elements of an older medieval fabric and structure survived.' Church History

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction: Historiographical debates; Cecil's memoranda of 1559; 1559: policies and personalities: The parliamentary settlement; The Act of Exchange; Elizabeth, the Marian hierachy and the reformers; Cecil and the Edwardian hierachy; The drive towards reform: The aftermath of parliament; The July List; Saving the settlement: July-December 1559: The July refusals; A triple crisis: exchange, consecration and crucifixes; The October List and its aftermath; December 1559; further concessions; Cecil deflected: March 1560-March 1562; Parkhurst and Alley; The emergence of Robert Dudley; Dudley and Cecil; The bishops and the exchequer, 1560-62: Bills of restitution; Exeunt sureties; A royal warrant; Exchanges concluded; Northumberland's rapacious ghost; Fiscal conciliation and Lord Robert; Cecil revised: 1562-70: The lean years; Beleagured bishops; Watching and waiting; Fiscal conciliation refined; The vestiarian controversy; The aftermath of rebellion, 1569-73: 'National government'; The replenishment of the bench, 1570-73; Fiscal conciliation perfected; Contrary winds, 1570-76: The bishops and the prophesyings; Parker, conformity and the rise of Christopher Hatton; The Hattonian reaction; Fiscal conciliation in jeopardy; The fall of Grindal revisited; The bishop in his diocese, 1560-76: Clerical tax collection; Arrearages: the Marian subsidy; Episcopal leases; The quest for concealments; Appendix: episcopal leases granted to the Crown, 1568-76; Interim conclusions: 'Elizabeth the avaricious'; The glittering brooch; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

St Andrews Studies in Reformation History

With the publication of its 100th book in 2012, the St Andrews Studies in Reformation Studies series celebrated an impressive publishing achievement. Since its establishment in 1995 the series has consistently offered high-quality, innovative and thought-provoking research in the field of early modern religious history. By encouraging authors to adopt a broad and inclusive interpretation of ’Reformation’, the resultant publications have done much to help shape current interdisciplinary interpretations of early-modern religion, expanding attention far beyond narrow theological concerns. Each title within the series has added to a body of international research showing how the ripples of the Reformation spread to virtually every corner of European society, both Protestant and Catholic, and often beyond. From family life, education, literature, music, art and philosophy, to political theory, international relations, economics, colonial ventures, science and military matters, there were few aspects of life that remained untouched in some way by the spirit of religious reform. As well as widening conceptions of the Reformation, the series has for the last fifteen years provided a publishing outlet for work, much of it by new and up-and-coming scholars who might otherwise have struggled to find an international platform for their work. Alongside these monographs, a complementary selection of edited volumes, critical editions of important primary sources, bibliographical studies and new translations of influential Reformation works previously unavailable to English speaking scholars, adds further depth to the topic. By offering this rich mix of approaches and topics, the St Andrews series continues to offer scholars an unparalleled platform for the publication of international scholarship in a dynamic and often controversial area of historical study.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General