Which Religion Was a Greater Threat to Elizabeth’s Settlement?


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Having looked at Elizabeth’s religious settlement, it is important to learn who threatened it. Many did agree with the settlement, but strong Catholics and strong Protestants (Puritans), were unwilling to go along with it.


Some Catholics became known as Recusants – these Catholics would rather suffer punishment than attend the new Elizabethan church services.

They were seen a dangerous because their loyalty was divided – they had to obey the Queen, but as Catholics it was their duty to obey the Pope as well. The pop had said anyone who killed Elizabeth would be carrying out God’s wishes.

At the start of the reign anyone who did not attend church services was fined one shilling. However, soon the punishments became harsher: in 1580 the fine became £20 per month. If you couldn’t pay you would lose your land. Punishments continued to get harsher.

Missionary priests were sent to England by the Catholic church. These were English priests trained abroad. Known as Jesuits, they tried to keep the Catholic religion alive. They were prepared to die for the Catholic church. Many travelled using secret routes to reach England. To the government such priests were traitors. These priests were supported and paid for by foreign countries such as France and Spain. As supporters of the Pope, they had to follow his orders. At worst this meant killing Elizabeth!

If caught, these priests suffered terrible torture and execution. They were executed not for their religious beliefs, but for treason.


Unlike the Catholics, the Puritans did not challenge Elizabeth’s claim to the throne. They also couldn’t be accused of working for a foreign power. However, by refusing to go along with the religious settlement they were challenging the authority of the Queen.

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