Tudor Drama - The Strangerīs Case
Catholics and Protestants in Tudor Times
Religion was a great problem for the Tudors. They were committed to the Roman Catholic Church at the beginning of Henry VIII s reign but by 1600 there had been several swings between Catholicism and Protestantism led by the crown and the nobles. Queen Elizabeth I tried to find a balance between the two with a moderate form of Protestant church.
Henry VIII was initially a committed Roman Catholic but all that changed when he broke from Rome for dynastic and political reasons so that he could award himself a divorce and marry Anne Boleyn because he wanted an heir. He took money and land from the church and few had the courage to defy him.
When Henry died in 1547 his son, Edward VI, became King. Edward made an effort to introduce a full Protestant church but the changes that he and Henry had implemented were reversed by his Catholic half-sister, Mary, when she become queen in 1553. Mary was a queen devoted to the Papacy and married to the Roman Catholic King Philip of Spain.
In 1558 Elizabeth acceded to a troubled throne, her subjects reeling from more than 10 years of continuous religious change. Though basically Protestant the queen tried to steer a middle course.
Inevitably there were many unhappy with Elizabeths reforms; either those who thought they were not Protestant enough (i.e. the Puritans) or those who were still deeply attached to their Catholic faith. Throughout her reign Elizabeth faced attempts to depose her and replace her with a Catholic monarch who would restore the old faith.
Consequently, it became illegal to be a Catholic. Restrictions were placed on them, they were persecuted, not allowed to attend a Catholic Mass , be married by a Catholic priest, or have their babies baptised by a Catholic priest. They were required by law to attend the (Protestant) parish church and fined each time they did not attend. Catholicism was condemned by many as unpatriotic and deeply un-English.
As a result Catholics were driven to hide their faith. Thus it could have been very dangerous for a family like the Tempests of Bolling Hall to be seen to be practising Catholics. The queen relied for enforcement of her laws on the local Justices of the Peace who imposed fines for non-attendance at church and ensured all the other reforms were followed. However, there were still areas, such as parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, where families clung passionately to their Catholic faith and managed to practise it in secret.