How Successfully did Elizabeth Deal With her Parliament?
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In the days of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the parliament played a very different role to the one it plays today. The parliament was not particularly important. They only came to Elizabeth when she called on them. Infact they only met 13 times in her 45 year long reign. She only called them to pass acts of parliament, which were laws approved by the Houses of Lords and Commons. They also approved taxes and provided support, advice and money for the monarch. Their role was significantly smaller then the role of the Privy Council.
Elizabeth and her parliament had very different ideas about what exactly the purpose of parliament was. She expected her MP’s to talk about certain issues, which didn’t include her personal affairs, religion or foreign policy. These were Elizabeth’s private ‘matters of state’. If there were difficulties, she used her power to reject a law or simply closed parliament. The MP’s in Parliament however, thought of their own role as voicing their opinions on how the country was being governed and believed that they had three special privileges. The believed that they had the freedom of speech and discuss anything they wanted to including Elizabeth’s personal issues. They also had freedom from arrest and couldn’t be arrested or imprisoned whilst parliament was in progress. Lastly, they believed in the freedom to discuss their own ideas for new law. It is evident that Elizabeth and her parliament had very different ideas about this issue.
Elizabeth and her MP’s disagreed about a number of issues, the most important being that of her marriage. It was important to them that she got married and secured an heir for the throne and a strong king to rule beside her. However, Elizabeth was not ready for marriage and didn’t succumb to their pressure. Peter Wentworth went as far as asking her to name an heir but she didn’t. In 1572, the Catholic plot to murder Elizabeth was discovered and Mary queen of Scots was traced back to it. The MP’s urged Elizabeth to have her executed but Elizabeth was in two minds about the situation involving her cousin. This again was important as it showed that their were still some Catholic extremists at large and Elizabeth was also scared of foreign attack if she had Mary executed. Some MP’s complained about not having a right to speak freely something, Elizabeth didn’t condone.
Elizabeth and her MP’s didn’t really agree on many issues at all. They mainly used their opportunities to talk to her by complaining about one issue or another. However, they both agreed finally in 1587 to have Mary Queen of Scots executed. This later led onto the threat of the Spanish armada. Sometimes she looked into their complaints especially the ones to do with monopolies. The MP’s agreed to her taxes to pay for an army and passed new laws to punish Catholics. This was important as it meant that she had their financial support.
Elizabeth dealt with the issue of marriage, by simply giving her parliament a vague reply. This placated them for short spurts of time but the issue arouse again and again. She later told them that it was no of their business and those who apposed her were punished. After Wentworth was imprisoned, the issue of marriage was left to rest perhaps implying that her method was successful. She often told the MP’s that she would look into their complaints and the shortly closed parliament. This inevitably meant that she had control over them and could avoid anything she wanted to. This was successful also.
Elizabeth was extremely successful when dealing with her parliament as she was in control all the time. She never let them become very powerful at all which meant they could at no point try and pressurize her into making a decision she didn’t want to make. They were definitely less significant then the Privy Council and were used according to when Elizabeth needed them.