Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Royal Quotes: Elizabeth I on Religion

I like to follow a post on the second Elizabeth with one on the first Elizabeth, the best monarch England has ever had. Sure, she could be vain, spiteful and maddeningly indecisive, but she was also capable of great wisdom when it came to governing the country.
Her attitude to religion is a good example of that. Before Elizabeth came to the throne England had swung from the Protestant excesses of Edward VI to the Catholic persecutions of Mary I. Elizabeth sought to calm down religious passions by striking a middle way, and by allowing people to worship God in their own consciences as they pleased, so long as they conformed outwardly. As she once told Sir Francis Bacon, “I do not wish to make windows into men’s souls.”
Her attitude to religion is best captured in a comment she made in the last years of her reign to Andre Hurault, the ambassador from Catholic France, on the religious differences between countries and Christian denominations:

“There is only one Jesus Christ and one faith. The rest is a dispute over trifles.”

Elizabeth I prays to God in the privacy of her rooms. The illustration is from Elizabeth’s own prayer book from 1569, used by the Queen herself for her private devotions. It is one of the treasures kept in the Lambeth Palace Library, the historical library of the Church of England in London. You can read more about it here.

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