Well, let’s talk about Elizabeth. Mary died on the morning of November 17, 1558 and Elizabeth became Queen with no opposition. She was at her primary residence, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, just less than 25 miles north of London, where she and her brother, Edward VI, had spent much of their childhood. The Accession Council came to inform her of her new position and pledge their loyalty.
Mary had not only turned the Church back to its medieval status, though admittedly without most of the monasteries. She reversed the policies of her father and brother who drew their counsel primarily from the newly ennobled laity and filled key government posts with clergy. Her Secretary of State was John Boxall who was dean of Peterborough, Norwich, and Windsor. Nicholas Heath, Archbishop of York, was Lord Chancellor. Lay members of her Council, such as her secretary Sir John Bourne, were invariably Roman Catholics—though some such as William Paulet, the Lord Treasurer, went with whichever religious wind was prevailing at the moment. William Paget, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, was another committed Catholic who served Mary. One member of the Council who was missing to greet the new Queen was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Reginald Pole. He died at Lambeth Palace, the London Residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury, only twelve hours after Mary.
When Elizabeth looked at the Council she have realized that so much and so many would have to go if she were to bring England into the path she would set for it. Polite to her guests—unlike the other Tudors, she was always gracious—she determined at once to choose her own advisors and dismiss those who had served her sister. The clergy were, within a year or two, deprived of both royal and ecclesiastical office and remanded to custody—usually a fairly gentle custody—most eventually be released and returned to very private lives. The laity who remained loyal to their Catholic faith likewise lost their places on the Council and at Court, though not usually their peerages and place in the House of Lords. By and large it was a gentle reshuffling of the deck as Elizabeth replaced Mary’s Catholic ascendency with a Protestant Council of her own choosing. Elizabeth was to have a much smaller Council than her sister, but it was comprised of men chosen for their competence (and at least nominally Protestant faith) and she was to entrust them with far greater responsibility than any of her predecessors. Sir William Cecil was her chief advisor. His son, Sir Robert Cecil along with Sir Francis Walsingham and Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex were the second tier. Sir William Bacon, Sir Francis Bacon, and Sir William Knollys were other important advisors. She did not appoint any of her bishops, even her new Archbishop of Canterbury to her Council or to key government posts, remarkable innovation only because the Archbishop of Canterbury had always served as one of the Privy Councillors.
Elizabeth’s first aim was to restore the independence of the English Church from Roman authority. She was aided by the fact that the Primatial See, the Archbishopric of Canterbury, was vacant due to the death of Cardinal Pole. She would be able to choose her new Archbishop. But this proved to be a more difficult challenge than one would think. Elizabeth had her man in Matthew Parker, but he was not interested in the post. Parker had been a much beloved chaplain to Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, and despite his being married (Elizabeth did not like a married clergy, one of her “Catholic quirks”) insisted on him as Archbishop. A second problem was getting the requisite three bishops to consecrate him as Mary’s bishops were, to a man, convinced Catholics who, many having betrayed the Church once under Henry, saw that a break with Rome inevitably led towards a Protestant doctrine and practice they were unwilling to stomach again. While the bishops had failed miserably to resist her father in his break with Rome, Elizabeth’s bishops—some of whom had been among her father’s lackeys—stood their ground. It would not, however, stop the royal policy of an independent and Protestant Anglican Church.