St Mary's Church, Beverley

making disciples

Queen Elizabeth I & Beverley’s independence

Charter of Incorporation granted to Beverley by Elizabeth I (extract)
Picture credit: East Riding Archives

When Elizabeth I (1558-1603) came to the throne she heralded the restoration of Protestantism in England.

Within her first year, Elizabeth introduced a religious settlement that rolled back any changes made by her sister, and reintroduced many of the doctrines and practices of Edward VI’s reign. This settlement has formed the basis of the Church of England ever since.

For some English reformers, the queen’s stance was too conservative. But Elizabeth recognised the importance of appealing to the majority of her subjects, and she had no appetite for inserting herself into the faith of individuals.

Elizabeth’s style of rule was shaped by her experiences growing up. She was just three when her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed, after which Elizabeth’s place in English royal succession was ambiguous.

During Mary I’s reign, Elizabeth had to conform in order to survive, and even spent several months in the Tower when she was suspected of conspiring against her sister.

These bitter experiences made Elizabeth a thoughtful ruler, armed with an acute knowledge of the volatile nature of English politics. Under her rule, England entered a period of relative stability and prosperity.

Beverley’s new era

The Reformation had greatly changed Beverley. The closure of the religious institutions combined with the decline of the wool trade plunged the town into poverty.

Meanwhile, the way the town was governed had been drastically altered. For the previous 600 years, Beverley had been ruled by the two great powers in the town: the Archbishop of York and the Canons of Beverley Minster.

In the 1540s, both these institutions were removed: the collegiate church at the Minster was dissolved and, under pressure from the king, the Archbishop of York gave the lordship of Beverley Manor to the Crown.

Elizabeth’s accession was celebrated in Beverley, and her reign brought hope for the town’s future.

The queen granted land and property to help support the upkeep of the borough, the Minster, and St Mary’s.

In 1573, at the petition of the citizens, Elizabeth I granted a royal charter of incorporation to Beverley.

For the first time in its history the town could now make its own laws and govern itself free from interference. It enjoyed this status for the next four hundred years.

The portrait which illuminates this chapter of Tudor history:

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