Sawyer, Katherine E.
Master of Arts, History, Louisiana State University, May (2010)
The official English church in the mid-sixteenth century vacillated back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism, the two rivals of European Christianity. As these changes engendered a broad array of disagreements over issues such as liturgical practices, clerical attire, and church ornamentation, this thesis focuses on the most provocative of these debates-presbyterianism-and its proliferation among the men and women of Elizabethan London. Despite the propagation of presbyterian-style nonconformity in several regions of Elizabeth’s realm, London functioned as the epicenter of this challenge to religious orthodoxy. From their location at the economic, religious, and cultural heart of the nation, Elizabethan Londoners could not avoid encountering the overblown rhetoric and impassioned opining of the various characters of the religious drama that played out in their streets, making the capital one of the most radically-inclined areas in England. Throughout Elizabeth I’s reign, the city remained firmly situated at the center of the tension that characterized English religion. Although the conflict between the established Church of England and the presbyterians climaxed under Elizabeth’s Stuart successors, it began to emerge during her reign, and noticeablyaffected the religious climate of the era.
Rather than focusing on specific theological questions, this thesis examines the way in which the various orders of presbyterian Londoners interacted and formed a functional movement. Ultimately, London presbyterianism not only flourished, but also represented a serious challenge to the official Church’s authority because of its ability to appeal to men and women from all orders of the city’s society: churchmen, nobles, merchants, tradesmen, and the common sort, as well as the influential communities of religious exiles from the Continent who made their homes within the city and its environs.