The Elizabethan Privy Council (The Privy Council (The privy council met…
The Elizabethan Privy Council
The Privy Council
Co-ordinated financial departments, law courts like the Star Chamber, and regional bodies like the Council of the North.
Issued instructions to lord Lieutenants and Justices of the Peace.
Generally made up of the Gentry, the Church and the Nobility.
Elizabeth could pick and dismiss members of her privy council as she chose.
Elizabeth began to delegate duties and the workload of the privy council increased during her reign.
The privy council met almost daily but Elizabeth did not always attend meetings, as she began to trust them, but she did keep careful notes to monitor their work and still show her ultimate supreme control over them.
The Privy council were mainly there to support and advise the queen, but she did not have to take her advice.
The Queen often made a political statement of ignoring the privy council's advice, showing her political independence.
Elizabeth ultimately made decisions but her council had the opportunity to sway her in any direction.
The council had a lot of power, being able to issue proclamations in the queen's name and have them enforced by law and command the arrest and imprisonment of people (though they rarely did this).
The council was skilful at guiding parliamentary business on the Queen's behalf.
Elizabeth's Privy Council at the start of her reign
'I consider a multitude doth make rather disorder and confusion than good council'.
Mary's privy Council had been used to act as a barrier to re-establishing Protestantism which Elizabeth was trying to re-introduce.
Mary had 40 members in her Privy council which was difficult to manage.
By January 1559, Elizabeth had a manageable 19 members to her privy council. Half came from Mary's Previous council to maintain experience and avoid alienating important individuals, and half were new, allowing Elizabeth to reward loyal followers and promote men on merit, skill and ability.
Elizabeth was careful not to appoint any strong Catholics, lest they should protest against her protestant reforms.
Elizabeth increased in confidence over time and took more control over shaping her privy council to her liking.
As time went on, the nobility were moved out and a small, highly efficient group of academic, educated, professional, full time politicians were left, mostly from the gentry.
Elizabeth's culling of nobility from the privy council may have made nobles resentful, and pushed towards rebellion.
William Cecil was an important appointment to the council and one of Elizabeth's first.
Both Elizabeth and William Cecil worked with each other well until William Cecil's death 40 years later.
William Cecil was in constant contact with the queen and all Elizabeth's correspondance passed through him.
William Cecil was fiercely loyal and knew how to manage the queen, even threatening to resign in order to get her to co-operate.
William Cecil strategically used parliament to get Elizabeth to give him the positions he wanted.
Elizabeth respected William Cecil for speaking his mind and like the queen, he did not like being rushed into important decisions.
Elizabeth knew that William Cecil would carry out her wishes even if he personally disagreed.
William Cecil helped manage the Queen's patronage system and had his own patronage secretary- Sir Michael Hicks- who was responsible for dealing with requests by people for various positions.
Cecil had a difficult relationship with the more radical puritan, Robert Dudley (who was a favourite of Elizabeth)
Elizabeth's control of the Privy Council
Elizabeth was careful to control the Privy Council, showing affection and rewarding some ministers, but also showing them displeasure.
At various points, Robert Dudley and Francis Walsingham were excluded from court and some were even imprisoned. She even had the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Essex executed!
Elizabeth purposely appointed men who were hostile to each other, forcing them to work together so the men would compete for her affection.
Opposing factions would mean Elizabeth was given contrasting advice, allowing her to weigh up and make more measured decisions.
Opposing factions meant Elizabeth would always have support from some group in any decision she made.
The group established by Elizabeth maintained a professional working relationship and ran the country very efficiently and effectively.