Did Queen Elizabeth I think people could govern themselves?
The idea of self governance was totally alien to the thinkers of Elizabeth I's day, so her opinions on the subject were those of all other monarchs of that time. Although she was mostly likely a proponent of Divine Right, she was sensitive to the needs of the common people, and as a result was amazingly popular with them. She had an amazing ability to charm the populace: she spoke to English sailors in their own peculiar vernacular, often appeared in public so that her subjects might see her, and made speeches to Parliament that were often described as brilliant. Her attitude (at least that which she publicly expressed) was that she was something of the First Servant of the People, although that idea was never expressed in those words. Ever coy, she once told Parliament:
Though God has raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with Your love….Your prosperity has been my chief concern….My heart was never set on worldly goods, but only for my subjects good.
Neither Elizabeth nor most of her contemporaries would have had much faith in the ability of "the people," broadly defined, to govern themselves. It is true that under Elizabeth I, Parliament frequently tried to assert its authority in a variety of matters, especially the degree to which Catholics should be tolerated. Yet Parliament was hardly representative of "the people" as its members were not popularly elected. Rather it represented the interests of a fairly small class of gentry and wealthy urban merchants. In any case, Elizabeth struggled to assert her power over Parliament, though not with anywhere near the heavy-handedness of her Stuart successor James I. Most political philosophers feared rule by the people, a trend that would continue in all but the most radical political circles until the nineteenth century. Elizabeth was a monarch who, while forced to accept some limits on her power, did not believe in the ability of common people to rule themselves. Most of her contemporaries would have agreed with her on this point.