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Was Elizabeth I an absolute ruler or a monarch?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Though immensely powerful, Queen Elizabeth I was not an absolute monarch. The Protestant English were jealous of their hard-won liberties, and one of the reasons why they were so implacably opposed to Catholicism was that it was associated in their minds with absolute rule. Even Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, who came as close as anyone to being a tyrant in English history, carried out his policies through Parliament.

To a large extent, Elizabeth did the same thing. Initially, Elizabeth was very insecure on her throne, and trod very carefully when it came to implementing policy. This meant taking into account the views of Parliament, especially in relation to her projected religious settlement, which was designed to bring some measure of peace and stability to her fractious realm. Elizabeth knew that she could not rule alone: she would need the general support of the Lords and Commons if she were to govern successfully.

At the same time, Elizabeth was still a very powerful figure in her own right, and she used her power to get her own way on those issues she thought vital for the future prosperity and stability of the kingdom. But however dominant a figure she may have been, Elizabeth always remained a constitutional monarch and not an absolute ruler.

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Garrett Walker eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Elizabeth I ruled England from 1558-1603; she was the last monarch of the famed Tudor dynasty. Her reign is classified as that of a monarch rather than an absolute ruler. Absolute rulers (who may also be absolute monarchs) wield the sole authority in their respective kingdoms. They are not accountable to anyone, other than perhaps God (this is known as "divine right" and was asserted by many rulers throughout history).

Elizabeth, however, was a "constitutional monarch," which meant she was subject to the stipulations of a written constitution. For the English, this constitution was the Magna Carta of 1215. Specifically, the English government sought to divide power between the monarch and Parliament. Elizabeth believed English monarchs should have supreme power, but she did not openly try to suppress Parliament's power. Thus, she was a monarch and not an absolute ruler.

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