THE policy of Elizabeth and her ministers may be studied in three main connections-religion, unemployment, and foreign policy. All clergy were required to use the English Prayer Book and to adhere to Thirty-Nine Articles of religion. The clergy were allowed great latitude, and, though fines were imposed, severe penalties were only inflicted for the political offence of refusing to admit the Queen's headship of the Church. It was twelve years before the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth, and ten more before active measures were taken against her. By that time pressure had brought most people to the position held by Burghley and his school-preference for something resembling Catholic doctrine and ritual, without Papal control. Anxiety for their ill-gotten monastery lands doubtless governed many of the gentry. There was, too, a general determination to support the Queen at all costs.
Unemployment, due to the rise of prices and fixity of wages, the change from tillage to sheep-farming, and the dissolution of monasteries, had filled the land with paupers and " sturdy beggars "-armed vagabonds. The restoration of the coinage assisted trade, apprenticeship acts were passed, and, after much experiment, the laws relating to pauperism and vagabondage were codified and defined in the Poor Law Acts, which authorised the Justices of the Peace to collect a small tax on landed property and apply it to the relief of the aged and sick. Able-bodied paupers were put to work;
vagrants were whipped home.
The Justices of the Peace, who virtually carried on, unpaid, the local government of England, gained great authority during the commotions of this century. Thus the English gentry learned, for good or ill, the habit of self-government (one might add, of governing other people), which in the next century they were to apply to the central government.
Elizabeth contrived, while keeping Philip's goodwill, to lead the French government on, and to remain unmarried, her hand a potential piece in the game. Relations with Spain worsened into war, as Roman Catholic emissaries intrigued in England, while English sea adventurers assisted the Dutch rebels, and preyed on Spain's trade. Scotland, now largely Calvinist and controlled by a gang of cut-throat noblemen, evicted its Queen Mary, the half-French ex-Queen of France, and arrived at last at a good understanding with England, which lasted through the reign, while Mary spent eighteen years as Elizabeth's prisoner.
The remoteness of England and her domestic problems kept her out of the early scramble for the Indies. Until the 1550's it seemed impossible to interfere with the Spanish and Portuguese monopolies. About 1530 William Hawkins began the slave trade, taking prisoners from West Africa to Central America. In the 1550's schemes to reach the East by a North-East passage led to contacts with Russia. A North-West passage was then sought by Frobisher and others, while a younger Hawkins resumed the slave trade.
The English interlopers were welcomed by the Spaniards in America, but frowned on by the Spanish government, which in 1568 destroyed most of a fleet of English slavers at San Juan de Ulloa. Hawkins remained at home henceforward and helped to reorganise the Royal Navy. His kinsman, Francis Drake, however, sought revenge and made very successful raids, the raiders taking the risk of hanging as pirates or burning as heretics: their Queen and her Council took no responsibility, and Drake had to slip away secretly from England on his great voyage of 1577-80, when he rounded South America, took a million pounds of plunder off the coast of Peru, and returned across the Pacific by the stormy Cape. His was the first English ship to reach the East Indies; not only the greatest feat of navigation ever achieved by an Englishman, but the beginning of British power in the East.