Religion was inseparable from politics in the Stuart era. On the international stage, Britain’s position in Europe was strongly tied to its status as a protestant nation. Alliances were forged and broken based on religious policies. Religion mattered in the court and in parliament, where courtiers and politicians could rise and fall because of their confessional outlook. Kings were overthrown because of their spiritual beliefs in equal measure to their political actions. When political parties emerged in the later seventeenth century, party lines were based primarily on different interpretations of protestant doctrine.

But religion was also hugely important to wider British society. Normal citizens attended church several times a week, prayed daily, and saw divine providence in the world around them. Radical protestant zeal motivated revolutions, uprisings, and occasionally slaughter and genocide.

Key Questions

  • To what extent were the British civil wars religious wars?
  • How important was religion to international diplomacy?
  • In what ways did the Church of England influence society in the seventeenth century?
  • How was the religious settlement of later Stuart Britain different to before the civil wars?