The religious allegiance of London's ruling elite, 1520-1603
This thesis analyses the role played by the ruling élite of London in the City's religious development during the Reformation. The contribution of London's rulers is placed within the broader context of the English Reformation. The central focus is the changing religious profile of the City élite from 1520-1603. Wills provide the core source material, in conjunction with data from parish records and the archives of the Corporation of London. Changes to the religious profile of the rulers are discussed in the context of the corporate identity of the élite, and in terms of the role of individual rulers within London's parishes and craft guilds. Stress is placed upon the importance of a relatively small number of well-placed individuals in influencing the course of religious change within the City. A small group within the lower strata of the élite had accepted a broadly evangelical religious position by the early 1530s. As a small, but socially significant body, this group supported the implementation of the Edwardian Reformation. By the 1560s a significant Protestant presence at the upper levels of City and parish government secured London's acceptance of the forms of worship required by the Elizabethan Church of England. The evangelical group within the élite aided the dissemination of evangelical religious ideas, while élite social roles ensured that some parishes experienced a 'Reformation from within' rather than simply one imposed from above. At the same time, the emergence of new patterns of public religious behaviour in the later sixteenth century permitted a wide range of religious positions to co-exist within a common complex of shared civic values and attitudes, preventing serious divisions along religious lines. In this regard London's rulers are compared with ruling groups in other major European cities. The continuing corporate unity of the ruling group thus owed less to religious conservatism or the outright victory of puritan ideals, than to participation in a Church whose outward forms of religious expression allowed for considerable latitude of religious belief.