Elizabeth and the Catholics


Catholics and the Settlement

Catholicism remained popular during the beginning of Elizabeth's reign. Areas like Durham saw the most catholics.

The Northern Rebellion of 1569 scattered the Catholics.

Haigh: most catholics simply bent with the times.

Many bishops refused to take the Oath of Supremacy 1559, 100 of the priests who then went into exile were from Oxford Colleges.

There was some organised catholic activity. Jesuit/missionary priests often became private chaplains to the gentry. In 1568, Lancashire had a large conservative group of Catholics.

By the time of the Northern Rebellion, there was a mixture of extreme Catholics and more quiet ones who avoided being caught. 

The crown was more lenient to normal catholics than it was to the priests.

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Elizabeth's Attitude towards the Catholics

Elizabeth once said she didn't want to make "windows into men's souls" but this was on the condition that Catholics remained loyal to her.

The 1559 settlement preserved some of the conservative practices. Elizabeth herself was against clerical marriage.

Strengths of Catholicism

  • Mary had successfully restored Catholicism and many of the gentry remained Catholic and conservative.
  • Only 23% of the senior clergy actually supported the royal supremacy.
  • France and Spain, both strong catholic countries in 1559, were a formidable force.
  • Elizabeth's laws against recusants were rarely enforced.
  • A lot of time and energy had to spend on restoring Protestantism. Some priests, like Archedeacon of Lincoln John Almer, were more passionate about doing so.

The Northern Rebellion 1569 was the catalyst for Elizabeth's harsh behaviour against the Catholics.

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The Pope's Excommunication of Elizabeth

In 1566, Pope Pius V told English catholics that they shouldn't attend church services, increasing levels of recusancy.

In 1570, this became the excommunication of Elizabeth. The Pope removed the English catholics' loyalty to their Queen. 

Potentially, the Catholics could rebel against Elizabeth and would not be doing anything immoral. 

Lead to Elizabeth increasing the penal laws against the catholics. 

Pope's excommunication meant that Elizabeth and the Privy Council now saw all Catholics as rebels, and Protestants as loyal subjects.

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The Northern Rebellion of 1569

Rumours of trouble in the North began in Autumn 1569. Sussex assured Elizabeth that the Northern earls were loyal, but she still called them to court. Sparked the rebellion.

2nd November: rumours of "hurt to be done to particular persons, and especially to Protestants."

7th November: Earl of Westmorland and his armed tenants assembled at Bracepeth.

9th November: church bells at the Earl of Northumberland's residence, signaling the beggining of the rebellion.

Westmorland and Northumberland marched and siezed Durham, hearing catholic mass at the Cathedral. They then moved west to Bramham Moor but even though York was badly defended, they didn't sieze the city.

By 14th December the rebels had taken the crown's main stronhold and Hartepool, where they hoped the Spanish would land.

Royal army begins to make its way North and the earls dispand their forces, fleeing to Northumberland and then Scotland. 

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Motives of the Rebel Leaders

Courtly Conspiracy

There was a fear that the Duke of Norfolk would marry Mary QOS. His interest in the plan was treasonable and Norfolk left court without permission.

Kesselring: Norfolk marriage plan wasn't a direct cause of the rebellion, but lead to a sense of crisis that inspired rebellion.

Religious Factors

Westmorland resented the Protestant church being imposed in Durham  by Pilkington and Whittingham. The rebels even carried the Five Wounds Banner (1536 Pilgramage of Grace). 

Specific Factors

The rebel earls felt dishonored at being left out of the Council of the North. Northumberland bitter about the crown taking what he thought was his mineral rights. Countess of Westmorland shamed the rebel leaders into rising when they considered withdrawing. Many assumed the "simple earls" had been pushed into rebellion by their militant associates.

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Motives of the Ordinary Rebels

Feudal Loyalties

Tenants in some extent loyal to the houses of Percy (Northumberland) and Neville (Westmorland). Many pardons were given to tenants of the Percy and Neville estates.

Religious Motives

Radical Protestants had taken many key offices in Durham who had pushed reform with concern for the conservative sensitivies.

There was a great dispute about the alter of Sedgefield being replaced with a communion table. Many from Sedgefield were involved in the rebellion.

The Dean of Durham allegedly discriminated against Catholics and desecrated many Catholic symbols. Pilkington had vandalised the collegiate church of St Andrews.

Conscious distruction of the last vestiges of the Cult of St Cuthbert caused great offense. 

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Why Did the Rebellion Fail?

Haigh: the only serious attempt in Elizabethan England to overthrow Protestantism was "botched".

Rebellion was hopelessly disorganised. There was no clarity in the rebels motives and the earls had almost no political prowess.

There was no change that the Spanish would ever land at Hartlepool. 

Elizabeth acted decisively: MQS was moved to a secure collection. Sussex, Hunsdon and Bowes were resolute in their defence of the crown, despite their limited resources.

Leicester quickly raised a force in the midlands but mostly wanted to undermine Sussex's position rather than confront the rebels directly.

Haigh: emphasised the ability of Leicester to raise a royal force in the Midlands

Anyway, the rebels dispersed long before Leicester made it to the North.

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The Consequences of the Rebellion

Northumberland was executed at York in 1552. Many of his followers were immediately executed, but Northumberland himself had hidden in Scotland until he was handed back to the English.

Westmorland spent the rest of his life as a pensioner in the Spanish Netherlands.

Lands of the rebel leaders was given to the Crown, breaking the Percy and Neville monopoly in the North.

Leonard Dacre tried to restart the rebellion in January 1570 in Cumberland but his forces were easily destroyed by Lord Hunsdon at Naworth. 

The Council of the North was reformed in 1572 under the control of Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntington. 

Rebellion showed the dramatic incomprehension of the cultural differences between the North and the South.

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The Catholic Missions

In the early years, the Catholic Church made no attempt to challenge Elizabeth. 

However, in Douai 1568 John Bossy created a college to create seminary priests. Haigh: Douai was an instant educational success. 

By 1575, there were 11 Douai priests in England and by 1580 there were 100. Most priests worked for the Catholic gentry and so didn't have the ability to work with the peasants who most needed it. 

Society of Jesus: Jesuits appeared in 1580 took up preacher roles. First Jesuits to become Catholic again were Parsons and Campion. They were executed in 1581. 

Jesuit priests trained in colleges known as seminaries but they were working under increasingly more dangerous conditions. 

Almost half of the priests ran small congregations (mostly in London and Essex) but most worked with the rich. They were more comfortable working with their own social group so the poor only had limited Catholic preaching.

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Penal Laws Against the Catholics

1571 Acttreasonable to bring or publish papal bulls in England. Happened due to Elizabeth's excommunication.

1581 Actanti-catholic act. Passed due to Privy Council and Elizabeth's fears of the Jesuit missions, Irish rebellion and the Spanish annexation of Portugal. 

Act to Retain the Queen's Majesty's Subjects in their Due Obedience: not treasonable to be a catholic priest, but to exersize priestly functions. Saying mass resulted in a heavy fine.

Fine of non-attendance to Church was raised to £20 a month. 

Act Against Jesuits and Seminary Priests 1585:  treasonable for any priest ordained under the Pope's authority to enter England. 

123 priests executed 1586-1603

1587: laws relating to recusancy fines were tightened. However, this law was rarely enforced.

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The Ridolfi Plot, 1571

Ridolfi, a banker from Florence had been involved in the Norfolk-Mary conspiray of 1569

His plan (abandoned during the time of the 1569 rebellion) was to secure a landing of Spanish troops at Harwich in Essex.

With the help of the English Catholics, he would march on London, overthrow Elizabeth and put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. His plot was uncovered when one of his messengers was apprehended at Dover. 

The plot depended on the support of Phillip II and the spanish commander in the Netherlands the Duke of Alba. Neither wanted the francophile Mary on the English throne. Ridolfi also could have been one of Burghley's double agents. 

Burghley, after uncovering the plot, struck at Norfolk and Mary. Using his favoured spokesmen in the House of Commons, Burghley pressured Elizabeth to execute Norfolk. 

Elizabeth accepted the execution of Norfolk but refused to deny Mary's rights to the throne.

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The Throckmorton Plot, 1583

The Throckmorton Plot coincided with the beginning of the Catholic missions and the weaking of the Protestant international situation. 

The conspiracy had two parts: a landing in Sussex under Mary's cousin the Duke of Guise. John Bossy: the Sussex landing was a fairly near thing. They were supported by the Earl of Arundel and the Earl of Northumberland. 

The conspiracy broke because of Walsingham's spy in the French embassy, and was able to attack Nicholas Throckmorton. It was clear that the main conspirator was the Spanish ambassador Mendoza who was then expelled from England.

John Bossy: the plot was a genuine and serious threat to the Elizabethan regime.

The plot led to the creation of the Bond of Association and further deteriorated Anglo-Spanish relations. Mary was moved to more secure and tightly observed quarters.

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The Parry Plot, 1585

The Parry Plot saw the welshman and MP William Parry to confess plotting to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with Queen Mary.

Parry had been employed by Burghley to spy on Catholic exiles in the Netherlands and it is unsure why he then decided to assassinate Elizabeth.

One theory was that Burghley and Walsingham had decided to get rid of Parry because he had outlived his usefulness or just knew too much about their spies.

The second theory was that Parry was converted to the militant Catholic cause while spying on the exiles and was recruited as a double agent.

Parry was executed for treason.

The plot was useful to Burghley and his buisness managers as it ensured that the proceedings on the bill for the Queen's safetly were sped up.

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The Babington Plot, 1586

The Throckmorton and Parry plots hightened anti-Catholic paranoia in Burghley, Walsingham and the Privy Council. John Guy: Burghley was looking for a way to get rid of Mary.

Babington, a young gentleman from Derbyshire had close contact with the exiled Spanish ambassador Mendoza who wanted a Spanish invasion, the promotion of a Catholic rebellion and the assassination of Elizabeth. 

Babington and Mendoza recruited conspirators to murder Elizabeth and then wrote to Mary asking for her support. The letter came into Walsingham's hands, who let the letter go to Mary so he had evidence against her. Mary replied in support of the conspiracy John Guy said her complicity was undeniable.

Babington was arrested but Walsingham had Mary's papers examined before arresting her. 

Mary's trial didn't begin until October although Babington and his co-conspirators had been exectued a month before.

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Mary Stewart's Trial

Elizabeth didn't politcally need to keep Mary alive after the Treaty of Berwick in 1586 that ensured James VI of Scotland wouldn't act against her. However, she didn't want to execute another monarch.

It was decided that Mary's trial would take place at Fotheringay Castle, to where she was moved in September.

Mary was tried by 24 Privy Councillors and nobles, assisted by judges. Many were unwilling to execute the mother of their possible future monarch.

At first, Mary refused to co-operate by saying that the court had no power over the actions of an anointed monarch. After several days of arguments, Mary gave in after she was pursuaded that her reputation would be damaged if she refused to defend herself. 

In the eyes of the court, Mary was plainly guilty but Elizabeth avoided ordering her execution. She wanted to ensure that there would be no hostile response from Scotland and France and also didn't want to execute her cousin.

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Mary Stewart's Execution

Elizabeth hoped that Mary would simply be assassinated. She asked Amyas Paulet (Mary's gaoler) to kil her according the Bond of Association but he refused.

Burghley was anxious to have Mary executed. He used Parliamentary pressure to influence Elizabeth but while they petitioned her to execute Mary, Elizabeth still refused.

On December 4th, Mary's death sentence was formally announced but the Queen refused to sign the death warrant until February 1st. She gave contradictory orders to her junior secretary William Davison first ordering him to seal the warrant and then telling him not to.

Davison sealed the warrant and Parliament dispacted it, knowing that Elizabeth had not actually wanted it sealed, without telling Elizabeth.

Bughley knew that Elizabeth's safety and the security of the Protestant state needed Mary's execution.

Mary was executed on the 8th of February. In many people's eyes, she died a martyr for her Catholic faith. On Elizabeth's death in 1603, Mary's on James VI of Scotland was proclaimed King of England. This meant that until her death, Mary was still the heir to the English throne.

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