310 The English College


By the 1580s, the confessional lines between Protestant and Catholic were increasingly strongly drawn; repressive legislation increased, and the English College was established to renew the stock of priests able to support the Catholic population in England

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Last time we talked about the development of the Elizabethan church to the end of the reign, including the challenge to the new church of England from the Godliest and puritanism. But of course there was another important group of people who’s beliefs were challenged by the Elizabethan Settlement – the followers of traditional religion. We’ve seen how in the 1560s and to a degree much of the 1570s, the pressure on Catholics was manageable; the Elizabethan state did not pursue rigorously, Catholics assumed a deal of latitude in putting in an appearance at church services, pressing the flesh, making sure plenty of photographs were taken for the parish magazine – and then practiced their real beliefs in private; church papists as they came to be known. Meanwhile, hundreds of Marian priests had refused the settlement, and had taken to the countryside to serve the needs of those desperate to hold onto their traditional practice, or joined the households of the Gentry who provided a place for people to come.

The story of the 1570s is the story of how that leeway came to close, the turning of the screw, to be replaced from the late 70s and 1580s by much tighter restrictions and persecution. Some of this came from international events through which we have already been which the ante with the Elizabethan state and the concerns of the Privy Council for security, such as the war in the low countries, the St Bartholomews Day Massacre, and plots to kill Elizabeth or place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne such as the Ridolphi plot. Other came from the actions of the Catholic church hierarchy with stern injunctions on the faithful that nicodemism, church papistry was not acceptable, and the bull of Regnans in Excelsis releasing Catholics from their obedience to their Queen and authorising her assassination; together with the unavoidable problem that those Marian priests began to die out – and there was no obvious source of priests to replace them.

All these pressures led to passionate demands from parliament for extra legislation, at the parliament of 1571-2 for example. And some was passed – it was made treason to call the Queen a heretic – though to be honest if you’d done that about any monarch anywhere at any time you’d almost certainly have been toast anyway; more specifically it became illegal to import catholic objects, like a wax disk ‘called by the name of an Agnus Dei’. But when Parliament passed a bill increasing recusancy fines for non-attendance at church and for failure to receive communion at least once in the year, Elizabeth set her face against it. While Burghley probably supported this bill, while all this foreign threat was worrying, defending the country by investing in the navy, or established trained bands and local lord lieutenants – all this could be done, money permitting; and the Privy Council was relatively relaxed about itinerant Marian priests – before long they’d disappear. So through much of 1570s the PC kept their nerve and persecution was limited; in 1574, a number of high profile Catholic priests including Abbot Feckenham were even released from prison, so confident was the PC and church of winning this battle. What really changed the picture was the fear that English Catholicism might renew itself and form a substantial 5th column, just waiting to rise up against the Queen and her church.

This brings us to one William Allen. Educated at Oxford, Allen was part of the heady days of the Marian counter reformation, until the arrival of Elizabeth meant he would eventually join many others in Exile in the Low countries; not before he had seen with his own horrified eyes how Catholics in Lancashire attended the new heretical church. In September 1568 Allen, probably foreseeing the issue growing in England of a lack of well trained Catholic priests, established a school to train English priests, attached to the newly established university of Douai – the English College. It would take a while to come to fruition, priests taking a while to mature in the casks of education, but Allen’s English college would become a major force in English religious life, just as Allen would be a major force in the arguments of words between English Protestants and Catholics.

Allen was an enthusiastic supporter also of the Jesuits, and would be instrumental in the missions of two very famous names in the history of English Catholicism, and indeed in the history of Stonor Park just down the road from me, Edward Campion and Robert Persons. Allen worried that he would be sending the priests who graduated from his seminary into danger; but in the words of Eamon Duffy,

‘persecution was fundamental to the spirituality he encouraged among the seminarians. The likelihood of martyrdom was one of the inducements Allen offered to persuade Campion to go to England, and in the wake of his and his companions’ executions Allen declared that ‘Ten thousand sermons would not have published our apostolic faith and religion so winningly as the fragrance of these victims, most sweet both to God and men’[1]

Allen was part of that group who encouraged the Pope to publish Regnans in Excelsis, to expiate heresy from England which he feared was infecting neighbouring countries too, and wrote in 1584 in defence of the right of the pope to depose monarchs.

In 1573 then, not far from the time that the PC were confidently releasing well known Catholics from prison, the first fruit of Allen’s orchard were ordained; in 1574 four of them crossed secretly to England. Another seven followed in 1575. In November 1577, the PC approved the execution of Cuthbert Mayne, a priest from Allen’s English College. It wasn’t a pretty death, it owed everything to the method of execution reserved for traitors; he was cut down while breathing, his heart ripped out and his body quartered. In February 1578 2 more Catholics went to their deaths on the gallows at Tyburn after describing Elizabeth as a heretic and schismatic – precise wording which their interrogators had worked hard to get them to use, even threatening the rack when they looked like backsliding. And it was becoming clear that there were many more English in Exile willing to devote their lives to supporting and saving the souls of their Catholic brethren in England, faced with the heretical onslaught. By 1576, the English College had 236 students at Douai, and William Allen had met with other English Catholics to consider the potential to persuade Phillip II to invade England. In 1579 the English hospice in Rome was converted into a second seminary, and the move now began to see the involvement of Jesuits. Allen was very positive about this additional focus and support, but the move did introduce the seeds of division into the English mission as a whole; while Jesuits saw their task as one of conversion, or England as virgin territory as it were, more traditional English Catholics worked with the attitude to re-establish a church that had already existed in England for centuries.

By 1580, the English College had sent 100 Catholic priests into England. They travelled in disguise, of course changing their names, clothes and horses along the way, desperately trying to preach and deliver the sacraments, in the face of enormous risks and dangers, showing extraordinary courage and dedication.  That same year two Jesuits also travelled to England, with orders to avoid politics, to preach to the converted and discourage waverers from going over to the dark side, whether or not the dark side happened to be offering cake at the time. These two would echo through Catholic historiography – Edmund Campion and Robert Persons.

I might pause at this point in time for a sort of historiographical digression; on the basis that I had an email from one Chase telling me that he likes the personal digression, which I am now viewing as carte blanche to share with you the podcasting equivalent of a bunch of holiday snaps from my youth. For example, did I tell you that my sister went to India in a studenty kind of way and came back with 36 rolls of 36 exposure films, in the days before digital, and made me look at each and every one? Usually accompanied by a full and detailed explanation? I can still remember the pig loos.

Don’t worry, I was just trying to panic you, the digression I need to have really is about the influence in English history of this period of religious conflict. The sharpness of religious conflict had already pretty much died by the time I arrived on the earth in the swinging sixties, but way Mary and Elizabeth have echoed through the ages has had a profound effect on English history – with much of it written by the winners; the myth went as far as to suggest at one time that Catholicism was somehow alien to Englishness, a corrupted overlay on the ancient church; I hope that none of you who have followed this podcast could in anyway view this as true given the long and intimate relationship between the catholic church and England’s history. But until at least Catholic Emancipation in the 19th century that message was a strong strand, and the mythical association between Catholicism and tyranny even stronger. From the 1850’s the English Catholic community have fought hard to re-establish a positive Catholic story – and in a way I figure that is now  stronger now than the Protestant story because it seems to me, and I am busking here, that Catholics still seem much keener to tell their English story – whereas interest in the story of Protestantism seems to be at a relatively low ebb. I am happened to be corrected, and after all as you all know I am interested in it, and have gloried in telling you Thomas Cranmer’s story for example. But none the less, for a personal anecdote, I happened to go along to Stonor park and met a member of the family, and I would find it difficult to imagine an Anglican with the sort of passion for their religious history I saw there. Though there certainly was that passion in Victorian times; in Oxford for example, there’s a big monument to the protestant martyrs, which is slap bang in front of a small church. As I sat of the steps of said monument eating a sarnie one day, someone kindly explained that it owed i’s location to the fact that the church is Catholic church. This counts I think as the Victorian version of a bit of bant. I guess the passion for both stories also has something to do with victimology too I suppose, but the point I am labouring to make is that there are really no rights or wrongs here. Once upon a time, and up until not so long ago, the priests and Jesuits who landed in secret coves on England’s coasts were seen as traitors or martyrs depending on your viewpoint. In fact there’s a very good book I can recommend to you called God’s Traitors by Jesse Childs about Catholics in the period – and I remember in the reviews and so on the in the popular press and online a blizzard of morally laden comment, dark period in our history so on a so forth.

Well, obviously, I wouldn’t want to repeat this period, and knowing about religious conflict back then is riddled with obvious messages for the way we should run our lives now. But the idea of visiting a value judgement from the 21st century back onto the players back then would seem to me to be barking. As we’ll describe, Catholics, previously of course firm suppressors of religious dissent, now claimed that all they wanted was toleration. Protestants, including the Privy Council had no way of distinguishing between Catholic religious dissent backed by Spain, France and the pope from treason against the state. But in the historiography of English history this period has a long and powerful influence on England view of herself as a protestant country standing against a vast empire of Catholic enemies they equated with the repression of their religion. So it’s important in a historical as well as personal sense.

Anyway. Edmund Campion was a London lad, who went to Oxford, but he eventually could not stand the thought that he had accepted the Royal Supremacy and duly fled England for the continent, and became a novice in the Society of Jesus in 1573. In 1580 he joined another English Jesuit, Robert Persons in a visit to Pope Gregory. Persons was a Somerset lad, who went to Baliol college in Oxford, though left with accusations of dogdy financial deals as Bursar; he joined the Society of Jesus in 1575 and was ordained in 1578.

Campion and Persons were interested to hear from Gregory about the messages they were to give to English Catholics about what leeway they had; for example were they to get themselves a musket and head off to assassinate Elizabeth? No, said Gregory; you should obey the queen in civil matters – unless of course there’s a real chance of success, in which case then yes you must. So, not much re-assurance when there’s massive Armada bearing down on you then. Most of the answers were equally slippery, and the general ambiguity gave the poor English catholics little comfort. For they, in the words of Sting and possibly Homer, were Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes. In fact, this invited what became known as the ‘Bloody Question’; in the event of a foreign invasion to enforce the bull of deposition, would they take the Pope’s side or the Queen’s?[2] Catholics were taught by their itinerant priests how to deal with such questions, how to evade them; but of itself this did almost more harm than good. Burghley, Walsingham and their pursuivants tried hard to create a line between catholic priests, who for sure might be imprisoned and expelled but not necessarily executed; and those they considered enemies of the state and queen who they would mullah. If they could not tell, they would probably prefer the safer path of execution.

Campion and Persons made it over the England in 1581; honestly, they’d not really kept their journey quiet. They made contact with priests in London, and attended a sort of Catholic Synod, as the locals asked for guidance. As it happens the two Jesuits were more inflexible than the Pope, not less, insisting on strict recusancy as being the only way to save their souls – they were to keep completely separate from the Protestants. Persons set up a secret press in London and demonstrated his expertise in polemicism, poking fun at the Protestant church for its divisions. But also laying down the law for Catholics – and having no truck with the more comfortable idea from one Catholic priest that

‘God doth more regard the will and intention of the doer than the deed’.

Recusancy or nowt was the Jesuit message – you’ll get your reward in heaven. Which is something my mother used to say to me a lot, as it happens, though not normally threatening me with eternal damnation at the time.

As Campion toured round England, mainly in the south and Thames Valley, he carried with him a statement of his purely spiritual intentions; and thirsted for debate, declaring that ‘none of the Protestants, nor all the Protestants living … can maintain their doctrine in disputation’.[3]


Gap here


Meanwhile the tide of panic in England rose by degrees; Ireland was in the grips of Maurice Fitzgerald’s revolt and the landing of Spanish troops at Smethwick; in Wales Elizabeth Orton proclaimed she had visions and railed against the church and insisted on strict recusancy for Catholics. The Jesuits although keeping their whereabouts hidden were none the less accompanied by a blaze of publicity; helped by the establishment of a press at Stonor Park I might say. Have I mentioned that’s in my ‘hood? But it was too good to last; Campion was given up by an informer and arrested.

We then get a remarkable piece of theatre; Campion continued to demand a disputation, and the powers that be decided that it was more risky to refuse a debate and look frit, than it was to risk getting their arses kicked in debate – and of course they rigged the result by giving Campion no access to books, and tag teaming him. The debate took place over August and September 1581 and even the Protestant divines ruefully admitted that nonetheless Campion had done himself proud.

Campion was then put on trial, convicted and executed in December 1581. He remained firm to the end that he was no traitor, and was here only for spiritual reasons, and his courtesy and pious demeanour won him much respect, and Persons, now back on the continent exercised all his talents in spreading the word of Campion’s martyrdom.

Before being executed, Campion was submitted to judicial torture. Now the English had always been rather proud of the fact that, unlike in most of the rest of Europe under Roman Law systems, torture was not allowable under Common Law outside exceptional circumstances – torture must be approved by the monarch or the Privy Council and it must not be used to discover the truth, which was how it was used in Roman Law, to assemble evidence; Common Law judges mistrusted the evidence gained under torture, which seems reasonable. So why was it used?

The man who had undertaken the torture on Campion was one Thomas Norton, denounced by his Catholic adversaries as the ‘rackmaster’. Norton wrote a detailed refutation of the accusation, and managed to sound genuinely hurt by the accusations. He hadn’t carried out the torture himself, he said, he had gone through due process with six members of the PC signing the authorisation; and thirdly he wrote that

‘none was put to the rack that was not first by manifest matter known to the Council to be guilty of treason … there was no innocent tormented’.

A historian, whose crumbs I am not worthy so much as to wave at with the hoover, describes this as a circular argument, but in fact I disagree with said eminent historian if I may be so bold; Norton was absolutely right; not even Campion would argue he wasn’t guilty of the recusancy laws, though he did argue over his designation as a traitor. Campion was guilty alright – the torture was to get him to reveal accomplices. I doubt that was of any comfort to Campion of course nor does it make it any less inhumane, but Norton had a point when he said torture was not in oursuit of evidence, and only conducted on the guilty. Close to 500 people were questioned as a result; and the members of the Stonor family were forced to flee.

While we are on the matter of torture; between 1540 and 1640, 81 documented cases of torture occurred in England; the majority were Jesuits, priests and recusants – though the last one to be tortured officially in England, one of two people tortured under Charles I, was a radical protestant Apprentice boy. Of the 81 cases, 53 were tortured under Elizabeth, and this nasty statistic gives further evidence, were it needed, of the panic gripping the English state. One more point on torture before we move on; there was one other form of torture – I think I have told you this before, but remorseless repetition is the mother of Education, or so my teachers at school thought anyway. Under Common Law you were required to enter a plea. If you refused to plead you could be pressed to force you to plead – peine forte et dure this was called. The reason why some brave souls took this approach was because without a plea, they could not be found guilty and their possessions and assets seized – so their families would not suffer. The last case of this was 1741, and from 1827 a non plea was assumed to be a plea of not guilty. In our period, very notably, one woman was pressed to death for refusing to plead in response to an accusation of harbouring Catholic priests; this was a butcher’s wife of York called Margaret Clitherowe; she is one of the few examples of an ordinary person put to death for their Catholic religion, an important example not just for the horror of it and her courage, but because it indicates that in Elizabeth’s reign recusancy ran beyond what would later be its core in the Gentry.

The PC were without doubt rattled, as the waves of priests kept coming; some more statistics for you at this point then. During Elizabeth’s reign there were about 800 English seminarians trained or in training. 471 were active in England at some point during her reign; 130 priests were executed for their faith, and 90 of their lay supporters also executed. [4]

Of course the Catholic world was outraged by the execution of Campion and indeed other priests. But England was in the grip of a European trend of the hardening of confessional boundaries, accentuated by the Counter Reformation and by Calvinism. There was little room for any suggestion that Catholic and Protestant persecution was entirely parallel; so for example, one John Hammerton, accused in 1582 of Catholicism and treason proudly declared of his pursuit of Protestants in Mary’s reign, that

‘he was Bonner’s man, and helped to set fire to the faggots to the most that were burned in Smithfield’. ‘He yet rejoices to think how they fried in the flame, and what service he had done God in furthering their death’.

There didn’t appear then, to be much room for sympathy on the frontline. And I suppose even now you might argue that the likes of Campion or Cuthbert Mayne at least knew full well what they were getting into. Not so the ordinary folks or even the grander order of Catholic who had no or limited control over events. Catholics were caught in this appalling conflict of loyalties. On the one hand, their history, tradition and nationality demanded that they give their allegiance to the state and their monarch. On the other hand, their church which also held their loyalty in this world and the next demanded that they withhold their loyalty.

As the 1580s progressed then, the pressure on all concerned mounted. In 1581, Parliament finally succeeded in getting Elizabeth to agree to harsher recusancy legislation, in what became known as the Act of Persuasions. It became treason to reconcile anyone to the Catholic faith; the financial penalties for not attending church rose to the crippling level of £20 a month; the fine for hearing a mass was the frankly gopping 200 marks. The act made play to maintain a difference between those priests who came simply to succor existing Catholics; they were still breaking the law, but were subject to imprisonment; and those who came to convert, who were traitors subject to a traitor’s death. In practice of course it was pretty straightforward to represent any foreign priest as a traitor under the rules of the act if such was what you wanted to do – and in many cases it was.

It would be very useful to be able to get inside the heads of the parties in this vital and fundamental dispute; and with spectacular and spooky luck, we kind of can. In December 1583, Burghley himself wrote a piece laying out his views before the world, against the background of Norton’s outraged defence of his actions, the rising wave of seminary priests, anti catholic legislation, the steady stream of plots against the life of the queen and all. But maybe also he had in his mind an interview he’d had recently with a recusant. The committed Catholic in question was Lord Vaux, who had been discovered helping and harbouring Campion. Vaux wanted desperately to be restored to the queen’s favour – and asked to be spared his fine for recusancy. His words, relayed by Burghley highlighted the jam in which so many catholic gentry found themselves, as Vaux

Required most humbly to be forborne to be compelled to come to the church, not for that I should do so in contempt of her Majesty or of her laws, but that my conscience only and nothing else as not thereto well persuaded did stay me

For many Catholics this was their dilemma; they felt unable to accept Elizabeth’s deal – show outward compliance with my religious settlement and the rest is up to you – but yet they still desperately wanted to play their traditional role in society and saw themselves as utterly loyal to their monarch, as all the history and tradition in which they were so proud demanded. The striking thing about Burghley’s letter to his Queen was how sympathetic it was; the fire of Burghley’s hatred for Catholicism burnt as brightly as Allen’s hatred of England’s church and her heretic queen, both were relentless in the struggle – but Burghley, and probably Allen, could also see beyond it to the human side of the struggle. Away from the numbers and list of legislation, every day life might well have been very different.

But for the moment in 1583 Burghley had a job to do – and that was to be utterly clear about why Elizabeth’s government was taking the approach it had taken, and why it was justified. The ‘Execution of Justice’ then, was a pamphlet written by Burghley [5]to the world doing that very thing, filled with Burghley’s passion. He expresses his loyalty to the queen; and his hatred of rebels. In this he was entirely in step with his time; rebellion was an offence against God, not simply a form of protest. Treachery in England and Ireland he wrote had been

Stirred up by the devil, the father of rebels

There was no matter of conscience going on here (in his view) – those who stood against the Queen were traitors. Full stop, end of debate, the ball my friend is in the back of the net, the well-built lady is singing. He was clear that the Pope lay behind the conflict, threatening Elizabeth’s subjects to break their natural allegiance to their queen. He denounced the priests who came to England as ‘seedmen in their tillage of sedition’, in secret seeking to persuade the people

Of his absolute authority over all princes and countries

Threatening to provoke

A horrible uproar and a manifest destruction of both the realms

Of England and Ireland. In short it might be said, to use what I now understand from Salik is a Danish expression, that as far as the Jesuits protestations of innocence went, Burghley was convinced there was an Owl in the Fen. Something fishy going on, a plot. An owl in the Plot, indeed he suspected there was an entire Parliament in the fen.

Burghley’s reasoning went that the claims of priests like Campion that they were simply unworldly religious men was disingenuous tripe; for Burghley, they were the queen’s mortal enemies, to bring down the church was to bring down her and her kingdom. He made two key points; that because of this fact, the priests sentenced to death and been so because they were traitors not because of their faith. And secondly that Elizabeth had dealt fairly with those who had refused to submit to her religious settlement – he gave a bunch of examples, the treatment of the Marian Bishops in particular, allowed to retire into private life rather than be burned; and rolled out numbers to help him contrasting the 60 Catholic martyrs with 400 killed under Mary’s reign. Burghley of course was a little previous; that number would rise before the reign was out; by 1596, 96 catholic priests and 36 lay people had been executed.

The Execution of Justice explains why in the minds of the Privy Council those priests executed were done so for treason – because to seek to destroy the uniformity of Elizabeth’s church was to seek her own destruction, and to support a foreign prince in Pope or Spain, that sought her death was clearly treason.

William Allen was unconvinced, and published a reply in A True, Sincere and Modest Defence of English Catholics. The priests that died were martyrs, prosecutions under treason law were for show only; it was right and proper for princes to acknowledge the spiritual authority of the Pope. Queen Mary’s burnings were simply the rightful punishments for heretics.

This sounds like a complete missing of minds, no common ground here – although both were of course making similar arguments in reverse; the notable thing about the exchange demonstrates that publicly at least, the likes of Burghley and Allen were playing for keeps, they were playing for total victory, for the prize of uniformity. But historian Peter Marshal makes the point that both of them in the background were being forced to acknowledge a new truth; whereas they had inherited the idea of the indivisibility of truth, conversations such as those Burghley had carried out with Vaux indicated a pragmatic recognition that religious minorities might have to be accommodated.

In July 1584, William the Prince of Orange, Protestant leader of the increasingly desperate struggle against Catholic Spain, was assassinated. Phillip was openly delighted. Plots against the life of the Queen had been discovered – an individual called James Somerville, and the Throckmorton plot. In October, Burghley presented a document called ‘the instrument of an Association for the preservation of the Queen Majesty’s royal person’. It was a quite remarkable idea; a concept probably half inched from the Scots of a Bond made between colleagues to pursue specific objectives. The Bond of Association as it was called required all to swear to protect the Queen’s life with their own, including being prepared to inform on friends and neighbours if required, so a bit like a COVID epidemic then; signatories to the bond swore to pursue any perpetrators of the Queen’s death to the grave; they also swore that if Elizabeth was killed, Mary of Scotland specifically would be executed whether she was guilty or not. So much for the rule of law then, this was rather more the rule of the mob. The Bond was accompanied by a solemn oath made on the gospels.

The Bond of Association did not just stay with the PC; it spread and indeed was promoted countrywide, and people of all sorts came to swear and to sign. Justices in Yorkshire reported they had taken signatures from

‘such of the meaner sort of gentlemen and of the principal freeholders and clothiers about them as sued to be accepted into the society’,

and by late November reckoned they had at least 7,500 signatories. The Bond was a triumph of propaganda in one sense, creating a direct bond between the Queen and her people, the vast majority of who outside London would never have even seen her. In some cases, signatories signed up on their knees, almost like a religious ceremony. For Catholics, though, it was hideous – another attempt to push a wedge between them and the communities they lived in, and that their families might have been part of for generations.

In the following parliament, the Bond was essentially translated into law, by the Act of Security of the Queen; in some ways it’s a rather revolutionary act, actually, because it implied that the godly community had the right to choose their own monarch, buy committing to execute Mary Queen of Scots who would, if Elizabeth died, be her successor by right of hereditary. More legislation followed; in 1585, all priests trained abroad were ordered to leave the country in 40 days; and any found remaining would be automatically guilty of treason; any lay men or women found to be harbouring priests would also be guilty of treason. Such legislation sought to coerce Catholics, but also to separate Catholic from their neighbours, and thus the confessional lines were drawn even more tightly inside the Parish.

There was but one man who spoke against this bill in Parliament, one William Parry of Flintshire. When he declared that there was ‘nothing therein but blood … nothing but despair and terror to us all’, his words did not go down well – in fact he was forced to apologise on his knees to the house, which is a nice trick; there are a few current MPs I think might propose for that. But William Parry’s story is a little more complicated. An impoverished member of the gentry, he had various accusations hanging over him – of burglary, rumours of sexual abuse. He fled to Paris; now Paris was a hotbed of English Catholic exiles, over 400 of them, often with families and servants in attendance, a publishing machine for pro catholic texts then smuggled secretly into England. In exile Parry himself was received into the Catholic church. By 1584 he was back in England, and somehow became a member of parliament.

After his faux pas at parliament of speaking up against Catholic persecution, an alleged accomplice came forward called Edmund Neville, and accused Parry of having plotted the assassination of the Queen. Parry confessed, then retracted. He was condemned to die a traitor’s death and slung into the Tower. He then wrote a note to Elizabeth with some friendly advice along with a confession, that she should look after her catholic subjects and restore relationships with her princely neighbours; and she should look after Mary Queen of Scots, as Elizabeth’s undoubted heir – a statement that would probably have wriggled around in Elizabeth’s nasal passages something rotten.

Parry died a traitor’s death – the only serving MP of an Elizabethan parliament to do so interestingly enough, if you are looking for a pub quiz question, though to be honest it’s a little more specific than which horse won the 1955 Derby. But his story was so convoluted that no one was really sure if he was really traitor or spy. But at the end of the document, Parry wrote

And so farewell most gracious and best natured and qualified Queen that ere lived in England. Remember your unfortunate Parry, overthrown by your own hard hand. … And last and ever good madam, be good to your obedient Catholic subjects. For the bad I speak not.

Well in that lay, the dilemma for both Catholics and the state. How to be a good subject and a good catholic? How to understand and draw the difference between good and bad Catholics? And of course, how to protect the queen from assassination?

[1] Duffy, E ODNB

[2] Childs, Jessie. God’s Traitors (p. 103). Random House. Kindle Edition.

[3] Marshall, Peter. Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation (Kindle Location 12134). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

[4] Childs, Jesse https://www.historyextra.com/period/tudor/elizabeth-is-war-with-englands-catholics/#:~:text=So%20the%20faith%20was%20planted,in%20any%20other%20English%20reign.

[5] Alford, S Burghley pp248-9

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