How did Elizabeth Deal with the Threat of Catholicism?

Early Catholic Resistance

There were still a large number of Catholics in England who did not want to accept Elizabeth as leader of the church. Anyone with a position such as an MP or a judge lost their job if they refused to follow Elizabeth’s religious orders. Attendance at the Anglican Church was made compulsory but the Pope ordered English Catholics not to attend Anglican services. Recusants__ __who followed the Pope’s orders were fined 10 shillings a week. Anyone who tried to attend a Catholic Mass was fined, and anyone conducting a Catholic Mass could face the Death Penalty.

In 1568, a training school for Catholic Priests__ __was founded by William Allen in the Netherlands, the aim was to train Catholics as missionaries to go back to England and keep Catholicism going. Elizabeth felt very threatened by this.

How did Elizabeth Deal with the Threat of Catholicism?, figure 1

A particular problem for Elizabeth was that Mary Queen of Scots was a Catholic Queen. Having fled Scotland to live in exile (at Hardwick Hall no less), Mary was a rallying call for English Catholics. The Pope and Philip II of Spain wanted to overthrow Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. This idea spread to some of the more extreme English Catholics.

The Papal Bull of 1570 and Treason Act of 1571

The Papal Bull was a decree issued by the Pope which said that Elizabeth would be excommunicated and no longer be part of the Catholic Church.

In 1570, the Pope Excommunicated__ __Elizabeth (this meant she was no longer allowed to be part of the Catholic Church, which meant that Catholics were not to see her as a religious figure) He directly ordered Catholics to disobey Elizabeth and continue to be Catholic.

In response to this, Elizabeth introduced The Treason Act 1571__, __this act stated that anyone denying Elizabeth’s supremacy and following the Pope’s encouragement to keep Catholicism going could be punished by death. Anyone who left the country for more than 6 months had their land confiscated. This was to stop people going abroad and training as missionaries.

How did Elizabeth Deal with the Threat of Catholicism?, figure 2

Elizabeth was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by the order of this Papal Bull, signed by the Pope in 1570. This further encouraged Catholics to rise up against Elizabeth. Indeed, the Pope expressly encouraged English Catholics to remove Elizabeth from power.

Background Information

As covered in the previous lesson, Elizabeth took the throne after a period. Of significant religious unrest. England had changed between Protestantism and Catholicism a number of times, and the general population were becoming increasingly polarised. Whilst people were expected to follow the Monarch in religion, the frequent changes had eroded this relationship.

Elizabeth established her own Church of England, and Middle Way, in 1559 with the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity. This was aimed to keep the moderates of both Catholicism and Protestantism happy; however, no compromise can ever please everyone, and the more extreme Catholics and Protestants continued in several ways to cause problems for Elizabeth.

The Jesuits

In 1572 the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre__ __occurred in France. Thousands of French Protestants were killed in mob violence that was believed to have been brought on by the Catholic government. This violence in France led people in England to be worried about Catholicism.

From the__ 1580’s__, a new Catholic threat emerged which added to these feelings. These were called the Jesuits__. __They were a religious group who followed the Pope and wanted to support him. They were Catholic missionaries, sent to England to educate people about Catholicism. Their aim was to turn influential people against the Queen and the Anglican Church. Once they were in England they helped to smuggle priests into the country as well.

Edmund Campion

One of the first and most famous priests, and Jesuit leader, was Edmund Campion. He was a brave and charismatic leader. When he arrived in 1580, he first went to Lancashire, where Catholicism was stronger. He then later moved to London and held church services in the homes of wealthy Catholic families. All this had to be done secretly and Campion wore disguises and used ‘safe houses’ to avoid arrest. The wealthy Anne Vaux and her sister Eleanor Brooksby were both involved in renting houses across the country for the priests to use. Some of these houses had priest holes, which were cleverly concealed rooms where the priests could hide and were illegal mass could be celebrated. Nicholas Owen, A Catholic Carpenter, was very important in setting up a network of safe houses for a priest to live in.

How did Elizabeth Deal with the Threat of Catholicism?, figure 1

This is a priest hole, dug into the floor of an Elizabethan Manor House like a trap door. Priests would hide in here if a pursuivant came looking, or indeed if the family had guests that were not Catholic recusants.

Act Against the Jesuits

Increasingly worried by Catholic activity, the authorities introduced further measures. In 1581 __new laws were passed. The fine for recusancy was raised to __£20, and anyone caught trying to convert anyone to Catholicism faced the death penalty.

In 1585, Parliament passed The Act against the Jesuits and Seminary Priests__. __This made becoming a Catholic Priest became treason. All priests were ordered to leave England within 40 days or face being charged with treason and the death penalty.

There were officials who raided ‘safe houses’ called Pursuivants__ __and their searches could last up to a week, resulting in houses being ripped apart.

Edmund Campion was eventually caught during one of these searches and was tried on the rack. He was even offered freedom if he converted to Protestantism but he refused. Campion was tortured on the rack but still denied any plots against Elizabeth. He was found guilty of treason and executed.

In 1593 large gatherings of Catholics were made illegal and Catholic’s freedom of movement was restricted. They were allowed to travel no further than 5 miles from their homes.

No Longer a Threat

By__ 1603, the government campaign against the Catholics had been mostly successful in stopping them from being a serious threat to Elizabeth and the government. It is estimated that __10% of the population of England were Catholics by the end of Elizabeth’s reign but only 2% were recusants.

The Pope was partially to blame for this as he forbid Catholics to attend Protestant church services, but only the very rich could afford to pay the fines for not doing this. He then annoyed English Catholics by appointing a Jesuit, George Blackwell as ‘Archpriest’ of England, even though he was an unpopular choice. The Pope and Spain had also encouraged plots and rebellions against Elizabeth. Although most Catholics did not get involved with any of this, it started to turn people away from Catholicism.

Wider Links

Catholicism also brought threat to Elizabeth through conflict with Spain, and several Plots – including those which attempted to replace Protestant Elizabeth with Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. These will be covered in subsequent lessons.

Define the following terms:

Your answer should include: Christian / follow / Pope
Your answer should include: Catholic / missionary / convert
Edmund Campion
Your answer should include: Jesuit / leader / tortured / executed
Your answer should include: Catholic / fine / resist
The Treason Act
Your answer should include: 1571 / denying / Elizabeth / supremancy / executed
Your answer should include: officials / raid / houses / search / Catholic / priests