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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

As had before been the case in 1536 and 1549


In

November 1569 a rebellion broke out in England, not without the connivance of the Spanish ambassador, but mainly under the impression made by the Catholic victories in France, as to which Mary Stuart also had let it be known that they rejoiced her inmost soul. It was mainly the Northern counties that rose, as had before been the case in 1536 and 1549. Where the revolt gained the upper hand, the Common Prayer-book and sometimes the English translation of the Bible as well were burnt, and the mass re-established. Many nobles, above all in the North itself, still held Catholic opinions. At the head of the present insurrection stood the Percies of Northumberland, the Nevilles of Westmoreland, the Cliffords of Cumberland; Richard Norton, who rose for the Nevilles, venerable for his grey hair, and surrounded by a troop of sons in their prime, carried the Cross as a banner in front of his men. The nobility did not exactly want to overthrow the Queen, but it wished to force her to alter her government, to dismiss her present ministers, and above all to recognise Mary Stuart's claim to the succession--which would have given her an exceedingly numerous body of supporters in England and thus have seriously hampered the Queen. But now the government possessed a still more decided ascendancy than even in 1549. It had come upon the traces of the enterprise in time to quell it at its first outbreak, and had at once removed the Queen of Scots out of reach of the movement. The commander in the
North, Thomas Ratcliffe, Earl of Sussex, one of the Queen's heroes, who bore himself bravely and blamelessly in other spheres of action as well as in this, and has left behind him one of the purest of names, encountered the rebels with a considerable force, composed entirely of his own men; these the rebels were the less able to withstand, as they knew that still more troops were on the march. As the ballad of a northern minstrel says, the gold-horned bull of the Nevilles, the silver crescent of the Percies, vanished from the field: the chiefs themselves fled over the Scotch border, their troops dispersed, their declared partisans underwent the severest punishments. Many who knew themselves guilty passed over to the Queen's party in order to escape.

But at the very time of this victory the war against the Queen at home and abroad first received its most vivid impulse through the supreme head of the Catholic faith. Pope Pius V, who saw in Elizabeth the protectress of all the enemies of Catholicism, had issued the long prepared and hitherto withheld excommunication against her. In the name of Him who had raised him to the supreme throne of Right, he declared Elizabeth to have forfeited the realm of which she claimed to be Queen: he not merely released her subjects from the oath they had taken to her: 'we likewise forbid,' he added, 'her barons and peoples henceforth to obey this woman's commands and laws, under pain of excommunication.'[235] It was a proclamation of war in the style of Innocent III: rebellion was therein almost treated as a proof of faith.

The way in which the Queen opened her Parliament in 1571 forms as it were a conscious contrast to the Papal bull, and its declaration that she was deposed. She appeared in the robes of state, the golden coronal on her head. At her right sat the dignitaries of the English Church, at her left the lay lords, on the woolsack in the centre the members of the Privy Council, by the sides stood the knights and burgesses of the lower house. The keeper of the great seal reminded the Houses of the late years of peace, in which--a thing without example in England--no blood had been shed; but now peace seemed likely to perish through the machinations of Rome. All were of one accord that they must confront this attempt with the full force of the law. It was declared high treason to designate the Queen as heretical or schismatic, to deny her right to the throne, or to ascribe such a right to any one else. To proselytise to Catholicism, or to bring into England sacred objects consecrated by the Pope, or absolutions from him, was forbidden and treated as an offence against the State. What a decidedly antipapal character did the Church, which retained most of the hierarchic usages, nevertheless assume! The oath of supremacy became indispensable even for places at court and in the country districts, in which it had not hitherto been required. Men deemed the Queen's ecclesiastical power the palladium of the realm.


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