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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

The Romanist reaction was in full swing throughout Europe


drained the country of men

and money, but was bringing nothing save loss of territory and damage to prestige. Nor was there much to be hoped from foreign aid. The Romanist reaction was in full swing throughout Europe, and the fortunes of the continental Protestants were at their lowest ebb. It was part of the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis (April 1559) that France and Spain should unite to crush the Protestantism of the whole of Europe, and the secret treaty between Philip II. and Catherine de' Medici in 1565[523] showed that such a design was thought possible of accomplishment during the earlier years of Elizabeth. It was never wholly abandoned until the defeat of the Armada in 1588. Cecil's maxim, that the Reformation could not be crushed until England had been conquered, had for its corollary that the conquest of England must be the prime object of the Romanist sovereigns who were bent on bringing Europe back to the obedience of Rome. The determination to take the Protestant side added to the insecurity of Elizabeth's position in the earlier years of her reign. She was, in the opinion of the Pope and probably of all the European Powers, Romanist and Protestant, illegitimate; and heresy combined with bastardy was a terrible weapon in the hands of Henry II. of France, who meant to support the claims of his daughter-in-law, the young Queen of Scots,--undoubtedly the lawful heir in the eyes of all who believed that Henry VIII. had been lawfully married to Catharine of Aragon. The Spanish Ambassador, Count de
Feria, tried to frighten Elizabeth by reminding her how, in consequence of a papal excommunication, Navarre had been seized by the King of Spain.[524] His statement to his master, that at her accession two-thirds of the English people were Romanists,[525] may be questioned (he made many miscalculations), but it is certain that England was anything but a united Protestant nation. Still, who knew what trouble Philip might have in the Netherlands, and the Lords of the Congregation might be encouraged enough to check French designs on England through Scotland.[526] At the worst, Philip of Spain would not like to see England wholly in the grip of France. The Queen and Cecil made up their minds to take the risk, and England was to be Protestant and defy the Pope, from "whom nothing was to be feared but evil will, cursing, and practising."

Paul IV., it was said, was prepared to receive the news of Elizabeth's succession favourably, perhaps under conditions to guarantee her legitimacy; but partly to his astonishment, and certainly to his wrath, he was not even officially informed of her accession, and the young Queen's ambassador at Rome was told that she had no need for him there.

The changes at home, however, were made with all due caution. In Elizabeth's first proclamation an "et cetera" veiled any claim to be the Head of the Church,[527] and her earliest meddling with ecclesiastical matters was to forbid all contentious preaching.[528] The statutory religion (Romanist) was to be maintained for the meantime. No official proclamation was made foreshadowing coming changes.

Elizabeth, however, did not need to depend on proclamations to indicate to her people the path she meant to tread. She graciously accepted the Bible presented to her on her entry into London, clasped it to her bosom, and pressed it to her lips. Her hand ostentatiously shrank from the kiss of Bonner the persecutor. The great lawyer, Goderick, pointed out ways in which Protestant feeling might find vent in a legal manner:

"In the meantime Her Majesty and all her subjects may by licence of law use the _English Litany_ and suffrages used in King Henry's time, and besides Her Majesty in her closet may use the Mass without lifting up the Host according to the ancient canons, and may also have at every Mass some communicants with the ministers to be used in both kinds."[529]


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