DANGER TO ELIZABETH: The Catholics Under Elizabeth I by Alison Plowden

DANGER TO ELIZABETH: The Catholics Under Elizabeth I

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The second part of Plowden's serial life of Elizabeth I traces the ebb and flow of the endemic Catholic plotting which vexed her reign. Plowden, like most historians of Tudor England, looks upon the Elizabethan Settlement as an expedient; Elizabeth was interested in preserving public order, not in probing the consciences of her subjects. She had no use for doctrinal purity and no taste for religious persecution; repeatedly she resisted the promptings of the Protestant left. Plowden argues that by the 1560's English Catholicism was in decay and that, despite the efforts of the Marian exiles and the Jesuits, English ""recusants"" were unable to stir up much grassroots support for a return to the papal fold. From the Rising of the North to the Ridolfi Plot to the Throckmorton Plot to the Babington Plot, those who schemed against Elizabeth were poorly organized fanatics out of touch with the sentiments of the populace. Why? Because, and this is the crux of the author's case, ""Roman Catholicism had become un-English""; the Catholics fatally damaged their cause by relying on Continental invasion, French or Spanish, to effect the return to religious orthodoxy. Inevitably Plowden's unraveling of the involuted conspiracies involves a retelling of the whole tortured story of Elizabeth's dealings with her impetuous cousin Mary Stuart who was involved in most of the cabals up to her lovely neck. Plowden stresses Elizabeth's disinclination to spill the blood of a royal kinswoman and her extreme restraint in the face of Mary's continuous provocations. There is nothing revisionist or novel about this interpretation of the complex religious and diplomatic crosscurrents of the period, but she succeeds in explicating the motives and methods of various Catholic factions and in presenting Elizabeth as the consummate politician she was.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Stein & Day