CHAPTER XVII. ELIZABETH (ii), 1561-68 - QUEENS AND SUITORS

[1561 The Situation]

On August 19th, 1561, Mary Stewart returned to Scotland; in May 1568, she left her kingdom for ever. During those seven years, what she did, what she was accused of doing, what she was expected to do, what she intended to do, formed the subject of the keenest interest and anxiety in England at the time; and the problems and mysteries of those years, never unravelled to this day, never with any certainty to be unravelled at all, continued to perplex English statesmen and to complicate the situation in England for nearly nineteen years more. We shall have to follow them therefore in much greater detail than would a priori seem justifiable in a volume ostensibly dealing not with Scottish but with English History.

During these same years it may be said that the great antagonisms were formulated, which were to rend the two great Continental monarchies for forty years to come. Thus in order to follow the subsequent story efficiently even from the purely English point of view, we must devote what may seem somewhat disproportionate attention to foreign affairs, which do not appear at first sight to have a very intimate connexion with events in England. For France these events may be summed up as the opening of the set struggle between Catholics and Huguenots; for Spain, as the preliminaries to the revolt of the Netherlands: while for all Europe, the effective sessions of the Council of Trent laid down finally the sharp dividing line between Protestant and Catholic - terms which have a well defined political meaning, in neither case identical with their original or correct theological import, in which latter sense half the Protestant world continued to assert its claim to membership in the Catholic Church.

[(1) The Council of Trent]

That Council reassembled under the auspices of Paul's successor, Pius IV., in January 1562. While the Protestants could not recognise it as a Catholic Council, in the sense of representing the whole Catholic Church, it claimed that character for itself, and those who maintained its authority appropriated the name, which thus became a party title. In the course of its sessions, it rejected doctrines, notably that of Justification by Faith, which had been strongly favoured even by such men as Pole and Contarini, so narrowing the bounds of orthodoxy. But while cutting off all possibility of reconciliation with the Protestants, it marked a strong tendency to reformation not of dogma but of practice; while an increased intolerance of what was stigmatised as error, an intensification of the spirit which demanded the most merciless repression of heresy, was accompanied in other respects by an elevation of the standard of ecclesiastical morals, and a zeal for the Faith more pure and less influenced by worldly considerations, if narrower, than in the past. From this time, as the exemplar both of the new discipline, and of the new warfare against heresy, the Order of Jesuits takes its place as the dominating force. The Council terminated in 1563; in 1566 the Pope died and was succeeded by Pius V., the nominee of the most rigid section of the Church.

[(2) France: Catholics, Huguenots, and Politiques]

In France, from the days of Francis I., the tendency had been to persecute the followers of the reformed doctrines, who were for the most part disciples of Calvin rather than of Luther. On the other hand, the political attraction of alliance with the German Lutherans had served to keep the mind of the court open, and throughout the sittings of the Council of Trent there had been and continued to be threats that the Gallican Church might follow the Anglican in claiming independence of the Pope. In France however the opposition lay between the Catholics and the Calvinists, who by 1561 had acquired the general name of Huguenots: in England, the Reformation was carried through under the auspices of a middle ecclesiastical party. In France the middle party was purely political, not aiming at a compromise tending to amalgamation, but rather at holding the two parties balanced.