CHAPTER XVIII. ELIZABETH (iii), 1568-72 - THE CATHOLIC CHALLENGE
In March, the Pope took the step which paralysed Catholicism as an open political force in England, by issuing a Bull against Elizabeth which virtually declared loyalty to the Queen and loyalty to the Faith to be incompatible; yet since the profession of loyalty was to be condoned, every Catholic was ipso facto rendered suspect. The suspicion of disloyalty breeds the disease. Englishmen of the Roman Communion have a right to be proud that so many in those years of storm and stress neither relinquished their faith nor forgot their patriotism; yet when their fellow-subjects had been thus absolved of their allegiance, the Protestants can hardly be blamed for being over-ready to assume that they were in league with the Queen's enemies. The Pope could have done nothing calculated more thoroughly to translate the ordinary sentiment of loyalty into a passion of resentment against its opposite.
[The Anjou Match]
The immediate situation however was fraught with sufficient peril. Mary for the sake of liberty was by this time fairly ready to promise anything, and trust to the chapter of accidents to find some plausible ground for repudiating her promises later. Elizabeth would have been glad enough to get her out of the country if she could by any means be rendered harmless. Once again, to the dismay of Cecil, a restoration, on terms, seemed probable, while the Queen herself showed a tendency to try at any cost to recover the support of the Catholics. In fact however, she would make up her mind to no decided course. But affairs in France suggested to her a new scheme which could be played with indefinitely. In spite of Jarnac, and of another defeat later in the year at Montcontour, Coligny and the Huguenots remained unvanquished in 1570. In the autumn, there was a fresh pacification, and Coligny became once more a power at Court as well as in the country. The younger brother of the young French King, Henry Duke of Anjou, was now old enough to marry. There had been talk of uniting him to Mary. But if he were to marry Elizabeth, who was only some seventeen years his senior, Protestants and Catholics in both countries might make their peace, and all present a united front to Philip and to Papal aggression - for even the Cardinal of Lorraine had dallied with the notion of Nationalism in matters ecclesiastical. Cecil and Walsingham, who had recently come to the front and now represented England in Paris, were keenly in favour of the scheme. As for the Queen she probably intended to use it precisely as she had used all the previous marriage schemes, simply as an instrument for manipulating foreign courts and her own ministers.
[1570-71 The Ridolfi plot initiated]
Under these conditions, a new plot was initiated for the liberation of Mary, her marriage to Norfolk, and the removal of Elizabeth; to be at last actively if secretly aided by Alva and Philip, on whom the vehement remonstrances of the Pope were now taking effect - in view of the threatened alliance between England and France. The agent was one Ridolfi, who combined cleverness sufficient to deceive even Walsingham for a time with a garrulity and carelessness which proved ruinous in the long run. It was fortunate for Elizabeth that of the two necessary figure-heads for any conspiracy, Mary and Norfolk, one was more than half-believed even by her own party to be stained by the grossest crimes, while the other was nerveless and vacillating.
[1571 April, Parliament]
At this juncture, need of funds made it impossible for Elizabeth to continue longer without calling a Parliament, which met early in April (1571). The bulk of the peers were still in sympathy with Catholicism and the ideas associated therewith; the lower House, always Protestant, was now more emphatically so than ever. The Puritan element, naturally enough, had come to regard Catholicism as prima facie evidence of treason, and was bent on enforcing a more uncompromising conformity, with a greater severity, than heretofore. The Commons insisted on discussing religious matters, and ignored the Queen's attempts to silence them. They gave, what the last parliament had refused, their sanction to the Thirty-nine Articles. The effect of the Papal excommunication was seen in an Act making it high Treason to question the Queen's title, or to call her a heretic, and disqualifying from the succession any one who laid claim to the crown; they sought even to make the Act retrospective, which would have forthwith excluded Mary permanently. They submitted however to some modification of the original harshness of their intentions; whereby it is probable that not a few Catholics, who would otherwise have been fatally alienated, did as matters turned out remain loyal. Finally, a substantial grant of money was made. The Commons in short were thoroughly at one with Cecil, now known as Lord Burghley. They were intensely loyal, and showed their loyalty none the less emphatically because they ignored the Queen's predilections in the manner of doing it.
[Collapse of Anjou marriage]