The Catholic Threat and the Military Response

Authored by: Paul E. J. Hammer

The Elizabethan World

Print publication date:  September  2010
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415409599
eBook ISBN: 9781315736044
Adobe ISBN: 9781317565796


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When Elizabeth first succeeded to the throne in November 1558, the greatest threat posed by Catholicism concerned the legitimacy of her succession. As quite literally the embodiment of Henry VIII’s break from the Church of Rome in 1533, Elizabeth’s claim to the English throne seemed open to serious question in the eyes of many European Catholics. Henri II of France promptly asserted that the true sovereign of England should be his Franco-Scottish Catholic daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots. He lobbied the Pope to excommunicate Elizabeth and even urged Philip II to join him in a combined invasion of England. When Henri died in a jousting accident in July 1559, Mary’s claim was sustained by her fifteen-year-old husband, who now became François II of France. This diplomatic aggression from France coincided with growing turmoil in Scotland, where Mary’s mother, who governed there as regent with the support of a French army, faced rebellion from Scottish Protestants led by the Lords of the Congregation. As David Potter has shown in Chapter 35, the Scottish crisis proved a severe test for Elizabeth’s new government to which she responded with military action.

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