Articles

The Role of Religion in the Politics of the Northern Rebellion of 1569

The Role of Religion in the Politics of the Northern Rebellion of 1569

By Eva Kratochvil 

Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland

On 14 November, 1569, Thomas Percy, seventh Earl of Northumberland, and Charles Neville, sixth earl of Westmoreland, called on all Catholics to take up arms in defence of their true faith as they occupied the Northern city of Durham. Their main task was to sack the city’s cathedral, destroy Protestant prayers books, overturn the communion table and hold a Catholic mass with the help of their followers. In less than a week, six thousand rebels were marching in support of the Earls proclaiming not rebellion but the defence of Catholicism. The rebels marched under banners depicting the five wounds of Christ while wearing large crucifixes around their necks just as those in the Pilgrimage of Grace[1] had twenty years earlier.[2] As mobilization for the revolt rose, the rebels managed to besiege Barnard Castle and take the port of Hartlepool but it was not long before the forces of Elizabeth I, led by the Earl of Sussex, began closing in around the rebels. Within a couple of weeks the Earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland fled to Scotland and by January, the rising was quelled almost as quickly as it began. As a result, the Northern Rebellion of 1569 was an unsuccessful attempt by the Catholic Northern Earls to depose Queen Elizabeth I in favour of Mary, Queen of Scots, and to restore the old faith to the realm. The aim of this paper is to explore the reasons why the Queen and her agents went to such lengths to put a political spin on the Northern Rebellion prior to and after the Papal Bull of 1570; which was a dangerous document that excommunicated Elizabeth from the Roman Catholic Church and absolved her subjects of any loyalty to her. The consequences for English Catholics after 1569 and the reactions of Protestant pamphleteers will also be discussed at length. To do so, I will begin by examining the motives of the Northern Earls and the role of Mary, Queen of Scots, in their plans to overthrow Elizabeth I while addressing the problems of religious tensions on the English domestic stage.

During ­Henry VIII’s reign (1509-1547), resentment against the Tudor family fostered in the North; Catholic noble families in particular were offended by the King’s efforts to undermine their prestige and traditional religious rights. Henry VIII believed that the lords of the North were becoming “overmighty” and he made practice of promoting gentlemen who owed their status to the King, rather than Lords, in order to tame the traditional powerhouses of the North.[3] Under Henry VIII, important and prestigious titles such as stewardships were given to these “new” but more loyal men. For example, the Earldom of Northumberland, held by the Percy family, was subject to some of the harshest treatments in the King’s attempt to diffuse power in the North. The family’s Catholicism was a point of contention, since Thomas Percy’s father, the sixth Earl of Northumberland, was executed for his role in the Pilgrimage of Grace during Henry’s reign. As a result, most of the Percy lands became royal property and the family title was temporarily suspended after the execution. Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter Mary would restore the old faith to the kingdom upon her ascent to the throne in 1553 and under her reign, the religious affiliation of the lords determined whether they were favoured at court or not. Naturally Queen Mary promoted her coreligionists and the Percy family was one such beneficiary. The Percy’s privileges were restored and they once again assumed their posts, traditionally held by the Earls of Northumberland.

Elizabeth I in 1568
Elizabeth I in 1568

However, favouritism towards the Catholic noble families waned once again when Elizabeth I ascended the throne in 1558.[4] Elizabeth continued her father’s practice of downplaying the influence and power of the Northern lords by promoting members of the gentry, who were loyal to the crown. Once more this placed the Northern families at a disadvantage, especially those of the Catholic faith. For example, Thomas Percy, the seventh Earl of Northumberland, was removed from his post on the commissions of peace because he was a Catholic; this ill-treatment supported his “belief that assaults on the prestige of the ancient nobility and on the traditional faith were closely linked”.[5] Although it is still unclear how the Earls of Westmoreland fared during the reign of Henry VIII, by the 1560s Charles Neville was equally dissatisfied and insulted by Elizabeth’s unfavourable treatment as his family was also deprived of their title and land.[6] Elizabeth’s disfavour of Northumberland and Westmoreland during her reign due to their Catholic faith was certainly a contributing factor to the Northern Rebellion.

The rebels rallied in their discontent with Elizabeth’s government by asking for support from Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots. Mary had sought refuge in England after being chased from her Scottish throne only a year before the rebellion. Mary was a Catholic princess with strong ties to the succession of the English throne because she was Elizabeth’s first cousin once removed; Mary would become a beacon of hope for the return of the old faith and the good old days under the rule of a Catholic monarch. Thus, Mary was vastly implicated in the Earls’ plans and their ambitions to replace Protestant Elizabeth I.

The disaffected Northern Earls used the fact that Elizabeth did not have an heir their advantage. By 1569, Elizabeth was eleven years into her reign and still not married, despite various attempts to arrange suitable matches for her. This created anxiety over the question of succession to the English throne.[7] Shortly before the rising, Mary Stewart was involved in a game of court intrigue in which the Earls secretly attempted to create a match between her and the Protestant Duke of Norfolk, England’s most important noble.[8] While many of the lords involved maintained that the marriage was a solution to the question of English succession and a way to unite the Kingdom under a Protestant monarch, Elizabeth was furious when she heard rumours of the planned union. In 1569, Elizabeth personally confronted the Duke of Norfolk who admitted that there was truth to this plan of marriage but insisted that there was nothing but good intention behind it.[9] Regardless, Elizabeth feared the possibility of such a politically influential match because Mary was not only of the Catholic faith but also the greatest threat to her throne. If Mary married the Duke of Norfolk, she cemented her claims as the true of successor of the English throne. This match was alarming enough to draw the attention of Protestant pamphleteer Thomas Norton, who in his discourse analyzed the possible advantages and disadvantages of such a match. Norton first undertook a detailed “consideration” of Mary Stewart and then of Norfolk before coming to the conclusion that this was a match that would, indeed, be dangerous for Elizabeth.[10] Moreover, matters certainly were not helped when an uncomfortable Norfolk fled the court without Elizabeth’s permission, to inform his allies in the North not to revolt because he feared that it would cost him his life. This only made Elizabeth and her agents more suspicious of Norfolk. Meanwhile, Elizabeth had Mary put under more rigid surveillance as she was already in English custody after rising suspicions of her political motives when she first arrived from Scotland.[11] Norfolk eventually returned to court on the summons of the Queen only to be imprisoned in the Tower of London.[12] The Duke of Norfolk’s imprisonment was a catalyst and the reason why the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland put their plan for rebellion into action.

Since monarchs were believed to be anointed by God, rebelling against Elizabeth was not a lawful action unless the Pope excommunicated her. The Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland wrote to Pope Pius V on November 8 in the hopes of obtaining Papal backing for their cause, but the letter only reached its destination months later.[13] By the time the Pope’s promise of divine and financial aid arrived, Elizabeth’s forces had already managed to quell the rebellion.[14] In the absence of a prompt response from Rome, the necessity to justify the rising became dire; the Earls needed to rationalize their actions or be named traitors to the crown. The Earls needed to find other means by which to justify the rising to the public on whom they counted for support. Like many rebels before them, they declared that they were acting not against the Queen but against the influence of her evil counsellors – namely her advisor, William Cecil, – and in defence of the true faith. On 15 November, after the sacking of the Cathedral at Durham, the Earls proclaimed that they were “the Queen’s true and faithful subjects” and with the restoration of Catholicism as their rallying cry, they hoped to attract many of Elizabeth’s subjects who still practiced the old religion. In their proclamation, the Earls stressed that the rebellion was not born of ill intention towards the Queen but against:

diverse, disordered, and ill disposed persons […] [who] have by their crafty and subtle dealing to advance themselves overthrown in this realm the true and catholic religion toward God, and by the same abuseth the Queen, disorder the realm, and now lastly seeketh to procure the destruction of these nobility”.[15]

The Earls were accusing members of Elizabeth’s counsel of having advanced their positions at court through manipulation and cunning. They had cost the realm its true religion and were now seeking to vilify and destroy the old noble families of England. This declaration proceeded with a call to arms for the defence of Catholicism, restoration of ancient customs and liberties associated with the old religion, as well as a warning against foreign intervention should the Earls not intervene themselves.[16] This may have been an allusion to Elizabeth’s impending excommunication by Pope Pius V. Elizabeth I’s subjects would have grounds to rebel, and foreign Catholic monarchs would be expected to stand against her as well due to their allegiance to Rome. Thus, the Earls reasoned that it was more beneficial to act first in order to prevent such an outcome. Indeed, the Earls decided on the uprising with the hopes of replacing Elizabeth I with Mary Stewart. However, they refrained from mentioning Mary Stewart in their plans partly because they feared for her safety if she was implicated, but mainly because an association with Mary would be incriminating – immediately branding them as traitors and providing the crown with ammunition to discredit the revolt.[17] ­

Although the rising itself was laden with religious symbolism and the actions of Northumberland and Westmoreland at Durham would lead many to believe that the Earls were championing a religious cause, the crown’s response was an immediate denial of religion as the prime motivator for the rising. Elizabeth and her agents had to carefully navigate around the subject of religion since neighbouring territories such as France, Flanders and even Spain had endured the havoc wreaked by conflicts of religion. The French Wars of Religion[18] between the Huguenots and the Catholics was a bloody and terrifying example of what religious divides could do to a Kingdom and Elizabeth wanted to avoid such a conflict in her own realm at all costs.[19] Catholicism was still very prevalent in England, especially after decades of religious change; subjects had to adhere to the religion of the state, which had changed from Protestantism to Catholicism depending on the monarch in power. In 1559, under Elizabeth’s Act of Supremacy, Protestantism became the state religion; however many English subjects adhered to different faiths, which they worshipped in secrecy while publicly conforming to the demands of the state.[20] Elizabeth I was wary of the possibility of civil war in her realm, she and her supporters “knew, or at least believed, that they had too many favorers of the old faith on their hands to make religious truth the focus of their arguments against the risings.”[21] As such their best chance at discrediting the Earls was to deny the religious nature of the rebellion altogether.

Instead of attacking the old religion, Elizabeth and her agents decided to discredit the rebel Earls themselves and turned the rising from a religious conflict to a personal one; the public would have to decide between their loyalty to the State or to the dissenting Earls. The faith of the rebels, the rank and file who followed the lead of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, was not questioned; instead Elizabeth casted doubt on the faith of the Earls themselves.[22] The religious concerns of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland were discredited as nothing more than a cloak under which they could hide their true political ambitions. Elizabeth stressed in a letter written to Thomas Radcliffe, the Earl of Sussex and her lieutenant-general in the North, that even though the rebels “do make religion to be the show of their enterprise”, it was clear that “their intention [was] grounded upon another device”; in fact they sought to “breed the destruction of our faithful and loving subjects”.[23] In essence, Elizabeth I maintained that the Earls were using religion to deceive her subjects. “Declaring Treason of Northumberland Westmoreland,” an official document issued by the crown, decreed that the Earls were traitors and warned that anyone marching under the Earls’ banners would be found guilty of treason as well.[24] On November 28, the Earl of Sussex published his own proclamation and denounced the Earls for the following:

pretending for conscience sake to seek to reform religion, where indeed it [was] manifestly known many of them never had care of conscience, or ever respected any religion, but continued a dissolute life, until at this present they were driven to pretend a popish holiness, to put some false colour upon their manifest treasons.”[25]

According to the Earl of Sussex, the public should not be fooled into thinking that the Earls’ were sincere in their religious convictions, considering that before the rebellion they were rather content in living decadently; Catholicism served only as a disguise for their true political motives. William Cecil would echo these same accusations against the rebels of the North fourteen years later in his document The Execution of Justice in England, demonstrating how hard the crown worked to push this vilifying perception of the Earls by stating:

These notable Traitors and Rebels have falsely informed many Kings, Princes and States, especially the Bishop of Rome, commonly called the Pope (from whom they all had secretly their first comfort to Rebell) that the cause of their flying from their Countries was for the Religion of Rome, and for maintenance of the said Popes authority. Whereas divers of them before their Rebellion lived notoriously, the most part of their lives, out of all good rule, either for honest manners, or for any sense in Religion.[26]

Like the Earl of Sussex, Cecil denied that the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland were rebelling in defence of Catholicism, stressing that they had deceived the public as well as many foreign powers with their false piety. The Earls were no more religious now than they had been before 1569, as their notorious lifestyles before the rebellion seemed to suggest.

Elizabeth I and her supporters were not the only ones to respond to the events in 1569. Thomas Norton was one of many pamphleteers who published responses to the declarations of the Northern Earls during the course of the rebellion. While the crown chose to dismiss the religious element of the uprising, these southern Protestant pamphleteers did not. Some of these texts may have had “quiet sponsorship from the crown, or at least from Cecil”; although they were not state-sponsored, these pamphlets must have been, at least, tolerated by the crown in order to bypass state censorship.[27] In Norton’s tract, he acknowledged that the religious sentiments of the Earls’ followers were sincere but like the Queen, he attacked the integrity of Northumberland and Westmoreland’s religious faith.[28] The Earls did not share the same views as their “poor, deceived” followers; Norton insisted that the rebel Earls were using their Catholic faith to achieve their own treasonous ends.[29] Norton stressed that even if the rebel Earls truly wanted to restore the old religion, they were simultaneously plotting to depose the Queen and bring in the influence of foreign powers in an effort to enrich themselves.[30] In short, Elizabeth I’s subjects had been deceived and the Earls were displaying an “apish counterfeiting of feigned popish devotion”.[31] Pamphleteer Edmund Elvidian’s A Neweyeres gift to the Rebellious persons in the North partes of England warned the rebels to “understand the shame of [their] rebellious deedes.”[32] In his pamphlet A Ballat intituled Northomberland Newes William Elderton spoke of “a Tyborn typpett a coope or a halter, for anye that will not be trew to the Crown,” referring of course to the village of Tyburn which was the principal place for the execution of London traitors.[33] Elderton warned readers that the Northern rebels would “come tomblinge” from the gallows for their crimes just as previous rebels had.[34] It soon became clear through the efforts of the crown and pamphleteers such as Norton, that the rebellion was a lost cause and doomed to fail. Rebels were not making a choice between the Catholic and Protestant faiths; instead they were deciding whether they would remain faithful to the Queen or align their loyalties with the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, a pair of traitors, who bred sedition and disunity.

By December 1569, Elizabeth and her supporters realized that the revolt was ending. The Earls had failed to gain additional support from the other Northern nobles; moreover, the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland’s attempts to use their powers as feudal lords over regions that were less loyal to the Tudors proved to be futile. Even though they listed the names of Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, Henry, Earl of Arundel, and William, Earl of Pembroke as powerful allies in a new proclamation to better legitimize their cause, those implicated in this declaration denied their involvement in the rebellion; other nobles in the region even aided the crown in apprehending the rebels.[35] Northumberland and Westmoreland recognized that their cause was hopeless and thus fled to Scotland just as the Queen’s forces closed in. Although the revolt seemed to be over in early January 1649, Leonard Dacre, an ally of the Northumberland and Westmoreland, who had insisted throughout the conflict on his unwavering loyalty to the crown, gathered together three thousand troops consisting of Scottish borderers and remaining rebels.[36] Under the pretence of resisting the rebels, Dacre and his troops set about plundering English property; a force of 1,500 soldiers was sent to stop him.[37] After the rising was quelled, Elizabeth I entrusted the Earl of Sussex with the task of choosing the punishment for the Northern region. Sussex told William Cecil that he intended to make use of martial law to execute some of the high ranking leaders of the revolt, and men from the various towns that had sent troops in support of the rebels.[38] In every town where there was gathering of rebels – in market towns and large parishes – Cecil asked that some of the lower ranking participants of the rebellion be executed;[39] these rebels were made examples of so as to instill fear and deter future rebellion. This was more easily said than done for Sussex whose task was to find out who had participated in the rebellion. At Cecil’s urging the Earl of Sussex gained his information through the use of torture. Once they had a comprehensive list of those who had been involved in the rising, Sussex selected a number of men in each area to be condemned to death. True to the warnings of William Elderton, the rebels did indeed “come tomblinge downe come tomblinge downe;”[40] the total of executed rebels was eight hundred in the first two weeks of January alone.[41] Although the people in the North paid “a terrible price for this revolt”,[42] these executions displayed royal authority and were meant to send a clear message against any future disobedience to the crown.

After some convincing and interceding on the part of her generals, Elizabeth I offered pardons to the “humbler sort” on 18 February 1570 and then to the rebels under the leadership of Leonard Dacre on 4 March in order to appear merciful and benevolent.[43] Those rebels who were “grievously sorry for their heinous offences past” received the Queen’s mercy and were given clemency; in return the forgiven rebels were bound to live out the rest of their lives as her “true and natural” subjects.[44] To ensure political stability in the North, these pardons were given out to Elizabeth I’s subjects in the counties of York, Durham, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland on the condition that they would never cause disturbance again and remain ever loyal to the Queen and her agents.[45] The rebels swore oaths, which “served as pieces of political theatre redolent with explicitly stark messages about political power, helping both to communicate and construct royal authority”.[46] If Elizabeth I could forgive she could just as easily punish. The fact that Elizabeth had decided to be merciful and pardon these rebels made the power of the Queen’s authority very clear to anyone who opposed her or thought of doing so in the future.

During the rising and in the early months following, the Elizabethan state worked diligently to remove any religious impetus to the claims of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland by denouncing them as traitors who used the restoration of the old faith to cover their true political motives. In April 1570, in response to the Earls’ pleas for help, Pope Pius V issued a Bull excommunicating the Queen and absolving her subjects of any fealty to her; this was an unmistakable declaration of the religious nature of the conflict that Elizabeth I could no longer deny. Nevertheless the crown continued to stress the political nature of the rebellion and its aftermath.[47] When Pope Pius V accused Elizabeth of being a “pretended queen” of England,[48] she was faced with an opponent who had far more influence than her and the potential to truly provoke conflict in her kingdom. Elizabeth I and her supporters were no longer simply dealing with a pair of rebel Earls from the North, but with the head of the Catholic Church. The Pope accused Elizabeth of having reduced the Kingdom to ruin with the adoption of Protestantism as the state religion; he claimed that she had “monstrously usurped” the title of supreme head of the Church of England and all of the authority that came with it.[49] Elizabeth’s challenge to his religious authority gave Pope Pius V a real stake in the Northern Rebellion, consequently he had every incentive to want to help the Earls dethrone her and set Mary Stewart on the throne in her stead. Since the rebellion had failed, the Pope took matters into his own hands by issuing the Bull of excommunication months later. The grievances against the Queen came in the form of a long sequence in the first part of the Bull; Pope Pius V accused Elizabeth I of crimes against the followers of the Catholic faith in England, which included: appointing “false preachers and ministers”, abolishing Catholic ceremonies and traditions, observing a false religion and imposing penalties on those who continued to adhere to Catholicism. As a result, the Pope asserted that she was “a heretic and a favourer of heretics”.[50] The third clause of the document affirmed that Elizabeth I’s crimes had “incurred the sentence of excommunication;” moreover in the fourth clause the Pope declared that she was “deprived of her pretended title” to the English crown.[51] Both Catholic and Protestant “nobles, subjects and people of the said [English] realm, and all others who [had] in any way sworn oath to her” were relieved of loyalty and any fealty towards Elizabeth I.[52] The Pope ordered all of England’s Catholic subjects to disobey her or face excommunication themselves.[53] He also validated the Northern Earls’ concerns about their disfavour at court by demonizing Elizabeth’s practice of purging her royal council of Catholic nobles and giving the positions to Protestants instead.[54] A similar discourse to that of the 1570 Bull also appeared in an earlier brief by the Pope to the Northern Earls which he sent to the Northern Earls after the rebellion was over. In this brief, Pius V lamented how the Earls were forced to live “basely and ignominiously to serve the will of an impotent woman with the injury of [their] souls; furthermore, the Pope stressed that he was deeply disturbed to read of the “miseries and calamities, hitherto unknown, of that highly flourishing country [England].”[55]

William Cecil
William Cecil

Elizabeth was well aware of her impending excommunication before the publication of the Bull and her first strategy was to denounce the Pope’s authority. In A Declaration of the Queen’s Proceedings she emphasized that only God could take her crown away and if her rule went against the laws of the almighty, she would certainly reform her ways, but even then the Pope had no power over her.[56] In 1583, William Cecil reflected on the Northern rebellion in his The Execution of Justice in England; he stated that “by Gods power given unto her majesty, [the rebels] were speedily vanquished.”[57] According to the crown, Elizabeth’s victory against the rebels was given divine sanction and thus she was not going against the wishes of God, for if she had, he would certainly have blessed the rebels with victory instead. In other words, if God had seen no fault in the Queen’s actions, then certainly the Pope was wrong and had no power to deprive her of her crown, or the loyalty of her subjects.

By pushing the religious element of the conflict to the forefront, the excommunication by the Pope essentially made it impossible for Elizabeth I and her court to continue along their path of total denial. Although Queen Elizabeth I’s excommunication caused pamphleteers such as Norton and Elvidian to equate Catholicism with Papistry and treason, she and the English court continued to deny the religious element of the Northern Rebellion. The English crown minimized the role that religion played in the conflict and downplayed its impact by putting a political spin on the Pope’s declaration in order to keep religious dissent under control. Consequently, when the Papal Bull absolved her subjects of their fealty to her by threatening to excommunicate those who chose to remain loyal, the Queen and her advisors were wary. In 1571, the state responded to this challenge by passing an act which made the adoption and execution of any documents from Rome illegal; An Act against the bringing in and putting in execution of bulls and other instruments from the see of Rome stated that “every such act and acts, offence and offences,” would be deemed high treason, and the “offender and offenders therein, their procurers, abettors and counsellors to the fact and committing of the said offence and offences,” would be adjudged “high traitors to the Queen and [her] realm”.[58] The act of 1571 made it clear that anyone who was loyal to the Catholic Church was certainly not loyal to Elizabeth I. Through the publication of this act, the choice between the Queen and the Pope was definitively made for English Catholics and any of them who harboured devotion to the latter inevitably became traitors. Loyalty to Rome now meant a clear acceptance of Elizabeth’s excommunication and deposition.[59] This reasoning allowed the crown to demonize the Northern rebels and to persecute the followers of the old faith, not as Catholics but as enemies of the English state.

Cecil’s treatise The Execution of Justice in England, not for Religion but for Treason demonstrated that Elizabeth I was still reeling from the trouble caused by the Northern Rebellion and sought, through propaganda, to stress that religious dissidence was only to be punished when it threatened the security of the English monarchy. Cecil accused the rebels once more of having used religion as a cloak to “continue their former wicked purposes” and to “take Arms against their lawful Queen, to invade her Realm with Foreign forces, to pursue all her good Subjects and their Native Countries with Fire and Sword.”[60] According to Cecil, the Pope’s promise of divine aid was followed by the Catholic Church’s publication of the “Bulls, Excommunications, and other publick Writings,” which denounced “her Majesty, being the lawful Queen, and Gods anointed servant, not to be the Queen of the Realm, charging upon pains of Excommunication; commanding all her Subjects, to depart from their natural Allegiances, whereto by birth and by oath they were bound.”[61] Though this document was published fourteen years after the rebellion itself, it clearly outlined the crown’s political position concerning her response to the Papal Bull and how it would deal with Catholics in the realm. Cecil went through great pains to demonstrate that before the Papal Bull, Catholic subjects had not been charged with treason. In fact, he argued against critics of the crown who said that Elizabeth was persecuting Catholics simply on the grounds that they held opposing religious views to those of the state religion: “As it may plainly appear, that it is not, nor hath been for contrarious opinions of Religion, or for the Popes authority, as the Adversaries do boldly and falsly publish, that any person have suffered Death since her Majesties Reign.”[62] The Queen wanted to make it clear that Catholics were being persecuted not by virtue of their religious affiliations but because of their loyalty to the Pope, a foreign body who was a political threat to her rule. Although it is possible that the Bull may not have affected the national loyalties of English Catholics who wanted to remain true to the crown,[63] Protestant subjects and especially the Queen, were still insecure. As such, it was safer to assume that all those who identified with the old faith were capable of breeding sedition within the realm, as the Northern Earls had done during the Northern Rebellion.

The Northern Rebellion and the developments that followed in its aftermath provoked a good deal of fear among Protestants in England. Despite the crown’s efforts to remove the religious impetus from the conflict, there were many English subjects who were not convinced that the rising was purely political, which consequently set in motion an onslaught of anti-Catholic sentiment in England. According to the work of Thomas Norton, many Catholics pretended to be Protestant before the Rebellion in an effort to conform with the state’s religion; however, as soon as they heard news of an impending excommunication of the Queen, Catholics stopped attending the Protestant religious services. This, Norton wrote, was how one differentiated between a true subject of the crown and a disloyal one.[64] As a result, Catholics all over the realm were grouped under the category ‘papist’, assuming that all observers of the old faith were loyal to the Pope and thus were traitors.[65] The word ‘papist’ therefore became synonymous with Catholicism but it was ambiguous because its use in the sixteenth century left no room for differentiation between Elizabeth I’s Catholic subjects who held no devotion to the pontiff in Rome and those who did. Nevertheless, Protestant pamphleteers openly criticized papists after the quelling of the rebellion. In 1570, Norton’s pamphlet A Warning agaynst the dangerous practices of Papistes interestingly compared two different types of papists.[66] “Perfect papistes,” he said, were those who regarded the Pope as the head of the Church and refuted by all legal means the rights of a monarch over their realm.[67] As such, not only were they “perfect papists” but they were also “perfect traitors”.[68] He argued that treason was in their very nature, especially against the person of the Queen, because they willingly denied and defaced the “just dignities and authorities of those that beare the name of majestie, and to whom the hyest duty of obedience, faith and alleageance extendeth.”[69] Norton wrote that there were also English Catholics who were not yet “purged of all errors wherwith Rome hath infected them” but had the potential to be rehabilitated.[70] The only difficulty with the papists was that they simply pretended to be dissatisfied with the Pope by renouncing his authority, and then adopted Catholic doctrine when it worked in their favour. Norton believed that these papists were not to be trusted and proved to be extremely dangerous in breeding sedition throughout the realm and should, therefore, be destroyed.[71]

After the publication of the Papal Bull, Norton in A disclosing of the great bull wrote, once again, on the dangers of papists. This time, the pamphleteer argued that Rome had been preparing in advance for rebellion since 1567 through the “gathering of rebelles”.[72] In the eyes of Norton, the Papal Bull of 1570 was nothing more than a vile and slanderous continuation of what had already been planned in the years leading up to the Northern Rebellion. In other words, the Pope had planned to excommunicate Elizabeth I from the beginning. Norton proved such a claim by pointing out that shortly after the official Papal Bull came from Rome, the papists put up a printed copy of the document at Bishopsgate in London and distributed the document to the public.[73] Therefore, papists had access to the original copy to be distributed when the time was right.[74]   Since the act of 1570 made it illegal to circulate any document originating from Rome, the distribution of the document, whether by a Protestant or a Catholic, was considered treason. However, Norton was rather adamant that “no protestant, you may be sure, will traitorously overthrow this estate;” if they did, it was because they were secretly Catholics.[75]

John Phillips, another Protestant pamphleteer who wrote shortly after the rebellion and the Papal Bull, penned A Friendly Larum, or Faythfull Warnynge to the true harted subjectes of England in 1570; in the document he also warned his fellow compatriots of papists and the evil deeds of the Pope. Phillips accused the Pope of having “plaide his parte” in the French Wars of Religion and how he sought to “butcher those, that love and feare God’s name”.[76] These ideas echoed the fears that many Protestants held about Catholics stirring trouble in the political sphere­ and intervention from Rome in the affairs of England. Other pamphleteers took on different approaches by resorting to humour to discredit the Pope and the Northern Earls after the rebellion was quelled. Thomas Preston composed A Lamentation from Rome in 1570, a satirical ballad in which he ridiculed the Earls and their allies in Rome and boasted of their defeat by pretending to be a fly on the nose of Pope Pius V. In his ballad, Preston turned the leader of the Catholic Church into a comical character: he described the pontiff blowing the fly “out of every side” of his nose and “quaking” when he received news that the rebels “weare put to flight”.[77] While pamphleteers such as Norton and Phillips slandered the Pope and the papists who obeyed him, Preston focused on ridiculing the Northern Rebellion and the ambitions of the Earls by turning the Pope’s misery at their failure into a parody. It was almost as if to boast that the ridiculous Earls from the North were never bound to win and that they “[could] [not] prevail.”[78] The sentiments of pamphleteers such as Norton, Phillips and Preston were examples of the growing wariness about Catholicism and the fear of foreign intervention by the Pope after the Northern Rebellion.

The Northern Rebellion of 1569 had every semblance of a religious conflict, a view that the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland worked diligently to promote to the rest of the Catholics in the kingdom. Elizabeth and her agents responded by discrediting the motives of the rebel Earls as nothing more than political ambition and a wish to breed sedition within the realm. This strategy worked to the crown’s advantage for a time and certainly contributed to the defeat of the rebellion. However, the Papal Bull of 1570 forced Elizabeth I to defend her position against the Pope, who attempted to turn her Catholic subjects against her. Anti-Catholic sentiments flourished on the domestic stage and, adherence to the old faith became synonymous with treason; the state had made it clear that loyalty to the Pope meant acceptance of Elizabeth I’s excommunication and deposition. Once again, the crown attempted to present the conflict as a choice between loyalty to the Queen or the Pope. As a result, great efforts were made to emphasize that Catholics were not being persecuted for their religion, but for their loyalty to a foreign power, the Pope. Nevertheless, it was clear that no matter how hard the crown worked to deny the religious element of the rebellion and present it as a political conflict, the works of Protestant pamphleteers and their warnings against the dangers of papists demonstrated that many still believed this was a clashing of the faiths.





Bibliography

Primary Sources

Cecil, William, 1st Baron Burghley. “The Execution of Justice in England, not for Religion, but for  Treason” in A collection of Treatises concerning the Reasons and Occasions of the Penal Laws.  London: 1675 Wing/C5192A. Early English Books Online

Collins, W.E. Queen Elizabeth’s Defence of her proceedings in Church and State. London: SPCK,  1958.

Elderton, William. A Ballat intituled Northomberland newes, wherein you maye see what Rebelles do use. London: 1570 STC # 7554. Early English Books Online.

Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph. The Tudor Constitution: Documents & Commentary. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968.

Elviden, Edmund. A Neweyeres gift to the Rebellious persons in the North parts of England. London: 1570 STC # 7625. Early English Books Online.

Harrison, G.B. The Letters of Queen Elizabeth I. London: Cassell, 1935.

Hughes, Paul L. and Larkin, James F. Tudor Royal Proclamations, Vol. 2. New Haven: Yale University  Press, 1964 – 1969.

Norton, Thomas. A disclosing of the great Bull, and certain calues that he hath gotten, and specially the monster bull that roared at my Lord Byshops gate. London: 1570 STC # 18679. Early English Books Online.

Norton, Thomas. A discourse touching on the pretended match betwene the Duke of Norfolke and the queene of Scottes. Edinburgh: 1569 STC # 13870.3. Early English Books Online.

Norton, Thomas. To the Queen’s Majesty’s Poor Deceived Subject, Drawn into Rebellion by the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland. London: 1569 STC # 18680. Early English Books Online.

Norton, Thomas. A warning agaynst the dangerous practises of papists, and specially the parteners of the late rebellion. Gathered out of the common feare and speche of good subjects. London:   1569 STC # 18685.3. Early English Books Online.

Philips, John. A friendly larum, or faythfull warnynge to the true harted subjects pf England Discoueryng the actes, and malicious myndes of those obstinate and rebellious papists that   hope (as they terme it) to haue theyr golden day. London: 1570 STC # 19870. Early English Books Online.

Secondary Sources

Jones, Norman L. The Birth of the Elizabethan Age: England in the 1560s. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

Kesselring, K.J. “’A Cold Pye for the Papistes’: Constructing and Containing the Northern Rising of 1569.” Journal of British Studies, 43, no. 4 (2004): 417-443

Kesselring, K.J. The Northern Rebellion of 1569: Faith, Politics, and Protest in Elizabethan England.  London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

End Notes

[1] The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular uprising in Yorkshire England in 1536. The uprising protested Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church, the dissolution of the monasteries and the Policies of his Chief Minister Thomas         Cromwell.

[2] KJ Kesselring, “’A Cold Pye for the Papistes’: Constructing and Containing the Northern Rising of 1569,” Journal of British Studies, 43, no. 4 (2004), 426

[3] K.J Kesselring, The Nort­hern Rebellion of 1569: Faith, Politics, and Protest in Elizabethan England, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 43-46

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 46-48

[6] Ibid.

[7] Norman L. Jones, The Birth of the Elizabethan Age: England in the 1560s (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 121

[8] Thomas Norton, A discourse touching on the pretended match betwene the Duke of Norfolke and the queene of Scottes, (Edinburgh: 1569 STC # 13870.3), Early English Books Online, 1

[9] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 34-38

[10] Norton, A discourse touching on the pretended match betwene the Duke of Norfolke and the queene of Scottes, 1

[11] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 34-38

[12] Ibid.

[13] Elizabeth I, Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth’s Defence of her proceedings in Church and State, ed. W.E Collins (London: SPCK, 1958), 53

[14] Ibid.  [14]

[15] Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth’s Defence, 18-19

[16] Ibid.

[17] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 60

[18] This was a civil war fought between the Protestants and the Catholics in France between 1562 and 1598; it involved factional disputes between the aristocrats of the Kingdom.

[19] Kesselring, “’A Cold Pye for the Papistes’: Constructing and Containing the Northern Rising of 1569,” 418

[20] Jones, The Birth of the Elizabethan Age: England in the 1560s, 20

[21] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 149-150

[22] Kesselring , The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 148-149

[23] Elizabeth I, Queen of England, “To Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex,” in The Letters of Queen Elizabeth I, ed. G.B Harrison, (London: Cassell, 1935), 59

[24] Elizabeth I, Queen of England, “Declaring Treason of Northumberland and Westmoreland,” in Tudor Royal Proclamations, Vol. 2, ed. Paul L. Hughes and James F. Larkin, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964 – 1969), 323-325.

[25] Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth’s Defence, 23-24

[26] William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, “The Execution of Justice in England, not for Religion, but for Treason” in A collection of Treatises concerning the Reasons and Occasions of the Penal Laws, (London: 1675 Wing/C5192A),      Early English Books Online, 6

[27] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 153

[28] Thomas Norton, To the Queen’s Majesty’s Poor Deceived Subject, Drawn into Rebellion by the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, (London: 1569 STC # 18680), Early English Books Online, 1

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Edmund Elviden, A Neweyeres gift to the Rebellious persons in the North parts of England (London: 1570 STC # 7625), Early English Books Online, 5.

[33] William Elderton, A Ballat intituled Northomberland newes, wherein you maye see what Rebelles do use, (London: 1570 STC # 7554), Early English Books Online, 1

[34] Ibid.

[35] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 60-61

[36] Norman L. Jones, The Birth of the Elizabethan Age: England in the 1560s, 82-83

[37] Ibid.

[38] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, p. 122; Elizabeth I, Queen of England, “Offering Pardon to Northern Rebels,” in Tudor Royal Proclamations, Vol. 2. ed. Paul L. Hughes and James F. Larkin, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964 – 1969), 336

[39] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 122

[40] Elderton, A Ballat intituled Northomberland newes, 1.

[41] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 122-124, Jones, The Birth of the Elizabethan Age: England in the 1560s, 83

[42] Jones, The Birth of the Elizabethan Age, 83.

[43] Elizabeth I, Queen of England, “Offering Pardon to Northern Rebels,” and “Offering Pardon to followers of Leonard Dacre,” in Tudor Royal Proclamations, Vol. 2, ed. Paul L. Hughes and James F. Larkin, (New Haven: Yale       University Press, 1964 – 1969), 336, Elizabeth I, Queen of England, “Offering Pardon to Northern Rebels,” and      “Offering Pardon to followers of Leonard Dacre,” in Tudor Royal Proclamations, Vol. 2, ed. Paul L. Hughes and         James F. Larkin, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964 – 1969), 336

[44] Elizabeth I, “Offering Pardon to Northern Rebels,” 336 -338

[45] Ibid.

[46] Kesselring, The Northern Rebellion of 1569, 128

[47] “The Papal Bull against Elizabeth, 1570” in The Tudor Constitution: Documents & Commentary, ed. G.R Elton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 416 – 418.

[48] “The Papal Bull against Elizabeth, 1570, 418.

[49] “The Papal Bull against Elizabeth, 1570,” 417

[50] Ibid.

[51] “The Papal Bull against Elizabeth, 1570,” 418

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid.

[54] “The Papal Bull against Elizabeth, 1570,” 416 – 417

[55] Pope Pius V, “Brief from Pius V to the Rebel Earls” in Queen Elizabeth’s Defence of her proceedings in Church            and State, ed. W.E Collins (London: SPCK, 1958), 53-57

[56] Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth’s Defence, 47-48

[57] Cecil, “The Execution of Justice in England, not for Religion, but for Treason,” 6

[58] “An Act against the bringing in and putting in execution of bulls and other instruments from the see of Rome,” in The Tudor Constitution: Documents & Commentary, ed. G.R Elton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,       1968), 418-420

[59] Elton, The Tudor Constitution: Documents & Commentary, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968),    411

[60] Cecil, “The Execution of Justice in England, not for Religion, but for Treason”, 7

[61] Ibid.

[62] Cecil, “The Execution of Justice in England, not for Religion, but for Treason ,” 13

[63] Elton, The Tudor Constitution, 411

[64] Thomas Norton, A disclosing of the great Bull, and certain calues that he hath gotten, and specially the monster           bull that roared at my Lord Byshops gate, (London: 1570 STC # 18679), Early English Books Online, 14

[65] Kesselring, “’A Cold Pye for the Papistes’: Constructing and Containing the Northern Rising of 1569,” 420

[66] homas Norton, A warning agaynst the dangerous practises of papists, and specially the parteners of the late rebellion. Gathered out of the common feare and speche of good subjects, (London: 1569 STC # 18685.3), Early English Books Online, 7.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Norton, A disclosing of the great Bull, 15

[75] Norton, A disclosing of the great Bull, 15-16

[76] John Philips, A friendly larum, or faythfull warnynge to the true harted subjects pf England Discoueryng the actes, and malicious myndes of those obstinate and rebellious papists that hope (as they terme it) to haue theyr golden day, (London: 1570 STC # 19870), Early English Books Online, 8-9

[77] Thomas Preston, A Lamentation from Rome, how the Pope doth bewayle that the Rebelles in England can not preuayle, (London: 1570 STC # 20289) Early English Books Online.

[78] Ibid.

 

Eva Kratochvil is a first year Masters student at Concordia University in Montreal. She is writing her thesis on the perceptions of Henry VII, the first Tudor King, during the reign of his son Henry VIII. 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons