Filling in the Blanks: Catholic Hopes for the English Succession


  • Victor Houliston


English Catholics, both at home and abroad, were faced with difficult choices as the question of the succession became increasingly acute in the last decade of Elizabeth’s reign. In an attempt to analyse the complexity of Catholic expectations and manoeuvres, this article examines the actions and writings of three prominent figures: the courtier-poet and recent convert Henry Constable, the Jesuit leader Robert Persons, and the layman Sir Thomas Tresham. Their relations with King James VI of Scotland illustrate the precariousness of his position, and their interactions during this period of shifting allegiances call into question some received assumptions about the divisions within the English Catholic community. Close attention to their writing also reveals the significance of an appeal to a chivalric code of honour in these politico-religious negotiations.


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