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Mary, Queen of Scots

By the time of “Regnans in excelsis” (1570), Mary, Queen of Scots, was already a prisoner in England, and plots and conspiracies swirled around her. If Elizabeth were assassinated, the Catholic Queen Mary could succeed to the throne and bring better days to England’s Catholics. There was a constant tension around this for almost twenty years which was only ended when Mary was executed in 1587, having been found guilty of conspiring against Elizabeth. Her execution was one of the motivations for the Spanish Armada the following year. This was an unconcealed attempt to take over England and return it to Catholicism. Its failure spelled further difficulty for England’s Catholics until the end of Elizabeth’s reign in 1603. All these events mentioned in this and previous posts – the Act of Supremacy (1534), “Regnans in excelsis” and the Spanish Armada - were events which concerned the English but had no direct bearing on Scotland at all. While Catholics in Scotland were largely keeping their heads down, English Catholics were a thorn in the flesh for the English authorities, and tension over their suspected activities was a constant preoccupation of the spy network set up by Elizabeth’s minister, William Cecil, about which you may have seen a recent three-part television series.

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