Imágenes de páginas

it were cut in brass; for before that year was there never any capital or severe punishment inflicted upon any of her subjects, as they had relation to the Romish religion, by the laws formerly made. But just then began that proud and vast intention of Spain to conquer this kingdom, by little and little to shew itself. Of this the principal prat was to stir up by all means a party within the kingdom of such as were ill-affected to the state, and desirous of innovation, that might adhere to the foreigner at his landing. For this they had no other hopes than the difference in religion; wherefore they set it down to pursue this course with all their power : and the seminaries at that time budding, priests were sent into England to plant and disperse a love to the Romish religion; to teach and inculcate the power of the pope's excommunication in freeing subjects from their allegiance, and to awaken and prepare the minds of men to an expectation of a change. About the same time Ireland also was attempted by an invasion, and the queen's name and government traduced by sundry and scandalous libels. To be short, there was an unusual swelling in the state, the forerunner of greater troubles : yet I will not affirm, that every priest which was sent over was made of the council, or privy to the enterprize, but that some of them became the wicked instruments only of other men's malice. Notwithstanding this is true, and witnessed by the confessions of many, that almost all the priests which were sent into this kingdom from that aforenamed year, unto the thirtieth year of Queen Eliza


beth's reign, at which time that design of the pope and Spain was put into execution, by those me. morable preparations of the navy and land forces, had in their instructions, besides other parts of their function, to distil and insinuate into the people these particulars : “ It was impossible things should con“tinue at this stay : they should see ere long a great “ change in this state ; that the pope and Catholic “ princes were careful for the English, if they would “not be wanting to themselves." Again, sundry of the priests did manifestly interpose themselves into those consultations and plots which tended to the undermining and ruining of this kingdom: and, which especially moved her, letters were intercepted out of divers parts that discovered the true face of the plot; in which was written, that they doubted not to go beyond the vigilancy of the queen and state in the matter of Catholics; for the queen would only have an eye lest there should arise any fit head, in the person of some lord, or other eminent gentleman of quality, under whom the Catholics might unite; but they had thought upon another course, as namely, by private men, and those but of mean rank, that should not confer, nor scarce know of each other's employments, to prepare and mature the business by the secresy of confession, And these were their engines, the which, as hath appeared since in a case not much unlike, are usual and familiar to that order of men. In this great deluge of danger, there was a necessity imposed upon Queen Elizabeth to restrain, by some sharper bands of laws, that part of her subjects which

were alienated from her, and had drunk too deep a draught of this poison ever to recover; and further, which by their retired living, and exemption from public offices, were grown very rich : and moreover, the mischief daily growing, when as the cause thereof was ascribed to none other than the seminary priests, who had been nourished in foreign parts, and received exhibition from the bounty and alms of foreign princes, professed enemies to this state ; and

: who had conversed in such places where the name of Queen Elizabeth was never heard, but as of an heretic, and excommunicate, and accursed person; and who, though themselves, sometimes, had no hand in treason, yet they were known to be the intimate friends of them that had. And lastly, who by their arts and poisons had infected and soured the mass and lump of the Catholics, which before was more sweet and harmless, with a new kind of leaven, and desperate maliciousness: there could no other remedy be devised, but by forbidding such persons to enter into this kingdom upon pain of their lives; which at last, in the twenty-seventh year of her reign, was accordingly done. Nay, and when the event itself had confirmed this to be true, I mean

I immediately after that the dreadful tempest arose from Spain, threatening no less than utter desolation, yet did it nothing mollify or turn the edge of these men's malice and fury, but rather whetted it, as if they had cast off all natural affection to their country. As for the times succeeding, I mean after the thirtieth year of her reign, though indeed cur fear of Spain, which had been the spur to this rigour, had fairly breathed out, or was well abated; yet considering the memory of times past had made so deep impression in men's hearts and cogitations, and that it would have seemed either inconstancy to repeal those former laws, or sloth to neglect them, the very constitution of things did suggest to the queen, that it was not safe to reduce them unto that state wherein they had continued until the three and twentieth year of her reign. Hereunto may be added the industry of some persons in improving the revenues of the Exchequer, and the zeal of some other ministers of justice, which did never think their country safe, unless the laws were rigorously executed; all which did importune and press the execution of the laws. Notwithstanding, the queen, for a manifest token of her royal nature, did so dull the edge of the laws, that but a very few priests, in respect of their number, did suffer death. Now all this which I have said is not by way of defence, for the matter needs it not; for neither could this kingdom have been safe without it, neither were the proceedings any way comparable or of kin to those bloody and unchristianly massacres in the Catholic countries, which proceeded merely from rancour and pride, and not from any necessity of state: howsoever, I hope I have made my first assertion good, that she was moderate in the point of religion, and that the change which happened was not in her nature, but

upon the necessity of the times. Now for the constancy of Queen Elizabeth in VOL. 3.



religion, and the observance thereof, I know no better argument than this, That although she found the Romish religion confirmed in her sister's days by act of parliament, and established by all strong and potent means that could be devised, and to have taken deep root in this kingdom; and that all those which had any authority, or bear any office in the state, had subscribed to it; yet for that she saw it was not agreeable to the word of God, nor to the primitive purity, nor to her own conscience, she did, with a great deal of courage, and with the assistance of a very few persons, quite expel and abolish it. Neither did she this by precipitate and heady courses, but timing it wisely and soberly. And this may well be conjectured, as from the thing itself, so also by an answer of her's which she made upon occasion. For within a very few days of her coming to the crown, when many prisoners were released out of prison, as the custom is at the inauguration of a prince, there came to her one day, as she was going to chapel, a certain courtier that had the liberty of a buffoon, and either out of his own. motion, or by the instigation of a wiser man, presented her with a petition: and before a great number of courtiers, said to her with a loud voice, “ That “ there were yet four or five prisoners unjustly “ detained in prison; he came to be a suitor to have “ them set at liberty; those were the four Evan“ gelists, and the Apostle Saint Paul, who had been long shut


in an unknown tongue, as it were in prison, so as they could not converse with the

« AnteriorContinuar »