Saturday, September 29, 2012

Episode Nine of the The English Reformation Today

Today on "The English Reformation Today" on Radio Maria US, I'll cover lots of history by focusing on the religious aspects of the English Civil War, the execution of King Charles I, Interregnum period (when Parliament and Oliver Cromwell ruled), and the Popish Plot during the reign of Charles II--we'll see how far I get in the hour! The plan I submitted to Radio Maria included this summary for today's episode:

Highlight the religious conflict in England leading to the English Civil War; describe the Puritan Experiment in government, including its attack on Christmas. Describe the great religious crisis of the Popish Plot during the reign of the restored Stuart monarch, Charles II--recount the injustice of the trials of the last great wave of Catholic martyrs from 1679 to 1681. Continue the story of Maryland, describing Calvert's heirs and their efforts to inculcate religious tolerance and freedom of religion in their colony--the changing fortunes of Catholics in the Maryland colony during the the Civil War and Restoration.

As I commented, the Stuart dynasty coming to England seemed more stable--unlike Elizabeth I, with no family heir (not even a cousin left, after she got rid of Mary, Queen of Scots and her Grey cousins, Nine-Day-Jane's sister Mary and Katherine)--James I of England had two sons in case the eldest died (and he did) and Charles I had more than two prepared to succeed him. But the Stuart monarchy endured two overthrows--the English Civil War toppled Charles I from the throne and his head from his neck, while the Glorious Revolution of 1688 deposed his son James II and left his son and grandsons to be Pretenders.

Why? I don't think we can ignore how religious division and dissent contributed to this dynasty's troubles, whatever the personal or regal failings of its monarchs--the Tudor model of asserting supremacy and uniformity had left the country divided: Anglican, Puritan, and Catholic. The Catholic opposition, as we know well from the past few episodes, had been driven underground, but a consistent, muted danger to the State. The Puritan opposition remained a force above ground with influence in both Church and State, and it would prove to be the real source of danger to the Stuarts--at least to Charles I and Charles II (in the latter case, when Scotland backed his succession to his father). As I explain in this article, Stuart devotion to the Protestant cause was always suspect until after the Glorious Revolution, as the first four Stuarts seem to "flirt" with Catholicism, with Catholic wives and catholic (lower case) sympathies:

From the beginning of the Stuart dynasty in England, there seemed to be uncertainty about how loyal the kings from James I to James II were to the Church of England and to Protestantism.

At the beginning of his reign, James I wanted to hold an ecumenical council with the Pope! He also negotiated a treaty with Spain for his son and heir Charles to marry the Infanta. That treaty, like the one eventually signed when Charles married Henrietta Maria of France, sister of King Louis XIII, allowed the foreign bride to remain a Catholic, to have priests at Court as her chaplains and confessors, and to have a chapel in which to worship-and even promised leniency to Catholics. On the other hand, Parliament did not think that James I did enough to support his own son-in-law, the Elector of the Palatinate in Bohemia, when he lost the Battle of the White Mountain, defeated by Catholic forces in 1620. The Catholicism of James' wife, Queen Anne, didn't help, although they became estranged soon after he succeeded to the throne of England. She did not receive Anglican communion at their coronation ceremony, however, and that was pointed.

Charles I indeed allowed his wife that freedom and members of his Court were often concerned that his uxoriousness might lead him to become Catholic. Henrietta Maria was a devout Catholic, processing to Tyburn Tree to honor the Elizabethan and Jamesian martyrs, refurbishing her chapel in the latest baroque style, and attracting converts. The presence of the Capuchin friars and the celebration of Catholic Mass shocked and disturbed Anglican courtiers. When Parliament was not in session, Charles indeed showed leniency to Catholic priests and Henrietta Maria often pled for clemency. Parliament indicted her for treason during the Civil War and she fled the country for exile in France. The religious conflict between Puritans in Parliament and Charles I's arminian High Church Anglicanism contributed to the causes of the Civil War and the execution of the the king in 1649 after he lost.

Charles II returned to England in 1660 in the security of the re-established Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer, the Authorized Version of the Bible, and the monarchy. He married a Catholic princess, however, Catherine of Braganza, and refused to divorce her even though she bore him no sons. He treated her as well as possible considering his rampant infidelity, maintaining both Protestant and Catholic mistresses-thus the occasion when Nell Gwynn called out to the crowds jostling her carriage, "Good people, I am the Protestant whore!" If Charles's cabinet had known what he had agreed on May 26 in 1670, they would have been stunned. Although they did not know about the secret contents in the Treaty of Dover (no one did until the 19th century), they knew that Charles attempted to extend freedom from the penal laws to Catholics in his Declaration of Indulgence in 1672. He had to back away from that move when Parliament rejected his proclamation, and for a time seemed to turn more toward Protestant interests on the Continent, allying with William of Orange against the French. Imagine the surprise when they discovered that he had converted on his deathbed, encouraged by his Catholic brother. . . . (You may read the rest here)

I welcome all listeners of Radio Maria US to my blog, whether you're listening on one of their radio stations or on line or through one of their apps. I invite you to call in with questions and comments toll-free at 866-333-MARY(6279). Just a reminder, too, that podcasts of previous episodes of The English Reformation Today are available on the Radio Maria US website. Next week: The Long Eighteenth Century for Catholics from the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Jacobite Pretenders, to the first Catholic Relief Acts!

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