Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cecil's Reign of Terror; Henry IV's Assassin

Just a reminder that Anna Mitchell and I will continue our discussion of Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation, looking at what he thinks of the characters of William Cecil, Lord Burghley and King Henry IV of France this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show. Listen live here about 6:50 a.m. Central time/7:50 a.m. Eastern time.

Belloc writes about the persecution of Catholic during Cecil's tenure:

Meanwhile, of course, open persecution of the Catholic Faith in England could, on the pretext of the recent rebellion, be launched. The old nobility, at the head of which was the Duke of Norfolk, were humbled, and the young Duke himself— though an ardent Protestant— was lured into a position where Cecil, feigning the deepest friendship for him, could bring him to the scaffold — which he did. From that moment, 1572, Cecil was supreme. He was at the height of his great powers, a man just over fifty, and completely dominating the sickly and chafing Queen, in whose name he acted. 

The persecution grew more intense, until it was what I have called it— a reign of terror. But all the time Cecil, working hard upon the natural patriotism of England and insisting that he was only preserving the integrity and independence of the realm, maintained that the shocking executions and universal system of suppression and secret police work were not religious in motive, but only political. He kept to his formula, "that no man suffered for religion, but only for treason."

Cecil had to know that was not true.

Belloc does not point this out, but there's a great irony that Elizabeth, against whom no plot ever came close to succeeding, reigned into her old age; she may have angered both the Catholics and the Puritans, but she died of natural causes. Henry IV may not have pleased either the Catholics nor the Huguenots with his tolerant Edict of Nantes, but he was assassinated by a madman who had been rejected by two religious orders, including the Jesuits--Francois Ravaillac, who stabbed the king in his carriage on Rue de la Ferronnerie. He was tortured and butchered even more brutally than any of the priests found guilty of being Catholic priests, hearing confessions, and saying Mass.

In the meantime:

So, while in England Catholics were persecuted to the death — though still some half of the population — in France the Protestants — though but a small minority outside the noble class — were given all these advantages. They could practice their religion, of course, but, what was much more important politically, they could and did hold these strong places independently, whence they could make war against the Crown and threaten the mass of their fellow-citizens. They had, in particular, among these strong towns that of La Rochelle, an important seaport on the Bay of Biscay, which was as though in England at that time (it was towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth) the Catholics had been allowed to hold Portsmouth and, say, Chester, York, Leicester and a number of other walled towns in the kingdom. 

No comments:

Post a Comment