Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Elizabeth, Mary, and Charles

Just a reminder that Anna Mitchell and I will discuss Hilaire Belloc's views of Elizabeth I and Mary of Scotland this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show. Listen live or find the podcast here.

Execution of Mary Stuart, deposed Queen of Scotland

Belloc mentions how much Elizabeth did not want Mary, the former Queen of Scotland, born of Royal Blood, to be executed. Mary had consistently rejected the justice of her trial, arguing that no peers were judging her, because her only peers were Kings and Queens, those born of Royal families. Elizabeth may have known what other monarchs would think if she had Mary executed, but she could not know the precedent her action would set and how it could have led to the beheading of Charles I--and what it would do to the authority of kings and queens in England.

Execution of Charles I, King of England

In the chapter on Elizabeth, Belloc concludes:

Cecil would never have told you that he was the real master of England, and, even though upon a strict examination of conscience he would have had to admit it, he still regarded himself a minister and servant. And she herself, Elizabeth, was of course filled with the idea of her office to the end, that ideal of monarchy which men still held.Yet it was under her that the monarchy of England began to fall to pieces so rapidly that within half a lifetime after her death the rich taxpayers not only rose in rebellion successfully against the Crown, but put their Monarch, her second successor, to death. 

With that event, the beheading of Charles I, the old English monarchy came to an end, and it remained nothing but a simulacrum of itself. Government had passed to the gentry and to their two great committees, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

At the end of the chapter on Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scotland and Elizabeth's heir, Belloc restates his case:

But Elizabeth appreciated what her responsibility would be in the eyes of all Europe, and what an abominable thing it was to bring an anointed sovereign and her own cousin and legitimate heir — for that matter the true Queen of England — to the scaffold. But Cecil was too powerful for Elizabeth; he was her master. The warrant had been signed, but Elizabeth had not given her assent to its being acted upon. Cecil took that responsibility upon himself, and, without Elizabeth's permission, had Mary Stuart beheaded on February 8, 1587. 

The outrage raised a prodigious storm throughout Christendom. Philip of Spain launched the Armada against England to avenge it, and the Armada failed. All this group of events, ending in this failure of the Armada, made up the decisive and final crisis and success of the English Reformation. Thenceforward Cecil's increasingly successful plan was secure, and there could be no going back. 

Very much more follows upon the tremendous business of Mary's violent death at the hands of the English government, the most important of which was perhaps the precedent which it gave against all the morals and ideas of the time, for the trial of a sovereign by subjects — a precedent with a tragic result for her grandson Charles I.

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