Monday, October 5, 2018
But by the turn of the 17th century, many within the English Catholic community had some hope for relief. With childless Queen Elizabeth growing older, they pinned their hopes on a successor that would lift these onerous restrictions. While some daydreamed of a Catholic prince or princess from the Continent—a foreign invasion by an alliance of Catholic sovereigns—others fixed their hopes on King James VI of Scotland. Son of Mary Queen of Scots, whom many believed to be a martyr for the faith after her execution in 1587 for allegedly plotting to overthrow Elizabeth, James was the most likely successor. He was married to a Catholic convert, Anne of Denmark, and rumors swirled within Catholic circles (including the Holy See) that James might be open to conversion himself, or at the very least open to Catholic toleration. James did absolutely nothing to discourage such rumors and, particularly with the papacy, encouraged them. After James, while in Scotland, misled Pope Clement VIII about his potential conversion, the pope certainly looked favorably on him. So, when Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603 and James was formally declared her successor, Catholic hopes soared. Such hopes dimmed almost immediately, however, as Catholics noticed that, in honor of his succession, the new King James granted routine pardons to everyone but murderers and Catholics. When the first Parliament of his reign was called for the spring of 1604, King James made his position on Catholics very clear. In February of 1604 he demanded that all priests be thrown out of his realm, and in March he complained bitterly of alleged Catholic growth to Protestant leaders. In April a bill was introduced to class all Catholics as outlaws.