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Loyalty Rather than Plots - 1603

Dying Elizabeth probably did not see the bishops' promise of allegiance.


After Elizabeth I ascended to the English throne, Pope Pius V excommunicated her and any Catholic who dared support her. This inspired plots that caused her to suppress Catholics. In a letter dated this day January 31, 1603, Dr. William Bishop and twelve leading Catholic priests repudiated any attempt at a political conversion of England, acknowledged Elizabeth as their lawful sovereign, and said the pope could not release them from their duty to her. Vowing that they were ready to render to Caesar the things of Caesar, they pleaded with her to be allowed to render to the pope the duties that belonged to him. Elizabeth was dying and probably never saw their letter. Catholic plots continued against her successor, King James I.


“A Protestation of Allegiance made by thirteen Missioners to Queen Elizabeth, January 31, 1603…we whose names are underwritten…do acknowledge ourselves infinitely bound unto her majesty therefore, and are most willing to give such assurance and satisfaction in this point, as any catholic priests can, or ought to give unto their sovereigns.

“First, therefore, we acknowledge and confess the queen’s majesty to have as full authority, power, and sovereignty over us, and over all the subjects of the realm…

“Secondly, whereas, for these many years past, divers conspiracies against her majesty’s person and estate, and sundry forcible attempts for invading and conquering her dominions, have been made. . . we will defend her majesty’s person, estate, realms, and dominions from all such forcible and violent assaults and injuries…

“Thirdly, if, upon any excommunications denounced, or to be denounced, against her majesty, or upon any such conspiracies, invasions, or forcible attempts to be made, as are before expressed, the pope should also excommunicate every one born within her majesty’s dominions, that would not forsake the aforesaid defence of her majesty and her realms, and take part with such conspirators or invaders,—in these, and all other such like cases, we do think ourselves, and all the lay catholics born within her majesty’s dominions, bound in conscience not to obey this or any such like censure…

“And therefore we acknowledge and confess the bishop of Rome to be the successor of St. Peter in that see, and to have as ample, and no more, authority or jurisdiction over us and other christians, than had that apostle by the gift and commission of Christ, our Saviour; and that we will obey him so far forth, as we are bound by the laws of God to do…For, as we are most ready to spend our blood in the defence of her majesty and our country, so we will rather lose our lives than infringe the lawful authority of Christ’s catholic church”


Curry, John. A Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland … Vol. II. Appendix XV. DublinL Luke White, 1786.

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