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Catholics in England



The Experience of a Religious Minority


The experience of Catholics in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) provides an interesting example of the difficulties religious minorities faced in the period. Though Protestants were viciously persecuted by the Catholic Queen Mary, the beginning of Elizabeth's reign in 1558 ushered in a period of relative tranquility. The excommunication of Elizabeth in 1570 by Pope Pius V , internal Catholic plotting, and international tension with Catholic Spain, however, changed all of this. Seen as security threats and potential enemy agents, Catholics, and especially continental-educated priests, were increasingly persecuted by the authorities as traitors and enemies of the state.

 

The Jesuit and Catholic martyr Edmund Campion (1540-1581) was the best known of the victims of Elizabeth's persecution of Catholics. Returning to England from the Continent in 1580, Campion was eventually captured, tortured, and executed.

 

This contemporary manuscript is a copy of the interrogation on 22 June 1587 of the Jesuit and friend of Campion, William Weston. The gallows symbol indicated that he was scheduled for execution. Weston avoided this fate, dying in Spain in 1616.


The Examination of Jesuits and Seminary priests. Manuscript, 1587. (Detail).



Anthony Munday. A discoverie of Edmund Campion, and his confederates. London, 1582.




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