Peacemaker - the new King
On the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, many hoped that
the atmosphere of religious tension would diminish. Her heir
was James VI, King of Scotland. James was a Protestant like
Elizabeth but he thought of himself as a peacemaker.
King James VI of Scotland and I of England by John De Critz
the elder, c. 1606. National Portrait Gallery, London.As
the son of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, he was also
expected to be much less severe against the Catholics than
Elizabeth had been. Some Catholics even believed that he might
lift the persecution, and allow them to worship freely.
But the King was under pressure from many members of the
House of Commons who were strongly anti-Catholic. He also
became less sympathetic towards Catholics following the discovery
of a series of minor Catholic plots. The 'Bye Plot' of 1603
was a conspiracy to kidnap the King and force him to repeal
anti-Catholic legislation whilst the 'Main Plot' was an alleged
plan by Catholic nobles to remove the King and replace him
with his cousin, the Catholic Arabella Stuart.
James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603. Although
a Protestant, his wife Anne of Denmark converted to Catholicism;
one of a number of factors that led many Catholics to hope
for toleration under his rule.
In 1603, fifteen years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada
in 1588, England and Spain were still at war. With Philip
II and Elizabeth I now dead both sides became keen to bring
the war to an end.
The Somerset House Conference, unknown artist, c. 1604. National
Portrait Gallery, London.The peace conference at Somerset
House in 1604. The Spanish and Flemish commissioners are on
the left, the English on the right. Robert Cecil, the King's
chief adviser is seated on the front right of the painting.Spanish,
Flemish and English commissioners met at Somerset House in
London in summer 1604 to settle the details of the peace.
Catholics hoped that the Spanish would press for toleration
of the English Catholics in the peace negotiations. In fact
they failed to obtain any concessions at all.
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