Political violence and persecution
The title page of this book says that it was by 'Stephanus Junius
Brutus' - a false name. It was widely thought to be the work
of a French Protestant nobleman. Vindiciae contra Tyrannos,
Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library. In the sixteenth
century many people found themselves on the wrong side of
the religious divide. Protestants in Catholic countries and
Catholics in Protestant countries could be seen as heretics
or allied to foreign powers.
In many places religious minorities were persecuted. Some
communities pledged loyalty to their government while peacefully
exercising their own religion but some defiantly justified
Sixteenth-century Kings were seen as being appointed, or
at least sanctioned,
by God. To kill or remove them was against God's law, as well
as against human law. But some communities now thought their
monarchs were infringing God's laws by suppressing the 'true'
religion, or promoting heresy.
The most powerful sixteenth-century call for the people to
rise up against an ungodly monarch, Vindiciae contra Tyrannos
(Argument against Tyrants), was published in France in 1579.
King Henry III of France had tried to negotiate an end to
the religious war in his country but in 1589 was murdered
by a Catholic priest. His successor, Henry IV, subsequently
accepted the Catholic faith, bringing the war to an end in
1598 by providing for toleration for the Protestants.
Trustees of the British Museum.
Persecutions contre les Catholiques, par les Protestans Machiauellistes
en Angleterre, Richard Verstegan, Theatre des Cruautez des
Heretiques (1607) By permission of the British Library.Over
In England, Elizabeth I's government became increasingly nervous
of the activities of the Catholic minority. 100 Catholic priests
were executed during the reign of Elizabeth I. The government
of the time thought it essential to the country's security
to capture Catholic priests and sometimes used torture to
get confessions or evidence.