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Leicester's Commonwealth: The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (1584) {file 1}

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Scanned and reprinted from
Peck, ed., Leicester's Commonwealth: The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (1584) and Related Documents (Athens and London: Ohio University Press, 1985).


The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (1584) and Related Documents

Edited by

Ohio University Press
Athens, Ohio

Introduction and Notes © copyright 1985 by D. C. Peck.
Printed in the United States of America.
All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Leycesters commonwealth.
Leicester's commonwealth.

Bibliography: p.
Includes index. 1. Leicester, Robert Dudley, Earl of, 1532?-1588. I. Peck, D. C. II. Title.
DA358.L5L54 1985 942.05'5'0924
ISBN 0-8214-0800-3


Frontispiece right: Woodcut illustration depicting vengeance taken upon the Earl of Leicester, the bear chained to a ragged staff (from Discours de la vie abominable . . . le my Lorde de Lecestre, 1585, British Library 10806.a.10). Used with permission.

To Calvin G. Thayer

Appendices with Related Notes


The tract known as Leicester's Commonwealth is a fascinating book that deserves to be better understood than it is. It has of course been widely read and quoted, but whereas it was once relied upon by serious historians in their remarks upon the Earl of Leicester as if it held the secret "inside" truths about the Elizabethan Court, in this century it has too often been dismissed almost contemptuously as a negligible pack of unsavory lies, that "scurrilous pamphlet." Neither view seems accurate or productive. The purpose of the present edition is to make the book more readily available in a context of supporting references that should help readers better weigh its real value, in general and in any given passage. To this end, I have inclined to fullness in the annotations and other references, risking tedium, I fear, in order to supply as many leads as possible for further investigation. In the Introduction I have ventured some remarks about the political themes in the book, and I have argued that the book was written by Charles Arundell and his circle; I have dwelt at some length on the activities of this group of men, largely because far too little is known about them at present. But the most interesting question - to what extent the book's image of Leicester is an accurate representation of the man himself - I have left largely unanswered. The time has not yet come finally to end controversy on that point, and I have made only a few safe suggestions concerning it.

It will be sufficient to say that the traditional image of Leicester has long been very like the image found in this book. The Commonwealth and its progeny have provided the only coherent picture of him in his time; directly and indirectly they have informed every discussion of the Earl into the present century. As one writer has put it, "Seldom can the attempt to transform a living man into a legendary monster have had such a complete and lasting success" (Waldman, p. 171). A more critical interpretation has been slow in coming, but the tide has shifted, and just latterly we have been beneficiaries of a renewed interest in the man, with new studies, including the Earl's first biographies in modern times, attempting more balanced appraisals. Nevertheless, there has been no very clear sense of the man to be found: Was he a responsible statesman and man of principle or a mere opportunist, a worthy adviser to the Queen and commonwealth or a profligate, a grafter, even a murderer? Modern writers have ceased to see him simply as the black sheep of the Golden Age, and indeed a few are becoming quite sympathetic toward him; it is not impossible, however, that we risk moving too far in that direction.

It seems to me that now that we have thrown off the monochrome image originally created by Leicester's Commonwealth and have begun to assess his career, his character, and his role at Court afresh, it is necessary also to examine the "black legend" of his life in all its details. In our investigations of individual charges, in this and the other libels against the Earl, we find few to be entirely true, but few to be entirely false - no more than a handful can safely be ignored by anyone seeking to understand the Earl's part in the Elizabethan play, and it must not be thought sufficient to disprove an important allegation by observing that it came from Leicester's Commonwealth. Derek Wilson, for example, noting that the Commonwealth 'names names' in its circumstantial attack, dismisses the book in part because "they are mostly the names of obscure men (supposing they lived at all) of whom we can now find no trace" (p. 256). But this is not true; we can indeed trace nearly all of those names. Tracing them by no means proves that the allegations are true, only that there is more to be learned about the allegations if we will seek to do so. I hope that this edition, with its annotations and comments, will push forward that examination and provide as much aid to others as is possible at this stage, whilst making more widely available one of the most entertaining pieces of defamatory writing ever seen in English.

This edition of the Commonwealth originated in my doctoral dissertation, presented in 1972. Not long thereafter, I began a collaboration with Dr. Peter Roberts of the University of Kent at Canterbury, with a view to using the occasion of the publication of such an edition to study the Earl of Leicester's role in Elizabethan Court affairs some detail. Dr. Roberts contributed many references for the edition in its present form, but unfortunately other commitments have prevented him from being able to help bring the envisaged project to completion at this time. A confident assessment of the administrative history residing behind the Commonwealth's portrait is a very considerable undertaking, requiring rather more knowledge and space than is available in the present instance, and it must therefore await a future venture. In the meantime, much of Dr. Roberts 's work has been incorporated in the following pages, though I must take full responsibility for the opinions expressed and the uses to which his leads have been applied.

I also owe debts of gratitude to Elizabeth Greed Peck, Professor Calvin G. Thayer, the late Professor Frank B. Fieler, Dr. Thomas H. Clancy, S.J., and Jane Wilson, all of whom, in their own ways, contributed much to the completion of this project.

Leysin, March 1983


For permission to quote from materials in their custody, I wish to thank the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, D.C.), the Syndics of the Cambridge University Library, the Governors and Guardians of Archbishop Marsh's Library (Dublin), the University Library of the University of Durham, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the Rectors and Fellows of Exeter College, Oxford, the keepers of the Durning-Lawrence Collection in the University of London Library, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, the University of Chicago Press, and of course the British Library. I cannot let pass this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the librarians of these and the other collections in which I have studied for their unfailing courtesy and tireless assistance.


Full reference to printed works may be found in the Bibliography.

A.P.C. Dasent, Acts of the Privy Council (cited by years covered).
C.R.S. Publications of the Catholic Record Society (cited by volume number).
C.S.P.Calendar of State Papers (cited by series and years covered).
Camden, Elizabeth.Camden, Historie of the Most Renowned and Virtuous Princess, Elizabeth. Richard Norton's translation of 1630. (W.T. MacCaffrey's edition of selected chapters, 1970, contains many of the cited passages.)
D.N.B.Dictionary of National Biography.
H.M.C.Historical Manuscripts Commission reports.
Hardwick State Papers. Yorke, Miscellaneous State Papers.
Hatton Memoirs.Nicolas, Memoirs of the Life and Times of Sir Christopher Hatton.
Nichols, Progresses.Nichols, Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth.
O.E.D. Oxford English Dictionary.
S.P.London, Public Record Office, State Papers (cited by series, volume, and document).
S.T.C.Pollard and Redgrave, Short-Title Catalogue . . . 1475-1640.
Sidney Papers.Collins, Letters and Memorials of State.
Tudor Proclamations.Hughes and Larkin, Tudor Royal Proclamations.


Robert Dudley (1532?-1588), Earl of Leicester and Queen Elizabeth's long-time favorite, was the subject of scandal from the very beginnings of the Elizabethan era. His influence with the new Queen was openly resented in 1559, and his "freedom" with her person excited protestations from observers both foreign and domestic throughout the next few years. His rapid rise through virtually all the ranks of power and dignity offended the conservative old nobility, and his ostensibly ornamental status as Court favorite in the 1560s rankled many of the rising class of less glamorous royal servants, among them William Cecil. The Earl, perhaps more than any man at Court during the entire reign, gave his associates ample reason to dislike him.

It is well known today, for example, that at the time of his first wife's death in 1560 he was widely believed to have had her removed in order to clear his matrimonial path to Elizabeth. In 1570 he was rumored to have had two children by the Queen, and by March 1581 the number had grown to five; it was being said that the Queen "never goeth in progress but to be delivered."1 A certain Charles Ratclif and others were examined in May 1577, and two gentlemen were expelled from the Court in August, all for slandering him; in February 1580 the Earl's dealings in North Wales brought forth "certain Welsh rhymes or libels" against him. Traditions current in the Sheffield and Holles families - of Leicester as poisoner - have been preserved in the family Memorials, and grievances peculiar to the Howard clan, often related to the Duke of Norfolk's execution, appear in many documents, as well as in Leicester's Commonwealth itself.2 Examples of anti-Leicestrian gossip could be multiplied indefinitely.

At least by 1580, Leicester was coming in for attacks in print as well, but it is not generally recognized that they came from two more or less distinct directions. One derives from his personal role in the Court, both from his relations with individual courtiers and suitors, especially those of the more conservative families, and from his opponents in factional struggles at Court, most notably in the hectic maneuvering of 1579-1581 surrounding the Queen's proposed marriage to "Monsieur," Francis Duke of Anjou (1554-1584), the heir to the French throne. The other derives more generally from his position among the most influential leaders of the regime, particularly in his growing identification as a leader and protector of the Puritan party at Court. This association had begun by the early 1570s or earlier still, when his advocacy of domestic and foreign left-Protestant causes had begun to assume a public consistency, but it had only become dangerous to the organized Catholic opposition as government harassment of priests and recusants was stepped up around the end of the decade and as his ability to influence the Queen's foreign policy toward more adventurous courses began at last to be taken more seriously in foreign capitals.

As to the first sort, on 30 July 1580 Lord Burghley's ill-fated agent Dr. William Parry reported from Paris that a slanderous book had just appeared "whereunto . . . in requital to that which was written against Monsieur and his ministers in England the lives of the Earl of Leicester and Sir Christopher Hatton are added."3 And when Leicester's Commonwealth first showed up in 1584, Secretary Walsingham asserted that he had heard of "such an intent" three years earlier in a similar context; although he was mistaken in identifying our book with whatever work he had received notice of (perhaps Parry's), it is into this genre that the Commonwealth and its immediate relatives must be placed, the tradition of opposition to Leicester at Court resulting largely from personal animosities and from the French-marriage negotiation. The tract reflects a continuing resentment over the thwarted end of the Anjou courtship, and the nature of its grievances very strongly reflects the Court affiliations of those years.

Leicester's leadership of the Puritan cause and his role both in formulation of national policy and in the persecution of Catholics occasioned attacks upon him in De persecutione Anglicana (1582) by Father Robert Parsons (or Persons), S.J. (1546-1610), where the Earl was linked to Walsingham's and Huntingdon's cruelties toward the recusants and priests.4 Later, Dr. William Allen (1532-1594), de facto leader of the English Catholics abroad, fulminated against him in his Admonition to the Nobility and People of England (1588), repeating there some of the charges first found in the Commonwealth.5 In the Flores Calvinistici, the Commonwealth's accusations are retailed again as part of an attempt to discredit the whole Protestant cause in the religious troubles in the Netherlands, where the Earl had taken command of the anti-Spanish military forces. This strain may be said to have included Leicester in more broadly focused propaganda rather from institutional motives than from personal ones, that is, because he was a prominent member of the regime. The mainstream of Catholic exile propaganda, however, which after about 1580 is represented chiefly by the writings of the Allen-Parsons party, by and large neglected Leicester. To the Catholic cause in general, Lord Burghley was far more often the principal target, as the putative architect of the Settlement that had disenfranchised a Catholic majority at home and looked soon to be interfering in unstable situations on the continent. The regnum Cecilianum, not the Leicestrensem rempublicam, was the watchword of most resistance literature.6 After the Babington Plot of 1586, Secretary Walsingham too began to become more frequently associated with Burghley in the obloquy.7 The Commonwealth's malignant preoccupation with Leicester as a man, its sympathy and respect for both Burghley and Walsingham, suggest more specialized interests than would ordinarily have concerned the Allen-Parsons party, interests that derive from the French match and from factional intrigues at Court.

Leicester's Commonwealth first appeared in 1584. The confusion of these two strains began fairly early, for the book's traditional association with Robert Parsons originated some fifteen years later among his enemies in the Roman Church itself. English government officials seem never to have suspected Parsons during their search for the author, but the legend of "Parsons' Green-Coat" (evidently from the coloring of its leaf edges) was picked up by such Protestant writers as Thomas James in the hysterical years following the "Jesuit" Gunpowder Plot and has been with us, with few demurrers, until this century.8 There is even an old tradition to the effect that Parsons wrote the book from materials supplied to him by Lord Burghley himself.9 In 1957 Father Leo Hicks, S.J., undertook to sever the connection in an article that studied in detail the origin of this attribution, and if he had not done so, the religious attitudes that underlie the book should have rendered the idea of Parsons's authorship most implausible long ago.10 Although Parsons certainly had more to do with the book than either he or Hicks was prepared to admit, as we shall see, the tract can be shown to have emanated, not from Parsons's "Jesuit" party, but from a group of lay Catholic exiles, partisans of the Queen of Scots, who were based principally in Paris, more specifically from a subgroup among them composed of formerly pro-Anjou courtiers recently hounded from the English Court (in their view at least) by Leicester himself.

With only slight oversimplification, the Commonwealth's purposes may be briefly defined as three. The first was to defame the Earl of Leicester in both his private life and his public role, and there seem to be two motives for doing so: a practical motive, to introduce the Earl as a new scapegoat for the rising tensions of the time, thereby diverting malevolent attention from the Queen of Scots; and a personal one, to vilify a hated enemy. The second purpose was to advance again the Scottish claim to the crown of England, chiefly for Queen Mary but newly with her son James in mind as well. The third was to attempt to calm the growing religious anxieties in the realm (in part by writing them off to Leicester's agency) and thereby to procure more favorable treatment for the Catholics at home. The latter two purposes require a reasonable, convincing tone; the first, on the contrary, may well benefit from outrageous charges, salacious details, and a sometimes hysterical tone, not so much to convince as simply to guarantee the book will be read. The Commonwealth weaves these three purposes together with admirable logic, and it executes each of these tones masterfully, but it fails signally to solve a basic problem - that however sound the logical connections, these tones do not conjoin easily in the same book. Inevitably, the shrill bitterness seldom far beneath the surface in the discussions of Leicester have almost entirely occluded the nobler purposes. Neither in its own time nor very often since have readers responded to the less defamatory themes; in effect, if not in intent, the book is only a libel. It is to the libelous parts that government and imitators reacted, and it is the libelous parts that have had lasting effect on historiography.


The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge first attracted the notice of the English government in August or September 1584.11 Almost immediately it became known by the more familiar Leicester's Commonwealth, though the phrase is actually used only once in the text. Hugh Davies referred to "the Earl of Leicester his Common Wealth" in September 1586, and by 1599 the priest William Watson was giving the new title currency at home and on the continent.12 At least seven of the contemporary manuscript copies of the tract use this title, and on 2 December 1619 the Lady Anne Clifford recorded having had "a book called Leicester's Common Wealth" read to her by a servant.13 It later appeared on the title pages of the book's 1641 reprints. Although the Commonwealth's authors made use of much material of somewhat earlier date, the final writing seems to have taken place in the late spring of 1584. In the tract both Leicester's son, Robert Lord Denbigh (died 19 July 1584), and the Duke of Anjou himself (d. 31 May/10 June new style 1584) are spoken of as alive, and we may therefore conclude that the book was written no later than the end of June. In the text it is observed that the Lord Deputyship of Ireland will doubtless be filled to Leicester's good liking, but a marginalium, perhaps added while the book was in press, supplies the name of Sir John Perrot, who departed for his new post on 12 May 1584;14 this may suggest that the printing was in progress no earlier than late May. Thus in all probability the production of the tract can be narrowed to about June, or in any case to summer, 1584.

On 24 August Ambassador Stafford reported from Paris that "the books to answer [Burghley's] The True Execution of Justice in England . . . are now come out," one of which books he identified as Dr. Allen 's Defence of English Catholics, the other of which (if more than one was meant) may have been the Commonwealth, as it also makes reply to Lord Burghley's tract.15 Father Parsons administered from his bases in Paris and Rouen an elaborate system of devices for the transport of books and seminary priests into England, and he had written earlier in August that the lay brother Ralph Emerson had just opened two new routes and brought in eight hundred books, which may have included copies of the Commonwealth.16 On Emerson's next trip in, however, he was certainly bearing a consignment of Commonwealths, and both he and his cargo were seized by the authorities.17 He was committed to the Poultry Street Counter in London, after interrogation, on 26 September 1584.18 Immediately realizing the potential for scandal that the book presented, the government set about trying to determine its provenance. Lord Mayor Osborne sent a copy to Secretary Walsingham, who in turn read it and deduced from its Marian objectives that it had been set out by her supporters abroad. Writing to Leicester on 29 September, he guessed that "the author thereof is [Thomas] Morgan, the Queen of Scots' agent in France, and as I gather by the course thereof he hath been assisted therein by the Lord Paget, Charles Arundell, and [William] Tresham"; and he reported that he had taken steps to see that the confiscated copies did not get about. He ends, "It behooveth us, considering the malice of this time, to walk very warily in our callings."19

Despite the facility of Walsingham's attribution, it soon appeared that no one was yet certain of its author. Leicester himself sent Richard Hakluyt, Stafford's embassy chaplain, back to Paris in October with a demand that the ambassador find out where and by whom it had been published.20 Stafford, who seems always to have known a good deal more about the Commonwealth than he ever told his superiors, replied on 29 October, "I have done what I can to know where they were printed, but far as I can by any means find or hear, they themselves [the English Papists] say in England or in Flanders, which I think to be true, for it hardly can be done either at Rouen or here but I should know of it."21 Earlier in the same letter, however, he had mentioned that the books had been brought into Paris by a man calling himself Stinter, who had just come out of England and who "was the next day dispatched to Rouen back again"; this must suggest the possibility that "Stinter" had obtained copies of the tract whilst in Rouen en route to Paris. One prominent member of the lay exile group, Thomas Fitzherbert, was based in Rouen, and so at this time was Stephen Brinkley, formerly Lord Paget's man, who had managed Father Parsons's secret presswork in England in 1580-1581 and who, a few months after the Commonwealth's appearance, was helping the Jesuit and George Flinton get out the second edition of Parsons's devotional work The Christian Directory in that city.22 Although the writing of the tract was most probably done in Paris, where most of the exiled courtiers principally resided, the printing seems quite likely to have been done in Rouen, therefore, perhaps on George Flinton's press (copies of the Commonwealth were being stored with Flinton in the following year) and perhaps on the press of George L'Oyselet, who in 1584 was also printing another Marian tract, Leslie's Treatise Touching the Right, from which much material in the Commonwealth was directly taken and which has very similar (though not identical) presswork.23

Leicester had many enemies, in and out of government, who charged him with many crimes. Many of the charges seem to have been at least partially true. But he was still a Privy Councilor who, for better or worse, enjoyed the favor of the Queen, and so, even though the Commonwealth speaks of Elizabeth, Burghley, and Walsingham in the most solicitous and kindly terms, the government treated the book as an attack, not upon Leicester the man, but upon the entire regime and upon the Queen from whom Leicester drew his power. Walsingham had confiscated one consignment, but evidently other copies had got through, for on 12 October in a quite remarkable move a proclamation was issued from Hampton Court that struck out against seditious books in general but was clearly occasioned principally by Leicester's Commonwealth and Allen's Defence (see Appendix E). In it, the Queen denounced its abominable lies in general terms and required all copies to be surrendered; amnesty was offered to all persons who immediately brought in their copies to the authorities, but those possessing copies who did not come forward were to face indefinite imprisonment. The proclamation did not suffice. On 16 December a bill against "scandalous libelling" received a second reading in the House of Lords and was sent into committee, from which it seems never to have emerged, presumably because the provisions of 13 Elizabeth, cap. 1 (1571), against discussing the succession to the crown, were considered adequate to the Commonwealth's transgressions.24 On 17 March following, a similar bill was read to the Commons and rejected, probably because the Puritan members feared it could be turned against themselves.25

The widespread audience the book was enjoying is attested to by evidence of its circulation: in April 1585, for example, a copy found its way in to William Shelley, a state prisoner in the Tower, and back out again without detection, and it was being read so openly at Court that the Earl of Ormonde teased Sir John Harington by greeting him in the Earl of Leicester's presence with "Good morrow, Mr. Reader." When asked by Leicester what he read, Harington blushed and ("God forgive me for lying") answered, "They were certain cantos of Ariost."26

A further indication of its popularity is the fact that these official efforts to suppress it were to continue for some time. Pressure was brought upon King James of Scotland, and on 16 February 1585 there issued from Holyrood House a proclamation against the "Letter of Estate written by a Scholar in Cambridge," that book so "full of ignominious and reproachful calumnies" recently "publicly dispersed in sundry hands within our realm"; James strove to vindicate "the honor and reputation of our right trusty and right well-beloved cousin the Earl of Leicester."27 Then in June 1585 an even more extraordinary plan was conceived; circular letters were sent out to officials in several (and possibly all) counties from the Privy Council, alluding to the proclamations already made but complaining that despite them the very same "shameful and devilish books and libels have been continually spread abroad." The letter went on to deplore the Commonwealth's charges against the Earl, "of which most malicious and wicked imputations her Majesty in her own clear knowledge doth declare and testify his innocency to all the world" (Appendix E). Evidently, as in the case of the Marprelate attack, the government felt obliged not only to suppress the Commonwealth's slanders but to deny them as best it could as well.

Sometime during the winter of 1584-1585, Sir Philip Sidney also determined to defend his uncle's reputation, and he did so in a hastily written pamphlet now known as the Defense of Leicester.28 Intended evidently for publication but neither published in his own time nor, apparently, very much circulated in manuscript, the Defense rather obviously sidesteps the Commonwealth's direct calumnies upon the Earl's morals and concentrates instead upon refuting what had actually been only a secondary line of attack, the charge that Leicester was newly risen from base lineage - Sidney's lineage on his mother's side was, of course, identical with Leicester's own. What seems to have enraged Sir Philip more than anything else about the Commonwealth, however, was that he was ignorant of its author's name and did not know to whom he should give the lie; this should indicate that Leicester too and presumably Walsingham had reached no conclusions about its authorship.

In any case Sidney's Defense did not find print, probably because the government was understandably wary of opening up a public disputation on the subject of the Earl's morals. One recalls that when in 1573 the publication of the Treatise of Treasons so deeply offended Lord Burghley, he drafted notes for a rebuttal but eventually followed Archbishop Parker's advice, that "some things are better put up in silence, than much stirred in."29 In this and other cases, although there was no settled policy, the officials chose rather to offer categorical denials in the Queen's name than to risk detailed self-exculpations.

Meanwhile the government's search for the persons responsible continued. In May 1585 the French ambassador in London reported that Leicester was still on the hunt for its perpetrators,30 and Bernardino de Mendoza, the former Spanish ambassador in London, now stationed in Paris, wrote on 1 June that Stafford had been told to bring pressure to bear upon the authorities there; he asserted that the man who had translated the book into French was an Englishman and, without naming him, spoke as if the man's identity were known.31 Thomas Rogers (alias Nicholas Berden), perhaps Walsingham's best agent, learned in April that one thousand copies of the tract were in the custody of the printer Flinton in Rouen.32 Later in the year, having infiltrated the exile community in Rouen, he reported that he had won Thomas Fitzherbert's confidence and had been offered the use of his Paris residence, "the lodging of Charles Arundell when he is at Paris"; but "if I be lodged there," he continued, "I must lodge amongst a great number of the libels in French that were written against the Right Honorable the Earl of Leicester."33

In addition, interrogations were being made of all state prisoners who might have had any knowledge of the book or its authors. Sylvan Scory, the Bishop of Hereford's scapegrace son, was examined on 12 February 1585. He "never saw the book" but "hath heard talk of the said libel . . . commonly at tables." George Errington was examined on 30 August 1585 about a man who had been intercepted at Scarborough bearing copies of the Commonwealth. Hugh Davies gave evidence on 6 September 1586 about a Robert Atkins who had extolled the book's virtues to him at offensive length. William Wigges, on 22 June 1587, professed to believe the Commonwealth "worthy to be burned." In early 1586 Ambassador Stafford's own man, one Lilly, was detained in London and examined for complicity. And in early 1585 Robert Poley, the "Pooley" whom the Commonwealth calls one of Leicester's henchmen, was also interrogated for possessing a copy.34 It seems, however, that at no time did the English government come to any conclusions about the identity of the Commonwealth's authors.

By the spring of 1585 a further complication had developed, the appearance in Paris of a French translation of the Commonwealth entitled Discours de la vie abominable . . . le my Lorde de Lecestre, the "libels in French" to which Rogers alluded just above. On 30 March Stafford reported to Walsingham that he had heard of it; said to have been printed at Rheims, he related, it had a "villainous addition" tacked onto it. He professed to fear the scandal that would result, and as he had advised when the English version had first appeared, he recommended that he not be ordered to attempt having it suppressed; since his "nearest have a touch in it" (that is, since it mentioned his wife, the former Douglass Sheffield), he might be suspected of personal motives. His greatest fear, however, was that he would be blamed for it, or at least associated with it in Leicester's wrath: "If you command me I will send you [one] of them, for else I will not, for I cannot tell how it will be taken." Neither had he written to Leicester about it, for he "would be loth to do anything subject to bad interpretation." At the end of his dispatch, it appeared that he had known something about it for some time, something that as far as we can tell he had never reported: "I have kept it from the beginning that the other [the Commonwealth] came out from translating here, for [Thomas] Throgmorton was even then in hand with it, and by means that I found left it off, and ever since it hath slept, and is but now of a sudden gushed out."35 To his personal patron Lord Burghley he wrote on the same day the same news, again recommending that the whole matter be left alone. He ended with the same reservation: "If your Lordship will command me, I will send you one as soon as any doth come, but else I will not, for the Earl of Leicester is ever subject to take not well that which cometh from me."36 Perhaps significantly, Walsingham did not command Stafford to send a copy; little more than a week later, he had his own man bring one to him, and Stafford felt constrained to enclose a copy to Burghley on 10 April for balance.37

The French edition is an extremely close and accurate translation of the Commonwealth, pretty certainly an attempt by the same men to give Leicester's notoriety a continental coverage, motivated presumably by the same partisan animosity that occasioned its original. Its "villainous addition" (included here as Appendix B) is aimed more pointedly at a French audience and expends considerable energy upon charges against the Earl, such as his subversion of the Duke of Anjou in the Low Countries, which might particularly offend the French reader. Moreover, there are signs that this addition was considered by its author to be the second installment of a continuing campaign against the Earl; he mentions further translations into Latin and Italian shortly to appear (but which, so far as is known, never did) and promises that other men shall "add from day to day such his actions as the time shall discover . . . as soon as they can receive more large advertisement from England, from whence there is already gathered, as I hear, a good quantity that shall be augmented from more to more."38 Gone from the addition are the Commonwealth's corollary concerns with toleration for English Catholics and the succession to the English crown; here full attention is devoted to Leicester and his Puritan allies.

There is other evidence that a continuing campaign against Leicester had been intended. On 9 March 1586, Sir Francis Englefield, formerly Principal Secretary in Mary I's time and a leading spokesman for the English Catholics at the Spanish Court, wrote a curious letter to an unknown correspondent wherein he linked the Commonwealth's attack upon the Earl to a larger propagandistic undertaking that, in lieu of armed might, must be their only weapon against the English government. In it he wondered at several omissions in the Commonwealth's charges and suggested several new charges to be included in subsequent ventures.

Instead therefore of the sword, which we cannot obtain, we must fight with paper and pens, which cannot be taken from us. The two books of Justice [Allen's Defence] and Leicester's life have raised the building much. Let the same therefore be followed and backed with some pamphlets of like kind fresh and fresh from time to time. The accusation of the Queen of Scots in Throgmorton's confession, her removing from [the Earl of] Shrewsbury to the custody of the Earl of Leicester his allies, their bait at Tutbury being more than half way from Sheffield to Killingworth, and the Oath of Association [of October 1584], excluding whatsoever successor they list to say attempted aught to this Queen of England's annoyance, be all excellent points to be laid forth in proof and confirmation of that which is already set down of the Earl of Leicester's practices. Among which I marvel how the death of the Duke of Lennox was forgotten, and how the King of Scots and his father were pretermitted . . . where mention is made of the Lord Charles [Stuart] and his daughter Arbella, whereat I warrant you some skittish humor will both stumble and kick.39

Despite Englefield's suggestions, however, the French translation was the second and last extant production from the exiled courtier group.

Leicester's Commonwealth, however, if it had no more continuations, did leave its mark elsewhere. In February or March 1586 a tiny Latin pamphlet, the Flores Calvinistici, was cast abroad in the Netherlands, in two editions, with the intention of discrediting the Protestant cause there.40 Written by one Julius Briegerus, it includes scandalous anecdotes concerning a number of prominent figures, amongst them Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cranmer, John Knox, and Jean Calvin, but principally concerning Leicester himself. Over one third of its length (some thirty pages) is devoted to the Earl, who was by that time leading the anti-Spanish military effort in the Low Countries, and virtually all of its material concerning him is abstracted from Leicester's Commonwealth.41 In the few years following, the Commonwealth was used as a source several times more: loosely, though extensively, in the very amusing twenty-page prose tract in manuscript that comically portrays the Earl's vain attempts to enter Heaven and his subsequent reception in Hell, and in the rather inept manuscript diatribe known as the "Letter of Estate"; and, more exactly, in Thomas Rogers's long poem "Leicester's Ghost."42 Its presence can be felt in numerous short poetical squibs against the Earl,43 and it was relied upon or alluded to by such various authors as Camden, Harington, Naunton, Robert Parsons and William Allen, Thomas Wilson, {Thomas Nashe} and John Webster, among others. But its original authors were apparently able to add no more to it. Within four years of the book's first appearance, the Paris lay exile group was dispersed - Charles Arundell was dead, Thomas Lord Paget soon to die, Thomas Morgan just released from the Bastille and soon to be imprisoned in the Netherlands - and both Leicester himself, against whom it had been written, and Mary, Queen of Scots, for whom it had been written, were also dead. The next defense of the Earl to appear, the brief prose "The Dead Man's Right" printed anonymously in The Phoenix Nest in 1593, arrived, as its title implies, posthumously.44


It would be impossible now, as it was for the English government in its own time, to identify with certainty the person responsible for Leicester's Commonwealth; for one thing, it is evidently the work of several people (which partially explains the diversity of its subject matter and intentions), and for another, we encounter considerable disingenuousness in the statements of those who, like Parsons, Stafford, and Morgan, must have known more about it than they ever told. Nevertheless, by means of what external evidence survives of contemporary attempts to determine its authorship and by means of study of the book's attitudes and interests, we can reach a reasonable certainty about the group of men by whom the tract was produced.45 The nucleus was composed of Catholic laymen, ex-courtiers who, like Charles Arundell (1540-1587) and Lord Paget (d. 1590), had been members of or attached to the conservative Howard clan and who after two decades of setbacks and renewed hopes had finally been driven from Court by Leicester, Walsingham, and their adherents. Charles Arundell (as will appear) is the man who must be considered central to this group and to the production, and therefore a brief survey of his activities and affiliations both at Court and, after 1583, on the continent will shed light upon the book itself. Arundell was himself a part of the larger Howard family and would have had easy access to those anti-Dudley traditions that passed among the discontented members of that ancient, conservative, and for the most part Catholic house.

The Howard line proper, of importance since the 1200s, had risen sharply in the mid-fifteenth century and was headed from 1483 to 1572 by the successive Dukes of Norfolk. The clan's principal Elizabethan representative was Thomas, the fourth Duke, son of Surrey the poet and the premier peer of the realm. He was executed in 1572 for his activities in behalf of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her religion, a Roman faith in which, though he denied it on the scaffold, he seems to have believed as much as his temperament allowed him any strong beliefs at all. His eldest son, Philip, later Earl of Arundel, died in the Tower in 1595 after more than a decade's imprisonment for his faith; Norfolk's younger brother, the learned Lord Henry, had been an avowed Papist since the midseventies and received frequent imprisonments of his own for his intrigues in behalf of Queen Mary, until in the next reign he came at last into royal favor.46 It was to this family, more largely conceived, that Arundell belonged and to which his fortunes were bound. His own father, Sir Thomas Arundell of Wardour, had fallen with Somerset and been executed on Tower Hill on 26 February 1552; it was said that Leicester's father, the Duke of Northumberland, had kept the jury under long restraint until it returned a verdict against him.47 Charles had thereafter been taken in by the Howards. Through his mother, sister of Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, he was second cousin to Thomas the fourth Duke and to Lord Harry his brother; he was cousin-german to the Earl of Oxford as well, and second cousin to Queen Elizabeth herself. And he was first cousin once removed to Thomas Radcliffe (1526?-1583), third Earl of Sussex, the principal patron of both the cause of Anjou's marriage and the Court party that fought to bring it to success.48 He was also thus related to Ambassador Sir Edward Stafford and to his wife, the Lady Douglass (called Lady Sheffield, from her former marriage), of the Howards of Effingham. These two had long shared the most vehement animosity toward Leicester, the reasons for which will be evident in the text. To them Arundell turned during his exile from England after November 1583, and although his frequenting of Stafford's house in Paris more than once landed him in trouble among the members of the exile community, whilst there he must have found an inexhaustible supply of slanderous anecdotes concerning the Earl.

The origins of the Court group to which Arundell belonged went back some years. During the late 1560s the party lines that were to endure with little alteration for the next two decades and more had already become drawn. As a representative of the old nobility, the Earl of Sussex, once returned from his service in Ireland, had developed something of a history of enmity toward Leicester the opportunist "upstart," as had Sir William Cecil, though more temperately and for different reasons. The young Duke of Norfolk had become a close friend to Sussex, but in 1569 Sussex was residing in the north as Lord President, and without the older man's guidance Norfolk had become involved in a plot to marry the Queen of Scots and to remove Cecil, another "new man," out of his position of influence and into the Tower. The ascertainable details of this intrigue have been recounted elsewhere,49 but it seems that in some way Leicester had joined its ranks and that when the Queen learned of the affair, he betrayed Norfolk's complicity to her. The contemporaneous Rebellion of the Northern Earls made the matter seem more serious than it probably was, and the Duke came under the gravest royal suspicion. When, not long afterward, he held renewed secret correspondence with Mary and this so-called Ridolfi Plot came to light, he paid the price of his indiscretions, being executed on 2 June 1572. Although Norfolk was much at fault in this matter and by 1571 was certainly verging upon genuine treason, the Howard clan for many years afterward felt that Leicester had been the real culprit, that by luring the Duke into the original plan and then informing upon him, Leicester had initiated the young man's downfall; this interpretation is the one found in the Commonwealth and in the other complaints emanating from the Howard interests.

Following Norfolk's execution, the circle of his kinsmen and allies, despite his brother Henry's confinement to Lambeth Palace at the time, seems to have survived with not much loss of favor. The Earl of Arundel was readmitted to the Council. The Duke's cousin and friend the Earl of Oxford married Secretary Cecil's daughter in December 1571, and in May 1573 it was reported that "the Queen's Majesty delighteth more in his personage and his dancing and valiantness than any other."50 Charles Arundell, referred to as "the Queen's Servant," was one of the courtiers accompanying the Earl of Lincoln's embassy into France for the signing of the Treaty of Blois in April 1572.51 On 2 June (the same day as Norfolk's execution) he received a grant for life of the reversion of the office of Captain of Portland Castle, and in October 1574 he received, "for his service," the office of Receiver of Crown Lands in the counties of Wilts, Southampton, and Gloucester, with an annuity of one hundred pounds.52 But then things began to turn sour. In spring 1574 Oxford was implicated belatedly in a 1571 attempt to effect Norfolk's escape abroad; he rashly fled to the continent, but despite (or because of) a hearty welcome from the English exiles there, he sensibly returned at the Queen's command.53 In early 1575 Lord Harry was reimprisoned after the confessions of Henry Cockyn revealed his renewed correspondence with the Queen of Scots.54 By the mid-1570s these two men and their friends, amongst them Arundell, had begun to form a dangerous and unstable group with an accumulation of grievances against the state in general and, it seems, against Leicester in particular. As John Bossy has aptly put it, "They had about them a certain sense of 'outness.'"55

Most of these men had had deep family roots in the Catholic faith before this, but at some time during these years Arundell, Lord Howard, and another kinsman, Francis Southwell, were formally reconciled to the Roman Church. In mid or late 1576, Oxford too, despite having been raised in Lord Burghley's household, was converted through Arundell's agency.56 Henceforward, their fates were committed to that of their religion; nevertheless, their papistry seems always to have been rather an expression of their traditional upbringing and their Court associations than of any intensely held convictions, a reflection, as it were, of the old nobility's resentment of upstart men and the upstart faith. This sheds light upon the Commonwealth's attitude toward the role of religion in matters of state policy, for Arundell and his friends held views that, like those of the book, were clearly as much the views of the courtier as of the Catholic. Still, they constituted a politically useful faction of discontented persons at Court, and in 1577 they were even engaged in abortive discussions with the French ambassador concerning various wild schemes for the advance of their faith.

In midsummer 1578 Arundell accompanied an embassy led by Secretary Walsingham into the Low Countries, intended by England to exclude French aid to the Protestant rebels. The mission failed, however, largely because Walsingham' s promise of English aid was disavowed by Elizabeth, and Walsingham and Leicester appear to have believed that Arundell, who had slipped away from the English party, had been responsible for the Queen's vacillation.57 At the same time the dormant French-marriage negotiations were being reopened; Burghley had sent his follower Edward Stafford to Anjou's mother in mid-May, and by summer the battle lines at Court were being drawn up.58 The Earl of Sussex went quickly to the head of the promarriage party, and Lord Burghley, albeit with his characteristic restraint, was firmly on that side; both of them, like Leicester's Commonwealth, saw the match as a peaceful and inexpensive way to maintain a balance of power against Spain.59 Leicester and Walsingham, bent upon an anti-Spanish crusade and at the same time distrustful of the Catholic French monarchy, soon took up the cudgels for the opposition. Adherents flocked to both sides; to Leicester's group came his brother Warwick; Warwick's father-in-law, the Earl of Bedford; Leicester's own father-in-law, Sir Francis Knollys; Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir Thomas Smith, and others of their persuasion. Before long the weight of influence began to fall against the match. In spite of Elizabeth's apparent inclination toward marrying and her obvious affection for Anjou's agent Jean de Simier, who arrived in January 1579, the party opposed to marriage soon seemed sufficiently strong to carry the Queen to a negative decision.

In order to gain further supporters for the marriage, the French ambassador in London, Mauvissière, decided to make use of the contacts he had recently made with Oxford's group and others among the discontented Catholic gentility. Anjou himself had the reputation of being quite moderate in his Catholicism, but the Papist courtiers were clearly led to believe that once he was safely ensconced in the Queen's chambers, all good things would follow for them.60 Norfolk's son Philip, then still styled the Earl of Surrey, the Earl of Northumberland (brother of the attainted Papist rebel of 1569), Oxford, and the old Earl of Arundel joined the group, men all related in some way to one another and to Sussex and all with a record of enmity toward Leicester. Stafford joined, and Lord Henry Howard, each of whom wrote a tract in favor of the match.61 Many of the Queen's ladies, among them Stafford's mother, also helped in the delicate business of influencing their mistress. As negotiations dragged on and the Queen blew hot and cold, the strain began to tell upon the Court, and it showed up in many ways: There occurred during this summer of 1579, for example, in late August, the famous "tennis court quarrel" between Oxford and Leicester's nephew Philip Sidney, who was soon to incur disfavor himself by writing against the match at his uncle's behest.62 And just before Simier's arrival, in early November 1578, Sussex was grievously insulted by Leicester's ally Roger Lord North.63

Open alliance with the Court Catholics, however, had its drawbacks for Mauvissière, for it added fuel to Leicester's Puritan backers, who were successfully igniting popular opposition to French papistry from their pulpits (their arguments are contemptuously described in Leicester's Commonwealth). Simier and the ambassador were becoming desperate; the problem of her suitors' Catholicism had thwarted others of Elizabeth's courtships before this one, and now, in summer 1579, they regretted ever having helped religion to become an issue. Just before Anjou's first visit, amid the opposition's attempts to prevent his getting a passport, Simier played his trump card; on information provided him by Arundell and Howard, he informed the Queen of Leicester's more or less secret marriage to the Countess of Essex, which had taken place nearly a year earlier.64 The effects at first seemed all that he could have hoped for as Leicester and Walsingham were banished from Court, Anjou's passport was signed on 6 July, and talk circulated that Catholics were to be sworn onto the Privy Council, among them the Earl of Northumberland and the Viscount Montagu.65 In many ways this false dawn of Catholic hopes is the central political event behind Leicester's Commonwealth; as Professor Collinson has said, "There was the chance of a real palace revolution."66

But it failed. By the end of summer Leicester had returned to the fray and clearly the moment had passed; the Council, in its meeting of 2 October 1579, would no longer advise in favor of the match unless the Queen expressly willed its members to do so. The arguments went back and forth; the Queen turned that way and this; and although Simier was packed off to Paris in November with some inconsequential articles of marriage, the affair dragged on through the next year. During 1580 the hysteria occasioned by Dr. Sander's ill-fated Papal invasion of Ireland, by the Jesuit mission into England, and by the rumored "Holy League" on the continent finally turned Mauvissière away from his Romish allies at Court as he had no use for a relationship that could only work against him. Persecution of Catholics throughout the realm was beginning in earnest at about this time; the Catholic group, though it still supported Sussex and his "peace" platform, was becoming isolated from its chief strength as its adherents found they could no longer trust the French to be working toward common objectives.

During the Christmas season of 1580, Leicester unveiled his answer to Simier's revelation of his marital status. Intent upon rendering Sussex's allies politically useless, he successfully weaned the unstable Oxford away from his friends. The young nobleman confessed to the Queen his intrigues of 1577 with the French ambassador and accused his coreligionists of conspiracy against the state. When his confession and accusations were not immediately believed, he allegedly offered Arundell a thousands pounds to verify his charges and focus the blame upon Howard and Southwell; Arundell, according to his own testimony, refused the offer.67 Elizabeth told Mauvissière that she had known of the religious persuasions of Howard, Arundell, and Southwell all along but esteemed the men highly anyway, especially in light of their support for her marriage; "she would close her eyes to it" as long as it was not found to go deeper.68

When, shortly afterward, Leicester presented to the Queen Oxford's formal statement of his charges against the others,69 Howard, Arundell, and Southwell received word of their imminent arrest from an unnamed friend on the Privy Council, and the former two took refuge in the Spanish ambassador's house in the middle of the night. Although he had never spoken with them before, Mendoza saw in his hospitality a chance to win valuable contacts; he wrote that Howard was "as intimate with the Earl of Sussex as nail with quick" and that he had "much friendship with the ladies of the privy chamber, who inform him exactly what passes indoors."70 Indeed, in several of his dispatches of 1582 he indicated that Lord Howard had accepted his offer of a pension and was providing him with "constant information." Soon after their resort to him, however, Howard and Arundell gave themselves up and were committed to the custody of gentlemen.71 Mendoza reported on 9 January that Leicester had begun to spread rumors, with an eye to discrediting "their close friend" Sussex, that they had been "plotting a massacre of the Protestants, beginning with the Queen."72 If Leicester was indeed guilty of such hyperbole, the Commonwealth's later attack upon him is no more than repayment in kind.

These tangled affairs shed light upon the elements of Leicester's Commonwealth. Arundell's group appears to us as a circle of men of high connection, of considerable if temporary favor with the Queen; they had participated in the short-lived rise of Catholic hopes at Court and had been intimate with the means of knowing everything that "passes indoors" through their contacts with the Sussex group in the Council and the ladies nearest Elizabeth herself. But at the same time they were men who because of their religion were politically vulnerable to the opposition's devices. Their "outness," to recall Mr. Bossy's term, led them into shady dealings with the French ambassador. As their cause came temporarily into favor, they ascended into the center of things, but the reasons for their outness never left them and were soon to drive them into still shadier dealings with Mendoza, whose dispatches home soon began to reflect the Arundell-Howard view of Court life, a view remarkably similar to and often verbally echoing that which we find in the Commonwealth. The events of 1579 and 1580, then, explain much in the 1584 book's complex of attitudes, including a veneration of Sussex, as the patron of their cause, a respect for Lord Burghley unusual in Catholic writing, as he too had been their patron, and most of all a virulent hatred for Leicester, the source of all their misfortunes past and present.

Oxford followed their arrest with a flurry of vicious charges against them, most of them frivolous and absurd but some of which must be taken more seriously, especially those involving conspiratorial meetings concerning the Queen of Scots held at Northumberland's Petworth estate in Sussex.73 Arundell and Howard riposted with several spirited attacks upon Oxford's personal character as well as his activities; these display the same formidable talent for scurrilous invective for which the Commonwealth is notorious, and many of them anticipate some of the charges it later levelled at Leicester. For example, Arundell tells of how Oxford hired assassins to murder various men, the Earl's attempt upon Mr. John Cheke supposedly having been revealed to the writer "by the discovery of a gentleman that serves this monster and would not consent to such a villainy,"74 a strategy employed in the Commonwealth. Another document in Arundell's hand was apparently intended to sow division between Oxford and Leicester; it charges Oxford with planning to accuse Leicester of a number of crimes-of storing munitions at Kenilworth under the pretext of supplying fireworks for the Queen's entertainment, of being the only means by which any man could win a suit with the Queen, of knowing of the Earl of Essex's death before it occurred, of "affirming further that he was able to make the proudest subject to sweat that would oppose himself against him, and that he had made the Duke of Norfolk stoop notwithstanding all his bragging" - all of these charges later repeated in the Commonwealth.75 We may, if we wish, consider this period a perverse sort of apprenticeship in defamation.

The Catholic gentlemen remained in restraint from late December until the following autumn; Oxford, when the delivery of his child by Anne Vavasour in March seemed to confirm some of their charges against him, had been remanded to the Tower, later to be released to house arrest in midsummer. The friends of the disputants worked vigorously for resolution of the matter, but the Queen would not entirely free Oxford until he had confronted his antagonists; he in turn would not confront them until after he had been set free. Both Arundell and Howard wrote pleas for intercession to Walsingham and Hatton, whom they appear to have considered sympathetic to their plight;76 this may partially account for the Commonwealth's strangely softened attitude toward both these men. With Hatton at least they appear to have been fairly successful, for on several occasions Arundell thanked him for various kinds of succor and finally expressed his satisfaction that Hatton, in some capacity, "shall have the hearing of my cause."77

Little more is known about the disposition of the matter; the hearing, if there was one, would have been held in October 1581. On the nineteenth of that month, Sussex was sending to Arundell his cautiously worded assurances of what little help he could offer, and on the twenty-seventh Howard, by that time having been released, was attempting a burying of hatchets between himself and Leicester.78 Nevertheless, as late as May 1583, Walter Raleigh was reporting that the Queen was still concerned about the entire affair and was thinking of reopening it.79

By this time the issue of the Anjou marriage had become rather a dead letter, and in February 1582 Anjou was conveyed home from his second visit, with ten thousand pounds in his pocket and a promise of more, but without a wife; for some while the whole idea of a match had been reduced to a pawn in the game of obtaining favorable conditions in an Anglo-French alliance against Spain. To the Commonwealth's authors, however, who had such a stake in the successful conclusion of the marriage, its eventual failure was the result of Leicester's own handiwork, "for his own private lucre."

In these Court intrigues of 1578-1581 reside the formative influences of the Commonwealth's partisan attitudes. These years saw the peak of the Arundell-Howard party's fortunes, and they saw the abrupt reversal of those fortunes in the arrest of its principals and in the dissolution of the marriage cause. Over the next few years Arundell and his friends were in relative retirement, continuing their contacts with Mendoza and working in behalf of the Queen of Scots and the passage of her correspondence (as the spy Henry Fagot reported in April 1583 specifically of Lord Howard and Francis Throgmorton).80 They were perhaps attempting as well to render financial aid to their exiled friends.81 Leicester, for his part, continued to hunt down the adherents of the Sussex group; William Tresham, for example, a Catholic Gentleman Pensioner, wrote to Sussex from Paris on 27 January 1582, apologizing for his abrupt flight from the realm without prior consultation but saying that fear of Leicester had left him no alternative.82 In return, the Papist courtiers were striving to undermine Leicester's position when they could. To instance one case, in early 1583 two of the Catholic gentlemen, Thomas Lord Paget and the Earl of Northumberland, were urging each other to inform the Queen of Leicester's "practices" against her.83

In September 1583 Charles Paget, brother of Arundell's friend Lord Thomas, was sent into England by the Duke of Guise to consult at Petworth with local Catholic magnates about support for a planned invasion of the Sussex coast. While there he talked with his brother, with Northumberland, and with William Shelley of Michelgrove; whether he actually carried out his conspiratorial mission has been doubted by some recent scholarship, but certainly the government was becoming concerned about the increase in exile activities.84 Accordingly, having missed Paget, Walsingham ordered the arrest of Francis Throgmorton, who had been under careful surveillance since the preceding spring. On 4 or 5 November 1583 Throgmorton and his papers were taken, and on the same day or thereabouts Lord Harry Howard was brought in as well. Lord Paget and Arundell immediately began preparing for flight; and when on 23 November Throgmorton was again put to the rack, they fled to the Sussex coast and crossed over to Dieppe.85 By early December everyone implicated in their flight or in Charles Paget's mission had been detained and interrogated, and the Earls of Arundel (Philip Howard) and Northumberland were placed under arrest; the former remained in confinement, with one year's intermission, until his death in 1595, while the latter was placed first with Leicester's ally Leighton and then in the Tower, where he is alleged to have committed suicide in June 1585.86 William Shelley was also arrested and was still a prisoner in the Tower when last heard of in July 1588. Thus were virtually all of the members of the original Catholic courtiers' party rendered politically useless by exile or imprisonment.

Paget and Arundell were probably not themselves guilty of any specific treasonous activity, though the government maintained that Paget had conspired with his brother at Petworth in September.87 Arundell himself was never charged with anything more than, in Dr. Parry's words, "to have dealt un thankfully with the Queen, unkindly with his friends, and unadvisedly with himself."88 Paget always claimed that he had long been planning to depart the realm for his conscience' sake (perhaps aided in deciding by his wife's death in April) and that his talk with his brother had been upon that head only.89 Probably the two men fled in November simply because they panicked, having realized that, given their religion and their known Marian sympathies, they were vulnerable to political arrest; indeed it was widely held that they had fled the implacable cruelty of the Earl of Leicester in particular.90

Arundell and Lord Paget arrived in Paris at the beginning of December, and there they joined other exiled laymen, some of them members of their former group: William Tresham, Thomas Throgmorton (brother of Francis), Thomas Fitzherbert of Swinnerton, Thomas Morgan, the Queen of Scots's agent, and others, "all gentlemen of quality and very zealous for religion," as Father Parsons was to describe them. They immediately sought out the new English ambassador to France, their old colleague and kinsman Sir Edward Stafford, and protesting their loyalty usque ad aras, they placed themselves at his disposal and waited about in Paris while he tenderly sounded out the possibilities of their reconciliation with the official government. The ambassador's background was in some ways not unlike their own. Like them he had been of the Burghley-Sussex party at Court, he had been a dedicated supporter of the French marriage, and he was closely aligned to the Howard family.91 He was himself, if not a Catholic (and he may have been), at least sympathetic to their interests and beliefs - both his wife and his mother were indeed Papists - and he had friends as well as intelligence sources amongst the fugitive community. Like Arundell he and his wife both hated Leicester with an inordinate passion, and the fact that he utterly distrusted Leicester's "spirit" Walsingham, who as Principal Secretary was his immediate superior, has led to the argument that he was disloyal to his country.92 The evidence for this interpretation is by no means conclusive - that Stafford suspected and feared designs against him by Leicester and Walsingham and consequently refused to take them into his confidence provides, as Professor Neale has maintained, sufficient explanation for any mysteries in his intelligence-gathering activities - but certainly the Secretary did what he could to implicate the ambassador in a number of questionable matters and, indeed, occasionally set his spies to watching the embassy.

For a month or two Arundell and Paget merely waited about while Stafford sought their repatriation (or enjoyment of their estates while in exile),93 but by mid-February Arundell had begun gathering intelligence for the ambassador amongst the fugitive Englishmen. As his hopes for a return to England began to evaporate throughout that spring of 1584, Arundell was a frequent visitor at the embassy, and for the next three and a half years, until his suspicious death in December 1587, he and Stafford worked in close association at the business of monitoring exile activities and the Duke of Guise's ambitions, on the watch for anything that might prove invidious to England's safety.94 It was during this first spring of Arundell' s exile, while he was still based in Paris, that he and the remnants of the old Catholic courtier party found a means of expressing their hopes for the Marian cause and their resentment of Leicester in the composition of Leicester's Commonwealth.


The problem of the Commonwealth's authorship has been much discussed, but we are now in a position to entertain the question more thoroughly. In considering the men most likely to have been involved in the production of the tract, we must begin with Charles Arundell himself. Internal evidence (the book's complex of personal sympathies and enmities and its intimate knowledge of the daily workings of the Court) certainly points to someone very like Arundell, who had shared the varying fortunes and eventual defeat of the Catholic party but who (unlike Lord Harry Howard and the Earls of Arundel and Northumberland) had escaped to the continent to tell about them. We have seen that Walsingham's first guess about the Commonwealth's authorship, while it specified Thomas Morgan preeminently, included Arundell in a supporting role. In January 1585 it was rumored in Paris that, perhaps because of that mention, "an Englishman is here newly arrived, by the practice of Leicester, to kill Charles Arundell and others," and as we have also seen, in August 1585 copies of the French translation were being stored in the lodgings used by Arundell when in Paris.95 He had been forward in his advocacy of the Queen of Scots's cause for over a decade, and perhaps most importantly, much of the prose of the Commonwealth seems very similar indeed to the style of the longer papers surviving in Arundell's handwriting from the 1581 squabbles described earlier.

In 1598 Robert Parsons was accused by Charles Paget of having written the Commonwealth himself; in his defense he asserted that the book "is believed to have been due to a combined effort, a number of Catholics having had a part in it, but chiefly Charles Arundell, a nobleman who had recently come to Paris from England and who was extremely hostile to the Earl."96 In August 1602 the Appellant priest John Cecil also attempted to attribute the book to Parsons, insisting that Arundell had confessed to him that although the materials had been furnished by Arundell himself, the method, style, and form had all come from Parsons.97 Cecil's concern here had been to smear the Jesuit with unsavory political involvements before his superiors in Rome, and we are by no means obliged to accept his allegation, but his invocation of Arundell's "confession" may indicate that Arundell's name had by that time become sufficiently attached to Leicester's Commonwealth to lend credence to his tale. However it was, the association of Parsons's name with the book began to appear more frequently around this time and after; Father Parsons continued to deny it,98 but by then the matter had passed out of his ability to control it; "Parsons' Green-coat" had become as much a part of the Jesuit's image as the portrait of the furtive and cowardly plotter that Charles Kingsley drew of him in Westward Ho!

Nevertheless, Parsons could hardly have been ignorant of the affair. He was in close contact with Arundell in Paris during this spring of 1584, attempting to woo the newcomer away from any allegiance with the anti-Jesuit groups among the exiles. The printing of the Commonwealth seems likely (as we have seen) to have been done on a press under Parsons's control, and its conveyance into England was certainly accomplished by his agency. In its content and strategies, the tract is not at all the book Parsons would have written, nor (with his Spanish associations) did he ever show much real interest in the cause of the Queen of Scots. Although it bears little similarity to other works of the Allen-Parsons party, however, it is not so foreign to the Jesuit's positions in the mid-1580s that he would have wished to see it suppressed. One is bound to assume that Parsons must share some responsibility in furthering the book, if not actually in writing it.

Thomas Morgan, the Queen of Scots's chief agent in Paris, may also have taken part in the production, as Leslie Hotson believed, for he was certainly prominent among the lay Catholic Englishmen in France, even after his confinement in the Bastille on 1 March 1585. We have seen that Walsingham at first suspected him of primary responsibility, and it may be that Leicester did as well; on 18 May 1586 Queen Mary wrote to the Archbishop of Glasgow that Morgan's "imprisonment has been procured by the Earl of Leicester, in consequence of an opinion which he has taken, and of which he discoursed fully to Nau [her secretary] at London, that the said Morgan had, with you and my Lord Paget, composed the book which was published against him nearly two years ago; for which he was in the utmost rage against all three."99 But although Morgan had been (at least ostensibly) in Mary's service since 1568, he had fled to France in 1575 and could have had very little firsthand knowledge of recent English events, certainly none of the Court. What survives of his own correspondence shows a crude style markedly different from that of the Commonwealth. In any case, if he had written the book against Leicester and in behalf of his mistress's claim to the throne, he certainly never told her that he had; writing to her on 5 January 1585, for example, he warned her to guard her safety closely because "it was told me that Leicester should say that the book written against him tended all to your honor and his ruin, and therefore he would provide thereafter, meaning by all conjecture to extend his whole force to do your Majesty harm."100 His colleague Charles Paget had written the same news one day earlier, similarly avoiding taking any credit for its authorship.101

Morgan and Paget both may have had a hand in writing or in publishing the book - and, as with Kafka's two assistants in The Castle, one can scarcely imagine one of them acting independently of the other - but it must also be pointed out that they were never on good terms with Arundell himself. Father Parsons records that even soon after Arundell's arrival in France he was, at Parsons's instance, avoiding them and their "anti-Jesuit" faction.102 By January 1585 he and Morgan were openly quarrelling, and in the following September Paget was attempting to land Arundell into trouble with the Papal authorities by exposing him as a spy for England.103 In December 1585 a fight occurred between the two, in which Arundell "had like to have slain Paget' with his dagger."104 Instances of this hostility between Morgan and Paget on the one side and Arundell on the other continued in overt quarrelling and hidden intrigue until his death,105 and although they may of course have known something about the Commonwealth's production, it is fair to say that they would not have made ideal collaborators in writing it. Moreover, the hostility between these two and Father Parsons is well known, and it seems unlikely that the Jesuit should have facilitated its publication had he known of their participation in the writing. Professor Hotson, in accepting Walsingham's letter of 29 September as conclusive, seems both to have overrated the Secretary's omniscience (influenced perhaps by the now-discredited idea of the awesome efficiency of Walsingham's "spy service") and to have ignored the unmistakable signs that Leicester and Walsingham continued searching for the author's identity for the next two years, as if that first attribution had never been made.

Thomas Lord Paget, however; was almost certainly involved in some measure. While in England he was sufficiently in touch with Court affairs and indeed was directly involved in some of the incidents charged against Leicester (such as the Drayton Basset affair); moreover, even though he soon moved to Milano for his health, he remained a close friend of Arundell's on the continent, and they traveled together into Spain in the summer of 1586. He too was cited in Walsingham's letter to Leicester, and he appears in the Queen of Scots's letter to Glasgow. William Tresham, also mentioned by Walsingham, had been a Gentleman Pensioner and an ally of Sussex's until his flight in 1582; he remained close to Arundell (though he was soon spending much of his time with Westmoreland's English Regiment in the Netherlands), and even as the Commonwealth was being written, his brother Sir Thomas was suffering in prison for what his family considered Leicester's malice. In fact Sir Thomas's own views on the relative loyalties owed to Queen and Pope, as expressed in several writings, are similar in many respects to those of the Commonwealth's authors.106

Thomas Fitzherbert, although never a courtier, had helped Robert Parsons with his clandestine writing in England, had then fled and taken up residence in Paris in 1582, and was a central member of the Paris circle thereafter, as well as a personal friend of Stafford's. Later a priest himself (1602) and finally a Jesuit (1613) until his death in 1640, he also became an estimable writer of controversial literature.107 As we have seen, copies of the French translation were being stored in his Paris lodgings in 1585. Thomas Throgmorton fled into exile in 1582 and died in 1595. Brother of Francis, whose arrest had precipitated Arundell's flight, he was close to Arundell and Lord Paget, joined in their devotion to the Queen of Scots, shared Arundell's lodgings, and was mentioned by Stafford as having undertaken the translation of the libel into French;108 an account of Leicester's alleged harassment of his father is included in the Commonwealth.

Sir Edward Stafford's own possible involvement must briefly be weighed as well. He, like Arundell, had been associated with the Burghley and Sussex party at Court, and there is no question that he distrusted both Leicester and Walsingham. He was related to Arundell and to the Howards both in his own right and through his wife, and he was in constant contact with Arundell from the spring of 1584 to late 1587. He is known to have suggested coyly a certain loyalty to the Queen of Scots's interests, as long as they did not conflict with his allegiance to Elizabeth during her life. Furthermore, his official reports concerning the Commonwealth and the Discours de la vie seem always to suggest a greater knowledge than he reveals in them. In late 1585 Lilly, Stafford's secretary, was detained and examined by Walsingham, who wrote to the ambassador chastising him for his insufficient efforts to stop the distribution of the book and advising him of what he considered to be Lilly's implication in the affair. Stafford's answer of 20 January 1586 survives, and in it he stammered out an explanation that he had not thought it fitting for a public official to deal in a private man's cause - he had had orders to the contrary - but protested that he had still burned what copies he could find (thirty-five of them) until he could no longer keep up with them. He attempted to dismiss his man's involvement; "And for Lilly, if he perchance saw or read a book, surely that were in reason no such criminal cause; but sure I had rather cause to think that my Lord of Leicester should be so incensed against him for the love the poor fellow bare to me than for any cause else."109

The fact that Leicester's Commonwealth is not above breaking a jest or two upon the Lady Sheffield herself and her children by Leicester, however, may suggest that she and Stafford were not in on the production from beginning to end; presumably their participation, if any, extended only as far as after-dinner conversation with Arundell.110 Yet, as Stafford himself was told by his friends, he had "no cause to be offended" since she is not touched materially in any of the book's references to her. It is quite clear in these passages that Leicester is the villain of the piece and that she had been solidly contracted to him at the time of their liaison, that she was indeed, as the Commonwealth says, "the pitifullest abused that ever was poor lady." The ambassador did little enough to have the tract suppressed or to seek out its authors; and if we wish to think his protestations of ignorance about it a bit disingenuous, we shall only be sharing the suspicions of Walsingham and Leicester themselves.111

Finally, Lord Harry Howard must be considered. Clearly he was not present at the final composition and publication of the Commonwealth, nor is his classically ornate and "asiatic" prose at all reminiscent of the Commonwealth's fluid style, but in at least one sense it seems more his book than anyone else's. As the defunct Catholic Court party's hopes and grievances, from its support of the Anjou marriage to its devotion to the Queen of Scots to its animus against Leicester, inform the book's attitudes and strategies, so Lord Henry, as much as anyone after his brother's execution, shaped that party's attitudes.112 The Commonwealth seems very much a desperate pis aller of the conservative old nobility, whose members found themselves being replaced in power and influence by the left-Protestant "new men," and to this extent it is not so much a product of the Catholic laymen merely as a product of Lord Harry's own sensibility, as translated to the Paris circle by his friends Arundell and Lord Paget. And it may even be that some of the anecdotal material is his too, since the Commonwealth seems by no means cut of a single fabric. When, in 1584, it was being put into final form, parts of it (in the succession sections) were drawn largely from another book being produced in Rouen at the same time, John Leslie's Treatise Touching the Right;113 some of its defamatory material is of very recent date, but a good deal of it (as in the account of Amy Robsart's death) is much older and must have come to its authors as received tradition. Some of this material may have been written, and it may originally have been written by Lord Henry. But if he personally had no hand in the actual writing, Leicester's Commonwealth is nonetheless an expression of the mind of the Howard Court party of which he had been the leader.

To summarize the much-vexed authorship problem, then, our reflections suggest that Leicester's Commonwealth was written chiefly by Charles Arundell, probably with the assistance of all or some of the group comprising Lord Paget, Thomas Fitzherbert, William Tresham, Thomas Throgmorton, and possibly still others; so far this conclusion confirms the assertion of Father Parsons and the opinions of the scholars Pollen and Hicks. Parsons probably, and Stafford possibly, to some degree facilitated the production, and both must have known about it. The two other serious candidates for authorship, Parsons himself (advanced by tradition and recently revived by Professor Holmes) and Thomas Morgan (first suggested by Walsingham and latterly accepted by Hotson and Conyers Read) seem quite unlikely to have been involved in the writing. The resulting tract is thus a layman's effort rather than a clerical one, and as we shall see, some notable differences in interpretation can the more clearly be observed once that fact has been recognized.


Leicester's Commonwealth is not by any means exclusively a chronique scandaleuse. The book is widely known for the rhetorical flights of its railing upon Leicester, and to be sure these are memorable, but elsewhere within it one encounters exploration of serious political ideas, at least one of which, its argument for religious toleration, seems unique in English controversy of its time. Indeed, as noted above, this failure to resolve itself into either primarily a defamatory libel on the one hand or a defense of the Catholics and the Queen of Scots's title on the other is the Commonwealth's chief flaw: While its occasionally hysterical tone may have embarrassed many sober students of the succession, its lengthy legal arguments probably bored the scandalmongers, and even modern scholars find difficulty in agreeing upon exactly what the book was meant to be. Perhaps it was meant to be several things, by several people, but in one's impressions after reading it the assault upon the Earl's reputation and position predominates. Whatever the purpose of the book's political discussions, in the general effect of the book they are secondary; but they are nonetheless worthy of notice.

The political themes entertained in Leicester's Commonwealth are basically three: the problem of the loyalty or disloyalty of religious minorities, the problem of religious toleration for those minorities, and the problem of the succession to the crown of England. All three of these were issues of acute seriousness; by the early 1580s, as is well known, the Papists in England were being subjected to systematic government harassment. The execution of Father Edmund Campion and his colleagues on 1 December 1581, convicted on dubious legal grounds, touched off a flurry of criticism of English policy and practice, and the government found itself vulnerable to the polemicists of the opposition and somewhat embarrassed even among its allies. Accordingly, Lord Burghley undertook to explain the government's position; in December 1583 his Execution of Justice in England appeared, and in January it was expanded and reissued, bound with Thomas Norton's attempted justification of the use of the rack. These were translated and placed in Courts all over the continent.114

The central argument of Cecil's tract was that the Pope had no authority to depose monarchs (as he had done Elizabeth) and that the incoming priests were political agents of the Papacy, sent into England to prepare the Queen's subjects to rise up in support of the invasion that was to enforce that deposition. The Papist's allegiance to his church was a limitation upon his loyalty to the monarch and state, and he could not be trusted, therefore, to remain loyal when the crisis came. There is some justification for Cecil's refusing to distinguish political from spiritual functions in the seminary priests; we know that even as Dr. Allen was publicly disavowing any such intention in his priests, he was himself involved in invasion schemes and was offering their services when the need arose.115 Nevertheless, Allen made instant rebuttal to Cecil's book in his True, Sincere, and Modest Defence of English Catholics, a very well-written reply that is largely concerned only with refuting, point by point and martyr by martyr, Cecil's too-facile identification of priests with fifth columnists.

The authors of Leicester's Commonwealth also address themselves directly to Cecil's treatise, but rather than attempt to justify the activities of particular men, they concede that there have been some Catholics justly and accurately called traitors and go straight to the government's premise, that all Catholics are therefore potential traitors. In their "first and second degrees of treason" argument, drawn from the civil law, they affect to appreciate the government's point of view; they admit that there is a certain sense in which men of religions other than the state's will always be traitors to a certain extent, insofar as they (Papists and Puritans alike, and Protestants in Catholic countries) would prefer a ruler of their own faith. They then assert that this is not the same thing as a potential act of genuine treason since there are other reasons why a man with such a preference would by no means actually desire a change of rule - that is, reasons of state. As the most likely method of effecting such a change of rule would be by aiding a foreign army, they then adduce a number of examples of minorities expelling co-religionist invaders out of pure "nationalism" and antipathy toward foreigners.

Thus, the Commonwealth was able to go right to Cecil's fundamental assumption and show that most Catholics were not even likely to be disloyal in anything more than an irrelevant technical sense. Dr. Allen, a priest and later a cardinal, could not say that if the command to rise up were given from Rome, the Catholic subject would not be bound to do so; the Commonwealth, implicitly, says just that. And the Commmonwealth's authors do not feel obliged, as Allen does, to mar their own case by proceeding to a defense of the Papal power of deposition.116

Pleas for toleration for the Catholic laymen are not uncommon in Elizabethan Catholic writings, but they are usually of one of two sorts. The clerical writers, when they did beg a lightened load for their coreligionists, nearly always went on to say that the same favor could not reasonably be expected for Protestants in Catholic countries since those people were heretics who had "gone forth" from the true church.117 The clerical writers sometimes protested against persecution on grounds of inviolability of conscience, a promising idea for wider application, but customarily went on to say that on the other side of it "new religions beginning to bud up" must be "kept down and utterly extinguished by punishment" because of "the truth of [the Catholic] religion and the falsehood of the other, and that it is peculiar to their religion, by promise of Christ, to endure for ever, and triumph over all sects."118 On the other hand, those Catholic laymen who addressed the question themselves, like the recusant gentlemen in their Toleration Petition of 1585, usually confined themselves more or less to crying out, "O poor worms! what shall become of us!" - seeking only "to present our manifold griefs and miseries to the merciful view of your Majesty."119

That is, seldom does one meet with a Catholic writing on the subject that proposes a general theory of toleration. The clerical writers could not follow through the implications of their pleas for toleration, and the laymen normally did not. The Commonwealth's authors, however, affect to be sincere in advocating toleration for all parties. They cite the happy examples of mutual toleration in "Germany, Polonia, Boemland, and Hungary," a toleration that has brought these nations a peace "whereof all Europe besides hath admiration and envy," and suggest that the absence of such toleration will be the real cause of disaster, "for that the prosecution of these differences to extremity cannot but after many wounds and exulcerations bring matters finally to rage, fury, and most deadly desperation." Dr. Allen could not admit of any good in the first twelve years of the reign, when religious differences were less cried out upon, because he saw in them only the relaxation of Papist zeal and the decay of his own cause, but from the Commonwealth's point of view, this is the ideal, a nation with all its causes united in quietness and in mutual resistance against foreign oppression. The means to this ideal would be simple: "sweet qualification" - "a little bearing of th'one with th'other." Religion would have its proper place, of course, and provision is made for men of persuasions contrary to one's own, "a certain sweet diligence for their gaining, by good means," but the chief values here are civil peace, security, and prosperity.

Leicester's great crime, therefore, according to the Commonwealth's authors, is that he, "being himself of no religion, feedeth notwithstanding upon our differences in religion, to the fatting of himself and ruin of the realm." Not only is religious dissension an evil in itself, it also permits the destructive opportunism that is manifested in a man like Leicester; he fosters division for his own purposes, and in the end all religions are destroyed. And since men such as he is may use dissension as a convenient blind for their own ambitions, the wise course for England would be to prevent them from riding one party into power by maintaining all factions "at such an equality as destruction may not be feared of the predominant." Thus, from the Commonwealth's perspective, Queen Mary would be an especially desirable successor to Elizabeth because she had already, during her brief reign in Scotland, demonstrated her willingness to permit "all liberty of conscience and free exercise of religion to those of the contrary profession and opinion, without restraint."

Peace, security, and prosperity then, and not true religion, are the ends of the state. These values allow the Commonwealth's authors to extend their proposed toleration to other sects as well: "which only qualification, tolerance, and moderation in our realm," they promise, "would content all divisions, factions, and parties among us for their continuance in peace, be they Papists, Puritans, Familians, or of whatsoever nice difference or section besides, and would be sufficient to retain all parties within a temperate obedience to the magistrate and government for conservation of their country." So often cited for its shrill passions, the Commonwealth, some of it at least, speaks with a dignity seldom found in the polarized rhetoric of sixteenth-century English controversy.

We see here something like the politique position as it was being developed in France some years earlier; the Commonwealth is almost certainly the first English controversial work to show clearly, if only in a general way, the influence of this thought.120 The French Politiques were moderate Catholics who, amid the violence and fanaticism of the chronic French Religious Wars, were attempting to calm all waters by developing a position in which security of the state was to be everyone's first concern; religious controversy, seen as futile and inherently destructive, was to be resolved within the individual's breast and was not to be allowed to disturb the civil peace. While in Paris, Charles Arundell had many friends among the Politiques, like Jean Bodin, who were associated with the Duke of Anjou, and it may be that he and his friends imbibed these opinions at first hand. They seem just as likely, however, to have arisen from the author's own general attitudes and are not sufficiently specific or developed to permit any ascriptions of source. Whether the Commonwealth's authors were themselves entirely sincere in these beliefs or were merely constructing a plausible argument from them is, of course, open to question, but the important thing is that such beliefs obtained a public hearing at all.

The third important political theme entertained by the Commonwealth concerns the succession to the English crown. Its formal arguments in behalf of the Queen of Scots and, to a lesser extent, her son may be as much its raison d'être as is its attack upon Leicester himself; even these libellous elements can be seen as an effort to divert some of the growing national anxiety of the 1580s from Mary's door by identifying a new focus for concern, by finding, as it were, a new scapegoat. Its case for Mary consists of two main approaches: an attempt to ensure her life by establishing a connection between her safety and Elizabeth's own welfare and a restatement of the Scottish claim to the throne.

Resentment toward Mary had been in evidence since she first entered England in 1568, but it grew with the years until by the 1580s it had become in some quarters (and especially among Leicester's friends) something of a religious vocation to seek her life. By 1584, certainly, the Commonwealth's fears for her safety were amply justified, as her removal to stricter confinements in that year and the next and her eventual execution in February 1587 are sufficient to prove. Its strategy for defending her is this: After devoting considerable space to a declaration of the dangerous strength of Leicester's party and the heat of his overweening ambition to achieve a crown through his kinsman Huntingdon, the Commonwealth attempts to stir the English reader's fear for his sovereign's life by emphasizing her immediate danger at the hands of this her lord and subject. This is a central theme of the book, that the Earl has grown too great for England's good and that Elizabeth's life is the last shield protecting her people from the ultimate triumph of his rapacity. But at one point we find, very neatly worked into this line of attack, the recurring theme of the English Queen's danger enlarged to include the necessity for the safety of Mary right along with that of Elizabeth. The most desirable way to ensure Elizabeth's life, of course, would be to have Leicester brought to book; if that should prove impossible, the second best way would be to preserve the lives of her "next inheritors," Mary and her son James, the "special bulwarks to her Majesty's life and person." As long as these two are alive and sure, it would be no advantage to the Earl to have Elizabeth made away with, for by so doing he would come little closer to realizing his ally's title to the crown.

Most of the Commonwealth's Marian energies, however, are expended upon the prior task of showing that the Scottish pretenders are indeed the "next inheritors," and this involves a fairly complicated legal argument. (The genealogical table supplied in Appendix F may prove helpful here.) During the 1560s the problem of the succession had been a hotly debated one, as Elizabeth herself had terrified all parties by remaining childless and by refusing to name a successor from one of the collateral branches of the royal family. A great many names were to come up, in and out of Parliament, in these early discussions of the soundest claim, but only a few drew sufficient support to come up very often. Mary Stuart, Queen first of France and then of Scotland, was one contender, though the suspicious murder of her husband in 1567 and her subsequent implication in a number of Catholic plots against Elizabeth effectively obviated widespread support. Lady Catherine Grey was another, the favorite of most Protestants, but because her marriage to Lord Hertford had excited Elizabeth's displeasure, her children by him were declared illegitimate; by January 1568 she herself had died, and her backers found difficulty in fixing upon a satisfactory replacement.

Lady Margaret Stuart, the Countess of Lennox, was occasionally mentioned, but she was of doubtfully legal birth, and in any event her claim offered little that was not already found in the Marian; her granddaughter Arabella, however, found some support in the 1590s and was kept under careful scrutiny by both Elizabeth and James I. Another Margaret, the wife of the Earl of Derby, made a fourth, but was never much of a contender since the Catholics found better candidates amongst the Stuarts and the Protestants were understandably chary of the Stanley family's Catholic connections. Here too, however, the title came up later in the reign, and in the early 1590s her son Lord Strange was the object of some serious conjecture among the Papists abroad; he steadfastly, and wisely, refused to pursue his claim.

The fifth name that occurred with some frequency was that of Leicester's brother-in-law, Henry Hastings (1536-1595), the third Earl of Huntingdon. His title was legally very weak; as the Commonwealth points out, naming him successor would only have served to reopen the issues of the Wars of the Roses, since his claim was thoroughly Yorkist and antedated the union of the two houses in its origin. But Huntingdon was a Puritan, and amongst that party he found considerable support (probably chiefly through his kinship with Dudley) in or about the parliamentary year 1563; during the controversies attending the Parliament of 1566 he was very little mentioned.121 Non-Catholic interests were forced to focus upon one candidate in order to countervail the growing strength of the Stuart claim at that time, and their candidate, as it turned out, was to be the more moderate Protestant Catherine Grey. Robert Dudley's opportunism had led him to interest in other claimants, to Mary Stuart, to Catherine Grey, and back again; and Huntingdon himself, after 1572, spent most of his time in the far north as Lord President of that district, appearing very seldom thereafter at the center of events.

It is accordingly extremely difficult to account for the importance ascribed to him in Leicester's Commonwealth, though it expresses a fear commonly found in Catholic circles.122 He continued to be associated with Leicester, and the answer may lie in that relationship; perhaps he was, as a mainstay of the Puritan movement, just a natural target for Catholic hostility. Because of that connection, because of Mary Stuart's personal fear of him, and because of his relentless prosecution of the Catholics within his jurisdiction, he was very well hated by the Papist writers, but there is little evidence of any renewed attempts to push forward his royal pretensions.123 The source of most of what evidence there is, however, is significant: Mendoza, in his dispatches of the early 1580s, was reporting such things as Leicester's plan to murder Queen Mary and reopen Huntingdon's claim, and we have already noticed that the Arundell-Howard party had become one of the Spaniard's chief sources of information during those years.124 But whatever was troubling Queen Mary's friends does not seem to have found much expression elsewhere, and we are left unable fully to explain the vehemence of the Commonwealth's professed fears about him.

After about 1570 and until the 1590s there simply were no clear choices, and consequently the controversies of Elizabeth's first decade simmered down considerably. An act of 1571 (13 Elizabeth, cap. I, V) against writing in behalf of any pretender except Elizabeth's own issue further added to the general quiet on the subject. It was only years later, as the Queen was clearly approaching her end, that intrigue and controversy once again resumed on a large scale, this time with different issues and candidates.125 But it is essentially to the debates of the 1560s that the Commonwealth belongs. In restating Mary's claims, the book enters a battle that by 1584 was almost over. In the content of its discussion, it contributes nothing new to the legal debate itself, and its explanatory remarks, as the book's conversants remind us, are intended merely to outline the course of the controversy up to that time; with the only original work being done on the problem during the 1580s, the development of the Spanish claim by the Jesuit party, it has nothing to do. The organization of its discussion, the inclusion of a new if fragmentary case against Huntingdon, and its attempt to link its defense of Mary's title with its hue and cry upon Leicester in an effort to present Mary as the only remaining alternative to the Earl's brutality, these are all its own, but virtually all of its legal points are borrowed quasi ad verbum from earlier works, most notably from those of John Leslie, the Bishop of Ross, and seem to derive ultimately from the labors of Edmund Plowden.126

But whereas previous writers had been openly argumentative in their advocacy of their chosen candidates, the most striking feature of the Commonwealth's discussion is its sometimes strained but generally consistent air of impartiality. As in the later Conference about the Next Succession (1595), which advanced the Spanish Infanta's claim through a very subtle process of elimination, the Commonwealth makes effective use of its feigned dialogue to preserve the illusion of a disinterested conversation among friends about the entire problem. As it poses the objections to each of the candidates and the answers that have been offered in defense of each, it is only gradually that we become aware of the preponderance of pro-Marian evidence. In pursuit of this objective atmosphere, the Commonwealth goes as far as expressly to avoid considering the principal points of attack against the rival pretenders. Most of these concern questions of legitimacy of birth, and as the Commonwealth's lawyer says, these are best left to qualified legal hearings. In fact, the Marian case is unaffected by the strength of the objections against its rivals, and the authors could easily afford to neglect this line of argument in the interests of a greater plausibility. For Mary had without question the best title to the succession by birthright alone; if the other weaknesses of her claim were to be resolved in her favor, there would be no rival claims to be preferred, how flawless soever they were. And so, very cannily, the Commonwealth employs itself in defense rather than offense and avoids the appearance of an obvious bias. The chief objections to her title had traditionally been three - her foreign birth, Henry VIII's last will, and to a lesser extent her religion - and it is these objections that the book endeavors to meet.

How effective as propaganda its succession argument actually was would be impossible to measure. It was used by at least two important later writers, Sir John Harington and Thomas Wilson, both of whom quoted lengthy passages from these pages.127 Probably, however, the Marian cause had too far degenerated by mid-1584 to admit of many conversions. During the 1580s many people were forsaking Mary herself in favor of a tentative commitment to her son James, and in several places the Commonwealth too makes more than a gesture in this direction by expending considerable effort in the repair of his image among Englishmen. Indeed, it almost seems that its authors were attempting simultaneously to connect James's safety and title to their arguments for his mother's and to separate him from her claim as well, to salvage his cause, as it were, if hers should already be lost. In any case, like its remarks concerning toleration, this aspect of the Commonwealth had no discernible political effect. Almost every contemporary reaction to its publication centered exclusively upon its defamation of the Earl of Leicester, and certainly its authors, by the extremist shrillness of their ad hominem attack, had done little to correct that impression. But whether or not the Commonwealth achieved its short-range Marian purposes, it may ultimately have contributed in some small way to a Jacobean one by helping to educate the public into thinking more sympathetically toward the Stuart title, as Harington's use of it may suggest. And, a different kind of success, structurally and stylistically its succession argument is of as high quality as any we are likely to encounter in sixteenth-century propaganda on the subject.

The same observation holds true of the entire book. Artistically (as far as one can use the term of propaganda) it constitutes something of a minor masterpiece. Its language is often vigorous and engaging, in places sharing with Thomas Nashe and Martin Marprelate a delightful quality of outrageous humor. The style is reasonably uniform, and the pace of the discussion is artfully managed so that those drier passages apparently considered necessary are interspersed with livelier writing and the occasional play of wit. If some of its aims and a few of its arguments may seem inconsistent (as Philip Sidney points out), the dialogue technique of presenting them is seldom more faithfully carried through; it is not too much to say that the participants here take on something of the personalities expected of characters from the stage. Despite the heterogeneity of its authors' interests and of the materials they seem to have used, there is no doubt that a single mind has, in tone and verisimilitude, unified them all, largely by this imaginative and credible use of the old, very common, and usually very stiff dialogue form.

The choice of participants in the dialogue is especially skillfully done: As Dr. Clancy points out, the use of two mild Protestants and a moderate Papist relieves the Commonwealth "of the task of defending the right-wing Papalist opinions on various disputed questions."128 By attacking Leicester as Protestants and not as Catholics, and by attacking him primarily as he is a courtier and not as he is a Puritan, the authors seek to avoid dismissal of their book out of hand as a conventional religious polemic. And each of the participants performs a dramatic role as well. The lovable old lawyer brings to the conversation, especially in the succession section, the weight of his authority on legal matters, and in many instances he also, as the only Papist, must allow Protestants to convince him of Leicester's and the Puritans' treachery, rather than the other way about. The worshipful gentleman, in his wise and temperate elder statesman role, lends a note of political experience and inside information to the tract, as well as (because he is not a courtier himself) a kind of country stolidity, while the young scholar displays a pertinent naiveté that demands patient explanation from the others and thus keeps the discussion moving. Some of the latter's own contributions, however, such as his affected "scholar's argument," proved "by a principle of our philosophy," cannot be said to add very much to the force of the points being made.

The gentleman, as might be expected, dominates the conversation arithmetically as well as rhetorically, accounting for 43.4 percent of the book's 113 speeches and, because his remarks are normally longer, 53 percent of the number of lines. The lawyer, by contrast, has 34.5 percent of the speeches and 33.8 percent of the lines, whereas the young scholar, whose role is more often functional than substantial, speaks only 22 percent of the speeches and, with so many brief interjections, only 13 percent of the lines.

Besides the dialogue form, the Commonwealth employs other strategies aimed at conferring upon itself a greater plausibility. The epistolary framing device into which the dialogue is placed is no less common a tactic,129 but here innumerable details are added for further verisimilitude: the cover letter itself, addressed to "G. M." in Gracious Street, London, professing reluctance that the book be printed for fear of Leicester's vengeance; the Christmas occasion of the conference, consistent with the December publication of Burghley's tract, which becomes the springboard for the entire discussion to follow; the promise of continuing reports, especially of the "relation of Gates" being kept safe by one whose name "beginneth with H" (suggesting Hatton?). Circumstantial details are provided throughout the work to testimonies and charges otherwise quite abstract: the Earl of Sussex relaxing by his pond ("where he beheld the taking of a pike or carp"), Leighton and Neville strolling upon the terrace at Windsor, a group of lords and ladies sitting about in leisurely discussion of the state of the commonwealth. Other common controversial devices are also employed both to broaden the focus of the ad hominem attack and to mitigate its potential offensiveness. Thus, by use of the venerable "evil counsellors" strategy, the authors fully vent their partisan animosity toward the man himself and, at the same time, make their representations against the policies of the Elizabethan regime without alienating the moderate English reader by direct abuse of his sovereign. By the frequent use of historical parallels (less a "strategy" than a sixteenth-century habit of mind), they intensify the effect of their charges by assimilating even the Earl's known activities into ominous patterns established by the great villains of the past, by rebels like Catiline, by regicides like Brutus, by corrupt and undeserving favorites like Piers Gaveston and the Duke of Suffolk, and by ambitious seekers after crowns like the initiators of the terrifying Wars of the Roses. And they confirm their warnings about the Earl by linking him to wider phenomena that may have seemed sinister innovations to the average conservative reader, such as the unaccustomed Puritan "prophesyings," the influx of foreign artisans into the realm, the decline of discipline among university students, and (of course) the harassment of law-abiding recusants, perhaps the reader's own neighbors among them, all the while exploiting the traditional country suspicions concerning all courtiers and their activities.

In the libel itself the charges against the Earl are cleverly arranged. Detail after detail is gradually accumulated, but they are sufficiently broken up by intervening digression that the effect is never one of boredom. More importantly, what is on one page introduced somewhat tentatively has some pages later become an assumed fact; the impartial reader is tricked into accepting many details by finding them later used as premises for the next point to be made. Transitions between arguments are prepared for and smoothly executed. All of the worst Elizabethan scare words - the aspirer, the poisoner, the atheist, the Machiavellian, the tyrant who is a law unto himself - all of these are employed and associated with the Earl. Perhaps the most noteworthy of the Commonwealth's techniques, however, is its artful blending of truth and fiction. As the reader will discover from the annotations, very little of what the book says about Leicester and his Puritan supporters is without some foundation in fact, or at least in common rumor, which can now be verified: When he is charged with having caused an obscure riot in Staffordshire, we find that he was indeed involved (and perhaps culpably). When he is charged with having initiated Norfolk's fall, with depredations in North Wales, with having fortified his home, with having harassed Sir Jerome Bowes from Court, we find that there is evidently some truth to all of these; when he is charged with having murdered his first wife and the Earl of Essex, among others, we find that he was believed, at least in many quarters, to have done so. But at the same time, very little does not contain some embroidery upon what we know, and very likely the same is true of what was commonly known in its own day. Probably there is no accusation in the book that was not spun out of facts familiar and recognizable to almost every informed reader. The authors seem to have gone out of their way to have used only those charges against the Earl that were already being widely circulated at least in anti-Dudley circles and probably elsewhere as well as rumors grounded in real events.

It has already been suggested how damaging the Commonwealth's attack upon him has been to Leicester's subsequent reputation, through Camden and Naunton to Strype, Dugdale, Ashmole, Jebb, David Hume, Sir Walter Scott, and the others into our own time. We should also ask whether this attempt to provoke sensational scandal about one of the Queen's foremost ministers may have done harm to the "legitimacy" of the whole regime. In understanding what may have been at stake, we cannot do better than remind ourselves of Darnton's remarks about the similar sorts of libels circulated against the grand persons of the ancien régime.

It is easy to underestimate the importance of personal slander in eighteenth-century French politics, because it is difficult to appreciate that politics took place at court, where personalities counted more than policies. Defamation was a standard weapon of court cabales. And then as now, names made news . . . . The "general public" lived on rumors; and the "general reader" saw politics as a kind of nonparticipant sport, involving villains and heroes but no issues. . . . This was more dangerous propaganda than [Rousseau's] Contrat social. It severed the sense of decency that bound the public to its rulers.

Darnton speculates that there may have been an effect of "desacralisation, occurring at levels well below the elite," which contributed to the collapse of the existing order in 1789.130

These considerations are important ones, and evidently the Elizabethan government, like the Bourbon one, had them uneasily in mind as they acted to suppress such publications and deny their allegations. But Elizabeth's Court was little like Louis's, neither were her people much like his (nor, probably, could as many of them read), and it is difficult to believe that such books as the Commonwealth, even if they had appeared far more frequently than they did, could have had a significant depressant effect on the popular support for the Queen's rule, especially since even a Papal bull of excommunication seems not much to have diminished her support, even among Catholics, a decade earlier.131 Disappointed parties railed against this or that minister, sometimes against the Queen herself, but there were far more important matters in the air than the private morals of a ranking favorite. The claim that if unchecked Leicester should soon be ruler himself seems, frankly, too extraordinary to have been credited by any but the most malevolent. Many readers may have been induced to believe that the Queen harbored near her a very bad man, but that after all was historically more or less to be expected in any Court; it could scarcely, by itself, have depreciated seriously the general loyalty to Gloriana herself. (By contrast, popular distaste for Henri III's minions, cried up by both Huguenot and radical Catholic oppositions, assumed importance only as a reflection of far more substantial divisions within the French state.) It remains doubtful, therefore, that the Commonwealth had very much political effect at all. The character of the manuscript extracts made from it in its own time serves further to support that conclusion; the book was evidently enormously popular, but its readers seem generally to have read it for fun.


The first question that arises when reading such defamations as Leicester's Commonwealth, "News from Heaven and Hell," and the "Letter of Estate" is a simple one: Was Leicester the man the writers portray him to have been? The answer too is simple: He was not. Neither the Queen nor his colleagues would have tolerated his presence if he had been. These are, after all, defamations, unsubtle in their intentions and often hyperbolic in tone. The next questions, however, are more complicated: What sort of man was he in fact? And what was it about the man, about the Court, that gave rise to such attacks? What made them evidently seem so attractive to contemporaries and posterity?

The broad lines of Leicester's life are clear: his devotion to his father and later to the Queen, his rise as essentially a favorite; his left-Protestant domestic religious policies in the early part of the reign, and the shift of his attention in the 1570s to the international Protestant cause, with himself cast in some considerable role as champion of a Reformed alliance on the continent. He was almost indefatigable in his work, and with Burghley, and later Walsingham and Hatton, he remained for thirty years in the innermost policy-making circle around the Queen. We've discovered at least something of his activities in the country, his patronage of suitors of all sorts and his efforts toward increasing his own holdings. Rather a good deal is known about his eventual expedition in the Netherlands campaign, as well as about the elements of his character that contributed to its failure.132 But the man remains elusive. The only really clear images we have are extremes. One is the long-held view of the avaricious, faithless, cunning, and sometimes murderous luxorioso emerging from the contemporary libels, given respectability by Camden, and cast into received tradition by the antiquarians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The other has arrived very recently, in Derek Wilson's self-declared attempt to rehabilitate the Earl's reputation, in a well-written and thoughtful biography that nevertheless has on many disputed questions the false ring of special pleading.133

It is impossible yet to characterize the Earl confidently, but a measured picture is emerging gradually in the work of modern historians. The day will soon come when a detailed and coherent assessment can be ventured, but one can suggest that it will be made, indeed is already being made, along the following lines. The sensational murders and "hired cutters" will be cast aside. The gross image of promiscuity and filthy luxury will be somewhat refined into a view of a courtier who did indeed have a few more flings than statesmen like Burghley or Puritan clients like Thomas Wood could approve of, who spent far more on fashion and comfort than he could afford, but who was never monstrous in his inclinations. The personal ambition for power will in general come to be seen as a strong but not uncommon taste for consequence and for preservation of self and family, and to some extent as a not-unworthy attempt to affect the success of policies he believed in, made to appear somewhat more sinister by a political system in which influence with the Queen counted for much. The rapacious avarice common to all early images of Leicester will be resolved into a complex picture that contains more than a few instances of abuse of influence and law but shares much with the practices more or less accepted amongst other magnates, as well as with general pressures already existing in the social and economic situation.

The shameless flattery of the Queen will be seen less as sycophancy than as a necessary, if highly artificial, part of his special relationship with her, one that seemed more natural in the Court language of the time and which provided the Earl with his only hold upon the station to which he had risen. The time serving, the faithless opportunism and fundamental irresponsibility that make the ground rhythm of all early libels and most modern treatments will probably come to be seen, beneath the shifting sands of specific situations and the tentative soundings-out of alternatives, to be unjust; recent studies are revealing more consistency, throughout the reign, in Leicester's underlying beliefs and policies. The hardest work will come in trying finally to draw patterns from the methods used in the Earl's land dealings and in his interventions in behalf of his clients at Court and in the country. Here, I suspect, we shall find much cause for complaint; the Earl seems to have been possessed to an extraordinary degree of arrogance, intolerance, and on occasion vindictiveness in matters touching upon his personal honor or prerogatives. But the common charge that he kept a stranglehold on the granting of all suits at Court now seems not to be particularly true; even though he would, like all courtiers, have involved himself in as much clientage as he could, for the influence and for the fees, the complaints of a monopoly upon favor seem to be only the perceptions of disappointed suitors. An assessment of these allegations will require a thorough understanding of how patronage worked or could work in Elizabethan England, and I believe this will not be long in coming.

Almost a more interesting question to muse upon, if finally a less important one, is what it was about the Earl that gave rise to the black legend in the first place. Other counsellors were slandered but with nothing like the same enthusiasm, imagination, and perseverance. Anti-Dudley propaganda, emerging out of the previous reigns, flowering early in Elizabeth's, and accumulating throughout Leicester's life and beyond it, makes up a whole body of "secret lore" with internal traditions of its own, with sometimes an almost eerie sense of an underground religion shared among initiates. And whereas other politicians were sometimes slandered not only in their policies but also in their personal lives, nowhere else in the reign did there grow up such a cult of the villain, reminiscent of the "Tudor myth" of Richard III. The doctrine that "where there is smoke there is also fire" has probably accounted for much of the influence the black legend has enjoyed over four centuries, and there is something in the idea after all, but it is too simple to explain such a remarkable phenomenon.

I would suggest, somewhat tentatively, that we can point to three reasons that go far to explain the growth and endurance of the anti-Leicestrian lore. The first has to do with the origins of Leicester's influence in English life. All other politicians of the reign (except Hatton) rose to prominence for some political virtue: bureaucratic experience, diplomatic skill, territorial influence, position in the church, and so on, usually after having served apprenticeships in which their skills were developed and observed.134 The Queen is well known to have been an astute judge of talent and usefulness, and seldom has there been such a congregation of talented individuals as in the Elizabethan government. Dudley's father had been similarly talented, and he too had risen by his service. Robert, however, owed his ascent into prominence to one cause, the Queen's favor. Indeed, it seems reasonably sure that in the early years Elizabeth was, quite simply, in love with him, and as time passed that love evolved into a special relationship that, if it cannot be defined, cannot be missed. It passed through many trials and suffered brief eclipses, but it endured from the first day of her reign to "his last letter" kept at her bedside until her death. Once having gained prominence, Dudley proved himself by no means untalented or unintelligent, but his talents and intelligence were not such as would have recommended him to that elevation in themselves.135 He was demonstrably the Queen's creation, above his intrinsic merits. His opponents on policy, his rivals for authority, recognized that fact and were jealous. He was in his own way splendid, and the more splendid he made himself, the more offensive he must have seemed, to many men, for that very cause. The base of his power was more personal than institutional, and so the reaction against him took a more personal tone as well.

In practical terms, those men who resented his authority or opposed his policies, understanding that his power depended upon attractive personal qualities, sought to make him unattractive. A favorite who is no longer favored has become virtually nothing. Personal bonds tied him to the Queen and to his own followers, and if these could be loosened, it seemed, he should fall. If the Queen could be got to divert her affection from him, or (if persevering in her affection) could be got to see him as a liability to maintaining the people's love for herself, she must cast him aside. It must have seemed that the key to opposing one so dependent upon favor, so vulnerable to the effects of a blackened reputation, was to blacken that reputation.136 Scandalous gossip seems indeed all that prevented Dudley from obtaining the Queen in marriage in 1560-1561. Attacks upon him were more comprehensive, ad hominem, and scurrilous because curtailing his authority was less a matter of argument or voting than of altering the Queen's affection for him; or failing that, of provoking a popular moral outrage against him that the Queen could not ignore.

The second reason is a bit more speculative, assuming a common source for many libels that can be demonstrated for only some of them. The suggestion is that some of the sense of consistent "lore" and tradition running through the attacks derives from the Earl's having chosen the clan of Howard to offend. We have seen that the Commonwealth and its French addition emanated from the remnants of the Howard Court circle, joined with other Catholic interests on the continent. The "Letter of Estate," with its martyrological account of Norfolk's execution, probably came from someone else within the Howard clan in the country,137 as had many of the spoken slanders being investigated in East Anglia just before and long after the Duke's death in 1572. "News from Heaven and Hell" shows no particular signs of provenance among the Howards, nor does the Flores Calvinistici, though both have been constructed so as to take part in a tradition already well begun by the others named. Many of the shorter poems and passing shots at the Earl seem at least plausibly to have come out of Howard grievances, and the Holles family complaints, reported in the next century, have Howard connections as well. The attacks individually could have come from any disgruntled libellers, but the sense of consistency, of a somewhat inbred tradition, of something like an anti-Leicestrian cult, may well derive from a common if far-flung source, the clan of Howard and its extensions throughout the old nobility, seeking reasons and laying blame for their own eclipse. The fact that for many years the Howards at Court sheltered under the wings of Cecil and Sussex, who found themselves ranged against Leicester on many issues (in the latter's case with true enmity), may have helped to commend the black legend to William Camden, who worked chiefly out of Cecilian viewpoints; and Camden's adoption of many aspects of the legend in his history virtually assured its longevity.138

The third reason for the remarkable growth of this organized animosity toward Leicester may be in the particular nature of some of the better substantiated charges. The murders, the grand plots, the seeking after crowns certainly embellished the legend but need not normally be taken too seriously. The crimes, if that is what they were, which now seem most plausible are not those at the institutional or national levels; they are consequences of the Earl's rough dealings on the personal level. One man is done out of his manor, another is removed from office, another is insulted in the corridors or driven from Court for complaining of Leicester's arrogance or presumption or unmerited favor. The excesses of which Leicester seems most likely to have been guilty seem to be of the sort that would breed, not opposition, but the lust for personal revenge. His political opponents fought against his policies or influence; those individuals who felt they had suffered personally at his hands sought to attack him personally - and with a perverse enthusiasm that argues stronger emotions than those to which most political debates will normally give rise. Evidently Leicester, more than the other Elizabethan leaders, offended more people more deeply in personal ways, and they, like the cast-off Douglass Howard for example, hated him more deeply in return, long after his death had removed his influence from the Court.

But for whatever reasons, the black legend is still very much in evidence, even in this century, and must very carefully be sorted out in the process of reconstructing the Earl's career. Not only must the individual charges be assessed for the light they may or may not shed on what the Earl had actually been up to but the fact that Leicester attracted about him such a consistent body of calumny, some of it absurd, some of it quite plausible, must also be taken into the picture. In any case, it is fair to say that Leicester's Commonwealth and its progeny, while they can seldom be relied upon for the facts of the case, can nearly always be taken as reliable guides to the gossip of the period. The evidence indicates that more often they have captured in writing what was already being spoken than they have created the rumors and introduced them into circulation. If that is so, these tracts tell us much about the gossip that was no less a part of Leicester's career than was his Council attendance, his support of poets and actors and preachers, or his periodic tiffs with the Queen.


The present edition is a collation of nine copies of the 1584 text; Appendix A lists these nine and cites the only three variants found. In order to assist smooth reading and emphasize the book's content rather than its typographical idiosyncrasies, I have elected to regularize the spelling in both the text and the other quoted documents, with abbreviations silently expanded. There is an important value to old-spelling texts, but I believe that in this instance a "modernized" version is to be preferred. I should say, however, that where I have deemed different "forms" of a word to have been employed (as in "disgiest" for "digest," "afeard" for "afraid"), rather than merely a variant orthography, I have retained the form found, though again in regularized spelling and with a gloss if required. Similarly, personal names have been regularized in spelling, but where different "forms" appear, they have been retained and followed by their modern equivalents in square brackets or a note ( thus Candish becomes Cavendish, and so on). Regnal numbers have been brought to conformity with modern practice (Charles the fifth to Charles V). The marginal speech headings in the original have been inserted into the text, in dialogue fashion, and supplied in brackets where missing. The annotations seek to gloss any words that might give pause, to identify allusions and persons mentioned, and more importantly, to note as much factual material as has so far been unearthed respecting the allegations made. I have tried neither to prove nor to disprove the charges themselves, only first to show that they were plausible enough or were also rumored elsewhere, and second to supply the references to aid further searching; I have also taken pains to indicate several places where the charges show connections with Howard interests, in order further to support my contention that the book emanated from that group of men.

Three other features of the text annotations require mention. The extensive marginalia in the 1584 edition, excepting those that are merely redundant, I have placed in quotation marks in the notes, preceded by the word Margin. Second, I have also pointed out a few significant interpolations found in some of the many manuscript copies made directly or indirectly from the 1584 edition. Third, I have referred frequently to the "Marsh annotator"; a hostile reader of the 1584 printed edition now in Archbishop Marsh's Library, Dublin - by his handwriting and other signs a contemporary reader - penned many of his reactions in the margins of his book, and where these seem interesting, I have included them.


1. Lodge, Illustrations of British History, 1: 514; Thomas Scot's report to Leicester, S.P.12/148/34. In 1587 a man of twenty-seven was arrested in Spain; he called himself Arthur Dudley and told a story of having been born to the Queen at Hampton Court, then hidden and brought up in the country (B.C. to ___, Madrid, 28 May 1588 [British Library, Harleian MS. 295, fol.190v], and Chamberlin, Private Character of Queen Elizabeth, pp. 309-18).

2. Ratclif's examinations, S.P. 12/113/28-30; Edward Cheke to William Davison, Court, 8 Aug.1577, S.P.15/25/30; Welsh libels, Hatfield, Cecil Papers 203/81; Holles, Memorials of the Holles Family, pp. 70-71; for charges of slander amongst Howard servants, see William Parker to Burghley, 12 July 1580, S.P. 12/140/14.

3. S.P.15/27/27. The English attack mentioned is John Stubbs's Discovery of a Gaping Gulf (1579); the book Parry reports may be the libel seen by Thomas Norton, reported by him on 30 Dec.1580 to have been written by a group of English Papists (Hatton Memoirs, pp. 161-62).

4. In the English translation, An Epistle of the Persecution of Catholics in England, the direct references to these men have been removed.

5. Allen, Admonition, p. xviii-xix. This attack upon Leicester, however, is included merely as part of a larger attack upon the Queen, who is accused of having raised so profligate a man to favor.

6. The best discussion of the anti-Cecilian tradition is in Clancy's Papist Pamphleteers, pp. 14-43 et passim, and his "Political Pamphlet."

7. See Southwell, Humble Supplication to Her Majestie, pp. 17-23.

8. James repeated the charge in Jesuits Downfall, p. 55.

9. Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, vol. 2, col. 75. Another tradition credits Sir Walter Raleigh with the authorship! (British Library, Hargrave MS. 311, fol. 2.)

10. Hicks, "Growth of a Myth." J. H. Pollen, in 1919, seems to have been the first to have discarded the attribution to Parsons and to have pointed to Charles Arundell as principally responsible, as "editor" (C.R.S. 21, p. 58).

11. S.T.C. 19399. In Allison and Rogers's Catalogue of Catholic Books it is no. 261. The circumstances of the Commonwealth's appearance and government responses to it are studied in the wider context of Catholic printing in Peck, "Government Suppression of Elizabethan Catholic Books."

12. Hugh Davies's charges against Robert Atkins, 6 Sept.1586, art. 5: "The said Atkins, if Davies would have been resolute, would have showed him a book called the Earl of Leicester his Common Wealth, wherein (he saith) the said Earl is painted out in his colors, and how he hath the disposing of all the bishoprics in England" (S.P. 12/193/18). Watson, letter of Apr.1599, in Law, Archpriest Controversy, 1: 213, and in his Decacordon of Ten Quodlibetical Questions, p. 11.

13. Clifford, Diary, p. 111.

14. H.M.C. Rutland MSS., 1: 165.

15. Murdin, State Papers, p. 418 (see Appendix E). On 1 Apr.1584 Richard Hakluyt sent word from Paris that a "confutation" of Burghley's book "shall shortly come forth" (S.P. 12/170/1); this is probably Allen's Defence.

16. Parsons to Fr. Agazzari, Paris, 10/20 Aug.1584 (C.R.S. 39, p. 227).

17. Father William Weston's account (C.R.S. 4, pp.157-59) makes it clear that Emerson was seized at an inn in London. Southern is mistaken, in Elizabethan Recusant Prose, p. 35n, in thinking that he might have been the man arrested at Scarborough in early 1585 for possession of copies of the Commonwealth (S.P.12/181/78).

18. Prison lists, C.R.S. 2, p. 149. Emerson was released after Elizabeth's death and died at St. Omer's College in 1604.

19. British Library, Cotton MSS., Titus B. VII, fols. 10-10 v (see Appendix E). Leslie Hotson concluded from this letter that Morgan must have been the book's author; see his essay, and his debate with Hicks over the letter's value for this purpose, in The Listener, 43 (1950): 481-83, 567, 659, 745. Hicks had already cited the letter in C.R.S. 39, p. lxviii.

20. Hicks, "Growth of a Myth," p. 95 and note.

21. S.P. 78/12/105 (see Appendix E).

22. C.R.S. 2, p. 35.

23. The S.T.C.'s conjectural "Antwerp" is mistaken since Antwerp was in Protestant hands throughout this time and was in fact soon to be under a year's Catholic siege (Aug. 1584-Aug. 1585).

24. D 'Ewes, Journals of All the Parliaments, p. 317.

25. D'Ewes, Journals, pp. 368, 369; see Neale, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments, 1584-1601, pp.94-95.

26. Shelley, C.R.S. 21, p. 76; Harington, Tract on the Succession, p. 44.

27. Contemporary copy, British Library, Additional MS. 31897, fol. 9. "A Letter of State of a Scholar of Cambridge" is the Commonwealth's running title at the page heads.

28. Included here as Appendix C. In July 1585 the Italian Alberico Gentili defended Leicester in very similar ways in his De legationibus libri tres, pp. iv-v.

29. Burghley's rebuttal, C.S.P. Scots, 1574-81, pp. 564-61; Parker to Burghley, 11 Sept. 1573, Murdin, State Papers, p. 259.

30. C.R.S. 21, p. 112.

31. C.S.P. Spanish, 1580-86, p. 538.

32. C.R.S. 21, pp. 72-73.

33. Rogers/Berden to Walsingham, Rouen, 11 Aug. 1585, S.P. 15/29/39.

34. Scory, S.P. 12/176/53, art. 1; Errington, S.P. 12/181/78; Davies, S.P. 12/193/18, art. 5; Wigges, Folger MS. K.b.1., arts. 1,12,13; Lilly, S.P. 78/15/15; Poley, S.P. 78/17/26 - the date is fixed by Hicks, Elizabethan Problem, p. 247.

35. S.P.78/13/86.

36. S.P.78/13/87.

37. S.P.78/13/99.

38. It will be observed that the Commonwealth itself, in a marginalium, speaks confidently of an enlarged second edition to follow.

39. S.P.53/15/552.

40. British Library 1345.a.25 and 1017.a.22. The title page is dated 1585 but also refers to Leicester as "Hollandiae ac Zelandiae pro Elizabetha Angliae Regina Gubernatoris"; as he did not become governor until early Feb. 1585/86, the book probably appeared between that time and the twenty-fifth of March, from which date the year would have been noted as 1586. It seems to have been printed in Holland by John Baptist Zangarum.

41. The Commonwealth material has been rearranged, but otherwise Briegerus has rendered it faithfully. He makes only a few additions, the most important of which are the statement that Amy Robsart was "destroyed by a small nail thrust gradually into her head" (p. 14, a gothic detail that persisted into the nineteenth century), the poisoning of Sussex, updated references to the death of Leicester's son and the "slaughter" of Northumberland in the Tower, June 1585 (p. 28), and a page of commentary on the Earl's arrival in the Low Countries.

42. British Library, Sloane MS. 1926, fols. 35-43v (ca.1590), printed in Peck, "'News from Heaven and Hell'"; S.P. 15/28/113, fols. 369-88v (1585?), printed in Peck, "'The Letter of Estate'"; Rogers's poem (ca. 1605), printed in F. Williams's edition, Rogers, Leicester's Ghost.

43. For examples of poetical progeny, see "Epitaphium" (British Library, Stowe MS. 156, fol. 204v) and "Notable talk herein taught" (Folger Library MS. G.b.11), both included in Appendix E.

44. "The Dead Man's Right" has been reprinted by D. Wilson, Sweet Robin, pp. 339-41. The reply to the Commonwealth known as "Father Parsons' Green Coat Well Dusted" (1588) is now considered never to have existed; it was supposedly mentioned in "the first English newspaper," the English Mercurie of 1588, which was a hoax perpetrated sometime around 1750. See Hicks, "Growth of a Myth," p. 102n; Tenison, Elizabethan England, 5 (1936): 147n; Hazen, "Literary Forgeries and the Library," p. 9.

45. Peter Holmes has performed a service in reminding us that Robert Parsons must have had more knowledge of the book than he ever admitted, and more than Fr. Hicks would admit for him. He goes too far, however, in attempting to reinstate Parsons as principal author and seems to underestimate the differences between the Commonwealth and the Jesuit's own opinions or sources of information during this period. See Holmes, "Authorship of 'Leicester's Commonwealth.'"

46. Privy Council and Lord Privy Seal, 1603; created Earl of Northampton, 1604; died, at the age of seventy-four, 14 June 1614.

47. Jordan, Edward VI: the Threshold of Power, p. 111. It will be noticed how often the Commonwealth returns to these generation-old grievances against Leicester's father.

48. The genealogical table of major Howard connections in Appendix F may be useful here. I am using "party" throughout in a very loose sense, not as an organized political association, but rather as a group of like-minded men who consistently understood their interests on important issues to be similar and the intentions of other groups to be different and possibly opposed.

49. See N. Williams, Thomas Howard, chaps. 8-10; on the later Ridolfi Plot see F. Edwards, This Marvellous Chance.

50. Gilbert Talbot to Shrewsbury, 11 May 1573, mentioning that Sussex was backing Oxford in his rise (Lodge, Illustrations of British History, 2: 16).

51. H.M.C. Salisbury MSS., 1: 146 (misdated 1557).

52. Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1569-72, p. 428, no. 2981; ibid.,1572-75, p. 227, no.1210. The latter office he still held in Oct. 1580 (A.P.C., 1580-81, pp. 221-22).

53. Read, Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth, pp.130-32; C.S.P. Domestic, Addenda, 1566-79, p. 469.

54. Howard to Walsingham, 28 May 1575, S.P.12/103/53.

55. Bossy, "English Catholics and the French Marriage," p. 2; this article is an excellent brief survey of the Howard circle in the late 1570s. Other members of this courtier group seem to have included the Lords Windsor and Compton, the Lords Charles and Thomas Howard, George Gifford, Francis Southwell, Henry Noel, Arthur Gorges, William Tresham, William Cornwallis, and the young Walter Raleigh, as well as others less often at Court, such as the Earls of Northumberland and Southampton, Thomas Lord Paget, and Philip Howard, Norfolk's son and heir. See Peck, "Raleigh, Sidney, Oxford, and the Catholics, 1579," pp. 429-30.

56. Arundell confessed having introduced Oxford to Richard Stephens, a seminary priest (Arundell's Declaration, late Dec. 1580, S.P.15/27A/46). Oxford swore the man was a Jesuit and that Arundell had snuck him behind hangings in the Queen's bedchamber to watch the Queen dance.

57. Conyers Read's opinion, in Burghley, pp. 200-1, based on Leicester's letter to Walsingham: "You carried a companion over with you who hath played the right Jack since he returned - Charles Arundel. When I first heard of his going I told some of my friends to what end he would go." (Arundell's name is sometimes spelled as above, though he himself preferred the form I have followed.)

58. These tortuous negotiations over the next few years can be followed in detail in Read, Mr. Secretary Walsingham, 2: 1-117, and his Burghley, pp. 203-71. See also MacCaffrey, "Anjou Match," and his Queen Elizabeth and the Making of Policy, chaps.11 and 12.

59. See Sussex's letter on the subject to the Queen, 28 Aug.1578, in Hatton Memoirs, pp. 81-89, esp. 83-84; Read, Burghley, chap.12.

60. Mendoza reported on 25 Dec.1581 that Howard was "desirous of bringing about the marriage, as he believed, like many others, that it would result in their being allowed freedom for their faith" ( C.S.P. Spanish, 1580-86, pp. 245-46); see also Mauvissière to Henri III, 29 Oct.1579 (S.P. 31/3/27). Compare the sentiments expressed by the Commonwealth's lawyer, below.

61. Stafford's treatise, Mar. 1579, H.M.C. Salisbury MSS., 2: 239-45; Lord Henry's, British Library, Cotton MSS., Titus C. 18, fols. 1-21 (printed in Stubbs, John Stubbs's Gaping Gulf, pp. 155-94).

62. Osborn, Young Philip Sidney, p. 503; Peck, "Raleigh, Sidney, Oxford, and the Catholics, 1579," pp. 427-28; Howell, Sir Philip Sidney, p. 68. The text of Sidney's argument appears in Miscellaneous Prose of Sir Philip Sidney.

63. H.M.C. Salisbury MSS., 2: 224.

64. Read, Burghley, p. 214; H.M.C. Salisbury MSS., 2: 277-78; Camden, Elizabeth, 2: 95. The Commonwealth gloats over Leicester's discomfiture at this time but probably exaggerates his will toward violent revenge. The idea that the Queen could have been kept ignorant of his marriage for almost a year's time certainly strains belief but accords with what facts are known; Derek Wilson has argued, however, suggestively if not convincingly, that in fact she learned of it in Apr. 1578 (Sweet Robin, pp. 228-30).

65. Bossy, "English Catholics and the French Marriage," p. 7.

66. Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, p. 200.

67. S.P.15/27A/46.

68. C.R.S. 21, p.29-30.

69. Arundell's letter to a lady,1581: The "cause of my stay was a supplication presented to the Queen by Leicester from Oxford" (S.P.12/151/51).

70. Mendoza's account, 25 Dec.1581 (C.S.P. Spanish, 1580-86, pp. 245-46, and C.R.S. 21, pp. 30-31).

71. Mauvissière to Henri III, 11 Jan.1581, C.R.S. 21, p. 29-30. Hatton was set over Howard, Walsingham over Southwell, who had surrendered previously; Arundell was confined at Sutton in Surrey, with whom is not known, but probably under Hatton as well. Other Catholic courtiers, while not directly implicated, suffered similar eclipse; Lord Paget, for example, was being pressed at just this time for his failure to attend Protestant services (Paget to Walsingham, 10 Jan.1581, S.P.12/147/5).

72. C.S.P. Spanish, 1580-86, p. 78.

73. Oxford, "Interrogatories to be demanded of Arundell and Howard," S.P. 12/151/42, art. 1; Arundell denied this charge, S.P. 12/151/43.

74. S.P.12/151/45, fourth charge.

75. S.P.12/151/50. Most of these papers, undated but 1581, can be found in S.P.12/83/41,12/151/42-57,15/27A/46.

76. Arundell's supplications, apparently to Walsingham, 1581, S.P.12/151/51-53; Howard's to Walsingham, 12 Jan. 1581, S.P.12/147/6, and in later troubles, of 14 Sept. 1582, S.P.12/155/44, and of 25 Feb.1583, S.P.12/158/77. Howard to Hatton, ca. July 1581, Hatton Memoirs, pp. 376-77 (misdated). Arundell and Lord Paget were said, two years later, to "commend [Walsingham] for as real a gentleman as liveth" (Parry to Walsingham, Paris, 8 Dec. 1583, S.P. 15/28/47), and Arundell once wrote that he considered Hatton to be "a man of very good conscience and my honorable friend" (S.P. 12/151/51).

77. Arundell to Hatton, six letters, two from Sutton, 23 May and 20 July 1581, a third ca. Aug., Hatton Memoirs, pp. 169,180-81,216-19.

78. Sussex to Arundell, S.P. 12/150/43; Howard to Leicester, S.P.12/150/51. See also Howard to Walsingham, 1 Dec. 1581, complaining that Leicester was still trying to "shake and undermine my liberty" (S.P. 12/150/81). On 17 Oct. several of Arundell's servants were summoned before the Privy Council, perhaps for examination in this matter (A.P.C., 1581-82, pp. 236, 239).

79. E. Edwards, Life and Letters of Sir Walter Ralegh, 2: 21.

80. Read, Walsingham, 2: 381-82.

81. S.P.15/28/2.

82. S.P. 15/27A/57. Tresham later warned Hatton to beware of Leicester in time, for "he affecteth you only to serve his own turn" (Hatton Memoirs, pp. 351-53).

83. Paget to Northumberland?, 4 Mar. 1583 (S.P.12/159/8): "Your friend in Essex is very desirous that the Queen should have light given her of the practice between Leicester and the Countess [of Shrewsbury] for Arbella" to marry Leicester's son, "for it comes on very lustily, insomuch as the said Earl hath sent down the picture of his baby " - a charge repeated in the Commonwealth and, also in Mar.1583, by Mendoza (C.S.P. Spanish, 1580-86, pp. 451-52, also 426).

84. Leo Hicks, echoing the opinion of Parsons (in Knox, Letters and Memorials of William Cardinal Allen, pp. 392-94) and others, has tried to demonstrate that both C. Paget and Thomas Morgan were double agents and that Paget may have deliberately failed to broach the matter of invasion in order to sabotage the scheme; see Elizabethan Problem, pp. 21-29.

85. Paget to his servant, R. Ensor, 7 Nov.1583, requiring him to settle his affairs and secretly to forward as much money as could be gathered (S.P. 12/163/52); various examinations, Dec.1583, S.P. 12/164/23, 26, 45.

86. It was believed by many Catholics that (as C. Paget expressed it in July 1585) Northumberland had been made away with by "the devilish practices of the Earl of Leicester and his confederates" (C.S.P. Scots, 1584-85, p. 26).

87. The government case appears in its pamphlets against Throgmorton and against Northumberland, reprinted in Kinney, Elizabethan Backgrounds, pp. 138-87.

88. Letter of 12 Feb.1585, S.P.15/28/61. Lord Paget's sister Anne Lee mentions on 29 Jan. 1584 that he, Charles Paget, and Arundell "are called home by proclamation" (S.P. 12/167/51 and mentioned by Parry on 12 Feb.), but what this represents is difficult to tell. In June 1584 the Queen ordered an inventory of all three men's lands, which by Aug. had been completed (C.S.P. Domestic, 1581-90, pp.182, 196,213); Lord Paget's household goods were confiscated and used to furnish Tutbury Castle for the Queen of Scots's removal there (C.S.P. Scots, 1584-85, pp. 437-38). In Feb. 1587 the wardship of William, the son of "the late Lord Paget," was granted to one of Leicester's allies, Sir George Carey (A.P.C. 1586-87, p. 352); as Paget did not die until 1590, "late" must refer to his having been attainted, along with Throgmorton and Babington, by the statute 29 Elizabeth, cap. 1, in the Parliament of 1586-1587 (Bellamy, Tudor Law of Treason, p. 212).

89. Lord Paget to his mother, 2 Dec.1583, S.P. 12/164/5; to Lord Burghley, 2 Dec.1583, S.P. 12/164/6; to the Council, 12 Oct. 1584, S.P.15/28/97. In late Oct. 1583 he had been writing to his brother regretting rumors of the latter's activities and threatening to disown him should he forget the loyalty he owed (S.P. 12/163/18).

90. Camden, Elizabeth, 3: 33. Also the so-called Somerville Plot was breaking in Oct. and Nov.1583, and Lord Paget told Stafford upon his arrival in Paris that because of it he feared there was to be "a hard hand over all Papists" (Stafford to Walsingham, 2 Dec.1583, S.P. 15/28/44).

91. In advising Stafford of the courtiers' flight, Walsingham had warned him against allowing his wife's close alliance with them to affect his duty (2 Dec.1583, S.P. 78/10/95). Stafford was infuriated at the suggestion and complained to Burghley "that there is an evil meaning in the writer" (19 Dec.1583, British Library, Cotton MSS., Galba E. vi, fol.189v, Hardwicke State Papers, 1: 212).

92. The case against him appears in Conyers Read's two essays "Fame of Sir Edward Stafford," in American Historical Review, 1915 and 1930 (less strongly stated in Walsingham, 2: 409-15, and Burghley, pp. 386-90). Sir John Neale's rebuttal, much the stronger case, appears under the same title in English Historical Review, 1929.

93. Efforts were also being made by Dr. Allen and others (Knox, Allen, pp. 228, 242) and by the Queen of Scots (Parsons to Englefield, Paris, 24 July 1584, C.R.S. 39, p. 226) to recommend them to the favor of the King of Spain and the Pope.

94. Read interprets these same activities to their disadvantage. Arundell acted as go-between for Stafford, the Duke of Guise, and Mendoza, exchanging news and money for news supposedly out of Stafford's dispatches; Stafford's code name was "Julio," Arundell's "the third party." Stafford had asked permission from home (which, however, was refused) to use such a ruse in order to gain Spanish trust.

Arundell's death invites investigation. When the renegade priest Gifford accused him in Paris of being a spy for Stafford, he countered by delating Gifford to the ecclesiastical authorities for keeping a "quean." Later in the day he learned from Stafford that Gifford had kept an "insurance policy," instructions to him involving the entrapment of Babington and the Queen of Scots signed by Walsingham's man Phelippes. Swearing to retrieve the embarrassing papers or die, Arundell rushed off but was soon after found irremediably ill, and after a week's languishing, he died on Christmas day, 15 Dec. English style. Stafford believed Arundell to have been poisoned and indicated to Walsingham that he held him in good measure responsible. Gifford's papers were not heard of again.

There is confusion among scholars occasioned by the fact that Arundell was sometimes referred to as Sir Charles, and more often not. In fact, he was knighted by Philip II at the Escorial in summer 1586 and was thus "miles Hispanicus," a knight only to the Catholic writers on the continent.

95. Morgan to the Queen of Scots, Murdin, State Papers, pp. 456-57; Rogers/Berden to Walsingham, 11 Aug. 1585, S.P. 15/29/39.

96. Vatican archives, printed in Hicks, "Growth of a Myth," pp. 96-97.

97. "Argumenta quibus probatur Patrem Personium huius libri auctorem fuisse sunt publica fama, stilus optime et familiarissime quamplurimis notus, confession D'ni Caroli Arundelii qui se confessus est huic libro subjectum et materiem subministrasse, P. autem Personium methodum, stilum, et formam" (see Cecil's "Brevis Relatio," in Law, Archpriest Controversy, 2: 99).

98. Watson, Decacordon of Ten Quodlibetical Questions, p. 266; Parsons, Warnword to Sir Francis Hastings' Wast-Word, fol. 2v.

99. Labanoff, Letters of Mary Stuart, p. 362. It is known certainly, however, that his imprisonment was requested by Elizabeth, via the Earl of Derby, because of his implication in the so-called Parry Plot. Observe that Mary evidently has no personal knowledge of the authorship. There is no reason to take the suggestion of Glasgow's participation seriously.

In Nov. 1584 Hieronimo Martelli (vere Henri Samerie, S.J.) informed Mary that because Morgan is "vehemently accused" of having written the Commonwealth, it is feared that he will soon be in trouble; for this reason "some advise him to disappear," but the writer disagrees, lest Morgan might thus appear guilty (C.S.P. Scots, 1584-85, p. 421).

100. Murdin, State Papers, p. 456.

101. Leicester "hath said to a friend of his that he will persecute you to the uttermost, for that he supposeth your Majesty to be privy to the setting forth of the book against him" (Murdin, State Papers, pp. 436-37).

102. C.R.S. 4, pp.120-21; C.R.S. 2, p. 33.

103. Rogers/Berden to Walsingham, Paris, 30 Sept.1585, C.R.S. 21, pp. 80-81. Paget tried again in April of the next year (Murdin, State Papers, p. 509).

104. Rogers/Berden to Walsingham, 16 Dec.1585, S.P.15/29/55.

105. Their relations can be followed in Hicks, Elizabethan Problem, pp.191-93, 215-18.

106. See Pritchard, Catholic Loyalism, pp. 49-56.

107. Fitzherbert, Defense of the Catholic Cause and Treatise Concerning Policy and Religion, inter alia. See Loomie, Spanish Elizabethans, pp. 108-12.

108. C.S.P. Venetian, 1581-91, p. 176; S.P. 78/13/86.

109. S.P. 78/15/15 (see Appendix E).

110. Hicks cites instances in which Lady Sheffield is known to have supplied Arundell with vital information on other matters (Elizabethan Problem, p. 218 and note).

111. When Richard Verstegan's illustrated book on the English persecution appeared in late 1583 or early 1584, Stafford found no difficulty in having the printing house raided, the printer arrested, and Verstegan himself imprisoned for a few days' time. See H.M.C. Rutland MSS., 1: 158, and Stafford's dispatches, C.S.P. Foreign, for the period 23 Nov. 1583 to 30 Jan. 1584; also A. G. Petti, ed., "Verstegan Papers," C.R.S. 52, p. xxxvii.

112. The Commonwealth's several points of correspondence with Mendoza's dispatches of 1582-1583 serve further to link Lord Harry to the book as at that time Mendoza considered him his primary informant in England.

113. Leslie's Treatise is itself a reprint of a part of his 1569 tract, the Defense of the Honor; the Commonwealth's authors may have been working from the earlier edition, but as Leslie was living in Rouen, they seem likely to have been in touch with him directly.

114. See Read, "William Cecil and Elizabethan Public Relations," pp. 37-38.

115. See Allen's memorial, "De presenti rerum Anglicarum statu," in Mattingly, "William Allen and Catholic Propaganda in England," pp. 327-28 et passim.

116. Allen, Defence, pp. 146-72; see also his Admonition to the Nobility, pp. 6-7.

117. This oversimplifies a complex controversial problem but is generally a fair characterization; on the Catholic position toward those who have "gone forth," see Clancy, Papist Pamphleteers, pp. 146-48.

118. Walpole and Parsons, News from Spain and Holland, fols. 26v-27. Corresponding passages in Parsons, Brief Discourse Containing Certain Reasons, unpag. dedication; Parsons, Epistle of the Persecution, pp. 5-7; Allen, Defence, pp. 93-96. Catholics have "jus acquisitum, ancient right over heretics," but Protestants have "nullum jus acquisitum" over Catholics; Parsons, Judgment of a Catholic Englishman, p. 23, and Discussion of the Answer of M. William Barlow, p. 142.

119. This petition was printed with others by Broughton, English Protestants' Plea and Petition; passages quoted, pp. 34, 41.

120. Lecler, Toleration and the Reformation, 2: 375; Jordan, Development of Religious Toleration in England, 1: 404-6.

121. See Levine, Early Elizabethan Succession Question, p. 8.

122. This fear of Huntingdon's pursuit of his claim was shared by all of Mary's supporters and by Mary herself (see C.S.P. Scots, 1584-85, p. 86).

123. See Cross, Puritan Earl, pp. 143-47.

124. See, e.g., C.S.P. Spanish, 1580-86, pp. 85, 400. Parsons, too, remarks upon the Earl's claim in a letter of 13 Dec.1584 (C.R.S. 39, p. 266), and also in Dec.1584 Englefield identified Huntingdon as the Queen of Scots's "chief competitor" (S.P. 53/15/4). The papers taken about the Scottish Jesuit Creighton (4 Sept. 1584) indicate that for the Lennox Invasion of 1582 proclamations were designed against both Huntingdon and Leicester because "they go about . . . to take away from [James VI] the right to the succession" (Knox, Allen, p. 429).

125. See Hurstfield, "The Succession Struggle in Late Elizabethan England," and Hicks, "Sir Robert Cecil."

126. See Axton, "Influence of Edmund Plowden's Succession Treatise."

127. Harington, Tract on the Succession, pp. 55-61; T. Wilson, State of England, pp. 8-9. Both borrowings are marked in the annotations.

128. Clancy, Papist Pamphleteers, p. 56.

129. This is true especially among Catholic writers, e.g., John Leslie's Copy of a Letter Written out of Scotland (1572), Parsons's Epistle of the Persecution, the Copy of a Double Letter (1582?), Allen's Copy of a Letter Written by M. Doctor Allen (1587), Creswell's Advertisement Written to a Secretary of My Lord Treasurer's (1592), and Copley's Answer to a Letter of a Jesuited Gentleman (1601). On the other side, the government backed Lewis (or Samuel) Lewknor's A Discourse of the Usage of the English Fugitives (1595) - in MS., "A Copy of a Letter Sent out of the Low Countries," with Burghley's annotations (British Library, Stowe MS. 159, fols. 276-302) - supposedly a letter from a Catholic Englishman to his nephew, demonstrating why he must not flee the realm in any hope of freedom of conscience and Spanish maintenance.

130. Darnton, Literary Underground of the Old Regime, pp. 203-05.

131. Rose, Cases of Conscience, p. 42.

132. See C. Wilson, Queen Elizabeth and the Revolt of the Netherlands, esp. pp. 101-3.

133. D. Wilson, Sweet Robin. A. Kendall's Robert Dudley is less interpretive in character; it is largely a chronological tour through the Dudley Papers at Longleat, but the conception of Leicester that lies behind most of its remarks is essentially the older, simpler, and less flattering one.

134. See MacCaffrey, Queen Elizabeth and the Making of Policy, p. 437.

135. Pulman, Elizabethan Privy Council, pp. 28-29.

136. Opponents of the stature of William Cecil naturally have left no gross diatribes, but as shown by his two memoranda comparing Leicester's qualities with those of the Archduke Charles, Cecil was well aware of the source of Dudley's influence and his vulnerability to unsavory report (printed in D. Wilson, Sweet Robin, pp. 188-90).

137. Peck, "Letter of Estate," pp. 25-26. See also the concern of the "Letter" for Norfolk's son Philip (p. 31) and for Sussex (p. 32).

138. Wallace MacCaffrey's introduction to the 1970 edition of Camden, History of . . . Princess Elizabeth, p. xxxviii.

Leicester's Commonwealth

The Copy of a Letter
Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge
to his friend in London, concerning some talk
passed of late between two worshipful and grave
men about the present state and some proceedings
of the Earl of Leicester and his friends in England.
Conceived, spoken and published with most earnest
protestation of all dutiful good will and
affection towards her most excellent Majesty
and the realm, for whose good only it is
made common to many. 1584.

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