The Politics of Religion in the Age of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Earl of Argyll and the Struggle for Britain and Ireland

By Lynch, Michael | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview
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The Politics of Religion in the Age of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Earl of Argyll and the Struggle for Britain and Ireland


Lynch, Michael, The Catholic Historical Review


The Politics of Religion in the Age of Mary, Queen of Scots, The Earl of Argyll and the Struggle for Britain and Ireland. By Jane E. A. Dawson [Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History] (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2002. Pp. xvii, 251.)

This is a study of the operation of politics in the age of the Reformation in three parallel but very different worlds: the regional heartland of Archibald Campbell, fifth earl of Argyll (1538-1573) in the Highlands of Scotland, and especially in southern Argyll; on the national stage where, the author claims, the earl was of equal standing with James Stewart, earl of Moray, and William Maitland of Lethington, as an architect of the coup organized by the Lords of the Congregation in 1559-60, which culminated in the Reformation parliament of 1560, which dispensed with papal authority, banned the Mass, and adopted a reformed Confession of Faith composed by John Knox; and as a key ally of William Cecil, secretary of Queen Elizabeth of England, in devising a pan-British Protestant strategy, which embraced a conquest of Ireland as well as the successful pushing through of a Reformation in Scotland and the formation of an "amity" between the two newly Protestant kingdoms.

The argument is at its most persuasive in the first and third of these theaters. Argyll, it is shown, was raised as a Protestant, and the most influential figure in his upbringing was the Catholic priest turned Protestant tutor, John Carswell, who entered his father's service in 1549 and would later be the fifth earl's key ally in the conversion of the Canipbells' widespread territories, as superintendent and later bishop of Argyll and translator into Gaelic in 1568 of the Book of Common Order. On the British stage, the earl was a key ally for Cecil, since he was able to offer England his considerable military resources, which stretched across the North Channel into the north of Ireland. This, Dawson argues, was a key element in the Treaty of Berwick, concluded between England and the Congregation in February, 1560, She is also able convincingly to demonstrate how this alliance fell apart amidst the reconfiguration of both Scottish and British politics following the return to Scotland of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1561 and her marriage to Lord Darnley in 1565.

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