Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Succession, Bye and Main Plots of 1601-1603

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Succession, Bye and Main Plots of 1601-1603

Article excerpt

The Succession, Bye and Main Plots of 1601-1603- By Francis Edwards, S.J. (Dublin: Four Courts Press. 2006. Pp. 327. $65.00.)

This is, in effect, the second volume in Francis Edwards' overview, principaUy from printed sources, of the conspiracies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean period leading up to the Gunpowder plot. This book's purpose is, in effect, to teË the story of James's accession through the series of aËeged conspiracies that occurred in opposition to James's candidacy. In itself this is a valid and valuable approach. This is, however, a volume written with a specific agenda, derived from some of the polemics of specific Jesuits of the period, principaUy Robert Persons. Its intention is to prove yet further Edwards' thesis that the Gunpowder conspiracy was a fiction, a device invented and pursued by Sir Robert CecË, in the sense that CecU already had "form." This is a much-debated topic, and there are several quite entrenched positions associated with it. Edwards, it has to be said, is now in something of a minority here. There are real problems with an account of CecU merely as a kind of universal spider, though this is not to say that he did not prove extremely effective in the furious maneuvering which preceded James VFs accession to the English throne.

The whole subject (sometimes referred to as plotterology) has, in fact, a tendency to look a Ëttle unreal. AU too quickly, historical descriptions of this or that conspiracy seems to become bogged down in mind-numbing complexity and ever more unlikely narratives and apparently ridiculous detaU. (It is aËiiost inevitable that the none-too-stable ArbeUa Stuart, who figures prominently in some of the chapters here, would have employed an embroiderer caUed "old Freake.")

Nevertheless, it is clear that there is much to be said for an investigation of late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century politics from the perspective of how contemporaries identified and described conspiracies. …

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