"From her arrival in 1568, Mary Stuart posed a major threat to the security of Elizabeth and her government". How far do you agree with this judgement?

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Mark Rigby

“From her arrival in 1568, Mary Stuart posed a major threat to the security of Elizabeth and her government”. How far do you agree with this judgement?

        Mary’s arrival in England triggered the discontent among some Catholic sympathisers to become prevalent, as Mary provided a clear leader to focus their religious dissatisfactions with the moderately Protestant settlement imposed by Elizabeth. This is why religious motivations behind some of the laity were the most dangerous threat from Mary. Political advantages from individuals supporting Mary are contributory factors to threaten Elizabeth, without the laity’s religious motivations however they cannot amount to a crucial significance. International implications from Mary’s presence were potentially huge but were never anything more than potential. All these factors revolving around Mary that threatened Elizabeth were compounded by the way Elizabeth mismanaged situations. Mary can be seen as the reaction pathway in the threat towards Elizabeth, she does not do much herself to endanger Elizabeth, however she provided the discontented with the motivation to threaten Elizabeth because she was the next Catholic heir.  

        Those who felt discontented about Elizabeth’s moderate Protestant settlement now had a clear leader to focus their ambitions of a Catholic England. The Northern Rebellion is a prime example of this religious discontent of many of the laity being focused on releasing Mary to restore Catholicism to England (5600/6000 were individuals not tenants of the landowners who would have been forced into fighting).   The reason why this is the paramount threat to Elizabeth is because of the number of people who had grievances against the religion and saw Mary Stuart as the way to gain their religion back. Tied into this is the political danger of those Nobles who also had Catholic sympathies but were also in a position to challenge Elizabeth i.e. the Duke of Norfolk who was under demands from Mary Stuart to gain her release from prison by force if needed.

        Mary was always going to be the main centre of Catholic plots against Elizabeth because she was the heir to the throne. Catholic dissatisfactions were already present before her arrival but were compounded and given direction with her arrival. Therefore Mary can be seen as the instigator behind the Catholic threat to Elizabeth. This is shown by the fact that until 1568 Elizabeth was relatively free from Catholic threats, however with the arrival of Mary Stuart the question of Elizabeth’s successor arisen and the Catholic plots began. Moreover with a Catholic heir to the throne available to the Catholics in England then Elizabeth’s life was under increased threat. This is because the extreme Catholics were undoubtedly prepared to kill Elizabeth, their Queen, to gain their religion. After all their route to heaven or hell was controlled by Elizabeth and if she got it wrong then they would not gain salvation. This personal threat to Elizabeth is shown by the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre, where French Catholics killed their Protestant King in the name of their religion. This threat is also emphasised by the assassination of William of Orange by Dutch Catholics. Mary behaves like a catalyst in the Catholic threat to Elizabeth, without her the plots that surrounded her would have no meaning because there is nobody to restore Catholicism for them. However as Mary was in England then repeats of what had happened in France and Spain to Protestant leaders similar to Elizabeth could also happen.

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        Politically Mary Stuart provides an alternative for those Nobles who were not content with their position under Elizabeth. Nobles who were isolated from power under Elizabeth may see supporting Mary Stuart as a way to gain power in court or getting back positions that they had deprived under Elizabeth. Example of these nobles includes the Earl of Northumberland who under Elizabeth had his wardship of the Middlemarch deprived. This plan by Elizabeth to decrease the power of the magnates in the North had loosened the allegiance between Elizabeth and nobles such as Northumberland to such an extent that they saw ...

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This essay tackles a wide range of consequences and keeps the focus on the threat that Mary posed to Elizabeth. There is detail from the period but it could be a lot more specific and there is a noticable lack of dates. The argument set out at the beginning is a good one but it needed to be pursued with a lot more analysis and evaluation of threat. ***