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CHAPTER XIII 1581-1584
Alen?on had nominally accepted the sovereignty of Flanders offered to him by the States of Ghent in the autumn of 1580; but whilst the Huguenots were in arms against his brother, he had no force of men to enable him to enter and assume the government of his new dominion. He had industriously striven to draw Elizabeth into a marriage, or into aiding him in Flanders as a price for her jilting him; but she had always been too clever for him, and kept on the right side of a positive compromise. When the fears of war with Spain engendered in England by Drake’s depredations became acute, and the Spanish aid to the Irish rebels could no longer be concealed, it was necessary once more for England to draw close to France. A request was accordingly sent for a special French embassy to come to England empowered to settle the details of the Alen?on marriage and a national alliance. Elizabeth’s letters to Alen?on became more affectionate than ever: she promised him 200,000 crowns of Drake’s plunder to pay German mercenaries to support him in Flanders, she sent the lovelorn Prince a wedding-ring, she petted and bribed his agent until her own courtiers were all jealous; and under the influence of Burghley and Sussex, once more the marriage negotiations assumed a serious aspect, whilst Leicester and Hatton chafed in the background.

The activity of the seminary priests and missionaries,[350] in conjunction with the Papal invasion of Ireland, had been answered in England by fresh severity against the Catholics. The gaols were all full to overflowing with English recusants; fresh proclamations were issued against harbouring priests; and spies at home and abroad were following the ubiquitous movements of the zealous young members of the Society of Jesus, who yearned for the crown of martyrdom. There is no doubt that to some extent the new persecution of the Catholics was for the purpose of reconciling the Puritans to the Alen?on match, but it was still more owing to the genuine alarm of a war against Spain and the Pope.

Parliament opened on the 16th January 1581, after twenty-four prorogations, this only being its third session, although it was elected in 1572. We have already seen that the Puritan party was strong in the House of Commons, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Walter Mildmay, in his speech, voiced the general feeling of the country at the dangers that seemed impending. “Our enemies sleep not,” he said, “and it behoveth us not to be careless, as though all were past; but rather to think that there is but a piece of the storm over, and that the greater part of the tempest remaineth behind, and is like to fall upon us by the malice of the Pope, the most capital enemy of the Queen and this State.”[443] He denounced the “absolutions, dispensations, reconciliations, and such other things of Rome. You see how lately he (the Pope) hath sent hither a sort of hypocrites, naming themselves Jesuits, a rabble of vagrant friars, newly sprung up, running through the world to trouble the Church of God.” The aim of the oration, of course, was to lead the House to vote liberal supplies for the defence of the country, and in this it was[351] successful; though, when the Puritan majority endeavoured to appoint days of fasting and humiliation by Parliamentary vote, they were rapped over the knuckles by the Queen, as they had been in the previous session, for interfering with her prerogative.[444]

The country, in fact, was now thoroughly alive to the danger into which it had drifted, and Lord Burghley’s hand once more took the tiller, to remedy, so far as he might, the evils which had resulted from the temporary abandonment of his cautious policy.[445] His task was not an easy one to settle the preliminaries of the pompous embassy which was to come from France. There were a host of questions to be considered. The Queen would insist upon the Ambassadors being of the highest rank, and having full powers. Leicester and Hatton objected to their coming at all; Alen?on insisted that they should be only empowered to negotiate a marriage, and not an alliance; whilst Cobham, the English Ambassador, endeavoured ineffectually to draw Henry III. into a pledge to break with Spain about[352] Portugal before the embassy left France. At last all was arranged, and in April the Ambassadors, with a suite of two hundred persons, arrived in London.[446] Drake’s silver was drawn upon liberally for presents; a new gallery was built at Whitehall for the entertainment of the envoys; Philip Sidney wrote a masque, and played the fool for once for their delectation; and joust and tourney, ball and banquet, succeeded each other hourly, to the exclusion of more serious business.

Leicester had done his best to stop the embassy, but without effect, and wrote to Lord Shrewsbury that he “was greatly troubled at these great lords coming.”[447] He tried to work upon the Queen’s weak side, by assuring her that the one object of the Frenchmen was to lead her into heavy expenditure, and so to enfeeble her, that she might the more easily be conquered.[448] This, at all events, caused some restriction in the expenditure; for the Queen suddenly discovered that it would not be dignified for her to entertain the Ambassadors or pay for horses until they actually arrived in London. Burghley may be presumed to have been delighted at their coming, for he made no effort to limit the cost of his banquet to them at Cecil House, in the Strand, which was one of the most splendid entertainments offered to them. There is in the Lansdowne MSS. a full relation of this splendid feast of the 30th April, with the bills of fare, accounts of expenses, &c., which gives some notion of the splendour and extent of Burghley’s[353] household. There were consumed two stags, 40s.; two bucks, 20s.; six kids, 24s.; six pigs, 10s.; six shins of beef, 24s.; four gammons of bacon, 16s.; one swan, 10s.; three cranes, 20s.; twenty-four curlews, 24s.; fifteen pheasants, 30s.; fifty-four herons, £8, 15s.; eight partridges, 8s., and vast quantities of meat of all sorts; and sturgeon, conger, salmon, trout, lampreys, lobsters, prawns, gurnards, oysters, and many sorts of fresh-water fish. Herbs and salads cost no less than 36s., and cream, 27s. There were consumed 3300 eggs, 360 lbs. of butter, 42 lbs. of spices, and three gallons of rose-water. £11, 7s. 3d. was paid for the hire of extra vessels and glass; flowers and rushes cost £5, 7s. 10d., and Turkey carpets, £11. This Gargantuan feast was served by forty-nine gentlemen and thirty-four servants, and was washed down with £75 worth of beer as well as Gascon, sack, hippocras, and other wine costing £21; the entire expenditure on the afternoon’s feeding being £649, 1s. 5d.

Though Burghley and Sussex had brought over the embassy in hopes of a marriage, or at least an alliance, the Queen changed from hour to hour. When Leicester complained to her, she silenced him by saying that she could avoid a marriage whenever she liked by bringing Alen?on over whilst the embassy was in England, and then setting the Frenchmen at loggerheads, and by subsidising the Prince’s attempts in Flanders. At the same time she certainly led Sussex, and probably Burghley, to believe that she might be in earnest at last.

After some weeks the elder Ambassadors got tired of trifling, and begged the Queen to appoint a committee of the Council to negotiate with them. The great banquet at Burghley House was the preliminary meeting, and a paper at Hatfield, endorsed by Burghley, lays down, in the usual precise manner of the time, every aspect of the matter. The propositions are three: 1st, if the Queen[354] should remain unmarried; 2nd, if she should marry Alen?on; and 3rd, if she should enter into some strait league with the French. In the first eventuality the Queen must strengthen herself and weaken her opponents; Scotland must be reduced to the same friendship that existed before the advent of D’Aubigny; James’s marriage to a Catholic must be prevented; Mary Stuart must be held tightly; Ireland must be subdued; the entire domination of Spain over the Netherlands must be avoided, and an alliance concluded either with France or the German Protestants. In the second eventuality, that the Queen should marry Alen?on, the writer urges that the wedding should take place without delay, but always on condition that religion in England must be safeguarded, and Henry III. pledged to provide most of the means for Alen?on’s enterprise in Flanders. On the other hand, if the marriage is not to take place, care must be taken that no offence is given to the suitor. “Since the treaty with Simier many accidents have happened to make this marriage hateful to the people, as the invasion of Ireland by the Pope, the determination of the Pope to stir up rebellion in this realm by sending in a number of English Jesuits, who have by books, challenges, and secret instructions and seductions, procured a great defection of many people to relinquish their obedience to her Majesty. Likewise there is a manifest practice in Scotland, by D’Aubigny, to alienate the young King of Scotland, both from favouring the Protestant religion and from amity to her Majesty and her realm, notwithstanding that he hath only been conserved in his crown at her Majesty’s charges.”[449]

Although this paper has usually been treated as emanating from Burghley, I consider it much more likely to have been the work of Walsingham. There is at[355] Hatfield, of similar date (2nd May 1581), a note, all in the Lord Treasurer’s hand, for his speech to the Ambassadors, and this is preceded by a private remark that, before a definite answer can be given, “it is necessary to know her Majesty’s own mind, to what end she will have this treaty tend, either to a marriage or no marriage, amity or no amity.” As Burghley seems not to have possessed this information, it is not surprising that the draft of his speech simply tends to delay. The Queen has written to Alen?on, he says, and must have a reply before she can say anything definite about the marriage; but as there has been some talk on both sides of a close alliance, the Queen expects the Ambassadors to be empowered to deal with that also.[450]

The Ambassadors themselves give an account of a speech of Burghley’s, either on this or another occasion, in which he declared that, although he was formerly against the marriage, he now personally thought it desirable. Brisson replied in a similar strain, and then the strong Protestantism of Walsingham asserted itself. He said that the hope of the marriage had caused the Pope to flood England with Jesuits and invade Ireland, the Catholics in England were already in high feather about it, and Alen?on had broken faith, and had entered into negotiations with the States General, since Simier took the draft treaty. Besides, he said, look at the danger of child-bearing to the Queen at her age. The marriage would probably drag England into war at least, and until the Queen received a reply to her letters the negotiations for the marriage must stand over.[451]

It is quite evident that the Queen desired an alliance without a marriage, and to draw France into open hostility to Spain, whilst she remained unpledged. But[356] Secretary Pinart was almost as clever as Burghley, and played his cards well, and no progress was made. Let them marry first, said Pinart, it would be easy to make an alliance afterwards. Affairs were thus at a deadlock. Alen?on was on the frontier with a body of men ready to enter Flanders to relieve Cambray, when his brother’s forces dispersed them. It was then clear to the Prince that he must depend upon the Queen of England alone; and ceding to the pressure of his agent in England, he suddenly rushed over to London (2nd June), to the confusion of the Ambassadors, who shut themselves up to avoid meeting him. The Queen was all smiles, for she was satisfied now that Alen?on was obliged to look to her only for aid, marriage or no marriage. Alen?on went back after a few days as secretly as he had come, but every one saw that the Queen had won the trick; and the pompous embassy went back loaded with presents, but only taking with it a draft marriage treaty, accompanied by a letter from Elizabeth, saying that she might alter her mind if she liked, in which case the treaty was to be considered as annulled.[452]

In the meanwhile Mendoza was watching closely the attempts of Leicester to persuade the Queen to aid Don Antonio in Portugal, as well as to provide means for Alen?on in Flanders. Walsingham had laid a trap for Mendoza, who was induced to pay a large sum of money to some Hollanders who promised to betray Flushing to the Spaniards, but really did just the opposite. The Hollanders left with the Spanish Ambassador the child son of one of them as a hostage. By orders of Walsingham[357] the embassy was violated and the boy taken away; and this amongst many other grievances was the source of endless squabbling with the Queen, who invariably retorted to all Mendoza’s complaints that Philip had connived at the invasion of Ireland. After one of his interviews with the Queen (24th June) he writes: “It is impossible for me to express the insincerity with which she and her ministers proceed.… She contradicts me every moment in my version of the negotiations.… I understood from her and Cecil, who is one of the few ministers who show any signs of straightforwardness, that they understood that your Majesty intended to write to the Queen assuring her that the succour had not been sent to Ireland on your behalf. I told them that the matter referred to the Pope alone, but Cecil said they wished to see a letter from your Majesty;” whereupon Mendoza angrily told him that the word of an Ambassador was sufficient.

On the same day that this conversation took place, Burghley’s task of keeping the peace was rendered still more difficult by the arrival in England of the fugitive Portuguese Pretender, Don Antonio, who was at once taken up by Leicester and Hatton. The Spanish Ambassador was told by Hatton that if he wanted his passports he could have them, and the Queen almost insultingly refused him audience. Mendoza then wrote her a letter, which he thought the Queen would be obliged to show to the whole Council, “where I was sure some of the members would point out to her the danger she was running in refusing to receive me and thus irritating your Majesty. Cecil, particularly, who is the person upon whom the Queen depends in matters of importance, had seen me a few days before, and said how sorry he was that these things should occur, and[358] that he should be unable to remedy them, as he was sure I could not avoid being offended.”[453]

A few weeks afterwards Mendoza made another attempt to see the Queen, who was then in the country. She said that as Philip had not written any excuse about the Spanish expedition to Ireland, she did not see her way to receive the Ambassador. If he had anything to say he might tell it to two Councillors. Burghley was known to be the most favourable of them, and had expressed to Mendoza his ignorance that the audience had been refused. “He did not think it wise to refuse me; and as he is the most important of the ministers I thought best to inform him of the reply I had received, and to say I should like to see him.” Burghley was ill of gout at Theobalds at the time, but shortly afterwards he came to town and asked Mendoza to see him at Leicester House, “his gout preventing him from coming further.” Mendoza found him with Leicester together, and in reply to the stereotyped complaints of the Ambassador about Drake’s plunder, the aid to the Portuguese, and the refusal of audience, the Treasurer firmly told him that the Queen thought he had been remiss in not obtaining a letter from the King disclaiming the Irish expedition. This Mendoza haughtily refused to do, and the conference ended unsatisfactorily.[454]

It is evident that at this period (August 1581) Burghley was in despair of keeping on friendly relations with Spain. The Queen and Leicester had determined to subsidise Alen?on in Flanders, and to countenance Don Antonio’s attempts on Portugal. This coming after the[359] retention of Drake’s plunder, and refusal of audience to the Ambassador, seemed to make the continuance of peace between the two countries impossible, and Burghley was once more obliged to turn to the necessary, but to him distasteful, alternative—a close union with France.

The great French embassy had gone back defeated, for they saw that Elizabeth was befooling Alen?on, and that the national alliance would only be made on terms advantageous to English interests in Flanders. But it was necessary for Henry III. and his mother to cling to England if they were effectually to oppose Philip in Portugal. The Guises were becoming more overbearing and powerful than ever under the popular Duke Henry; they were known to be turning towards Spain, and their ambitions were high both for themselves and for their cousin Mary Stuart. To avoid the complete subjugation of France to their ends, the King was therefore obliged to court Elizabeth, and suffer her to have her way with Alen?on and Flanders. Henry III. consequently asked Elizabeth, through Somers, to name a day for the marriage, simultaneously with which an offensive and defensive alliance would be concluded, and a secret agreement entered into with regard to the establishment of Alen?on in Flanders. This, of course, was understood to be merely fencing, and Walsingham himself was sent to France to conclude a treaty. He was instructed to say that the French were mistaken in supposing that the marriage was settled. The Queen could not consent to the marriage now, for, as Alen?on was already in arms against the King of Spain, it would “bring us and our realme into war, which in no respect our realme and subjects can accept.” But if the King will accept her secret aid to Alen?on’s plan in Flanders, and the opposition to Spain in Portugal, she will be willing to conclude[360] an offensive and defensive alliance with him. In any case, the marriage was to be abandoned. Walsingham saw Alen?on in Picardy before going to Paris, and, as may be supposed, the young Prince was in despair at the Queen’s fickleness. He was certain his brother would not make an alliance without the marriage, as he feared the Queen would slip out of it, leaving France alone face to face with Spain.[455] If, said Catharine, who was with her son, the Queen of England broke her word about the marriage for fear of her people, she might break an alliance for a similar reason. But Walsingham made it clear to both of them that Elizabeth would not allow herself to be dragged into war with Spain, though covert aid should be given to her late suitor. Poor Alen?on wept and stormed, but in vain. Anything short of marriage was useless to him, he said. His brother neither had helped nor would help him against Spain, unless the marriage took place. He himself would come to England for an answer from the Queen’s lips as soon as he had raised the siege of Cambray. Elizabeth complained of Walsingham’s management of the interview; he could rarely content her. He had, she said, been too abrupt in breaking off the marriage. Burghley pointed out to her that she could not have all her own way. She wanted, he said, to keep the marriage afoot, and yet not to marry; to aid Alen?on secretly, whilst France aided him openly; to conclude an alliance by which she gained everything, and France nothing.[456]

Elizabeth, in a rage, swore that Leicester and the Puritans were dragging her into all sorts of expense and trouble,[457] from which she could not extricate herself without[361] war. Walsingham was soon disgusted with his task, for he could make but little progress in Paris, and the Queen found fault with him constantly. He answered boldly, almost rudely, to all her strictures. He told her that with all this hesitation about the marriage “you lose the benefit of time, which, if years be considered, is not the least thing to be weighed. If you mean it (the marriage) not, then assure yourself it is one of the worst remedies you can use.… When your Majesty doth see in what doubtful terms you stand with foreign princes, then you do wish with great affection that opportunities offered had not been overslipped; but when they are offered you, if they be accompanied by charges, they are altogether neglected. The respect of charges hath lost Scotland, and I would to God I had no cause to think it might not put your Highness into peril of losing England.”[458]

Even Burghley, with all his influence, was in despair at getting the Queen to spend any money. Walsingham had told the Queen that if she lent Alen?on 100,000 ducats secretly he might be appeased. Burghley pointed out to her that her niggardliness was ruining the chance of effectually weakening Spain. “In no wise,” writes Burghley, “would she have the enterprise of the Low Countries lost, but she will not particularly warrant you to offer aid. She allegeth that now the King (of France) hath gone so far he will not abandon it.… Her Majesty is also very cold in the cause of Don Antonio, alleging that she liketh it only by opportunity [importunity?] of her Council; and now that all things are ready, ships, victuals, and men, the charges whereof come to £12,000, she hath been moved to find £2000 more needful for the full furniture of the voyage, wherewith she is greatly offended with Mr. Hawkins and Drake, as the charges are greater[362] than was said to her … hereupon her Majesty is content not to give a penny more; and now after Drake and Hawkins have made shift for the £2000, she will not let them depart until she be assured by you that the French will aid Don Antonio, for she feareth to be left alone.… All these things do marvellously stay her Majesty … yet she loseth all the charges spent in vain, and the poor King (Antonio) is utterly lost.”[459]

But Burghley might reason and remonstrate, Walsingham might tell her, as he did, that the penuriousness would bring her to ruin, Elizabeth would not open her purse strings until it was almost too late. Alen?on had made a dash into Flanders soon after seeing Walsingham in August, and relieved Cambray, and then being absolutely penniless, his brother, in a fright at his boldness, refusing any aid, the Queen was obliged to send him £20,000 to prevent the abandonment of the whole business, and a union with the Guises which he threatened. He returned to France after a few weeks, and then again announced his intention of coming to England to exert his personal influence on the Queen. To stave off the visit several other sums of money were sent to him. Leicester, too, strove his hardest to stop it; but Alen?on’s agents and Alen?on’s lovelorn epistles were more flattering to the Queen even than Leicester, and the lover came early in November.

Although Walsingham had almost arranged a draft treaty of alliance without marriage when he was in Paris, it fell through on the eternal question of the Queen’s “charges” and responsibility, and when Alen?on arrived in England the whole matter was as far from settlement as ever. Of the extraordinary cajolery by which the Queen alternately raised Alen?on to the pinnacle of hope and plunged him to the depths of[363] despair during his stay with her at Richmond and Whitehall, a full description will be found elsewhere.[460] By her dexterity she bound him personally to her, and made it appear that the only obstacles to the match were those raised by the King of France. From the coming of Alen?on it is clear that Leicester alone understood the Queen’s game. The earl was radiant and joyous, which made Sussex distrust the result, notwithstanding appearances. So far as he could Lord Burghley held aloof, although when the Prince came to London he waited upon him with other Councillors formally every morning at nine. When the famous scene was enacted (22nd November) in the gallery at Whitehall, where the Queen boldly kissed her suitor on the lips and publicly pledged herself to marry him,[461] Burghley was confined to his bed with an attack of gout. The Queen sent him an account of what had passed. Mendoza reports that he thereupon exclaimed, “Blessed be the Lord that this business has at last reached a point where the Queen, on her part, has done all she can; it is for the country now alone to carry it out.” The deduction which Mendoza drew from this exclamation was probably the correct one. To him it proved that the whole plan was insincere on the part of Elizabeth, and that the intention was to cause conditions to be imposed by Parliament which the King of France could not accept, and then to throw the responsibility of the breach upon the latter.

This was all very well, but it was a reverse for Burghley’s policy. Leicester and Walsingham had drawn the Queen into a position of almost open hostility to Spain; and yet a close union with France was rendered[364] difficult by Elizabeth’s fickleness and dread of responsibility, and by Leicester’s jealousy. As usual in such circumstances, Burghley cautiously endeavoured to redress the balance. When the treaty with France seemed assured, Mendoza had been refused audience, and on remonstrating with Burghley he had found him far less willing to be friendly than before. Leicester quite openly talked about turning the Spanish Ambassador out of England, and even Burghley had replied, to an application for audience on behalf of Mendoza to deliver a letter from Philip to the Queen, who was at Nonsuch, that the Queen was alone and unattended by Councillors, “and as Don Bernardino is to bring letters to the Queen from so great an enemy to her as his master, it is meet that he should be received as the minister of such a one.” When the Spaniard did see the Queen (October), his threats and complaints about Don Antonio and Alen?on were met with anger and indignation by her. All the old complaints on both sides were repeated, and both then and later Mendoza was certain by the attitude of Leicester, Hatton, and Walsingham, that they were determined to have war with Spain, and that Burghley, for once, would not stand in their way.

But a change came in the attitude of the latter in December. It seemed then impossible for the Queen to withdraw her pledges to Alen?on without a breach with France, whilst she could hardly help him without a war with Spain. Scottish affairs, moreover, were a subject of deep anxiety. D’Aubigny was now master, and Morton, to Elizabeth’s indignation, had been executed. Catholic priests and Jesuits were known to be flitting backwards and forwards; and worst of all, Mary Stuart had, for the first time since her flight, opened up friendly negotiations with her son’s Government, and had formally joined James with herself in her sovereignty. She had moreover[365] written confidently asking for many fresh concessions which Elizabeth was loath to grant her.[462]

Any appearance of an approach of the French and Scots always drew England and Spain together, and with the added dangers already cited, this was quite sufficient to change Lord Burghley’s tone. Mendoza accordingly reports (25th December 1581) that, at a meeting of the Council held to consider the situation, Burghley suggested that an alliance should be made with Spain, and an agreement arrived at with regard to the Low Countries. This was approved of by the Lord Chancellor (Bromley), the Lord Admiral (Lincoln), and Crofts. Sussex held aloof, wavering between his enmity to France and Leicester, and his attachment to Protestantism; whilst Leicester, Walsingham, Hatton, and Knollys were strenuously opposed to any approach to Spain, as they were, even more violently, to Burghley’s proposal that Drake’s plunder, or what was left of it, should be restored. A few days afterwards Burghley had some business with a Spanish merchant established in London, and to him he expressed a desire that negotiations should be opened for an agreement between the two countries. When the merchant carried the message to Mendoza, the latter attributed the suggestion entirely to the fear which he had aroused by his firmness, and he made no response. Mendoza himself, indeed, one of the warlike Alba school, had now no hope or desire for peace. The rise of D’Aubigny in Scotland and the coming of the Jesuits had quite altered the position during the last year, and Mendoza had in his hands a plot that seemed to promise the triumph of the Catholics.

As early as April 1581, Mary Stuart had renewed her approaches to Spain through the Archbishop of Glasgow[366] in Paris. “Things were now,” she said, “better disposed than ever in Scotland for a return to its former condition … and English affairs could be dealt with subsequently. The King, her son, was quite determined to return to the Catholic religion, and much inclined to an open rupture with the Queen of England.” She begged for armed aid from Philip, to be landed first in Ireland, and to enter Scotland at a given signal after the alliance between Scotland and Spain had been signed. Nothing came of this at the time; and after several other attempts on the part of Mary to get into touch with the Spaniards, she became distrustful of her Ambassador (Archbishop Beton) and other intermediaries, and contrived in November to communicate with Mendoza direct. She had heard that all the priests who flocked into Scotland and England looked to him for guidance, and that through them he had sent a message to the Scottish Catholics, saying that everything now depended upon Scotland’s reverting to the old faith. The English Catholic nobles then at liberty had, at Mendoza’s instance, formed a society with this object, and secretly sent two priests to sound James and D’Aubigny, and to promise that they would raise the north of England, release Mary, and secure the English succession to James. They brought back a favourable reply, which the ambassador at once conveyed to Allen and Persons on the continent. This was late in the autumn of 1581, and Mendoza looked coldly upon Burghley’s new advances, for he was now the centre of the plot to overthrow Elizabeth by means of the Scottish Catholics, a plot in which, against his will, he was obliged to make use of the Jesuit missionaries, who themselves at first had no idea of the Spanish political aims that underlay the conversion of Scotland to Catholicism.

Side by side with the Jesuits, Creighton, Persons, and Holt, who were employed in the political movement,[367] were others who had been sent to England and were intended purely for spiritual work. They had been extremely successful in their propaganda, and had once more infused spirit into the English Catholic party. This could not be done without the printing and dissemination of books, as well as preaching, and the spies of the Counci............
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