The attitude of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth to the Catholic recusants was initially a moderate one. She wanted peace in England and her emphasis was on 'outward Conformity as opposed to Inward Conviction'. But the events of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre which occurred on August 24 1572 were not forgotten in England. On St. Bartholomew's Day 1572 French Protestants were massacred by French Catholics in Paris. The massacre was witnessed by Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Walsingham. Similar atrocities elsewhere in France result in thousands of deaths, and caused panic in England with fears of a Catholic invasion. An invasion did not materialise so the attitude of Elizabeth to English Catholics remained a moderate one. However, their were various Catholic plots which threatened the security of Queen Elizabeth and the security of English Protestants. The constant presence of Mary Queen of Scots presented a focal point for Catholic plots and conspiracies. The threat from English Catholics and Catholics from abroad increased the earlier Recusancy Laws and punishments were made harsher towards the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign.
Punishments of Elizabethan Recusants
The strict Recusancy Laws imposed by the 1559 Act of Uniformity resulted in various punishments for Catholic recusants. Additional Justices of the Peace were appointed in all areas of England who produced Recusancy lists which supplied the government details of Catholic recusants.
- People who held, or attended private masses, were to be punished by imprisonment
- Initially recusants were fined twelve shillings for non attendance of church
- The harsher Recusancy laws increased the fine to a massive twenty pounds a month
- Non payment of fines resulted in imprisonment
Facts about Elizabethan Recusants and the Recusancy Laws
Additional details, facts and information about other Elizabethan Laws in Elizabethan England can be accessed via the Elizabethan Era Sitemap.