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The hare and the drum: Robert Persons's writings on the English Succession, 1593–6

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Doleman's Conference about the Next Succession to the Crowne of England, commonly attributed to the Jesuit leader Robert Persons, has evoked conflicting responses ever since its first publication in 1595. Contemporaries expressed doubts about its true intentions and its strategic value as Roman Catholic polemic; modern commentators are divided over its place in the history of political theory. This article argues for Persons's authorship, both of the Book of the Succession itself (as the Conference was best known) and the earlier Newes from Spayne and Holland (1593), to which it was closely related. The article also accepts that the work was deliberately neutral with regard to the rival candidates: by dislodging James VI of Scotland from his position as favourite and opening up for consideration the claim of Isabella the infanta of Spain, Persons placed the two at the same level. His primary concern was to promote a responsible attitude of indifferent ‘consideration’ among the recusants, with a view to the emergence of a united Catholic policy on the succession. Persons's political theory has affinities with that of Francisco Suarez, S.J., although he does not present a fully developed theory of monarchical contract. His ideas about the position of the clergy in the political order can be further inferred from the Memorial for the Reformation of England (composed in 1596), which shares with the Book of the Succession a commitment to the education of the English Catholic laity.
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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: 2000-06-01

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