The 4 Most Famous Plots Against Elizabeth I

The 4 Most Famous Plots Against Elizabeth I

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A 19th century imagining of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots in February 1587. Image credit: Musee des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes / CC.

The Tudor era is one of England’s most infamous times of religious political and social upheaval, as various monarchs attempted to impose their own beliefs and ideas onto the nation.

Of all those rulers, Elizabeth I’s rule was the most successful and stable, but she still had her fair share of rivals of a very personal nature to remove. Her spymaster general, Sir Francis Walsingham, foiled multiple plots against the throne, and helped keep Elizabeth’s throne secure.

Ridolfi Plot (1571)

Elizabeth’s cousin, the tragic and glamorous Mary, Queen of Scots, had long made Elizabeth uncomfortably aware that if she died childless, Mary (a Catholic) and her son James would be next in line for the throne.

After the reign of terror of Elizabeth’s Catholic sister (another Mary) and the intrigues of the Spanish, this threatened to undo all of Elizabeth’s work in creating religious harmony if the Queen of Scots lived longer than her.

As a result, when Mary was displaced by rebellious nobles and fled south to England, she was imprisoned as a potential threat rather than hospitably received as a cousin. Unsurprisingly, this treatment and her strong and public faith made her a rallying point for various plots against Elizabeth during her 19-year imprisonment.

The first serious one of these was the Ridolfi Plot, named after the ardent Catholic and Florentine banker, Roberto Ridolfi. The plan involved the Duke of Alba invading from the Netherlands, a rebellion of Catholic nobles in the North, murdering Elizabeth and Mary then marrying Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.

Both Mary and Norfolk agreed to the plot: unfortunately for them, Walsingham’s network had intercepted incriminating letters. Servants and go-betweens were imprisoned and tortured until they gave confessions. Norfolk was tried for treason and beheaded, and Elizabeth’s relationship with Mary was inevitably soured.

Jessie Childs is an award-winning author and historian. In this fascinating interview, she explores the Catholic predicament in Elizabethan England - an age in which their faith was criminalised, and almost two hundred Catholics were executed. In exposing the tensions masked by the cult of Gloriana, she considers the terrible consequences when politics and religion collide.

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Throckmorton Plot (1583)

This plot was ‘masterminded’ by Francis Throckmorton: a young Catholic who, on his travels throughout Europe, met several groups who sympathised with Mary Queen of Scots – they wanted to see a Catholic back on the English throne.

The plan involved an invasion by the Duke of Guise, backed by the Spanish, a revolt by the Catholic nobles in the North, and Guise marrying Mary, becoming King in the process. The plot was relatively amateur and intercepted by Walsingham’s spy ring early on: however, it did incriminate Mary, who was growing increasingly desperate for a way out of her house arrest.

Guise was widely disliked in England, which made the plot seemed even more unrealistic than it was to begin with. Throckmorton was arrested, imprisoned and eventually executed. Mary was placed under heightened surveillance and harsher confinement than before.

Babington Plot (1586)

The Babington Plot proved to be the final strew: it led to Elizabeth finally deciding to execute Mary.

Walsingham installed double agents in Mary’s household – those who would pretend to sympathise and involve themselves in any plots, whilst informing Walsingham of all developments.

The plan once again involved a foreign-backed invasion, the assassination of Elizabeth and placing Mary on the throne. For a long time Mary managed to produce no incriminating evidence – other than knowing the plot existed. Eventually, however, she wrote the words that signed her death warrant: ‘Let the great plot commence’.

Babington and his fellow conspirators were tried and executed for treason: Mary was imprisoned in Fotheringay Castle, and after much indecision on Elizabeth’s part, executed in February 1587.

Dan talks to Helen Castor about her book on Elizabeth I and the way she governed.

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Essex’s Coup

Elizabeth was famous for her fondness of handsome and powerful noblemen and adventurers who became her “favourites,” and foremost among these was the charming Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who flirted his way to prominence in the last years of the 16th century.

In the 1590s, however, some strain entered their relationship as the arrogant and headstrong Earl disobeyed orders and failed to treat the Queen with enough deference.

At one point she cuffed him round the head for his insolence at a meeting of the Privy Council, and he half drew his sword on her in anger.

Things came to a head when he was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland – then an English possession – in 1599. Essex was given huge resources to crush a revolt lead by the Earl of Tyrone, but squandered them in a poor campaign that lead to a humiliating truce in 1600.

Stung by criticism from home, he directly disobeyed the Queen’s orders by returning to England that year. Despite her fondness for Essex Elizabeth was not a woman to let such insolence stand after almost fifty years of rule, and placed him under house arrest in June.

Outraged and now penniless, Essex began to plot against her once he was allowed more freedom in November. His supporters began to put on the controversial anti-monarchical Shakespeare play Richard II in the Globe theatre, while Essex took hostage the four men that the Queen sent to inquire about his actions.

Believing them to be safely imprisoned, he then marched on London with a large group of supporters. Luckily for the Queen her famous spymaster Robert Cecil caught wind of the plot, and ordered the mayor to close his gates to the rebels.

With access to the support of the capital denied to him, most of Essex’s supporters deserted him and the hostages got away, meaning that he had little choice but to slink back to his base at Essex House and await a siege.

That evening, 8 February 1601, the Earl surrendered lamely to the besiegers and was executed two weeks later.

The Queen is said to have been badly shaken by her favourite’s betrayal for the remaining two years of her life, but the England that she had built survived partly thanks to her ruthlessness, and was passed onto her successor, who was – ironically – the son of Mary Queen of Scots.

Queen Elizabeth I – Portraits of the Last Tudor Rose

Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603) was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII of England and his second wife Anne Boleyn. Being a girl was hard enough in the face of Henry’s desperation for a son and heir, but after the annulment of her father’s marriage to Anne and the subsequent execution of her mother, she was also declared illegitimate. After a turn of fate, she became a queen and now we know Elizabeth I from many exquisite portraits.

Elizabeth was neglected for many years and was brought up away from court at Hatfield House. Here, she received a reasonable education. However, it was Henry’s sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr, who took it upon herself to educate the young woman. Katherine did so as thoroughly as befitted a princess of the realm, to include – unusually – the art of public speaking. The portrait below of Queen Elizabeth I as a young princess shows not only a girl dressed in appropriately rich fabrics and jewels, but also a rather thoughtful, learned, and composed young lady. A young lady who is preparing for a future that she is not yet fully aware of.

William Scots (attr.), The Young Elizabeth, c. 1546-7, Royal Collection, London, UK.

Upon the death of Henry in 1547, Elizabeth found herself living in the household of her stepmother. Despite the problematic few years still to come, during which there were three accessions to the throne – her younger half-brother Edward in 1547, Lady Jane Grey in 1553, and almost immediately after that her older half-sister Mary also in 1553 – she finally came to the throne herself in 1558, aged twenty-five, where she remained for the next forty-four years. The painting below, known as the Coronation Portrait, depicts Queen Elizabeth I sumptuously draped in the finest cloth of gold (previously worn by Mary I). She holds an orb to symbolize Godly power and a scepter to signify temporal power and sovereignty. Of course, she also wears the crown.

The Coronation Portrait, unknown English artist, c. 1600, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

Elizabeth’s rule was characterized by the cautious handling of political, foreign, and religious affairs. There was also an overall sense of fairness and tolerance. Of course, her reign was not without its problems: the events surrounding the plots of Mary Queen of Scots – the Babington Plot in particular – resulted in the trial and execution of Mary by Elizabeth (1586-7).

François Clouet, Mary Queen of Scots, c. 1558, Royal Collection, London, UK.

Another key event in the reign of Elizabeth I was the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Shortly after this, the Queen delivered one of her most well-known speeches to troops at Tilbury. This increased her popularity among her people, turning her into a living legend.

Below is one of three versions of the Elizabeth I Armada Portrait, in which the Queen is unusually set in a maritime context. Two different stages of the Spanish Armada’s downfall are depicted in the background to the left and right. The Queen’s back is turned against the dark, stormy seas of the right-hand scene. Her gaze is towards the light, echoed in the many suns embroidered upon her sleeves and skirt. Her hand rests on a globe, symbolizing her strength and dominion over the seas, and a crown sits above that representing her obvious power and status as monarch. Pearls symbolize chastity and female associations with the moon. The overall picture is one of radiant female strength and infallible royal authority.

The Woburn Abbey version of the Armada Portrait, unknown English artist (formerly attributed to George Gower), 1588, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, UK.

Elizabeth was also responsible for stabilizing and reinstating the Church of England. She removed the Pope as its head and instead became its Supreme Governor herself. She introduced a new Book of Common Prayer and ensured that an English translation of the Bible became widely available. Elizabeth also saw to it that public worship was conducted in English rather than in Latin.

One of the most important portraits of Queen Elizabeth I is the Darnley portrait of c.1575. It is believed that this was one of few portraits that were painted from life. The face of Elizabeth as depicted here became the template for many other representations of her afterwards.

The Darnley Portrait, unknown continental artist, c. 1575, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

One of the most celebrated aspects of Elizabeth’s monarchy was the fact that she refused to marry, even when great pressure was placed upon her, such as by her own government. As a result, the association of the “Virgin Queen” became synonymous with her success as a monarch. The result was a cult-like status in which Elizabeth was held up as a paragon of unrivalled majestic and female purity.

Below is the Ditchley Portrait of Queen Elizabeth from c.1592. Here she is depicted bathed in light, all storms and darkness behind her, astride the world. This painting was commissioned by Sir Henry Lee, who was the Queen’s champion from 1559 to 1590. The impression is once again of absolute power and perfection. However, this time the face reveals perhaps a little of the aging that would normally be associated with a woman of sixty years. Here Elizabeth is shown in a youthful light – her skin flawless, her bodice low cut, her stature upright and slender – yet there is a hollowness to her eyes. Perhaps it is the Netherlandish will to paint realistically that revealed this detail where other artists may have been tempted to gloss over what, by now, must have been obvious signs of aging.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, The Ditchley Portrait, c. 1592, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK.

The Ditchley Portrait was followed only a few years later by a painting that has only recently been authenticated (2010-11), also attributed to the school of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Below, dating from c. 1595 is an image of Elizabeth that would almost certainly have been disapproved and most likely banned. This version of the Queen is rather more factual that fantastical. That is to say, it clearly shows the process of ageing in the lines advancing across her face, the forming of jowls, and sallow discoloration to her complexion. Still, there is grace to her demeanor and that certain, bright composure that can be seen in the early portrait at the beginning of this article remains with her. During her long lifetime and exceptional reign, Elizabeth I was subject to no one. However, eventually, no matter who we are, we all become subject to the passage of time.

Elizabeth I, attributed to the studio of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, c. 1595, private collection. Elizabethan Gardens of North Carolina.

Elizabeth’s Place in the Royal Family Tree

Elizabeth I was born on September 7, 1533. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn . Before Elizabeth reached the age of three, her mother was charged with adultery, incest, and high treason and executed. By the time of her father’s death in 1547, Elizabeth was third in line to the English throne, behind her younger half-brother Edward and older half-sister Mary. Although she was not expected to inherit the throne, she was not neglected by her father and received an education that would have customarily been reserved for male heirs at the time.

Elizabeth's parents, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Anne was executed less than three years after Elizabeth's birth. ( Public Domain )

Henry VIII was succeeded by his son Edward VI who reigned for a mere six years before succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of 15. Edward was succeeded by Mary, who in turn ruled for five years until her death in 1558. As Mary died without issue, she was succeeded by her younger half-sister Elizabeth.

King Felipe II of Spain and Queen Mary I of England , during whose reign Elizabeth was heir presumptive. (Bedford Collection-Woburn Abbey / Public Domain )

Elizabeth I’s war with England’s Catholics

England's Elizabethan Catholics were public enemy number one. Their Masses were banned and their priests were executed. Jessie Childs reveals what life was like for 'recusants' and 'church papists' in a hostile Protestant state

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Published: May 1, 2014 at 3:00 am

In 1828, builders removing a lintel over a doorway at Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire were surprised to see an old, beautifully bound book come down with the rubble. They decided to investigate and knocked through a thick partition wall, exposing a recess, about 5 feet long and 15 inches wide. Inside, wrapped up in a large sheet, was an enormous bundle of papers and books that had once belonged to Sir Thomas Tresham, a Catholic gentleman in the reign of Elizabeth I.

There have been other discoveries in other counties: a secret room chanced upon by a boy exploring a derelict wing of Harvington Hall, near Kidderminster, in 1894 a small wax disc bearing the imprint of a cross and a lamb (an Agnus Dei), found in a box nailed to a joist by an electrician working in the attic of Lyford Grange, Berkshire, in 1959 and a ‘pedlar’s chest’ containing vestments, a chalice and a portable altar, bricked in at Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire. Each bears testimony to the resourcefulness and courage with which Catholic men and women tried to keep their faith in Protestant England.

Under Elizabeth I, Catholics grew adept at concealment. Their lifeblood – the Mass – was banned. Anyone who heard it risked a fine and prison. Hence the need for secret Mass-kits and altar-stones small enough to slip into the pocket. Their priests – essential agents of sacramental grace – were outlawed.

Reconciling anyone to Rome (and, indeed, being reconciled) was made treason. After 1585, any priest ordained abroad since 1559, and found on English soil, was automatically deemed a traitor and his lay host a felon, both punishable by death. Hence the need for priest-holes, like the one at Harvington Hall, or at Hindlip, where a feeding tube was embedded in the masonry.

Even personal devotional items like rosary beads or the Agnus Dei found at Lyford were regarded with suspicion, since a statute of 1571 had ruled that the receipt of such ‘superstitious’ items, blessed by the pope or his priests, would lead to forfeiture of lands and goods.

It is impossible to know how many Catholics there were in Elizabethan England, for few were willing to be categorised and counted. John Bossy (defining a Catholic as one who habitually, though not necessarily regularly, used the services of a priest) estimated some 40,000 in 1603, less than one per cent of the population.

This was not a homogenous group, rather a wide and wavering spectrum of experience. Many were branded ‘church papists’: they attended official services according to law, but some conformed only occasionally or partially. William Flamstead read his book during the sermon “in contempt of the word preached”, while for two decades of attendance Sir Richard Shireburn blocked his ears with wool.

Parishioners might refuse Protestant communion or they might hide the bread up their sleeve to dispose of later. Mrs Kath Lacy from the East Riding of Yorkshire trod it “under her foot”. Other wives avoided church altogether and, since their husbands owned the property, they often escaped prosecution. “Such here have a common saying,” groused one Northamptonshire official in 1599, “the unbelieving husband shall be saved by the believing wife.”

At the disobedient end of the spectrum were those individuals (8,590 recorded in 1603) who staunchly adhered to the Roman church’s insistence that compliance was an insult to the faith. They were known as recusants (from the Latin recusare: to refuse) and they paid a high price for their ‘obstinacy’. In 1559 the fine for missing church was 12 pence. In 1581 it was raised to a crippling 20 pounds.

In 1587 enforcement became much stricter with the introduction of cumulative monthly fines and the forfeiture of two-thirds of a defaulting recusant’s estate.Lord Vaux of Harrowden was reduced to pawning his parliamentary robes poorer folk did not have that luxury.

What recusants publicly requested – freedom of worship and the right to abstain from official church services – may not sound unreasonable, but this was the age of Inquisition, of conquistadors, religious wars and, in the case of Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary I, human bonfires. Elizabeth was a divine-right queen with a sworn duty to maintain the one true faith but, unlike Mary, she had conformed during her predecessor’s reign. She did not like “to make windows into men’s hearts and secret thoughts” noted the oft-misquoted Francis Bacon, but she expected outward obedience, in church and state.

Illegitimate pretender

On 25 February 1570, Pope Pius V issued a bull of excommunication against Elizabeth I. In late support of the 1569 northern rebellion (led by the Catholic earls of Northumberland and Westmorland and crushed with ruthless efficiency – 450 executions under martial law is the conservative estimate), the bull declared Elizabeth an illegitimate pretender and bound her subjects to disobey her, upon pain of anathema (a formal curse by the pope).

A later resolution from Pius’s successor, Gregory XIII, allowing for provisional obedience “under present circumstances”, did not alter the fundamental message. It was impossible, wrote the Privy Council clerk, Robert Beale, “that they should love her, whose religion founded in the pope’s authority maketh her birth and title unlawful”.

There was, indeed, some rancour towards the queen. In 1591, the recusant gentleman Swithin Wells retorted to a jibe about papists having been begotten by bulls with the words: “If we have bulls to our fathers, thou hast a cow to thy mother.” He swiftly apologised and the circumstances were exceptional: Wells was just about to swing for the crime of priest-harbouring. But even a self-fashioned loyalist like Sir Thomas Tresham privately entertained hostile views on the ‘bastardised’ Elizabeth.

Conflicted loyalties caused considerable anguish, as evinced by the desperately sad letter that the 24-year-old convert Robert Markham wrote to his parents in 1594. “Every hour presents a hell unto me… In the night, I cannot sleep or take any rest, so monstrous is the horror of my conscience.” He pledged never to fight against Elizabeth, nor to have any truck with conspiracy. “I am,” he declared, “and will be as good a subject to her Majesty as any in England.” But there had to be a caveat: “My conscience only reserve I to myself, whereupon dependeth my salvation.”

Markham chose exile, like many others, some of whom became radicalised by the experience. The Catholics who stayed at home used various methods to sustain their faith, from spiritual reading, prayer and meditation to the preservation of rosaries and relics. They were advised to internalise their devotions. For instance, certain spots in the garden could be linked to different saints, so that walks would become, “as it were, short pilgrimages”. But there was no substitute for the sacraments and, although some erstwhile Marian priests continued to minister in secret, it was only when William Allen’s seminary boys started coming off the boats in 1574 that Catholic hopes – and government fears – were revived.

The first English missionaries came from Douai in Flanders, where William Allen, the former principal of St Mary Hall, Oxford, had founded a college in 1568. In June 1580, they were joined in England by the Jesuits, members of a dynamic religious order founded in the furnace of the Reformation.

“We travelled only for souls,” insisted Edmund Campion at his execution at Tyburn on 1 December 1581, “we touched neither state nor policy.” These were indeed the instructions that this Jesuit and his co-missioner, Robert Persons, had carried from Rome. But they were also armed with faculties to print books anonymously, they insisted upon absolute recusancy and they challenged the state to a public debate. Campion’s ‘brag’ chilled his adversaries:

“Touching our Society, be it known unto you that we have made a league – all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England – cheerfully to carry the cross that you shall lay upon us and never to despair your recovery while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or to be consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted, so it must be restored.”

Campion was one of about 130 priests executed for religious treason in Elizabeth’s reign. A further 60 of their lay supporters were also put to death. Torture was used more than in any other English reign. Margaret Ward, destined for the gallows for organising the escape of a priest, protested that “the queen herself, if she had the bowels of a woman, would have done as much if she had known the ill-treatment he underwent”. But it was the heart and stomach of a king that were required for England’s defence.

Assassination attempts

With no named successor, and a Catholic heir presumptive – Mary, Queen of Scots – waiting, wings clipped but ready to soar, Elizabeth I was vulnerable to conspiracy. The security of the realm depended entirely on her personal survival in an age that saw brother rulers taken by bullet and blade.

The assassination in 1584 of William of Orange, the Dutch Protestant figurehead shot in the chest by a Catholic fanatic chasing the bounty of Philip II of Spain, was particularly alarming. The following year, parliament passed a statute licensing the revenge killing of assassins, or witting beneficiaries of assassins, in the event of a successful attempt on the queen’s life.

The threat from Spain, the papacy, the French house of Guise and the agents of Mary, Queen of Scots was very real and seemingly unceasing. From the sanctuary of exile, William Allen agitated for an invasion of England and frequently exaggerated the extent of home support. Only fear made Catholics obey the queen, he assured the pope in 1585, “which fear will be removed when they see the force from without”. The priests, he added, would direct the consciences and actions of Catholics “when the time comes”.

In reality, there were very few Elizabethans willing to perpetrate what would now be called an act of terror. But there was a vast grey area that encompassed all kinds of suspicious activity – communication with the queen’s enemies, the handling of tracts critical of the regime, the non-disclosure of sensitive information, the sheltering and funding of priests who turned out to be subversive. Even the quiescent majority was feared for what it might do if there was ever a confrontation between Elizabeth I and the pope.

Catholic attempts on the queen’s life

Elizabeth’s advisors foiled a series of assassination plots

Spain plans an invasion, 1571

Named after the Florentine merchant who acted as the go-between for the Duke of Norfolk, Mary Stuart, Philip II and the pope, the Ridolfi plot was a plan for a Spanish invasion of England and the substitution of Elizabeth with Mary. Roberto Ridolfi was known to the English government and met with Elizabeth before heading for Rome. The plot was foiled upon the arrest of a courier at Dover. Norfolk was executed, Mary survived and Ridolfi later emerged as a papal senator. He clearly relished intrigue.

Throckmorton’s sorry end, 1583

Francis Throckmorton was the linkman for a plot that might be seen as part of a continuum of intrigues sponsored by the powers of Catholic Europe in the 1580s. The aim, as with the Ridolfi plot, was the overthrow of Elizabeth and the restoration of Catholicism in England. Mary Stuart’s kinsman, the Duke of Guise, was set to invade at Arundel, but the plan was aborted upon Throckmorton’s arrest in November 1583. Throckmorton was “somewhat pinched” (ie tortured) and executed the following July.

The lone extremist blows his cover, 1583

Not every attempt on Elizabeth’s life strained the sinews of Europe’s whisperers and watchers. John Somerville, a distant kinsman (by marriage) of William Shakespeare, seems only to have had a “frantic humour” and a pistol in his pocket when he set off from his home in Warwickshire to kill the queen. He failed because he broadcast his intentions en route, but, as events elsewhere proved (see page 54), it only took one extremist, bent on martyrdom and blind to worldly consequence, to effect an assassination.

Walsingham ensnares Mary Stuart, 1586

The plot that brought down Mary Stuart was, from the outset, a conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth. Anthony Babington was not its chief architect, though it was his letter of 6 July 1586 that floated to Mary the plan for “the dispatch of the usurper”. The plot was uncovered – and arguably fomented – using an agent provocateur, intercepts (via the bung-hole of a beer keg) and forgery. Whatever the ethics of the sting, the plot was real. Priests were involved and Mary, executed on 8 February 1587, was complicit.

Jesuits prepare to strike –or do they? 1594

Elizabeth’s last decade saw court rivalry seep into intelligence work and the result was an occasional – and occasionally deliberate – blurring of perception and reality. Immediately after the Earl of Essex’s exposure of a dubious poison plot, the queen’s adviser William Cecil went one up with a Jesuit conspiracy involving several Irish soldiers, whose confessions seemed remarkably fortuitous, if somewhat muddled. Two of the assassins-designate were known to Cecil. One he had not deemed a significant threat the other was an informant and possible plant.

When asked the “bloody questions”, framed to extract ultimate allegiances, Catholics proved as adept as their queen at the “answer answerless”. Spies and agent provocateurs were thrown into the field, moles were placed in embassies and recusant houses were searched for priests and “popish trash”. The queen’s agents were sometimes overzealous, sometimes downright immoral, in their pursuit of national security. “There is less danger in fearing too much than too little,” advised the queen’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham.

In 1588, when the Spanish Armada beat menacingly towards the English Channel, the “most obstinate and noted” recusants were rounded up and imprisoned. Sir Thomas Tresham begged for a chance to prove his “true English heart” and fight for his queen. He vigorously disputed the claim that “while we lived, her Majesty should not be in security, nor the realm freed from invasion”.

Nevertheless, the Spaniards sailing aboard the Rosario were told to expect support from at least a third of England’s population. Elizabeth’s Privy Council was “certain” that an invasion would “never” have been attempted, “but upon hope” of internal assistance. It may have been a false hope, built on a house of cards by émigrés desperate to see the old faith restored at home, but for as long as it was held, and acted upon, by backers powerful enough to do damage, Tresham and the rest, whether “faithfullest true English subjects” or not, were indeed a security risk.

England’s victory in 1588 was celebrated as the triumph of Christ over Antichrist, the true church over the false, freedom over tyranny. Elizabeth I was hailed as Gloriana, the Virgin Queen who “brought up, even under her wing, a nation that was almost begotten and born under her, that never shouted any other Ave than for her name”.

There was no place for rosaries in this predestined, Protestant version of English history. Even Philip II, usually so sure of his status as the special one, was momentarily confounded by the mysteries of God’s will. He soon rallied, however, and there were more failed armadas. At every whisper of invasion, the screw was turned on those ‘bad members’ known to be recusants. In 1593, the ‘statute of confinement’ ruled that recusants could not travel beyond five miles of their home without a licence.

Observance could be patchy and enforcement slack. Anti-Catholicism was nearly always more passionate in the abstract than it was on the ground, but it still must have been alienating and psychologically draining to be spied on, searched, and branded an ‘unnatural subject’ at every critical juncture. Tresham likened it to being “drenched in a sea of shameless slanders”.

Tresham outlived Queen Elizabeth by two years. His hope for a measure of toleration under James VI and I did not materialise and, having paid a total of £7,717 in recusancy penalties, he died on 11 September 1605 a disappointed man. The following month, his wife’s nephew, ‘Robin’ Catesby, tried to recruit his son, Francis, into the Gunpowder Plot. Francis Tresham was arrested on 12 November and died before he could face trial. On, or soon after 28 November 1605, the family papers were bundled up in a sheet and immured at Rushton Hall. They lay there, undisturbed, for over two centuries, until, in 1828, the builders came in.

Jessie Childs is the author of God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (The Bodley Head, 2014). The book, which won this year’s PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, is out now in paperback. To find out more, click here.

Armada: 12 Days to Save England, which tells the story of how England came within a whisker of disaster in summer 1588 and stars Anita Dobson as Elizabeth I, airs on BBC Two on Sunday 24 May 2015 at 9pm. To find out more, click here.


The English Reformation began in the 1530s when Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and the authority of the pope. During Henry's reign, Protestants remained a minority of the English population, and Henry alternated between favoring his Protestant advisers and his traditional ones, who wanted to maintain Catholic belief and practices. [1]

Protestants were also divided among themselves. By the 1540s, Lutherans and the Swiss Reformed churches were opposed to each other on issues such as predestination and the use of religious images. The Reformed believed that statues, stained glass and pictures in church were idolatrous. They also disliked the use of traditional clerical vestments, preferring their ministers to wear black gowns. The Reformed replaced the elaborate liturgy of the medieval church with simple services of prayer and preaching. Unlike the Reformed, the Lutherans believed in the objective, real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, and they were not opposed to religious imagery and vestments. Many English Protestants were convinced that the Reformed churches were more faithful to biblical Christianity. [2]

In the reign of Henry's son, Edward VI, the English Reformation took on a Reformed (or Calvinist) tone. By 1548, leading English Protestants including Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, had adopted Reformed views on the Lord's Supper. [3] Protestant theology was incorporated into a new liturgy contained within the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and even more explicitly in a 1552 revision. Religious processions were banned and clerical marriage was allowed. Prayer for the dead, requiem masses, and the chantry foundations that supported them were abolished. Statues, stained glass windows, and wall paintings in parish churches were destroyed. Roods were replaced with the royal arms of England. [4]

In 1553, Edward VI died and his Catholic half-sister assumed the throne as Mary I of England. Mary sought to end the English Reformation and restore the Church of England to full communion with the Church of Rome. Around a thousand English Protestants, known as the Marian exiles, left the country for religious reasons. [5] Unwelcome in German Lutheran territories, the exiles established English Protestant congregations in Rhineland towns, such as Wesel, Frankfurt and Strasbourg, and the Swiss cities of Zurich, Basel, and Geneva. During the exile, English Protestants were exposed to ideas and practices of thoroughly Calvinist churches, such as in Reformation Geneva, and many would seek to implement those ideas in England after Mary's death. [6]

In 1558, Queen Mary died, and her half-sister, Elizabeth became Queen of England. Elizabeth had been raised as a Protestant in the household of Catherine Parr. During the first year of Elizabeth's reign many of the Marian exiles returned to England. A compromise religious position established in 1559 is now known as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. It attempted to make England Protestant without totally alienating the portion of the population that had supported Catholicism under Mary. The settlement was consolidated in 1563. An interim position of 11 articles of faith operated for a few years. [7]

The Church of England under Elizabeth was broadly Reformed in nature: Elizabeth's first Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker had been the executor of Martin Bucer's will, and his replacement, Edmund Grindal had carried the coffin at Bucer's funeral. While the Elizabethan Settlement proved generally acceptable, there remained minorities who were dissatisfied with the state of the Church of England. The cry for "further reform" in the 1560s was the basis of what is now known as the Puritan Movement.

The Puritans were not content with the Anglican settlement and the established church. They believed that the English church and state should be further reformed by the Word of God and the faithful preaching of the Gospel, as in the continental reformed churches. They were opposed to the rule of bishops, to the required use of the Book of Common Prayer, and many of the rituals of the Anglican establishment, which they believed were obstacles to true religion and godliness. They believed the majority of the common people were kept in bondage to forms and rituals, and as a result to false religion and spiritual ignorance.

The Puritans moreover wanted all the sins, rituals, and superstitions that "smacked of Roman Catholic idolatry" thoroughly abolished from the realm and from the churches, including the mass, the surplice, kneeling at the Lord's Supper, vestments, graven images, profane and sexually immoral stage plays, and the widespread profanation of the Sabbath.

The Puritans promoted a thorough going doctrinal reformation that was Calvinistic, as well as a thorough going reformation of the English church and society based on Scripture and not human tradition.

The Puritan movement in Elizabethan England was strengthened by the fact that many of Queen Elizabeth's top political advisers and court officials had close ties with Puritan leaders, and were themselves partial to Puritan views of theology, politics, and the reformation of the English church and society. They especially wanted to curb the power of the Anglican bishops and root out any influence of the Roman Catholic church, which were fundamental proponents of the Puritans. Such men in Elizabeth's court of advisers included, William Cecil, Chief Adviser to the Queen, Secretary of State, and Lord High Treasurer Francis Walsingham, the Principal Secretary to the Queen and Spymaster of the English Crown Walter Mildmay, Chancellor of the Exchequer and also Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a very close personal friend and one time suitor to the Queen. It is evident that Elizabeth herself, though a committed Anglican, relied heavily on Puritan leaders for the support of the crown as well as her own personal and state counsel.

The chief poet of the Elizabethan era, Edmund Spenser, was himself a promoter of Puritan views. He is best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the reign of Elizabeth I. In fact the Red Cross Knight, the chief hero of the poem is designed to be the very image and model of Puritan virtue, and Una his betrothed a figure of the church purified from sin and idolatry.

The delicate balance, and conflict, between Anglicanism and Puritanism, could be readily seen in one of the primary architects of the Anglican settlement, John Jewel. Jewel can be seen in many ways as both Anglican and Puritan, much like William Perkins at the end of the Elizabethan era. John Jewel's Apology for the Church of England and his Book of Homilies are both quintessential Anglicanism and yet his "Essay on Holy Scripture" is in many ways Puritan.

Fundamental to the rise of English Puritanism in the Elizabethan era (1558-1603) was the influence of four highly influential reformers: John Calvin, Henry Bullinger, Peter Martyr, and Theodore Beza, who were all in frequent communication with the crown and the reformed leaders in England. While Calvin and Bullinger praised Queen Elizabeth for the work of reformation in England and the Anglican establishment, and encouraging patience from the Puritans, Beza was more firm in his support of the Puritan movement. During the 1560s and 1570s, the works of Calvin were the most widely disseminated publications in England, while the works of Beza, Bullinger, and Vermigli also enjoyed popularity.

It must not be forgotten that the Puritan movement in Elizabethan England was also furthered by the work and ministry of John Knox and the Scottish Reformation that took place at the same time. John Knox of course spent five years in England (1549-1554) assisting the English reformation in the time of Edward VI, fled to Geneva and spent several years with Calvin (1554-1559), and then returned to Scotland to spearhead the reformation of his home country from 1560 until his death in 1572. Knox's influence on the Puritan movement in England was significant, and is still being debated today by historians and scholars alike. The British pastor and Puritan scholar Martyn Lloyd-Jones in fact suggests that John Knox could be called the first Puritan.

Convocation of 1562/3 Edit

The Convocation of 1563 opened on 15 January 1562/3 with a sermon by William Day he was one of leaders, prominent with Alexander Nowell (who had preached the day before at the opening of Parliament) and Thomas Sampson, of the reformers. [8] [9] [10] The convocation approved the Thirty-Nine Articles as a confessional statement for the Church of England. The bishops proposed further reforms of canon law and the liturgy. These included the elimination of vestments, the elimination of kneeling at communion, the elimination of the sign of the cross in baptism, and altering the forms of music used in church. During this convocation, the bishops formulated the so-called Alphabet bills, which they unsuccessfully introduced in the next two parliaments. [11] Some of the clergy introduced these reforms in their congregations on their own initiative, in the following years. For example, at Cambridge, William Fulke convinced his students not to wear their surplices and to hiss at students who did. In this situation, Archbishop Parker published a set of Advertisements, requiring uniformity in clerical dress. [ citation needed ]

Vestiarian Controversy, 1563–1569 Edit

The Puritan faction objected loudly, and appealed to the continental reformers to support their cause. Unfortunately for the Puritans many of the continental reformers felt that the Puritans were just making trouble - for example, in a letter to Bishop Grindal, Heinrich Bullinger accused the Puritans of displaying "a contentious spirit under the name of conscience". Grindal proceeded to publish the letter without Bullinger's permission. Theodore Beza was more supportive of the Puritan position, though he did not intervene too loudly because he feared angering the queen and he wanted the queen to intervene in France on behalf of the Huguenots. In response to clergymen refusing to wear their vestments, 37 ministers were suspended. In response, in 1569, some ministers began holding their own services, the first example of Puritan separatism.

The Admonition to the Parliament (1572) and the demand for Presbyterianism Edit

Throughout the 1560s, England's return to Protestantism remained tentative, and large numbers of the people were committed to and sought a return to Catholicism. Three related events around 1570 ultimately led to the reinforcement of Protestantism in England. First, in the Rising of the North, the northern earls revolted, demanding a return to Catholicism. Second, after the execution of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, Pope Pius V issued the bull Regnans in Excelsis, absolving Catholics of their duty of allegiance to Elizabeth. Third, the Ridolfi plot sought to replace Elizabeth with the Mary, Queen of Scots.

In response to this Catholic rebelliousness, the English government took several measures to shore up the Protestantism of the regime. First, all clergymen were required to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles. Second, all laity were required to take communion according to the rite of the Book of Common Prayer in their home parish at least once a year. And third, it became a treasonable offence to say that the queen was a heretic or a schismatic.

In this pro-Protestant, anti-Catholic environment, the Puritan faction sought to push further reforms on the Church of England. John Foxe and Thomas Norton presented a reform proposal initially drawn up under Edward VI to Parliament. Elizabeth quickly dismissed this proposal, however, insisting on adherence to the 1559 religious settlement. Meanwhile, at Cambridge, professor Thomas Cartwright, a long-time opponent of vestments, offered a series of lectures in 1570 on the Book of Acts in which he called for the abolition of episcopacy and the creation of a presbyterian system of church governance in England.

Puritans were further dismayed when they learned that the bishops had decided to merge the vestarian controversy into the requirement that clergy subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles: at the time they swore their allegiance to the Thirty-Nine Articles, the bishops also required all clergymen to swear that the use of the Book of Common Prayer and the wearing of vestments are not contrary to Scripture. Many of the Puritan clergymen were incensed at this requirement. A bill authorizing the bishops to permit deviations from the Book of Common Prayer in cases where the Prayer Book required something contrary to a clergyman's conscience was presented and defeated at the next parliament.

Meanwhile, at Cambridge, Vice-Chancellor John Whitgift moved against Thomas Cartwright, depriving Cartwright of his professorship and his fellowship in 1571.

Under these circumstances, in 1572, two London clergymen – Thomas Wilcox and John Field – penned the first classic expression of Puritanism, their Admonition to the Parliament. According to the Admonition, the Puritans had long accepted the Book of Common Prayer, with all its deficiencies, because it promoted the peace and unity of the church.

However, now that the bishops required them to subscribe to the Book of Common Prayer, the Puritans felt obliged to point out the popery and superstition contained in the Prayer Book. The Admonition went on to call for more thorough church reforms, modelled on the reforms made by the Huguenots or by the Church of Scotland under the leadership of John Knox. The Admonition ended by denouncing the bishops and calling for the replacement of episcopalianism with presbyterianism.

The Admonition to Parliament set off a major controversy in England. John Whitgift wrote an Answer denouncing the Admonition, which in turn led to Thomas Cartwright's Replye to An Answere Made of M. Doctor Whitgift Agaynste the Admonition to the Parliament (1573), a second Puritan classic. Cartwright argued that a properly reformed church must contain the four orders of ministers identified by Calvin: teaching elders, ruling elders, deacons and theological professors. Cartwright went on to denounce the subjection of any minister in the church to any other minister in the strongest possible terms. In a Second Replye, Cartwright was even more forceful, arguing that any pre-eminence accorded to any minister in the church violated divine law. Furthermore, he went on to assert that a presbyterian hierarchy of presbyteries and synods was required by divine law.

In 1574, Walter Travers, an ally of Cartwright, published a Full and Plaine Declaration of Ecclesiasticall Discipline, setting forth a scheme of reform in greater detail than Cartwright had.

The government moved against all three of these Puritan leaders: John Field and Thomas Wilcox were imprisoned for a year, while Thomas Cartwright fled to exile on the continent to avoid such a fate. In the end, however, the number of clergymen who refused to subscribe to the bishops' requirements proved to be too large, and a number of qualified subscriptions were allowed.

The reign of Edmund Grindal as Archbishop of Canterbury (1575–1583) was relatively tranquil compared with that of his predecessor. The major issue came in 1581, when Robert Browne and his congregation at Bury St Edmunds withdrew from communion in the Church of England, citing the Church of England's dumb (i.e. non-preaching) ministry, and the lack of proper church discipline. Browne and his followers, known as the Brownists, were forced into exile in the Low Countries. There, they were encouraged by Thomas Cartwright, who was now serving as minister to the Merchant Adventurers at Middelburg. Cartwright, however, opposed separatism). Like most Puritans, he advocated further reforms to the Church of England from within.

A second Puritan development under Grindal was the rise of the Puritan prophesying, modelled on the Zurich Prophezei (Puritans learned of the practice through the congregation of refugees from Zurich established in London), where ministers met weekly to discuss "profitable questions". These "profitable questions" included the correct use of Sabbath, an initial sign of the Sabbatarianism of the English Puritans. The queen objected to the growth of the conventicling movement and ordered Archbishop Grindal to suppress. When Grindal refused, citing I Cor. 14, he was disgraced and placed under virtual house arrest for the rest of his tenure as Archbishop. The conventicles resumed after a brief period of suspension.

John Whitgift had been a vocal opponent of Thomas Cartwright. He believed that the matter of church governance was adiaphora, a "matter indifferent", and that the church should accommodate with the state in which the church was located. The Church of England was located in a monarchy, so the church should adopt an episcopal style of government.

Renewed calls for Presbyterianism Edit

The years 1583-1585 saw the brief ascendancy in Scotland of James Stewart, who claimed the title of Earl of Arran. This period saw Scotland pass the Black Acts, which outlawed the Second Book of Discipline. As a response, many Scottish ministers, including Andrew Melville, sought refuge in England. These refugees participated in the English conventicles (as did John Field, now released from prison) and convinced many English Puritans that they should renew their fight to establish presbyterianism in England. As such, in the 1584 Parliament, Puritans introduced legislation to replace the Book of Common Prayer with the Genevan Book of Order and to introduce presbyterianism. This effort failed.

At this point, John Field, Walter Travers, and Thomas Cartwright were all free and back in England and determined to draft a new order for the Church of England. They drafted a Book of Discipline, which circulated in 1586, and which they hoped would be accepted by the 1586 Parliament. Again, the Puritan effort failed in Parliament.

Martin Marprelate, 1588–89, and response Edit

In 1588–89, a series of virulently anti-episcopal tracts were published under the pseudonym of Martin Marprelate. These Marprelate tracts, likely published by Job Throckmorton and Welsh publisher John Penry, denounced the bishops as agents of Antichrist, the strongest possible denunciation for Christians. The Marprelate tracts called the bishops "our vile servile dunghill ministers of damnation, that viperous generation, those scorpions."

Unfortunately for the Puritans, the mid- to late-1580s saw a number of the defenders of the Puritans in the English government die: Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford in 1585 Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester in 1588 and Francis Walsingham in 1590. In these circumstances, Richard Bancroft (John Whitgift's chaplain) led a crackdown against the Puritans. Cartwright and eight other Puritan leaders were imprisoned for eighteen months, before facing trial in the Star Chamber. The conventicles were disbanded.

Some Puritans followed Robert Browne's lead and withdrew from the Church of England. A number of those separatists were arrested in the woods near Islington in 1593, and John Greenwood and Henry Barrowe were executed for advocating separatism. Followers of Greenwood and Barrowe fled to the Netherlands, and would form the basis of the Pilgrims, who would later found the Plymouth Colony.

1593 also saw the English parliament pass the Religion Act (35 Elizabeth c. 1) and the Popish Recusants Act (35 Elizabeth c. 2), which provided that those worshipping outside the Church of England had three months in which to either conform to the Church of England or else abjure the realm, forfeiting their lands and goods to the crown, with failure to abjure being a capital offence. Although these acts were directed against Roman Catholics who refused to conform to the Church of England, on their face they also applied to many of the Puritans. Although no Puritans were executed under these laws, they remained a constant threat and source of anxiety to the Puritans.

The drive to create a preaching ministry Edit

One of the most important aspects of the Puritan movement was its insistence on having a preaching ministry throughout the country. At the time of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, less than 10 per cent of the 40,000 English parish clergy was licensed to preach. (Since the time of the repression of the Lollards in the 14th century, it had been illegal for an ordained parish priest to preach to his congregation without first obtaining a licence from his bishop.) Elizabeth herself had been no fan of preaching and preferred a church service focused on the Prayer Book liturgy. However, many of Elizabeth's bishops did support the development of a preaching ministry and, aided by wealthy laymen, were able to dramatically expand the number of qualified preachers in the country. For example, Sir Walter Mildmay founded Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1584 to promote the training of preaching ministers. The great Puritan preacher and scholar Laurence Chaderton was the principal of the college. He was close friends and associates of Thomas Cartwright, Richard Rogers, Richard Greenham, John Dod, and William Perkins, each of which had a major influence on the rise of English Puritanism. Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex similarly founded Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in 1596. Emmanuel and Sidney Sussex became the homes of academic Puritanism.

Although the number of preachers increased dramatically over the course of Elizabeth's reign, there were still insufficient preachers in the country. A layman who wanted to hear a sermon might have to travel to another parish in order to find one with a preaching minister. When he got there, he might find that the preaching minister had shortened the Prayer Book service to allow more time for preaching. And, as a trained minister, when he did pray, he was more likely to offer an extemporaneous prayer instead of simply reading the set prayer out of the Prayer Book. Thus we see two different styles developing in the Church of England: a traditional style, focused on the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer and the Puritan style, focused on preaching, with less ceremony and shorter or extemporaneous prayers.

One of the greatest of the Elizabethan puritan preachers was Henry Smith, whose eloquence in the pulpit won him the epithet Silver-tongued Smith.

The rise of "experimental predestinarianism" Edit

Following the suppression of Puritanism in the wake of the Marprelate Tracts, Puritans in England assumed a more low-key approach in the 1590s. Ministers who favoured further reforms increasingly turned their attention away from structural reforms to the Church of England, instead choosing to focus on individual, personal holiness. Theologians such as William Perkins of Cambridge continued to maintain the rigorously high standards of previous Puritans, but now focused their attention on improving individual, as opposed to collective, righteousness. A characteristic Puritan focus during this period was for more rigorous keeping of the Christian Sabbath. William Perkins is also credited with introducing Theodore Beza's version of double predestination to the English Puritans, a view which he popularized through the use of a chart he created known as "The Golden Chain".

In 1970, R. T. Kendall labelled the form of religion practised by William Perkins and his followers as experimental predestinarianism, a position that Kendall contrasted with credal predestinarianism. [12] [ page needed ] Kendall identified credal predestinarians as anyone who accepted the Calvinist teaching on predestination. Experimental predestinarians, however, went beyond merely adhering to the doctrine of predestination, teaching that it was possible for individuals to know experimentally that they were saved and a member of God's elect predestined for eternal life. (The credal predestinarians believed that only some group were destined for eternal life, but that it was impossible in this life to identify who was elect and who was reprobate.) Puritans who adopted Perkins' brand of experimental predestinarianism felt obliged, once they had undergone a religious process to attain knowledge of their election, to seek out like-minded individuals who had undergone similar religious experiences.

In time, some Puritan clergymen and laity, who increasingly referred to themselves as "the godly", began to view themselves as distinct from the regular members of the Church of England, who had not undergone an emotional conversion experience. At times, this tendency led for calls for "the godly" to separate themselves from the Church of England. While the majority of Puritans remained "non-separating Puritans", they nevertheless came to constitute a distinct social group within the Church of England by the turn of the 17th century. In the next reign (King James), "the Puritan" as a type was common enough that fiercely Anglican playwright Ben Jonson could satirize Puritans in the form of the characters Tribulation and Ananais in The Alchemist (1610) and Zeal-of-the-land Busy in Bartholomew Fair (1614). So by the end of the Elizabethan era, Anglican and Puritan factions were at times in deep conflict, as many of the Puritans themselves would often satirize the Anglican church, with its rituals and bishops as being subversive of true religion and godliness. At the same time the Puritan movement had ministers and magistrates that held to either congregational, presbyterial, and episcopal forms of church government.

The climax and the brilliance of the Elizabethan Puritan movement can be especially seen in three of the greatest men of that era and their works: 1. The theological treatises of William Perkins. 2. The sermons of Henry Smith. And 3. The poetry of Edmund Spenser.

Black Caesar: African Chief Turned Raider

Black Caesar and his friend, the sailor, turn to a life of piracy. ( Noah Scalin / CC BY-SA 2.0)

While black pirates were not unusual, many of their names have been lost to history. One remembered to this day is Black Caesar (West African, . – 1718 AD), a legendary 18th-century AD African pirate . Originally from West Africa, Black Caesar was captured and sold into slavery. It is thought he may have been a chief. He is said to have been tall, strong, and intelligent. The ship he was imprisoned in sank off the coast of Florida, but he survived and began his career in piracy. He and his crew would pose as shipwrecked sailors and hail passing vessels for help. Once they were on board a ship, they would drop their disguise, rob the ship, and take the loot back to their hideout. In a disagreement about a woman, his partner and he had a duel, which Black Caesar won, killing his friend. Most sources claim that Black Caesar eventually joined the crew of another infamous pirate, Blackbeard. Eventually, Black Caesar’s reign of terror came to an end in 1718 AD, when he was convicted for piracy and hanged.

3 Dyeing One of the Largest Rivers in the World Yellow to Fulfill a Prophecy

While hanging out in Japanese-occupied Burma during World War II, legendary anthropologist Gregory Bateson learned of a prophecy that stated that when the waters of the country's largest river ran yellow, a foreign invader would be kicked out. Japan was a foreign invader. The OSS had a habitual drinking problem and issues with poor impulse control. You see where this is going.

Bateson and his wife, Margaret Mead, were part of a ragtag team of OSS agents that included future celebrity chef Julia Child and alleged Soviet spy Jane Foster. They were one jive-talkin' black guy short of an A-Team and had a reputation for unorthodox schemes, such as Foster's former operation that placed propaganda messages inside thousands of inflated condoms and floated them onto the coast of Indonesia. So when Bateson suggested dyeing the Irrawaddy River bright yellow to make the Burmese think that they should rise up against Japan in support of the Allies, naturally the OSS jumped all over it.

They actually got as far as shipping barrels of yellow dye into the area, with planes ready to drop them into the headwaters . until Bateson had the bright idea to test the dye in his bath and found out that it didn't work.

We're not sure why "testing the dye" was last on the list of prep work to do for Operation Piss Prophecy, but we have to assume Bateson, Mead, Child, and Foster were a bit distracted -- perhaps with saving a Burmese rec center from evil Japanese land developers.

Related: 4 Beautifully Dumb Schemes From America's Weirdest Spy Agency

The 4 Most Famous Plots Against Elizabeth I - History

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The recent Hollywood epic: Elizabeth – The Golden Years (a sequel to the earlier Elizabeth ) has inspired greater interest in this famous queen and the tumultuous times in which she lived. Numerous friends have asked just how much of these films are accurate history and how much is Hollywood fiction.

England’s Greatest Queen

There is no doubt that Elizabeth I was England’s greatest queen. She came to the throne of a country deeply divided, economically bankrupt and devastated by the persecutions and oppression of her half-sister Mary Tudor (the infamous Bloody Mary whose fanatical obsession to return England to Catholicism so spectacularly backfired. Bloody Mary condemned hundreds of prominent English Protestants to death by burning at the stake – including the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, the most famous Protestant theologians and preachers Bishops Ridley, Hooper and Latimer, the Bible translator John Rogers, and many others.)

A True Golden Age

Under Queen Elizabeth’s 45 years’ reign England was united, strengthened, entrenched as a Protestant nation, prospered and flourished and it defeated the great military superpower of the age, Spain.

Under Elizabeth England experienced a renaissance of art, literature and architecture. Hers was an age of great men. During her reign William Shakespeare, perhaps one of the most famous writers of all times, began a 20 year career in the theatre during which he wrote 38 plays, containing more than a million words of beautiful poetry, that have been recited over and over by great actors throughout the centuries worldwide.

Great seamen and explorers, such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, sailed the seas. The decisive victory over the Spanish Armada signalled the rise of the Protestant naval powers of England and Holland and the decline of the Catholic naval superpower of Spain. It was during the reign of Elizabeth that North America was first claimed for the Protestant cause with Sir Walter Raleigh’s naming of Virginia after the virgin Queen of England and pioneering the first settlements there.

A Terrifying Upbringing

Elizabeth was born in 1533 to a cold reception from her father King Henry VIII. He had wanted a male heir to carry on the Tudor line. Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn was condemned to death and beheaded on the scaffold for “treason.” Elizabeth was only two years old when her mother was executed. As a child Elizabeth experienced more sorrow, loneliness, bitterness and fear than any child should. From her earliest days the fear of sudden death was always with her. Her step mother Katherine Howard was also beheaded. She spent much of her early years in virtual imprisonment. However, she was surrounded with good tutors, plenty of books and the company of her young stepbrother Edward.

In 1547, when Henry VIII died, Edward VI then aged 9 ascended the throne. By Henry VIII’s will Mary Tudor, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, stood next in line of succession after Edward. After Mary, Elizabeth. However, in France, a menace to them all was Mary Stuart, granddaughter of Henry VIII’s oldest sister, Margaret, wife of the Dauphain of France. Mary Stuart was also heir to the throne of Scotland. Being wedded to France, and a dedicated Roman Catholic, Mary Stuart (also known as Mary, Queen of Scots, posed a serious, clear and present danger to not only Elizabeth, but to the Reformation and all the people of England.

Edward VI’s premature death in 1553 led to plots, intrigues and counter-plots. Edward VI, prior to his death, had changed the laws of succession in favour of his cousin Lady Jane Grey. Desperate to avoid the religious persecution that would surely come with his Catholic half-sister Mary, Edward had endeavoured to ensure the dedicated Protestant Lady Jane Grey be the next monarch of England.

Bloody Mary’s Reign of Terror

Tragically, however, the courageous young Lady Jane Grey was betrayed and Mary, the first daughter of Henry VIII, became Queen of England. Like her mother Catherine of Aragon, Queen Mary was a fervent Catholic and determined to force England back to Catholicism. Bloody Mary began a relentless campaign against

the Protestants. Her cousin, Lady Jane Grey, was beheaded. Prominent Reformers, Protestant Bishops and Bible translators were burned at the stake. For five tragic

years Bloody Mary sought to bludgeon the people of England back to Rome.

The Spanish Connection

Mary’s marriage to Phillip II, a member of the powerful Hapsburg family and brother of Ferdinand, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, endangered not only the Protestant Reformation, but the very independence of England. Phillip II was soon to become King of Spain, and he was a fanatical enemy of Protestantism. Phillip II had made it known that his goal was to conquer the world for Spain and the Roman Church.

Phillip II became the husband of Mary and the King of England in 1554. In 1556 he became officially King of Spain. However, by God’s grace, the marriage was fruitless and Mary died without having conceived a child.

The Counter Productive Counter Reformation

The end result of Mary’s attempts to return England to Catholicism were rather to convince the vast majority of Englishmen in the resolution and determination never again to succumb to such tyranny, superstition, and intolerance. ÂÂÂ By trying to exterminate the Reformation, Bloody Mary had only succeeded in entrenching it.

A Ruined Realm

Bloody Mary ended her days in great agony, and fever and mental derangement. The death of Bloody Mary on 17 November 1558 was an occasion of great public rejoicing in England. Elizabeth became the queen of a country ravaged by pestilence and sickened by the sight of countless grey-haired men of God being callously burned at the stake for “heresy.” During Mary’s short five-year reign the country had been ruined. England’s credit was destroyed. Her currency debased. Her people oppressed to the verge of revolution. Historians observed that the shouts of joy and cheers at Elizabeth’s Coronation were more a celebration of the death of Mary than of the new queen, of whom the people at that time knew very little.

King Henry’s Daughter

It was 15 January 1559 when the Protestant Elizabeth Tudor was crowned Queen of England. Elizabeth was 25 years old. Historians wrote that there was “no doubt who her father was. A commanding carriage, auburn hair, eloquence of speech, a natural dignity proclaimed her King Henry’s daughter. Other similarities were soon observed: High courage in moments of crisis, a fiery and imperious resolution when defied, and an almost inexhaustible fund of physical energy…She could speak six languages and was well read in Latin and Greek. As with her father and grandfather, a restless vitality led her…”

The Most Courted Woman in Europe

Visitors to her court described her as tall, beautiful, young, brilliant, hard-headed, with red-gold, curly hair, pale face, shrewd blue eyes and long white hands. As the unmarried Queen of England, she became the main interest in diplomatic circles. Almost immediately the English court was filled with ambassadors and emissaries for half the kings and princes of Europe seeking to court her.

A Protestant Queen

Queen Elizabeth ended the horror of the English counter-Reformation. Under Bloody Mary many Protestant clergy were either executed or forced to flee the country. Elizabeth firmly established Protestantism as the national Faith and ended the Catholic persecutions. It is notable that, although she herself had been imprisoned in the Tower of London and threatened with execution, she ended the religious persecutions without allowing retribution or revenge. She steadfastly resisted all attempts to punish Catholics, insisting that, unless they broke the laws of the realm, they were entitled to equal protection under the law.

A Rebirth of Freedom and Industry

Elizabeth encouraged English enterprise and commerce, establishing a consistent legal code. Her reign was noted for the English Renaissance, an outpouring of poetry and drama, led by William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser and Christopher Marlowe. Their writings remain unsurpassed in English literary history. It was during Elizabeth’s reign that England began to expand trade overseas and the Merchant Navy grew dramatically. Ship building boomed under Elizabeth.

She had the fiery red hair and bold spirit of her father King Henry VIII. She also possessed his fierce temper and determination to rule. The rule of Elizabeth I was marked by great achievements in the arts and sciences, by voyages of exploration to distant lands, and by unprecedented prosperity.

Initially, to redeem her country, Elizabeth set in place a stringent economy with heavy taxation to reclaim the nation’s credit. She sold the Port of Calais for 500,000 Crowns and juggled the diplomatic hot potatoes of marriage proposals from Phillip of Spain, Archduke Charles of Austria, Henry of Anjou, and many others.

The Constant Threat of Assassination

Throughout her 45-year reign Elizabeth had to deal with constant treachery and intrigues, involving over 60 conspiracies and attempts to assassinate her. Jesuit revolutionaries and assassins were sent from Spain to reconvert England, sowing the seeds of revolt and treason. Elizabeth showed an astounding ability to survive countless conspiracies and assassination attempts.

Living in such perilous times with so many international intrigues to assassinate her and to enforce the Catholic Inquisition back upon England, Elizabeth needed to establish an extensive intelligence system which was ably controlled by her brilliant spy-master Francis Walsingham.

Privately she suffered the pain of betrayal, sorrow and loneliness, but she dealt with treason and threats to her life as calmly as she regarded the many suitors who sought her hand in marriage. Elizabeth had a genius for surrounding herself with the best possible advisors and for taking their advice. William Cecil, later Lord Burleigh, was her chief minister and remained true to her until his death 40 years later. William Cecil has been described by historians as: “The perfect servant of a woman who preferred not to let her right hand know what her left was doing.”

The Threat Posed by Mary Queen of Scots

When Mary, Queen of Scots, fled from her defeat at Langside in 1568, and sought shelter and protection from her cousin Elizabeth, she was provided protection, but under an effective house arrest. During the 18 years of Mary’s imprisonment, she became the centre of innumerable plots and conspiracies to assassinate Elizabeth and usurp the throne. Mary Stuart imperilled Elizabeth and the Reformation in England. One assassin could bring down the government and bring back the Catholic Inquisition. Mary Stuart represented Spain, the vast Catholic international and the Guises of France.

Jesuit Intrigues

In 1580 the Jesuits Edward Campion and Robert Persons infiltrated England to plan an uprising. An army of Spanish and Italian “volunteers” bearing papal banners, invaded Ireland. In 1583 a Catholic plot was uncovered that involved great English noblemen along with Phillip II of Spain, Mary Stuart and a Spanish plan for invasion. Elizabeth expelled the Spanish ambassador and continued English support for the Dutch Freedom Fighters seeking to throw off the oppression of Spain. At that time Holland was a colony of Spain.

Parliament Intervenes

When Mary, Queen of Scots, was finally placed on trial at Fotheringay Castle, Elizabeth sought to stop the proceedings. Parliament intervened and insisted that Mary Stuart continued to be tried for treason. When the court found Mary guilty of plotting the assassination of Elizabeth and the overthrow of religious freedom in England, Elizabeth refused to sign the death warrant. However, ultimately, under the pressure of Parliament, she was compelled on 7 February, 1587, to sign the sentence of the court.

Phillip Launches the Armada

Phillip II of Spain called the Catholic world to a Crusade against Protestant England. It was English gold and support that bolstered the Protestant cause in Scotland and Netherlands. With Phillip having conquered Portugal and expanded Spain’s Atlantic power, he ordered his admirals to assemble an Armada which could crush the Protestants in England once and for all.

"The Invincible Armada"

By May 1588 Phillip had prepared a fleet consisting of 130 ships, 2,400 cannon, and over 30,000 men. This was the greatest naval force the world had yet seen. It was called “The Invincible Armada.” The plan was for the Armada to sail up the English Channel, pick up troops from the Spanish Netherlands under the Duke of Parma and escorting his invasion barges across the Channel to conquer England. Queen Elizabeth ordered the entire nation to pray for God’s intervention and protection against the invading Armada.

What was at Stake

Had the Spanish Armada succeeded, today’s world would be unrecognizable. Spain was the Catholic superpower. England led the Protestant cause. All Europe feared Spain. It had overwhelmed all of its adversaries – even the Turk. Had the Armada succeeded the whole subsequent history of England and Scotland would have been dramatically changed. There would have been no Protestant North America and no Anglo-Saxon civilization. It would have made Spain the unrivalled world superpower and Spanish the world’s language.

One of the Greatest Speeches Ever Made

An English army of almost 20,000 men were assembled at Tilbury to oppose the anticipated 30,000 men in the Spanish Armada. In addition to this a further 15,000 Spanish troops under the brutal Duke of Parma were to be ferried across the Channel in barges from the Netherlands.

Queen Elizabeth addressed her soldiers at Tilbury with these words: “I am come amongst you, as you see, resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God, and for my Kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain or any prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm to which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.”

The English Navy

The Royal Navy had been under the control of Sir John Hawkins since 1573. He had rebuilt and reorganized the Navy that had survived from the days of Henry VIII. The castles which had towered above the galleon decks had been cut down. The keels were deepened. Designs concentrated on sea-worthiness and speed. Most significantly of all, Hawkins had installed heavier long-range guns. Knowing that he could not out-produce the Spanish in terms of the size and number of galleons, Hawkins was determined to batter the enemy from a distance with the superior range of his cannon. The Spanish Armada carried many cannon (2,400) but these were really only suitable for close-range salvos before grappling and boarding enemy vessels for hand-to-hand combat.

Against All Odds

To oppose the Armada’s 130 ships, Hawkins had 34 vessels, carrying 6,000 men. His commanders were Lord Howard and Sir Francis Drake. (It was Sir Francis Drake’s famous raid on the Spanish Armada in port at Cardiz in 1587 which had delayed the sailing of the Armada by destroying a large quantity of ships and stores. This was described as “the singeing of the King of Spain’s beard!”)

The Armada Sets Sail

The Armada finally left Tagus on 20 May. It was afflicted by severe storms. Two of their 1,000 ton ships lost their masts. They had to put in to refit at Carunna and could not sail again until 12 July.

Fires Over England

An Intelligence Report of 21 July from Howard to Walsingham reported sighting 120 sail vessels including galleys “and many ships of great burden.” Beacons were lit all across England to alert the population to the danger. Church bells rang. Special services were held to pray for God’s protection.

Engaging the Enemy

The English engaged the Armada in a four-hour battle, pounding away with their long range guns, but staying out of range of the Armada’s cannon. There was a further engagement on 23 July, and then off the Isle of Wight on 25 July. The guns of the English ships raked the decks of the galleons killing many of the crew and soldiers.

/>Fire Ships Cause Panic

On 28 July the Spanish Armada anchored in the English Channel near Calais. As the English Navy lay upwind from the Spanish, they determined to set adrift 8 fire-ships, filled with explosives, to drift into the crowded Spanish fleet at anchor. As the Spanish crews awoke to see these flaming ships drifting towards their anchored Armada, they panicked. Spanish captains cut their cables, and made for the open sea. Many collisions followed. The surviving ships of the Armada headed eastwards to Gravelines expecting to link up with Parma’s troops and barges, ready to be escorted for the invasion of England. But the tides and winds were against them, and they found no sign of Parma’s troops in Dunkirk harbour.

Decisive Engagement

At this point the Royal Navy caught up with the Spaniards, and a long and desperate fight raged for eight hours. Howard’s men sank or damaged many of the Spanish ships and drove others onto the banks. The English reported that at this point they had completely exhausted their ammunition, otherwise scarcely a Spanish ship would have escaped.

The Devastated Armada

The remnants of the defeated Armada now fled northwards seeking to sail around the north of Scotland in order to reach Spain. They faced mountainous seas and racing tides. Westerly winds drove two of the galleons to wreck upon the coast of Norway. Ships that had been shattered by the English cannonades were now struck by storms. Another 17 ships were wrecked on the coast of Britain. Most of the once mighty Armada were lost before the battered survivors finally reached Spanish ports in October.

God Blew and They Were Scattered

Incredibly, the English had not lost a single ship, and scarcely 100 men in the ferocious engagements against the Spanish Armada. Though limited in supplies and ships, the tactics of Hawkins, and his admirals Howard and Drake, had been crowned with success. A medal struck to commemorate the victory bears the inscription: “Afflavit Deus et dissipantur” (God blew and they were scattered!)

Answers to Prayer

While churches throughout England were holding extraordinary prayer meetings, devastating storms had wrecked the Spanish plans. The Duke of Parma’s invasion barges from Holland were prevented from linking up with the Armada by Dutch action. The English tactic of setting fire ships amongst the huge Spanish galleons created confusion. Courageous action by the English seamen and continuing storms decimated and broke up the Spanish Armada. Most of what was left of Phillip’s fleet was devastated by more storms off the coast of Scotland and Ireland. Only a miserable remnant of the once proud Armada limped back into the Ports of Spain. 51 Spanish ships and 20,000 men had been lost. The greatest superpower at the time had suffered a crippling blow. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 marked a great watershed in history. It signalled the decline of Catholic Spain and Portugal and the rise of Protestant England and Holland.

A Victory for the Protestant Reformation

Before 1588 the world powers were Spain and Portugal. These Roman Catholic empires dominated the seas and the overseas possessions of Europe. Only after the English defeated the Spanish Armada did the possibility arise of Protestant missionaries crossing the seas. As the Dutch and British grew in military and naval strength, they were able to challenge the Catholic dominance of the seas and the new continents. Foreign missions now became a distinct possibility. Had the Spanish Armada not been defeated, Protestantism could have been extinguished in England and Holland. And then the whole future of North America would have been far different with Catholicism dominating instead of the Protestant Pilgrims.

A Watershed Event

By the grace of God , the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588 saved the Protestant Reformation in England from Spanish invasion, oppression and the Inquisition. The victory of Protestant England and Protestant Holland against Catholic Spain was absolutely essential for the founding of the United States of America and of the Republic of South Africa.

Defeating Spain

The policy of Elizabeth’s government continued to be to distract the enemy in every quarter of the world. This was accomplished by subsidizing Protestant resistance in the Netherlands and in France and by attacking the forces and allies of Spain throughout the world. The expeditions to Cadiz, to the Azores, to the Caribbean, and many other campaigns, were accomplished with very slender resources. At that time the total revenues of the Crown barely exceeded £300,000 a year. The cost of defeating the Armada was calculated to have amounted to £160,000. An expeditionary force to the Netherlands, to help the Dutch in their fight for freedom against the Spanish, cost £126,000 one year. Therefore, raiding Spanish ships not only denied the enemy resources which would have been used to threaten Protestant causes in Europe, and even the independence of England, but was much needed in order to finance the defence of the Realm and assistance to the Huguenots in France and the Dutch in the low countries.

A Magnificent Heritage

Under Queen Elizabeth England flourished spiritually, militarily and economically. The Elizabethan years saw some of the greatest soldiers, explorers, scientists, philosophers and poets ever produced. Under Elizabeth Parliament had flourished and the Protestant Reformation had become entrenched in the Church of England and through the Puritan movement.

Elizabeth was the last of the Tudor monarchs. For over 100 years the Tudors had guided the country through tumultuous times and changes. With the death of Queen Elizabeth, 24 March 1603, the Tudor Dynasty ended and the crown now passed to an alien Scottish line, the Stuarts. The co-operation between the Crown and Parliament, that the Tudors had nourished, would come to a fretful close. The new kings would repeatedly clash with the Protestant majority of the country and with their Parliamentary representatives. This would lead to the Civil War, the execution of Charles I and the triumph of Parliament over the monarchy.

A History of the English Speaking People by Sir Winston Churchill, Cassel and Co., 1956.

Elizabeth I

Famous for being Queen of England 1558-1603
Born – 7th September 1533 – Greenwich Palace London
Parents – Henry VIII King of England, Anne Boleyn
Siblings – Mary (half-sister), Edward (half-brother)
Married – No
Children – No
Died – 24th March 1603

Elizabeth was born in 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. After her mother was beheaded she was declared illegitimate. Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London for much of Mary’s reign on suspicion of plotting with Protestants to remove Mary from the throne and take her place. She had been excluded from the succession by Edward VI due to her illegitimacy but this was overturned by the government following Mary’s death.

Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster Abbey on 15th January 1559.

As Queen, Elizabeth needed to win the support of her people, both Catholics and Protestants, and those who believed that a woman could not rule a country by herself. One of the best ways for a monarch to win support was by making a tour of the country and showing themselves to the people. However, Elizabeth had many Catholic enemies and it was not safe for her to travel around the country. She chose, instead, to use portraits to show herself to her people. It was, therefore, essential that the portraits showed an image of Elizabeth that would impress her subjects. At intervals throughout her reign the government issued portraits of Elizabeth that were to be copied and distributed throughout the land. No other portraits of the Queen were allowed.

From the time of her accession, Elizabeth was pursued by a variety of suitors, eager to marry the most eligible woman in the world. However, Elizabeth never married. One theory is that she never married because the way that her father had treated his wives had put her off marriage, another is that she was abused by Thomas Seymour while under the care of Katherine Parr, a third theory suggests that she was so in love with Robert Dudley that she could not bring herself to marry another man. When Elizabeth became Queen, Robert Dudley was already married. Some years later his wife died in mysterious circumstances. Elizabeth could not marry him because of the scandal it would cause both at home and abroad.

As queen, Elizabeth established a moderate Protestant church with the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Her action led to her excommunication by the Pope and also made her subject to Catholic plots to remove her from the throne and replace her with her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. This ultimately led to Elizabeth being forced to sign the warrant for Mary Queen of Scots’ execution.

Her foreign policy was largely defensive, however her support of the Dutch against Spain was a contributary factor that led to the invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Elizabeth died in 1603. Her death marked the end of the Tudor dynasty. She was succeeded by Mary Queen of Scots’ son James.

The 4 Most Famous Plots Against Elizabeth I - History

One of the most powerful women who ever lived was Queen Elizabeth I of England. Elizabeth (1533-1603) was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and was known as the Virgin Queen or Good Queen Bess. She was 25 years old when she became Queen and ruled England for 44 years until age 69. She was tall and slender with fair skin and had curly red hair.

In the 1500s there was a major rivalry on the seas between the ships of Britain and Spain over control of trade in the New World. King Philip II of Spain decided to settle the question once and for all by invading and conquering England itself. Philip assembled a huge fleet of warships known as the Spanish Armada and in 1588 sailed into the English Channel.

Below are the words Elizabeth spoke when she visited her troops in the field as they prepared for this battle. During the nine-day battle, the smaller, more maneuverable British ships met the Spanish Armada and inflicted terrible losses. Spanish ships that sailed away encountered foul weather and only a few ever returned to Spain. Following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Britain became the dominant world power and remained so for centuries.

My loving people, we have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble and worthy subject not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valor in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.

Queen Elizabeth I - 1588

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