But the pressure on her was great, and Mary looked to the triumph of Catholicism in France to increase the pressure. It was this which drove Elizabeth to listen to the cry of the Huguenots at the moment when they were yielding to the strength of the Guises. Hate war as she might, the instinct of self-preservation dragged her into the great struggle; and in spite of the menaces of Philip, money and six thousand men were promised to the aid of the Protestants under Condé. But a fatal overthrow of the Huguenot army at Dreux left the Guises masters of France, and brought the danger to the very doors of England. The hopes of the English Catholics rose higher. Though the Pope delayed to issue his Bull of Deposition, a Papal brief pronounced joining in the Common Prayer schismatic, and forbade the attendance of Catholics at church. With the issue of this brief the conformity of worship which Elizabeth had sought to establish came to an end. The hotter Catholics withdrew from church. Heavy fines were laid on them as recusants; fines which, as their numbers increased, became a valuable source of supply for the exchequer. But no fines could compensate for the moral blow which their withdrawal dealt. It was the beginning of a struggle which Elizabeth had averted through three memorable years.
Protestant fanaticism met Catholic fanaticism. The tidings of Dreux spread panic through the realm. Parliament showed its terror by measures of a new severity. "There has been enough of words," said the Queen's minister, Sir Francis Knollys; "it were time to draw sword." The sword was drawn in a Test Act, the first in a series of penal statutes which weighed upon English Catholics for two hundred years. By this statute an oath of allegiance to the Queen and abjuration of the temporal authority of the Pope was exacted from all holders of office, lay or spiritual, with the exception of peers. Its effect was to place the whole power of the realm in the hands either of Protestants, or of Catholics who accepted Elizabeth's legitimacy and her ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the teeth of the Papacy. Caution indeed was used in applying this test to the laity, but pressure was more roughly put on the clergy. Many of the parish priests, though they had submitted to the use of the Prayer-book, had not taken the oath prescribed by the Act of Uniformity. As yet Elizabeth had cautiously refused to allow any strict inquiry into their opinions.
But a commission was now opened by her order at Lambeth, with the Primate at its head, to enforce the Act; while thirty-nine of the Articles drawn up under Edward were adopted as a standard of faith, and acceptance of them demanded of the clergy.
- It is possible that Elizabeth might have clung to her older policy of conciliation had she foreseen how suddenly the danger that appalled her was to pass away. At this crisis she was able, as usual, to "count on Fortune." The assassination of the Duke of Guise broke up his party; a policy of moderation and balance prevailed at the French Court; Catharine of Medicis was now supreme, and her aim was still an aim of peace. The Queen's good luck was chequered by a merited humiliation. She had sold her aid to the Huguenots in their hour of distress at the price of the surrender of Havre, and Havre was again wrested from her by the reunion of the French parties. Peace with France in the following spring secured her a year's respite in her anxieties; and Mary was utterly foiled in her plan for bringing the pressure of a united Scotland, backed by France, to bear upon her rival. But the defeat only threw her on a yet more formidable scheme. She was weary of the mask of religious indifference which her policy had forced her to wear with the view of securing the general support of her subjects.
She resolved now to appeal to the English Catholics on the ground of Catholicism. Next to the Scottish Queen in the line of blood stood Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a son of the Countess of Lennox, and grandson of Margaret Tudor by her second marriage with the Earl of Angus, as Mary was her grandchild by Margaret's first marriage with James the Fourth. • Though the house of Lennox conformed to the new system of English worship, its sympathies were known to be Catholic, and the hopes of the Catholics wrapped themselves round its heir. It was by a match with Henry Stuart that Mary now determined to unite the forces of Catholicism. The match was regarded on all sides as a challenge to Protestantism. Philip had till now looked upon Mary's system of toleration and on her hopes from France with equal suspicion. But he now drew slowly to her side. "She is the one gate," he owned, " through which Religion can be restored in England. All the rest are closed." It was in vain that Elizabeth strove to prevent the marriage by a threat of war, or by secret plots for the seizure of Mary and the driving of Darnley back over the border.
The Lords of the Congregation woke with a start from their confidence in the Queen, and her half-brother, Lord James Stuart, better known as Earl of Murray, mustered his Protestant confederates. But their revolt was hardly declared when Mary marched on them with pistols in her belt, and drove their leaders helplessly over the border. A rumour spread that she was in league with Spain and with France, where the influences of the Guises was again strong. Elizabeth took refuge in the meanest dissimulation, while the announcement of Mary's pregnancy soon gave her a strength which swept aside Philip's counsels of caution and delay. "With the help of God and of your Holiness," Mary wrote to the Pope,"I will leap over the wall." Rizzio, an Italian who had counselled the marriage, still remained her adviser, and the daring advice he gave fell in with her natural temper. She demanded a recognition of her succession. She resolved in the coming Parliament to restore Catholicism in Scotland; and to secure the banishment of Murray and his companions. The English Catholics of the North were ready to revolt as soon as she was ready to aid them.