The mass of the Catholics throughout the country made no sign; and the Earls no sooner halted irresolute in presence of this unexpected inaction than their army caught the panic and dispersed. Northumberland and Westmoreland fled, and were followed in their flight by Leonard Dacres of Naworth, while their miserable adherents paid for their disloyalty in bloodshed and ruin. The ruthless measures of repression which closed this revolt were the first breach in the clemency of Elizabeth's rule. But they were signs of terror which were not lost on her opponents. It was the general inaction of the Catholics which had foiled the hopes of the northern Earls; and Rome now did its best to stir them to activity by publishing the Bull of Excommunication and Deposition against the Queen, which had been secretly issued in the preceding year, and was found nailed in a spirit of ironical defiance on the Bishop of London's door. The Catholics of the north withdrew stubbornly from the national worship. Everywhere the number of recusants increased. Intrigues were busier than ever. The regent Murray was assassinated, and Scotland plunged into war between the adherents of Mary and those of her son.
From the defeated Catholics Mary turned again to the Duke of Norfolk, who stood at the head of the Conservative peers. Norfolk had acquiesced in the religious compromise of the Queen, and professed himself a Protestant while he intrigued with the Catholic party. He trusted to carry the English nobles with him in pressing for his marriage with Mary, a marriage which should seem to take her out of the hands of French and Catholic intriguers, to makeheran Englishwoman,and to settle the vexed question of the succession to the throne. His dreams of such a union with Mary in the preceding year had been detected by Cecil, and checked by a short sojourn in the Tower; but his correspondence with the Queen was renewed on his release, and ended in an appeal to Philip for the intervention of a Spanish army. At the head of this appeal stood the name of Mary; while Norfolk's name was followed by those of many lords of "the old blood," as the prouder peers styled themselves; and the significance of the request was heightened by gatherings of Catholic refugees at Antwerp round the fugitive leaders of the Northern Revolt. Enough of these conspiracies was discovered to rouse a fresh ardour in the menaced Protestants. The Parliament met to pass an act of attainder against the Northern Earls, and to declare the introduction of Papal Bulls into the country an act of high treason.
The rising indignation against Mary, as "the daughter of Debate, who discord fell doth sow," was shown in a statute, which declared any person who laid claim to the Crown during the Queen's life-time incapable of ever succeeding to it. The disaffection of the Catholics was met by imposing on all magistrates and public officers the obligation of subscribing to the Articles of Faith, a measure which in fact transferred the administration of justice and public order to their Protestant opponents. Meanwhile Norfolk's treason ripened into an elaborate plot Philip had promised aid should the revolt actually break out; but the clue to these negotiations had long been in Cecil's hands, and before a single step could be taken towards the practical realization of his schemes of ambition, they were foiled by Norfolk's arrest. With his death and that of Northumberland, who followed him to the scaffold, the dread of revolt within the realm which had so long hung over England passed quietly away. The failure of the two attempts not only showed the weakness and disunion of the party of discontent and reaction, but it revealed the weakness of all party feeling before the rise of a national temper which was springing naturally out of the peace of Elizabeth's reign, and which a growing sense of danger to the order and prosperity around it was fast turning into a passionate loyalty to the Queen. It was not merely against Cecil's watchfulness or Elizabeth's cunning that Mary and Philip and the Percies dashed themselves in vain; it was against a new England.