The implementation of the Elizabethan statutes against Recusants 158l-1603
This thesis deals with the formation and the implementation of the penal code against Catholic recusants, from the statute of 1581 to the end of Elizabeth's reign. An introductory survey covers the first decade of the reign and sets the picture for the repeated, but abortive, efforts of the bishops to replace the statute imposing the twelvepenny fine with a more severe law. This struggle lasted through the seventies and is seen as one strand of the fight against recusancy; the other being, the more direct attack on the recusants in the ecclesiastical courts, above all in those of the High Commission, which led to the making of the new law of 1581. The question of what form that law was to take, its final shape, the £20 fine, and its first faltering steps in the world of assizes and quarter sessions, mark the second stage of the story. The Exchequer receipts testify to the very limited success of the attempt to exact the fine. The effort to rectify so defective a law and the resultant efficiency of that change, namely, the act of 1587, close the analysis of the problem as it was in the middle years of the reign. A survey of recusancy in the years before 1595 shows the necessity there was for further alteration in the laws. That alteration was never achieved, to any appreciable degree, and the history of the failure to do so, and its effects on the recusant body, dominate the account of the final years of the reign. The reign closed with a penal code acknowledged to be faulty, witness the parliament of 1601, but with no move on the part of the government to remedy the defect.