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Title: English Catholic eschatology, 1558-1603
Author: Casey-Stoakes, Coral Georgina
ISNI:       0000 0004 6350 7642
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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Early modern English Catholic eschatology, the belief that the present was the last age and an associated concern with mankind’s destiny, has been overlooked in the historiography. Historians have established that early modern Protestants had an eschatological understanding of the present. This thesis seeks to balance the picture and the sources indicate that there was an early modern English Catholic counter narrative. This thesis suggests that the Catholic eschatological understanding of contemporary events affected political action. It investigates early modern English Catholic eschatology in the context of proscription and persecution of Catholicism between 1558 and 1603. Devotional eschatology was the corner stone of individual Catholic eschatology and placed earthly life in an apocalyptic time-frame. Catholic devotional works challenged the regime and questioned Protestantism. Devotional eschatology is suggestive of a worldview which expected an impending apocalypse but there was a reluctance to date the End. With an eschatological outlook normalised by daily devotional eschatology the Reformation and contemporary events were interpreted apocalyptically. An apocalyptic understanding of the break with Rome was not exclusively Protestant. Indeed, the identification of Antichrist was not just a Protestant concern but rather the linchpin of Reformation debates between Catholics and Protestants. Some identified Elizabeth as Jezebel, the Whore of Babylon. The Bull of Excommunication of 1570 and its language provided papal authority for identifications of Elizabeth as the Whore. The execution of Mary Queen of Scots was a flashpoint which enabled previously hidden ideas to burst into public discourse. This was dangerous as eschatology and apocalypticism was a language of political action. An eschatological understanding of contemporary events encouraged conspiracy. The divine plan required human agents. Catholic prophecy and conspiracy show that eschatology did not just affect how the future was thought about but also had implications for the present. This thesis raises questions about Catholic loyalism which other scholars have also begun to challenge. Yet attempts to depose or murder the monarch was not the only response which could be adopted. Belief that one was living in the End also supported what this thesis terms ‘militant passivity’. Martyrs understood their suffering as a form of eschatological agency which revealed and confirmed the identities of the Antichrist and the Whore. The Book of the Apocalypse promised that they would be rewarded at God’s approaching Judgement and the debates of the Reformation would be settled by the ultimate Judge. As martyrs came to symbolise the English Catholic community, it came to understand itself eschatologically. This thesis argues that acknowledging the eschatological dimensions of Catholic perception and action helps us to re-think the nature of early modern English Catholicism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Early modern Catholicism ; Elizabeth I ; Jesuits ; Mary Queen of Scots ; Robert Persons ; Robert Southwell ; Nicholas Sanders ; Philip Howard ; Thomas Stapleton ; Thomas Harding ; Edmund Campion ; Devotional Eschatology ; True Church ; False Church ; Antichrist ; Jezebel ; Babylon ; Prophecy ; Plots ; Conspiracies ; Babington ; Martyrdom ; Apocalypticism ; Eschatology ; Four Last Things ; England ; Catholicism ; Early Modern Period