The defence of England

At 8 am this morning in 1587 at Fotheringay Castle a 44 year old woman was led out of her room to the Hall. She was dressed in black with a veil over her hair. Her Catholic beads were fixed to her belt and she held a crucifix in her hand. She had been in prison for 20 years. As the historian J Neale ungallantly describes “the charm of youth was gone; she was corpulent, round shouldered, fat in the face, and double chinned”.

She wept at leaving her servants. The scaffold was decked in black. The Dean of Peterborough sought her repentance at this last moment, inviting her to renounce her Catholic views. She told him she was resolved to die a Catholic, and said her own prayers in a loud voice to offset his.

The two executioners helped her take her robe off. She quipped that she “was not want to have my clothes plucked off by such grooms”. The axe fell as she recited “In manus tuas, Domine”.

As the Executioner lifted up her head, a wig slipped from it, revealing close cropped grey hair that had been concealed by the red haired wig. “This be the end of all the enemies of Gospel and her Majesty” cried the Earl of Kent, whose loyalty to Elizabeth I was much stronger than his abilities to forecast the future. One of the dead woman’s little dogs who had crept under her clothes reappeared and lay between her severed head and shoulders, in her blood.

<a href=’’ title=’mary_queen_of_scots_portrait.jpg’><img src=’’ alt=’mary_queen_of_scots_portrait.jpg’ /></a>

This brutal act led to rejoicing in London at the death of Mary Queen of Scots. Public opinion saw her as a continuing threat to Queen Elizabeth and the Protestant religion. They hoped her death would mark a new chapter, and an end to plots against Elizabeth’s life.

Instead, as we know, the following year was to see the Spanish finally put to sea to invade England in an effort to force it back to Catholicism at the point of Spanish steel. The death of Mary Queen of Scots did not mark the end of threats to the realm.

Indeed, England was in grave danger. Then, the threat was violent, backed up by the might of the world’s superpower, Spain. It was intolerant, seeking to prevent England following its chosen religious and political course. It personalised the clash to the Queen herself, just as the death of Mary had personalised the conflict the other way.

Today, England is also in danger from the continent. Fortunately it is not a danger backed up by continental armies, and is not one which wants to force people to change their views at the point of a sword. It is one based on a continental view that we need to change our laws and ways of doing things, this time at the point of a pen scribbling continental treaties and law codes to tie us up in ever more needless bureaucracy. The tragedy is that this time Parliament, far from being a hawk for our liberties, by large majorities urges the process on.

The death of Mary Queen of Scots is a sad reminder of the lengths a former English government felt it had to go to to protect the realm from foreign intervention. Her death was willed by Parliament and the Queen’s council. Elizabeth herself hesitated and delayed for weeks before allowing the death warrant to be issued after the court had passed sentence. She knew there could be no winners from a Prince’s death, and understood it was a dangerous precedent. The brutal deed has been understandably contentious ever since. For the Queen, it was important that it had been willed by people and Parliament, the common practise in an age when people paid with their lives for political opposition. Maybe the woman in Elizabeth took a small dark satisfaction from knowing her rival’s striking auburn hair was not real after all. Someone at the time went to great lengths to ensure this unimportant detail was well recorded.


  1. Tom Long, England
    February 8, 2008

    The root of the problem is that England is governed by a 'British' Government that looks after Englands interests as an afterthought – after its thought about Britain?, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland first!

    This Englishman along with many others wants to be ruled by an English Parliament – not a British one. Just like the Scots, the Welsh, and the Irish didn't like being ruled by a British Government why should the English have to put up with it.

  2. Anoneumouse
    February 8, 2008

    Ah yes, Elizabethan laws

    Article 37 of the 39 Articles of Religion is quite clear.

    "The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction".

    The Thirty – nine Articles of Religion were drawn up by the church in convocation in 1563

    Subscription to them by the clergy was ordered by act of Parliament in 1571. The Subscription (Thirty-Nine Articles) Act (1571), 13 Elizabeth, Cap. 12

    The 39 Articles can be found in the Book of Common Prayer, which has not been repealed and are part of the British constitution through the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Act of Union with Scotland 1706

    Clergy of the Church of England are still required to acknowledge that the Articles are "agreeable to the Word of God," CANON C15 OF THE DECLARATION OF ASSENT

    However, what is more important, it is not only the Arch bishop of Canterbury that should be worried about implication of article 37. This Labour Government, which is forcing the European Union Lisbon Treaty upon us, are equally guilty by subjecting us to a foreign Jurisdiction.

    Who will rid us of this troublesome Government.

  3. tally
    February 8, 2008

    The Conservatives are as guilty as New Labour when it comes to England. The West Lothian Question will be answered, but until then there is nothing to stop the Conservatives from saying the word "England" in parliament and starting a debate on various issues such as a National Anthem for England.

  4. Ian Campbell
    February 8, 2008

    As Tom Long states, the main enemy of England today is the British government, elected by only about 20% of the British electorate, and which won fewer votes but a lot more seats in England than the Conservative party under 'first past the post', headed up by the Member of Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, who is able to call upon the votes of members representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies to impose legislation on England. England is denied a voice in the UK, in the British-Irish Council and in the EU. Its culture and identity are under attack from a Government seeking to promote 'Britishness', from which Scotland, Wales & N Ireland, under devolution, are exempted.
    While Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland have been granted a limited degree of home rule the Government has no plans to allow the same for England. On the contrary, it is still proceeding with plans to divide England into feeble government-controlled regions. In years to come, November 2004 when the North East 'region' rejected Prescott's regional assembly plans may well be seen as important to England's survival as July 1588 when the English navy saw off the Spanish Armada – but only if we keep winning the battles.
    While the EU exists, Scotland, Wales & N Ireland do not need to belong to a smaller Union. The UK now exists only to shackle England. To reclaim democracy in England we need as a first step an English Parliament, with an English Executive headed by a First Minister, within the UK. It will then be up to the people of all four British nations whether wish to remain part of the UK or opt for full independence within or without the EU. In the 21st century, the Union (both the UK and the EU) must rest on the consent of the people – not on the preferences of government.
    Those who claim otherwise cannot seriously pretend to be genuine democrats.

  5. E.Justice
    February 8, 2008

    Well said Tom Long,
    Mr. Redwood when is your Party going to work for England,because i have yet to hear your leader mention England except to mock and deride us.
    England needs a patriot as a leader,so who will rid us of this troublesome leader of the opposition?

    reply: Nonsense – try attacking the real enemy, the Lib Labs who want to balkanise England, who foist regional government on us and plunge us into more Treaty give aways.

  6. Rose
    February 8, 2008

    We can never have enough history lessons when pondering the plight of our realm.

  7. E.Justice
    February 8, 2008

    Mr. Redwood ,
    We know how the Lib-Labs treat England, indeed there efforts to destroy us is quite terrifying.
    That is why we should have a opposition who is doing everything to defend England,which is not what we are getting.
    Every time Mr. Brown mentions "Britain "he means England,and your party do nothing to dispell this.
    England is waiting for a Leader,and a Patriot,and i cant see one on the front benches, of the Conservative Party .

  8. The Black Fingernail
    February 8, 2008

    With a thinking post like this, and the comment from Anoneumouse, I'm surprised you don't link to Archbishop Cranmer on your blogroll:

    He's at the forefront of Conservative bloggers, and tops Dale's lists and ConHome. You'd find him very much to your taste, and like you, he speaks with a refreshing common sense and clarity.

  9. David Eyles
    February 8, 2008

    The point of your story seems not to be one about devolution and its consequences, but of the direct dangers from the EU and the indirect ones stemming from complacency in Whitehall and Westminster and the tendency to goldplate everything from the EU. The problem is not one of impending invasion by an unfriendly power, but one of creeping diminution of our freedoms and way of life.

    My own homily is this: My wife is a chiropractor with a patient base of around 7000. She treats about 60 to 90 people a week in sessions of a minimum of 20 minutes. Whilst on the slab, patients are talkative and discuss many things with her.

    Last year, at about the time when the issue of 90 day detention for terrorists was being discussed, along with a number of other rebellions in Parliament, my wife made the comment: "Loads of my patients are really worried about this sort of thing."
    "What sort of thing?"
    "About all this loss of freedom and things."
    "What things?"
    "About the police state we're becoming. Some people seem to be freaking out – they are really scared."
    "And how often do you hear that kind of comment – once a month?"
    "No, sometimes its as often as two or three times a day."

    Now, these people are not politicians or political bloggers. They are of all ages and walks of life. Most don't think about politics at all, couldn't give a toss and in any case they are too busy just trying to make ends meet and get on with their lives and families. And yet they are frightened. In a parliamentary democracy, for people to be frightened of their own government, this is a parlous reflection upon how bad things have become.

    Because I write for a local magazine on farming issues, I often point out the difficulties being faced by farmers and how they are related to governmental practice. Comments that I have back indicate that people largely agree with me about the problems and their causes. There is widespread suspicion about the EU and all its works. Again, the people I talk to are not particularly politically minded.

    The conclusions I have reached are that slowly, people are feeling more and more oppressed and are starting to make links between our own government, the EU and the overweaning state. There are feelings of helplessness, paralysis, despair and disenfranchisement caused the knowledge that no politician can make a difference any more and that our decline is inevitable. The best thing they can do is get on with their own lives as best they can and ignore the nonsense from Westminster. Thus, politicians and electorate are ever more dissociated.

    The extraordinary thing about this is that MPs are in such a remote hothouse that they apear to be completely unaware of the scale of peoples' feelings. They work and socialise with each other. Their civil servants do much the same. Few actually get out there and do a day job and certainly not amongst the Hoi Poloi. Sometimes I think the Chairman Mao was right to send the privileged out to work in the paddy fields as he did during the Cultural Revolution. If MPs went to work as lorry drivers or on a construction site and got to talk with more ordinary people in their own environments (not just in a surgery once a week where they come to give you a specific problem to sort out) then MPs would be much better informed about the mood of the nation. Journalists are not much good, because they are part of the same system. Opinion pollsters are likewise and are not asking the right questions. If MPs were better informed, the arrogance of Derek Conway's recent actions would not have occurred, or would have been much quicker dealt with than it was. Conway has done serious damage to democracy in this country. Where before there was despair, now there is a lot of anger.

    If the above has not terrified you as an MP, then you don't deserve our votes. With every day that passes, the situation gets worse. From Ronnie Flanagan suggesting that rural police foeces must shed police officers to go to troubled inner city areas because there aren't enough officers, despite continual increases in funding; to cuts in front line drugs and services in the NHS; to the army running out of machine guns in Afganistan, it just gets worse and worse.

    The nation is waiting for someone – Cameron?- to get out there with the political courage to actually do something drastic about the wholesale rolling back of the overweaning state. And that does not just mean giving local government more autonomy, but dealing comprehensively and decisively with the EU as well.

    I shall be interested in your comments.

    Reply: I do go out regularly and talk to people. This morning on the doorsteps I was well aware of the sense of frustration at the political process, the worry over the attack on our freedoms,and the feeling that their family budgets are being squeezed by greedy government.

  10. tally
    February 8, 2008

    while English MP's do nothing this is what is going on

    "Berwick's Telly Vote On Becoming Scottish
    Feb 8 2008 By Ian Dow

    THE people of Berwick-upon-Tweed voted last night on whether they wanted to split with England and become Scots".
    Many in Berwick are envious of the their own taxes that are spent in Scotland.
    I am dumbfounded with English politicians that allow this de-stabalisation of England to go on.

  11. Neil Craig
    February 8, 2008

    I don't think it is either accurate or useful for Tom to pretend that the EU is not more than perhaps very marginally less unpopular in Scotland, Wales & NI than it is in England.

  12. Tony Makara
    February 8, 2008

    Another fine historical piece John, keep them coming. I always learn something interesting everytime I visit the diary. You words ring all too true. I well remember my grandparents saying how they were very enthusiastic about the EEC keeping peace in Europe and being a great gift for generations to come. My grandparents are no longer around, however if they had been I'm sure they would have viewed today's EU with a heavy heart. We have to ask ourselves whether EU membership is worth all the tears?

  13. Barry (The Elder)
    February 8, 2008

    No nonsense Mr Redwood, the true enemy are those MPs sitting for English constituencies who only pay lip service to England, most replies I have received from MPs is 'we are elected to serve the British Govt', no you are not you are elected to represent the people who voted for you, the other argument put forward by both Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord Falconer at the Hansard meeting on Wednesday was that there are over 500 MPs sitting for English seats and they cant be out voted by the 'Celtic Fringe', yet when was the last time there was a free vote without the 3 line whip being employed, most MPs vote along party lines any way, so the fact that there are over 500 MPs sitting in English constituencies means nothing, so it would seem it is party before country

  14. Tom
    February 8, 2008

    I agree with the above. Archbishop Cranmer should be acknowledged by this blog. His historical knowledge of the EU's development and the parallels with the modern empire are both accurate and perceptive, and they echo yours. He might sound like the 'Tory Party at prayer' but I don't think that is necesarily a bad thing in this day and age. He speaks for a vast constituency, and his views should be given a wider readership.

  15. Derek
    February 8, 2008

    I'll believe the Tories are serious about England when they start saying 'England' or 'in England' rather than 'this country' or 'in this country' in the Commons and elsewhere. How about the English NHS and English schools etc. rather than 'the NHS' or 'the NHS in this country'?
    When matters such as health, education, local government are being discussed, why do the Tories not say England? These are devolved matters in Scotland and Wales and any discussion in the Commons is about England.
    I listened to a speech by Andrew Lansley a little while back. He was talking about the English NHS but didn't say England or English once!
    Until the Tories make that basic step then I cannot believe they are serious about English rights.

  16. The Daily Pundit
    February 9, 2008

    A good post but it's left me feeling quite miserable. Too much detail. The dog. The wig. The blood.

    That said, like Tony Makara I also learn something every time I pop over here. Just go easy on the blood next time.

  17. jefford
    February 11, 2008


  18. Aelfred
    February 12, 2008

    If you really believe in England, perhaps you and your leader could kill this dead:

    Scots Plan to Capture 29 Miles of England

  19. Struan Jamieson
    February 13, 2008

    The original comment was on the death of Mary I of Scotland. In legal terms, the arguements for her execution were as valid as the 45 minutes warning of Iraqi nukes.

    Nevertheless historians should admire her son, James. On the throne for over 50 years, he never went to war as either King of Scots or King of Great Britain. How many times has the present government been to war and they've only been there eleven years.

    He initiated the publication of the Authorised version of the Bible which indirectly led to the establishment of the English language as the leading commercial languiage in the modern world.

    By the standards of the day, a highly educated man, he introduced taxes and tariffs that were sympathic to business . He actually was the first monarch to go down a coal mine.

    His mother and second son may have been executed but James was far too clever for that.

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