Catholic Loyalty in Jacobean England: Thomas Preston’s Appeal to the English Catholic Laity over the 1606 Oath of Allegiance
Lazo, Katherine Shreve
In this paper, I challenge prevailing scholarship and argue that the Jacobean 1606 Oath of Allegiance was not the death knell for English Catholicism. Because the Oath of Allegiance denied the papal deposing power, the Roman Pontiff forbade Catholics from swearing the Oath, thus forcing English Catholics to choose between disobeying their church or their king, and apparently making it impossible to remain a faithful Roman Catholic residing in England. Most scholarship on the subject has examined the pan-European debate over the appropriate boundaries between secular and religious authority that the Oath sparked, ignoring a solitary scholar in England who appealed directly to the English Catholic laity. Thomas Preston published A New-Yeares Gift for English Catholikes in 1620, and presented a multi-pronged defense of the Oath of Allegiance. I argue that Preston’s sophisticated application of rhetoric and history in this work intended for the English Catholic laity demonstrates that segments of the community sought an accommodation (either legal or personal) that would permit Catholics to remain in their homeland.