Monday, June 11, 2012

June 11, 2012

What If England Had Become Catholic?

I often muse that, had the Reformation not started when it did, and had England not embraced it, it is unlikely that both English and foreign Protestants --- the ancestors of countless descendants now living in America --- would never have been allowed to settle the “New World.” In the 1600s, England, known by this time as a thoroughly Protestant country, was a bastion of strength and a well-sought ally by the French Huguenots in their distress. 

Louis XIV of France
The French Calvinists took for granted that Protestant England would disregard their Frenchness (France and England had long been enemies) and instead think of them as fellow Protestants in danger. Throughout the 17th century the Huguenots flocked to England as a haven from persecution. Little did they know that in 1670, Protestantism was in grave danger of being suppressed.

The date: June 01, 1670. The event: The “secret treaty” of Dover. The instigator: King Charles II of England. It was sort of an “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” endeavor . . . he promised to help France win the war with the Netherlands if France would help him return Catholicism as the official faith in England. Countless Protestant families remained largely ignorant of this treaty formed with King Louis XIV. One hates to think of what would have happened if Louis, who became known for his brutal treatment of the Huguenots throughout the next few decades, had given Charles II advice on how to “persuade” English Anglicans and Puritans to adopt Catholicism.

Charles II of England
Charles promised to become a Catholic openly and publically after the treaty was ratified and when certain terms were met. But England had not had a Catholic monarch since “Bloody” Mary Tudor, and memories of those horrendous “burning times” would have certainly been enough to send a ripple of fear through the English people. In 1672 Protestants began to get suspicious. King Charles II showed an alarming amount of tolerance to Catholics; this in itself was not reprehensible, but it was worried that he would showcase tendencies that might open up England’s Protestants to acts of great cruelty.

Parliament exercised a healthy dose of caution. They forbid even King Charles to supersede former decrees, and his ideas of aligning with France and returning England to Catholicism were duly crushed. Few families probably had any idea how close they might have come to being in a situation very much like that of the Huguenots for whom they had such sympathy.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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