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Religious Freedom was a Long Time Coming

I really like listening to from readers who’re additionally authors – and Patricia Bernstein is one such individual. Her new novel A Noble Cunning: The Countess and the Tower launched on March seventh. The novel is predicated on the true story of Winifred Maxwell who rescued her husband from the Tower of London the night time earlier than his scheduled execution. Now there’s a dramatic intro. And right here’s Patricia to inform us extra.


Wars over faith plagued Europe from the start of the Protestant Reformation nicely into the 18thcentury. While Catholics dominated France and Spain, a spirit of virulent anti-Catholicism prevailed in Britain.

When I started to write down my novel A Noble Cunning, primarily based on the true story of persecuted Catholic noblewoman Winifred Maxwell, I was shocked to be taught of the acute oppression of Catholics in Britain for a interval of over 200 years. In reality, to this very day, the ruling monarch in Great Britain will not be a Catholic! 

Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale inspiration for A Noble Cunning

            After Henry VIII ended allegiance to the pope, the populace’s hatred of Catholics grew step by step, stoked by such occasions as Queen “Bloody” Mary’s effort to drive the nation again into Catholicism, Catholic plots to assassinate Elizabeth I, and Guy Fawkes’ try and blow up Parliament and kill the king on behalf of Catholics in 1605. In the meantime, the Spanish tried to invade England with the Spanish Armada, whereas the Spanish Inquisition burned “heretics” on the stake. In Louis XIV’s France, the Edict of Fontainebleau drove virtually all French Protestants (Huguenots) in another country.  Thousands of those Protestant refugees settled in England. The British not solely considered home Catholics as traitors however feared invasion of Britain by Catholic Spain or Catholic France. 

Catholics weren’t murdered en masse or expelled from the nation as Jews had been in 1290, however they might not apply their religion. Priests, celebration of the mass and even non secular objects like rosaries had been all forbidden. A sequence of draconian legal guidelines supplied that Catholics couldn’t maintain public workplace, vote or purchase land. Everyone was required to attend Church of England providers or pay a tremendous. Of course, to the various splintered sects of Protestants that developed, the Church of England was nearly as unhealthy as Roman Catholicism, and so they additionally suffered from a few of these legal guidelines. But public opposition to the varied Protestant sects dissipated extra shortly over time than hatred of Catholics.

When Queen Anne, the final Stuart monarch, died in 1714, over 50 family members to Anne had been disregarded solely as a result of they had been Catholics. The finger of destiny lastly landed on the primary Protestant within the sequence of family members, George Louis, the Elector of Hanover, a minor German potentate. George was a Lutheran who spoke virtually no English and knew subsequent to nothing about Britain. Nevertheless, he was picked up and plunked down on the British throne as King George I. But Catholics had been sick to demise of being oppressed and thought their finest likelihood to finish it could be to depose George and set up a actual English-born prince, James Francis Edward Stuart, the “king across the water.” 

George I

James was the son of King James II, the final Catholic to rule Britain, who had been hustled off the throne in 1688 within the so-called “Glorious Revolution.” The younger prince had been raised in exile in France. His supporters had been known as “Jacobites” as a result of Jacobus is Latin for James

It’s not laborious to see why even many British who had been not Catholic additionally opposed submission to a international king. To make issues worse, George was a sordid, unappealing character whose spouse Sophia Dorothea had referred to him behind his again as “pig snout.” Having divorced Sophia and put in her in a type of everlasting home arrest in Germany, George arrived in England with two mistresses in tow, one tall and emaciated who was known as “the Maypole” and the opposite enormously fats, who was referred to as “the Elephant.” These two and George’s different retainers proceeded to make use of their positions near the king to line their pockets.

The Jacobite Rebellion towards George kicked off in August 1715, however was badly managed and had already fizzled out by November. In A Noble Cunning the redoubtable Winifred Maxwell is represented by my heroine Bethan Glentaggart. A sufferer of anti-Catholic persecution all of her life, Bethan learns that her beloved husband Gavin has been condemned to demise for his participation within the Jacobite Rebellion and is shut up within the Tower of London awaiting his execution. The climax of the story revolves round Bethan’s fierce willpower to seek out a approach to save her husband’s life.

Of course, even within the comparatively small-scale “wars” just like the Jacobite Rebellions, it’s apparent that different elements are at play apart from non secular animosities. Many of the non secular wars of this era additionally featured intense struggles for energy between or inside nations. But the depth and cruelty of those conflicts had been enhanced by the conviction by all events that God was on their facet and their opponents had been brokers of the Devil.

            Perhaps the very worst of the non secular wars was the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), which rolled forwards and backwards throughout Central Europe, ensuing within the deaths of between 4 and eight million folks. Perhaps 400,000 had been killed or wounded in battle; the remainder, whose land was utterly despoiled, died of starvation and bubonic plague, typhus and dysentery. Starving folks tried to eat grass; experiences of cannibalism turned frequent.

            It isn’t any surprise that America’s founding fathers had been against any form of official, state-supported institution of faith. In a letter to Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” He noticed that solely full non secular freedom would make attainable a union composed of so many various ethnicities and religions.

            Virginia initially had a state church, the Church of England, and Jefferson noticed official discrimination towards Presbyterians and Baptists which enormously troubled him. He later wrote in his autobiography that the ensuing conflicts, ending within the adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, had been “the severest contests in which I have ever been engaged.”

            While Jefferson was serving as ambassador to France, Madison took up the gauntlet and fought an effort to ascertain a tax in Virginia to profit all Christian sects. Jefferson wrote that non secular freedom was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination.” Although Jefferson prayed in each of his inaugural addresses, he opposed any type of official prayer proclamation or effort to indicate that “good citizens” or “patriotic citizens” had been essentially non secular.

There is a tendency amongst those that advocate for higher intrusion of faith into public life to imagine that the faith represented will at all times be their personal explicit faith. Jefferson at all times believed that the perfect safety of faith—all religions–was to maintain it clearly separated from the features of the state, for the great of all.

Many thanks for sharing this historical past, Patricia. It’s unhappy to assume how little we’ve realized over the generations about non secular freedom and tolerance – and I imagine it’s protected to say that that is the case all through the world. Thomas Jefferson had the suitable concept.

A Noble Cunning by Patricia Bernstein ~~ An exciting story, primarily based on a true story, of 1 lady’s super braveness and incomparable wit in attempting to rescue her husband from the Tower of London the night time earlier than he’s to be executed.

The heroine of A Noble Cunning, Bethan Glentaggart, Countess of Clarencefield, a persecuted Catholic noblewoman, is set to strive each attainable technique of saving her husband’s life, with the assistance of a group of devoted ladies buddies.

Amid the turbulence of the 1715 Rebellion towards England’s first German king George I, Bethan faces down a mob assault on her dwelling, travels alone from the Scottish Lowlands to London by one of many worst snowstorms in a few years, and confronts a merciless king earlier than his court docket to plead for mercy for her husband Gavin. As a final resort, Bethan and her buddies should devise and put in movement a devilishly advanced scheme that includes a number of disguises and even the even handed use of poison to attempt to free Gavin.

Though wealthy with historic gossip and pageantry, Bethan’s story additionally demonstrates the harm that politics and non secular fanaticism can inflict on the lives of people.


M.Ok. Tod writes historic fiction. Her newest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a twin timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s different novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED can be found from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She could be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her web site


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