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Abstract

This essay reconsiders late Elizabethan political thought by scrutinizing the significance of the Roman state in the passionate controversy about the royal succession. It explains the varied and often contradictory polemical utility of Roman history in contemporary discussions in England and Europe of monarchy and imperial expansion, and then analyzes its deployment in the most daring contemporary succession tract: the Jesuit Robert Persons’s A Conference about the Next Succession to the Crowne of Ingland (1595). While A Conference has been traditionally under-stood to advocate limited elective kingship, this essay demonstrates that its theoretical first part, in which the Roman example underpins a case for popular sovereignty, was open to far more radical readings. Persons’s treatise attracted widespread charges of antimonarchism and, in the following century, served republican and Whig enemies of the Stuarts

Keywords

antimonarchism; Catholicism; Elizabethan succession; John Hayward; popular sovereignty; republicanism; Robert Persons, SJ; Roman history; Tacitus

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-399X
Print ISSN
0018-7895
Launched on MUSE
2020-12-10
Open Access
No
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