List of Elizabethan succession tracts

The succession tracts of the Elizabethan period, continuing into the reign of James I of England, debated the legal status, and other attributes, of candidates to succeed Elizabeth I of England.

Early tractsEdit

Year Author Title Comment
1563[1] John Hales Declaration An innovative treatise, it argued against Mary Queen of Scots and Margaret Douglas, and pushed forward the claim of Lady Catherine Grey.[2]
1565 Anonymous Allegations against the surmised title of the Queen of Scotland[1] Printed, but extant only in manuscript. It supported the Suffolk claim, insisted on Scotland as foreign country, and cited the precedent of John of England, who succeeded ahead of Arthur I, Duke of Brittany who was foreign born.[3]
1565(?) Anthony Browne[1]
1566 An Answer to "Allegations against ..."[1]
1566, or 1565[4] Anti-Suffolk tract[1] William Atwood attributed it to a Thomas Morgan (T. M.).[4]
1566 Anonymous "A Letter"[1]
1567 Edmund Plowden, unpublished[1] A Treatise ... Proving the Queen of Scots by her Birth is Not Disabled by the Law of England [...][5] Against Hales, Plowden argues that the statute of Edward III, on aliens and inheritance, cannot be applied to the body politic involved in the succession.[5] William Maitland of Lethington, acting for Mary, had anticipated to William Cecil the application of the common law to the issue.[6]
1569 John Lesley[1] Adapted arguments from Plowden and Browne.[7]
1571 Robert Heighington A Treatise on the Succession (inferred; these unpublished notes were made public by Doleman) In favour of the line through the House of Portugal. Robert Heighington or Highington of Richmond, Yorkshire was secretary to the Earl of Northumberland.[8] He was indicted for treason and went into exile in the Low Countries after the Rising of the North of 1569, as one of the more prosperous rebels.[9][10][11] He supplied maps from 1583 to the Spanish Armada,[12] and was a correspondent of Francis Englefield.[13] He made arguments found in Lesley, adding the precedence of John of Gaunt over Richard II for the succession.[8]

Later tractsEdit

A statute of 1581 forbade in terms publication on, and other discussion of, the succession.[14]

Year Author Title Comment
1580s Certaine Errours[1]
1584 Anonymous Leycester's Commonwealth[15] Known otherwise initially[1]
c.1587 George Puttenham[16] Justificacion In a number of manuscripts, it considers the succession position of the 1580s, with attempted objectivity.[16] It defends the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.[17]
1594 R. Doleman (now thought to be a collective pseudonym for a group around Robert Persons, to whom the work was attributed at the time) A Conference about the Next Succession to the Crowne of Ingland An analysis of around 14 succession candidates, in terms of five lineages with royal pretensions (including the House of Aviz).[18] This work put into play the succession, by suggesting that elective monarchy, rather than hereditary monarchy, was a more appropriate way to address the succession issue. That approach was rebutted in most of the subsequent tracts.[19]
1598 Alexander Dicsone Of the Right of the Crowne efter Hir Majesty[20] Commissioned by James VI, in answer to Doleman, with a related work by Walter Quin. Quin had made an oration on James's claim in 1596; but his book of 1598 on the same topic was refused by the printer, Robert Waldegrave.[21] Edmund Ashfield had prompted James to respond to Doleman, stating that the literature in favour of his mother Mary Queen of Scots was now counter-productive. He urged James to make a case attractive to influential common lawyers.[22] The diplomat George Nicholson described Dicsone reading through Elizabeth's letters to James for arguments.[23]

Dicsone's work dealt with the four major points raised against James's claim: (a) Scottish birth; (b) the provisions of the will of Henry VIII; (c) the attainder of Mary, Queen of Scots his mother; (d) his cadet status in the House of Lancaster.[24]

1598 Peter Wentworth, posthumous publication A Pithie Exhortation Smuggled out of England, perhaps by David Foulis; printed in Scotland by Robert Waldegrave.[25]
1598 James VI of Scotland The Trew Law of Free Monarchies This work, known for its support of the divine right of kings, was also an intervention in the succession debate, through its rejection of the resistance theory in the tract of Doleman, and of the role of parliaments in determining succession.[25]
1598–9 William Watson Watson claimed to have written a treatise circulated to the Privy Council, the queen and the Earl of Essex, against the Jesuit line on a Spanish succession in Doleman. It favoured the House of York, the claim through the House of Aviz being Lancastrian. Watson was an Appellant in the Archpriest Controversy of these years.[26]
c.1599 Pseudonymous (Don Biud de Haro, translator Harye Bedwod)[27] Anatomie of Spayne It was another and painstaking case built up against the Spanish claim.[26] The background to the Spanish original of the Anatomie, translated for Essex (by, it is thought, Arthur Atye), is opaque, but it has been attributed to the Portuguese Dominican José Teixeira in the train of Antonio Pérez.[27]
c.1599 Irenicus Philodikaios[28] A Treatise A low-profile printed work supporting James's claim, thought to be by an English writer.[29] The main focus was on Doleman's use of the "Act of Association" (a misnomer). It made play of the misleading application of the Safety of the Queen, etc. Act 1584 to the case of James, given his lack of involvement in subverting Elizabeth.[30]
c.1599 Sir Edmund Ashfield, an agent of James.[31] Possibly therefore Edmund Ashfield. (Details of the name and identification are unclear in the reference; Sir William Eure and Sir Edmund Ashfield were imprisoned in 1601, for communicating with James on the subject of the succession.)[32] Manuscript addressed to James, analysing social groups in England and how to win them over.
1600 John Colville Palinod A retraction by Colville of an earlier work that had denied James's claim, printed by Robert Charteras.[19] Colville had called James a bastard. John Spottiswoode asserted that Colville was not the real author.[33]
1600 Henry Constable Discoverye of a Counterfecte Conference … for Thadvancement of a Counterfecte Tytle Published in Paris, though it claimed to be published in Cologne. Against Doleman; Constable was a Catholic convert who supported James's claim.[34]
c.1600 Anonymous An Apologie of the Scottische King Against Doleman, and intended for a broad audience, it warned against a disputed succession. Left in manuscript.[28] It has been suggested that the author was a Scot living in England.[35]
1601, then revised Henry Hooke, later Archdeacon of York. Of the succession against the Crowne of England A manuscript eventually submitted to James VI, it was a reply to Doleman that pointed up dangers from Catholics and malcontents.[36]
1602 John Harington Tract on the Succession to the Crown Printed 1880,[1] edited by Clements Robert Markham. It makes a case based on the Epistle (1548) of Protector Somerset, Wentworth and Doleman.[37]
1602[19] Sir Thomas Craig (in Latin) The Right of Succession to the Kingdom of England[38] Against Doleman. The work was first published in its English translation by James Gadderar, in 1703.[39]

See alsoEdit


  • Jean-Christophe Mayer, ed. (2004). The Struggle for the Succession in Late-Elizabethan England: Politics, Polemics and Cultural Representations. IRCL. ISBN 2-84269-239-X.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Keechang Kim (7 December 2000). Aliens in Medieval Law: The Origins of Modern Citizenship. Cambridge University Press. pp. 175–. ISBN 978-0-521-80085-3.
  2. ^ Ian W. Archer (2003). Religion, Politics, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England. Cambridge University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-521-81867-4.
  3. ^ Marie Axton (1977). The Queen's Two Bodies. Royal Historical Society. p. 25 note.
  4. ^ a b James Emerson Phillips (1964). Images of a Queen: Mary Stuart in Sixteenth-century Literature. University of California Press. pp. 244–. GGKEY:EA73RFGGGEA.
  5. ^ a b Retha M. Warnicke (28 July 2006). Mary Queen of Scots. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-203-08848-7.
  6. ^ Marie Axton (1977). The Queen's Two Bodies. Royal Historical Society. p. 18.
  7. ^ Marie Axton (1977). The Queen's Two Bodies. Royal Historical Society. p. 20.
  8. ^ a b Edward Edwards (1868). The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh: Together with His Letters: Now First Collected. p. 288.
  9. ^ Christopher Dyer; Andrew Hopper; Evelyn Lord; Nigel Tringham (2011). New Directions in Local History Since Hoskins. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-907396-53-3.
  10. ^ Memorials (1840). Memorials of the Rebellion of 1569 ed. by Sir C. Sharp. pp. 229–30.
  11. ^ Philip II (King of Spain); Louis-Prosper Gachard (1858). Correspondance de Philippe II sur les affaires des Pays-Bas 1558-1577 (in French). Librairie ancienne et moderne. p. 232.
  12. ^ Geoffrey Parker (2002). Success is Never Final. Basic Books. p. 110. ISBN 046505477-3.
  13. ^ British museum (1808). Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum. command of his majesty king George III. In pursuance of an address of the House of Commons of Great Britain. p. 173.
  14. ^ Barbara Rosen (1969). Witchcraft in England, 1558-1618. Univ of Massachusetts Press. pp. 56–7. ISBN 978-0-87023-753-9.
  15. ^ Ethan H. Shagan (3 September 2005). Catholics and the 'Protestant Nation': Religious Politics and Identity in Early Modern England. Manchester University Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7190-5768-7.
  16. ^ a b Jean-Christophe Mayer, ed. (2003). Breaking the Silence on the Succession: A sourcebook of manuscripts and rare texts, c.1587–1603. Astræa Texts. pp. 37–40. ISBN 2-84269-566-6.
  17. ^ May, Steven W. "Puttenham, George". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22913. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  18. ^ Mayer p. 92.
  19. ^ a b c Ralph Anthony Houlbrooke (2006). James VI and I: Ideas, Authority, and Government. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-7546-5410-0.
  20. ^ Mayer p. 91, 99-100
  21. ^ McGinley, J. K. "Quin, Walter". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22964. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  22. ^ Marie Axton (1977). The Queen's Two Bodies. Royal Historical Society. p. 95.
  23. ^ John Duncan Mackie, Calendar of State Papers Scotland, vol. 13 part 1 (Edinburgh, 1969), pp. 167-8.
  24. ^ Mayer p. 101.
  25. ^ a b Mayer p. 99
  26. ^ a b Alexandra Gajda (15 March 2012). The Earl of Essex and Late Elizabethan Political Culture. Oxford University Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-19-969968-1.
  27. ^ a b Gustav Ungerer (January 1976). A Spaniard in Elizabethan England: The Correspondence of Antonio Pérez's Exile. Tamesis Books. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-7293-0021-6.
  28. ^ a b Mayer p. 111.
  29. ^ Ralph Anthony Houlbrooke (2006). James VI and I: Ideas, Authority, and Government. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-7546-5410-0.
  30. ^ Mayer p. 106.
  31. ^ Jean-Christophe Mayer, ed. (2003). Breaking the Silence on the Succession: A sourcebook of manuscripts and rare texts, c.1587–1603. Astræa Texts. pp. 189–92. ISBN 2-84269-566-6.
  32. ^ Elizabeth I (Queen of England); James I (King of England) (1849). Letters of Queen Elizabeth and King James VI. of Scotland: Some of Them Printed from Originals in the Possession of the Rev. Edward Ryder, and Others from a Ms. which Formerly Belonged to Sir Peter Thompson, Kt. Camden Society. p. 136.
  33. ^ Macpherson, Rob. "Colville, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6011. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  34. ^ Sullivan, Ceri. "Constable, Henry (1562–1613)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6103. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  35. ^ Mayer p. 91.
  36. ^ Jean-Christophe Mayer, ed. (2003). Breaking the Silence on the Succession: A sourcebook of manuscripts and rare texts, c.1587–1603. Astræa Texts. pp. 261–6. ISBN 2-84269-566-6.
  37. ^ A tract on the succession to the crown (A.D. 1602) (1880) p. 4, edited by Clements Robert Markham for the Roxburghe Club;
  38. ^ John F. McDiarmid (1 January 2007). The Monarchical Republic of Early Modern England: Essays in Response to Patrick Collinson. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 168–70. ISBN 978-0-7546-8758-0.
  39. ^ Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1889). "Gadderar, James" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 20. London: Smith, Elder & Co.