This chapter treats border defence, dynastic security and the Counter-Reformation threat in separate sections. As the sixteenth century progressed, however, all three areas became closely related. In the first place, the monarch’s dynastic interests and England’s national security issues began to merge after Henry VIII’s break from Rome, as the threat to England from pretenders ceased to be simply dynastic in nature. Thus, in the mid and late 1530s Reginald Pole was a danger to the king because of his papal connections as well as his Yorkist lineage. Later on, the pretender Mary Queen of Scots imperilled the Protestant Church as much as the person of Elizabeth herself, and came to be treated by the pope and Philip II as a banner for the Counter-Reformation. In addition, the nature of the threat to England’s land borders also changed over the period. Whereas in the first half of the century the northern borders were insecure mainly because of the Franco-Scottish ‘Auld Alliance’ and the Scottish king’s readiness to open up a second front in the Anglo-French continental wars, the issues dominating Anglo-Scottish relations during Elizabeth’s reign concerned religion and dynasty. Confronted with the complexity and interrelatedness of these dangers Elizabethans made sense of them by falling back on conspiracy theory; as far as they were concerned, all the threats to England’s security were the work of a Catholic league led by the pope. Historians, however, can probably best understand them if the themes are disentangled as far as is possible, and discussed individually.
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