0 PAIN'S duties as a Catholic state prevented her from supporting the French nobles, who used the Calvinist faith as a pretext for rebellion. During the minority of Charles IX. and the reign of his feeble brother, Henry III., the Bourbons-heirs-presumptive to the throne-posed as the head of the Protestant or Huguenot cause, and the House of Guise led the stronger Catholic party.
A singularly futile series of small wars, assassinations, and broken treaties was given interest by the bloody business of St Bartholomew's night in 157:', when some thousands of Huguenots were suddenly slaughtered at a time of truce. The disorder produced a party of Politiques who demanded peace at all costs, and the head of the house of Bourbon, Henry of Navarre, went over to Catholicism soon after succeeding to the throne as Henry IV. (1589). He gave his Huguenot adherents guarantees of toleration under the Edict of Nantes (1598), and France thus achieved a religious settlement much sooner than either Germany or England. The English government encouraged the Huguenots in France and the rebels in the Netherlands; volunteers served with the Dutch against the Spaniards, and the defeat of the Armada was a considerable factor in the wearing down of the Spanish cause.
At Elizabeth's accession England was small and poor, with no colonies and little trade; there was religious strife, and much arrant fraud and greed, and these circumstances had by no means all been bettered by the end of the Queen's forty-five years on the throne. Yet there was a spirit abroad of hope, energy, and joy inaction which bore fruit in great men and great deeds, produced by a population of perhaps three millions. Much must have been due to the Queen-a vain, false, avaricious woman, but possessed of one quality which wiser and better sovereigns of England have lacked-she was
English completely. Of the positive acts of her government, the bulk must probably be ascribed to her ministers, of whom William Cecil (Lord Burghley) was for forty years the chief. Elizabeth's claim to the throne, as daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn, could not be accepted by sound Roman Catholics, to whom the true heiress was Mary Queen of Scots.
The New Learning had percolated to England, so that the men who came to manhood towards the end of the reign had, like Shakespeare, learned a little Latin, if no Greek, and were familiar with translations from French, Italian, and the Classics. The dissolution of the monasteries and chantries had been a blow to education, but some schools survived and others were refounded by Edward VI., Elizabeth, and their subjects. Imagination was stimulated by the discoveries of Columbus and Magellan, by the emancipation of the private layman's judgment which may not unfairly be credited to the Reformation, and by the extreme fluidity then characteristic of language. Finally, a country which is itself secure while wars are going on in all the world around it is probably a stimulating country for a poet to be young in.