kings, queens and princes, to preserve their subjects ‘in profession and obser-vation of the true Christian religion, accordinge to his holy worde andcommandementes’. So, ‘in like sorte’ subjects should love, fear and obeytheir sovereigns. Here, the association hinted at an implicit relationshipbetween the sovereign’s defence of the faith and the subject’s duty of obedi-ence. Although, unlike later associations, the bond was mainly administeredby the gentry and nobility, not via county machinery, there were no distinc-tions of rank as to the role of those within the association.
The tenderingof the association was also accompanied with much solemnity. The gentle-men of Lancashire came to Wigan to see the Earl of Derby take the oath,bare-headed and on his knees before the bishop of Chester.
Burghleyreported that preachers were also active in encouraging the public to take theassociation, noting that a ‘great multitude of people both of gentlemen andmerchants and vulgar people, especially in good towns, where they be taughtby discreet preachers, very zealous towards God’ were ‘thereby earnestlybent to all services for her Majesties safety’.
Some expressed the hope thatthe association would be employed as a Shibboleth, not only to discoverCatholics, but also to distinguish the zealous Protestants from the lukewarm. Writing to Lord Cobham in December 1584, Sir Thomas Scott and Sir JamesHales asked for the names of subscribers to aid the prosecution of ‘everybackslider, faithless and, by attestation, perjured person’ that had not perse-vered in the association.
However, almost a soon as the association had been sent out, some wereexpressing misgivings about its possible implications. Thomas Digges, themathematician and administrator, believed that the oath’s lack of social dis-tinctions could provoke anarchic rebellion. More than this, the association’sresort to lynch law meant that there was no deﬁnition of what actions againstthe Queen were punishable by death, moreover it made Mary Stuart liablefor the actions of persons that she might not even have knowledge of.
Someattempt at limiting the consequences of the association was made by its incor-poration into the bill for the Queen’s Safety produced in December 1584. Bythis law, claimants to the throne implicated in any rebellion, would, afterinvestigation by a Parliamentary committee, lose any title to the throne, notonly for themselves but also for their heirs. The element of lynch law fromthe original oath remained, although James VI would now be exempted fromany revenge. It was made clear that the bond of association was to be inter-preted in terms of the act.
However, making the association law did not clear up what would happenif an assassination attempt was successful. It was for this reason that bothDigges and Burghley drew up proposals for a republican government whichwould ﬁll the political void created by the monarch’s death. Their proposalsvaried to some degree, but broadly speaking they provided for either the con-tinuance of the sitting Parliament or the calling of a new one, which, alongwith a ruling council, would adjudge claims to the throne. A bill providing
PROTESTANT ASSOCIATIONS 1584–1696