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recusants

recusants were catholics who refused to attend church as required by law (1559). Though initially tolerated, Mary, queen of Scots' arrival (1568), the rising of the northern earls (1569), Elizabeth's excommunication (1570), and the Ridolfi plot (1571) hardened the government's attitude. Obeying the excommunication bull's provisions became treasonable. Because the Spanish (and the 17th-cent. French) threat made recusancy seem synonymous with treason, persecution increased. The mission of English priests from Douai (1574) and of Jesuits, such as Campion and Parsons (1580), strengthened catholicism—there were 400 priests in England by 1603. Recusants thus faced further penalties; saying or hearing mass was punishable by fine and imprisonment (1581), the recusancy fine was increased to £20 a month, and being a priest was punishable by death (1585). Between 1581 and 1603 180 recusants, including 120 priests, were executed. Nevertheless the catholic aristocracy, strong in the north and west, who preferred a quietist approach continued to practise; others, ‘church papists’, nominally attended church, while secretly practising catholicism. After temporary alleviation under the Declarations of Indulgence (1672, 1687, 1688), they were not included officially in the Toleration Act, though afterwards authorities normally turned a blind eye to their worship. Civil disabilities were not removed until the catholic emancipation Act (1829).

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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recusant

recusant a person, especially a Roman Catholic, who refused to attend the services of the Church of England at a time when this was legally required.

The Act of Uniformity of 1558 first imposed fines on all non-attenders of a parish church, but Roman Catholics were the specific target of the Act against Popish Recusants of 1592; subsequent acts through the 17th century imposed heavy penalties on Catholic recusants, the exaction of which persisted up to the Second Relief Act of 1791. Particular pressure was put on Roman Catholics after 1570, when the papal bull ‘Regnans in Excelsis’ excommunicated Elizabeth I.

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recusant

rec·u·sant / ˈrekyəzənt; riˈkyoōzənt/ • n. a person who refuses to submit to an authority or to comply with a regulation. ∎ chiefly hist. a Roman Catholic in England who refused to attend services of the Church of England. • adj. of or denoting a recusant. DERIVATIVES: rec·u·sance n. rec·u·san·cy / -zənsē/ n.

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recusant

recusant Roman Catholic (etc.) who refused to attend services of the Church of England. XVI. — L. recūsāns, -ant-, prp. of recūsāre refuse, f. RE- + causa CAUSE; see -ANT.

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