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  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: October 2009

16 - Popery, trade, and universal monarchy


Why did Anglican Royalists feel that the Dutch were the economic enemy? Why, in short, should the battle against republicanism and irreligion be conducted in economic terms? The answer to these questions lies in the way Restoration Englishmen understood the workings of European politics, an understanding conceived in terms of the idiom of universal monarchy.

The English in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries had feared and loathed the King of Spain and the House of Habsburg not just because they were the current enemies, but because they pretended to a universal monarchy of all the known world. The vast territories inherited by Charles V made it possible for the first time since Charlemagne for a secular prince to reclaim the imperium of Rome. In English and Protestant eyes the foreign, indeed the imperial, policy of Charles V and his son Philip II was a necessary adjunct to their alliance with the Antichristian Church of Rome. “Popish and Spanish invisible arts and counsels,” argued Fulke Greville in his famous Life of Sidney, aimed “to undermine the greatness and freedom both of secular and ecclesiastical princes … and by their insensible fall, a raising up of the House of Austria many steps toward her long-affected Monarchy over the West.” Spain's goal, opined Lord Burghley in 1590, was “to be lord and commander of all Christendom, jointly with the Pope and with no other associate.” “By fraud, policy, treason, intestine divisions and wars,” recalled the author of Philanax Protestant, “the Pope and Spaniard too” tried to reduce all Protestant princes and realms to “their long prosecuted universal monarchy.”