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The capture of Cadiz in 1596 was a spectacular but short-lived
success in England's
war against Spain. More enduring were the many partisan accounts of the
victory, which were
prepared and disseminated by various officers from the expedition. This
article traces these rival
narratives and explores their circulation in manuscript form, including
the earl of Essex's notorious
‘True relacion’. Such documents illustrate the increasingly
bitter divisions of late Elizabethan
politics. The stories of Cadiz gained a fresh currency when England and
Spain went to war again in
the 1620s, placing a heavy burden of expectation on the government of Charles
Since the time of Queen Elizabeth I herself, notions of ‘faction’ have been considered profoundly important for understanding Elizabethan high politics. Perhaps the most vitriolic piece of political criticism of the reign, Leicester's Commonwealth, accused the earl of Leicester of deliberately building up a ‘faction’ to control the realm and ensure that his brother-in-law, the earl of Huntingdon, became Elizabeth's successor. In the early seventeenth century, a number of writers, such as William Camden and Sir Robert Naunton, looked back on Elizabeth's reign and lauded the queen for her ‘princely’ skill in ‘balancing’ factions. Although such praise was bestowed with more than half an eye to the political controversies of their own day about the monopolizing of royal favour, this view of Elizabeth proved to be highly influential over the succeeding centuries. In modern times, Conyers Read re-emphasized the notion of faction when he suggested that the foreign policy of Elizabeth's reign needed to be understood as the product of a long-term struggle between rival ‘factions’ on the Privy Council. In the late 1940s, J. E. Neale refocussed the terms of debate over faction. Influenced by the views of Naunton and by his own research into the politics of parliamentary elections, Neale reasserted the link between faction and patronage, rather than with matters of policy. In the words of a subsequent essay by Wallace MacCaffrey which elaborated on Neale's theme, Elizabethan political life was seen to be centred on an unending struggle between rival factions for ‘place and patronage’.
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