For the last twenty years of Elizabeth’s reign, and especially after the defeat of the Armada, there existed a powerful party in her Court determined if possible to force England into open conflict with Spain and the Catholic elements in Europe generally. It represented, for the most part, the extreme Protestant or Puritan element in the country opposed to all toleration or concession. Convinced, doubtless, by the apparent impotence of Philip II. to avenge the depredations upon Spanish shipping and the raids upon Spanish territory, that the great power that had loomed so large was really effete, this school of English? men was frankly in favour of driving home the attack and upsetting, as it hoped, the menace of popery and of Spanish predominance altogether. The leader of the party was the Earl of Essex, following the later traditions of his stepfather Leicester, and he and his many adherents missed

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