Papist Peers and Politics: The English Roman Catholic Nobility, 1688-1719

Donald Lee McAbee, University of South Carolina


Historians have traditionally viewed the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as periods of decline for the European nobility and the English Roman Catholic community. Scholars over the last thirty-five years, however, have successfully called into question these long held assumptions by showing that both groups remained remarkably stable throughout this era. The same is true of the Roman Catholic nobility of England who proved resilient in the face of the challenges they confronted during the reigns of William III, Anne, and George I, which included the Jacobite movement, the growing body of penal laws, and the double land taxes. Not only did the peerage endure this tumultuous period, but the leadership they provided for their fellow Catholics also contributed to the survival of the Roman Catholic religion in England.