In the period when Catholics were persecuted for their faith in England, secret chapels and priest holes began to be built into houses. These were hidden rooms in which mass was secretly held, or small cubby-holes in which priests could hide from the pursuivants (priest hunters). During Elizabeth’s reign, laws were passed prohibiting Catholics from celebrating Catholic rites. This would be punished by forfeiture, a year’s imprisonment for a second offence, and finally imprisonment for life. Anyone found trying to convert an Anglican, such as the Jesuit missionaries, would be executed for high treason.
The priest holes were often tiny and cramped, and sometimes hiding priests would die in them due to starvation or lack of oxygen. The sacred objects and altar furniture from the secret chapel could also be quickly placed into the priest holes to hide them from unexpected visitors.
A reliquary is a container that holds relics, objects from the past that have religious significance. Relics usually came in the form of bones of the saints, but might also include scraps of clothing or objects that supposedly belonged to a religious figure. Since the Middle Ages, relics had become very popular and were seen as a way to bring oneself closer to the saints, and so to God. Pilgrims who travelled to the shrines of holy people would buy relics in order to take their blessing and power home with them. Selling relics therefore became big business, and many were faked. Relics are still important to the Catholic Church today, which now forbids their sale.
Below is a simplified family tree of the Tudors and Stuarts as it would appear in 1583, showing the line of succession.
Below is a simplified family tree of the Tudors and Stuarts as it would appear in 1583, treating Anne Boleyn as a mistress rather than a wife, and so Elizabeth as illegitimate. Jane Seymour and Henry’s later wives are included because they came after Catharine of Aragon’s death. It is only his marriage to Anne Boleyn that was seen as illegitimate by the Catholic Church. This is how many Catholics viewed the line of succession.