John Ogilvie: the smoke and mirrors of confessional politics

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The trial and execution of the Jesuit John Ogilvie in 1615 is located within diverse political contexts-Reformation and Counter-Reformation; British state formation; and the contested control of the Scottish Kirk between episcopacy and Presbyterianism. The endeavors of James vi and i to promote his ius imperium by land and sea did not convert the union of the crowns into a parliamentary union. However, he pressed ahead with British policies to civilize frontiers, colonize overseas and engage in war and diplomacy. Integral to his desire not to be beholden to any foreign power was his promotion of religious uniformity which resulted in a Presbyterian backlash against episcopacy. At the same time, the Scottish bishops sought to present a united Protestant front by implementing penal laws against Roman Catholic priests and laity, which led to Ogilvie being charged with treason for upholding the spiritual supremacy of the papacy over King James. Ogilvie's martyrdom may stand in isolation, but it served to reinvigorate the Catholic mission to Scotland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-46
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Jesuit Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2020


  • British state formation
  • episcopacy
  • Ius imperium
  • lingering catholicism
  • penal laws
  • presbyterians
  • recusancy
  • treason

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