The Tudors’ unlikely allies

Cut off from much of Catholic Europe, Elizabeth I's regime embarked on a remarkable relationship with the Islamic world, as Jerry Brotton reveals...

Elizabeth I’s Armada portrait. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

On 25 February 1570, a papal bull issued in Rome by Pope Pius V, entitled Regnans in Excelsis (‘Reigning on High’), excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I. The bull condemned “Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England” for “having seized on the kingdom and monstrously usurped the place of supreme head of the church in all England”. It concluded: “We do out of the fullness of our apostolic power declare the aforesaid Elizabeth as being a heretic and a favourer of heretics, and her adherents in the matters aforesaid, to have incurred the sentence of excommunication.”

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