By Howard Nenner

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Additional info for The Right to be King: The Succession to the Crown of England, 1603–1714

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Cecil's first task was to dissociate himself from all other contenders and to take effective hold of James as his own candidate. 64 Mter the failure of Essex's rebellion, as is now well known, he initiated his secret correspondence With. 65 Cecil's intention was to assure James that neither the queen nor Cecil himself was averse to the Scottish claim, and that as long as James would forbear from any rash or provocative action the prize would be his. It was not an unnecessary admonition. James, since the execution of his mother in 1587, had been in the awkward position of having to denounce Elizabeth for political murder, while at the same time looking to her for the realisation of his political future.

Correctly imputed the trouble wrought by the Wars of the Roses to the fact that 'the order and right of succession had not been (in fonner time) carefully enough looked into, and made publicly known, ,2 a sentiment which was endorsed by several other writers. Henry Constable, in 1600, insisted that 'the greatest preservative of quiet among people ... 4 Despite the confusion of precedents the experience of both history and law created a strong presumption in favour of a heritable crown. Yet what the applicable rules of heredity were to be and how far that presumption was to go were other matters entirely.

No matter that Parsons was called to account by Henry Constable and accused of urging the disposition of the crown 'not ... where the right lieth, but where your fancy best liketh';47 the inquiry into 'natures or qualities, to wit ... capacity, disposition or other personal circumstances, ,48 continued right down to, and beyond, James's accession to the throne. What Parsons and others were proposing was that the specific presumption in favour of the succession of the next in blood was rebuttable in the event of that successor's being 'unable or unfit or pernicious to govern.

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