No Popery Under Queen Victoria

Stephen Usherwood describes the Oxford Movement, the revival of the Catholic faith in England, and the hostility that both aroused.

Princess Victoria, not long before her accession to the throne, gave audience in her other’s presence to a young Catholic priest, Father Ignatius Spencer, son of Earl Spencer, who, having taken high honours at Cambridge, had asked to be received into the Catholic Church. After training for the priesthood in Rome, he had persuaded Dr Wiseman, who was responsible for English affairs at the Vatican, to allow him to attempt ‘the conversion of England’.

The Princess listened attentively, but without comment; and Father Spencer supposed that she was too discreet to speak in front of her mother. Only to a man of his eccentric and enthusiastic temperament could there have seemed much prospect that England would return to the old faith. Yet Catholic hopes had revived with the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829.

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