On the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, many hoped that the atmosphere of religious tension would diminish. Her successor was James VI, King of Scotland. James was a Protestant like Elizabeth but he thought of himself as a peacemaker.
As the son of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, he was also expected to treat Catholics better than Elizabeth. Some Catholics even believed that he might stop their persecution, and allow them to worship freely.
The King, however, was under pressure from many members of the House of Commons who were strongly anti-Catholic. He also became less sympathetic towards Catholics following the discovery of a series of minor Catholic plots.
The Bye Plot of 1603 was a conspiracy to kidnap the King and force him to repeal anti-Catholic legislation. The Main Plot was an alleged plan by Catholic nobles to remove the King and replace him with his cousin, the Catholic Arabella Stuart.
Although she was a Protestant, James's wife, Anne of Denmark, converted to Catholicism. This was one of a number of factors that led many Catholics to hope for toleration under his rule.
With Elizabeth I and Philip II of Spain now dead, both countries were keen to conclude fifteen years of war and signed a peace treaty at the Somerset House Conference in London in 1604.
Catholics hoped that the Spanish would press for toleration of English Catholics in the peace negotiations. In fact they failed to obtain any concessions at all.