The period from 1655 to 1672 forms a convenient unit in Recusant history. After the death on 18 March 1655 of Richard Smith, Bishop of Chalcedon, there was a series of attempts by the English clergy to obtain from Rome the appointment of a bishop for England, which culminated in the issue of a brief for the consecration of Philip Howard OP on the 16 May 1672. In spite of this, Howard's consecration did not take place, and the English Catholics were without a form of episcopal government till 1685, when John Leyburne was appointed Vicar Apostolic. The reasons for this state of affairs have been the subject of some comment, not all of it well-informed, by those who have treated of English Catholic history in the seventeenth century. The purpose of the present study is to try to present, as objectively as possible, the course of events as it is reflected in the negotiations of the successive agents sent to Rome on behalf of the English clergy during the period 1655-72, to gether with the relevant background.