The Debate on the English Reformation: Second Edition 0719086612, 9780719086618

Extensively revised and updated, this new edition of The Debate on the English Reformation combines a discussion of succ

146 17 2MB

English Pages 320 [365] Year 2014

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

The Debate on the English Reformation: Second Edition
 0719086612, 9780719086618

Table of contents :
THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION
Half Title Page
Title Page
Copyright
CONTENTS
PREFACE
GENERAL EDITOR’S FOREWORD
ABBREVIATIONS
INTRODUCTION
1. Historiography contemporary to the English Reformation, 1525–70
2. Interpretations of the Reformation from Fuller to Strype
3. Historians and contemporary politics, 1780–1850
4. The Church of England in crisis: the Reformation heritage
5. The Tudor revolution in religion: the twentieth-century debate
6. The Reformation and the people: discovery
7. The Church: how it changed
8. The debate in the age of peer review
9. The place of the Reformation in modern biography, fiction and the media
COCLUSION: Reformation: reformulation, reiteration and reflection
FURTHER READING
INDEX

Citation preview

The debate on the English Reformation second Edition

Rosemary O’Day

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page i

Issues in Historiography

The Debate on the English Reformation

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page ii

Issues in Historiography General editor R. C. RICHARDSON University of Winchester

Already published The Debate on the Norman Conquest Marjorie Chibnall The Debate on the French Revolution Peter Davies Debates on the Holocaust Tom Lawson The Debate on the American Revolution Gwenda Morgan The Debate on the Decline of Spain Helen Rawlings The Debate on the English Revolution R. C. Richardson The Debate on the American Civil War Era H. A. Tulloch The Debate on the Crusades Christopher Tyerman The Debate on Black Civil Rights in America Kevern Verney The Debate on the Rise of the British Empire Anthony Webster

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page iii

Issues in Historiography

The Debate on the English Reformation SECOND EDITION

ROSEMARY O’DAY

MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY PRESS MANCHESTER AND NEW YORK distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page iv

Copyright © Rosemary O’Day 2014 The right of Rosemary O’Day to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Previous edition published by Routledge, 1986 This edition published by Manchester University Press Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9NR, UK and Room 400, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk Distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA Distributed in Canada exclusively by UBC Press, University of British Columbia, 2029 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2 British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data applied for

ISBN 978 0 7190 8661 8 hardback ISBN 978 0 7190 8662 5 paperback First published 2014

The publisher has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for any external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Typeset by Action Publishing Technology Ltd, Gloucester

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page vi

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page vii

CONTENTS

Preface General editor’s foreword Abbreviations Introduction

page ix xi xv 1

1

Historiography contemporary to the English Reformation, 1525–70 8

2

Interpretations of the Reformation from Fuller to Strype

38

3

Historians and contemporary politics, 1780–1850

67

4

The Church of England in crisis: the Reformation heritage 98

5

The Tudor revolution in religion: the twentieth-century debate 117

6

The Reformation and the people: discovery

151

7

The Church: how it changed

192

8

The debate in the age of peer review

231

9

The place of the Reformation in modern biography, fiction and the media

278

Conclusion: Reformation: reformulation, reiteration and reflection 322 Further reading Index

333 340

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page v

In memory of Anthea (Eustance) Beaumont (1946–2012), who commanded all.

Bid me to live, and I will live Thy protestant to be; Or bid me love, and I will give A loving heart to thee. A heart as soft, a heart as kind, A heart as sound and free, As in the whole world thou canst find, That heart I’ll give to thee Bid me to weep, and I will weep, While I have eyes to see; And having none, yet I will keep A heart to weep for thee. (Robert Herrick, ‘To Anthea’, stanzas 1, 2 and 4)

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page viii

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page ix

PREFACE This book is a considerably revised and updated version of a book I first wrote for Methuen in 1986. It was initially intended as a book which would prove useful to undergraduates and their teachers as a companion to the debate about the English Reformation. At the time it was unusual in showing how authors who, on the face of it, had little interest in history, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, had ‘used’ the Reformation as part of their arsenal in contemporary debates. Many of these authors were not ‘historians’ at all in the sense that professional historians of today use the term. Although my original book brought the debate into the twentieth century it was never intended as a review of modern contributions to the debate, which have been made mainly by academic historians. I have now added two substantial new chapters, updated the rest and added considerably to the bibliography. The effect is a book in three parts – a first part that deals with the debate about the Reformation in the age before history was accepted as an academic discipline – at this time history was appropriated by both Catholic and Protestant polemicists to provide legitimacy for their causes; a second that sets the debate in a new context, that of the university study of history, and demonstrates that this new context has had its own profound impact upon the debate on the English Reformation, and a third that examines the ways in which popular literature and the media have treated the early Reformation and its leading figures. The book now treats not only what historians and others have concluded about the English Reformation but also, in small part, the philosophies of history to which modern historians subscribed. I wish to thank the Arts Faculty of the Open University for financial help which enabled me to read widely in pamphlet and secondary literature. I cannot thank enough my former supervisor, now deceased, Patrick Collinson, for his kindness over the years and for arousing my interest in this present topic through his stimulating conversation. I wish also to express my gratitude to the late Geoffrey Dickens, who read the original book in typescript and lent me the benefit of his wisdom in discussion. My thanks go ix

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page x

PREFACE

to Claire Cross, my first teacher in this area, who always offered considerable support. I am indebted also to Felicity Heal, who has been generous with her help. I acknowledge the support of several colleagues at the Open University, especially Ros Crone, Donna Loftus, Kathleen Daly, Rachel Gibbons, Anne Laurence, Gemma Allen and Ole Grell, who, in some cases, read drafts and, amongst other things, encouraged me to rethink many of the issues and gave me a teaching platform from which to try them out. I am grateful to Roger Richardson, editor of the series, who first suggested that the time was ripe for a new edition of this book, and to Emma Brennan, who has been patient beyond belief. I thank Rachel Gibbons for her assistance in preparing the manuscript, and the scholars who do not wish to be mentioned by name who offered criticism. Above all, I thank my family and close friends: my late father, whose library of musty Reformation works first acquainted me with the English Reformation; my mother and brother for their constant support; David Englander for his love, encouragement, advice and critical appreciation when he still lived, and since then for his inspiration; my son Andrew for practical help, and my sons Daniel and Matthew for their good humour and tolerance; and Janet Dawson, Yvonne Alton, Anthea Beaumont, Meg Kesten, Teresa Lawlor, Sian Lewis, Catherine Roe and Sheila Taylor for their unfailing friendship. I acknowledge with gratitude the several excellent teachers of history and Scripture that I studied under at the Orme Girls’ School, Newcastle-under-Lyme: Barbara Lewis, Mrs Brocklehurst, Cordelia Goodway, Eunice Howell and Jean Forrester. Especially I recall with pleasure my first introduction to the work of G.R. Elton during tutorials with Jean Forrester. I have dedicated the book to my girlhood friend Anthea Beaumont, whose premature death has robbed the world of a fine human being and a great talent. Rosemary O’Day The Open University October 2012

x

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page xi

GENERAL EDITOR’S FOREWORD History without historiography is a contradiction in terms. The study of the past cannot be separated from a linked investigation of its practitioners and intermediaries. No historian writes in isolation from the work of his or her predecessors, nor can the commentator – however clinically objective or professional – stand aloof from the insistent pressures, priorities and demands of the ever-changing present. In truth there are no self-contained, impregnable, academic ‘ivory towers’. Historians are porous beings. Their writings are an extension of who they are and where they are placed. Though historians address the past as their subject they always do so in ways that are shaped – consciously or unconsciously as the case may be – by the society, cultural ethos, politics and systems of their own day, and they communicate their findings in ways which are specifically intelligible and relevant to a present-minded reading public consisting initially of their own contemporaries. For these reasons the study of history is concerned most fundamentally not with dead facts and sterile, permanent verdicts but with highly charged dialogues, disagreements, controversies and shifting centres of interest among its presenters, with the changing methodologies and discourse of the subject over time and with audience reception. Issues in Historiography is a series designed to explore such issues by means of case studies of key moments in world history and the interpretations, reinterpretations, debates and disagreements they have engendered. Rosemary O’Day’s subject is a neat fit for this series since the sixteenth-century English Reformation and its break with Rome, by definition, was grounded in controversy from the outset. Religion and politics, too, from the start were inextricably blended and continued to be so once a new Protestant state church came into being as a result of successive improvisations. The Reformation, moreover, was at one and the same time both a rejection of the past – or at least a particular version of the past – and stridently historical in its own new self-fashioning. John Foxe’s bold, assertive and resoundingly successful Acts and Monuments, first published in English in 1563 and many times reprinted and enlarged, claimed to put the record straight and xi

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page xii

GENERAL EDITOR’S FOREWORD

achieved quasi- biblical status in its own right. It rapidly established itself as a landmark text which did much to define the confident ethos of the new nation-state. In different ways Peter Heylyn and Thomas Fuller contributed significantly, if less monumentally, in the seventeenth century to the growing Protestant historiography of the English Reformation. So, later, in the eighteenth century did Bishop Gilbert Burnet and John Strype. However, in this field, as in others, the nineteenth century had a particular importance as concerns about the Reformation past became bound up with contemporary debates on Catholic Emancipation and the Oxford Movement. Though this was an age in which the uncompromisingly Protestant Whig Interpretation of History ruled the roost, influential Roman Catholic historians like John Milner and John Lingard also had their say. Nor, as O’Day makes clear, did the development of a more secure academic foundation for the study of history in the universities towards the end of the century automatically lead to objectivity, calm and consensus. Bound up as it was with national identity, the relationship between religion and politics, and with continuities and discontinuities, the English Reformation was a subject which still mattered to different generations of contemporaries; the battleground simply shifted site. A.F. Pollard, A.G. Dickens, G.R. Elton, Patrick Collinson, Christopher Haigh, Eamon Duffy and others took up different positions, brought new perspectives to bear and re-examined the chronology of the English Reformation. Reflecting changes in the academy itself the debate on the English Reformation also moved into new areas – social history and local history, for example. Nor, in recent times as in earlier ones, did historians practise their subject in a hermetically sealed compartment. Postmodernism, feminism and reception theory now impacted on Reformation studies from the outside. Revealingly also, just as the axe-grinding, journalistic William Cobbett in the early nineteenth century had demonstrated that there was a popular market for English Reformation history, so in the second half of the twentieth century, as O’Day’s Chapter 9 makes clear, this has proved to be a subject which has exercised an apparently unending fascination for biographers, novelists, film-makers and television producers. Appropriately for this Issues series, which is predicated on the xii

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page xiii

GENERAL EDITOR’S FOREWORD

belief that the study of history is anything but dry, dead and dusty, O’Day’s fascinating survey is brought right up to date. It is a long overdue, and much needed, revised edition of a text first published in 1986. It shows that without doubt the long debate on the English Reformation still loudly resonates today in both academic and wider, cultural contexts, not to mention in current discussions of the Anglican Church and, even, of this country’s place in the European community. Students and those who teach them are bound to welcome this informative and cogent guide to its complexities. R.C. Richardson January 2013

xiii

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page xiv

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page xv

ABBREVIATIONS Add. MSS BIHR BL CUL EHR IHR JEccHist ODNB SP TNA

Additional manuscripts Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research British Library Cambridge University Library English Historical Review Institute of Historical Research Journal of Ecclesiastical History Oxford Dictionary of National Biography State Papers The National Archives, Kew

xv

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page xvi

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 1

INTRODUCTION The book is organized to maximize its usefulness to students – particularly those in university and college studying historiography and/or the Reformation itself. It is a book about the changing nature of the debate on the English Reformation. It is not a book about the philosophy of history and how that has changed over the centuries although reference will often be made to this subject. I am full of admiration for Michael Bentley’s excellent Modernizing England’s Past, but, in this modernist history of modernism, he does confuse the philosophy of history with historiography. Although the two interact they are distinct. Historiography includes the study of the philosophy of history but covers much more. The writing of history is influenced not only by theories of what history and the past are but also by contemporary concerns. This current work is concerned as much or more with the latter as with the former. Here I do not give an account of the Reformation or a review of all the books and articles written about it. I aim to act as the student’s companion to other scholarly works on the Reformation. By using this volume, the reader should understand better the issues and debates which underlie histories of the Reformation period. These debates and issues are often implicit – here they are made explicit. The book places the debates in their context and offers a critique. By using the endnotes intelligently, the student should be able to follow up the debates and the criticism offered. On another level, the book is a study of Reformation historiography. Here are to be found treatments of the use of history in the Reformation itself; of the debate about the Reformation in the nineteenth century between Catholics and Protestants, and between Anglicans and Anglicans; of the historical position and methodologies employed by twentieth-century giants such as G.R. Elton, Patrick Collinson, A.G. Dickens, Eamon Duffy and J.J. Scarisbrick; of the impact of changes in the academy upon late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century treatments of the debate; of ‘popular’, media-directed perceptions of the Reformation since the nineteenth century. I do not pretend to 1

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 2

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

have said everything valuable that there is to say on this subject: the need to encompass all in one volume and my own inadequacies dictated against this. At a time when the study of history as a discipline is increasingly important for both sixth-formers and undergraduates, it is appropriate that there should be an easily accessible account of the contribution of Reformation historians to the discipline of history. It is also important to appreciate that many writers on the English Reformation saw themselves not as historians but as politicians, social commentators or theologians. It is necessary to understand how and why each generation has redefined and restructured the Reformation past. The work is arranged in several parts. Chapter 1 is concerned with the historiography of the Reformation as seen through the eyes of men who were contemporaries of, and often actors in, the English Reformation – Tyndale, Frith, Barnes, Foxe and Bale. Chapters 2 to 4 examine the work of certain important later writers who cared about the issues raised by the Reformation and saw them as deeply relevant to their own times. I have tried to explain why the debate mattered to them and not simply what the debate was. Their contribution to the development of history as a discipline and as a philosophy as well as to Reformation historiography is underlined. Chapters 5 to 8 discuss the history of the sixteenth-century Reformation as written by modernist professional historians of the later nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries who, whatever their personal religious or political commitment, have attempted to treat it objectively. They have brought to bear upon the evidence the skills of the historian in order to describe, analyse and explain the Reformation in its context. Despite sharing many traits as historians, these scholars as individuals have none the less widely differing conceptions of the nature of the English Reformation; of the importance of individuals or movements in its initiation and spread; of the appropriateness of certain methodologies to its study. Above all, they have highly individualistic styles of approach. Also the changing context of the academy had a profound impact upon the discipline of history and the place of debate within it. Some might say that writing a true history of the Reformation, in common with all academic history, has become less important to scholars than raising money and the publication profiles of individuals and 2

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 3

INTRODUCTION

their departments. Here, in setting out the modern debates concerning the role of Henry VIII, or his ministers; the Reformation and the people of England; the relative strength of Protestantism or Catholicism; the nature of religious identities; and the changes which occurred in the Church as a result of the Reformation, I have sought to show how historians’ work illustrates the preoccupations, trends and methods of modern history as a discipline and some of the criticisms that may be and have been levelled against them. Michael Bentley draws welcome attention to the co-existence of differing theories, traditions and perspectives within the practice of history. Separating the strands will always be a challenge. The last chapter takes as its starting point the fact that the backcloth of the English Reformation has become entertainment for many in the modern age and considers how the debate has been treated and how readers and viewers possibly perceive it. It underscores the chasm that has appeared in the last sixty or so years between ‘academic’ history and ‘popular’ history. While most professional historians would today probably reject the idea that the past is a foreign land which simply has to be revisited and would assign the historian a major role in interpreting, imagining and shaping ‘history’, equally most would reject the idea that ‘history’ is a branch of imaginative literature. The chapter shows how persistent the threat of postmodernist theory is to the discipline of history, even as leading academic authorities on the Reformation have rejected it out of hand. II

Process or event? If we have to define historical phenomena in such terms, then the English Reformation is more properly described as a process than as an event. So much so that it is often difficult to decide precisely who was and who was not a contemporary of the English Reformation. John Foxe? Of course. Thomas Cranmer? Yes. But what of John Whitgift, Richard Bancroft, William Laud, even John Strype? Just where do we draw the line? As will become apparent in the following pages, the idea of a continuing reformation – the completion of a half-finished job – remained with the English well into the nineteenth century and 3

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 4

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

has resurfaced in modern times. The issues raised between 1525 and 1662 continued to matter. Englishmen – Catholic, ‘Anglican’ and Nonconformist – felt deeply. This state of affairs was, in part, the result of the Elizabethan Settlement, which left the Church ‘but halfly-reformed’ and which allowed so many interpretations of her nature and substance. For centuries, English people could argue, convincingly on all sides, that the Church of England was Catholic, Protestant or, indeed, neither. Historians are still rehearsing the pros and cons of the case – summoning as their witnesses the liturgies of Cranmer, the actions of monarchs, the declarations of reformers, the institutional apparatus of the Church. Not only was there doubt about the precise nature of the Church of England after its ‘reformation’, there was in some quarters a refusal to accept that the process was over and an insistence that more change was called for. Men who lived fifty or a hundred years after the Henrician break with the papacy regarded themselves as agents of reformation. There is, of course, a strong case for arguing that the reformation of the English Church was complete by 1662. The Restoration Settlement gave the Church of England as much definition as she would ever receive and, after it, nonconformity was given official recognition. Subsequently writers who commented upon the Reformation regarded it as a past happening – sometimes as a process which they wished to see continued or revived, but none the less as something which had already occurred. This was as true of Strype and Burnet as it was of Froude and Macaulay. But an equally strong case can be made for the position that the English Reformation was a mid-sixteenth-century phenomenon. The Elizabethan Settlement confirmed the changes which had been made by Henry VIII and Edward VI. After this, churchmen and politicians debated the precise nature of these changes. They interpreted the Reformation. And the Reformation, which had at this juncture been accepted by only a small proportion of the population, now acted like yeast upon dough. The process of Protestantization was under way. Since the 1980s the debate has intensified among academics. How can we best define the English Reformation? Was the Protestant Reformation as successful as historians in the 1970s 4

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 5

INTRODUCTION

and 1980s assumed? To what extent did the mass of Englishmen and women persist in the old beliefs? If, as certainly seemed the case, England was a Protestant nation by the mid-seventeenth century, when precisely did the change occur? In the book which follows, I have elected to adopt the second position – that the Reformation was a mid-sixteenth-century occurrence, spanning the years from c. 1525 to c. 1570 and especially to 1559. The book examines in detail the contemporary and later debates about the nature of this sixteenth-century Reformation. Who were its agents? What were their motives? What was the character of the reform? Was it ‘official’ or ‘popular’? How did contemporaries see it? How have historians, men of affairs and others interpreted it since? I have been interested in the work that focused or focuses upon the second Reformation of the Elizabethan and Stuart periods largely in so far as it casts light upon the success or otherwise of the first Reformation. III

Because the Reformation was, as it were, a living thing, those men (and more occasionally women) who wrote about it in the period 1559–c.1890 were frequently not historians. They were interested in the ‘past’ as part of ‘modern’ debates – the case for further reformation in the Tudor and Stuart periods or Catholic emancipation in the early nineteenth century, for examples. As suggested above, this led to debates about the very nature and chronology of the Reformation. Through a study of their writings we may see an often barely articulated idea of history itself and what historians could and should do. It is important to study their concept of history but it is no less important to chart the course of the debate about the English Reformation itself. While the years before and after the Second World War saw the consolidation of history as an academic discipline, and the distancing of professional historians from over-much involvement in the issues of the Reformation – a declared determination to be ‘objective’ and to speak and write the ‘true’ account of the past – such historians have only too often divided into two camps – Protestant and neo-Catholic – whatever their own beliefs or lack 5

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 6

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

of belief. So the later chapters of this book are not simply discussions of trends in historical writing within the dispassionate and detached academy. They demonstrate that the goal of objectivity has certainly not been achieved by either ‘side’. Nevertheless, modern historians have been influenced by far more than a philosophy of history developed in the period 1870–1970.1 The influences most apparent in the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries on close inspection seem to stem again from the external environment. The history discipline has not retained autonomy in the face of state intervention in curriculum and teaching, research and publication. This, which on the face of it has little to do with any philosophy of history, has had a perhaps surprising effect upon the research and publications of historians of the Reformation. The discipline has also had to face the onslaught upon its nature and methods represented by postmodernism and other -isms such as receptionism and feminism. Some might argue that the discipline has been successful in absorbing the shock of this onslaught, as many teachers and writers seek to reconcile new ideas and old. Others might urge that the philosophy to which most academic historians now subscribe is fundamentally different from that in which historians down to 1970 were trained.2 They no longer believe that they can, by assiduous research and thinking, revisit the past and present the truth about it to their audience. Instead they imagine and interpret. A public which demands a true story of the past has turned to a new breed of historian (often outside the academy) represented by popular narratives and biographies and even by historical novels, plays and films. In an ironic twist of fate, could it be that historical fiction has become historical fact, and vice versa? IV

The historiography of the English Reformation has followed many paths. Its debates have been formed in response to many different situations. In this book I have tried above all to help the reader to be aware of the environment in which each book or essay was formed. I reiterate my wish that, through reading this book and keeping it at his or her side when reading other works listed in its endnotes, the student or scholar will find the pathway through 6

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 7

INTRODUCTION

English Reformation history easier to tread and will be considerably enriched by the journey through a complex landscape. Notes 1

2

Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past: English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870–1970, The Wiles Lectures for 2003 (Cambridge, 2005). Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past.

7

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 8

1

Historiography contemporary to the English Reformation, 1525–70

Introduction

On the face of it, it might seem that the Reformation, of its nature, rejected history. And so in a sense it did, or at least the force of recent precedent. After all, the new religion involved a break with that recent past – denial of tradition as an authority for religious dogma, practice and doctrine; a denial of papal authority. But it is no less true that the English Reformation used history – an interpretation of the past – to justify its existence, its goals and its actions. It created its own historiography.1 In examining the way in which history was used by the reformers it is important to distinguish between the attitudes of the ‘religious’ reformers (those who saw the Reformation as the fulfilment of the Church’s need for renewal) and the ‘official’ reformers (those who saw the Reformation as serving the needs of the monarchy or, at least, the English body politic). This distinction is far from easy to make: the body politic was part of Christendom and, no matter what the perspective of the reformer, the relationship between the two was a major issue. Reformers as a group looked to the past to justify the act of reformation. Their interpretation of that past, however, varied sufficiently for us to admit that there was no single Reformation use of history. Reformers, after all, used the past to score differing debating points. The manner in which their differing interpretations informed their actions, and vice versa, is of supreme interest to the historian. In large part the task before the modern commentator is 8

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 9

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

that of discovering any individual’s position with respect to the relationship between Church and state. The reformers had been reared in a tradition of historical literature that influenced them considerably. Their understanding of the process of history governed their interpretation of what had happened in Reformation England and what was about to happen. With what sort of history were educated Tudor men and women acquainted? The influence of the Italian humanist historians – Valla and Biondo – was certainly felt. There was some awareness of historical change, of the importance of the historical context in which events occurred. However, the emphasis upon biography found in Bruni and Polydore Vergil had a far more telling impact. English thinkers, whatever their position on relations between Church and state, saw historical developments as the result of dynastic and personal activity. The prince was his people. Edward Hall’s The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and York (1548) is a good example of native writing that assumed that dynamic monarchs caused change. Shakespeare’s history plays and his tragedies also provide good examples of this approach. The inclination of contemporaries to dramatize their history – to put it on the stage – accentuated this tendency to display characters as more acting than acted upon. Contemporary literature also illustrates the nationalistic framework of English historical writing of the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Reformation writers were concerned to use history in support of their own cause. They, too, adopted a nationalistic and, often, a biographical approach. The obsession of lay historians with fifteenth-century history was transferred to a religious context. Monarchs, religious teachers and individuals of learning and pious life were portrayed as the moving forces of the English Reformation. The social, economic and geographic underpinnings went unrecognized. Above all, the reformers urged that theirs was the historically accurate Christianity. William Tyndale (c. 1494–1536), pupil of John Colet, stood in the tradition of humanist textual criticism exemplified by Lorenzo Valla, Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther. Tyndale’s New Testament aimed to display a pure original text without accretions. In 1523 he spoke of his motivations: 9

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 10

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

I perceived . . . how that it was impossible to establish the laypeople in any truth except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text. For else, whatsoever truth is taught them, these enemies of all truth quench it again, partly with the smoke of their bottomless pit, that is, with apparent reasons of sophistry and traditions of their own making, founded without ground of scripture; and partly in juggling with the text, expounding it in such sense as is impossible to gather of the text, if thou see the process, order and meaning thereof . . . This thing only moved me to translate the new testament.2

Other Protestants shared his conviction that the Scriptures contained the key to the primitive church. Tyndale translated the Scriptures; some selected other means to prove the historical pedigree of reformed Christianity. The anonymous author of the preface to the Gospels in Anglo-Saxon urged: ‘The Religoon presently taught and professed in the Church at thys present, is no new reformation of thinges laterly begonne, which were not before but rather a reduction of the Church to the pristine state of olde conformitie’.3 Humanist scholarship, with its rigorous emphasis upon precise translation, became the handmaiden of early English Protestant argument. In this chapter we shall examine the most important Protestant interpretations of the Reformation and its history penned in the sixteenth century, culminating in the works of John Foxe. Such an exercise is important not simply because the interpretations offered are intrinsically interesting, nor even because we should be aware of contemporaries’ views of the Reformation as revelatory of their historical sense, but also because the Protestant view of the Reformation produced during its birth and infancy provided, in large measure, the parameters of the debate about the English Reformation from that day to this. Exiled reformers in the reign of Henry VIII

Between 1525 and 1535 a number of English reformers were living in exile in Europe, unwelcome in Henrician England. Some of their works espoused a rather simple view of history. The writers – Simon Fish, Jerome Barlow and William Roye – took 10

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 11

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

over, lock, stock and barrel, the teaching of the English Lollards and, with it, their view of the iniquities of the fifteenth-century Church. This was more than late Lollard propaganda. It was an attempt, and a successful one, to give the English Reformation a history – and a national one at that. Their interpretation of the past was Wycliffite: the wealth and power of the Church on earth was but recently acquired and a fundamental denial of the essence of the primitive church, which had set no store on pomp and had maintained simple and pure doctrines based upon scripture alone. Wyclif had called for a return to the ways of the young, pristine and primitive church. Later Lollard congregations had continued this plea. The early Protestants made this argument part of the English Reformation tradition. This history was later presented to the nation by John Foxe in a more detailed form but it was there, in essence, in the writings of Frith, Roye, Barlow and, above all, Tyndale. The Antwerp writers believed that there had once existed a golden age which had been subverted by the clergy. They added little, if anything, to the complaints of the Lollards against the clerical estate. Their view of the ‘golden age’ of England was no more subtle than their explanation of how it had been brought down: First when England was in his floures ordered by the temporal governoures knowenge no spiritual iurisdiction Then was ther in eche state and degree Haboundance and plentuous prosperitie Peaceable welthe without affliction. Noblenes of blood was had in price Vertuousnes avaunced, hated was vyce, Princes obeyed with due reverence.4

All this had been destroyed when the Crown of England fell under clerical influence. William Tyndale (1494–1536), in his Obedience of a Christian Man (1528), outlines the simple but long-drawn-out contest between the clergy and the Crown. King John, for example, is shown in dispute with the papal legate; Henry V is portrayed not as a national hero but as a monarch under the thumb of the clergy, who spilt English blood in France 11

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 12

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

to preserve clerical liberties. The Church that held England’s kings in thrall was, moreover, heretical; it kept the Scriptures from the people in an effort to exalt itself. So these early Antwerp Protestants cast the English monarch as the dupe of the clergy and, potentially, as the saviour of the Church. In A Supplicacyon for the Beggars (1529) Simon Fish described the excesses of the clergy and showed them to be seditious. He prescribed a political remedy – a medicine to be administered by the Crown. In his chapter on Antichrist, William Tyndale made a similar appeal to Christian kings to save the Church from the clergy. By this time, however, Tyndale was aware that kings might not view the Reformation in the same light – Henry VIII had refused to provide the people with the vernacular Scriptures. Tyndale sighed: reform would be possible ‘if they [kings] were Christians, which is seldom seen, and is a hard thing verily, though not impossible’.5 William Tyndale was, in fact, coming to appreciate that the Lollard interpretation of recent religious catastrophe as a result of clerical conflict with and triumph over English monarchs was a gross and unfortunate oversimplification. Here he owed much of his sophistication and awareness to his readings of Luther and Erasmus. Tyndale’s The Practyse of Prelates of 1530 drew upon Erasmus’s Julius Exclusus for its view of the Pope deliberately playing off princes one against the other. Kings were often not in opposition to the clergy – more often than not they were the willing dupes of the popes and the bishops. When Tyndale edited the Examinacion of the Lollard John Oldcastle, he cast Henry IV as the villain of the trial, acting with Antichrist (the clergy) against Christ’s true disciples (the Lollard knights). The translator’s interpretation of what happened as a result of this oppression was more simplistic. The activities of Antichrist were repaid by the active vengeance of God – civil wars, social disorder, plague. Jonah’s dire warnings applied to England in 1531 as much as they did to ancient Israel.6 William Tyndale set the whole of the Henrician ‘official’ Reformation against this scenario of a king duped by and acting with the clergy to oppress the followers of Christ. The reformers were sceptical of Henry’s intent when he did act to ‘reform’ the Church. If Henry oppressed the adherents of the new religion, the 12

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 13

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

sword of God would in consequence be turned against him and his government. The patterns of history repeated themselves. Henry – the oppressor – could not escape the wrath of God. For Tyndale the study of history had demonstrated that kings could not reform the Church. Instead the church’s hopes for renewal lay with individual Christians and their determination to divert her paths back to those of righteousness. In Tyndale we have an early example of the reluctance of Protestant historians to accept the ‘official’ reformation instigated by Henry VIII and his successors as a reformation at all. For Tyndale, the blood of the martyrs was indeed the seed of the Church. Without it, no reformation flowers would bloom. For Tyndale, in exile, to declare the true reformation to be one from below was simple, to deny the validity of Henry’s official reformation merely bold. For those reformers who remained in England, and especially for those in Henry’s service, the expression of such sentiments would have been nothing short of foolhardy. The issue of authority in the religious reformation presented a thorny problem for reformers in England from the Reformation Parliament onwards. The struggle to reconcile the duty of obedience towards the monarch with that towards God was the central concern of many. When thrust out of the state, religious writers were released – albeit temporarily – from the predicament. In a position of opposition to the state, Tyndale was able to shake off the chains of royal policy and interpret the origins and development of the English Reformation as he saw them – although at his peril. For Robert Barnes, taken into the King’s service in 1531, the predicament was more pressing. How did he resolve it? The essence of Barnes’s argument was the traditional view that the temporal and spiritual powers had entirely separate jurisdictions. In the past, the clergy had constantly overstepped their rightful jurisdiction. Barnes’s Supplication unto the most gracyous prynce Henry VIII in 1534 protested that the clergy, by violating this distinction and meddling in temporal matters, had always constituted a subversive element. He then demonstrated in Vitae Romanorum Pontificum (1536) that the very decline of the Church of Rome was owing in large part to the papacy’s usurpation of temporal powers. But did this mean that a monarch could or should rule the Church? Not at 13

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 14

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

all. The king’s jurisdiction was also strictly limited. He might defend the faith – by banishing the clerical estate to its own sphere. The form of religion, on the other hand, must be settled by the clergy. The king might protect the Church but he should not rule it. Barnes’s conception of the role of monarchy in Church government did not, therefore, coincide with Henry VIII’s. The Protestant reformers were unprepared to replace one non-scriptural source of authority –the papacy – with another – the monarchy. As Tyndale trenchantly wrote: As God maketh the King head over his realm, even so giveth he him commandment to execute the laws upon all men indifferently. For the law is God’s, and not the King’s. The King is but a servant, to execute the law of God, and not rule after his own imagination.7

The sole authority for the doctrine and worship of the Church must be scripture.8 Barnes, like Tyndale, was prepared to concede that a godly prince might open the way for the reintroduction of the true religion to England. Further than this he could not go. For Henry and for Thomas Cromwell this in itself was an important concession at a time when Henry was making his first stand against the might of Rome and seeking any support he could obtain. But Henry himself, doctrinally a Catholic and sharing little with the early Protestants other than a dislike of the power of Rome, was unlikely to remain content for long with such limited approbation. No doubt he hoped that English reformers would be won round, like Melanchthon in Saxony, to acceptance of the visible Church, as regulated by the temporal ruler, as guardian of Christian truth. This hope was not to be fulfilled in his lifetime. As it happened, it was chiefly Catholics like himself who provided Henry with the case which he required to bolster the royal supremacy. For Henry had no wish to replace the authority of a foreign pope with that of native Protestant churchmen. Who was it who rid him of these turbulent priests? Thomas Cromwell, Bishop Stephen Gardiner of Winchester and Edward Foxe, later bishop of Hereford? All these men were involved in a campaign to use historical precedent to support Henry’s claim to supremacy in the Church. Henry and his advisers gradually became aware that the question of the divorce from Katharine of Aragon could not, 14

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 15

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

as matters stood, be settled without papal approval. When this was not forthcoming, it became necessary to deny papal jurisdiction. Attacks on the papacy

The lay elite of England, and specifically Parliament, were very ready to attack clerical privileges, but an attack on the papacy itself, which in fact impinged little upon the daily lives of English people, was potentially a different matter. Such an attack involved an onslaught not only upon abuses but also upon accepted authority. Henry, with his lay and clerical advisers, became involved in a propaganda campaign on several fronts to make such an attack seem both acceptable and desirable to England’s ruling elite. On the one hand, this magnified the extent to which Rome had been parasitic upon English wealth, to arouse nationalistic feelings against the continuance of papal rule in England. On the other, it constructed cases based upon historical precedent in favour of Henry’s claim. The need was to convince the political nation that the papacy must be ousted from England and, in so doing, to provide the ammunition for such an attack. Henry could and did use the arguments put forward by clerics of many religious opinions to support his case, but his concern was to convince his lay subjects, particularly in Parliament, and not the clerical reformers, of the validity of his cause. Whether ecclesiastics agreed with him or not, Henry was casting himself as defender of the true and ancient English Church against the rule of the great pretender, Rome. Henry, or his chief minister Thomas Cromwell, constructed a historical backcloth for his play of the English Reformation. Where by divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one supreme head and king having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial crown of the same.9

This alternative historiography of the Reformation was as potent for future generations, in its way, as was that of the ‘religious’ reformers. At the time, events suggested that it would win the day. Henry successfully imposed his interpretation of relations 15

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 16

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

between Church and state upon both Church and Parliament. First of all, Henry forced the reluctant clergy to admit that their allegiance to the Crown superseded their loyalty to the papacy. The 1529 Reformation Parliament, as it has come to be styled by modern historians, saw the clergy come under attack from the laity. Parliament sought to limit the powers of the ecclesiastical courts and to correct the abuses consequent upon pluralism and non-residence. In 1531 Henry himself accused the clergy of infringing the statutes of provisors, provisions and praemunire by seeking to set up an independent jurisdiction within England. In 1531 the clergy bought the King’s pardon and confessed him to be supreme head of the Church but only ‘as far as the law of Christ allows’. Convocation, when it met in 1532, still maintained that it could legislate for the Church without royal assent and it was only after a battle, in which Archbishop Warham had the temerity to remind Henry of the struggle between Henry II and Thomas Becket, that Henry secured the submission of the clergy to his sole authority. In 1534 an Act of Parliament recorded this submission of the clergy. The Act of Supremacy, passed in the second session of 1534, required that clergy and laity alike acknowledge the monarch to be ‘the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England’. The Acts of the Reformation Parliament, the records of Convocation, and the proclamations of the realm encapsulated the nature and history of the English Reformation as Henry wished it to be understood. In this scenario the King was not a revolutionary or an innovator. He was acting to oust an interloper from the realm – a usurper of the people’s purses as well as of their affections. He claimed to act with due historical precedent. He acted with the agreement of his people: even his clergy submitted to his will. In Henry’s account there is no mention of doctrine. In it there is certainly no reference to the popular movements of Lollardy and Lutheranism to which the Antwerp exiles had appealed. The King’s supporters never did anything by halves. Henry’s advisers began a search for texts that would uphold his high view of royal authority as derived from God. Edward Foxe and Stephen Gardiner appear to have directed a group of researchers during 1530. The product of their labours was the Collectanea Satis 16

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 17

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

Copiosa, an index with over 200 citations from the Scriptures, the early Church Fathers and medieval works addressing the questions of royal and ecclesiastical jurisdictions and power. In it appeared Old Testament precedents for priestly monarchy; instances from the early Church councils showing the trial of cases in the provinces where they originated; the Donation of Constantine and so on. The work supported the idea of a royal supremacy in spirituals (and this by the autumn of 1530) but also propounded the view that each province of the Church had its own jurisdictional independence. There is evidence that Henry VIII carefully studied and annotated the Collectanea but, according to Geoffrey Elton, it was Foxe and Thomas Cromwell who sponsored the work, brought it to Henry’s attention and showed him how it could be used to support a new policy as conceived by Cromwell. Certainly Foxe used it as the basis of his De Vera Differentia Regiae Potestatis et Ecclesiasticae (1534, reprinted 1538), which was issued by the king’s printer. Its arguments underpinned the legislation of the Reformation Parliament after 153010 and Stephen Gardiner’s influential De Vera Obedientia (1535), which saw Church and Commonwealth as a unitary body politic, comprehensive of all the people, and ruled over by a single individual – head of the Church, king of the Commonwealth – to whom God ordered obedience. Henry’s clerical advisers argued that the king’s jurisdiction in spiritual matters derived directly from God. Parliament only confirmed and declared this authority: it did not grant it. The clergy were given authority to govern the Church by God, but the power of coercion (dominium) to give this commission from God effect had to come from the prince.11 The clergy continued to have a positive and distinct jurisdictional and legislative function under the king’s protection. Intriguingly, they continued to accept the account of the Donation of Constantine despite the fact that this had been discredited by William Marshall in his translation, printed in 1534. According to some authorities this view was not wholly shared by Cromwell. He appears to have been afraid that the clergy, under the King, would set up an authority independent of Parliament. Two memoranda on this issue were addressed to Cromwell in 1535 or 1536 and these gave rise to a number of 17

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 18

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

treatises and papers. A Dialogue between a Doctor and Student, for example, urged that the entire Church – laity and clergy – should define the nature of that Church, that is, by determining what it was that the Scriptures laid down.12 The authority with which the king and ecclesiastics acted would be, therefore, an ascending authority. This ascendant theory was hinted at by Parliament in later legislation and Cromwell certainly sponsored work that argued along these lines. This included William Marshall’s translation of Marsiglio of Padua, Defensor Pacis, in 1535. Support also came from independent quarters, namely Christopher St German’s A Treatyse Concernyng the Power of the Clergye and the Lawes of the Realme (1535). There is some controversy about authorship, but whatever the conclusion regarding this, support was still forthcoming from elsewhere.13 It has been observed that, theory notwithstanding, the king and his ministers and advisers were in practice compelled to act with parliamentary support and confirmation. The Reformation Parliament gave credence to a view of the English constitution that became a commonplace in the late sixteenth century but had scarcely been articulated before 1530 – that sovereignty rested with king-in-Parliament. A doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty emerged.14 Of course, there is much dispute as to whether this theory had any real bearing upon practice, especially in the reign of Henry. So far we have identified two broad approaches to the Henrician Reformation: that which urged the separation between spiritual and temporal, and which traced a history of struggle between Antichrist and Christ in which kings might be cast either as helpmeets or as villains; and that which saw the king as the principal member of the Church and the chief instrument of reformation. There was a half-way house, to be identified in the arguments put forward by Philip Melanchthon. He conceded that reforming kings might have a central role in the fulfilment of God’s plan for His Church on earth and a claim to being acknowledged as the chief members of the visible Church.

18

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 19

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

John Foxe and the History of the Reformation

It is, however, in the seminal work of John Foxe that the two approaches are drawn together. The eschatological framework of contemporaries’ thought about the Reformation is never more apparent than here, yet Foxe called upon the monarchy to realize providential designs. By the late seventeenth century approximately 10,000 copies of his Acts and Monuments (often called his Book of Martyrs) had been bought. Its circulation was wider than that of any other book except the Bible.15 Not only did individuals read it and groups listen to it being read aloud – it was also preached in the pulpit.16 The manner of its writing positively invited ‘humble folk’ to participate vicariously in the historical epic of the English Reformation, as it recited the experiences and martyrdoms of craftsmen, traders, labourers and housewives, and indicated their role in the writing of this chapter of the struggle against Antichrist.17 History, argued Foxe, was being made by them. It follows that for at least 120 years it was Foxe’s conception of the history of the Reformation that was shared by most English people who thought about such matters, high and low, literate and illiterate. Before Foxe wrote, there was no popular history of the Reformation; after him, there was no other until modern times. Foxe’s perspective was so dominant that nineteenth-century historians who disagreed with him had their work cut out to dethrone him. Even today it sometimes seems that academic historians are doing little more than crossing the martyrologist’s ‘t’s and dotting his ‘i’s. Acts and Monuments fulfilled two functions: it provided a vivid account of events leading up to Elizabeth’s accession, concentrating upon the edifying lives and deaths of the martyrs of the Reformation; and it supplied a history of the Reformation within the context of providential history. Foxe’s defence of the Reformation – both as an event and as a continuing process – was conceived in historical terms, albeit not in the sense of history as we today understand it. This historical defence was, at root, a counter-attack upon the claims of the Roman Church to an authority handed down directly from God and St Peter. Foxe aimed to show that what had occurred was a reformation and not a revolution. The Church of England was ‘not the beginning of 19

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 20

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

any new church of our own’ but ‘the renewing of the old ancient church of Christ’; the Church of Rome is developed and degenerate; the Church of England is primitive and pure. This message is, as we said earlier, a-historical – for it suggests the plausibility of a return to the primitive church – but it is set within a historical framework of the ‘rise and fall’ and then the ‘revival’ of the Christian Church on earth. His universal history covered five phases: ‘the suffering time of the church’ (c. 300 years after the Apostles); ‘the flourishing time of the church’ (c. 300 years); ‘the declining time of the church’ (down to 1000 AD); ‘the time of Antichrist’ (the next 400 years); ‘the reformation’ or the ‘purging of the church of God’. Foxe, of course, concentrated upon the detailed history of the fifth phase as it occurred in England, yet even so, a large proportion of the work deals with the earlier history of the Christian Church. If we ignore the wider context of Foxe’s history of the martyrdoms, we miss the significance of his contribution to Reformation historiography and are unlikely to appreciate the impact that his interpretation of the Reformation was to have upon generations of English people after him. There were precedents. Medieval chronicles had been used for propagandist and persuasive purposes, and this tradition was built upon in the mid-sixteenth century. There were other versions. The legend of England as a people chosen by God appeared in the pages of John Stow’s Chronicles of England (1580) and Raphael Holinshed’s The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Irelande.18 The Antwerp writers stressed the Lollard tradition. Matthew Parker’s De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae similarly aimed to trace the apostolic origins of the English Church.19 It is the very popularity and accessibility of Foxe’s account that makes it more important than all. He tells the story and makes his overall point with such consummate skill, ensuring the lasting impact of the history by including exciting and well-known detail. For instance, the Book of Martyrs displays the monarchs of the late eleventh century onwards struggling to defend both England and its Church against Rome. Into this tale it weaves the popular stories of Henry II’s struggle with Thomas Becket and the Monk of Swinshead’s poisoning of King John. The reign of Edward III, however, is shown as heralding the beginning of persecution in the Church of England by the monarchy. Foxe gives a detailed 20

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 21

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

account of Wyclif and his doctrines – of that time ‘when the morning star of that glorious day arose in our hemisphere – John Wickcliffe’. Why did John Foxe in 1563 write what was, in effect, a history of the Christian Church? In order to answer this question we must know something of Foxe himself.20 Foxe was born in 1517 in Boston, Lincolnshire. In 1534 he began his education at Oxford, supported by his stepfather, a wealthy yeoman. While at Brasenose College Foxe shared a chamber with Alexander Nowell, who was later Dean of St Paul’s (in Elizabeth’s reign) and author of the famous catechism. Foxe took his BA in 1537 and became a fellow of his college in 1539. In the summer of 1543 he proceeded MA. By 1542 he was already a man of strong Protestant convictions. His views landed him in trouble with the college authorities, who on one occasion condemned him for heresy and planned to eject him, and on another removed him from his fellowship because of his deliberate refusal to take holy orders within one year of his regency. Foxe then sought a schoolmaster’s position either in a college school, in a Protestant household or in a local school. In the end, after a long search, he was forced to accept a position in the Lucy household at Charlecote, despite the unpleasant living conditions – his predecessor reputedly had ‘a chamber smelling so strongly of the sewer that its occupant needs to have his nose cut off’.21 After two years Foxe took his new wife, Agnes, to London, where he became tutor to the children of the Duchess of Richmond. While in her employ he met and made friends with John Bale and was also ordained deacon. In 1553 he moved to Reigate and attempted to convert the town to Protestantism. After Edward VI’s death in July 1553 Foxe’s circumstances changed for the worse. The release of the Duke of Norfolk from the Tower meant that he regained control of his two young sons, Foxe’s pupils at Reigate, and Foxe lost his job. In March 1554 both Foxe and his wife fled to Antwerp and travelled on the Continent. By 1555 they were living with other exiles in Basle. We know little of Foxe’s activities in exile, other than his writing, except that John Aylmer claimed that Foxe had foretold in a sermon the exiles’ return to England on Mary’s death.22 Even if the exiles did not anticipate a speedy return to 21

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 22

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

England, they were removed from her physically but not spiritually. In exile as well as out, they saw themselves as evangelists – as John Jewell in 1552 had said of preaching: ‘This is our office, this we take upon us, and this we profess; and except we do this, we do nothing, we serve no use’.23 Foxe’s absorption in penning his martyrology has to be seen in this context. The exiles were attempting to convert the English at home to a new faith. Two long-distance strategies were adopted to achieve this, both of them involving the printing press. On the one hand, there were proposed martyrologies and histories; on the other, an English version of the Bible, based upon Tyndale and Coverdale. The first of these projects was sponsored by Edmund Grindal, John Foxe and John Bale; the second by William Whittingham and other exiles at Geneva. As early as 1555 Grindal had proposed a Book of Martyrs to be published in both English and Latin and to call the English people to action. Foxe worked on both versions but they were bedevilled by delays. Eventually the Latin edition was published in 1559, but the English version, in effect a new book, had to wait until 1563. While he worked Foxe came heavily under two major influences – that of the Bible, with its format of the history of a single, chosen people with a sense of their identity as a nation set aside from all others by their particular destiny, and its emphasis upon God’s grand design; and that of John Bale, who had influenced Foxe as early as 1548 and who was working alongside him in exile. Bale, too, saw the English as an elect nation, defending the true Church, and he strove to show his readers that the contemporary battle between the adherents of the new religion and their persecutors was but part of the age-long struggle between Christ and Antichrist, described in the apocalyptic vision of St John. Bale was more wont than Foxe to interweave scriptural lore with that of the English chronicles but he, too, lent emphasis to the existence of a tradition of reformation in fifteenth-century England, exemplified by the Lollards. His Scriptorium Illustrium Maioris Britanniae Catalogus (1557) was a gargantuan attempt to rewrite the history of Britain within an eschatological framework, and Foxe is known to have owned this book. And Bale, like Foxe, tended to nationalism rather than millennialism. In his vision, the monarch was leading the nation in a crusade against Antichrist. 22

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 23

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

John Foxe, then, was important not so much for the reporting of contemporary persecutions as for the point which he believed this cumulative martyrology to make: that there was a struggle between Christ and Antichrist, and that the second daughter of Henry VIII was as a second Deborah to rescue the nation from Antichrist and restore the rule of Christ. This motif was repeated constantly in the pageantry and imagery of Elizabeth’s early years on the throne. The five pageants that accompanied her progress from the Tower of London to her coronation at Westminster Abbey told a similar story. Elizabeth united the warring factions of York and Lancaster; God was giving her strength to fulfil his grand design for England; she had played a waiting game to bring the truth to her people and now she had God’s Word in the vernacular Bible to present to them; she was Deborah consulting with her estates, in order to govern Israel wisely and well. The ballad ‘A song betwene the Quenes Majestie and Englande’ popularized this vision: England

Elizabeth

England

England

Lady this long space Have I loved thy grace More than I durst well saye Hoping at the last When all storms were past For to see this joyfull daye Yet my lover England Ye shall understand How fortune on me did lowre I was tombled and tost From piller to post And prisoner in the Toure Dere lady we do know How that tirauntes not a fewe Went about to seke thy bloude An contrarie to right They did what they might That now bare two faces in one hood . . . O cruell tirauntes And also monstrous giauntes That would such a swete blossome devour But the Lord of his might Defend the24 in right And shortened their arme and powre. 23

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 24

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Elizabeth

England

Yet my lover dere Mark me well here Though they were men of the devill The Scripture plainly saith Al thei that be of faith Must nedes do good against evill Oh swete virgin pure Longe may ye endure To reigne over us in this lande For your workes do accord Ye are the handmaid of the lord For he hath blessed you with his hand.25

John Aylmer, later Elizabeth’s Bishop of London, represented her in his An Harborow for Faithful and True Subjectes (April 1559) as having been saved from martyrdom only by divine intervention (Mary’s death), so that the English nation was committed to Elizabeth’s preservation.26 So, when there were conspiracies against Elizabeth, these were cast as assaults upon the true Church. For there was no doubt that God was English, nor that Elizabeth was identified (in Protestant minds if not her own) with the cause of Protestantism. When John Jewel preached at the time of Norfolk’s rebellion in 1569 on the anniversary of Elizabeth’s accession (17 November), he merrily likened the situation to that of the battle of Jericho. The adherents of the faith were few in number and technically lacking in military strength but they could defeat the enemy because God was with them – their cause was God’s own. The accession-day jousts, bell-ringing and church services have more than antiquarian interest – they mark Elizabeth’s place in God’s great plan of salvation.27 Before he published his English Book of Martyrs, John Foxe had access to original sources that had not been available to him when he was in exile. What we know of his use of these sources suggests that Foxe was remarkably accurate and that charges levelled at him of deliberate falsification of the evidence are unfounded. Where scholars have checked his use of sources they have been impressed. Even so, it may be that William Haller was correct when he alleged that Foxe ‘became possessed by the kind of excitement which overtakes the historical investigator when he uncovers untouched documentary evidence supporting a view of 24

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 25

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

the past to which he is already emotionally and imaginatively committed’.28 Tom Freeman has compared Foxe to the enthusiastic defence barrister who, while he will not falsify evidence, will not present evidence harmful to his client’s case.29 This was the spirit in which Foxe used documents relating to the life and works of Wyclif, accounts of the Lollard martyrdoms in episcopal act books and documentary evidence of near-contemporary persecutions. It was also the spirit in which he included in the book dramatic devices that lent force to his argument – Cranmer’s hand thrust into the flames; evil omens; spiritual and physical travails. J.F. Mozley painstakingly pieced together the making of Foxe’s martyrology.30 His work shows how Foxe’s book grew in response to events and the availability of new documentary material. Foxe had actually begun the book in England in 1552: his aim was to refute any idea that English Protestantism had begun with Luther and to sketch in some of its pre-Reformation native origins. He had collected the materials for this and completed a rough draft by August 1554. A Commentary on the history of the Church and a description of the great persecutions throughout Europe from the times of Wycliffe to this age were duly printed in Latin (as Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum) at Strasbourg in 1554. Effectively, this introduced both the English and foreign scholars to the history of English Lollardy. (Jean Crépin’s martyrology (1554) began with the martyrdom of John Hus; after 1555, editions included important sections on Wyclif and printed sections of Foxe’s account.) During 1555 Foxe was diverted from his work on the martyrology by his exile, and by a suggested work on Cranmer. Grindal, however, continued to send Foxe news of materials about the martyrs (for example, the existence of materials about Philpot), actual documents (the writings and examination of Bradford), and caveats and suggestions about their use. Foxe himself collected materials: he wrote to John Aylmer in 1557 for information about Aylmer’s erstwhile pupil Lady Jane Grey. Grindal and other exiles urged Foxe to continue his work and to include the reign of Henry VIII, while they also located materials about the reigns of Edward and Mary. In 1559 Foxe published his Latin edition, divided into six books. Book One was really a reprint of the book of 1554 with a few additions; Book Two treated the reigns of Henry and Edward; 25

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 26

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Books Three to Six dealt with the Marian persecutions, ending with the execution of Cranmer, and including a list of martyrdoms down to November 1558. This work suffered from the defects of the sources that Foxe had been able to use. For the reign of Henry VIII he had been reduced to consulting mainly printed works. For the reign of Mary he had had to rely upon accounts sent out from England. He had been unable to search the registers or to check his authorities. This meant that his narrative was littered with minor errors that had to be corrected in later editions. It also meant that he gave far more space to famous names than to humble ones. In addition, because this Latin version was directed at a foreign audience, considerable attention was given to explaining matters for non-English readers. When Foxe returned to England he already had it in mind to publish an improved and English version. He spent the winter of 1560 and the whole of 1561 examining fresh documentary evidence. Grindal and Parker perhaps helped him to work on particular materials. The 1559 volume was translated into English. He negotiated with John Day to print the work in 1563. When this new and enlarged book appeared, it extended to over 1,800 folio pages, was bedecked with more than fifty woodcuts, and contained a calendar of martyrs and confessors, which acted as an index. The first English edition was considerably attacked in print by Catholic writers (for example, Nicholas Harpsfield, under the alias of Alan Cope, wrote Dialogi Sex in 1566, and Thomas Harding published a Confutation in 1565, that attacked both Foxe’s account and his conclusions). Foxe was spurred on by their criticisms to produce another, improved edition. John Day, the printer, found new material for him, even interviewing Cranmer’s chaplain, Ralph Morice, and Foxe also hunted for new evidence of the persecutions. The 1570 edition, as a result, was even larger and more compendious than that of 1563. Notably, it enlarged on general Church history to show that popery represented innovation, and Protestantism the true, primitive Church. More space was accorded the Continental martyrs, to emphasize that the English fight was part of a generalized struggle against Antichrist. Foxe stressed the use of a wide variety of ecclesiastical sources and used copyists to provide him with materials that he could not 26

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 27

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

inspect in the original. The dramatic impact of the book (and potentially its appeal to illiterate or near-illiterate browsers) was enhanced by the inclusion of 1,500 woodcuts. It was ‘very much an illustrated book, whose pictures did a great deal to establish its position in the hearts and minds of English Protestants’.31 The calendar of martyrs was dropped. New prefaces made the message of the work patently clear. It was this 1570 edition that the Elizabethan bishops ordered to be placed in all cathedrals and that most parishes bought for their churches. Later editions, namely those of 1576 and 1583, were largely reprints in different formats, although they also introduced new evidence, including items discovered in the Tower of London record office. How, then, did Foxe view the Reformation? If the book itself involved a rolling remake, Foxe certainly never revised the plot. The tradition in which he wrote was a biographical one, and one that emphasized the role of monarchs and other ‘national’ leaders. The first English edition was printed during the succession crisis of 1562–63: it could be seen as a timely reminder of what might happen again if Elizabeth were removed. The key part of the monarch in reformation was, therefore, perhaps doubly stressed. But the roles of individuals in the play often changed over the several editions. The role of Anne Boleyn, by Thomas (a midcentury Protestant defender of Henry VIII) decried as a hypocrite, was perhaps politiquely downplayed by Foxe even as early as 1563.32 But recent historians have demonstrated that Foxe’s account of Anne Boleyn was, moreover, one that evolved over several editions through the interplay of the availability of material and political considerations. In 1563 Foxe offered little detail but general praise, partly because he had few sources to draw upon but also because he hesitated to blame Henry VIII for Anne’s demise. By 1570 he had the benefit of the memories of one of Anne’s silk women to draw upon; and by 1583, well into her daughter’s reign, he exonerated Anne and by implication condemned Henry.33 Foxe could give only qualified commendation to Henry VIII. He unhorsed the Pope but left him with ‘trappings and stirrups whereby the prelates went about to set him upon his horse again’.34 It was Thomas Cromwell who really achieved reformation through his political acumen. Edward VI’s reign foreshadowed the dawn of the new age that was heralded by 27

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 28

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Elizabeth’s accession. Then almost half the work was devoted to reporting the martyrdoms of Mary’s reign, the dramatic effect heightened by the employment of woodcuts. Work is currently ongoing to study the woodcuts themselves and to assess their impact upon contemporary audiences. In preliminary findings scholars have established links between the iconography current on the Continent of Europe and that in the Foxe woodcuts.35 It was clearly intended that no English person should ever forget this terrible persecution. The central importance of the devotion of humble men and women to Christ, from the time of the Lollards to the present, was highlighted. Yet the assemblage of stories of martyrdoms had another purpose – the horror and carnage stood in stark contrast to the peace and tranquillity of the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. Elizabeth had almost fallen victim to the persecution; in her personal salvation lay the hope of the English people; under her, all would live under the olive tree’s protective branches rather than in fear of death – all, that is, who adhered to the true faith. The Book of Martyrs was, then, to our minds, a strange history. It was ‘the most elaborate expression of the apocalyptical expectancy with which the returned exiles and their party greeted Elizabeth at her accession’.36 Tom Betteridge has indicated convincingly that there were different emphases within the early editions of Foxe’s book – ‘the prophetic (1563), the apocalyptic (1570), and the monumental (1583)’, but this does not alter the essential point that the book was about God’s plan.37 In it the martyrologist set before the people the current Protestant realization of the traditional Christian conception of the meaning of history and how it should be applied to the English case. For history told not only of the past but of the future. It showed, to those who were alert to its message, what should be achieved in the present and future to ensure that the story could be told in accordance with the divine plan. (It was indeed a fitting companion to the Bible in churches, because to Protestant minds it continued the Bible’s story.) It told Elizabeth what she must do. Historiography was, therefore, a science that the religious must master, and not a luxury. Foxe’s book was the most complete realization of this scheme but it belonged to the same tradition as the sermons of, for example, Hugh Latimer (who had envisaged 28

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 29

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

Edward VI as the young King Josiah) or, more latterly, the writings of John Bale and Matthew Parker. It was in a real sense ‘history’ (even if, to our eyes, an unscientific one), and not a catalogue of tales of martyrdom. If Foxe did not apply the standards of modern historical scholarship to the evidence that he examined, he none the less read it in the light of the ‘truth’ of the Protestant view of history. Falsification of the evidence would be a misleading charge: misreading of the evidence would be the fault to which he and other Protestant historians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were most prone. The importance of history and historiography to the Marian and Elizabethan Protestants

The importance of history and historiography to the Marian and Elizabethan Protestants can be demonstrated by the manner in which they marketed the Book of Martyrs and similar works. We have mentioned already that Edmund Grindal actively sponsored the early production of Foxe’s history. Indeed Patrick Collinson believed that ‘in so far as the enterprise had a single manager he was Grindal, and that Foxe’s role was at first no more than that of a technically gifted subordinate’.38 He speculated that the whole project was to some extent Grindal’s idea and shows how in the early stages it was managed by a committee.39 Perhaps even more important was the work of printer-publishers of strong convictions. As Foxe himself put it: The Lord began to work for his Church not with sword and target to subdue his exalted adversary, but with printing, writing and reading . . . How many printing presses there be in the world, so many block houses there be against the high castle of St Angelo Papal residence, so that either the pope must abolish knowledge and printing or printing at length will root him out.40

By far the most prominent Protestant printer was John Day (d. 1584), who under Mary printed the pamphlets of the exiles and was imprisoned for so doing and who, under Elizabeth, printed high-quality editions of Protestant works. Matthew Parker, for example, used Day to print Aelfric’s sermon – in A Testament of Antiquitie (1567) – because it seemed to support the Protestant 29

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 30

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

view of the sacrament; The Gospels of the Fowre Evangelistes Translated in the Olde Saxon Tyme (1571) and the De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae (1572), which argued the antiquity and purity of England’s Church. In 1560 Day published a mammoth edition of the writings of Thomas Becon, to be joined in 1562 by editions of the sermons of the martyr Hugh Latimer. Then, in 1563 Day printed the first edition in English of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments of these Last and Perillous Days. Other books by Foxe rolled off his press: the 1570 edition of Acts and Monuments, Foxe’s version of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the martyrologist’s edition of the collected works of Tyndale, Barnes and Frith in one book with accompanying biographies and preface. Foxe had good reason to write: How praiseworthy are printers like John Daye, who at their own charges give to the world the stories of the martyrs and other ancient documents. Daye has diligently collected the scattered writings, as many as he could find of these three learned fathers of blessed memory, chief ringleaders in these latter times of this Church of England. The book will be a light to all posterity. Men of every age can learn here, the young men from Frith, the middle-aged from Tyndale, the elder men from Barnes; and the simplicity and zeal of those former times is an example to the present generation.41

So Day did more than print and publish the books produced by leading Protestant luminaries: he collected the manuscript sources and commissioned editions of them or histories based on them. In a real sense he and others like him directed a propaganda campaign of significant proportions. His press brought before the English people the prevalent Protestant interpretation of Christian history and advice about future action. This was new and heady stuff to lay before a population nurtured on Catholicism. To wean the populace away from the Catholic view of history, it had also to be dramatic stuff. Interestingly enough, the Catholics do not appear to have employed the printing press to put forward their opposing view of Christian history, past, present and future. Instead, during the Tudor years, they printed liturgical and pious works, leaving propaganda to their opponents.42 The importance of the printer was not always viewed with approval by Protestant apologists, however. John Jewel was to 30

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 31

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

write cryptically to Matthew Parker, ‘I am afraid of printers: their tyranny is terrible’.43The press could be, and was, used against the moderate Elizabethan settlement and its bishops. Great efforts were made to root out and suppress secret presses used during the Martin Marprelate controversy. The legacy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

The dominant theme of Foxe’s Protestant history – that England was a nation elect of God to restore his Church – continued to pervade Protestant literature. The occasion of the Gunpowder Plot, for example, brought about considerable apprehension in the Protestant community. In 1610 a new edition of Acts and Monuments, with an attached account of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris, was published. Laudian policies produced a like fear of the revival of popery in Charles I’s reign. Further editions of the Book of Martyrs appeared in 1632 and 1642, duly brought up to date. The myth of Elizabeth as the second Deborah was fed by such works as William Camden’s Annales Rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum, Regnante Elizabetha (1615), which was translated into English by Abraham Darcie in 1627 and by Robert Naunton in 1632. Thomas Heywood’s If you know not me you know nobody, or the troubles of Queen Elizabeth, penned in 1603, was first printed in 1605 and appeared in a prose version, England’s Elizabeth: Her Life and Troubles during her minoritie from the cradle to the crown, in 1631, and in a heroic verse form in 1639. Perhaps even more notably, Heywood’s Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine of the Most Worthy Women of the World (1640) began with Deborah and closed with Elizabeth. Cornelius Burges preached a sermon to the House of Commons in 1640, on the anniversary of Elizabeth’s accession, that called upon the audience to ‘Remember and consider that this very day . . . eighty two years sithence began a new resurrection of this kingdom from the dead . . . our second happy reformation of religion by the auspicious entrance of our late royal Deborah . . . into her blessed and glorious reign’. The analogy was much more than a literary conceit: it counselled the future behaviour of Elizabeth’s successors and the English people as a whole. The English were bound by covenant to complete Elizabeth’s work of reformation. 31

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 32

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Even those who remained critical of the Queen’s own role, such as John Milton, nevertheless saw England as an elect nation whose task it was to complete the Reformation. It is worth more than passing notice that there was no cult of Henry VIII, no celebration, thirty-seven years after his death, of his accession, no association in the popular mind between Bluff King Hal and Josiah that lingered to inspire future generations.44 Indeed, longlived Protestant preachers who did refer to Henry’s role did so very critically.45 It would take much more than a few pages to suggest why it was that Protestant historiographical propaganda was so powerful, for powerful it certainly was: powerful, persuasive and persistent. Throughout the seventeenth century there are countless references in wills, inventories and other documents to Foxe’s book, often in tandem with the Bible, as in the following quotation from 1674: ‘one greate Bible and a booke of Martyrs’.46 In the nineteenth century it was Foxe’s account of the Reformation (as seen through his own and others’ eyes) that was criticized, amended or accepted. Even in the twenty-first century historians use his book as a source and as an interpretation. Why? The book’s popularity owed much to its sponsorship by the Protestant establishment. It was widespread in churches and in private libraries. It associated nationalism and religion in a highly acceptable way. As time went on and it suffered attacks from within the Church of England (from the Arminian wing), the book itself became martyr to a cause: it was inextricably associated in the popular mind with English Protestantism. To attack Foxe’s view of Christian history and, specifically, of the English Reformation was to attack the Protestant Reformation. Had the book seen only one printing and had it been suppressed in 1563 or 1570 perhaps few would have mourned it, but the book and the view of the Reformation that it presented had sufficient time and public exposure to take a grip on the English imagination. England may not have been Protestant in 1563, but by the beginning of Charles I’s reign it surely was. Yet there is more to it than this. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was given official support and it was widely available, but was this the only secret of its success? Here we can only speculate. The book had endearing literary qualities. It had illustrations. It told a dramatic story. It told of starkly contrasted good and evil forces, 32

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 33

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

of baddies and goodies. It told a contemporary story. Where the Bible told of the exploits of a nomadic Middle Eastern people with strange, often inexplicable and always foreign customs, Foxe’s book spoke of near-contemporary England. Foxe had to explain matters to foreign readers: his book met with instant comprehension among an English readership. By using England as his measure, Foxe was able to open up the whole of Christian ‘world’ history to his audience. Foxe’s history has had its rise, its decline and its fall over the centuries. In Acts and Monuments’ very popularity as a defence of Protestantism in historical terms and as an attack on Catholicism lay the roots of its decline as a source for Reformation history. In the seventeenth century Protestants thought nothing of adding examples of contemporary persecutions and martyrdoms to new editions of the text – for example the Irish massacre of 1641 was incorporated. The last early modern edition appeared in 1684, at the height of the Exclusion Crisis. Between 1684 and 1832 the editions of Foxe that appeared bore little resemblance to his original work. Amongst other modern authors, J.N. King has drawn attention to how unsatisfactory these editions are.47 In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries these so-called editions were used with impunity by Protestants to attack Catholics. Even the first unabridged editions of the nineteenth century (1832) were motivated by the need to support evangelical Protestants against the High Church wing. As we shall see later, critiques of Foxe and attacks on his historical credentials were led by men such as Milner and Maitland, who were equally partisan. Now in the twenty-first century so-called expanded and modernized editions of Acts and Monuments are in current circulation. There is, for example, an e-book edition of a nineteenth-century printing that includes chapters on Catholic persecutions during the French Revolution; persecutions of French Protestants in 1814 and 1820; persecution of Baptist missionaries in India in 1824 and of Wesleyan missionaries in the West Indies and argues that this represents a direct continuation of Foxe’s history. ‘But it may be asked, is popery the same system now as in the days of Cardinal Bonner and the “Bloody Mary.” We answer yes.’ It purports to argue for religious toleration and yet stokes the flames of antiCatholicism and other ‘vagabond foreigners’.48 33

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 34

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Other sects have persecuted during some periods of their history; but all now deny the right, and reprobate the practice except Catholics. The right to destroy heretics is a fundamental article in the creed of the papal church . . .

Fortunately there is an ongoing Foxe Project dedicated to publishing Foxe’s own work and to supplying full and authoritative scholarly apparatus. There is a good explanation of the aims, original scope of the project and progress to date in the proceedings of the second John Foxe Colloquium held at Jesus College, Oxford in 1997.49 There is the promise of full lists of Foxe’s sources, of the iconography of the woodcuts and so forth.50 At some point in the future scholars might work their way through his voluminous papers. Although modern historians have only partially rehabilitated Foxe as a historian – rejecting the more audacious claims of Mozley’s and Haller’s work – none doubts the centrality of his importance in the continuing reformation: The romantic picture of people from all sections of English society devoutly studying Acts and Monuments in their parish church needs to be modified in the light of the limits of both early modern book production and early modern literacy. No sixteenth-century book could hope to be read by more than a minority of the population, and the diffusion of Foxe’s work into the parish churches did not get seriously under way until the seventeenth century, reaching its height in the immediate aftermath of the civil war, just when his reputation was on the verge of a precipitous decline. Nevertheless through the first half of the seventeenth century Acts and Monuments was not merely a remarkably popular book but was one of immense, almost unquestioned, authority. It was also a work of direct relevance to its readers on a range of theological, apologetic, homiletic, and even political issues of central concern.51

Conclusion

Today’s historian is interested in more than explaining whether and why the Book of Martyrs was popular. Far more important is the fact that it was itself an agent of reformation in England. Schoolchildren are often taught that Foxe’s Martyrs was both popular and important, but most are left wondering why. The book’s popularity provides the latchkey to its importance. We 34

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 35

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

tend to forget that England in 1563 was only nominally Protestant – until the Settlement most English people had been conforming Catholics, and after it most, allege many historians, were but conforming Protestants. Foxe laid before these people a book with a clearly defined Protestant view of history and of the place of the English Reformation in that history. To concentrate upon its martyrological components is to minimize its wider importance. The martyrology helped it to make its point – that England and Elizabeth were elected by God to complete the Reformation. The work, in an age when books with popular appeal were few, was highly accessible – it told of the troubles and the courage both of humble men and women and of high and mighty princes; it stressed the agency of the monarch’s leadership (of Deborah’s good government), but certainly did not diminish the importance of the people’s service (the troops in the battle); and it put into story form events and teachings with which the majority of the people were either unfamiliar or but poorly acquainted. For both teacher and taught it provided a framework upon which could be hung otherwise incomprehensible events, strange happenings and apparently irreligious beliefs. Supported by other Protestant works and by numerous sermons, it gave the Reformation ‘form’ and ‘meaning’ for contemporaries. To appreciate its popularity and its importance we have to make a real effort of the imagination to see ourselves in a world of few books, poor communications and no public broadcasting or alternative distractions, striving to make sense of the jumble and turmoil of events in a society normally stable and now turned upside down. To the modern reader the Book of Martyrs may seem as one book among many. To the reader in 1563 it was the only book that continued the Bible history and told the story of contemporary religious and political events in a comprehensible manner. Notes 1

The best modern account of this process is to be found in G.D. Nicholson, ‘The nature and functions of historical argument in the Henrician Reformation’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, 1977), upon which I have relied considerably. For an important discussion see also Felicity Heal, ‘Appropriating history: Catholic and Protestant polemics and the national past’, in Paulina Kewes (ed.), The Uses of History in Early Modern 35

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 36

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

2 3 4 5 6 7 8

9 10 11 12 13

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

26 27 28 29 30 31

32 33

England (San Marino, CA, 2006), pp. 105–28. H. Walter (ed.), William Tyndale. Doctrinal Treatises … (Cambridge, Parker Society, 1848), p. xx. The Gospels of the Fower Evangelistes, 1571, sig. 92 r. E. Arber (ed.), English Reprints, 8 vols (1868), Vol. VIII, p. 138. H. Walter (ed.), William Tyndale, pp. 239–40. H. Walter (ed.), William Tyndale, pp. 458–9. H. Walter (ed.), William Tyndale, p. 334. M.C. Cross, ‘Churchmen and the royal supremacy’, in F. Heal and R. O’Day (eds), Church and Society in England, Henry VIII to James I (Basingstoke, 1977), pp. 15–34. Statutes of the Realm, The Act in Restraint of Appeals to Rome, 24 Henry VIII, chapter 12, 1533. G.R. Elton, Reform and Reformation, England 1509–1558 (1977), pp. 135–7. E. Foxe, De Vera Differentia Regiae Potestatis et Ecclesiasticae (1534), fos 22a and b. Nicholson, ‘Nature and functions of historical argument’, pp. 225–7. G.R. Elton, Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 74–5; Nicholson, ‘Nature and functions of historical argument’, pp. 216 ff. Elton, Reform and Reformation, pp. 199–200. W. Haller, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the Elect Nation (1963), pp. 13–14. M. Aston, ‘Lollardy and literacy’, History, 62 (1977), 347–71; R. O’Day, Education and Society in Britain, 1500–1800 (Hounslow, 1982). E. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1979), Vol. II, p. 423. H. Ellis (ed.), Raphael Holinshead, The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, 6 vols (1807–8). Matthew Parker, De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae (1572). J.F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (1940). Mozley, Foxe and his Book, p. 26. Mozley, Foxe and his Book, p. 59. Haller, Elect Nation, p. 39. By this is clearly meant the second person singular pronoun ‘thee’. V. de Sola Pinto and A.E. Rodway (eds), The Common Muse. An Anthology of Popular British Ballad Poetry 15th–20th Century (Allen Lane, 1965 edn), pp. 60–3. Haller, Elect Nation, p. 87. J.E. Neale, The Age of Catherine de Medici (1966). Haller, Elect Nation, p. 158. Tom Freeman, s.n. ‘John Foxe’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) (Oxford, 2004). Mozley, Foxe and his Book. M. Aston and Elizabeth Ingram, ‘The iconography of the Acts and Monuments’, in D. Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997), pp. 66–142. W. Thomas, The Pilgrim (1861 edn). T. Freeman, ‘Notes on a source for John Foxe’s account of the Marian perse36

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 37

HISTORIOGRAPHY 1525–70

34 35

36 37

38 39

40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49

50 51

cution in Kent and Sussex’, Historical Research, 67 (1994), pp. 203–11; T. Freeman, ‘Research, rumour and propaganda: Anne Boleyn in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’, Historical Journal, 38 (1995), 797–819. S.R. Cattley, The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe (1837), Vol. V, p. 697. M. Aston and Elizabeth Ingram, ‘The Iconography of the Acts and Monuments’ in D. Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997), pp. 66–142; R.S. Luborsky, ‘The Illustrations: Their pattern and plan’ in D.M. Loades (ed.), John Foxe: An historical perspective (Aldershot, 1999), pp. 67–84. Haller, Elect Nation, p. 124. T. Betteridge, ‘From prophetic to apocalyptic: John Foxe and the writing of history’, in D. Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997), pp. 210–32, esp. p. 212. Patrick Collinson, Edmund Grindal, 1519–1583: The Struggle for a Reformed Church (1979), p. 80. Collinson, Grindal, pp. 80–1. He goes on to explain how, when Grindal tried to put a brake on production of the history of the martyrs on Mary’s death, Foxe ignored his advice and produced in August 1559 the Rerum in ecclesia gestarum, which was in effect the first edition of the Book of Martyrs. S.R. Cattley, The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe (1837), Vol. III, pp. 718–22. Cattley, Acts and Monuments, Vol. I, Preface. Patricia Tooke, ‘Government and the printing trade, 1540–60’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of London, 1979). J. Ayre (ed.), Works of John Jewel, 4 vols (Cambridge, Parker Society, 1840–50), Vol. IV, p. 1275. Haller, Elect Nation, pp. 228–39. R. O’Day, ‘Immanuel Bourne: a defence of the ministry’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 27 (1977), 101–14. Huntington Library, STT CL&I Box 2, Item 14, Inventory of goods of Henry Knapp Esq of Rawlins, Oxon, taken 8 July 1674. J.N. King, ‘Fiction and fact in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’, in D. Loades, (ed.) John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997), pp. 12–35. John Foxe, Acts and Monuments …, Kindle e-edition, 1999. D. Loades, ‘The new edition of the Acts and Monuments: a progress report’, in D. Loades (ed.), John Foxe: An Historical Perspective (Aldershot, 1999), pp. 1–14. Aston and Ingram, ‘Iconography’, pp. 66–142. Freeman, s.n. ‘John Foxe’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004).

37

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 38

2

Interpretations of the Reformation from Fuller to Strype

Introduction

During the period between the first English edition of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments and the Restoration Settlement, not everyone accepted the martyrologist’s account of the Reformation or his interpretation of the nature of the Elizabethan Settlement. In a real sense the religious controversy that absorbed so many in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries concerned just this uncertainty – what was the nature of the Church of England? What were the practical implications of her reformation? Here it is not possible to examine the controversy within Protestantism in any detail. In fact, the arguments were rarely couched in more than very general historical terms. On the one hand, the Reformation was seen as incomplete and in need of furtherance; on the other, as something final – a blueprint for the future. In marked contrast was the Catholic response to these religious changes. It might be supposed that the Catholics, whose very existence was threatened by innovation, would have made an immediate appeal to history in defence of their ancient faith. But such an appeal would have dangerous political implications, and therefore many Catholics mainly addressed doctrinal issues in their polemical writing, and where possible avoided writing about recent changes to the Church. Many of their publications were in Latin and not destined for a popular audience. However, there were times when they had to focus upon the issue of authority within the Church and, perforce, the history of recent events.1 In 38

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 39

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

part this response was stimulated by Protestant attempts to appropriate the past, as Bishop John Jewel, for example, claimed that primitive practices had been preserved not by the Catholic Church but by the reformed Church of England. Because both Jewel in his so-called Challenge Sermon of 1560 and Foxe in his Acts and Monuments had framed their arguments about religious authority in ‘historical garb’, the Catholics were almost obliged to reply in kind. Thomas Stapleton and Robert Persons ‘devoted great effort to reappropriating the narrative history of English Christianity to their own faith’.2 Thomas Stapleton dedicated his translation of Bede to Elizabeth I, because therein she would see how the faith had been founded in England and how she had been misinformed by her counsellors.3 Polemicists and the use of history

As Felicity Heal has observed, not all controversialists in these early years thought that truth would be found in history. There was a wide range of views on all sides. Even Hooker was wary of basing his apology upon men’s traditions and Robert Abbot and Andrew Willet were both sceptical of the appeal to history.4 Peter Lake showed, in his discussion of William Fulker (who made considerable use of historical examples) and William Whitaker (who looked only to scripture), how moderate Puritans could also differ on the utility of history.5 Catholic exiles focused their energies upon an attack upon Elizabeth I’s authority.6 A group of scholars and theologians, including at different times Oxford-educated Robert Persons [also known as Parsons] SJ, Edmund Campion SJ, Cardinal William Allen, Thomas Harding, Thomas Stapleton and Nicholas Sander(s), found their way to Louvain. Early in Elizabeth’s reign they had hoped that Elizabeth would continue Mary’s church reforms and conform to Catholicism. When it became clear that she would not they eventually fled to Europe. Here they were influenced by the spirit of the Council of Trent,7 and here they urged upon the pope the need to excommunicate Elizabeth.8 One of these men, Nicholas Sander(s)9 (c.1531–81) wrote the De Origine ac Progressu Schismatici Anglicani, which has been described by a modern scholar as the ‘most complete “Exile” 39

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 40

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

history of the Reformation’.10 Actually Sander(s) never completed the work, although in 1579 he left notes for its completion, which were used by another exiled priest, Edward Rishton, in his efforts to edit the work, add new matter and publish.11 Elizabeth was the focus of his attack because it was she who was trying to make permanent what had, he alleged, been a temporary phase of Henry VIII’s religious policy. Pivotal to the exile’s case was Elizabeth’s parentage: her illegitimacy; her mother’s character. In order to prove his case Sander(s) used Pole’s works, diplomatic reports, letters and other documentary sources, including a lost life of John Fisher and Richard Hilliard’s history of the Reformation.12 Unfortunately, he also credited any rumour that would help his cause, including one that claimed that Anne Boleyn was Henry VIII’s daughter! This earned him the nickname ‘Dr Slander’. John Vidmar correctly observes that the exile historians, like their Protestant contemporaries, saw the issues in terms of black and white. This led to a ‘reductionism by which all complex motives and effects were consigned to the single sphere of religion. Thus Catholics were persecuted solely on the grounds of their being Catholic.’13 So the motivation for the Pilgrimage of Grace was a simple matter: When, therefore, they saw that under the cloak of banishing superstition nothing else was meant but stealing the sacred vessels, the silver crucifixes, the chalices that held the blood of Christ, together with all other things by which the churches were adorned, they took up arms.14

The very considerable body of work on the nature of the Pilgrimages of Grace gives the lie to this interpretation. One could not have expected that at that time any historian could have probed the motivations of participants in the way that modern scholars have, but Sander(s) was, in any event, ‘incapable of such qualification’. He ‘deliberately ignored any nuance which might have clouded his purpose’.15 Other exile historians such as Persons and Campion were also reductionists.16 Despite these failings, the exile historians pointed to the same conclusion that has been reached by many modern scholars – that the Reformation was truly about the location of authority within the Church and, therefore, about the papacy. Yet, as Vidmar 40

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 41

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

observes, the Reformation for the exile historians was also about ‘the heretical nature of the Reformation, the truth of Catholicism, and the reasons why Catholics could not attend the new English service . . . not solely questions of jurisdiction, but matters of theology . . .’.17 Sander(s)’s work was extremely influential. It ran into many editions and was incorporated in whole or in part into several European accounts. One of these, François Maucroix’s adaptation in Histoire du schisme d’Angleterre, says T.F. Mayer, ‘served as the proximate cause of Gilbert Burnet’s History of the Reformation and thus launched modern historiography of the English Reformation’.18 Peter Heylyn: redefining the relationship between Church and monarchy

There was one other notable attempt to rewrite the history of the Reformation from within the Church of England and, in so doing, to weaken the hold of the Book of Martyrs on the minds of English people. This occurred within the context of the Laudian attempt to redefine the relationship between Church and monarchy. In essence, the Laudians rejected Foxe’s belief that the nation could defeat Antichrist only with the leadership of the prince. ‘The Laudians dethroned the elect nation only to enthrone the elect Church.’19 Laud and his supporters wished to restore the autonomy of the English Church. This autonomous Church, ruled by bishops jure divino, would be used to bring about the defeat of Antichrist and the rule of Christ the King. In order to achieve this, the Laudians naturally had to convince the temporal powers by political argument that such a course of action was correct. Part of this political argument was a historical defence of such a position. The best-known apologist of the Laudian position was Dr Peter Heylyn (1599–1662). From early in his academic career at Oxford, Heylyn was convinced that the Foxian tradition was wrong: the Church of England stemmed not from the Wyclifite protest, as Foxe and others maintained, but from the primitive Church.20 He argued this in 1627 against Dr Prideaux, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford: 41

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 42

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

I fell upon a different way from that of Doctor Prideaux, the Professor, in his Lecture De Visibilitate Ecclesiae ... in which the visibility of the Protestant Church . . . was no otherwise proved, than by looking for it in the scattered conventicles of the Berengarians in Italy, the Waldenses in France, the Wicklifists in England, and the Hussites in Bohemia. Which manner of proceeding not being liked by the respondent, as that which utterly discontinued that succession of the hierarchy which the Church of England claims from the very Apostles and their immediate successors.21

In this early disputation (despite Heylyn’s then ‘puritan’ sympathies) can be found the seeds of Heylyn’s much later argument in Ecclesia Restaurata: that Anglicanism was the purified Catholic Church; that its bishops were in the direct apostolic succession, deriving their authority not from the Crown but from God through the laying on of hands; that the relationship between the temporal and spiritual powers was not as Foxe had conceived it. Anthony Milton has explained that, while Heylyn was certainly a polemicist, he was not a mere ‘mouthpiece of the authorities’. It is incorrect simply to brand Heylyn as a government propagandist. . . . his time as an official apologist for the government was very short, and indeed exceptional. The vast bulk of his writing was not commissioned by the authorities at all. Moreover, . . . for much of his time in government service Heylyn did not act simply as a ‘hired pen’, supplying printed works to order. Rather he provided a range of services . . . He drew no official salary, had no formal position at court, and his actions often had a distinct personal agenda to them. As with his printed writings, it is often pertinent to ponder who exactly was using whom in Heylyn’s relationship with the authorities.22

William Laud recognized in this arch-enemy of John Williams, Dean of Westminster, an able protagonist and he quickly enlisted Heylyn’s services. Heylyn had formerly been an ardent Protestant but now he delivered a sermon against the Puritan Feoffees for Impropriations in Oxford in 1630 (of whom his uncle Rowland Heylyn was a prominent member),23 and he prepared the case against the Feoffees and against Prynne’s Histriomastix for Attorney General Noy. Most important of all, he began to collect materials for a history of the English Reformation and to prepare 42

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 43

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

historical defences for the retention of episcopacy and for the English liturgy. The Civil War intervened, however, and Heylyn put the work to one side. At the Restoration, Heylyn was restored to his prebendal stall at Westminster. Thus being settled in Westminster, he fell upon the old work of building again and repairing, which is the costly pleasure of clergymen, for the next generation, because building is like planting, the chief benefit of which accrues to their successors that live in another age.24

The same might have been said for Heylyn’s Ecclesia Restaurata, which did not appear until 1661, or the History of Episcopacy and the History of Liturgies, which were published with other pieces under the title Historical and Miscellaneous Tracts in 1681. Yet the timing of publication was most apposite, given that the Restoration involved a definition of the nature of the reformed Church of England, of the origins and character of its authority, and of its relationship with the Crown and Parliament. Heylyn’s History of the Reformation recounted happenings from the reign of Edward VI down to 1566, after sketching in the contribution made by Henry VIII. There is a sense in which it presented no new facts of significance – even the documents it introduced were generally already in print – but it certainly threw a new light on the Reformation. Heylyn was in no doubt that what today we call the ‘official’ Reformation was not the real reformation of the Church: rather, it opened the way for a much deeper religious reformation. While acknowledging Henry VIII’s importance, Heylyn yet maintained that the King had remained a Catholic until his death: The work first hinted by a Prince of an undaunted spirit, the master of as great a courage as the world had any; and to say truth, the work required it. He durst not else have grappled with that mighty adversary, who, claiming to be successor to St Peter in the see of Rome, and Vicar-general to Christ over all the church, had gained unto himself an absolute sovereignty over all Christian kings and princes in the Western Empire. But this king, being violently hurried with the transport of some private affections, and finding that the Pope appeared the greatest obstacle to his desire, he first divested him by 43

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 44

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

degrees of that supremacy . . . and, finally, extinguished his authority in the realm of England, without noise or trouble, to the great admiration and astonishment of the rest of the Christian world. This opened the first way to the Reformation, and gave encouragement to those who inclined unto it: to which the King afforded no small countenance, out of political ends, by suffering them to have the Bible in the English tongue, and to enjoy the benefit of such godly tracts as openly discovered the corruptions of the Church of Rome. But, for his own part, he adhered to his old religion, severely persecuted those who dissented from it, and died (though excommunicated) in the faith and doctrine which he had sucked in, as it were, with his mother’s milk.25

During the reign of Edward VI the Reformation proceeded. It was not, however, the minor on the throne, ‘just, mild and gracious’, who offered leadership. No: his ‘name was made a property to serve turns withal, and his authority abused’. The furtherance of the Reformation was instead ‘endeavoured by some godly bishops, and other learned and religious men, of the lower clergy, out of judgement and conscience; who managed the affair according to the Word of God, the practice of the primitive times, the general current and consent of the old catholic doctors, but not without an eye to such foreign churches as seemed to have most consonancy to the ancient forms’. But it was also promoted by great courtiers ‘who, under colour of removing such corruptions as remained in the Church, had cast their eyes upon the spoil of shrines and images (though still preserved in the greatest part of the Lutheran Churches), and the improving of their own fortunes by the chantry lands’. Still, the Reformation continued apace and the publication of the Book of Homilies and the first prayer book was in accordance, Heylyn believed, with the Holy Spirit. It was John Calvin who spoilt it all: he criticized the liturgy and engineered the growth of a ‘Zwinglian faction’, which urged doctrinal and disciplinary innovations. The success of this tendency was encouraged when John a Lasco was permitted to set up a church, distinct in government and worship from the established Church. It expressed itself with a concerted attack on vestments, on church furniture, and on the liturgy.26 When Mary came to the throne at Edward’s death, she restored the country to Catholicism. She made the reformers pay 44

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 45

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

dearly for their past activities, ‘whose blood she caused to be poured forth like water, in most parts of the kingdom, but nowhere more abundantly than in Bonner’s slaughter-house’. Meanwhile, in exile, the reformers fell out among themselves, there being a schism between the Genevans and others. ‘Which woeful schism, so wretchedly begun in a foreign nation, they laboured to promote by all sinister practices in the Church of England, when they returned from exile in the following reign. The miserable effects, whereof we feel too sensibly and smartly, to this very day!’27 Elizabeth’s reign, for Heylyn, signalled the restoration of the pure Reformation. Elizabeth is portrayed as a committed Protestant whose understanding of the wishes of her people and whose experience made her determined to ‘satisfy the piety of their desire’ once she had the power to do it. The liturgy, the creed and the government of the Church were returned to their former condition. The apostolic succession was confirmed. The Queen asserted her temporal and spiritual supremacy. She prevented the laity from encroaching upon the authority of the Church. She held at bay the Puritan faction. There are, in this history, many notable features. Heylyn, unlike Foxe and his adherents, does not present the princes of England as friends of the Church of England. ‘All that was done in order to it under Henry the Eighth, seemed to be accidental only, and by the by, rather designed on private ends, than out of any settled purpose to restore the Church; and therefore intermitted, and resumed again, as those ends had variance.’ Indeed, thought Heylyn, the Tudors were arch-despoilers of the Church. Both Henry and Edward ravaged her wealth. Even Mary did not restore her lands. And Elizabeth – committed to the reformed Church of England as she was – appeared yet more culpable. Deliberately, she kept sees vacant until she had profited from them and robbed them by advantageous exchanges. Here Heylyn laid his finger on that plunder of the Church as an institution, the extent of which exercised twentieth-century historians. Heylyn showed himself equally aware of the implications of this weakened economic position for the Church as, for example, Christopher Hill or Felicity Heal.28 Heylyn’s attitude to Elizabeth may appear confused. Yes, she despoiled the Church. But she also was, in every sense, a daughter 45

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 46

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

of the Reformation – political and religious. So Heylyn portrays her mother, Anne Boleyn, as a ‘great and gallant lady, – one of the most remarkable mockeries and dispirts of firthuen which these last ages have produced: raised from the quality of a private lady to the bed of a King, crowned on the throne, and executed on the scaffold’, to the last protesting her innocence.29 This was an explicit contradiction of the version of Anne presented by the Catholic propagandist Nicholas Sander(s) in his The Origins and Progress of the Anglican Schism. Sander(s) viewed Anne as morally and physically deformed, as the temptress who was ultimately responsible for the break with Rome and the subsequent fate of Catholics in England.30 So, Heylyn maintains that Elizabeth was a Protestant during her brother’s reign. So, he urges that, for political reasons, Elizabeth appreciated that she must declare this Protestantism. ‘She knew full well that her legitimation and the Pope’s supremacy could not stand together, and that she could not possibly maintain the one without the discarding of the other.’31 Her political acumen was such that ‘it concerned her to walk very warily, and not to unmask herself too much at once, for fear of giving an alarm to the papal party before she had put herself into a posture of ability to make good her actions’.32 Heylyn was convinced that Elizabeth had intended a return to that model of the primitive church revealed in the liturgy, the Thirty-Nine Articles and the established government of the Church through bishops. Disorder and disunity resulted from a coincidence of circumstances. Briefly speaking, there was a faction that wanted further and more radical change in the Church – in its doctrine, discipline and government. For a variety of reasons Elizabeth was forced to use members of this faction to govern her new Church, with, according to Heylyn, disastrous consequences: So it was, that, partly by the deprivation of these few persons, but principally by the death of so many in the last year’s sickness [influenza] epidemic, there was not a sufficient number of learned men to supply the cures; which filled the Church with an ignorant and illiterate clergy, whose learning went no further than the Liturgy or the Book of Homilies, but otherwise conformable (which was no small felicity) to the rules of the Church. And on the other side, many were raised to great preferments who, having spent their time in exile in such foreign churches as followed the platform of Geneva, 46

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 47

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

returned so disaffected to Episcopal Government, unto the rites and ceremonies here by law established, as not long after filled the Church with most sad disorders, not only to the breaking of the bond of peace but to the grieving and extinguishing of the spirit of unity.33

These men disagreed with the form of the Church of England and remained thorns in her side: Laurence Humphrey would ‘pass amongst the nonconformists’; Thomas Cartwright would ‘prove an unextinguished firebrand to the Church of England’.34 Heylyn’s narrative allowed him to solve several problems. He could demonstrate the enabling activity of Henry VIII and his successors while yet denying that they perpetrated the real reformation; he could defend the reputation of the early reformers – Cranmer, for example; he could condemn the despoiling of the Church; he could defend Elizabeth’s settlement as a return to Cranmer’s Church; he could show the returned exiles and leaders of Elizabeth’s early years on the throne as belonging to a distinct and foreign tradition; he could praise Elizabeth for keeping at bay the threat of that further reformation, which Foxe and others had seen as her mission to promote. Some scholars have dismissed Heylyn as a polemicist whose views never changed. More recently, however, there has been an appreciation of him as one who saw himself not as a theologian but as a historian, who sought to use the facts to demonstrate an interpretation of the past. It would be unfair, however, simply to disregard Heylyn’s scholarly pretensions. He was certainly no theologian, but he did regard himself as a historian, and in this guise he devoted himself to the service of the church and state. His works display an increasing obsession with the view that all disputes could ultimately be reduced to matters of historical fact, and, for all his distortions, he usually deployed a more assured command of much greater bodies of materials than did his rivals. His conviction that scholarship should serve direct political purposes was in step with the convictions of the time.35

One of the most important features of Heylyn’s account was that it stressed the continuity of tradition between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. The apostolic succession had been retained. The deprived Marian bishops, for example, were still bishops, although their activities were suspended, because 47

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 48

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Marian orders were recognized as valid.36 When Bishop Bonner refused to acknowledge the validity of Horn’s Edwardian ordination, Elizabeth confirmed the continuity of orders: All bishops as were consecrated by that Ordinal in the times precedent, or should be consecrated by it in the time to come, should be reputed to be lawfully ordained and consecrated, to all intents and purposes in the law whatsoever.37

Heylyn was above all a clericalist and this coloured his history. One of Heylyn’s major concerns was also to defend the authority and power of the church against an overweening parliament. From the 1640s onwards he was motivated by the desire to defend the power of Convocation. By the mid 1640s he was convinced that the English Reformation had been the work not of Parliament but of Convocation.38 Heylyn’s history was, therefore, a Protestant history – he was no Roman – but it was a very different Protestant history from that penned by Foxe. It was a history that stressed the continuity between the English Church and the Catholic Church stripped of the accretions of past centuries. It was a history that acknowledged, albeit briefly, such aid as the Crown had given to the process of reformation but that demonstrated the mixed motives of the monarchy and maintained the autonomy of the Church of England. It urged the purity of the Church’s doctrine and discipline. It emphasized the strength of beauty and holiness. It abhorred attacks upon the authority of the bishops; the liturgy and forms of worship; the wealth of the Church; the historical forms of Church government. Probably much criticism of Heylyn as an unscrupulous polemicist derives from the fact that his views were so influential. Heylyn’s book appeared in print just seven years after Thomas Fuller’s The Church History of Britain (1655),39 which has recently been described as the first comprehensive Protestant history of the English Church, and must have seemed to be a response to it. Fuller’s work, which was in its turn a reply to the various Catholic detailed versions of English Church history since the break with Rome, bore witness to the continued strength of the Foxian apocalyptic vision. It also displayed its author’s moderation and toleration. While Fuller (1593–1667) was, like Heylyn, a cleric who served in Charles II’s Church, he held different views. 48

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 49

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

For example, he believed that episcopacy was the form of church government which most nearly approximated that of the primitive church, but he maintained that it was not a necessary mark of a correct, reformed church. For this reason, Fuller had been able to serve the Church under the Protectorate also. These views were anathema to a man of Heylyn’s persuasion: for Heylyn the rule of the Church by a properly constituted episcopate was axiomatic. Gilbert Burnet’s rebuttal of Nicholas Sander(s)

More influential than Fuller’s Church History was Gilbert Burnet’s History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1679–1714).40 Burnet (1643–1715) was a Scot (the son of a prominent non-covenanting advocate and a Presbyterian mother of strong character), who began his career as a lawyer in Scotland but then entered the Church. In 1664 he spent some time at the English court, joined the newly formed Royal Society and took up the living of Saltoun in East Lothian, using the Anglican prayers. At about this time he produced a memorial against the abuses of the bishops: ‘I laid my foundation on the constitution of the primitive church, and showed how they departed from it.’ He persisted in attempts to bring about a diminution of the power of bishops, allying with Archbishop Leighton of Glasgow. Meanwhile he cemented his close relations with Charles II and James of York. He was promoted to the Chair of Divinity at Glasgow in 1660 and continued to further the cause of moderation. In 1671 he was called to London, where he occupied a position of great influence with Secretary Lauderdale. But he fell from favour when Lauderdale changed his policy, and underwent considerable persecution. In the mid to late 1670s he spent his time writing and engaging in debate with Roman Catholics. In 1676 he produced his Vindication of the Ordinations of the Church of England. And he listened to the urgings of Sir William Jones, Attorney-General, that he write a history of the Reformation. Its publication during the uproar caused by the Popish Plot earned Burnet the praise of Parliament. Burnet’s plain speaking to Charles II and the Duke of York lost him their favour, however, and the implication of his friends in the Rye House Plot put him under suspicion. When James ascended the throne, Burnet was forced into exile and 49

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 50

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

became part of the Prince of Orange’s circle at The Hague. He played a supportive role in the Revolution and was rewarded with the bishopric of Salisbury. In the House of Lords he stood up for the principles of moderation and toleration. Why did Burnet write his History of the Reformation? In the preface to this work, Burnet explained. The Catholic Nicholas Sander(s) had attacked the English Reformation with, Burnet alleged, great scurrility in his De Origine et Progressu Schismatis Anglicani libri tres, first published in Latin in Cologne in 1585 and reprinted in English before Burnet wrote. But there was nothing of weight to counter his charges: Fox [sic], for all his voluminous work, had but few things in his eye when he made his collection, and designed only to discover the corruptions and cruelties of the Roman clergy, and the sufferings and constancy of the reformers. But his work was written in hast, and there are so many defects in it, that it can by no means be called a complete history of these times.41

and Doctor Heylin wrote smoothly and handsomely, his method and style are good, and his work was generally more read than anything that had appeared before him: but either he was very ill-informed or very much led by his passions; and he being wrought on by most violent prejudices against some that were concerned in that time, delivers many things in such a manner, and so strangely, that one could think he had been secretly set on to it by those of the Church of Rome, though I doubt not he was a sincere Protestant.

In the absence of a complete history, well authenticated, the bald account told by the Catholics ‘being that it was begun by the lusts and passion of king Henry the Eighth, carried on by the ravenousness of the Duke of Somerset under Edward the Sixth, and confirmed by the policy of Queen Elizabeth and her council to secure her title’ was given credence. So Burnet, helped by Jones and by William Lloyd, produced his answer to Sander(s). His narrative attempted to explain the relationship between the policy of England’s monarchs and the religious reformation in a way which would preserve the achievement of the reformers. He acknowledged that Henry VIII had sought a break with Rome for personal reasons and had ravaged 50

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 51

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

the Church. He was ‘the postilion of the Reformation, made way for it through a great deal of mire and filth’. ‘I am not to defend him, nor to lessen his faults’, protested Burnet, but God used ‘to employ princes who had great mixtures of very gross faults to do signal things for his service’. He confessed that the behaviour of Cranmer and others had, on occasion, been less than heroic, but he defended Cranmer against the charge of servility. With hindsight, members of the reformed Church might know how Cranmer should have acted, but at the time the correct route was far from clear. Cranmer and his associates were groping for truth and ‘after all this, it must be confessed they were men’. And against the charge of inconstancy Burnet set Cranmer’s real achievements and his proofs of penitence and humility at the end.42 Burnet’s History drew upon materials in the Cotton Library and upon sources contributed by John Evelyn and others. He was anxious to offer to the reader a well-documented account of the Reformation. In point of fact, the History is, for the most part, a collection of printed sources, but these are pushed into appendices in support of Burnet’s interpretation. But Burnet reflected little on the problems of selection. That authentication of the ‘facts’ was perhaps the least of a historian’s problems was not considered. A paragraph from the recent entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), which later describes Burnet as an undiscriminating journalist, sums up the problematic nature of Burnet’s historian’s credentials: Ever since the appearance of Bishop Burnet’s History of his Own Time it has been the subject of great controversy. . .. Not all the attention was favourable, and Burnet’s critics, of whom there were many, fell over themselves to excoriate it. The margins of Jonathan Swift’s personal copy of it are filled with vitriolic comments such as ‘dunce’ and ‘Scotch dog’. The nonjuring Jacobite John Cockburn called it ‘a History full of Errors and Falsehoods’. Yet even his enemies were far from united in this opinion. Francis Atterbury, the tory high-church cleric who eventually turned Jacobite, . . . exclaimed in frustration: ‘Damn him, he has told a great deal of truth, but where the devil did he learn it?’43

All the historians who have been mentioned in this chapter were concerned to show the correctness of their accounts. Thomas Fuller dwelt considerably upon the need for the historian to be 51

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 52

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

impartial, well documented, critical and sceptical, avoiding the contemporary and renouncing bias: I know Machiavel was wont to say that he who undertakes to write a history must be of no religion. If so, he, himself, was the best qualified of any in his age to be a good historian. But I believe his meaning was much better than his words; intending therein that a writer of histories must not discover his inclination in religion to the prejudice of truth . . . This I have endeavoured to my utmost in this book; knowing that oil is adjuged the best which hath no taste at all, so that historian is preferred who hath the least tang of partial reflection.44

If Fuller’s idea that by quoting his sources he divorced himself from the opinions expressed therein was a new one, it was certainly one which Burnet shared. Burnet, however, felt that more was needed. He criticized Heylyn for not giving references and pledged his own intention to provide full references and bibliography. He declared his own bias against the Catholics, but maintained that he made a conscious effort to look dispassionately at the evidence and draw conclusions based upon it rather than his own prejudices. In fact, Burnet acknowledged that when he checked some of Foxe’s references he found that Foxe was accurate. Craig Robertson, Heylyn’s nineteenth-century editor, claimed that Burnet, a critic of Heylyn’s methodology, had rarely had cause to correct Heylyn’s detail in his own account. The point, however, was that full annotation gave the reader the opportunity to check up on the interpretation or facts offered, while in their absence the reader was helpless. Heylyn had used many sources, including the registers of Convocation and the Cotton Library, but because he neglected to give references he was unable to prove that he concealed ‘nothing out of fear, nor [spoke] anythings for favour; [delivered] nothing for a truth without good authority; but so [delivered] that truth as to witness for me, that I am neither biassed by love or hatred, nor over-swayed by partiality and corrupt affections’.45 John Strype’s narrative history of the Reformation

John Strype (1643–1737) shared Burnet’s desire to write a true history of the Reformation, but with Strype, as with Burnet, the 52

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 53

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

attempt to write such a history has to be set within the context of a contemporary debate. The Reformation once again became the focus for heated debate in the early years of the eighteenth century. The immediate occasion was the controversy over different types of churchmanship within the Church of England. On 5 October 1709, Dr Henry Sacheverell preached a sermon attacking Archbishop Tenison and other Whig divines who had maintained the Act of Toleration of 1689 and upheld liberty of conscience.46 Sacheverell cloaked his real purpose by naming Edmund Grindal, Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury, as the object of his attack. Like most of his contemporaries he saw nothing strange or a-historical about drawing direct parallels between his own age and past times. In his work there was a simple equation: Grindal was Tenison; Elizabeth I the duped Queen Anne. Sacheverell’s attack on ‘that false son of the Church Bishop Grindall’ drew forth spirited defences of the bishop. One of these was the very strange Strange News from the Dead, which purported to be a letter written by Grindal from heaven in his own defence. Better known by far to posterity is A Brief and True Character and Account of Edmund Grindall, a laudatory tract by John Strype, vicar of Low Leyton, Essex. Strype followed this by a History of the Life and Acts of Edmund Grindal, which boasted a dedication to Archbishop Tenison himself. It is tempting to see Strype’s defence of Grindal as the work of a partisan in contemporary church politics. His action certainly earned him Tenison’s attention and he received preferment from the Archbishop in 1711. What looked like outright lobbying for place lost Strype many friends. Strype held definite views about the nature of the Church of England. He had long been active in support of these views. But to see the Life of Grindal as the product of a search for patronage or even of Strype’s conception of the established Church is to ignore the reality of Strype’s absorption in the history of the Tudor period. If we are to understand and evaluate the contribution which Strype made to the debate about the English Reformation, then we must understand the nature of his commitment to Tudor history.47 John Strype was born in 1643 to parents of Dutch extraction who were living in London.48 His father, a naturalized Briton, 53

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 54

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

died some four years later at the age of thirty-nine, leaving his widow, Hester, and five children. On his death-bed the elder Strype, long consumed by the vision that ‘these little fists shall thump the pulpit one day’, made Hester promise to educate John up to the ministry. As a result, John went to Mistress Howard’s day school when he was five, moving when he was seven to board at a private school in Eltham, Kent. After that both he and his brother Samuel were educated by Robert Skingle, MA. When John was fourteen he transferred to St Paul’s, where he remained for four years. Because of his academic abilities, Strype was given the personal attention of the Highmaster, Samuel Cromesholme, learning Hebrew, Syriac, Latin and Greek. His favoured position in the school earned him the hatred of the Lowmaster – William Cox – who victimized him. When Strype was severely beaten for an offence which he had not committed, he fled the school ‘without books or hat’, and returned only on the guarantee of the Highmaster that the Lowmaster ‘would be warned never to middle with him’. In accord with his late father’s ambitions, John entered Jesus College, Cambridge as a Pauline exhibitioner in 1661, transferring to St Catherine Hall in 1663 when the religious and political climate of Jesus became uncongenial. Strype’s position on conformity was intriguing. His family had supported the Parliamentary Presbyterians after 1649, and his sister and brother-in-law, Hester and John Johnson, had actually provided a haven for Nonconformist ministers in London during the early 1660s. Strype moved from Jesus on religious grounds. Yet, at St Catherine’s, Strype was very much influenced by John Lightfoot, the Master, who was a Presbyterian during the Interregnum but who conformed in 1662. John Strype was won over to a conformist Anglican position. In 1666 he was ordained both deacon and priest in the Church of England. Strype came to regard the refusal to conform as abhorrent. By 1674 he was categorizing Nonconformists as schismatic. A letter to his friend Richard Salter in December of that year bears witness to Strype’s view that the children of Nonconformists should be compulsorily catechized, with, if necessary, civil penalties.49 Strype’s devotion to the English Church and his conviction that it must not be undermined by schismatics of either the nonconformist Protestant or Romanist persuasions is clear. Why 54

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 55

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

he should have become so involved with the history of the English Reformation is perhaps less obvious, although his churchmanship, in fact, had much bearing upon this involvement. There were three main reasons. One was his inner conviction that the Church of England had been established by divine providence working through the Reformation. The way of the Church of England was the true way for the Christian. It was, therefore, a matter of extreme importance to show what the way of the Church of England was, particularly given the differing contemporary opinions on this very point. Accounts of the Reformation became crucial to this exercise. Another reason for Strype’s interest in Reformation history was a combination of opportunity and scholarly inclination. Strype’s patron at Low Leyton was Sir William Hicks, the descendant of that William Hicks who had been Lord Burghley’s secretary. In 1680 Hicks discovered Burghley’s papers in his possession and he consulted Strype, already a scholar and an antiquary. Strype at first advised publication, but when he appreciated the size of the collection he realized that this was scarcely feasible.50 Then, intrigued, he questioned John Laughton, Keeper of the Cambridge University Library, on the matter of other materials which might supplement the Cecil manuscripts to provide the basis for a history of the Reformation and of lives of the Elizabethan archbishops. In 1689 he began a search for the papers of Matthew Parker. In 1690 he secured access to Lambeth Palace Library from Archbishop Sancroft and started to use Nicholas Batteley to do research at Lambeth. When he checked the text of Josselin’s annotated life of Parker and Gilbert Burnet’s History of the Reformation against the manuscripts registers, he began to realize that he would have to be a historian and not just an editor. Between January 1691 and February 1693 Batteley addressed many letters to Strype making detailed and telling criticisms of Burnet’s treatment, especially of Elizabeth’s reign.51 The idea formed in Strype’s mind that he might produce a careful corrective to Burnet’s history of Elizabeth’s reign, using primary sources to tell the tale. By the spring of 1692 he was contemplating an even more ambitious project, to cover the history of the entire Reformation period from Henry VIII onwards. Finally, and it was a relatively minor consideration, publication provided a means to attract the attention of eminent patrons. In 1684 he had used his 55

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 56

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

edition of Lightfoot’s works and biography to bring himself to Compton’s notice.52 Now he hoped to achieve national acclaim and patronage by writing a true history of the Reformation – a monumental work which would raise Strype’s standing while at the same time lowering that of Gilbert Burnet. His project won him Tenison’s regard and esteem, although Strype’s unwillingness to compromise himself by toeing the party line was occasionally a source of grievance. Strype, then, became involved in interpreting the English Reformation as a result of his complacent Anglicanism, his antiquarian and scholarly interests, and his ambition. These facts have a direct bearing on his answer to Sacheverell’s diatribe. The defence of Grindal was not a defence of nonconformity or tolerance, but an indignant response to the suggestion that Grindal himself had been subversive. Strype wished to show that this was an evident misreading of the past. Although Whigs used the works on Grindal as a defence of Tenison, Strype had not written them as such. He was happy enough to see Tenison benefiting from his penmanship, but his own interest was in something very different – a defence of the past. Strype was used by Whig Parliamentarians and the Low Church party.53 Strype’s contribution to the historiography of the Reformation was unparalleled. The Life of Grindal formed part of a programme which covered the entire Reformation period. 54 Strype wanted to give a narrative account of the English Reformation to illuminate the manuscript collection in his possession: the Hicks and Foxe manuscripts. In other words, contemporaries would tell their own story. This programme was to an extent interrupted and to an extent complemented by a number of popular biographies designed to make money and to finance the greater works. Strype’s published historical writings commenced with a life of Cranmer, published in 1693. He then went on to write a life of Matthew Parker, Elizabeth’s first Archbishop of Canterbury. This was completed by late 1695, but its publication was delayed while Strype worked on the reigns of Edward and Mary, and while the bishops considered the content of the manuscript. In the summer of 1696 Strype handed both books over to the publishers, but their publication was further delayed by the opposition of the 56

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 57

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

bench of bishops and by a serious paper shortage. Shortly before this, however, the bookseller Thomas Cockerill suggested to Strype that he write a series of lives of eminent people aimed at a more popular audience. When Strype replied to him in June 1696 he was not overly enthusiastic, but he nevertheless took up the idea and began work on a life of Sir Thomas Smith. This was published in 1698 in a cheap octavo format and was a commercial success. Encouraged, Strype began to work on a similar life of Bishop Aylmer. Simultaneously he was trying to publish his work on Edward VI on a subscription basis. In 1699 Archbishop Tenison obtained access for him to the State Papers, which he used in connection with both works. In March 1701 he published his Life of Aylmer, while engaged upon the life of John Cheke. The Life of John Cheke was published in February 1705. By 1707 work on the Life of Grindal was already well under way and Strype was also seeking, unsuccessfully, Tenison’s support for the publication of his monumental Annals of the Reformation. Publication by subscription seemed the only way: accordingly, during 1708, Strype secured sufficient subscribers and published the Annals in January 1709. The works on Archbishop Grindal, published in 1710, preceded the publication of the Life of Parker (1711) and the Life of Whitgift (1717). The entire corpus of Strype’s writings was completed with the publication of the multi-volume Ecclesiastical Memorials and Annals of the Reformation between 1721 and 1729. Strype’s works on the English Reformation are of supreme importance to scholars. More than any other historian, he laid the foundations for the modern study of the Reformation in England and of English church history in general. There can be no question that he wished to write a true account of the sixteenth-century Reformation, based upon an exhaustive use of the original sources. He wanted to protect the past against abuse by contemporaries, who were willing to misinterpret historical events to suit their present propagandist purposes. Church historians even now rely on Strype’s massive tomes. But how reliable is Strype’s history? How scientific was his work? How sound was his interpretation? Let us hear the case for the defence. Strype certainly approached his historical work in scholarly 57

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 58

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

fashion. He was much influenced by his old mentor, John Lightfoot, whose standards of rigorous biblical criticism Strype applied to historical documents both primary and secondary. He shared Lightfoot’s critical sense and his awareness of the superior value of original manuscript sources. Lightfoot had also held the view that biblical writings could not be detached from a historical understanding of the context in which they were penned. All this helps to explain why Strype’s works consist of documentary sources with a supporting historical narrative.55 In his work Strype strove to be impartial. He did not overlook material which cast an unpleasant shadow on the pure origins of his beloved established Church. For instance, he noted Lord Burghley’s alienation of Church lands and revenues for his own personal profit.56 Strype wanted to produce a true narrative account. He had criticized Burnet for misinterpreting the Reformation. He criticized Sacheverell similarly. True to his word, he showed himself more than willing to correct his own errors of fact and interpretation. There are many examples of this willingness, but perhaps the most notable is Strype’s readiness to revise his opinion of Bishop Bonner after his initial acceptance of John Foxe’s account. In Strype’s defence as a historian of worth, we cite above all his determination to unearth all the original sources necessary to construct his histories. He gained access to the Foxe manuscripts, to the official papers of the Province of Canterbury at Lambeth, to the Hicks papers, to the State Papers, to the Parker manuscripts and to the Wharton Papers. He employed researchers to search these records for him. He drew to the attention of contemporary and future historians the existence, whereabouts and importance of the major collections. The defence rests. The case for the prosecution is, however, a strong one. Strype’s works are defective as history, it maintains, not because his intentions were not laudable – they undoubtedly were – but because their execution faltered. How so? Firstly, Strype set great store upon accuracy and the use of primary sources but, unfortunately, he did not always practise what he preached. He was horrified by the errors of interpretation which he encountered in Burnet, yet his own researcher, Nicholas Batteley, let him down grievously. The Life of Cranmer, published 58

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 59

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

in December 1693, was not well received, at least in part because it was shown to contain many errors. This was due to Batteley’s habit of using transcripts of the manuscripts rather than the originals. When Anthony Hamer published his A Specimen of Some Errors and Defects in Bishop Burnet’s History of the Reformation (1693, passim), it became evident that Batteley had not even located the errors in Burnet for himself! Strype was not particularly fortunate in his next researcher, either: Thomas Harrison proved too old and worn out for the task of rigorous source raiding. Strype’s later researcher, Thomas Baker, was much more vigilant. Some of Strype’s unreliability can be put down to his researchers, but not all. Strype boasted of his own care in transcribing original manuscripts, but the modern scholar is often shocked by ‘Strype’s loose, inaccurate mode of copying, and his great liability to mistake’. There are several examples in the Life of Cranmer where Strype misread words; omitted phrases and passages without indication; and even conflated different documents without informing his reader of the fact. S.R. Maitland believed that this was because Strype often wrote his volumes on the basis of notes and transcripts made years before, by which time ‘he had in great degree forgotten what they were about, and whether they were extracts, abstracts or full copies’. He was more reliable when quoting from papers in his continued possession – the Foxe or Burghley papers – than from notes and transcripts on other collections. Yet mistakes are distressingly frequent, whatever the source. On points of detail, Strype was slipshod.57 It is in most cases possible to check Strype’s errors of transcription – the documents which he quoted and used are still available. The scholar does not find such a task onerous – no historian worth his or her salt would quote a document from a secondary source without checking its accuracy against the original. The student may not find the task so easy – if the detail in Strype and the interpretation in Strype are unreliable, then the generalist student and reader either will be blissfully unaware of this fact (or at least of the location of the mistakes) or will not have the equipment or time at his disposal to check the account. Yet more serious by far are the defects in Strype’s interpretation of events, often arising from such errors of detail and slipshod technique. For example, James Cargill Thompson showed that 59

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 60

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Strype was the first church historian to declare that Bancroft’s Paul’s Cross sermon represented the first statement by a postReformation Anglican divine of the jure divino theory of episcopacy. Thompson also demonstrated that Strype made this leap, which others like Peter Heylyn and Collier had not, because he ‘carelessly misinterpreted a piece of documentary evidence . . . [H]e rashly assumed that a syllogism by Sir Francis Knollys, attacking an unnamed preacher for maintaining that bishops enjoyed their superior authority “jure divino” must refer to Bancroft’s sermon, when, in fact – as he should have observed – it explicitly referred to a sermon preached on a different date.’ Thompson drew attention to Strype’s equally careless handling of the relationship between the committee of divines set up by Elizabeth as a result of the Device for alteration of religion in order to draw up a prayer-book and the committee of divines who in fact revised the 1559 Prayer Book. He leapt to the conclusion that they were one and the same, without one shred of solid, incontrovertible evidence to that effect.58 Another serious problem arises with regard to Strype’s interpretation. Strype believed that the sources would speak for themselves and would always tell the truth. It was important, therefore, to quote archival sources. In this work I have pursued truth with all forthfullness and sincerity. My relations of things are not hearsays, not taken up at secondhand, or compiled out of other men’s published writings; but I have gone as near the fountainhead as possible, that is, to archives, state papers, registers, records and original letters, or else to books of good credit, printed in those times, directing more surely to the knowledge of how affairs then stood.59

And I have chosen commonly to set down things in the very words of the records and originals, and of the authors themselves, rather than in my own, without framing and dressing them into more modern language; thereby the sense is sure to remain entire as the writers meant it. Whereas by affecting too curiously to change and model words, the sense itself, I have observed, often to be marred and disguised.60

60

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 61

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

Thus naively did Strype ignore the whole problem of source selection, of the possibility that the sources themselves told only one side of the story. His works, as a result, reflect the biases of the sources which he relied upon most heavily – the Foxe manuscripts, the State Papers, the papers of the bishops and archbishops of the Church of England. Roman Catholics and Puritans alike are under-represented. He sees the English Reformation through the eyes of the establishment and not through the eyes of the critical historian. He did not read the sources, consider their virtues and defects, and then write his own informed account of what happened and why. Instead, he viewed the sources as ‘Holy Writ’, incapable of challenge. Modern historians still quarry his works for sources long lost, but they remark ‘on his neglect of chronology, his want of critical sense, and his transcriptions which were often silently abridged or poorly referenced. Strype followed the contemporary practice of arranging his materials by year, writing in the form of annals. His habit of gathering and including irrelevant material, together with his lack of critical analysis of his sources, were in keeping with the historiographical practice of his time.’61 If the charge be that Strype was unreliable in his handling of the evidence, then the prosecution case seems proven. If, however, the charge is that Strype did not approach his history in the fashion of a modern scientific historian, then the case, if demonstrably true, seems unjust. For Strype did not pretend to be such. The works represent Strype’s attempt to make the Hicks papers available. As he laboured he found that he needed to provide more and more in the way of a narrative to render the documents themselves intelligible to a reader. He went to great lengths to produce just such a narrative and to make it informative. If he was a historian in the twentieth-century sense at all, it was by accident rather than by design: probably, in the world of twentieth-century scholarship, he would be an editor. Once we know that this was Strype’s intention, it seems futile to criticize him for producing mere annals rather than history or to charge him with being a ‘scissors and paste’ merchant. Because he was editing documents, he naturally arranged the material chronologically and treated together episodes with little more in common than their coincidence of date. Because he was editing 61

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 62

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

documents, he naturally sacrificed form and pattern in the interests of intelligibility. There could be no beginning, middle and end to his ‘annals’ because he was not indulging in history as a literary genre. He was not imposing his interpretation on the past. The manuscripts guided his pen. He stood in the tradition of the great annalists and chroniclers, yes; he heralded the beginning of a long line of great editors, yes; he marked a turning-point in the writing of history – no. For too long historians have seen Strype as the forerunner of modern scientific historians, with their emphasis on the use of archival materials. But Strype – in attempting to be faithful to what happened in the past – explicitly denied himself the role of historian in the modern sense of interpreter. For the modern historian plays a constructive, creative role: he or she imposes a pattern on the past while striving for complete accuracy. No such claims were made by Strype, or indeed by any of his contemporaries. Until those who studied the past faced squarely the problems of bias – both in themselves and in their sources – men would continue to believe that it was possible to produce a nonpartisan account or to allow the sources to speak for themselves.62 Strype, then, was no scientific historian in the modern sense of that term. Unlike the modern breed, he did not write an interpretation of the past based on a careful analysis of the primary sources, using quotation to exemplify his points and enliven his prose. Instead, he printed documents verbatim or in paraphrase and inserted a linking narrative, devoid, as he fondly believed, of interpretation. Strype’s main significance for the development of history is that he drew attention to the importance of the original sources and, in several cases, was the occasion of their direct and indirect preservation. If it is the case that Strype’s contribution to the development of history as a discipline was much slighter than has sometimes been thought, has he nevertheless made a contribution to the modern debate about the Reformation? After all, we have already noted that he did not want to interpret what had occurred, simply to give the truth an airing. Did he, in fact, say anything? The answer, of course, is yes. Strype saw himself as mute, but this does not mean that he was. Both consciously and unconsciously Strype selected the sources which he presented to the 62

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 63

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE

public. For the most part, the documentation conveyed the establishment’s-eye view of the Reformation period. The views of Catholics and Puritans were neglected, as a result. Strype’s main contribution to the debate about the English Reformation, therefore, was this. From henceforward the Reformation was seen as the official reformation – the reform of an institution by Crown and ecclesiastics. The development of the Church of England as an institution became all-important to historians. The significance of this point is perhaps best brought out by the prevalence of departments of Church history and ecclesiastical history in British universities until recently, at the expense of departments of religious history. Strype’s bias – picked up from the sources at his command – reinforced the tendency to explore institutional church history and the relationship between this institution and the state, to the detriment of other aspects of religious life and experience in Britain. Conclusion

Despite the close association between histories of the Reformation and current Church and secular politics, they had a considerable impact upon developing traditions of historical scholarship. Both Burnet and Strype, especially, were dedicated researchers who uncovered and preserved sources, and to whom later historians owed a great debt. But, quite apart from this, they made of the story of the Reformation a comprehensible narrative, which later historians would either subscribe to or resist. Their defects also were passed on – an unquestioning tendency to adopt the perspective offered by the available documentation (overwhelmingly that of the state), and to ignore certain aspects of the story on Strype’s part, and a shaping of the narrative in defence of a given political position in Burnet’s. In the following chapter we explore how history was again used to legitimate given contemporary positions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

63

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 64

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Notes 1

2

3

4

5 6

7 8 9 10 11

12 13 14 15

See Felicity Heal, ‘Appropriating history: Catholic and Protestant polemics and the national past’, in Paulina Kewes (ed.), The Uses of History in Early Modern England (San Marino, CA, 2006), pp. 105–28, p. 107. Heal, ‘Appropriating history’, p. 106; Thomas Clancy, Papist Pamphleteers: The Allen-Persons Party and the Political Thought of the Counter-Reformation in England, 1572–1615 (Chicago, IL 1964); Peter Milward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age (1978), especially pp. 1–24. Cuthbert Bede, A Historye of the Churche of England, transl. Thomas Stapleton (Antwerp, 1565), preface by Stapleton, cited in Heal, ‘Appropriating history’, p. 113. See also his A Fortresse of the Faith, First planted amonge us englishmen, and continued hitherto in the universall Church of Christ, The Faith of which time Protestants call, Papistry (1565). Heal, ‘Appropriating history’, pp. 106–7; see Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk III, viii, pp. 14–17; R. Gibbings (ed.), James Calfhill, An Answer to John Martiall’s Treatise of the Cross (Cambridge, 1846), pp. 54–5; Robert Abbot, The True ancient Roman Catholicke (1611); Andrew Willet, Synopsis Papisimi (1592), pp. 55–7. Peter Lake, Moderate Puritans and the Elizabethan Church (Cambridge 1982), pp. 56–7, pp. 93–115. Because this book is primarily concerned with the debate about the Reformation in the reigns of Henry, Edward and Mary, it may seem strange to include consideration of these writers. However, it seems appropriate because they moved the argument on from one that concentrated upon the primitive church to one that focused on very recent events. Moreover, their attack on Elizabeth was also an attack upon Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I have decided not to examine the writings of the Appellants because they do focus upon the responsibility of the Jesuits for the Catholics’ plight in Elizabethan England. For a short treatment of this see John Vidmar, OP, English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, 1585–1954 (Brighton, 2005), pp. 17–22. Vidmar’s contrast between the Exiles and the Appellants is interesting and convincing. John O’Malley, ‘Trent and all that: renaming Catholicism in the early modern era’, unpublished MA thesis (University of Cambridge, 2000). Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 11. The name is spelled in a number of ways both in contemporary and later sources. The most frequent spellings are Sander or Sanders. Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 13. See Edward Rishton (ed.), Nicholas Sander, De Origine ac Progressu Schismatici Anglicani (Cologne, 1585). David Lewis transl. Nicholas Sander, The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (De Origine ac Progressu Schismatici Anglicani) (1877). See below for Burnet’s reaction to this work. For comment on his sources see T.F. Mayer, s.n. ‘Nicholas Sander’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 17. Lewis transl., Sanders, p. 136, cited in Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 136. Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 16. 64

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 65

INTERPRETATIONS FROM FULLER TO STRYPE 16

17 18 19 20

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

See also J.H. Pollen, ‘Dr Nicholas Sanders, 16th century Catholic controversialist’, English Historical Review (EHR), 6 (1891), 36–47; J.S.F. Simons (ed.), Robert Persons, SJ, ‘Certamen ecclesiae anglicanae’ (1965); T.M. McCoog, The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England, 1541–1588 (1996). Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 20. This was published in 1676; 1678; 1715; see T.F. Mayer, s.n. ‘Nicholas Sander’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). W.M. Lamont, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion 1603–60 (1969), p. 67. The best accounts of Heylyn’s work are A. Milton, Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600–1640 (1995) and A. Milton, Laudian and Royalist Polemic in Seventeenth-century England: The Career and Writings of Peter Heylyn (Manchester and New York, 2007). J.C. Robertson (ed.), Peter Heylyn Ecclesia Restaurata, 2 vols (Cambridge, Ecclesiastical History Society 1849). Milton, Laudian and Royalist Polemic, p. 4. See Milton, Laudian and Royalist Polemic, pp. 14–35 for the evolution of Heylyn’s theological and ecclesiastical thought. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Introduction. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. I, pp. v–vi. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. I, pp. vi–vii. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. I, p. x. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. I, p. ix; Vol. II, p. 308. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. II, p. 251. D. Lewis (ed.), Nicholas Sander(s), The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism [Cologne, 1585] (London, 1877). Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. II, p. 268. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. II, pp. 268–9. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. II, p. 296. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. II, p. 297. Anthony Milton, s.n. ‘Peter Heylyn’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. II, pp. 311–12. Robertson, Peter Heylyn, Vol. I, p. xiv. Peter Heylyn, Observations on the Historie of the Reign of King Charles (1656), pp. 129, 174–5. J.S. Brewer (ed.), Thomas Fuller, The Church history of Britain, 6 vols (Oxford, 1845 edn). Nicholas Pocock (ed.), Gilbert Burnet History of the Reformation of the Church of England, 7 vols (Oxford, 1865 edn). Pocock, Burnet, Vol. I, p. 5. Pocock, Burnet, Vol. I, pp. 12, 14, 15, 17. Martin Greig, s.n. ‘Gilbert Burnet’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). J.H. Preston, ‘English ecclesiastical historians and the problems of bias, 1559–1742’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 32 (1971), 203–20, p. 207. Pocock, Burnet, Vol. I, pp. xi–xii; Vol. II, pp. 667–8; Vol. I, p. xv. Patrick Collinson, Edmund Grindal, 1519–1583. The Struggle for a Reformed Church (1979), pp. 18–20. J.J. Morison, ‘John Strype, historian of the English Reformation’, unpub65

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 66

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

48

49 50

51 52 53 54 55

56 57 58 59 60 61 62

lished PhD thesis (Syracuse University, 1976); C. Zinberg, ‘John Strype and the sixteenth century: portrait of an Anglican historian’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Chicago, 1968). This brief biography is based on Samuel Knight’s contemporary Memoir of Strype contained in Cambridge University Library (CUL) Add. MSS, vols 1–10 (Baumgartner MSS). Letter to Richard Salter, CUL, Add. MSS, Letter 12. John Strype’s will, The National Archives (TNA), Prob. 11; ‘Mr. Strype’s Case 1714’ CUL, Add. MSS, 40, fol. 7; Catalogue of the Hicks Collection in the British Library (BL), Stowe MSS 1056, fol. 44. E.g. CUL Add. MSS, Letters 32, 36, 38. C. Zinberg, ‘John Strype and the sixteenth century: portrait of an Anglican historian’, unpublished PhD thesis, Chicago University (1968), p. 43. Morison, ‘Strype’, pp. 153–88. Morison, ‘Strype’, pp. 153–88. J. Strype, Historical Collections of the Life and Acts of John Aylmer . . . (1701; Oxford reprint, 1821) p. v.; J. Strype, Memorials of the Most Reverend Father in God, Thomas Cranmer (1693; Oxford. reprint,1840), p. xv, mentions Strype’s debt to William Somner, author of The Antiquities of Canterbury, 1640, who printed whole documents. J. Strype, The Life and Acts of Matthew Parker . . . (1711; Oxford reprint, 1821) 3 vols, Vol. p. 495. S.R. Maitland, Essays on Subjects Connected with the Reformation in England (1849), pp. 4–10. W.D.J. Cargill Thompson, Studies in the Reformation. Luther to Hooker, ed. by C.W. Dugmore (1980), p. 200. J. Strype, Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion . . ., 4 vols, (1709–31; Oxford, reprint 1820–40), Vol. I, p. vii. Strype, Annals of the Reformation, Vol. I, pp. i and 8. G.H. Martin and Anita McConnell, s.n. ‘John Strype’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Preston, ‘English ecclesiastical historians’.

66

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 67

3

Historians and contemporary politics, 1780–1850

Introduction

In the early nineteenth century, the history of the Reformation was written against the background of the debate about Roman Catholic emancipation which culminated in the passing of the Emancipation Act in 1829. Catholics constituted a tiny minority within England and Scotland – there were perhaps 60,000 in England and half that number in Scotland in 1780. This minority was led by a number of ancient and prominent Catholic peers. According to Cobbett, in October 1821 ‘to be sure the Roman Catholic religion may, in England, be considered as a gentleman’s religion, it being the most ancient in the country’. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, severe penal laws had restricted the lives of these Catholics, but by the reign of George III the application of these laws was much more lenient. From 1771 onwards a number of Relief Acts were passed to modify the penal legislation. By the Relief Act of 1778, Catholics could henceforward acquire land by inheritance or purchase and open schools without fear of life imprisonment. Freedom of worship was granted by the Relief Act of 1791. In 1793 these concessions were extended to Scottish Catholics. These were tremendous steps forward, but Catholics still suffered from considerable religious and civil disabilities. In Scotland they could not open schools. Neither Scottish nor English Catholics could celebrate marriages or funerals in public. Catholics did not have the vote and they could not hold any rank in the army or navy. A Catholic could not sit in either House of Parliament. Whereas he could now become a barrister he could not 67

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 68

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

proceed to become a High Court Judge. He could not attend either university, where the Test Acts were still in force. Living with such restrictions must have been irksome to Catholics, but even more offensive must have been the general animosity towards them of the population at large – they were regarded as a disloyal and alien minority in their native land. England and Scotland were Protestant countries, imbued with Protestant values and cultural forms even where active participation in religion was negligible. British Catholics had to accommodate themselves to a generally hostile environment. Civil and religious emancipation would ease this process, but only a change of heart in the British populace – aided by Catholic efforts at effective public relations – could truly integrate the Catholic community into British society. The Catholics who sought emancipation, therefore, were also concerned to display historical Catholicism in a more favourable light to their Protestant neighbours in order to improve the general attitude towards Catholicism. Nineteenth-century historians had a multiplicity of traditions of Reformation history upon which to draw. The Roman Catholic tradition was represented both by the polemics of Catholic writers such as Reginald Pole, Nicholas Sander(s), Nicholas Harpsfield, William Allen and Robert Persons, and also by the much quieter, more conciliatory tradition of late Elizabethan writers such as William Watson (1601) and the Appellant priests. The nonCatholic tradition was yet more varied. Peter Heylyn and Thomas Fuller, with their clear memories of the Puritan revolution, and Jeremy Collier, affected by the non-juring schism, wrote of the beauty of holiness, of the apostolic succession, of the independence of the English Church in convocation, and of the ancient church. John Foxe was representative of a virulently anti-Catholic and providential Protestant history – a tradition continued, if modified, by Gilbert Burnet and John Strype in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The Chronicle of Edward Hall and the Annales of William Camden took a more nationalistic, political perspective. The providential and national traditions merged in the Whig histories of the late seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, typified by those of Burnet and Rapin de Throyas. Michael Bentley has seen the early nineteenthcentury Whig tradition as painting a simple and straightforward view of the superiority of English culture.1 It still ‘celebrated the 68

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 69

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

Glorious Revolution’ and ‘constructed an ingenious and persistent account of English origins in Saxon forests, with a series of roles for the Norman Conquest, the tyranny of King John, Magna Carta, the first parliament of the realm and a crescendo of constitutional success, interrupted only by the malign Tudors, that culminated in the Bill of Rights of 1689’. Unsurprisingly, constitutional history dominated the curriculum of English schools and universities until the 1960s. While she added to this understanding, Billie Melman was at pains to make it clear that she did not contradict the prevalent view of ‘the importance and centrality of Country in the construction of English history and Englishness, or that of the sense of hankering after a secure and comfortable past’, nor ‘deny the role of power exercised by elites, political parties, or groups and the state on ideas about the past and some of its uses . . .’.2 Standing apart from the various Catholic and Protestant traditions stood the work of David Hume, The History of England from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the abdication of King James II, 1688. Yes, Hume did have an animus against Roman Catholics, but this was coupled with an objection to all religious establishments. For him the word ‘religion’ spelt ‘fanaticism and superstition’. And he challenged the Whig view that the Reformation had been accompanied by an extension of political liberty. He agreed that social progress had accompanied religious change, but saw the Tudor monarchies as despotic and tyrannical, and thoroughly contemptuous of the constitution. He claimed that the people of England in the reign of Henry VIII had acquiesced in their subjugation through ‘the submissive, not to say slavish, disposition of his parliaments’.3 The party among us who have distinguished themselves by their adhering to liberty and popular government, have long indulged their prejudice against the succeeding race of princes, by bestowing unbounded panegyrics on the virtue and wisdom of Elizabeth. They have been so extremely ignorant of the transactions of this reign, as to extol her for a quality which, of all others, she was the least possessed of; a tender regard for the constitution, and a concern for the liberties of her people.4

69

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 70

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Unlike the Whigs, he expressed sympathy with Charles I and royal absolutism. Religion and its impact upon nineteenth-century historical writing

All these various traditions were important resources for nineteenth-century British historians. But – a word of caution. Religion was a powerful influence upon nineteenth-century historical writing. Indeed, such writing was often undertaken in the context of contemporary religious controversy and, specifically, the cause of Catholic emancipation. Many of the Catholic contributors to the debates were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment and the European context. Some of them were strongly opposed to the Whig tradition. But, while religion united the Roman Catholic controversialists in this fight, politics often divided them, so that Catholics had varied interpretations of the past and wanted different things for the future. The division within Catholicism is best explained in terms of the division between the liberal Catholics, who had been affected by the Enlightenment and who wanted a more tolerant Roman Catholicism, and the conservative Catholics, who asserted the infallibility of the pope and the divine authority of the bishops. The liberals, led by Charles Butler (1750–1832), a liberal layman and lawyer, and Joseph Berington (1743–1827), a Staffordshire priest, had Catholic emancipation as their goal. In 1782, they formed the first Catholic Committee to this end, and in 1787 the second Catholic Committee. In 1792, they founded the Cisalpine Club and became known as the Cisalpinists. The tactic of this branch of Catholicism was to play down the ‘foreignness’ of Roman Catholicism – to portray Catholics as loyal Britons with no superior allegiance overseas. In his Appeal to the Catholics of England (c. 1792), Berington persisted, ‘I am no Papist, neither is my religion Popery.’ But the Transalpinists, headed by John Milner (1752–1826), Bishop of Castabala and Vicar-Apostolic of the Midland District from 1803 to 1826, and Charles Plowden, SJ (1743–1821), defended papal infallibility and asserted clerical authority over the laity.5 In their eyes, Cisalpinism appeared merely as a despicable Catholic form of Protestantism. So, while both the Cisalpinists and Transalpinists 70

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 71

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

wanted Catholic emancipation, they disliked one another cordially and fought with very different weapons.6 Milner, for example, has been accused of being ‘congenitally unable to understand, or make allowance for, the light and shade of another’s opinion’, and of turing each argument into an extreme personal feud.7 By the second decade of the nineteenth century many suspected that he was, as a result of this personality defect, damaging rather than furthering the cause of emancipation.8 Our concern here, however, is primarily with the writing of the history of the Reformation itself. The Catholic protagonists, of whatever complexion, drew upon a historical armoury for their weapons. In his Reminiscences, Charles Butler, Secretary to the Catholic Committee, cheerfully admitted that he had never missed an opportunity to use history to prove his polemical points.9 Similarly, John Milner’s The History, Civil and Ecclesiastical, and Survey of the Antiquities of Winchester (1798–1801) was, in the words of the Monthly Review in April 1800, a deliberate design and laboured effort to vindicate the avowed patrons of this obnoxious system Roman Catholicism from deserved reproach, and to degrade the most distinguished advocates of that Reformation from popery, to which our country is principally indebted for the civil and religious liberty by which it has been blessed.

A writer in the Quarterly Review in May 1810 urged: The History of Winchester is not to be regarded as a mere topographical work . . . It is a vehicle for ‘Truth severe in faery fiction drest’ . . . The subject which Dr Milner has chosen, the periods on which he enlarges with the great alacrity, the nimbleness with which he is ever stepping out of his way to disparage some distinguished character of the Protestant Church, or . . . to rescue some infamy, some champion of his own; these and many other appearances on the face of the work, lead to a suspicion that . . . narrative is but the vehicle for conveying his own principles and doctrines.

71

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 72

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Contemporary politico-religious concerns and their impact upon the debate on the English Reformation

The contemporary politico-religious concerns of the nineteenthcentury Catholic polemicists were served by history and shaped their interpretation of the historical past. ‘To the Cisalpines, all that stood between English Catholics and emancipation was papal claims. They searched history and judged that the final break with Rome came when Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth and deposed her.’10 The works of Joseph Berington provide an interesting case in point. In 1793, Berington published The Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani, with an introduction and historical supplement. It was written to please his lay patron, John Throckmorton, who had asked him to ‘produce a work which would expose a foreign ecclesiastical government which prevented its subjects from guaranteeing their good behaviour and civic duty to the state’.11 Panzani was a secret papal agent who had been sent to England in 1634–36 by Pope Urban VIII to settle the dispute between religious and secular clergy and decide on the lawfulness of taking the Oath of Allegiance. The memoirs took up a mere 145 pages of Berington’s edition, while Berington’s own preface, introduction and afterword occupied 262 pages. In common with most Enlightenment historians, Berington cited the works of many authors, including Heylyn, Collier, Fuller and Dodd.12 But he also looked for original documentation to support his arguments. Although he used this in the interests of a one-sided narrative, it was clear that from then on the success of an argument, even within a politically-charged environment, would depend upon an overwhelmingly convincing body of evidence.13 His book contained a feature common to almost all early nineteenth-century Catholic writing: its emphasis upon the reign of Elizabeth, almost to the exclusion of the events of the early official Reformation. In Berington’s case, the reason for this lay in his belief that Elizabeth had no particular religious settlement in mind when she ascended the throne in 1558, notwithstanding her parentage.14 Rather, the activities of the Pope (Paul IV) and his agents had served to convince Elizabeth that a Protestant settlement was essential: ‘Paul IV soon took to fix her resolution; and to him, perhaps . . . may be imputed the defection of England 72

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 73

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

from the communion of Rome’.15 Berington derived this opinion from Peter Heylyn’s assessment in the Ecclesia Restaurata of 1660. Heylyn claimed that Paul IV had offered a direct insult to Elizabeth via her emissary, charging ‘that the kingdom of England was held in fee of the apostolic see; that she could not succeed, being illegitimate’.16 Berington concluded from this that ‘the admission of such a monstrous prerogative could not consist with the safety and independence of her throne. If in high and indignant resentment she then made her choice . . . I may be sorry, but I cannot be surprised’.17 The departure of England from the Roman communion was to be explained by the Pope’s haughty action. Joseph Berington portrayed Elizabeth as rejecting the papacy in order to preserve her temporal sovereignty. The papacy had, in his opinion, laid claim to powers which were not acknowledged by the Catholic Church. For the power of the papacy had always been undefined and restrained by councils and bishops. In a series of works, then, Berington attacked the ‘prerogative which arrogant ambition had usurped, and which, for a long time, the weakness or ignorance of mankind durst not infringe’. In adopting this line, Berington was making a strong historical case for the tightening of restrictions upon the powers of the contemporary papacy. In 1790, the Pope had annoyed many of the Catholic laity by seeking to appoint to two vacant sees over the heads of the Catholic Committee. Democracy within the Catholic Church and national control were crucial contemporary issues. Berington was here toeing the line of his patron, Sir John Throckmorton, who had in 1792 described His Holiness as a ‘foreign prelate’ who, by appointing English bishops himself, had usurped the ancient privileges of the clergy. Throckmorton had in that same year argued that English Catholics might take the Oath of Supremacy because Queen Elizabeth had taken only the temporal power of the pope and had been loath to assume spiritual power. Rubbing salt into the wounds of the Transalpinists, Berington supported his patron’s argument by citing the work of Charles Plowden’s brother, Francis, on the nature of the royal supremacy. Praise was reserved by Berington for those loyal Catholics who had ‘in silent resignation bowed their heads conscious that to 73

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 74

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

submit to the laws . . . was their Christian duty’ and blame was showered upon those who, consumed with missionary zeal, had travelled to Catholic seminaries abroad and imbibed the traitorous tenets taught therein. Berington pointed out that persecution of English Catholics had not been severe until the 1570s and that it would not have grown severe ‘if we had founded no foreign seminaries, we had provided no foreign laws’. Unfortunately for Catholics in England, the new priests courted and achieved persecution and martyrdom. All this, Berington urged, was proven by the fact that the old priests were not persecuted, nor even the new in so far as they condemned papal tyranny.18 In making this case, Berington made Robert Parsons the archvillain of the piece: a man with the sound of whose name are associated intrigue, device, stratagem, and all the crooked policy of the Machiavellian school . . . whose whole life was a series of machinations against the sovereignty of his country, the succession of its crown, and the interests of the secular clergy of his own faith. Devoted to the most extravagant pretensions of the Roman Court . . . pensioned by the Spanish monarch . . . his work has helped to perpetuate dissensions, and to make us, to this day, a divided people.19

This perspective, which so suited Berington’s and Throckmorton’s present purpose, was not original but was derived directly from the writings of the Elizabethan appellant priests. In 1585 thirty priests had appealed to Rome against the appointment of George Blackwell by the pope as archpriest, coupling this with a denunciation of the seditious Jesuits. Of the appellant writings, William Watson’s Important Considerations or a Vindication of Queen Elizabeth from the charge of unjust severity towards her Roman Catholic subjects . . . is perhaps the best known to posterity and was certainly the most useful to Berington’s case. Watson’s charge that the Jesuits were guilty of high treason, and the appellant priests’ signature of a declaration of allegiance denouncing the bull deposing Elizabeth and affirming their loyalty to the Crown, were invaluable weapons in his arsenal.20

74

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 75

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

John Milner’s view of Elizabeth’s Settlement and the responses of contemporary Catholic authors

This interpretation of royal policy – that of a queen anxious to create a church which would tolerate if not embrace Catholic subjects, provided that they were loyal – naturally did not find favour with the Transalpinist Catholic writers. Far from laying the blame for the persecution of Elizabethan recusants at the door of the Catholics, these writers returned it to the porticoes of Elizabeth’s palace. ‘. . . [T]he penal laws were the cause of the seminaries, not the seminaries of the penal laws’, stormed John Milner in his Ecclesiastical Democracy. Milner agreed that these laws were not rigorously enforced until after the founding of Douai in 1568, the Northern Rebellion and the Bull of Deposition, but Charles Plowden insisted that Elizabeth had never pursued a line of moderation towards her Catholic subjects. She had, he said, acted not only against Cardinal William Allen and Robert Persons, but also against the adherents of the old religion. Plowden, moreover, vigorously defended Robert Persons against the charges of treason. He alleged that Persons’ letters were evidence of his charitable and peaceful spirit and that the education of seminary priests did not concern itself with politics.21 I, who have searched for the guilt of the first seminarists through volumes of MS records and letters written, have not yet discovered a trace, a symptom of any plot or contrivance to dethrone or to destroy Elizabeth, in which the founders of the seminaries, or any of their friends or dependents had the smallest concern.22

His conclusion was that, as there existed no evidence of treacherous activity, Persons and his co-religionists died for their speculative beliefs and not because of Elizabeth’s well-founded fear for her kingdom at their hands. The question of Catholic loyalty to the English Crown was indeed a pressing issue. The first Catholic Relief Act had been passed in 1778. This imposed an oath of allegiance upon Catholics. Transalpinists such as Milner and Plowden objected strongly. By the 1790s, the issue of loyalty was again uppermost. Within England, the Catholics were finally admitted into the legal profession, and English Roman Catholic churches and schools 75

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 76

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

were freed from penal disabilities. But there was widespread fear of Jacobins, and in Ireland there was political unrest. The latter resulted in rebellion there in 1798. The English government proposed a veto on Irish episcopal appointments for political reasons. Such suggestions were rejected both before the Act of Union (1801) and after (1808), but were still under discussion in 1813. In 1813 a Bill for the Relief of English Catholics, which contained a clause for a royal veto and a clause allowing commissioners to examine papal bulls on non-spiritual matters, was entered. This was defeated, at least partly due to the determined opposition of John Milner. Future Catholic Relief Bills (1813, 1819, 1821) all contained guarantees of Catholic loyalty. Pressing though the issue of loyalty was, the English Catholics trod circumspectly when it came to dealing with the question in their histories. In his History of Winchester, Milner expressed sympathy for English Catholics who had acknowledged the Pope’s spiritual supremacy without ‘ascribing to him one atom of temporal authority’ and who had never had any charge of treason proved against them.23 Milner was understandably wary of treating the question of the papal claim to a right to depose heretical princes. In 1800, he considered the issue in Letters to a Prebendary. Here he alleged that this right was a speculative doctrine rather than an article of the faith and, moreover, one that had never gone unchallenged by Roman Catholics. In so far as the pope did have such a right, it pertained to him as first bishop, and therefore arbiter, of Christendom rather than as a temporal prince. And Elizabethan Catholics had never accepted the bull deposing Elizabeth: The fact is, only one person in their whole number, John Felton, a lay gentleman, who affixed it to the door of the bishop of London’s house, is known to have approved of it, for which he died, condemned by the whole Catholic body no less than by the Protestant.24

Berington, as has been noted, berated the papacy and the Jesuit priests of England for maintaining the papal right to depose the Queen. He drew a picture of a Catholic community divided between the loyal and quiescent Marian priests and the disloyal missionaries. Charles Butler was more equivocal. In his Historical 76

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 77

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

Memoirs of English Catholics, he maintained that both Elizabeth and the Pope had acted imprudently, but he nevertheless felt that the Pope was more to be criticized than the Crown. The deposing bull of Pius V was, according to Butler, ‘ever to be condemned and ever to be lamented’.25 When it came to assigning guilt among the missionary priests, Butler’s discovery in the British Museum of a manuscript which dealt with the responses of missionary priests to six questions on the deposing power of the papacy forced him into a moderate position. Campion and two others were found guilty and executed; three were explicitly exonerated; many were evasive. Butler noted that the pardon of those priests who answered the questions to the satisfaction of the examiners indicated that a specific disclaimer of papal claims to deposing power would have ensured better treatment for English Catholics. At the same time, he had to acknowledge that, while a few missionary priests were disloyal, the great majority of English Catholics were loyal to the Crown. However, when it came to the crunch, Catholics were killed not because they acknowledged the deposing power of the papacy, but because Elizabeth had made treasonable the denial of her spiritual supremacy.26 Another historian, John Lingard (1771–1851), completely exonerated the missionary priests of charges of disloyalty. He argued that Elizabeth should not have executed men whose answers were merely evasive – instead she should have offered liberty of conscience in exchange for adjuration of the temporal pretensions of the papacy. Lingard went on to minimize the extent to which the Catholics had encouraged plotting against Elizabeth and to criticize the quality of the evidence against English Catholic rebels at the trials of the Duke of Norfolk, Throckmorton and Babington.27 The Marian persecutions and the reputation of English Catholics

If loyalty was a crucial contemporary issue projected back onto a historical screen, then intolerance was no less so. The entire Protestant tradition rested on the belief that Catholics had persecuted adherents of the new religion both cruelly and needlessly. The impact of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments had been profound and lasting. Roman Catholics in the nineteenth century, as before, recoiled at such charges, but the matter had a new urgency at a 77

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 78

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

time when these same Roman Catholics were seeking practical toleration and emancipation from the penal laws under a Protestant government. Once again, Catholic writers unashamedly sought to vindicate sixteenth-century Catholicism in order to improve their contemporary lot. In Letters to a Prebendary, John Milner put it like this: If it be proved that Catholics are bound by their principles to persecute and extirpate persons of a different religion from themselves, it is absurd in them to look up to a Protestant legislature for any extension of their civic privileges . . . But if this charge can be refuted, there does not remain a pretext for the continuance of these penal laws, which still exist against them.28 For this reason, he accorded the Marian burnings a good deal of attention – they had been used by Protestant writers to justify the spirit of resentment and counter-persecution of Catholics. ‘First, then, it is to be observed, that, if Mary was a persecutor, it was not in virtue of any tenet of her religion that she became so’, urged Milner in The History . . . of Winchester.29 Rather, her persecutions were a defensive response to Protestant acts of militancy – Wyatt’s rebellion; seditious printed propaganda; attempts on her life; prayers for her death. He conceded that there were a few intolerant Catholics who urged Mary to persecute, but alleged that their number was more than balanced by Protestant fanatics and was, moreover, unrepresentative of the majority of Catholics. Cleverly, Milner looked to earlier Protestant histories to indicate Mary’s tolerance. He used Heylyn, Dodd, Phillips, and Collier most skillfully. Other writers adopted a similar line – sometimes marshalling the evidence to better effect than Milner. John Lingard, for example, provided detailed evidence of Mary’s tolerant attitude to Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth after Wyatt’s Rebellion, of Elizabeth’s implication in Wyatt’s Rebellion, and of Protestant provocation. Interestingly, he challenged the documentary foundation of Bishop Burnet’s picture of Gardiner as a persecutor: ‘This charge is not supported by any authentic document: it is weakened by the general tenor of the chancellor’s conduct’, and of Bonner as initiator of persecution.30 Both Milner and Lingard demonstrated at times an awareness that attitudes and values had changed since the sixteenth century. Lingard maintained, for instance, that if Mary had been intolerant, 78

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 79

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

then this was to a great extent because she was a product of her own times and of her own education. He stressed the discrepancy between her age and the more tolerant nineteenth century: After every allowance it will be found that, in the space of four years, almost two hundred persons perished in the flames for religious opinion; a number at the contemplation of which the mind is struck with horror, and learns to bless the legislation of a more tolerant age, in which dissent from established forms, though in some countries still punished with civil disabilities, is nowhere liable to the penalties.31

Milner also sought to stress that intolerance had been a feature of sixteenth-century culture, not specific to Catholicism and, indeed, perhaps even more characteristic of Protestantism. Milner, Charles Butler and Lingard all expended a good deal of energy in constructing a Catholic martyrology from a variety of sources and an analysis of penal legislation against the Catholics. Once historians appreciated that historical context was all important, it became, of course, much more difficult to project contemporary controversies back into the past. Catholicism in Mary’s reign had been shaped by sixteenth-century events, habits of mind and education. Nineteenth-century Catholicism could, in reality, justify its claims to full integration into British society by an appeal to nineteenth-century conditions and attitudes. But neither Lingard nor any other Catholic historian faced up to this implication and took the next step. Blithely, they sought to vindicate contemporary Catholicism by an analysis of Catholic and Protestant behaviour under Mary, despite their acknowledgement that this behaviour had been moulded by now extinct forces. Vilification of Thomas Cranmer

It was thought necessary to divert Protestant attention from the persecuting activities of Gardiner, Bonner, and Pole under Mary I by vilification of Thomas Cranmer. Looking back upon writings of the period by Catholics and Protestants, Dean Hook explained: By party writers, on one side an attempt is made to represent Cranmer as a persecutor, and on the other, to explain away his share in the religious persecution under the reigns of Henry and Edward, 79

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 80

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

and to make him appear as tolerant as . . . so far as the rack and the stake are concerned . . . men are compelled to be in the nineteenth century.32

This vilification took an extreme form in the works of Milner and Butler, but it was Lingard’s History which prompted the Protestants to answer in the form of a veritable flood of lives of and defences of Cranmer in the 1820s and 1830s. In these writings much turned upon whether or not Cranmer had opposed the deaths of John Frith, John Lambert and Joan Boucher. The writers concerned became involved in a detailed examination of the evidence in order to establish the truth of their cases. For example, there was much debate about the true meaning of the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum – the reformed code of the canon law begun under Henry VIII and continued under his son – which Cranmer had helped to prepare. Lingard argued that the code was an instrument designed specifically with mass murder of Catholics in mind. In so doing he reviewed previous interpretations of the code, denying Burnet’s assertion that title three (which dealt with the punishment of heretics) abolished capital punishment for heresy and following Jeremy Collier, who had in his Ecclesiastical History maintained that thenceforth heretics were handed over to the secular power for punishment by the death penalty. Lingard argued that the word ‘punishment’ in the Reformatio meant nothing less than ‘privation of life’. Fortunately for the professors of the ancient faith, Edward died before this code had obtained the sanction of the legislature: by the accession of Mary the power of the sword passed from the hand of one religious party to those of the other; and within a short time Cranmer and his associates perished in the flames which they had prepared to kindle for the destruction of their opponents.33

Unsurprisingly, this sparked a Protestant outcry, particularly in the pages of Henry John Todd’s A Vindication of the Most Reverend Thomas Cranmer, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and therewith of the Reformation of England against some of the allegations which have recently been made by the Reverend Dr Lingard, the Rev. Dr Milner and Charles Butler Esq. (1826). Todd argued that the British Museum manuscript of the code indicated, 80

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 81

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

in a clarifying note, that no terror was intended by Cranmer, ‘either that he may be driven into banishment for life, or thrust into the perpetual darkness of a prison . . . or punished at the discretion of the magistrate, in any other way which may seem to be most expedient towards his conversion’.34 But Lingard, using Strype, was able to show that the British Museum manuscript represented a draft, and not the finished version of the code at all. In the final resort, Lingard, Milner and Butler were unable to make a watertight case against Cranmer, however, because of the inscrutability of the language used in the Reformatio and elsewhere. Careful textual criticism, appeals to past historians and the evidence of the persecutions themselves could yield just so much and no more. Ultimately, interpretation still had to be called into play.35 The challenge to Protestant versions of the Reformation: a political act

Already, by their efforts to vindicate the past behaviour of Catholics in Britain and thereby to make Catholic emancipation more acceptable to the British public and, especially, the ruling class, the Catholic historians had challenged the traditional Protestant interpretation of the Reformation in several important respects. Catholicism, they urged, had never been a disloyal, seditious and ‘foreign’ force in Britain. The persecuting spirit had never been a characteristic peculiar to Catholicism. Catholics, like Protestants, had been products of their own age and had shared sixteenth-century attitudes to toleration of contrary beliefs. But they, unlike the Protestants, did not rejoice in the task of persecution. It would be possible, on these grounds alone, to make a strong case that these Catholic historians had brought about a major revision of traditional interpretations of the Reformation, but their chief challenge to orthodox views of the Reformation lay elsewhere. Prior to this, Protestant historians had portrayed the English Reformation as a spiritual reformation – a cleansing operation, a purging of the corruption of the body of medieval Catholicism, a return to primitive purity. Even historians interested in the Church as an institution, and even those concentrating 81

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 82

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

upon the political and national ramifications of the process, nevertheless shared this overall view. Now Catholic writers of reputation forced a reassessment and a response from Protestant writers. This is not to say, of course, that earlier writers had not acknowledged Henry VIII’s baser motives. Catholic polemicists of the sixteenth century had not hesitated to expose that monarch’s weakness: ‘He gave up the Catholic faith for no other reason in the world than that which came from his lust and wickedness.’ Protestant historians such as Gilbert Burnet were undeceived by Henry’s claims to godliness, but preferred to marvel at the mysterious ways through which the Almighty worked and to draw attention to the sanctity of the reformers who carried out his work: He attacked popery in its strongholds in the monasteries, and thus he opened the way to all that came after, even down to our days. So, that while we see the folly and weakness of man in all his personal failings, which were many and very enormous, we at the same time see both the justice, the wisdom and the goodness of God, in making him, who was once the pride and glory of popery, become its scourge and destruction; and in directing his pride and passion so to bring about, under the dread of his unrelenting temper, a change that a milder reign could not have compassed without great convulsions in rescuing us by this means from idolatry and superstition; from the vain and pompous show in which the worship of God was dressed up, so as to vie with heathenism itself, into a simplicity of believing, and a purity of worship, conforming to the nature and attributes of God, and the doctrine and example of the Son of God.36

Nevertheless, the Catholic writers of the early nineteenth century forced Protestants to face up to the charge that the Reformation had not been a spiritual cleansing at all, but a division of the spoils of the wealthy but pristine Catholic Church by money-grubbing monarchs, courtiers and climbers. Not only Henry came under attack, but also accepted Protestant martyrs and heroes. And the Catholic historians, moreover, backed up their charges with reliance upon original documentation, which their Protestant counterparts found more uncomfortable and more difficult to compass than mere polemic. The Catholic attack upon the godliness of the Protestant Reformation was many pronged. Broadly speaking, it combined a 82

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 83

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

defence of Catholic sanctity with an assault upon Protestant spirituality. The balance struck between these two lines of attack in the writings of Catholic authors varied: those who wanted reconciliation with the Protestants (the Cisalpinists) tended to spend far less time vilifying the Protestants than did the hard-nosed Catholic Transalpinists. Here it is sufficient to look in some detail at the attacks made upon the sixteenth-century Protestants in three areas – the dissolution of the monasteries; the Protestantism of Anne Boleyn; the character of Archbishop Cranmer – and the responses which these elicited among Protestants. Most of the Catholic histories played down the corruption of the monastic ideal in England and emphasized the base motives for the Henrician dissolution. For Milner and Butler it was possible to sum up the motivation for the dissolution in one word – avarice. The results of the closure of the monastic houses had been felt in society as a whole immediately: charitable and educational provision had been irreparably damaged. The effects of the abolition of religious orders were, moreover, long lasting. John Milner also decried the cultural effects of the plunder of England’s monasteries and cathedrals. In his article on ‘Gothic Architecture’ in The Cyclopaedia (1800 edition) he lauded Gothic as an achievement both sublime and beautiful, and regarded its defacement by the Protestants as barbarous and soulless in the extreme. To such writers the monastic ideal, in its medieval flowering, characterized a Christian system in which the great and powerful and wealthy cared for the poor and weak and needy in such a way that God was praised. Alone among them stood Joseph Berington, who seriously doubted the value of the monastic institutions as they stood in the early sixteenth century.37 Milner’s account left the reader in no doubt about his interpretation of Henry VIII’s motivation in suppressing the monasteries or his view of the value of the religious houses in English society. Henry VIII was a hypocrite among hypocrites – even a Protestant historian such as Jeremy Collier confessed that ‘The suppression of the monasteries was thought the easiest way of furnishing the exchequer’ – but Milner exposed the King’s attempts to conceal this motivation: 83

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 84

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Nevertheless, to give colour to these proceedings, a visitation of all the convents, that were marked out for destruction, was set on foot, by the king’s active vice-gerent, Thomas Cromwell, under pretence of reforming, by his ecclesiastical authority, the abuses that had crept into them. But the Commissioners . . . made use of such arts and violence, as did not fail of answering the intention of their employers, by furnishing a pretext, grounded on the feigned motive of religion, for an act of parliament, by which all monasteries, whose revenues did not amount to the sum of £200, were to be dissolved.38

Henry’s deceit might have been bearable had the charges levelled against the religious orders been true. But they were not. Milner looked at Stow’s chronicles for evidence that the religious houses had been popular and that their closure was ‘not generally acceptable to the people’. These complaints of course became much louder at the suppression of the greater abbeys. These, as they had it more in their power, so they were generally more beneficial to the public. By their doles and alms they entirely provided for the poor, insomuch that no poor-laws existed until soon after their dissolution. The monks let their farms at easy rents, and made allowances for unfavourable seasons, so that abundance and population increased around them. They received into their houses and entertained strangers of all conditions, according to their rank, gratis. They provided hospitals for the indigent sick, and seminaries for poor children. Their magnificent churches were the schools of the arts, both liberal and mechanical, and their scriptoria and libraries were the only asylum of the sciences and of classical literature.39

Yet the whole infrastructure of social welfare in Tudor England was swept away simply ‘to gratify the passions of one sensual king and to raise the families of a few wicked courtiers’. This attack upon the traditional view of the monasteries and their position in English society before the Reformation is interesting to us chiefly because of the response it drew forth from non-Catholic contemporaries involved in nineteenth-century politics. It opened the floodgates for a Tory-radical critique of English society in the early nineteenth century, and particularly of the provision for the poor and needy within England.

84

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 85

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

William Cobbett and the plight of the poor

The most significant work in this new tradition was undoubtedly William Cobbett’s A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland (1824–27), which had as its subtitle the words ‘showing how that event has impoverished the main body of the people in those countries’. Cobbett appears to have become interested in the subject as a result both of reading Lingard and of observing the plight of his many Catholic constituents in Preston, but he also related the matter to the contemporary debate over poor relief. At the same time, his Political Register was actively espousing the cause of Catholic emancipation in Ireland. Cobbett’s Protestant Reformation can scarcely be regarded as a work of history at all: it is a work of literary invective, of caricature, of political polemic. But it is extremely important because it is a prime example of the ease with which an interpretation of historical events can be popularized and seep almost unnoticed into national consciousness. Cobbett’s book produced a new and powerful social interpretation of the Reformation which has had a profound influence upon both nineteenth- and twentieth-century perceptions of socio-economic developments. For, to Cobbett, the Reformation signalled the introduction of oppression into English society. Prior to the dissolution of the monasteries, the religious had cared for the poor, sick and needy. As far as Cobbett was concerned, the punch line of Milner’s account had been, ‘insomuch that no poor laws existed until soon after their dissolution’. For the caring community had provided for the poor and there had been no need for oppressive legislation. After the Reformation all that had changed. Poverty and need were born. The rich rode roughshod over the rabble. Cobbett’s History of the Protestant Reformation replaced the view of the Reformation as a blow fought for human freedom and intellectual honesty with a new and harsher indictment: The Reformation, as it is called, was engendered in beastly lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy, and cherished and fed by plunder, devastation, and by rivers of English and Irish blood, and that, as to its more remote consequences, they are, some of them, now before us in that misery, that beggary, that nakedness, that hunger, that everlasting wrangling and spite, which now stare us in 85

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 86

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

the face and stun our ears at every turn, and which the ‘Reformation’ has given us in exchange for the ease and happiness and harmony and Christian charity enjoyed so abundantly, and for so many ages, by our Catholic forefathers.40

The Reformation had destroyed the natural unity of the English and Irish peoples, and had set them at one another’s throats. It had provided a justification, by devious and deplorable means, for the hatred of and oppression of Catholics within the community. Worse still, it had impoverished the people: ‘It was not a reformation but a devastation of England, which was, at the time when this event took place, the happiest country, perhaps that the world had ever seen, and, it is my chief business to show that this devastation impoverished and degraded the main body of the people.’41 In telling the story of the English Reformation, Cobbett was declaredly and unashamedly didactic because, to his mind, the great use of history is to teach us how law, usages and institutions arose, what were their effects on the people, how they promoted public happiness or otherwise; and these things are precisely what the greater part of historians, as they call themselves, seem to think of no consequence.42

So he set out to show the ways in which the monasteries had benefited the community and ‘especially how they operated on behalf of the labouring and poorer classes of the people’, and to demonstrate the grievous consequences of their destruction. In particular, he attacked the system of tithe payments to the clergy and the married priesthood: ‘In short, do we not know that a married priesthood and pauperism and poor rates all came upon this country at one and the same moment?’43 To serve his didactic and partisan purpose Cobbett employed every trick in the book. Catherine of Aragon he portrayed almost as a saint, certainly as a paragon. Thomas Cranmer, ‘a name which deserves to be held in everlasting execration’ and the justice of God, was upheld only by ‘our knowledge of the fact that the coldblooded, most perfidious, most impious, most blasphemous caitiff expired, at last, amidst those flames which he himself had been the chief cause of kindling’. The Acts and Monuments was described as ‘lying Fox’s lying book of Protestant Martyrs!’ Good Queen Bess became none other than a ‘gross, libidinous, nasty, shameless 86

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 87

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

old woman’. The standard techniques of popular journalism – rhetorical questions, colourful language and heaped adjectival abuse – aided Cobbett’s presentation: sarcasm and pillory abetted it. Speaking of the divorce from Aragon the Paragon, Cobbett wrote: Having provided himself with so famous a judge in ecclesiastical matters, the king lost, of course, no time in bringing his hard case before him, and demanding justice at his hands! Hard case indeed; to be compelled to live with a wife of forty-three when he could have, for next to nothing and only for asking, a young one of eighteen or twenty! A really hard case; and he sought relief, now that he had got such an upright and impartial judge, with all imaginable dispatch.44

If we must not look to Cobbett for a work of historical accuracy, of scholarship and caution, we must none the less look to him for the popularization of an interpretation of the Reformation which has had a profound effect upon the Reformation debate down to and including the present day – that the Reformation devastated social provision in the interests of a rapacious monarch and a hungry aristocracy. As we can see, he also picked up on two of the other hallmarks of the Catholic school of writers in the early century – the role of Anne Boleyn and the character of Thomas Cranmer. The treatment of Cranmer by early nineteenth-century historians was in fact but a much-intensified version of their treatment of other Protestant heroes and martyrs. Milner, for example, associated Latimer, Hooper and Ridley with every imaginable vice. Ridley and Hooper were charged with pillaging the Church; Hooper was accused of violating his vows as a Cistercian by leaving the order and marrying a former nun; Latimer and Ridley were both alleged to have dissembled their own Protestant views under Henry VIII and to have persecuted Protestants. Even Charles Butler, who wanted reconciliation with the Protestants, was tempted to describe Latimer as a mere temporizer. But by far the most potent attack on a Reformation leader was John Lingard’s attack on Cranmer.

87

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 88

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

John Lingard: Thomas Cranmer and Anne Boleyn

In examining the impact of Lingard’s treatment, it is as well to be aware of the prevailing attitude to Cranmer’s role in the English Reformation prior to Lingard’s intervention. Although there had been criticisms of Cranmer from both Protestants and Catholics in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Cranmer had been eulogized by mainstream Protestant writers since the Civil War. Gilbert Burnet dubbed him ‘a man raised by God for great services, and well fitted for them’ and went on to set the record straight. He was naturally of a mild and gentle temper . . . and yet his gentleness did not lead him into such a weakness of spirit, as to consent to everything that was uppermost . . . He was a man of great candour; he never dissembled his opinion, nor disowned a friend. He laid out all his wealth on the poor and pious uses . . . His last fall was the only blemish on his life; but he expiated it with such a sincere repentance and a patient martyrdom.45

And Strype was the Archbishop’s most ardent admirer: The name of this most reverend prelate deserves to stand upon eternal record; having been the first Protestant Archbishop of this kingdom, and the greatest instrument, under God, of the happy Reformation of this Church of England . . . He was a very rare person, and one that deserves to be reckoned among the brightest lights that ever shone in this English Church.46

What Lingard and Milner attempted to do was to strip Cranmer of the aura of spirituality with which he had been endowed by Burnet and Strype. Earlier we noted how he was vilified as a persecutor. Lingard and Milner went much further than this. Milner charged that, throughout his life, Cranmer ‘exhibited such a continued scene of libertinism, perjury, hypocrisy, barbarity . . . profligacy, ingratitude, and rebellion, as is, perhaps, not to be matched in history’. The scandals regarding Cranmer’s two marriages and the smuggling of his second wife into England in a chest, the tales of Cranmer’s hypocrisy and the stories of his obsequious behaviour towards Henry VIII were all wheeled out as proof of the Archbishop’s base nature.47 Lingard, whose account was much more influential than Milner’s because it was less parti88

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 89

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

san in tone, indicated that Cranmer was given position in order to secure a divorce for Henry and that he duly kept his part of the bargain. H.J. Todd contradicted this view of Cranmer as sycophantic time-server, but Lingard insisted that Cranmer was but a mere lap-dog of Anne Boleyn, intent only on doing her bidding. Lingard similarly countered Protestant arguments that Cranmer remained loyal to his friends, especially Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, at great personal risk and that he opposed the Six Articles of persecution. Lingard’s case was all the stronger because he used original documentary sources to prove his points. Cranmer’s sycophancy and extreme personal ambition were emphasized.48 Although, as we shall see, Protestant writers sprang to the Archbishop’s defence, the Roman Catholic critique had a pronounced effect upon the verdict of later nineteenth-century Protestants. For instance, both Canon Dixon and Dean Hook had absorbed the view that Cranmer had used the divorce as a route to preferment. It was now more difficult, given the evidence that Lingard adduced, to cast Cranmer as an alabaster saint – if he was such, then he certainly had feet of clay!49 The defence of Cranmer immediately drawn forth by Lingard’s History – H.J. Todd’s Vindication of the Most Reverend Thomas Cranmer (1831) – was very largely a restatement of Burnet. Todd insisted that Cranmer had been extremely reluctant to accept the see of Canterbury, despite Lingard’s suspicion of Burnet’s account. Todd felt that Cranmer’s own account of the affair should be accepted at its face value. Similarly, Todd followed Burnet in maintaining that Cranmer had publicly protested against the oath to the papacy, whereas Lingard alleged that the protest was made only in private. Todd, like Lingard, produced manuscript sources to defend his interpretation of Cranmer’s activities, but his work did not further the debate.50 There can be little doubt that Cranmer’s stature as a saintly reformer was imperilled by Lingard’s work and that Todd and other Protestant writers were hard put to it to defend his reputation. If they found it difficult to protect Cranmer’s Reformation standing, then they found it impossible to defend that of Anne Boleyn, a lady whose reputation was already besmirched. The 89

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 90

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

issue of the Aragon divorce had long made historians uneasy. Catholics had tended to blame Cardinal Wolsey. Gilbert Burnet and David Hume saw that the issue was much more complicated than that. There had been problems in Henry’s marriage to Catherine from the start; these problems intensified as time went on, especially as Catherine failed to produce a living heir male; Wolsey came to see Catherine as standing in the way of his vaunting ambition; and then Anne Boleyn captivated the King and monopolized him. Lingard, however, saw things in much simpler terms: ‘The lust of Henry generated the independence of the English Church.’ He revived the suggestion that Henry had had Anne’s sister Mary as his previous mistress and he discovered the documentation to prove it. He alleged that Anne had been in England as early as 1522 and had been an early cause of Henry’s dissatisfaction with Catherine of Aragon, and not just the later catalyst of events – again he produced documentary evidence which supported this view. Lingard’s character-assassination of Anne Boleyn was thorough. He maintained, like Cardinal Pole, that Anne ‘artfully kept her lover in suspence, but tempered her resistance with so many blandishments, that his hopes, though repeatedly disappointed were never totally extinguished’. But her virginity was as tactical as was that of her famed daughter, Elizabeth, much later. It served to make Henry scrupulous about his marriage with the wife of his late brother. It whetted his appetite and made him dream of marriage. Both Burnet and Hume had asserted that Anne maintained her chastity until her marriage to Henry in November 1532, ten months before Elizabeth’s birth. Lingard shocked the public by alleging that Anne became Henry’s mistress in 1529, months before the meeting of the Reformation Parliament. He even produced a letter, written by Cranmer, which suggested that the marriage did not take place until 25 January 1533, when Anne was already pregnant by Henry. And from the Vatican Archives he unearthed a dated letter from 1527 which contained the words: ‘Ayant este plus qu’une anne attaynte du dart d’amours, non estant assure de faliere, trouver place en votre coeur et affection’. Lingard’s account elicited a response from an anonymous author in the Quarterly Review which attacked the nature of Lingard’s interpretation: 90

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 91

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

Dr Lingard details the whole progress of the amour (between Henry and Anne) during five years, with the precision and accuracy of one of Marivaux’ novels. His authorities for all this are a few dateless letters, and a furious invective by Henry’s enemy, Cardinal Pole. The finished coquette, who, coldly and with ambitious calculation, for two years, refused a less price than a crown for her affection, who, by consummate artifice, wrought the amorous monarch to divorce his wife and wed herself, is stated, nevertheless, to have lived as Henry’s concubine during three years. Now, in the absence of all authentic evidence, would it not have been more natural, evidently more charitable, to attribute her long resistance to her virtuous principles, perhaps to her previous attachment to Percy? her weakness to the seductions of Henry’s ardent attachment, and to her confidence in his promises. All that is proved against her is, that she was married on the 25th of January . . . and that Elizabeth was born the 13th of September.51

Such criticisms drew from Lingard a spirited reply in the form of his Vindication of Certain Passages in the fourth and fifth volumes of the History of England (1826). One by one, he refuted the reviewer’s arguments. There was, he said, a good deal of evidence that contemporaries regarded Anne as the King’s mistress. Cardinal Wolsey had called Anne ‘the night-crowe, that cries ever in the king’s ear against me’; the French ambassador, Du Bellay, a man in both Henry’s and Anne’s confidence, looked on Anne as Henry’s mistress; papal briefs stated the same. And the circumstantial evidence was surely devastating: We have the evidence of the facts. We find the king attempting to seduce a young and beautiful female. To overcome her objections, he promises her marriage, as soon as he can obtain a divorce from his wife. The cause is brought into court: but the delay of the judges irritates his impatience. He expels his wife; and sends for the object of his affection from the house of her father; he allots her appartments contiguous to his own, he orders his courtiers to pay to her all the respect due to the Queen; he suffers her to interfere in matters of state, and to claim a share in the distribution of favours. Thus they live for three years under the same roof. We find them taking their meals together; if the King ride out, we are sure to discover her by his side; if he hunt, he places her in a convenient station to partake of the sport; if he change his residence, she accompanies him; and, when he crosses the sea to meet the French king at Calais, he cannot 91

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 92

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

leave her behind him. Let the reader couple all this with the amorous temperament of Henry, with his impetuous disposition, with his indelicate allusions and anticipations in his correspondence with her, and he will not want evidence to teach him in what relation they live together, nor feel any surprise, if her child was born within little more than seven months after the clandestine celebration of their marriage.52

Then Lingard proceeded to rebut the claim that Pole’s testimony regarding Henry’s relationship with Mary Boleyn was by its very nature suspect. In fact, he urged, Pole assumed in his advice to Henry that the King’s relationship with Mary was a known and undisputed fact. He assumed it when he sought to persuade Henry that he was divorcing Catherine not because of conscience but because of passion. The issue of consanguinity was not important, Pole argued, because Henry stood in the same relationship with Anne (the sister of his erstwhile mistress, Mary) as with Catherine (who had been his brother Arthur’s wife). Finally, he replied to the reviewer’s charge that he had been unjust to Anne. Lingard claimed impartiality: he had recounted the rumours that Anne had been immoral and had taken servants as lovers, but he had refused to draw conclusions.53 It was indeed extraordinarily difficult to overturn Lingard’s measured case against Anne Boleyn: contemporaries were quick to see that his work effectively besmirched the origins of the English Reformation. Sharon Turner’s Henry VIII was by far the most ambitious Protestant attempt of the time to retrieve the situation. He tried to do this by diverting attention away from the embarrassment of Anne herself. He devoted an entire chapter to Cardinal Wolsey’s part in instigating the royal divorce. Using Edward Hall and Polydore Vergil, he sought to demonstrate that the doubts about the legitimacy of the Aragon match originated not with Henry but with Wolsey, ‘that Wolsey was the chief agent in the inception of the divorce; and that it was begun, and at first pursued, independent of Anne Boleyn’. To Turner, Anne was nothing more than ‘an accidental and a temporary appendage’ to a cause already under way and from which the King could not draw back. In an attempt to reassert the spiritual nature of the English Reformation, Turner emphasized the steady growth of Protestant ideas which were ‘producing, every day, new stems and new fruit’ 92

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 93

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

and which formed a vital background to the passion and the politics at court.54 But Turner was forced to deal with Anne’s own tragic history. And there is no doubt that she was a severe embarrassment. As Lingard pointed out in the first edition of his History, even her daughter had made no attempt to clear her name, preferring rather to forget that there ever had been such a person as Anne Boleyn – as far as Elizabeth I was concerned, she was her father’s and not her mother’s daughter. She preferred to forget that she was a chip off the old block, when that block was located on Tower Green. The main problem which Turner faced was that if he succeeded in clearing Anne’s name of the charges made against her, he inevitably made Henry VIII the guilty party. He compromised. He withheld a verdict, claiming that the surviving evidence was immensely ambiguous, but he cast Anne in a favourable light. He was able to do this by consulting the commission for investigation into her behaviour and concluding that the commission and its findings suggested a fabricated accusation, and by maintaining that Anne herself acted throughout as someone would who believed that her indisputable innocence would save her. But Turner was worried by the nature of Mark Smeaton’s confession and was unable to use evidence which later came to light to the effect that none of the five who were executed (Lord Rochford, Breton, Norris, Smeaton and Weston) declared their innocence or guilt at the execution. Turner’s defence of Anne was not successful because he substituted mere assertion for documentary proof: his defence of the spiritual origins of the English Reformation suffered from the same defect. Conclusion

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the debate about the nature of the English Reformation was closely connected to the controversy concerning Catholic emancipation. Features of the conflict between Catholic and reformer in the sixteenth century which illuminated this current debate were selected for attention. Were the Catholics traitors? Were the Catholics brutal persecutors of the adherents of the new religion? 93

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 94

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

If so, were they any worse than the Protestants in this respect? Was persecution, in fact, a product of sixteenth-century society and culture rather than a necessary attribute of either Catholicism or Protestantism per se? Was the English Reformation really the act of spiritual cleansing which Protestant historians had proclaimed it? Had it not been an act motivated by lust, passion and greed? Had it not destroyed a pristine Catholic Church, and a successful and caring social system, in the interests of a lustful monarch and his money-grubbing, capitalistic courtiers? All these questions were asked because they were seen to have a real bearing upon the current question – should the Catholics be accepted as full citizens or should they not? Nevertheless, the attempt to answer these questions had a profound effect upon the nature of the contemporary and future historical debate about the origins and nature of the Reformation in England. How did it do this? The Catholic historians aired arguments about the nature of sixteenth-century Catholicism and Protestantism which had, in fact, appeared in many previous Catholic defences, but for the first time these arguments were widely read by non-Catholics and were actually countenanced by them. This owed much to the moderate approach of Butler and Berington, neither of whom were historians,55 and yet more to the measured, scholarly work of Lingard. On the other hand, Cobbett’s journalistic and far from moderate history was the precursor of the social and economic interpretations of the Reformation characteristic of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The great seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century accounts of the Reformation had emphasized its religious foundations. Now in the nineteenth century the focus reverted to the official nature of the Reformation at the expense of the spiritual. Historians of all religious opinions agreed that the English Reformation was a political act first and foremost. Protestant heroes and heroines were subjected to sharp attacks. Protestant historians such as Turner did not have access to the sources which would have enabled them to study the religious reformation which buttressed the official. Neither did they attend to the history of the Church as an institution during this period. Catholics and Protestants alike openly used the historical past 94

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 95

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850

to support their contemporary political arguments. A study of the content and impact of the historical writings produced during the course of the debate about Catholic emancipation should, however, alert us to the fact that historical arguments produced to support contemporary political causes should not be casually dismissed. They may well have had a profound effect upon historical debate, upon the issues selected for treatment and the interpretations proffered. Notes 1

2 3

4 5 6

7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14 15 16

‘Whig’ histories were written by Tories and Whigs alike. Whiggery was espoused by Tories such as the great medievalist Stubbs as often as by political Whigs. The term was coined by Herbert Butterfield to describe triumphalist narrative histories. Billie Melman, The Culture of History: English Uses of the Past 1800–1953 (Oxford, 2006), pp. 10–11. David Hume, The History of England from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the abdication of King James II, 1688 (1861), Vol. III, pp. 456, 308–9. See E.E. Wexler, David Hume and The History of England (Philadelphia, PA, 1979). Hume, History of England, Vol. III, p. 344. See N. Abercrombie, ‘Charles Butler and the English Jesuits, 1770–1823’, Recusant History, 15 (1979–81), 283–301. J. Drabble, ‘The historians of the English Reformation, 1780–1850’ (1975); John Vidmar, OP, English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, 1585–1954 (Brighton, 2005), pp. 24–8 goes into more detail, and stresses on pp. 38–40 Berington’s unfortunate penchant for vitriol – ‘Even by the liberal standards of the eighteenth century, Berington’s language went beyond the rules of decorum’. Equally, he emphasizes Milner’s vituperative prose and extremely argumentative character, e.g. pp. 49–51. Philip Hughes, The Catholic Question: 1688–1829 (1929), p. 168; Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 49. Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 50. Charles Butler, Reminiscences (1822), p. 234. See Abercrombie, ‘Charles Butler and the English Jesuits’. Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 29. See Eamon Duffy, ‘Joseph Berington and the English Catholic Cisalpine movement, 1782–1803’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, 1972). Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 29, citing Eamon Duffy, ‘Ecclesiastical democracy detected’, Recusant History, 10 (1970), 324. Charles (Tootel) Dodd, The Church History of England, 3 Vols (Brussels, 1737–42). Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 36. Berington, The Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani (Birmingham, 1793), p. 4. Berington, Gregorio Panzani, p. 5. J.C. Robertson (ed.), Peter Heylyn Ecclesia Restaurata, 2 vols (Cambridge, 95

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 96

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46

47 48 49

Ecclesiastical History Society, 1849), II, 268. Berington, Gregorio Panzani, p. 4. Berington, Gregorio Panzani, pp. 15–16, 24, 29. Berington, Gregorio Panzani, pp. 25–8. Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, pp. 32–4 considers Berington’s attitude to the Jesuits in more detail than space permits here. Charles Plowden, Remarks on a Book Entitled ‘Memoirs of Gregorio Panzani (Liège, 1794), pp. 76, 84–6, 147–8. Plowden, Remarks on a Book, pp. 147–8. John Milner, The History, Civil and Ecclesiastical, and Survey of the Antiquities of Winchester (Winchester, 1798–1801), pp. 385–6. John Milner, Letters to a Prebendary (1800; 4th edn Baltimore, MD, 1810), Letter VI. Charles Butler, Historical Memoirs of the English, Irish and Scottish Catholics Since the Reformation, 2 vols (1819), I, pp. 347–8. Butler, Historical Memoirs, I, 212, 343–4, 347–8, 426; II, 46. John Lingard, History of England, 8 Vols (1819–30), VIII, 112–14. Milner, Letters to a Prebendary, p. 111. Milner, The History . . . of Winchester, p. 355. Lingard, History of England, VII, pp. 154, 158. Lingard, History of England, VII, pp. 168–9. W.F. Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, 12 vols (1860–1876), 1868, VII, p. 62. Lingard, History of England, VII, pp. 153–4. H.J. Todd, Vindication of the Most Reverend Thomas Cranmer . . . (1826, 1831 edn), p. 333. Lingard, History of England, passim. Nicholas Pocock (ed.), Gilbert Burnet History of the Reformation of the Church of England, 7 vols (Oxford, 1865), III, p. 303. Milner, Antiquities of Winchester, pp. 102–30; Milner, Letters to a Prebendary, pp. 39–65; Joseph Berington, Gentleman’s Magazine, 69 (1799), 653–4. Milner, Antiquities of Winchester, p. 329. Milner, Antiquities of Winchester, p. 333. William Cobbett, A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland (1824–27; 1850 edn), p. 4. Cobbett, History of the Protestant Reformation, p. 19. Cobbett, History of the Protestant Reformation, p. 19. Cobbett, History of the Protestant Reformation, pp. 19, 26–7, 123–4. Cobbett, History of the Protestant Reformation, pp. 32, 188. Pocock, Gilbert Burnet, II, pp. 537–8. John Strype, Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion . . ., 4 vols (originally published London 1709–31; Oxford reprint, 1820–40), II, pp. 1, 658. For more on this see J. Drabble, ‘The historians of the English Reformation, 1780–1850’. Lingard, History of England, VI, pp. 153, 77–80. Hook, Lives of the Archbishops, IV, pp. 467–8. 96

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 97

HISTORIANS AND CONTEMPORARY POLITICS, 1780–1850 50 51 52 53 54 55

Todd, Vindication, pp. 50–3. Review in Quarterly Review, No. 56, 13. J. Lingard, Vindication of Certain Passages in the fourth and fifth volumes of the History of England (1826). Lingard, Vindication of Certain Passages, pp. 102–3. S. Turner, Henry VIII (1828), II, pp. 179–80, 199–200. Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, pp. 44–5 has an interesting discussion about Butler’s and Berington’s approaches to history.

97

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 98

4

The Church of England in crisis: the Reformation heritage

Introduction

In the nineteenth century the debate on the English Reformation took place not among members of an academic historical profession (as in the twenty-first century) but among men who were partisan in the struggles about the nature of the Church of England. They were often university men but they were not historians per se and they did not make a conscious contribution to the development of history as a discipline. Nineteenth-century Britain saw the established Church of England in the throes of a major crisis of identity. Christianity itself was threatened simultaneously by the alienation of educated men as a result of the spirit of free enquiry into science, history and theology; by the belief of many that the Scriptures were incompatible with new high moral standards; by the suggestion that the Old Testament did not represent literal truth; by the militant unbelief of the secularists, among whom George Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh were prominent; and by the failure to arouse the interest of the new urban working classes. All Christian denominations and sects were affected, but the Church of England more than any or all of the rest. The Church of England claimed to comprehend all the Christians of England and Wales, yet it patently did not do so in a Britain in which the existence and practice of other religious organizations were formally tolerated and, moreover, in which their members were accorded civil rights. The crisis of the established Church reached its climax with the repeal of the Test Acts (1828) and the 98

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 99

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

emancipation of the Catholics (1829), but, when this crisis was past and the patient seemingly recovering, another and an uglier presented itself – attacks upon the Church’s temporal privileges. Militant dissenters assailed the Church’s monopoly over rites de passage (births, marriages and deaths), demanded freedom from paying rates to support a state Church, claimed control over the education of their own young and the right to university degrees. Such agitation fuelled the activities of the Liberation Society, which campaigned for disestablishment. Members of the Church of England reacted by attempting to locate afresh the source of the authority of the established Church. Broadly speaking, evangelicals sought this authority in the Scriptures. Broad churchmen found it in the individual conscience which interpreted Holy Writ; High Churchmen within the Church itself. This search for authority necessarily led to some rethinking of the relationship between state and Church – a relationship which had been defined by the English Reformation of the sixteenth century and little refined since then. The evangelicals were more or less contented with the status quo, preferring to be active in the parishes rather than to be active in politics. They were dragged into the debates about Church organization, authority, and relations with the state in the 1860s by the position of ritualists and rationalists, which seemed to threaten their own existence. The Tractarians, on the other hand, were far from content. Unlike the Old High Churchmen who had looked to the Reformation to delineate the nature of the Church’s authority in matters spiritual, Newman and others of the circle looked much further back to the powerful and authoritarian medieval church which had pronounced on all matters of doctrine and had directed the religious life of all believers. The assault upon the Church of England’s right to keep its own doctrinal house in order was highlighted by the transferral in 1832 of the power to judge ecclesiastical appeals from the Court of Delegates to a judicial committee of the Privy Council which contained laymen and included no ecclesiastical lawyers. When, in 1850, this judicial committee reversed the view of the Church courts that Gorham’s Calvinistic opinions on baptism were contrary to the Church’s doctrine, and when in 1860 it reversed the sentence passed upon the two beneficed clerical contributors 99

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 100

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

to Essays and Reviews, battle was truly joined. Men of the Old High Church disliked this degree of intervention and hoped to counter it by measures such as the revival of Convocation and diocesan synods. The Tractarians adopted a more radical battle formation. They embraced the cause of disestablishment. They searched for historical support for their position. The Oxford movement and the history of the Reformation

The Oxford movement stressed the unbroken traditions of the English Church – the Catholic faith, the Catholic heritage, the apostolic succession. Neither John Keble nor J.H. Newman was enamoured of the Reformation, but both hesitated to impugn it in public. Both men were influenced by a much bolder spirit – (Richard) Hurrell Froude (1803–36). Froude was the eldest son of Robert Froude, Archdeacon of Totnes. He attended Oxford in the early 1820s, was an ordained Church of England clergyman and became a member of Keble’s circle. Keble disliked Froude’s expressed contempt for the reformers, but nevertheless shaped Froude’s conviction that there was in the Church a continuous Catholic heritage. When, in 1826–27, Froude studied under Dr Charles Lloyd, Regius Professor of Divinity, and traced the development of the Anglican liturgy from Roman Catholic books, Froude’s commitment to this view was absolute. Moreover, when he read about the Reformation and found the reformers themselves lacking in the integrity, reverence and moral courage which Keble so extolled, Froude became ‘a less and less son of the Reformation’. His views appear to have been shared privately by Keble and Newman – Keble wrote to his sister in 1836 of the reformers, ‘I have very little doubt that if we had lived in those times, neither my father, nor you nor Provost nor Harrison would have had anything to do with them’.1 There can be little question that Hurrell Froude approached the story of the English Reformation as a moral critic rather than as a historian. The reformers, after all, had attacked everything about the Catholic Church in England which he cherished – theirs was an iconoclastic, individualistic spirit entirely alien to his opinion that the Church was the ultimate fount of authority. English churchmen should conform ‘to the principles of the Church which has preserved its traditionary practices unbroken’, 100

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 101

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

and not those of the reformers. He found it unnecessary to consult many original documents. Instead, he condemned the apologia for the new relations between state and Church out of hand: ‘I do not hesitate to say that his [Jewel’s] Doctrine ought to be denied under pain of damnation.’ Hurrell Froude made of history polemic. Others joined in the battle fray. In an article on John Jewel for The British Critic in 1841, Frederick Oakeley declared the Reformation a ‘deplorable schism’ and called for the de-Protestantization of the Church of England; three years later, William George Ward styled the Reformation as political and unprincipled in his The Ideal of a Christian Church. Vilification of the reformers, protests against Protestant innovations, demands for autonomy in matters of doctrine became the order of the day. The construction of a supportive canon was under way. In 1842, for example, Lathbury published his History of Convocation. Samuel R. Maitland, ‘the high and learned’ librarian of Lambeth, sought with passionate zeal to discredit as historians both John Foxe, the martyrologist, and Stephen Reed Cattley, his editor.2 Many of the Catholic attacks upon the Protestant leaders provided additional valuable ammunition. The religious reaction

Those dedicated to the status quo had, of course, not bent their heads meekly to receive such blows. Far from it. The Religious Tract Society published the works of The British Reformers in twelve volumes between 1827 and 1831. Stephen Cattley’s edition of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, complete with a life and vindication of its author, appeared in eight volumes between 1837 and 1861. This was conceived as a response to the traditional Roman Catholic attacks on the reputation of the great martyrologist (for example, William Eusebius Andrews, A Critical and Historical Review of Fox’s Book of Martyre, showing the inaccuracies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations in that work of deception, which was reprinted in 1837 and in two volumes in 1853). In 1839, the evangelicals had attacked Hurrell Froude directly from the pulpit. In April 1840, they went one step further in their attempt to canonize the English reformers. From the pages of the British Magazine, they began the campaign to erect the Martyrs’ 101

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 102

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Memorial, the form of which subscribers had decided upon in early March of that year. This lasting homage to the memories of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and erected to the north of St Mary Magdalen in Magdalen Street, Oxford in 1841. It was as if, once a solid and imposing monument had been built, no one would again dare to assail the Protestant character of the English Church. The work of memorialization, and definition, was continued by the Parker Society, named after the first Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker. The Society endeavoured ‘to make known those works by which the Fathers of the Reformed English Church sought to diffuse Scriptural truth. Their principles were clearly set forth in their writings, and their descendants are now called upon to manifest the same principles, with firmness and decision.’ Accordingly, between 1841 and 1853, the Parker Society published fifty-three volumes of writings by sixteenth-century English divines, ‘without abridgement, alteration, or omission’. Slightly later, in 1870, Nicholas Pocock brought out his two-volume Records of the Reformation as a consequence of editing Gilbert Burnet’s History of the Reformation: ‘searching for the originals of the records he had printed at the end of each of the three volumes of his work, as vouchers for the accuracy and truth of his assertions in the text’.3 S.R. Maitland on John Foxe’s credibility

In their turn, the genuflections which the ‘Protestants’ made to the English reformers spurred the ‘Catholics’ in the Church of England towards ever greater extremes. The most notable of these attacks, and the one with the most lasting influence, was the onslaught staged by S.R. Maitland against the credibility of John Foxe. His work is illustrative of the Victorian fascination with Foxe, be it as hero or villain.4 Maitland attempted, again through the pages of the British Magazine, to undermine Foxe’s centuriesold reputation as ‘faithful martyrologist of the church of England, skilful investigator of historical antiquity, stout champion of evangelical truth, remarkable wonderworker, who presented the Marian Martyrs like phoenixes revived from their ashes’ (epitaph to Foxe at St Giles Cripplegate, London). 102

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 103

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

Maitland’s works included a Review of Foxe the Martyrologist’s ‘History of the Waldenses’ (1837); ‘Six Letters on Foxe’s Acts and Monuments’ (1837); ‘Notes on the contributions of the Reverend George Townsend’ (1841–42); ‘Remarks on the Reverend S. Cattley’s Defence’ (1842); and ‘Essay on . . . the Reformation in England’ (1849). Maitland tried to show that Foxe was inaccurate, attacking the ‘never-mind school of history’ which ‘cuts its way through matters of fact, with reckless slaughter of names, and places and dates, and with any translation or mistranslation of documents, in order to establish any point of faith, or opinion, which it may see fit to select’. Certainly, he discovered in Foxe errors of Latin translation, plagiarism and reluctance to cite his sources. He measured Foxe’s work against the standards of contemporary historical scholarship and found him wanting – not surprisingly. Moreover, Maitland himself was motivated by an aversion to Puritanism which remained constant throughout his writings.5 The allegation that Foxe deliberately falsified his account in order to glorify Protestants remained unproven. Yet J.G. Nichols’ rejection of ‘the suspicions upon the veracity of John Foxe which have been so sedulously suggested by his enemies’ and his attempt to restore Foxe’s reputation through publication of many of the documents upon which Foxe had relied had little success.6 Maitland’s allies in the world of scholarship were no less unrelenting in their efforts to label Foxe as a falsifier of the evidence. Their opinion was absorbed into historical and reference literature. In his biography of Henry VIII, J.S. Brewer made no bones about it: Had Foxe the martyrologist been an honest man, his carelessness and credulity would have incapacitated him from being a trustworthy historian. Unfortunately he was not honest; he tampered with the documents that came into his hands, and freely indulged in those very faults of suppression and equivocation for which he condemned his opponents.7

Sidney Lee reiterated these sentiments in the influential pages of the Dictionary of National Biography. Small wonder it was that the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1929 charged Foxe with ‘wilful falsification of the evidence’. 103

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 104

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Although there is still no full-scale modern study of Foxe as a historian, some work has been done which suggests that these charges hold little water under closer examination. For example, in one place Foxe wrote that the Lollards preached against the concept of tithe; he later corrected this to read more accurately that they preached against the payment of tithe to wicked priests. Foxe’s account of the Guernsey Martyrs (in both the 1563 and 1570 editions) has been attacked, but in fact it tallies with all surviving records. Foxe was castigated for including criminals and traitors among his martyrs, but in reality he was punctilious in denouncing the crimes of martyrs who had doubtful records. For instance, there was the case of William Flower, an ex-monk, who, on Easter Day 1555, struck a mass priest at St Margaret’s Westminster. He proceeded to repent his violence, but spoke heresy against the mass and refused to recant to buy his life. Foxe, in recounting the story, denounced Flower’s crime and praised only his refusal to recant what he believed to be the truth. True or no, the blows struck against Foxe by Maitland and his allies travelled home. Foxe’s reputation had to await the efforts of J.F. Mozley and William Haller to be partially reinstated.8 And Maitland was carried away in destroying the credibility of all ‘Puritan’ sources. Buried among the source materials of the English Church, he was driven by his love of ‘accuracy’ to wage a very biased war against Protestant writers, ascribing to them the very worst of intentions and practices: For the history of the Reformation in England, we depend so much on the testimony of writers, who may be considered as belonging . . . to the puritan party . . . that it is of the utmost importance to inquire whether there was any thing in their notions respecting TRUTH, which ought to throw suspicion on any of their statements. The question is one which does not require much research or argument. There is something very frank (one is almost inclined to say, honest) in the avowals, whether direct or indirect, which various puritans have left on record, that it was considered not only allowable, but meritorious, to tell lies for the sake of the good cause in which they were engaged . . . [for] they did not hesitate . . . to state what they knew to be false.9

104

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 105

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

In his essays on the Reformation in England, Protestants such as George Joye, Anthony Dalaber, John Knox, Christopher Goodman and Thomas Becon were held up as examples of this tendency. Defence of the Reformation

Contemporary Protestants did attempt, of course, to protect the reputation of their Reformation heroes. George Townsend, the biographer of Foxe, made a detailed defence of his work in his ‘Preliminary Dissertations’ to the Cattley edition of 1837–41. He checked Foxe’s use of documents against the British Museum manuscripts, emphasized Foxe’s use of eyewitness accounts and, especially, his use of Grindal’s assistance. He showed that Foxe might have been careless in his use of sources but that he had tried to include note of his authorities and to take account of fresh evidence as it became available in order to correct his narrative. But he, like Foxe’s other defenders, made relatively little impression: it was Maitland’s dart which reached home. As it happened, the effective defence of the Reformation came not from the friends of the martyrologist, nor yet indeed from those who built a memorial to his martyrs, but from the younger brother of that Richard Hurrell Froude who had led the attack. James Anthony Froude’s The History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada was written from the perspective of a committed Protestant who saw religion as the determining force of history and was relatively uninterested in constitutional questions. Froude’s was the history of the English Reformation and not of the Tudors. The terminal events of his history were chosen for their religious and not their constitutional import. The death of Wolsey signalled the birth of the Reformation, the defeat of the Armada its salvation.10 In his history, Froude (1818–94) portrayed the English Reformation as a moral victory in the struggle for human freedom and intellectual honesty. The Reformation was not political and unprincipled; the reformers were not frightened sycophants; the opponents of the reform such as More and Mary of Scotland were not heroes or heroines; there was no medieval Catholic Utopia destroyed by iconoclastic Protestants. Instead, there were strong, 105

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 106

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

good men fighting a strong, good fight. So Froude saw the Reformation as something not politically, but morally necessary. The monasteries were dissolved not because Henry needed money but because they were offensive; the spoils went to serve educational and national defence purposes, and not to line the pockets of Henry and his courtiers. England’s independence of Rome was declared because she would govern herself, and not be ruled by loathsome priests. Henry rid himself of Anne Boleyn because she was guilty. Lord Burghley was not simply a canny statesman, but also a defender of the faith. This is, of course, to caricature J.A. Froude’s monumental work. The modern student may find strikingly familiar Froude’s interpretation of the complex relationship between the official and the popular religious reformation. He wrote of the force of tradition, of habit as an inhibitor of change: Healthy people live and think more by habit than by reason, and it is only at rare intervals that they are content to submit their institutions to theoretic revision. The interval of change under Edward the Sixth had not shaken the traditionary attachment of the English squires and peasantry to the service of their ancestors. The Protestants were confined chiefly to the great towns and seaports; and those who deprecated doctrinal alterations, either from habit, prudence, or the mere instinct of conservatism, still constituted two-thirds, perhaps three-fourths, of the entire people.11

He spoke of the dilemma facing the young Elizabeth on her accession: Every course open to her was beset with objections, she would not stand still, she could move in no direction without offence to some one; and she herself in her own internal uncertainties was a type of the people who she was set to rule. She had been educated in a confused Protestantism which had evaded doctrinal difficulties, and had confined itself chiefly to the anathemas of Rome. Left to herself on her Father’s death, while the Anglican divines had developed into Calvinism, Elizabeth had inclined to Luther and the Augsburg Confession. For herself she would have been contented to accept the formulas which had been left by her Father, with an English ritual, and the communion service of the first Prayer-book of Edward the Sixth. But the sacramentarian tendencies of English Protestant theology had destroyed Henry’s standing ground as a position which the 106

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 107

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

Reformers could be brought to accept. It was to deny transubstantiation that the martyrs had died. It was in the name and defence of the mass that Mary and Pole had exercised their savage despotism.12

One could be forgiven for expressing the view that modern scholars, for all their more careful scholarship and standards of textual criticism, have moved little beyond J.A. Froude. Presumably modern historians rarely look first to Froude’s narrative: yet many a modern account could have been directly modelled upon his. It was in their preoccupation with the social foundations of the Reformation that many subsequent historians parted company with Froude. If, however, we read further in the same paragraph we will find evidence of the impact which earlier Protestant histories, and particularly that of Foxe, had upon Froude’s interpretation. Again, the fundamentals of the narrative would meet with considerable agreement among modern Reformation scholars, but the ‘tone’ of the passage would be entirely foreign to historians of the later twentieth century: Elizabeth had borne her share of the persecution; she resented with the whole force of her soul the indignities to which she had been exposed, and she sympathized with those who had suffered at her side. She was the idol of the young, the restless, the enthusiastic; her name had been identified with freedom; and she detested more sincerely than any theologian living, the perversity which treated opinion as a crime. In her speculative theories she was nearer to Rome than to Calvinism. In her vital convictions she represented the free proud spirit of the educated laity, who would endure no dictation from priests of either persuasion, and so far as lay in them, would permit no clergy any more to fetter the thoughts and paralyze the energies of England. With such views it was impossible for her to sanction permanently the establishment of a doctrine from which the noblest of her subjects had revolted, or to alienate the loyalty of the party who in her hour of danger had been her most ardent friends.13

Froude’s essentially nationalistic account of the Reformation has provided the counter to that version which sees the Reformation purely as an act of necessity for England’s monarchy. J.A. Froude, unlike his brother, Hurrell, wrote from the archives and, although he often copied his sources carelessly, he does not seem to have deliberately falsified his tale. Yet, no less than 107

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 108

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Hurrell, he was using history to plead a cause. His was but a partial history. Hurrell denigrated the reformers; James Anthony whitewashed them. Neither case would find credence in a modern court. As the writer in the Edinburgh Review pointed out of J.A. Froude’s history of the Reformation, he never thought to question the evidence, to look below the surface of Protestant propaganda, to query the stated positions of the protagonists. Froude thought that the 1529 Parliament was freely elected; he accepted the preambles to Tudor legislation as expressions of public opinion; he did not at all suspect the fact that not a single judge or jury acquitted a victim in a Crown prosecution. The processes which produced the documents available to him did not interest him at all. Froude’s underlying purpose was to show that the Church of England was indeed Protestant – it had been created at the Reformation as a protest against a monstrous Catholic Church. Monarchs had wanted a limited Reformation, perhaps, but religious reformers had in time taken over and moved the process of reform much further. The Church of England, therefore, did not and could not preserve in itself the traditions of the Catholic Church. Hurrell, on the contrary, denied the religious character of the English Reformation and obstinately clung to the belief that the Church of England stood in an unbroken Catholic tradition, its record marred only by the sycophantic and heretical acts of sixteenth-century ecclesiastics. R.W. Dixon and the Reformation as a political act

Some much more scholarly works echoed the position adopted by Hurrell Froude, however. The detailed and learned history penned by Canon Richard Watson Dixon (1833–1900) in the 1880s arrived at a similar conclusion: the English Reformation was a political act, the product of the legislation of the 1529 Parliament. Dixon’s exceptional prose style and penetrating analysis warrant extensive quotation, the more so as his work has been sadly neglected: This was indeed the most memorable Parliament that ever sat. It was the assembly which transformed old England – the England of Chaucer and Lydgate – into modern England. At the time when it met, England herself resembled one of those great edifices, dedicated 108

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 109

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

to religion, with which she abounded then, but which were soon to fall in ruin beneath the axe and hammer of the reformation. . .. The Parliament whose proceedings we are to consider laid the axe to the tree. A full generation at least of the fiercest hacking and hewing followed, ere the ancient system was spread upon the ground. The fury of a great revolution, which was designed to have been general, fell first, as in all such cases, upon religion and the Church.14

He swept aside other explanations for the Reformation: As to what are commonly termed the causes of the Reformation, there seem to have been none which have not been exaggerated. Everybody knows what is said of the breaking up of the frost of ages, the corruptions of the old system, the influence of German Protestantism, and the explosive force of new ideas generated by the Revival of Learning: and everybody has grown accustomed to set the old against the new, as if they were totally repugnant forces, which simply strove to destroy one another. Much of this may be dismissed as no more than a graphic contrivance for enabling us to comprehend a memorable epoch, but historically untrue . . . So far as England is concerned, there seem to have been no causes at work which had not been at work long enough, and with very much the same degree of activity, when accident precipitated the Reformation.15

Then he fixed upon that feature of the English Reformation which he considered its most important characteristic. It was a revolution and it was a revolution carried through by constitutional or legal procedure. It was precipitated by the presence of Henry VIII on the throne, ‘a man of force without grandeur: of great ability, but not of lofty intellect: punctilious and yet unscrupulous: centred in himself: greedy and profuse: cunning rather than sagacious: of fearful passion and intolerable pride, but destitute of ambition in the nobler sense of the word: a character of degraded magnificence’.16 Why was Henry’s role so central? The laity had always opposed the clergy, envied them their wealth, and eyed their patrimony. ‘But the King of England had hitherto stood in the gate to protect the one party from the other, and to preserve the rights of all. Now he lent the sanctity of the Crown to an enormous devastation; and the elements which might have been controlled became uncontrollable.’ When the monarch called the people to attack the clergy and their power, he ‘had the nation at his back. 109

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 110

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

He had with him the needy and the greedy and the rich and the noisy’.17 Dixon identified a revolution which struck first at the Church but eventually undermined the entire system. His understanding of the nature of this revolution in government was astute. It was effected within the constitution, and not by the subversion of the constitution. It was effected by solemn procedure. Those who openly opposed it were made to take the position of rebels and traitors . . . we find a constant disclaimer of revolutionary violence, and repeated references, more or less justifiable, to some kind of precedent. This formal adherence to antiquity, this continued maintenance of the old constitution in all parts and branches, is the most characteristic and admirable feature of the English Reformation. But at the same time it must be carefully noticed that much of all this was no more than formal: that there was a real transfer of power made from one part of the old constitution to another: and that many things survived henceforth as shadows which had hitherto been of the force and activity of substance.18

Dixon’s style is a delight to read, but it is not only for his literary flourishes and unforced candour that he should be read. He reached his views after a careful examination of the available evidence, which he duly cited in the footnotes. He explored motivation, suggested the importance of social change, pondered the history of the surviving documentation and determined to look below the surface of proclamations and acts. Above all he penetrated to the heart of the matter: why was there an English Reformation? what was its nature? what role did the King play in it? And he laid the groundwork for many a later historian – as later chapters of this book will testify. As a result, Dixon’s work is not without value for today’s historian of the Reformation as well as for the student of Reformation historiography. Charles Beard and the unfinished Reformation

English historians of the Reformation exhibited a marked traditionary tendency – their aim was to show that their own current religious position, be it Protestant or Catholic or Anglo-Catholic – was securely founded on historical precedent. The dislike of innovation, apparently peculiarly characteristic of the English, fuelled 110

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 111

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

an enthusiasm for the past and historical studies. At the same time, there were some who found this absorption with precedent unhealthy. One such was Charles Beard, scholar, social worker, popular orator and Unitarian preacher, an early light in the history of Liverpool University. Charles Beard (1827–88) was deeply interested in the relationship between past, present and future, but from a far different perspective than were the brothers Froude or librarian Maitland. Beard wanted above all to show that the Reformation occurred in a specific historical context – that it was a reformation for its own times – the sixteenth century – and not for the nineteenth century. In other words, the particular changes wrought by the Reformation – be it in Europe or in England – did not represent a blueprint for the future Church. On the other hand, the spirit of the Reformation must be revived. Contemporaries had turned the truth upside down. They treated the doctrine and dogma of the Reformation as sacrosanct and had, in the process, killed the motive force of the movement. For Beard, then, the Reformation was not a theological, religious or ecclesiastical movement at root, but ‘the life of the Renaissance infused into religion . . . a partial reaction from the ecclesiastical and ascetic mood of the middle ages to Hellenic ways of thinking’. The Reformation stripped the Church of the accretions of the Middle Ages. But it unfortunately crystallized doctrine – giving it a finality while the rest of human thought progressed. The Church must think again and take account, for example, of the theory of evolution, of the concept of heredity, of heliocentric studies.19 Beard’s brief discussion of the English Reformation has intrinsic interest. He saw the English Reformation as a native product which, while it assimilated Lutheran, Calvinist and even Zwinglian influences, yet ‘followed no precedents, and was obedient only to its own law of development’. Yet he saw this ‘native’ reformation as a reaction to the same general situation as prevailed in Germany and Switzerland. But the actual inauguration of reform was not due to religious conviction at all. The Reformation did not reflect the beliefs of either the people or its leaders – ‘the motive power was at least as much political as religious’, ‘the tone which it took and the rapidity of its progress depended more upon the caprices of a line of arbitrary princes than upon the serious convictions of the people’. 111

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 112

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

All through these Tudor times the tide of Reformation ebbs and flows, as the monarch wills: now Henry is the Defender of the Faith against Luther, and now is urgent that Melancthon should undertake the task of the English Reformation: he is Protestant in the assertion of his own supremacy, Catholic in his adhesion to sacramental doctrine: the translation of the Bible is promoted or retarded as his royal caprice dictates: and when he has swept the wealth of the monasteries into his coffers, he issues the Six Articles, and burns the heretics who deny the Real Presence. I will not inflict upon you the familiar story of the fluctuations of religious policy under Edward, Mary and Elizabeth: the strange thing is, how little the nation counts for, how much the Prince.20

The effect was to produce a Church of England which was both Catholic and Protestant, not out of design and commitment but out of accident. The Settlement was politically constructed. This official Reformation was not the product of a religious movement. Yet the people of England were affected by a religious movement, and Protestantism gradually took a hold upon them. In this sense the ‘Reformation in England was a case of arrested development, and Elizabeth’s settlement, a compromise which came too soon’.21 Popular Protestantism was impatient with the settlement and strove to interpret it in a congenial way, but to no avail. Seeing the Reformation in this way, Beard was able to show that, ‘from what has been said, it will be plain that from the first, two distinct elements have been present in the English Church, sometimes struggling for the mastery, sometimes living peacefully side by side, and that it is contrary to historical fact for either to insert itself in such a way as to exclude the other’. As to the evangelicals and the Oxford movement, both are correct. England’s Church is Protestant; England’s Church is Catholic. As such, the Church of England holds a middle and a mediating place in Christendom. In Beard’s view, therefore, the battles between rival religious parties have inflicted terrible and unnecessary wounds. The spirit of Reformation, if revived, will ‘restore the unity which was shattered by the old’. A true understanding of Reformation history will bring reconciliation in its wake. Beard, then, called for a new Reformation for his own times. As his biographers said, his ‘impressive syntheses’ ‘show the development of Beard’s call (by 112

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 113

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

no means his alone) for a new Reformation that, in his understanding, would reject all forms of infallibility (institutional or textual), reconcile religion and science, and unite Christians and non-Christians alike in understanding the religious impulse as a proper subject for scientific study.’22 Evolution and the Reformation

If Beard saw the Reformation as a case of arrested development, other Englishmen were more positive in their attitude, seeing it as a key point in the evolution of civilized society. Social evolutionism, heavily influenced by the writings of Herbert Spencer, provided a social complement to Darwin’s theory of biological evolution. Societies develop and mature. The good and strong characteristics of these societies survive; the bad and weak are defeated and diminish. It was left to a layman, Benjamin Kidd (1858–1916), to locate in this scheme of things the Reformation, a purifying movement which represented the triumph of all that was good of medieval culture and religion over all that was bad: The importance of this movement, as we shall better understand later, is very great, much greater indeed than the historian, with the methods at his command, has hitherto assigned to it. Its immediate significance was, that while, as already explained, it represented an endeavour to preserve intact the necessary super-rational sanction for the ethical ideals of the Christian religion, it denoted the tendency of the movement which had so far filled the life of the western peoples to find its social expression. It liberated as it were, into the practical life of the peoples affected by it, that immense body of altruistic feeling which had been from the beginning the distinctive social product of the Christian religion, but which had hitherto been, during a period of immaturity and intense vitality, directed into other channels. To the evolutionist this movement is essentially a social development. It took place inevitably and naturally at a particular stage which can never recur in the life of the social organism. In his eyes its significance consists in the greater development which the altruistic feelings must attain amongst the peoples where the development was allowed to proceed uninterrupted in its course.23

Kidd’s position led him to accentuate the bad in medieval Christianity and the good in Protestantism. He was, after all, 113

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 114

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

committed to tracing a line of ethical progress. But, a-historical as he often was in his treatment of this historical theme, Kidd, interestingly enough, did put his finger on one characteristic of the Protestant Reformation which had been stressed by its agents. It restored the individual to direct contact with God and with the teaching of Christ as expressed in the Scriptures: It is probable that the changes in doctrine which had principally contributed to produce this result were those which had tended to bring the individual into more intimate contact with the actual life and example of the Founder of Christianity, and therefore with the essential spirit that underlay our religious system and served to distinguish it from all other systems.24

Individuals now felt responsible for their own actions; practical altruism was emphasized; family life was deepened and enriched; the commitment to industry was intensified. Small wonder, thought Kidd, for it may be noticed, consequently, ‘how much farther the development of the humanitarian feelings has progressed in those parts of our civilisation most affected by the movement of the sixteenth century, and more particularly amongst the Anglo-Saxon peoples’.25 He listed amongst these manifestations the crusade against slavery; the antivivisection movement; vegetarianism; and the enfranchisement of women. He went on to assert that in England all classes of society had been civilized by the Reformation and sensitized to the presence of evil in society. Because of this the movement towards adapting the old system to suit the new wants of the people was progressing ‘as a natural and orderly development’. There was no need for revolution because there was evolution. Of course, Kidd was not interested in the detailed history of the Reformation, either in England or abroad, but his work exhibited a tendency which should not go unnoticed. His view of the Reformation as a civilizing movement led him to underplay the politique aspects of the religious changes of the sixteenth century and to emphasize the spiritual and ethical content of the Reformation. Kidd was no historian, but the extreme popularity of his Social Evolution meant that his perspective on historical change was influential: his was certainly a ‘basically Whiggish and ultimately “Protestant” view of things’26 and it probably had more 114

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 115

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN CRISIS

effect upon literate Englishmen than historians have previously realized. Conclusion

Nineteenth-century churchmen and involved laymen believed that the Reformation held the key to the crisis of identity which the contemporary Church was experiencing. Unfortunately and, perhaps, inevitably they found it as difficult to agree in their analysis of the nature of the Reformation as they did to agree in their churchmanship. By the final decades of the century a new tradition of academic and ‘scientific’ history, influenced greatly by the German school of Von Ranke, was developing. Historians sought to study the past through its sources and to be objective in their interpretation. In 1870 Nicholas Pococke, as he traced the sources used by Gilbert Burnet for his great history, was able to criticize both Burnet and Strype for neglecting ‘a volume which, at least, would have set at rest the question whether the Universities and individual Canonists and Theologians in Northern Italy were bribed to give opinions in the king’s favour in the matter of divorce from Catharine of Arragon’.27 Pocock clearly believed that a true history of the Reformation would emerge from the pages of the records he printed: The principle adopted was to print nearly all such papers as would throw any light upon the religious changes introduced at the time of the Reformation – so as to constitute, as far as possible, nearly all that might serve for that ‘History of the Reformation’ which, after so many attempts, it may truly be said, still remains to be written.28

In the preface to this book Pocock discusses the sources in a manner reminiscent of modern editors, weighing the evidence for and against their authenticity and veracity.29 Notes 1

W.J. Baker, ‘Hurrell Froude and the reformers’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 21 (1970), 243–59. See also P. Brendon, s.n. ‘(Richard) Hurrell Froude’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004) and P. Brendon, Hurrell Froude and the Oxford Movement (1974) for Hurrell’s place in the contemporary Oxford Movement. 115

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 116

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION 2

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14

15 16 17 18 19

20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

See S.R. Maitland, Essays on Subjects Connected with the Reformation in England (1849). This was reprinted in London in 1906 as S.R. Maitland, The Reformation in England. N. Pocock, Records of the Reformation, Vols 1–2 (Oxford, 1870), Vol. 1, Preface. See D. Andrew Penny, John Foxe, Evangelicalism, and the Oxford Movement (Lampeter, 2002), p. 6. See Penny, John Foxe, pp. 52–5. John Gough Nichols, Narratives of the Days of the English Reformation (Camden Society, 1859) Vol. 77, p. xii. J.S. Brewer, Henry VIII, 2 Vols (1884), Vol. I, p. 52. See also Chapter 8 for even more modern work on Foxe. S.R. Maitland, Essays on . . . the Reformation in England (1849), pp. 1–2. J.A. Froude, The History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1856–70), 12 Vols. James Anthony was the younger brother of Hurrell and William Froude. J.A. Froude, History of England, Vol. VI, p. 114. J.A. Froude, History of England, Vol. VI, pp. 114–16. J.A. Froude, History of England, Vol. VI, p. 116. R.W. Dixon, History of the Church of England, 6 vols (1884), Vol. 1, pp. 2–3. For a mid-twentieth-century assessment see G. Rupp, ‘The Victorian churchman as historian: a reconsideration of R.W. Dixon’s History of the Church of England’, in G.V. Bennett and J.D. Walsh (eds), Essays in Modern English Church History: In Memory of Norman Sykes (1966), pp. 206–16. Dixon, History, Vol. I, p. 4. Dixon, History, Vol. I, pp. 4, 6. Dixon, History, Vol. I, pp. 5–6. Dixon, History, Vol. I, pp. 6–7. C. Beard, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in its Relation to Modern Thought and Knowledge (1883, 1927 edn). Charles Beard should not be confused with the prominent American historian Charles Austin Beard. Beard, Reformation, pp. 114–16. A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (1989), 2nd edn, p. 392. Alexander Gordon, rev. R.K. Webb, s.n. ‘Charles Beard’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). B. Kidd, Social Evolution (1894, 1906 edn), p. 162. Kidd, Social Evolution, p. 301 Kidd, Social Evolution, p. 303 J.J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Oxford, 1984), p. 1 N. Pocock, Records of the Reformation, 2 vols (Oxford, 1870), p. vi. Pocock, Records of the Reformation, p. vii. See Pocock, Records of the Reformation, pp. xxv–xxvi, where the author takes on Lingard’s use of the sources relating to Anne Boleyn.

116

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 117

5

The Tudor revolution in religion: the twentieth-century debate

Introduction

The figure of Henry VIII stands astride the Reformation century – a man of moods, at one moment terrifying and at another wooing his subjects, but always in command of the situation. But was he? At the very heart of the modern debate about the English Reformation lies the question – how far was the official Reformation the creation of the monarch? During the past 100 years many historians have turned their attention to this question. In general these historians continued the work of those nineteenth-century historians who believed that by assembling and drawing upon a mass of contemporary ‘evidence’ they would reveal the truth. In seeking to answer the question, they offered a variety of explanations for the official Reformation. Rather than seek to mention every work which touches on the topic (a gargantuan and not very useful task), we shall look here in some detail at the most important lines of interpretation. Pollard: the historian’s historian

Any such study must perforce begin with the work of Albert Frederick Pollard (1869–1948) for, whether the historians concerned like it or not, more recent interpretations of the role of Henry VIII in the shaping of the Reformation have been essentially reactive to Pollard’s interpretation. Pollard began his writing 117

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 118

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

career at a time when historians were seeking to develop a more scientific approach to history and were laying emphasis upon the use of original documentation, detailed research and objective analysis. In 1904 Pollard himself called for the establishment of a London school of history, a post-graduate school of historical research and a London university press. During the First World War he paved the way, with his Thursday evening seminars for historians at London, for the future Institute of Historical Research (IHR), of which he was the first director, from 1921–39. The idea behind this venture was to provide a forum for the discussion of the practical and theoretical problems involved in the study and writing of history – the difficulties inherent in using properly the newly available documentation. When he wrote his biography of Henry VIII (1902), Pollard had at his disposal published editions of important categories of documents – The Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, the reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, the volumes of the Camden Society and so forth.1 Somewhat ironically, Letters and Papers remained Pollard’s Bible: in 1974 Geoffrey Elton wrote: ‘Pollard, to put it bluntly, did not use manuscripts’.2 It was natural for him to focus on biography, for he had served his historical apprenticeship by contributing 500 ‘lives’ to the Dictionary of National Biography.3 In publishing the biography of Henry, Pollard declared that his prime aim was to present a balanced portrait of that monarch, yet he was acutely aware of the problems and even the impossibility of writing an objective account. The historian had to exercise his judgement when selecting the facts. The portrait which emerged had to be shaped by this judgement. No one could put it better than Pollard: Mr Froude has expressed his concurrence in the dictum that the facts of history are like the letters of the alphabet; by selection and arrangement they can be made to spell anything and nothing can be arranged so easily as facts. Experto credo. Yet selection is inevitable, and arrangement essential. The historian has no option if he wishes to be intelligible. He will naturally arrange his facts so that they spell what he believes to be the truth, and he must of necessity suppress those facts which he judges to be immaterial or inconsistent with the scale on which he is writing. And if the superabundance of facts compels both selection and suppression it counsels no less a restraint of judgement . . . Dogmatism is merely 118

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 119

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

the result of ignorance; and no honest historian will pretend to have mastered all the facts, accurately weighed all the evidence, or pronounced a final judgement.4

In short, Pollard realized the enormity of the problem facing the historians of the new breed. Unlike their medieval predecessors, they could not merely present chronicles or annals without analysis or arrangement. Unlike their more recent forebears, they could not blatantly take sides and make history support their current political or religious positions. They were committed to analysis and, simultaneously, to objectivity. Pollard decided that the dilemma was insoluble. No historian could present the absolute truth. He must settle for presenting, as honestly as possible, what he believed to be the truth after detailed and rigorous research and thinking. We do not need to agree with Pollard’s interpretation of Henry VIII’s part in the Reformation to appreciate the style and vigour of his writing, and the conviction which he brought to it. Unlike more recent scholars interested in the official Reformation, Pollard assumed rather than argued the central importance of Henry’s own views. Until he wrote, historians had been concerned to debate the morality of the English Reformation. The question foremost in their minds, as Pollard put it, was whether Henry was Attila the scourge of mankind or Hercules the cleanser of the Augean Stables.5 Pollard, the historian’s historian, was concerned not with morality but with explanation. With the documents at his disposal, he set out to explain how and why the Reformation occurred, rather than to argue that it was a good or a bad thing. And this intent led him to raise the whole issue of Tudor monarchy. Early in the biography he set before his reader the nature of the problem: What manner of man was this, and wherein lay the secret of his strength? Is recourse necessary to a theory of supernatural agency, or is there another and adequate solution? Was Henry’s will of such miraculous force that he could ride roughshod in insolent pride over public opinion at home and abroad? Or did his personal ends, dictated perhaps by selfish motives and ignoble passions, so far coincide with the interests and prejudices of the politically effective portion of his people, that they were willing to condone a violence and tyranny, the brunt of which fell after all on the few? Such is the 119

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 120

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

riddle which propounds itself to every student of Tudor history. It cannot be answered by paeans in honour of Henry’s intensity of will and force of character, nor by invectives against his vices and lamentations over the woes of his victims . . . the explanation of Henry’s career must be sought not so much in the study of his character as in the study of his environment, or the conditions which made things possible before or since and are not likely to be so again.6

Was Henry a tyrant who rode roughshod over his people in the matter of Reformation, or was he a despot who ruled by consent of his people? Pollard, then, was not concerned primarily with who made Reformation policy – he assumed that by this time Henry was truly in control – nor yet with whether there was such a policy, but with a rather different issue: what enabled this policy to succeed? The early sections of his book, those which ‘set the scene’, should not be dismissed as mere background. They are crucial to Pollard’s argument. They explain, to Pollard’s satisfaction, why it was that the English people freely gave Henry the power which he wielded. The English, having seen their land torn apart by the civil wars and the administrative chaos of Lancastrian and Yorkist rule, declared: ‘A plague on both your houses. Give us peace.’ Stability and not freedom was what they most craved, for ‘England in the sixteenth century put its trust in its princes far more than it did in its parliaments, it invested them with attributes almost divine’.7 According to Pollard, both Henry VII and his son crystallized this tendency into ‘practical weapons of absolute power’.8 And Henry VIII’s beauty, bravery, skill and learning, far from being ‘mere trifles below the dignity of history’, forged for him the most effective weapon of them all – a firm hold upon the popular imagination.9 In truth, it is Pollard’s appreciation of the importance of public opinion in allowing the English Reformation to take place that distinguishes his interpretation from other purely voluntaristic accounts of the Reformation. The Reformation was an act of Henry VIII’s will but it could not have happened had his people not allowed it. Pollard, having established to his own content that Henry VIII had an all-powerful armoury, sufficient to allow him to take all England with him away from its allegiance to Rome, saw the key question as being when it was that Henry realized that he 120

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 121

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

possessed this arsenal. ‘“If a lion knew his strength,” said Sir Thomas More of his master to Thomas Cromwell, “it were hard for any man to rule him.” Henry VIII had the strength of a lion; it remains to be seen how soon he learnt it, and what use he made of that strength when he discovered the secret.’10 In this biography Pollard describes the processes by which Henry discovered his strength and the uses to which he put it. We are shown a slowly maturing lion, under the tutelage of Cardinal Wolsey, and then a fully grown lord of the savannah, the very incarnation of personal monarchy. In this work, as in Pollard’s masterpiece, Wolsey (1929), Henry’s long reign is seen as composed of two halves: from 1514 to 1529 the young Henry let Thomas Wolsey govern England; from 1529 (aged thirty-eight) until his death in 1547 Henry was his own prime minister. It followed that Pollard saw Henry VIII as the architect of the English Reformation. The Reformation is presented as a movement ‘not in essence doctrinal’ but ‘an episode in the eternal dispute between Church and State’.11 Later historians of the official Reformation have followed suit, seeing the break with Rome as motivated by secular concerns, be they Henry’s desire for a divorce and a legitimate heir, the need to bolster Henry’s authority in the state or the grand design for a reformation of government. As Pollard saw it, the Church would not allow Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. For this reason, Henry withdrew England from the Roman Communion when he married Anne and assumed the headship of the Church of England. ‘The divorce was the spark which ignited the flame, but the combustible materials had long been existent’; ‘the divorce, in fact, was the occasion and not the cause of the Reformation’.12 The cause was Henry’s determination to be supreme in England. Pollard saw the Henrician Reformation as the culmination of the long struggle between spiritual and temporal powers in England: by it the English monarchy successfully asserted its authority over the Church in England. ‘[T]he wonder is, not that the breach took place when it did, but that it was deferred for so long.’13 What does Pollard have to say about the immediate occasion? According to his account, Henry’s desire for a divorce and remarriage stemmed from a succession crisis. He rejected the popular 121

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 122

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

theories of the time: Henry’s unbridled passion for Anne Boleyn and his doubts about the validity of his marriage to Catherine. Henry was convinced that there was a curse on his heirs – only one of his seven children by Catherine had survived infancy, and that a girl, the Princess Mary. This alone made him begin to take seriously earlier doubts about the wisdom of marrying his brother’s widow. The succession crisis was worsened by contemporary fears about the future succession of a woman and the existence of several rival claimants to the throne – the Duke of Norfolk (via his wife, a daughter of Edward IV); the Duke of Suffolk (via his wife, the sister of Henry VIII), and the Duke of Buckingham, a descendant of Edward III. Henry was driven by fears for his succession that he went to such lengths as ordering Buckingham’s execution (1521) and publicly acknowledging the illegitimate Blount as his son and as Duke of Richmond in 1525. Blount was even made Lord High Admiral of England, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Lord Warden of the Marches, and it was rumoured that he would be made King of Ireland. But a peaceful succession was what Henry craved, and such could not be secured save by a legitimate heir. A new wife was a necessity.14 Pollard’s dismissal of the theory that Henry divorced Catherine and broke away from the Church of Rome because of his passion for Anne Boleyn is of some interest to us: as we saw in earlier chapters, the theory was extremely popular both among those who sought to vilify Henry and Anne and among those who sought to present Anne Boleyn as a Protestant reformer. Pollard was dismissive: Henry had already satisfied his sensual passion in 1529 and he could have had Anne as a permanent mistress, just as he had had her sister, Mary, and Elizabeth Blount before her; it seemed possible that Henry had already commenced divorce proceedings before he became infatuated with Anne.15 Moreover, Anne was no Protestant reformer, for no matter what John Foxe claimed, ‘It had no nobler foundation than the facts that Anne’s position drove her into hostility to the Roman jurisdiction, and that her family shared the envy of church goods, common to the nobility and the gentry of the time’.16 As Eric Ives put it, both Pollard and Froude ‘set the tone for much twentieth-century scholarship by marginalizing the king’s private life.17 According to Pollard, the divorce was a political expedient. Anne’s person was 122

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 123

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

of little consequence – almost any able-bodied woman of childbearing age would have suited Henry’s purpose. At the most, Henry’s passion for her drove a wedge between himself and Wolsey, and, to the extent that Anne was unpopular, between himself and his people. For Pollard, then, it was Henry who diagnosed the problem (the need for a legitimate heir and, therefore, a change of wife), prescribed the medicine (divorce and remarriage) and insisted that the course of treatment be followed (break with Rome, removal of Catherine and remarriage to Anne). He stopped at nothing. A faithful wife was cast off; a daughter was declared a bastard; a minister was ruined; an ancient allegiance was deserted. Pollard was astute enough to appreciate that no monarch could have implemented such a drastic policy peacefully, had his people objected strongly. Henry had no standing army. Why, then, did he succeed both in obtaining the divorce and breaking with Rome – especially given the unpopularity of the divorce itself? Pollard believed that the answer lay in a coincidence between Henry’s wishes and those of the ruling elite, as assembled in Parliament. ‘By summoning Parliament, Henry opened the floodgates of anti-papal and anti-sacerdotal feelings which Wolsey had long kept shut; and the unpopular divorce became merely a cross-current in the main stream which flowed in Henry’s favour.’18 It was not necessary for Henry to pack the Parliament of 1529 because the interests of the King and the lay middle classes happened to coincide – peaceful government and opportunities for aggrandizement at the Church’s expense. An intriguing situation emerged: the King, who seemed the embodiment of personal monarchy, became the champion of Parliament and the enunciator of the principle of sovereignty vested in ‘king-in-Parliament’. These were halcyon days for Parliament, according to Pollard: Community of interests produced harmony of action; and a century and a half was to pass before Parliament again met so often, or sat so long, as it did during the latter half of Henry’s reign . . . No monarch, in fact, was ever a more zealous champion of parliamentary privileges, a more scrupulous observer of parliamentary forms, or a more original pioneer of sound constitutional doctrine.19

123

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 124

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

On occasion, it was even able to prevent some of Henry’s plans being realized. For example, Parliament rejected the Statutes of Wills and Uses on two occasions. Pollard had a deep reverence for the British constitution. He had much in common with Lord Macaulay. He certainly found evidences for the ‘majestic growth’ of the constitution in places where later historians have found evidence of much less elevated motivation.20 In the pages of the biography, Henry appears as a king with an enormous respect for Parliament. The King did not force his will on Parliament: he exerted his will ‘by his careful and skilful manipulation of both houses’. And it was Henry himself and not his ministers who managed Parliament. ‘No one was ever a greater adept in the management of the House of Commons, which is easy to humour but hard to drive’; ‘Henry VIII was very assiduous in the attentions he paid to his lay lords and commons’; ‘From 1529 he suffered no intermediary to come between Parliament and himself. Cromwell was more and more employed by the King, but only in subordinate matters, and when important questions were at issue Henry managed the business himself.’21 If the divorce was the occasion for the Reformation, then the Reformation itself was, in Pollard’s eyes, a manifestation of rising nationalism – a concern shared, not by the monarch alone, but also by his people and, especially, his Parliament. The Church in England had hitherto been a semi-independent part of the political community – semi-national, semi-universal; it owed one sort of fealty to the universal pope, and another to the national king. The rising spirit of nationality could brook no divided allegiance and the universal gave way to the national idea. There was to be no imperium in imperio, but ‘one body politic’ with one supreme head. Henry VIII is reported by Chapuys as saying that he was king, emperor and pope, all in one, so far as England was concerned. The Church was to be nationalized; it was to compromise its universal character, and to become the Church of England, rather than a branch of the Church Universal in England.22 The Reformation, then, was imposed upon the Church by the civil power – king and Parliament. It was in no sense a spontaneous revolution on the part of the clergy against the Roman yoke, nor yet a reformation of doctrine. 124

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 125

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

It is scarcely surprising that Pollard reached this view of the nature of the English Reformation. His book was based rather exclusively upon the printed Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, of which summaries had been begun in the mid-nineteenth century by J.S. Brewer and which were to be completed in 1910 by James Gairdner and R.H. Brodie. Pollard looked upon the Letters and Papers almost as a Bible: on the one hand he would rely upon the printed summaries rather than consult the actual documents; on the other hand, he would neglect other perspectives on an issue, sometimes ignoring whole classes of relevant administrative and legal documents in the Public Records as well as documentary sources held elsewhere which supplied evidence of public opinion from another standpoint than that of the government. As a consequence, his interpretation of the origins of the English Reformation is heavily slanted towards official policy and takes little or no account of other forces at work – such as the beginnings of Protestantism. Pollard’s Henry VIII, reissued as late as 1966 as a student text, is a masterly example of narrative historical writing. While Pollard was certainly conscious that he was breaking new ground by rejecting a ‘moral’ interpretation of the Reformation and seeking rather to explain its occurrence, he succeeded in weaving his analysis into a beautifully written and highly readable prose composition. This is something which no other modern Reformation historian – with the exception of A.G. Dickens – has been able to do. Pollard writes with such authority and conviction that it is easy to fall into the temptation of accepting too readily his version of affairs and, above all, his interpretation of Henry’s role in them. Because Pollard assumed that Henry governed England after Wolsey’s fall, it was inevitable that he should see Henry as the sole creator of the Reformation. Until the 1950s this interpretation went unchallenged. One of the most popular and influential textbooks of the post-war years, and a book with a wide general readership – S.T. Bindoff’s Tudor England – modified Pollard’s account slightly but largely followed his interpretation. Bindoff wrote: ‘The Henrican Reformation had begun with the fall of a minister and been quickened by the birth of a child; it was slowed down by the birth of another child and brought to an end with the 125

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 126

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

fall of another minister.’23 And he closed his account of the 1530s with this resounding paragraph: Supreme Head of his Church and master of its wealth, Henry VIII had everything that he had fought the Pope, killed More and Fisher, and looted the monasteries to obtain. He was monarch of all he surveyed and surveying it he found that it was good. Eleven years had he laboured to create this brave new world, and now he would have it remain just as he had fashioned it. But it was a living, not a dead, world that Henry had created. Cromwell he could kill, Latimer he could silence, Parliament he could persuade to frame an Act of Six Articles against the heresies which Cromwell and Latimer had fostered, and his Church he could trust to condemn those who went on dabbling in them. But could he lull back into spiritual and intellectual torpor a nation which he had so violently aroused? Would his power be as effective in checking thought as in stimulating it? Could Henry stop the revolution which he had begun?24

The Pollardian interpretation of the official Reformation has much indeed to commend it. While Pollard, and his disciples, did see the Reformation as a creature of Henry’s will, they none the less modified their voluntaristic approach. Henry designed the Reformation, but he was allowed to create it by the nation and, more particularly, by Parliament. As historians, they were keenly aware of the need to understand the balance of power in the kingdom and the attitudes of contemporaries: it was not enough to study Henry himself. But it is also an interpretation which poses more questions than it answers. This is because the issue of sovereignty was never faced. Bindoff, whose brief in writing a history of Tudor England forced him to take account of the unfolding story of the Reformation, gives us a king who governs but is not entirely in control. Henry set the Reformation in motion, but the Reformation overtook him. It took no notice of the red lights and rarely observed the speed limit. This interpretation was an expansion of, rather than a rejection of, Pollard’s own version. For Pollard, Henry had been able to break away from Rome because the nation connived. It gave him licence to rule as a despot. ‘Strictly speaking, he was a constitutional king; he neither attempted to break up Parliament, nor to evade the law. . .. He led his people in the way they wanted to go, he tempted them with 126

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 127

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

the baits they coveted most, he humoured the prejudices against the clergy and against the pretensions of Rome, and he used every concession to extract some fresh material for building up his own authority.’25 For Bindoff, the extent to which Henry was a successful manipulator of Parliament and people remained in doubt. But he skirted the issue by giving very little attention to the final decade of Henry’s reign. And that little was contradictory. On the one hand, he asserted that Henry held steadfastly to ‘the via media of his own choosing’.26 He quotes Luther’s comment: ‘What Squire Harry wills must be an article of faith for Englishmen, for life and death.’27 On the other hand, he acknowledged that the decentralized nature of the state and the Church made total uniformity impossible to realize, and religious discord remained close to the surface. And Henry was gradually moving towards the Protestant position. This, according to Bindoff, was because Henry appreciated the political wisdom of such a move. ‘One thing alone could have prompted this change’, the change from mass to communion which Henry contemplated but did not execute, ‘his realisation that the old faith no longer satisfied enough of his people to serve as a bond of national unity’.28 Henry might remain the helmsman of the English people, but only if he steered the ship of England in an acceptable direction. Bindoff was able to reconcile the events of the 1530s with those of the 1540s only by expanding Pollard’s view of the monarch as a devious constitutionalist. When Henry realized that his people would have nothing less than a thoroughgoing doctrinal reformation, he put aside his personal preference in order to remain in control. But this means that the reader is left with a contradiction in terms: a king who is the embodiment of personal monarchy – a dominant personality who knows exactly what he wants and goes right out and gets it – and a king who can have only what his people will allow him to have. Moreover, was Henry a parliamentarian by conviction or because it was expedient to be so? If the former, he wears the guise uneasily; if the latter, then was he really anything other than a clever despot who used Parliament to rubber-stamp his personal choices? Both Pollard and Bindoff credited Henry VIII with the political acumen to be aware both of his personal limitations and of the limits placed upon his actions by the mood of the nation and the will of Parliament. According to 127

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 128

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

them, Henry modified his own plans according to what was politically possible. Yes, they were reluctant to dub Henry merely devious – he also respected Parliament and wanted to work with it. Given the stage of development which Parliament had reached in the mid-sixteenth century, it is surely surprising that Henry VIII would think this way. A man of imperious nature and despotic temper, he does not seem a born constitutionalist, and yet we are asked to believe that he freely handed out to his Parliament, and especially the Commons, a share in government such as no monarch before him had acknowledged. Parliament had hitherto claimed rights and privileges; when these had been granted, it had been grudgingly so. One is tempted to believe that Pollard and Bindoff were transferring to Henry VIII attitudes which belonged more properly to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than to the first half of the sixteenth. Their accounts stand in the tradition of Victorian progressive constitutionalism. Yet they offer no evidence sufficient to persuade us that Henry VIII was a constitutional monarch by design or that he freely accorded Parliament a role in the design of the English Reformation. Historical trends in the mid-twentieth century

By the 1950s the time was ripe for a reinterpretation. The field of historical studies in Britain had undergone profound changes since 1902, in no small part due to Pollard’s own endeavours. History was not merely the story of what happened in the past, it was a scholarly discipline, taught in the universities and highly regarded. Although C.H. Firth and J.B. Bury had called for a more scientific approach to history at the ancient universities in the early years of the century, it had been the new ‘Red Brick’ universities that espoused the cause enthusiastically. At Manchester, even undergraduates wrote ‘theses’ in medieval history under the guidance of the medievalist Tout, and the new degrees of Master of Arts, Bachelor of Literature and Doctor of Philosophy (all by thesis) were developed and attracted fresh interest. All the paraphernalia of organized post-graduate research emerged. At London, Pollard called for similar developments: the present IHR stands as a monument to his work and to that of H.A.L. Fisher. The years before the Second World War saw the further 128

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 129

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

development of the discipline of history. Herbert Butterfield’s The Whig Interpretation of History exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the tradition of progressivism. Historians became more self-conscious about their methodology and explored many different approaches to the past. Lewis Namier, for example, used the prosopographical method – conclusions based upon the compilation and correlation of multiple biographies. The science of validating historical documentation and then of assessing its value to the historian asking particular questions also developed apace. Detailed studies of institutions and administrations, laws and policies, initiated by the great medievalists, were based upon the available records in the Public Record Office and the British Museum, the published calendars and collections, and the steadily growing library of secondary works and reference books which was now being listed by the bibliographers. After the Second World War, the post-graduate study of history became yet more organized. It was thought necessary to delve into all the minutiae of life in the past, whether it related to the national or the local government, to institutions or persons, to power relations or to custom, to society or to economy. This tendency was to be accentuated by the influence of the French Annales School. At the same time, history became problem centred. The emphasis was now heavily upon asking questions about the past and the methodology required to answer them. Following one source was not smiled upon. The use of a wide variety of sources was approved. Historians were, above all, taught to be critical of their sources. Some doctoral theses and books had more footnoting than text. The new history challenged the primacy of politics. Whereas for writers like Pollard ‘the people’ and ‘Parliament’ had been in the main abstractions, for the new historians the people lived and moved and had their being in the past. It became important to flesh the abstractions and to determine what changes occurred in the lifestyle of ordinary people. When political events were studied, it was now necessary to gauge the extent to which various social groups participated in and influenced them, reacted to them or ignored them. At the same time, the new historians learned from other emerging disciplines and methodologies – sociology, anthropol129

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 130

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

ogy, demography, econometrics and statistics. The questions which they asked about the past were often the same questions, couched in the same language that economists, statisticians, sociologists and anthropologists were asking about the present; the methodologies which they used were likewise borrowed. At their worst, the new histories sacrificed ‘people’ to ‘problems’; at their best, they opened up new vistas and challenged the complacency of those brought up in the Whig tradition. It was in the years just before and just after the war that the ideas of social theorists such as Karl Marx and Max Weber percolated through to English historical writing. There are, of course, Weberian and Marxist histories – for example, R.H. Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism and Christopher Hill’s Economic Problems of the Church – but even historians who were by no stretch of the imagination Marxists or Weberians owed much to their influence. This was, above all, because they drew attention to and lent definition to the major problems of modern capitalist and industrial societies; class struggle, bureaucracies and their influence upon government, exploitation of the workers by the capitalists, centralization of government; the emergence of the interventionist state and so on. Much historical writing tackled just this sort of issue, even, or perhaps especially, writing on the Reformation. Historians adapted the old empiricism to accommodate the new theoretical; they too were children of their time. After the war, Reformation historians themselves began to ask new questions. Some wanted to know whether the official Reformation was Henry’s own creation and what purposes he intended it to serve. Others suggested that someone other than Henry designed it or that it happened by accident. Still others questioned the primacy of the official Reformation and argued that the reformation from below was equally, if not more, important. Had the ‘people’ not wanted Protestantism, the Church of England would have remained Catholic, if not papist. These questions all reflected contemporary concerns about the location of power in the nation – the nature of Tudor monarchy, the emergence of democracy. The historians involved in this debate often were not religious historians but political or constitutional historians. They either accepted or challenged Pollard’s great thesis – that the Reformation was Henry’s creation and that it originated 130

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 131

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

in his desire to be king of his own castle and to drive out the foreigners who claimed the allegiance of his people. There were others (whose works are discussed in the following chapters) who identified different problems and questions. Geoffrey Elton, the archetypal modernist

The gauntlet was thrown down by Geoffrey Elton (1921–94) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He showed ‘Henry in a very different light from that now normally shed upon him – from the lantern of Pollard’s great book’.29 Elton, working in the English empirical tradition, came to a new view of the role of Henry VIII in the work of government and in the creation of the Reformation via a thesis submitted for the PhD degree at the University of London in 1948. He was not, in fact, really interested in the Reformation as such. The subject for his doctoral thesis was ‘Thomas Cromwell: aspects of his administrative work’. Geoffrey Elton represented the new breed of scholar in that he boasted knowledge second to none of the documents of central government and administration. His work is characterized by close attention to detail and penetrating textual criticism. His early work was important both as a discussion of the organization of government and as a contribution to the general debate on the balance of power in the Tudor state. Elton’s ‘new view’ seems to have grown out of his conviction that Henry VIII was not interested in the day-to-day business of government – he was interested in the ends rather than the means – and that Thomas Cromwell, the quiet bureaucrat, took advantage of this fact to implement his own reform of government and administration. The reformation in religion was part of this process. As Mark Horowitz later observed, Elton despised intellectual history. For him, Thomas Cromwell was an ‘action hero of sorts’.30 G.R. Elton’s approach to history was admirably summed up by Patrick Collinson, All Elton’s writings were strongly indicative of his philosophy of history; however, the formulation of any such philosophy was anathema to Elton, who would have associated it with the subversion of history by theorists, mainly French, who had never known what it was to be a working historian and were therefore disqualified from 131

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 132

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

uttering on the subject. It was above all necessary to get on with it. The subject had its own rules and protocols, which only historians understand. His own theoretical and practical utterances were contained in four books, of which the most widely read and influential was The Practice of History (1967), . . . This was followed by Political History: Principles and Practice (1970), in which traditional history fought back against the trendy ‘new ways in history’ of the 1960s . . . The positive value of these books lies in a no-nonsense account of what the best historians are good at, and of how all apprentice historians should learn their trade. Their weakness lies in a shaky and perhaps even untenable epistemology, which refuses to face the fact that no historian can tell the whole truth about all of the past, and that he therefore has to select, shape, and even in some sense invent his material. At his most reasonable, as in a published dialogue with a historian of a very different tendency, R.W. Fogel, published as Which Road to the Past? (1983), Elton could acknowledge the existence of an almost limitless variety of ‘ways’ in history: ‘We are all historians, differing only in what questions interest us, and what methods we find useful in answering them’ (p. 109). At his most unreasonable, he merely lashed out at a range of dangerous heretics, whigs, Marxists, Weberians, postmodernists, in tones and terms that suggested that he thought them unworthy of engagement in serious conversation.31

But this is to digress slightly. Geoffrey Elton produced a plethora of scholarly monographs and learned articles which contributed to the debate on the Reformation. These included The Tudor Constitution: Documents and Commentary (1960), The Tudor Revolution in Government (1953) and England under The Tudors (1955). Yet nowhere was his challenging view of Henry’s part in the Reformation more clearly and persuasively expressed than in a brief pamphlet produced for the Historical Association in 1962, Henry VIII: An Essay in Revision.32 King or minister?

In this pamphlet, Elton questioned the assumption made by Pollard that Henry’s reign can conveniently be divided into two: a period from 1514 to 1529, when Henry let Wolsey govern and was Wolsey’s apprentice; and a period from 1529 to 1547, when Henry assumed the reins of government and was thus the ‘very 132

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 133

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

embodiment of personal monarchy’. Elton suggested that there was no unity in the years 1529 to 1547 such as Pollard assumed. The 1530s were marked by a successful internal policy, the 1540s by unsuccessful foreign policies against France and Scotland, internal problems and economic crisis. Moreover, Henry had never left government entirely to Wolsey: he had, for example, managed state trials throughout the reign and he had been active personally in foreign policy early in the reign (the war of 1512–14). Elton was above all suspicious of the view that Henry was ever totally in control of his government and its policies. Certainly only he could make or unmake ministers; both Wolsey and Cromwell learnt that to their cost. But Henry was often manipulated by his own councillors. And, while it is true that he was diligent in matters of business during Cromwell’s ascendancy – reading and signing letters and papers – he did not initiate policy but relied upon Thomas Cromwell to devise and control it. He was sufficiently intelligent to recognize in Cromwell gifts of industry and creative statesmanship and to delegate power to him. Naturally it was a power delegated on condition that Cromwell devised and executed policies broadly to the King’s liking. Elton argued that Henry kept a more watchful eye upon Cromwell’s activities with respect to theological and ecclesiastical affairs – he took a great interest in the Act against appeals to Rome in 1533, for instance. He rejected, however, the idea that, in all matters of moment, the King instructed Cromwell verbally to follow particular courses of action. As most of the business of government was normally carried on away from the court, oral communication between King and minister was impossible, and no letters survive to support this view of affairs. For Pollard’s bipartite division of the reign, then, Elton substituted a much more complex one (1511–14; 1514–29; 1529–31; 1531–41; 1541–47). He argued consistently that each section of the reign differed markedly from the others, not as a result of the King’s responding in different ways to events and circumstances, but because the King was not in control. ‘To some extent of course these differences were due to altering circumstances, but the indisputable fact that such problems as arose were tackled in a strikingly different fashion at different times cannot be so easily explained. Each section of the reign differed from the rest in a 133

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 134

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

manner which can only rationally derive from changes in the men who directed affairs . . . The King was always there . . . the differences lay in the men he employed.’33 For Elton, the King’s mercurial temperament offered no explanation for a changeable policy. The change in ministers helped to explain the contrasting attitudes towards Rome during the periods 1529–31 and 1532–34. The reality of Henry’s personal monarchy or his determination to pursue policies which would further his own interests was not questioned. What was denied was that Henry’s interest in government extended to devising policies in detail and engaging in the administrative work involved. Moreover, he found it difficult to see Henry VIII as a constitutionalist. ‘Henry was not, despite his over-powering personality and his ultimate control, the maker of his own policy; of course, he alone could turn it into his own, but he did not invent it and relied on others for the mind that must inform action’;34 ‘in the day to day business of governing England, Henry VIII was not so much incapable as uninterested and feckless;35 ‘the specific work of government, the ideas underlying it, and the possibilities put into effect at different times varied as Henry’s ministers took over from one another’.36 Elton, then, saw Henry as ‘a nimble opportunist, picking up ideas and suggestions from all around him and putting together a useable amalgam . . . without having to do the hard work himself’,37 ‘an opportunist whose only real programme concerned the advancement of his own interests by whatever means seemed suitable and possible in terms of both law and politics’.38 Geoffrey Elton, when he had read widely about Henry VIII, suspected that the monarch was not capable of the personal involvement in the detailed work of government which Pollard attributed to him. Elton usefully contrasted Henry VIII’s style of personal monarchy with those of Henry VII and Elizabeth I: In the hands of Henry VIII personal monarchy did not mean personal attention to the business of government, though it had done so in the hands of Henry VII. Nor did it mean the constant weighing up of conflicting counsel and the pursuit of a personal policy based upon a personal assessment as it did for Elizabeth. It meant the putting of the king’s personal force behind policies not of his devising. His greatness lay in the rapid and accurate interpretation of the immedi134

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 135

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

ate situation, in a dauntless will, and in his choice of advisers; but not in originality, and it is doubtful if he was the architect of anything, least of all the English Reformation.39

Implicitly, Elton also doubted Pollard’s vision of Henry as a monarch who not only worked with but respected Parliament. While there can be little doubt that the legislature was used to implement the Reformation, and that Henry concurred in this policy, Elton looked elsewhere than to Henry himself for the policy’s origins: to Thomas Cromwell, the King’s minister. Thomas Cromwell, according to Elton, was the architect, the builder and the master craftsman of the English Reformation. The King only commissioned the work. Before Elton began to write, little attention had been paid in the modern age to this apparently colourless civil servant, largely because Pollard cast him simply as a builder’s labourer. But Elton has put flesh upon his bones, breathed life into the cadaver of the architect. His view of Cromwell as architect of the English Reformation was accepted by some of the most important contributions to scholarship, including Quentin Skinner’s The Foundations of Modern Political Thought.40 If Elton had been correct in attributing to Thomas Cromwell the master plan for the English Reformation, then the minister’s motivation was certainly debatable. In England under the Tudors (1955), Elton ascribed to Cromwell a grand constitutional design: [Cromwell] offered to make a reality out of Henry’s vague claims to supremacy by evicting the pope from England. To the king this meant a chance of getting his divorce, and a chance of wealth; to Cromwell it meant the chance of reconstructing the body politic.41

Cromwell, according to Elton, wanted to set up a limited constitutional monarchy in which King and Parliament acted together. He was not working to construct an autocratic despotism. In support of this thesis Elton cited Cromwell’s interest in the work of Marsiglio of Padua and Thomas Starkey, as well as his determined attempt to legitimate Henry’s new authority through Parliament. He is portrayed by Elton as a man not only sympathetic to reform but dedicated to furtherance of the commonwealth through the reorganization of political structures. As A.G. Dickens observed,42 Cromwell was also a committed 135

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 136

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

patron of letters, of scholars and of evangelism. For Elton, his grand constitutional design was, however, essentially secular. The religious reformation – the break with Rome – was a political act and not an expression of Thomas Cromwell’s dislike of Catholicism.43 In Reform and Reformation, England 1509–1558, published in 1977, despite accommodating Dickens’s position on Cromwell’s Protestantism to some extent, Geoffrey Elton reached much the same conclusions regarding Cromwell’s motivation in implementing the Reformation as he had done in 1955: Bible-worship could take very different forms in the many people whom it alone united. In Cromwell’s case it supplied one of the driving forces to an essentially political temperament, the principled undertone and transcendental justification of labours that concentrated upon reforming the earthly existence of men by reconstructing the state and using the dynamic thus released (rendered active in legislative potential – that is, in statute) to remedy the abuses and deficiencies for so long debated and identified. It was Cromwell’s purpose to remake and renew the body politic of England, a purpose which because of the comprehensiveness of his intentions amounted to a revolution, but which proceeded by using the means inherited from the past. Not only did the practical statesman in him grasp the political advantage of introducing major change . . . under the guise of continuity, but Cromwell . . . also knew about the roots and long established realities of the polity he wished to transform. These realities lay in a general order embodied in the common law and in the making of a new law by discussion and consent, not edict . . . Cromwell had a vision – a vision of order, improvement, the active removal of all that was bad, corrupt or merely inefficient, and the creation of a better life here and now in preparation for the life to come. To Cromwell, the reformed church was to serve the purposes of the reformed commonwealth.44

Upon what evidence rests Elton’s argument that it was Cromwell who created the English Reformation? In ‘King or Minister? The Man Behind the Henrician Reformation’, Elton reiterated his view that Cromwell was no mere instrument in government and then attempted to ascertain whether it was Cromwell’s mind or Henry’s that originated the plan for obtaining Henry’s divorce. Elton saw the Reformation as ‘the definition of independent national sovereignty achieved by the destruction of 136

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 137

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

the papal jurisdiction in England’. In other words, the break with Rome is the essence of the English Reformation. Whose idea was it? As we have seen, Pollard maintained that Henry had always known that it might come to a breach with Rome in the end – had hoped that it would not, had procrastinated but had prepared himself to take the risk. Pollard’s contemporary, James Gairdner, concurred. Elton did not. If Henry had planned such a course of action, would it have taken six long, tortuous years for him to decide that the radical step was necessary? Moreover, neither Wolsey nor foreign observers suspected that the King had any such plan under his royal bonnet. Henry’s actions do not indicate that he planned a break with Rome. In 1529 he called Parliament ‘to overawe the Church’: he wanted to bring the clergy to heel in anticipation of their being called upon to adjudicate in the divorce. In 1530 he uttered bold statements, but he did not do more than collect international opinions about the divorce. When the pope refused to be moved, Henry appealed to General Councils, but threatened no schism. In 1531 he did not make any headway with the divorce; he did bring the English clergy under his control (when the clergy, threatened by praemunire, surrendered), but their acknowledgement of him as ‘their singular protector, only and supreme lord, and as far as the law of Christ allows also supreme head’ did no more than underline the preexistent authority of the Crown and certainly did not undermine the spiritual authority of the pope. ‘[T]he king’s title does not expressly deny the pope’s spiritual headship or justify the withdrawal of England from the papal jurisdiction. As yet there was no policy of a “break with Rome”.’ Throughout the negotiations at Rome in 1531–32 Henry was ‘bankrupt in ideas. He knew what he wanted; that neither he nor his ministers knew how to obtain it is proved by those years of bootless negotiations.’45 The advent of the policy of ‘break with Rome’ coincided with the advent of Thomas Cromwell to the King’s inner council. The concept of empire (sovereignty) simultaneously entered the field. The hounds of Parliament were deliberately set upon the pope. The pope’s authority over the Church (with its lay as well as ecclesiastical membership) was the trophy handed over to the King. It was Cromwell who shaped the important Act in restraint of appeals to Rome, which pronounced national sovereignty and 137

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 138

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

thereby signalled the breach with Rome and proclaimed the finality of the kill.46 Elton wrote with such authority that relatively few at the time questioned the assumptions upon which his thesis rested, preferring rather to challenge the minutiae of his argument. For example, his contention that much of the proposed legislation originated not with the court, as had been thought, but with genuine lay grievances against the Church and its courts which were deliberately brought to Cromwell’s attention and were later used by him to bring the Church to heel,47 inspired historians to reply.48 The drafting procedures for new legislation were microscopically inspected. Yet the criticisms which Elton levelled at Pollard – those of assuming rather than arguing the truth of a case – could equally well be directed at Elton’s own work. The case that he makes for Thomas Cromwell as the mastermind of the English Reformation is often plausible but incapable of proof. There is much circumstantial evidence, but little that would stand in a court of law. The problem lies in the assumption behind Elton’s detailed case. He challenged Pollard’s belief that Henry was actively involved in government and an originator of his own policies; he replaced this with the assumption that Cromwell masterminded the Reformation, that he argued the invalidity of Henry’s marriage to Catherine, that he toned down Henry’s more extravagant claims for the Crown’s spiritual jurisdiction and that he persisted in rooting the revolution in statute. Henry’s reluctance to accept the break with the Roman jurisdiction as absolute and irreversible is, oddly enough, taken as evidence that Cromwell did not think likewise or hope likewise. Cromwell may well have realized that the move had to be permanent, given his analysis of affairs (and his own Protestantism), but this in itself is not proof that he had envisaged it as part of a grand plan for parliamentary monarchy. Elton inferred that Henry did not originate a policy of rejecting the Roman jurisdiction and locating the king-in-Parliament (as Pollard occasionally seems to have believed) on the basis of certain assumptions – that Henry would not have been acting in character had he planned a parliamentary or limited monarchy and that neither his words nor his actions prior to Cromwell’s rise indicate that he had formulated any such policy. He then made the leap, 138

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 139

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

without looking, to the position that it was Thomas Cromwell and not Henry who originated this same long-term, revolutionary and very conscious policy. He shows us the wily Thomas hoodwinking Bluff King Hal. He does not seem to realize that this argument rests upon certain assumptions which he is unable to substantiate and which may be as erroneous as those which underpinned Pollard’s thesis. Was there a long-term plan to locate sovereignty in the king-in-Parliament?49 Was there a Tudor despotism after all?

Joel Hurstfield (1911–80) sought to come to grips with this issue.50 Was there a Tudor despotism after all?51 For those of us who want to know whether the official Reformation was a creature of Henry VIII’s will or of the will of Henry VIII and his people, this is a crucial question. For those of us who want to ascertain the place of the Reformation in Cromwell’s overall policy, it is no less important. Joel Hurstfield defined a despotism as ‘authoritarian rule in which the government is resolved to enforce its will on a nation and to suppress all expressions of dissent; and if this is a society in which the people have few means of influencing decisions on major issues, then we may find despotisms – of varying degrees of efficiency – at many stages during the evolution of modern society’.52 Historians in the twentieth century had previously denied that England’s monarchy was a despotism. Trevelyan stated baldly: ‘England was not a despotism. The power of the crown rested not on force but on popular support.’53 Parliamentary consent for him implied that statute was the expression of the popular will. Elton went further: Thus the political events and constitutional expansion of the 1530s produced major changes in the position of Parliament. Long and frequent sessions, fundamental and far-reaching measures, revolutionary consequences, governmental leadership – all these combined with the Crown’s devotion to statute and use of Parliament to give that institution a new air, even to change it essentially into its modern form as the supreme and sovereign legislator.54

Moreover, in Elton’s view this development was intentional. ‘Whatever may have been the case before Cromwell’s 139

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 140

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

work . . . there was no Tudor despotism after it. Wittingly or not – and the present writer has no doubt that it was done wittingly – Cromwell established the reformed state as a limited monarchy and not as a despotism.’55 Joel Hurstfield challenged the fundamental assumptions of Elton’s argument: that either Henry or Cromwell deliberately worked to establish a limited monarchy in England and that parliamentary consent is necessarily to be taken as indicative of active parliamentary participation in initiating law or policy. He adduced evidence to the effect that Cromwell held Parliament in contempt. He suggested that the Crown wished, by the Statute of Proclamations, to dispense with the need to work through and with Parliament. There is even evidence that Cromwell sounded out legal opinions as to the powers of proclamation. Had Cromwell succeeded in obtaining the enactment of the Statute of Proclamations in the form desired, argued Hurstfield, the situation would have been analogous to that in Germany when the Reichstag conferred upon Adolf Hitler in March 1933 the right to govern by proclamation. Hitler wished to buttress his destruction of German liberty with the law: he succeeded. Cromwell, no less, wished to use Parliament to give authority to the proclamations of the monarch. ‘But is a thing less tyrannical because it is lawful?’ and was the legislation of the Tudor Parliament the creature of that Parliament?56 For Hurstfield, however, the problem of consent remained unsolved. He asked more questions than he answered, but the questions that he posed were penetrating. Did Parliament represent the people? On the basis of what we know, the House of Commons consisted of a minority of a minority of the population, while the members of the House of Lords, as contemporaries were aware, represented no one but themselves. Within the limits of such an institution we may, if we wish, speak of a partnership, provided that we see the House of Lords as becoming increasingly a pocket borough of the Crown, and the House of Commons as elected to a large extent under ministerial and aristocratic patronage.57

What was the Crown’s attitude to Parliament? ‘Tudor monarchs behaved as though Parliaments were no more than regrettable necessities.’58 What did Parliaments do? They did not initiate 140

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 141

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

legislation.59 Did Parliament reach its decisions regarding the Reformation legislation after a period of free discussion? ‘[T]he government held a tight grasp on Parliament, the pulpits and the press and strove, not always successfully, to silence the expression of dissentient opinion, in both the spoken and the written word.’60 Did the people want the Reformation? The Settlement certainly required powerful sanctions: the supremacy and the ideology were enforced by the government; the existence of nine treason laws during Henry’s reign is ‘hardly a demonstration of a secure government resting equably on the support of the people’.61 Geoffrey Elton may be dubbed the last of the great Victorians. He stands confidently with one foot in the tradition of progressive constitutionalism and the other in that of voluntarism. Parliament achieved a maturity during Henry VIII’s reign such as it had never before possessed: one man willed this state of affairs and that man was Thomas Cromwell. Joel Hurstfield realized that it was difficult to belong to both camps. Either Henry was a constitutional monarch or he was not. Hurstfield sought to free himself and his readers from the shackles of the present: ‘I have constantly to remind myself that, although a Tudor politician spoke our language, he did not think our thoughts.’62 He used not only his detailed knowledge of the past but also his historical imagination to reach his conclusions about the nature of Henrician monarchy and the relationship between monarch and people. To understand the relationship between the Tudor people and their governments, it is essential to take into account that this was minority rule, an uneasy and unstable distribution of power between the Crown and a social élite in both the capital and the shires, and that this governing class, this élite, itself played a double role. It was under pressure to conform and was at the same time the channel of communication for a vast mass of propaganda in defence of the existing order, pumped out through press and pulpit, through preambles to acts and through proclamations read out in the market place, through addresses to high court judges in Star Chamber and by high court judges at the assizes, through all the pageantry and symbolism of royal progresses. All this functioned under a heavy censorship which, for all its clumsy ineptitude, struck hard at independent thinking. . .. Here was a despotism in the making, sometimes of the Crown over Paliament, more often of the Crown in Parliament over the nation. This is what I mean by the dual role of the élite.63 141

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 142

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Henry did not ‘hold in submission the whole nation against its will and interests’,64 but he and his ministers evolved a governmental machine which suppressed dissent, convinced, by propaganda, that the government’s actions were just and right, established the Crown’s control of foreign policy and religion, seized for the Crown enormous emergency powers and ensured that ministers were responsible to the Crown alone. All that Henry did was designed to serve one end – the establishment of despotism, the confirmation of his own power. When he worked with Parliament or in Parliament, it was to this end. When he worked without Parliament, it was to the like end. Elton’s own study of the enforcement of the Reformation during Cromwell’s ascendancy, Policy and Police, his best book, explored the suggestion that dissenting opinion was suppressed by a reign of terror which disregarded the bounds of law and humanity. He demonstrated that there was certainly frequent resistance to the changes but that the government, in the embodiment of Cromwell, conducted an entirely legal campaign, which took careful account of the reports of informers, dismissing mere grudges and malicious complaints, before clamping down on dissent. There were no official spies. The government did not search out trouble: it dealt with resistance when it was brought to its attention. A vigorous propaganda campaign, aimed at enlisting the support of the people, was pursued. Clearly, Elton viewed this enforcement from a very different perspective to that adopted in Hurstfield’s 1967 article. Elton attributed to Cromwell the very best of motives – he was trying to achieve stability and to convert opinion; Hurstfield, on the contrary, presented a far less roseate view: Cromwell’s brief was to suppress contrary opinion in the interests of the King’s power.65 All historians, when they write, make certain assumptions upon which their arguments rest. Often these assumptions are not only unstated but unrecognized by the author. Joel Hurstfield’s searching intellect and ready wit fitted him for the task of questioning the assumptions upon which interpretations of the English Reformation and its origins rested. Whereas Elton and Pollard before him seemed to look at the events of the Reformation years through Victorian eyes, Hurstfield tried to remove the spectacles and to establish what contemporaries had meant by their words 142

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 143

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

and actions. Despite this declared objective, Hurstfield’s interpretation, however, was profoundly influenced by his experience of twentieth-century fascism. So he asked, ‘How is it that this material . . . has somehow come to mean that this was government by consent? How can we call it consent when we know that the avenues of dissent were deliberately closed by policy?’66 To his mind strong central government was essential if England were to avoid civil war and foreign invasion. The public were aware of this and allowed Henry VIII to govern despotically. They consented to the advance of the state which rejection of the Roman jurisdiction implied. They did not initiate policy. If we accept Hurstfield’s argument that Henry VIII’s rule was despotic in character it is, of course, still possible to maintain that it owed its character to the efforts of Thomas Cromwell and not to those of Henry himself. Instead of Thomas the Champion of Parliaments we have Thomas the Machiavellian supporter of absolute kingship. In either guise, he would be the bureaucrat who deliberately set out to revolutionize Tudor government and administration: the man with a blueprint for parliamentary democracy or despotism. J.J. Scarisbrick and voluntarism

But there remain many who are unwilling to attribute such influence to Thomas Cromwell. Most notable of the critics of such an interpretation was J.J. Scarisbrick. In essence, Scarisbrick’s biography of Henry VIII (1968) presented a modified Pollardian line. Whereas Pollard had claimed that Henry served an apprenticeship under Wolsey and only assumed the reins of government personally after this minister’s fall, Scarisbrick maintained that Henry had already been master during Wolsey’s reign; that Wolsey’s will rarely overrode Henry’s when it came to matters of foreign policy. According to Scarisbrick, the wars, the divorce, the breach with Rome all originated with Henry.67 ‘[H]ow far had Henry broken with his past by 1532, how deeply was he already committed to carrying out an ecclesiastical revolution? Were the three years, 1530 to 1532, years without a policy, years of aimless bombast and bullying, of makeshift and fumbling, as Elton would have us believe?’68 Scarisbrick draws our attention to something which is 143

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 144

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

oft forgotten – Henry’s ability to hold two contradictory positions at once. He could, for example, claim the autonomy of each province of the Church and thus allege the validity of a local divorce while simultaneously suggesting judgement by three papal delegates. But it seemed to Scarisbrick that by the autumn of 1530 Henry wanted national autonomy.69 Unlike Pollard, he believes that the idea that the pre-Reformation Church was autonomous is incorrect.70 Henry came to his position via a different route: he was irked by his inability to act without approval from Rome. Gradually he moved towards asserting royal supremacy. He claimed a pastoral role as early as 1529 and eventually required the clergy to acknowledge his cure of souls. By 1531 he was claiming overlordship of the national Church by his attack on the Courts Christian and his editing of the decrees of Convocation. From the late summer of 1530 there was an atmosphere of mounting anti-papalism.71 But all of these would not have precluded a relationship between the English Church and Rome such as that between the Gallican Church and the Papacy. Henry could have claimed jurisdiction but granted the pope primacy of honour and a limited spiritual authority – where heresy was concerned, for instance. But Henry moved too far for that with the praemunire campaign and with the attack on clerical privileges.72 If it was with Henry that the revolutionary policies originated, what role did Thomas Cromwell play? The author does not challenge Elton’s view outright – after all, Elton was his mentor – but subtly he modifies the Eltonian interpretation. Scarisbrick does not quite demote Cromwell to the status of builder’s labourer. Instead he is envisaged as a builder with flair and imagination who interprets the architect’s blueprint in an original way. ‘He was immediately responsible for the vast legislative programme of the later sessions of the Reformation Parliament’; ‘He oversaw the breach with Rome’; ‘He effected a new political integration of the kingdom and imposed upon it a new political discipline’; ‘He left a deep mark on much of the machinery of central and local government’; and he created a propaganda machine ‘to shape public opinion’.73 But, he warns, Henry never gave any minister the sort of freedom which Cardinal Wolsey had enjoyed. Cromwell was not ultimately responsible for the Reformation.74 144

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 145

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

A.G. Dickens: historian of religion

The English Reformation, A.G. Dickens’s general history (1964, new edition 1989), looked at the respective roles of Henry and Cromwell from a somewhat different perspective. Unlike Scarisbrick, Dickens (1910–2001) believed that Protestantism was already a force to be reckoned with by the 1530s and that ‘English Catholicism, despite its gilded decorations, was an old, unseaworthy and ill-commanded galleon, scarcely able to continue its voyage without the new seamen and shipwrights produced (but produced too late in the day) by the Counter-Reformation’.75 Henry VIII, to his mind, could not have frozen the religious situation as it stood in 1530.76 Nevertheless, the divorce was important. It was one of the dangerous reefs that English Catholicism had to circumnavigate: it was the reef upon which this ship was wrecked at last. ‘Without it the schism would not have been consummated by 1533–4’.77 It was Henry who wanted the divorce and he was prepared to resort to radical policies in order to achieve it, but it was Cromwell who guided the Henrician ship of state into foreign waters, not Henry. For the Henrician ecclesiastical policy only becomes intelligible if viewed in the context of general administrative reform, if seen against the backcloth of Cromwell’s vision of ‘the sovereign state as transcending the turmoil and division inherited from both the defects and the death-struggles of feudal society’.78 So, concluded Dickens, ‘From this stage we cannot understand Crown policy if we continue to envisage Thomas Cromwell as merely a smart lawyer who made his fortune by solving the king’s matrimonial problem. For good or ill, he is a figure of far greater significance in our history.’79 Dickens sees Cromwell pulling the Reformation forward – towing the Henrician ship into far deeper waters than the monarch had contemplated visiting. The demands for a single sovereignty and undivided allegiance, for Dickens as for Elton, smack of Thomas Cromwell’s convictions, and not those of the King. Dickens’s understanding of Cromwell’s religious position reinforced this view.80

145

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 146

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Conclusion

The debate which we have just revisited was, it must be admitted, in a state of deadlock by the 1970s. Short of a policy statement of extreme clarity from either Henry VIII or his minister, it was seemingly impossible to prove either side of the case. The individual contributions to the debate were invaluable for the insights into Tudor rule and Reformation policy which they had revealed, but none has done what it set out to do – to answer the crucial questions: King or minister? despotism or limited monarchy? accident or design? It might also be asked whether the participants in this debate chose their ground wisely. The argument as formulated belongs to a tradition of historical writing in which high politics is seen as central and the autonomy of politics is taken for granted. Politics is the play. It fills the stage to the exclusion of all else. Of the authors whom we have discussed, only A.G. Dickens and J.J. Scarisbrick cast the ‘people’ in a real role – for the rest, the people are an abstraction, playing walk-on, walk-off parts. In this respect, Geoffrey Elton’s view of the Reformation, influenced though his work is by modern political science, is as old-fashioned as that of A.F. Pollard. Only in Policy and Police does Elton consider the reception of the official Reformation at local and popular level. Most accept, without question, the centrality of politics. Most take the view, without demur, that the course of events was determined by the will of people in high places. Most are confused by the implicit contradiction between this voluntarism and the Victorian belief in a gradually maturing mixed constitution. Most refuse to face up to this contradiction and proceed as if it never existed. It was not only the relationship between policy making and popular feeling that escaped many of the historians of the Reformation of ‘the old school’. In the main, they had little or no understanding of the interaction of socio-economic and religious factors with the world of politics. Of the authors quoted, only A.G. Dickens can correctly be dubbed a religious historian. None but he has any sympathy with the religious feelings which ran on the surface of Tudor society. For Elton, who was prone to see sixteenth-century men and women through twentieth-century or 146

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 147

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION

even nineteenth-century spectacles, religion was often ignored as a factor of importance. Even when he began to display Cromwell as an adherent of the new religion, he continued to insist that this man’s thoughts were essentially secular. To be fair, Elton, Pollard, Hurstfield and Scarisbrick would not at that time have wished to be classified as anything other than political or administrative historians, although Scarisbrick later produced an important contribution to our understanding of Tudor religion, which was to challenge Dickens’s.81 But we may well pose the question: can one really solve the historical problems surrounding the official Reformation without also examining the religious perspective? By the early 1970s this debate about the official Reformation was for the time being spent, only to be revived by George Bernard in the latter years of the twentieth and the first decade of the twenty-first century. Scarisbrick’s near-definitive biography of 1968, which avoided both idolizing and underestimating Henry, was strangely neglected, and challenged only by Elton. The debate about the nature of the English Reformation for the moment moved to new ground. Historians more acutely aware of the relationship between politics and society reformulated the questions. Above all, historians interested in religion and in the Church as an institution moved in to chart the waters. And they did so at a time when new waves of thinking about the nature of history itself – in the shape of postmodernism or the so-called ‘critical turn’ – were making an impact even upon those most wedded to modernism. Geoffrey Elton has been held up as the archetypal modernist historian of the immediate post-war years. He is said to have ‘committed himself passionately to modernist methods and objectives and dismissed those who failed to follow him as naïve, dim or (worse) untrained’ and to have viewed the past as ‘an object for inspection’ by the dedicated historical researcher.82 In the next chapter, we shall examine the contributions to the social, economic and religious history of the Reformation made by a new generation of historians in the late 1960s and beyond.

147

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 148

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Notes 1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35 36 37

V.H. Galbraith, ‘Albert Frederick Pollard, 1869–1948’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 35 (1949), 257–74; J.E. Neale, ‘A.F. Pollard’, EHR, 64 (1949), 198–205; Pollard’s views about history are voiced in his Factors in Modern History (1910). G.R. Elton, Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government, 1 (Cambridge, 1974), p. 113. See Patrick Collinson, s.n. ‘Albert Frederick Pollard’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). A.F. Pollard, Henry VIII (1905 edn), p. viii. Pollard, Henry VIII, p. 1. Pollard, Henry VIII, p. 4. Pollard, Henry VIII, p. 35. Pollard, Henry VIII, p. 36. Pollard, Henry VIII, p. 41. Pollard, Henry VIII, p. 41. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 187. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), pp. 186–7. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 186. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), pp. 139–56. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 150. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 154. Eric Ives, s.n. ‘Anne Boleyn’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 202. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 207. A.G. Dickens, ‘Introduction’, in A.F. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. xiv Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 211. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), p. 215. S.T. Bindoff, Tudor England, Penguin History of England (1950, repr. 1964), p. 108. Bindoff, Tudor England (1964 edn), pp. 110–11. Pollard, Henry VIII (1966 edn), pp. 345–6. Bindoff, Tudor England (1964 edn), p. 148. Bindoff, Tudor England (1964 edn), p. 148. Bindoff, Tudor England (1964 edn), p. 150. G.R. Elton, Henry VIII, An Essay in Revision (The Historical Association, 1962, 1965 repr.), p. 1. Professor Mark Horowitz, review of The Many Faces of Thomas Cromwell (review no. 1168) URL: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1168 (accessed 24 April 2012). Patrick Collinson, s.n. ‘Geoffrey Rudolph Elton’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). See Chapter 8 for historians’ indirect response to Elton’s view of truth in history. G.R. Elton, Henry VIII (1965 repr.). G.R. Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government (Cambridge, 1953, 1962 repr.), p. 67. Elton, Tudor Revolution (1962 repr.), p. 67. Elton, Tudor Revolution (1962 repr.), p. 68. Elton, Henry VIII (1965 repr.), p. 24. Elton, Henry VIII (1962), p. 25. 148

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 149

THE TUDOR REVOLUTION IN RELIGION 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

48 49

50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74

Elton, Henry VIII (1962), p. 26. Elton, Henry VIII (1962), p. 26. Q. Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge, 1978). G.R. Elton, England under the Tudors (1955), p. 129. A.G. Dickens, Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation (1959). Elton, England under the Tudors, pp. 160–2, 165–70, 175–9. G.R. Elton, Reform and Reformation, England 1509–1558 (1977), p. 172. G.R. Elton, ‘King or minister? The man behind the Henrician reformation’, History, 39 (1954), 223–9. G.R. Elton, ‘The evolution of a Reformation statute’, EHR, 64 (1949), 174–97. G.R. Elton, ‘The Commons’ supplication of 1532: parliamentary manoeuvres in the reign of Henry VIII’, EHR, 66 (1951), 507–34; see also G.R. Elton, Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal (Cambridge, 1973). J.P. Cooper, ‘The supplication against the ordinaries reconsidered’, EHR, 72 (1957), 616–41. J. Hurstfield, J. Freedom, Corruption and Government in Elizabethan England (1973); L. Stone, ‘Thomas Cromwell’s political programme’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research (BIHR), 24 (1951), 1–18. The omission of Joel Hurstfield from the ODNB is inexplicable and a serious oversight. Hurstfield, ‘Was there a Tudor despotism after all?’ reprinted in Freedom, Corruption and Government in Elizabethan England (1973). Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 26. G.M. Trevelyan, History of England (1926), pp. 269–70. G.R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution (Cambridge, 1960), p. 234. Elton, England under the Tudors, p. 168. Hurstfield, Freedom, pp. 33–40. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 43. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 44. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 43. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 45. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 44. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 27. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 46. Hurstfield, Freedom, p. 47. G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972). Hurstfield, Freedom, pp. 48–9. J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1968), pp. 45–6. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 287. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 289. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 263. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 287. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, pp. 295–301. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 303. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 304. 149

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 150

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82

Dickens, The English Reformation (1964), p. 108. Dickens, The English Reformation, p. 108. Dickens, The English Reformation, p. 107. Dickens, The English Reformation, p. 112. Dickens, The English Reformation, p. 115. A.G. Dickens, Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation (1959). For this see Chapters 6 and 8. See Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past. English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870–1970, The Wiles Lectures for 2003 (Cambridge, 2005, Kindle Edition).

150

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 151

6

The Reformation and the people: discovery

Introduction

In the twentieth century, and particularly from 1960 to c. 1985, the English Reformation became prey to the new history.1 Historians, exhibiting their acquaintance with the methodologies of psychohistory, sociology, anthropology, demography, linguistics and economics determined to write histoire totale. For this reason, it is often difficult to determine what were works of, strictly speaking, Reformation history at all and what were works of purely secular significance. Of course, the long-standing, if easily challenged, view that the Reformation was but the religious aspect of the Renaissance movement had always stressed the necessity for the religious historian to examine the Reformation in its context. That sixteenth-century intellectual life was imbued with religion was by the 1960s a truism: every school student then knew that God could not be left out of politics, that the clergy dominated education, that moral discipline was administered by the Church courts, and that the family was itself a ‘church’. But now something was added – an awareness that religion itself has a sociological, a psychological and an economic dimension. Concepts such as ‘social control’, ‘professionalization’, ‘social mobility’, ‘class warfare’, ‘bureaucratization’, ‘capitalism’, ‘protoindustrialization’ were bandied about. The historians, products of an age which, if not anti-religious, was certainly a-religious, approached the history of the Reformation in a less credulous spirit than did their predecessors. Indeed, some regarded with 151

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 152

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

incredulity any suggestion that ‘man’ could possibly have a pure, unmixed belief in the godhead; surely his economic interests, his upbringing, his ambition must have been the motivating force in his life? Marx, Weber, Freud – their ghosts stalked the land of the new Reformation history of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The theories as well as the techniques of other disciplines were used. Undergraduates in some universities were taught elementary statistics and quantitative methods alongside palaeography, language and other ‘service’ courses. Historians of the Reformation writing during this time certainly subscribed to that common-sense approach to the writing of ‘good’ history described so brilliantly by Michael Bentley.2 They hoped, by careful and objective use of evidence derived from many varied sources contemporary to events, to tell the truth about the past. If they signed up to any theory, they believed that history was an empirical subject.3 Few spent long philosophizing, although their views and intentions may be deduced from their prose. Michael Bentley has argued that they did themselves a disservice by disowning any attempt to see their work as belonging to ‘a common frame’. The chief obstacle to learning and presenting the truth about the past, in the view of these historians, was the difficulty of discovering the facts – of reading and understanding all the sources. Once one had uncovered the sources, true history would follow. It is important to note that many historians were now motivated by a desire to discover not just the truth about high politics (whether secular or spiritual) but the truth about what used to be called ‘the common man’ or the ‘common people’. They would do so through the construction of histoire totale, as mentioned above. Framing the debate

Views of history-writing and history as a discipline provide the backcloth for the debate about the Reformation. The historiography of the Reformation itself at that time was complicated, although none of the main contributors contested the empirical nature of history. Intellectual arguments focused not upon disagreements about the nature of historical truth but upon how well individual historians did their work, how objective they were, 152

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 153

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

how thorough and how ingenious in their mining of the sources. In the preface of his major work The Religion of Protestants, Patrick Collinson wrote that his book preserved ‘what I take to be the historian’s proper neutrality and even indifference’, as if the historian, by removing himself and his views from the scene, might present unadulterated truth to the reader.4 Of course, there was one level on which the debate can be made to look simple.5 The dispute over the causes of the English Reformation continued. On the one hand, there was Geoffrey Elton claiming that the advance of Protestantism owed almost everything to official coercion, with the agreement of a few of the adherents of the new history and some adherents of the old (for example, Christopher Haigh and J.J. Scarisbrick). On the other hand, there was the line pursued by A.G. Dickens that the new religion spread by conversions among the people and that it gained strength independently of the ‘political’ reformation. This view emphasized also the debt owed by the English Reformation to Continental Protestantism. Simultaneously there ran a debate concerning the pace of this religious change: Dickens’s view, that Protestantism made real inroads very early (so that it was a strong force by 1553), being challenged by Penry Williams, Christopher Haigh and J.J. Scarisbrick, who argued, from differing perspectives, that little permanent was achieved before Elizabeth’s reign. Occasionally, there was no real disagreement between the historians involved: it was, rather, a matter of emphasis. Although Haigh cited A.G. Dickens and Patrick Collinson as proponents of quite opposing positions regarding the pace of change, it is far from clear that Patrick Collinson at that time disagreed with A.G. Dickens’s view of the strength of Protestantism in some areas during Mary’s reign. What is clear is that Collinson’s main interest was in the growth of Protestantism during Elizabeth’s reign and beyond. But the debate was not as simple as Haigh maintained. There were other, underlying debates of greater subtlety and equal import which are often ignored because it is so very difficult to penetrate the forest to espy these particular trees. The core debates about causes and chronology must be given their due, but we must also ask of the existing literature some other important questions: if, indeed, the Reformation was a popular movement rather than an official act, when and why did it 153

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 154

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

begin and when did it end? How did it percolate through English society? Did it meet with resistance, and, if so, why? What implications did doctrinal, political and institutional changes have for ‘secular’ England and, indeed, for the Church itself? Did the Church as ‘institution’ change immeasurably? Were the functions of the Church altered? Is it valid to pit an interpretation of the Reformation as springing from the localities against that which sees the Reformation as a ‘national’ and ‘nationalistic’ act? The beginnings of the English Reformation

Let’s start at the beginning. But where is it? The historian of the English Reformation has always found this question problematic. Plain to see are the affinities of the doctrinal reformation with Lutheranism and Calvinism in Europe, with the ideas of the Northern Renaissance, with the popular reform movement of the Middle Ages. Yet the English Reformation was also a political event – the reform of the Church; the redefinition of its relations with the state; the creed which it professed were all shaped, at least in large part, by politicians and their collaborators, no matter what their motivation. Whatever Englishmen had wanted or now wanted, what they were allowed was legislatively defined. Some committed reformers found it very difficult to accommodate themselves to this state of affairs. And, while historians were able to trace earlier movements for reform, ideas which favoured and paved the way for doctrinal and political change, they found it ten or a hundred times more difficult to ascribe precise cause or effect and to discover necessary or contingent factors. They were left trying to reconcile the fact of the political reformation with the forces for reformation already present in society and trying to assess their importance. It is worth quoting Horton Davies on this dilemma: It would be entirely wrong to suggest that the Reformation in England was, as Hilaire Belloc has termed it, ‘the English Accident’. For apart from the king’s interest in securing his second-generation throne by male issue and his rapacity for the property of the church as was evident in the dissolution of the monasteries, there were two forces moving towards reformation, or at least spiritual renovation, in England. One was the secret brotherhood of Lollards who longed 154

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 155

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

to see the ‘dominion of grace’ overwhelming the legal, institutional, and all too worldly external carapace of the church, of whom, since they were covert companies, we know very little. The other force was the band of Cambridge scholars who gathered from time to time in the White Horse Inn and who must have included Erasmians as well as Lutherans; from them the greatest Protestant episcopal leadership was to come in King Edward’s reign . . . Unquestionably . . . there were Protestants in England committed to a national Reformation while the king was still a ‘defender of the faith’ of Rome, and for whom his later turning from Rome was not quick or thorough-going enough.6

It is certain that we must not ignore the debt of the English Reformation to Continental – particularly Lutheran and Swiss – influences.7 William A. Clebsch wrote of the years 1520–35 as ‘that initial and most difficult time . . . when the fountain of faith was a banned Bible, and when the gospel rediscovered by Luther rallied Englishmen to martyrdom’.8 Later, the Marian exiles were to be heavily influenced by their Continental brethren, particularly in Geneva and Zurich.9 The religious rationale of Protestantism in England, as on the Continent, lay in the idea that the authentic teaching of Christ could be ascertained only from the contemporary sources in the New Testament. The methodologies associated with the textual and historical study of documents initiated by humanists were transferred to the study of the New Testament by Valla and Erasmus, and in their wake, Martin Luther. This Pauline re-emphasis of Luther was accurately and exactly reproduced by William Tyndale, whom A.G. Dickens has dubbed the true father of the English Reformation and the most remarkable figure among the early Protestants.10 The rationale of Protestantism, its search for the authentic teaching of Christ, remained apparent – think, for example, of Hooper’s teaching on the ministry; of the stand taken by the reformers both in exile and on their return under Elizabeth concerning vestments and ceremonial; of the debate concerning the meaning of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Just a glance at J.L. Ainslie’s The Doctrines of the Ministerial Order in the Reformed Churches of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1940) will underline the common heritage of the English and Continental reformed churches. A.G. Dickens, himself a historian of the German Reformation, made a concerted effort 155

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 156

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

to ‘understand the English Reformation as an integral part of the European Reformation’.11 Horton Davies’s Worship and Theology in England from Cranmer to Hooker 1534–1603 (1970) was one of the few books of those decades to draw welcome attention to the debt owed by English Protestantism to Continental influences.12 Also worthy of attention are Derek Baker (ed.), Reform and Reformation: England and the Continent c. 1500–c. 1750 (1979) and, in particular, Basil Hall’s essay therein, ‘Lutheranism in England, 1520–1600’. Far and away the best account of the movement for religious reform in England and Wales in the later Middle Ages is A.G. Dickens’s The English Reformation (1964, 1989). This remains true despite historians’ later criticisms of his methods and conclusions regarding the Protestantization of England. In 1959 Dickens had published Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York. This argued that criticism of the pre-Reformation Church was important even in the York diocese. It also saw continuities between Lollardy and Protestantism and believed that this was significant in urban communities. He extended this argument to the national arena in his The English Reformation (1964). Felicity Heal’s balanced assessment of Dickens’s work observed: This told the story of religious change ‘from above’ in the clear and lively prose that was Dickens’s hallmark, but its originality lay in its concern with the impact of reform ‘from below’. Ordinary men (not usually women) were agents of change, as well as experiencing its effects, and most of those who sought agency turned to some form of protestantism. In this assertion lay both the stimulus and the ultimate weakness of Dickens’s vision.13

While his thesis has been embellished, and his general conclusions have been challenged, Dickens’s account of early Protestantism itself has not in fact been superseded. He described the popular religion of late medieval England and was among the very first to bring together local and national history.14 He believed that true understanding of Tudor religious history could not be attained without understanding sixteenth-century society and economy. He asserted that the average Englishman was far less interested in religion or theology than most writers on the subject suggest, although atheism and agnosticism were absent. 156

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 157

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

The mystical devotio moderna influenced but a few, and Dickens concluded that it entertained no ‘solid chances of averting the Protestant Reformation or of capturing the forces and aspirations which made the latter possible’. Its demands were too exacting for most. Lollardy had a much wider appeal. The teachings of John Wyclif (d. 1384) were considerably modified as his Latin works were translated and vulgarized, and they had especial appeal for townsmen, merchants, gentry and some of the lower clergy. His teachings were too radical in their critique for the conservative peasantry and too revolutionary in their attacks on the social and political structure for the upper classes. By the fifteenth century, gentry support had diminished and the Lollard sects became more proletarian in character. Dickens maintained that Lollardy survived into Tudor England and was especially active in the Chilterns, in the City of London, in Essex, in parts of Kent, in Newbury (Berkshire), in Coventry in the West Midlands, in Bristol and in the large diocese of York. Lollardy, according to Dickens’s work, remained Wyclifite in inspiration at least until 1530, but the ‘old heresy and the new began to merge together from about the time Tyndale’s Testament came into English hands’. Although Lollardy had lacked any national organization and, for this reason and others, was weak as a movement, there were active lines of communication between the various Lollard communities (which tended to coincide with important commercial centres on given trade routes). The ideas and literature of both Lollardy and Lutheranism were passed between the congregations. The validity of part of Dickens’s analysis was borne out by specialist studies that appeared during the 1970s and 1980s. In the early 1980s, J.F. Davis discussed the relationship between Heresy and Reformation in the South-East of England 1520–1559.15 He established that there were three localities in the South-East with well-developed Lollard traditions: part of north Essex, part of the Kentish Weald, between Rye and Hawkhurst, and the north-west of London (the wards of Coleman Street, Cripplegate, Cordwainer and Cheap). These were textile areas, relatively densely populated and characterized by independence and literacy on the part of their craftsmen. It was these areas which proved most receptive to early Protestantism. Foreign influences tended to reinforce native traditions of Lollardy – anti-clericalism; opposition to saint worship; 157

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 158

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

evangelism; questioning of the sacraments; emphasis on the Scriptures. His detailed examination of heresy trials throughout his period demonstrated the manner in which early Protestantism drew upon these earlier traditions of dissent, established itself in areas marked by religious heterodoxy, and displayed similarly diverse positions. He, thereby, considerably refined our knowledge of the complexity of the debt paid to Lollardy by Protestantism. ‘Lollardy had proved a reservoir that flowed into many channels’.16 This seemed to confirm Dickens’s earlier position that there were characteristic Lollard survivals in English ‘heresy’ during Mary’s reign, but that Lollardy had already served its main purpose by 1530 in preparing the way for the Reformation. Dickens added two further ideas: fifteenth century Lollardy helped to exclude the possibility of Catholic reforms by hardening the minds of the English bishops and their officials into a sterile, negative and rigid attitude towards all criticism and towards the English scriptures.17

And: The second and more important function of the Lollards in English history lay in the fact that they provided a spring-board of critical dissent from which the Protestant Reformation could overleap the walls of orthodoxy. The Lollards were the allies and in some measure the begetters of the anticlerical forces which made possible the Henrician revolution, yet they were something more . . . they provided reception-areas for Lutheranism. They preserved, though often in crude and mutilated forms, the image of a personal, scriptural, non-sacramental, non-hierarchic and lay-dominated religion.18

Lollardy itself did not bring about the Reformation, because it shunned institutionalization and became negativist and incoherent. It was unable to capture the support of the ruling class; it was unable to gain command of the press. Lollardy remained underground: in the 1530s it yielded ‘the leadership to regular armies with heavier and more modern equipment’.19 But even then not all agreed with A.G. Dickens’s analysis of the effects of the Lollard tradition upon religious life in England. Regional studies completed in the years since he wrote have revealed that some of the bishops, far from setting their faces rigidly against reform, were active agents of reform in the period 158

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 159

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

1480–1530. They hated heresy; but they also recognized the truth of much of the critique of the behaviour of the clergy and the administration of the Church. By the 1520s and 1530s even a conservative bishop might be involved in setting God’s house in order at diocesan level.20 Other historians showed the preReformation bishops in their guise as reformers,21 but it was scarcely of a kind to satisfy the sort of religious dissent described by Dickens, Thomson and Davis. The progress of Reformation

The relative importance of other factors in shaping English religious life also received growing attention. Critics began to question the confidence in the success of protestantism that underpinned [The English Reformation] It all seemed too early – the book stopped in 1558 – and too complete.22

In his stimulating story of Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire (1975), Christopher Haigh treated a county that remained resistant to Protestantism until the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Protestantism did plant early roots in Manchester Deanery, however, and Haigh pinpointed several explanations for this early success. There was ‘no more than the merest trace of Lollard and early Protestant heresy’ because of the isolation of the county. It was only when Lancashire developed trading and other links with London and the southern towns from the middle of the century that ‘those parts which were geographically closest to the capital’ were open to wider influences. But Haigh made the important point that evangelization was in the hands of university-trained theologians, and not of the laity. The missionary efforts of Lancastrian preachers probably met with mixed success in a county where the work of Protestant missionaries found no support among the local beneficed clergy. ‘The new faith was planted in Lancashire not by mass propaganda, but by personal links between the academic reformers and their families and friends.’23 The tightly knit nature of the tiny Protestant connection was apparent, as was its ‘foreign provenance’. Protestantism was something brought to Lancashire and not something arising out of a tradition of native dissent. 159

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 160

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Preparedness for the introduction of Protestantism was explained in other ways, too. D.M. Palliser wrote that ‘the general pattern of early Protestantism can be explained largely in terms of accessibility to Continental influences. Areas receptive to the new ideas of the 1520s and 30s included London, East Anglia and Cambridge University, and (outside the south-east) districts centred on ports such as Hull and Bristol, which were, of course, in close touch by sea with the capital as well as with Europe.’24 The appeal of humanist propaganda, with its detailed critique of the spiritual and intellectual life of the Church, coupled with lay anti-clericalism or, at least, lay attacks on parasitic priests, were also praised or blamed for preparing the way of the King. But the whole concept of anti-clericalism in the sixteenth century came under considerable attack in the early 1980s.25 Haigh suggested that very few opposed the clergy as such, criticizing the unacceptable behaviour of some priests rather than the idea of priesthood. He contended that anti-clericalism was a product of the clericalism which emerged after the Reformation. In some respects, this is a persuasive argument: even after the Reformation, the man on the proverbial cow path probably found the behaviour of the parish priest whom he knew far more interesting than any concept. Equally, though, the behaviour of this same parish priest probably coloured his view of all priests. People, especially those who are untrained as theologians, do tend to move from the particular to the general and we have no reason to believe that this was in any sense less the case before the Reformation than it was to be after. Certainly one cannot deny that anti-clericalism ran through the thought of early Tudor intellectuals, nor that early reformers such as Hooper found it extremely difficult to reconcile the concept of a clergy with their extreme primitivism. And it may be an almost entirely academic argument. Whether one accepts that there was no early opposition to an order of clergy or not, it seems abundantly true that criticism of deplorable aspects of the behaviour of both regular and secular clergy did predispose the laity in favour of radical correction of such abuses, and that a reading of the Scriptures led at least some to question the primitive origins of the priesthood.26 There will always be disagreement about the balance of influences, and this was certainly true among the post-war generations 160

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 161

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

of historians. A.G. Dickens’s work was both sophisticated and important because it attacked the implicit voluntarism of so much Reformation history, because it drew attention to the interaction of the social, the economic and the religious, and because it reasserted the importance of the spiritual reformation which stood side by side with the legislative. C.S.L. Davies put it very astutely when he wrote: Protestantism was to triumph in England, initially at least, because it was given a lead from above by the king . . . Without that lead it is impossible to know what would have happened in sixteenth-century England. Almost certainly, there would have been a powerful Protestant party; very probably powerful enough to exploit particular political situations and bring about civil war. But there is no guarantee that a Protestant rebellion would have succeeded; any more than it succeeded in France . . . In that sense the developments we have been describing did not make the Reformation inevitable. But we should also look at this the other way round: these developments made Henry VIII’s break with Rome possible. One could, indeed, put the case more strongly; it was the dedication to Protestantism of a small but influential minority working on the discontents of their fellows which transformed what might otherwise have been a minor jurisdictional affray into a thoroughgoing change, not merely in the beliefs of the English people, but ultimately in their way of life.27

The Reformation historian, while she or he must be aware that the existence of Lollardy, anti-clericalism or Continental influence was not a necessary cause of the English Reformation, should appreciate also that such factors were important contributory causes of its eventual success as a popular movement. Because similar ideas already had a foothold in some parts of England, we should not wait for the reign of Edward the Boy King for evidence of the popularization of Protestantism.28 Reformation from above or below

But not all modern historians of the Reformation object to voluntaristic explanations. J.J. Scarisbrick’s The Reformation and the English People (1984) set out to reassert the view that the English Reformation was an official reformation and one that the people of England did not want. 161

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 162

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

The English Reformation was only in a limited sense popular and from below. To speak of a rising groundswell of lay discontent with the old order, of growing ‘spiritual thirst’ during the later Middle Ages, and of a momentous alliance between the crown and disenchanted layfolk that led to the repudiation of Rome and the humbling of the clerical estate is to employ metaphors for which there is not much evidence.29

This statement was intended as a body-blow to the work of A.G. Dickens and others of his school, but there was in fact little power behind the blow. Scarisbrick is, for the most part, aiming his punches at straw men, for he would search a long time for a statement in any modern work which suggests that the Reformation did come from ‘below’ in the sense that he attacks here. Certainly, Dickens, Cross and Davies – perhaps the most eminent of the historians who discuss the ‘preparedness’ of the English people for the Reformation – could never be found guilty of such bald, unqualified statements. They may have stressed the factors which favoured the acceptance of Protestantism and those which provided a continuous tradition of radical critique of the Church, they may have overemphasized the early triumphs of Protestantism, but they nowhere stated (or implied) that all Englishmen wanted Reformation, either before or after Henry’s legislative extravaganza. The assumptions behind Scarisbrick’s book on the laity are worthy of notice because they are the same assumptions which governed the work of most Reformation historians who concentrate upon the world of high politics, of official policy. Scarisbrick accepted, quite simply, that the Reformation was, in England at least, a ‘supreme event’ and not a process. He sought to restore ‘voluntarism’ and to throw out of the window all thought that past developments had prepared the English people to accept Protestantism and Protestantization of English life. He conceived of this latter view as typical of ‘modern’ approaches: Modern tastes have tended to prefer the grand, long-term explanations of big events (especially if they give pride of place to impersonal changes in social structures or aspirations) and partly from the fact that a basically Whiggish and ultimately ‘Protestant’ view of things is still a potent influence on our thinking. Diluted, residual and secularised that influence may now be. But we still find it difficult to do 162

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 163

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

without the model of late-medieval decline and alienation – followed by disintegration and then rebirth and renewal – just as we still find it difficult to believe that major events in our history have lacked deepseated causation or have ever run fundamentally against the grain of the ‘general will’.30

So, in Scarisbrick’s view, the Reformation was imposed upon the English people by the King and his counsellors. It apparently appeared out of the blue: Henry VIII was sufficiently powerful and original to remove England from the Roman Communion and change the fundamentals of church life without either help from or even the tacit consent of his people. Indeed, the people actively objected to Reformation; only very slowly did some of them accept it. This is a striking view and it raises a number of unanswered questions: whence came the ‘Protestant’ view of things if indeed it is true that the people objected to the Reformation? Is it true that the Tudor monarchy was so absolute in its power that it could pass successful legislation in the teeth of the active opposition of the nation? Is there nothing at all to be said for the ‘gradualist’ interpretation put forward by most other Reformation historians interested in the reception of the Reformation? Does the evidence really bear the construction which Scarisbrick has put upon it – that the English people were well content with the Catholic Church? How would J.J. Scarisbrick explain away the very real evidence of discontent in some quarters? He does not confront it here. J.J. Scarisbrick’s study of late medieval life and of the people’s response to it both complemented and corrected the studies of popular religion penned by others. His radical thesis is stated thus: ‘I am not saying that all was well. I am not claiming that preReformation England was a land of zealous, God-fearing Christians . . . I am saying that, however imperfect the old order, and however imperfect the Christianity of the average man or woman in the street, there is no evidence of loss of confidence in the old ways, no mass disenchantment’, for the laity had a church ‘which they wanted and found congenial’, tolerant, easygoing, caring, non-interfering, community conscious.31 Nevertheless, there were abuses which Scarisbrick does not hesitate to describe. But there was, he urges, little hostility towards the monasteries, the chantries and the wealth of the Church. Laymen and women 163

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 164

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

poured money and gifts into the local parish churches. There was ‘widespread and enthusiastic’ building and rebuilding of the churches themselves.32 The kernel of his argument is that Englishmen did not want an attack upon the Church’s property, but, when the Crown attacked, the laity found that their own appetites were whetted by the opportunities for personal gain. The English people, then, accommodated themselves to a reformation which was neither of their doing nor of their wanting. Religion of the laity

What Scarisbrick’s The Reformation and the English people has to say about the religion of the laity is, however, extremely valuable. There can be little doubt that in the 1970s and early 1980s the prevalent view of the effect of the Reformation was that presented by Claire Cross in her Church and People.33 This interpretation derived from Dickens’s description of the spiritual impoverishment of the later Middle Ages. According to Cross, the Reformation represents the triumph of the laity. Medieval laymen were discontented: jealous of the privileges of the clergy, they wanted to be able to participate in religious life and, above all, to read the Scriptures in the vernacular. They abhorred the abuses of the Church – the squandering of wealth, the neglect of the poor, the abysmal pastoral performance of the priests, the waste, and corruption associated with the monasteries. This assessment is balanced by awareness that all was not lost in the medieval Church – there were reforms, and important ones at that. But Scarisbrick countered Cross’s argument with a detailed picture of lay participation in the pre-Reformation years which can be placed alongside Dickens’s stimulating treatment of other aspects of medieval popular religion and which cannot fail to enrich our understanding of the reception of the Reformation. His discussion of the parish fraternities was unusual and especially fine.34 Scarisbrick’s medieval layman was not a second-class religious citizen, oppressed and put upon. He was a partner in religious life. Although not permitted an active role in public worship, the laity was intimately involved in the Church’s liturgical life and in the communal life of the local church. While there was anti-clericalism, this was directed against scandalous individuals and not 164

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 165

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

against the office of priest.35 To prove his point, Scarisbrick analysed the wills of late medieval laymen for evidence of their religious views and charitable bequests.36 After reading this book, the scholar and student must ask the question: if Scarisbrick was right, and it is true that everything in the medieval garden was lovely, despite a few scattered weeds, did this defeat at one blow the view that the atmosphere in Tudor England was favourable to Henry VIII’s religio-political reformation? Scarisbrick had no doubt that it did. He was then forced to plump for voluntarism. Henry VIII staged the Reformation. A few leading politicians, thinkers and ecclesiastics supported him, for a variety of reasons, and, as a result, the Reformation eventually took root. The English ruling classes had a vested interest in its continuance. The people did not want Reformation. But historians may well question this conclusion. Dickens, Cross and Davies emphasized discontent, Scarisbrick content. But the question is one of the balance between these forces. It is also one of influence, leadership, power. None of these historians was able to quantify his or her assertion. And even if such an exercise were feasible, it is far from clear that the case would be proved by superiority of numbers. Perhaps, for example, it is true that discontent, over and above a certain level, is more potent than content – especially when given strong leadership from above. Or perhaps we could posit that those who were discontented with medieval Catholicism, however ‘wrong’ they may have been, were in some way more influential than those who were happy – they were the intellectuals, the aspiring gentry and bureaucrats, the reforming spirits and, by the very nature of things, they were more aggressive than those who approved the status quo. In other words, cadres are decisive. For this reason, the historian who seeks to determine whether the climate was favourable for reformation may need to look not at relative content or discontent with the Church in numerical terms, nor at the merits of the case against that Church; rather, he may need to discover who was discontented and how they displayed their disease. In this sense, both Scarisbrick and the historians he criticized may well all be ‘right’. Yes, the majority of the people were used to Catholicism, willing to live with it and participate in it on its own terms, even to enthuse about it. 165

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 166

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Nevertheless, there were significant pockets of discontent at popular level which provided those springing boards for early Protestantism; there were traditions of anti-clericalism, anti-papalism and veneration for the Scriptures which helped Protestantism to make headway.37 Most important of all, there were numbers of very influential men, very vociferous individuals, who criticized the Catholic Church. If this is so, then Scarisbrick was directing his attentions to a different problem from that which exercised the minds of the historians with whom he disagreed. They search for the reasons for eventual Protestant success; he, ironically while denying their importance for the Reformation, looks for the religious views of the man in the street. The former concluded that many of those with power and influence and organization favoured reformation, the latter that the English Reformation did not correspond to the desires of the average Englishman. These views are not in themselves contradictory. It is indeed important that we should know the extent to which the ‘people’ were carried along with the Reformation and the extent to which only particular groups welcomed it. The question of the origins of the English Reformation clearly has a bearing upon the progress of that Reformation at popular level. If there was in the people a spiritual thirst which the Reformation quenched, then one would expect it to take on the character of a popular movement in at least some quarters. If the Reformation was a legislative act imposed upon a wholly reluctant English people, great and small, then it would not take on the appearance of a popular religion. Protestantization of the people would have to await other developments. As historians differ about the spirit in which the initial reformation was received, so they disagree about the progress of Protestantization – its pace, its geographical spread, its appeal to various groups in the country. The question remains: how quickly did a political act become a popular religious movement? Henry VIII and Protestantism

There has been much written on the attitude of Henry VIII himself to Protestantism. Commonly he is said to have remained a 166

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:36

Page 167

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

Catholic monarch for a good many years after the Reformation. A popular account is that of S.T. Bindoff in Tudor England. In this book, Bindoff saw Thomas Cromwell as pursuing a policy of cautious Protestantization (culminating in the publication of the English Bible in 1539) which was at odds with Henry’s own conservatism. When Henry divorced Anne of Cleves and executed Cromwell, he had no wish to turn England into a Protestant country. He silenced the Protestant preachers; he had Parliament pass the Act of Six Articles, which spoke out against the Protestant heresies. But he was not able to halt the ‘revolution which he had begun’.38 In the event, Henry sensed that the mood of the people did not favour the retention of thoroughgoing Catholicism. He left Cranmer in office, he did not enforce the Act of Six Articles; he allowed (in 1543) the ‘middling sort’ to read the vernacular Bible. Above all, he entrusted his son’s education to the Protestants: Had the reign lasted a little longer Henry might himself have been numbered among them [the Protestants]. It is fairly clear that before the end the King had come to recognise the need for a shift in officially-sponsored doctrine. He confided his son’s tuition to three Reformers, Sir John Cheke, Dr Richard Cox and Sir Anthony Coke and in his last months he was meditating the crucial step of converting the Mass into a Communion.39

In essence, Bindoff was reiterating here the belief first voiced by John Foxe the martyrologist that Henry was about to initiate a fresh revolution in religious life and thought when he died. It is a view which, with rather more caution, A.G. Dickens also accepted.40 In 1966 Lacey Baldwin Smith challenged this interpretation in an article ‘Henry VIII and the Protestant Triumph’. Smith expostulated at Henry’s outright hypocrisy in leaving the education of his son to Protestant tutors while systematically persecuting and burning ‘heretics’, forcing well-known Protestants to recant their opinions, ordering the burning of Protestant books and scorning his own queen’s views. He found it impossible that an ageing monarch should initiate another and more radical revolution: ‘there are few people quite so conservative as an elderly and successful revolutionist’.41 Smith was not the first to identify these 167

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 168

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

problems. Bindoff had credited Henry with Machiavellian prescience;42 Jasper Ridley thought that Henry underwent conversion;43 Roger Lockyer believed that he bowed to the will of the majority;44 Geoffrey Elton doubted the reality of Henry’s Catholicism rather than that of his final Protestantism.45 But Smith approached the conundrum differently. Henry did not, in Smith’s view, modify his own religious position. He was not inspired in the last years of his life by a conviction that the future lay with Protestantism. If we examine the education of Edward, that ‘godly imp’, when his father yet lived, its content will be recognized as neither specifically Protestant nor Catholic. Religious orthodoxy, however, prevailed in the Prince’s and the royal household down to and beyond Henry’s death. Similarly, we should look carefully at Henry’s flirtations with Continental (‘German’) Protestants and also at Henry’s outrageous suggestion to the French admiral d’Annebault in August 1546 that France and England both should convert the mass into a communion, break off with Rome and threaten the Emperor with severance of relations unless he did likewise. We can see that these were reflections not of Henry’s new love of Protestantism but of his understanding of the diplomatic and military needs of the kingdom. Yet another view was presented by J.J. Scarisbrick himself.46 He accepted Smith’s argument that Henry was not a covert Protestant by the end of his life. Cheke and Coke were humanists, not Protestants, at the time when Henry entrusted them with Edward’s tuition; the fall of the Howards was not part of a systematic removal of Catholic influence from Henry’s council; Hertford and Dudley were not the rising stars at court because of their religious affiliations but because of their proven loyalty and ability. The story of the abandonment of the mass Scarisbrick accepted as ‘diplomatic chicanery’. He dubbed Foxe’s analysis of Henry’s long-term intentions as the ‘babbling of a hagiographer’. Henry was not a Protestant. He was a Catholic until his death, but he was no papist. Scarisbrick suggested that Henry feared a resurgence of popery (led by Bishop Stephen Gardiner) far more than he hoped for a ‘Protestant triumph’. But Henry’s attitude to Protestantism and to Catholic doctrine remains problematic. Most late twentieth-century commentators were uneasy about it. We should beware of accepting either L.B. 168

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 169

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

Smith’s or J.J. Scarisbrick’s solution too readily. We should recall Scarisbrick’s own warning that Henry does seem knowingly to have permitted Cranmer to make plans for the replacement of the Latin mass by an English communion service, just as he had ordered the use of Cranmer’s English Litany after its publication in May 1544. Certainly, he urged Cranmer to peruse the service books late in that year and he added ‘creeping to the cross’ to the list of forbidden ceremonies which Cranmer and his two coworkers drew up. Moreover, Cranmer was able to protect the English Bible against attack. Of course, these facts do not in themselves prove that Henry was sympathetic to Protestantism. (Scarisbrick thought that the attack on the mass might have been the cover for an attack upon the wealth of the chantries as much as an attempt to draw Francis of France closer to him. This assumes that Henry already had in mind the dissolution of the chantries, which did not occur until the reign of his son.) But Henry’s attitude to Cranmer and to his liturgical reforms should make us hesitate before committing ourselves to a view which sees Henry as unswerving in his dedication to Catholicism. The pace of Reformation

Interesting though the question of Henry’s own religious persuasion is, historians in the 1970s and 1980s occupied themselves more energetically with the conversion of the realm to Protestantism. Work in this area was concerned not only to assess how speedily Protestantism took hold, but also to identify the factors which facilitated or impeded this process. Several broad interpretations have emerged. A.G. Dickens led the school of those historians who believed that there was a rapid religious reformation, built upon the foundations laid by Lollardy and religious discontent in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Another view was that the Reformation was imposed from above and that the conversion of the people to Protestantism was itself a slow process. Again, some emphasized the importance of the work of the Elizabethan evangelists rather than the Edwardians in spreading the new religion. There were flaws in each and every one of these interpretations. Those who believed in early successes for Protestantism often overstated their case. There was a 169

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 170

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

tendency to assume that the heresy cases which came to light were more representative than they were, to overemphasize the importance of the Lollard tradition and so on. But those who asserted that Protestantism had to wait for any real success until the reign of Elizabeth sometimes neglected to observe that the absence of recorded heresy (given the poor survival rates of many types of record) does not prove that the population under Mary were content with the restoration of Catholicism. The length of the Elizabethan recusancy returns is not necessarily indicative of intense loyalty to the old religion. Scholars examined the religious history of different regions in an attempt to settle the argument once and for all. Margaret Bowker’s The Henrician Reformation: The Diocese of Lincoln under John Longland, 1521–1547 was one of the more important local studies.47 The pre-Reformation diocese of Lincoln was enormous, covering nine Midland counties. The diocese was relatively well administered. In theory, one might expect that the Reformation would have come early to this diocese: there was a university; there were important towns; there was an area of strong Lollard influence. Christopher Haigh cited this diocese, on the strength of Margaret Bowker’s work, as the classic case of ‘slow reformation’ from below. The clergy and the laity showed little inclination towards Protestantism until the late 1540s and effective evangelization came only in the reign of the first Elizabeth. Unfortunately, as Dr Bowker noted, the register which John Foxe used which recounted Bishop Longland’s persecution of the Buckinghamshire Lollards no longer exists. Other court records are thin on the ground. So there may or there may not have been early heresy in the diocese. Margaret Bowker was cautious in her own conclusions: ‘in 1529, in the diocese of Lincoln, all our evidence suggests that heresy was confined to the Chiltern area, at most fifty miles square, and to a few young scholars in the University of Oxford’.48 We should follow her lead in being unprepared to push the evidence too far.49 Christopher Haigh’s own Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire (1975) took not a diocese but a county as the unit for study. Haigh demonstrated the resistance which the Reformation encountered. The revival of traditional Catholicism in Lancashire prior to the Reformation had meant that the people 170

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 171

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

had, for the most part, little quarrel with the Catholic Church and no reason to welcome the Reformation with open arms: The fairly intensive efforts at conversion made in the reign of Edward had reaped only a meagre harvest, and Protestantism had gained very little support by 1559. Though habits of regular church attendance might give the Elizabethan church a period of grace in which Catholic opinion could be attacked and a reformed theology promulgated, success would only be achieved by a sustained campaign of propaganda and coercion.50

And this was difficult in an impoverished county possessed of weak institutions and unsympathetic officials. In his study of Sussex under Elizabeth, Roger Manning also highlighted the importance of the institutional machinery of a diocese (this time that of Chichester) in imposing uniformity with the state religion and spreading its tenets. He observed that ‘the predominant group among the gentry were more interested in protecting their political and economic interests than in carrying through a religious revolution’.51 Because the Queen’s prime aim was to create and preserve national unity, ‘the enforcement of the Elizabethan religious settlement followed the middle road’ and the ecclesiastical policy was therefore inconsistent. Some other studies – such as those of Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire – echoed the view that Protestantism had made a relatively slight impact before the reign of Elizabeth. Before we conclude that there was no popular Protestantism before 1558, we should note the evidence of very marked local variations. Margaret Spufford’s Contrasting Communities (1974) indicated the considerable difference in religious feeling between the populations of three villages. Willingham had a secret Protestant conventicle as early as Mary’s reign, an enthusiastic Protestant congregation thereafter, anti-episcopal spokesmen in the 1630s and, afterwards, a thriving Congregationalist church. Dry Drayton, on the other hand, despite having in its midst for twenty years the prominent Protestant evangelist Richard Greenham, remained resistant to Protestantism throughout.52 The suggestion was that this variety of religious opinion could be copied onto a broader canvas. There is evidence that Protestantism did flourish early in some areas. Kent is the best171

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 172

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

known example, but in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Sussex and London Protestantism had also made inroads. Peter Clark showed how Cromwell, for strategic reasons, created through the skilful use of patronage a reforming group in Kent. The reformers took over the administration of the Church and the task of evangelizing the county.53 Clark’s analysis of wills and the complexion of town governments indicated that the breakthrough to Protestantism had already occurred by the mid 1540s. M.J. Kitch argued that popular support for both Catholicism and Protestantism was geographically diverse.54 Early Protestantism in Sussex flourished around Lewes.55 No scholar claimed that England was Protestant prior to 1558. Clearly, the institutional machinery of the Church and the personnel of that Church simply were not geared to perpetrate a wholesale reformation before the middle of Elizabeth’s reign. Reformation took root early in some places. The cause of the Reformation was not yet won. England might be described as Protestant in that she had protested against the pope’s authority and had sloughed it off, but doctrinally she remained predominantly Catholic. To this generation of historians the geographical spread of Protestantism seemed, then, to have been slow until Elizabeth’s reign. To say that the headway it did make was insignificant was for some, however, to say too much, for there appeared sufficient evidence to show that Protestantism was early gaining strength among the influential. Kent, after all, was by sixteenth-century standards a densely and highly populated county. The new religion seems to have spread quite early and easily in the towns of the kingdom.56 It also took hold at the universities. If the leading intellectuals and gentry who favoured the new religion were sent into exile and were therefore unable to influence directly the evangelization of Marian England, they did, as it turned out, ensure the future of English Protestantism by keeping the flame of the new religion ablaze.57 And it was surely important that there were some Protestant congregations within England itself upon which the Elizabethan Church could build. What were the factors which hastened the advance of Protestantism or hindered it? In an early essay, David Palliser discussed this question.58 Here Palliser drew a picture of a South 172

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 173

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

and East broadly receptive to Protestantism during the crucial years down to 1570 and a North and West less so. But he sought to refine this ‘crude textbook picture’. He observed that research has confirmed the outlines of the picture – areas such as London and the east coast ports were in frequent contact with the Continent; and the more prosperous lowlands of the country were apparently less bound to tradition than were the impoverished uplands. But he goes on to suggest that this form of geographical (or physical) determinism may be very inaccurate. If the North was less receptive to Protestantism it may have been for administrative rather than physical reasons. Detection of heresy and recusancy, eradication of old ideas, evangelization were all difficult, to say the least, in the huge reaches of York, Chester and Lichfield dioceses, especially when parish units tended to be large and unwieldy and personnel unsuitable. David Palliser reminded us that regional studies may have too coarse a mesh by far to be of much value in charting and explaining popular reactions to the new religion. Instead, perhaps, historians should look more closely at localities where the loyalties of the people might be swayed by individuals, local interests, the position of the local magnate and/or social and economic conditions.59 Dr Kitch, in his discussion of the Reformation in Sussex, pointed out that the arrest of so many Sussex Lollards in Mary’s reign may well have been due less to the relative strength of Protestantism in Marian Sussex, and specifically Lewes, than to the Catholicism of its gentry and their total unwillingness to protect the heretics.60 In York there were riots and quarrels before the Pilgrimage of Grace, totally unrelated to the Crown’s religious policy. And objections to the new beliefs elsewhere might be as much objections to the high-handed activities of a local clergyman as to the beliefs themselves. Margaret Bowker drew attention to the fears of the laity during the Lincolnshire rising concerning the future of their own parish churches and endowments.61 Enough work has been completed to suggest that variables other than the region must be taken into account. Myriad influences determined the reactions of the English people to religious change in the sixteenth century. Even more, David Palliser underlined the fact that not only the nation but also its constituent communities, large and small, were far from homo173

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 174

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

geneous in their response to change. Diversity of opinion marked the inhabitants of towns and villages, social classes and occupational groups. So, of sixty-six peers in 1580, twenty-two were committed Protestants, twenty were recusants, twenty-four were relatively indifferent. According to Roger Manning, Catholic office-holding gentry in Sussex outnumbered Protestants two to one in the 1580s. Preachers such as Thomas Hancock actively sought to stir up dissension: he divided the people of both Salisbury and Poole by his evangelizing attempts and was forbidden to preach in Southampton lest he cause the same division there. Measurement and quantification

Work such as this made historians aware that reactions to reformation were varied, and drew attention to some of the factors which either favoured or hindered the progress of Protestantization. But, surprisingly, very little attention had been accorded one of the most important issues. How are we, as historians, to measure the process? What index are we to use? Rigorous treatment of this crucial question was still required. Historians concentrated, inevitably, upon evidence of the spread of Protestant ideas, upon manifestations of Protestant opinion, upon proof of the retention of traditional Catholic sympathies. But the question of the relative importance of these within the communities concerned and within the nation had been shirked. Measurement of religious opinion on either side is difficult, and the more so because few agree on what it is that historians are seeking to measure. Moreover, only in the 1980s did scholars try to come to grips with the issue of religious apathy in Tudor England and Wales. Before this there are implicit, and occasionally explicit, assumptions – either that people in that century were far more committed to active Christianity (in the sense of churchgoing) than were, say, the Victorians, or that there was considerable apathy but that this apathy was traditionalist. (If you were Protestant, you were part of an enthusiastic minority; Catholics, on the other hand, were a residual category, including both enthusiasts and status-quoers.) But these assumptions were only in the last decades of the twentieth century beginning to be 174

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 175

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

tested in anything approaching a systematic manner. Nevertheless, until the answers are found, how should we ever know what Protestantization implied? This realization coincided with a movement within the discipline of history itself towards greater reliance on quantification. In some but not all quarters this meant the use of computers as an aid to historical research and more precise conclusions.62 Advocates of the use of quantitative methods swept aside the objections of others. The argument that some areas of human experience were immeasurable was countered by the view that ‘At the least [said Roderick Floud] the measurable areas may help us in our interpretation of the immeasurable’.63 And, he went on to say, a more serious, but equally fallacious, criticism of quantitative history is the argument that use of quantitative methods involves oversimplification, the loss of information about the past, the forcing of individuals into categories, and consequent dehumanization of history. Any use of methods of classification or aggregation will, of course, simplify the diversity of human historical experience, since that is its aim . . . the mind of the historian . . . inevitably seeks patterns and similarities, and rejects or forgets much that cannot fit those patterns. The advantage of quantitative history . . . is that its systems and methods of classification, the assumptions it uses and the patterns it imposes, are stated and clear.64

These historians were the early children of the computing age. Historians of the Reformation began to count. Was it possible, given the surviving evidence, to measure the extent of religious commitment to either side, or to quantify church attendance? Did the evidence exist to support such quantitative investigations? Post-war historians made ever-more sophisticated use of the ‘sources’ in an attempt to answer these questions and, in so doing, exposed the considerable difficulties involved in making the type of classifications that Floud anticipated and interpreting the evidence. Some of the historians involved showed lamentably little understanding of statistical methods.65 Historians’ use of wills, and especially their preambles, provides an example of how historians of the period were using and tackling the problems inherent in quantification. Even contemporaries had employed the preambles of wills as evidence of men’s religious beliefs: in 1532 the corpse of a Gloucestershire 175

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 176

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

man was disinterred and burned as a heretic by order of Convocation because in his will he denied the mediation of the saints.66 A.G. Dickens, David Palliser, Peter Clark, Susan Brigden, Claire Cross, J.J. Scarisbrick, W.J. Sheils, G.J. Mahew and Elaine Sheppard all examined the preambles to large numbers of wills in order to determine the religious persuasions of their authors. Most of these historians show a decrease in the number of conservative or traditionalist preamble formulae over time and a commensurate increase in the number of ‘reformist’ or ‘committed Protestant’ formulae. J.J. Scarisbrick’s intention was, rather, to show the satisfaction with the Catholic status quo which was present in the 1520s and 1530s. Is it wise to use wills in these ways? There are serious difficulties in using will preambles as evidence of the precise religious beliefs of testators. Margaret Spufford showed that scriveners were commonly employed to write wills for clients.67 They used standardized preambles. The precedent books of the various dioceses contain early examples of such form preambles. Even more common was the employment of the clergyman to pen the will of the dying man. Very commonly the last will and testament was, literally speaking, just that – the dying wishes of the sick and weak. In such circumstances, it is unlikely that the words of the preamble closely reflected the creed espoused by the testator. And, if the testator were not knocking on the doors of death, he or she had to be extraordinarily committed to a form of words to risk the wrath of the parish priest and presentation to the visitation authorities which might accompany any ill-advised use of unacceptable doctrine. This does not mean that wills never revealed the deeply felt religious convictions of their makers – far from it. Some wills are marked in their preambles by strongly individual phraseology and it seems safe to say that deviant wills of this kind do reflect the individual testator’s beliefs. But, and this is the important point, will preambles cannot safely be used statistically to record the exact religious affiliations of the population: The evidence is not statistical. It is wrong for the historian to assume that if he takes a cross section of 440 wills proved over a particular period, he is getting 440 different testators’ religious opinions reflected, unless, of course the wills also come from 440 different 176

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 177

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

places. Even then the scribe might have a determining influence. One is still getting evidence on the attitudes of the peasantry to whatever ecclesiastical settlement was in fashion, but it would take a much more stringent analysis to show how much evidence one is getting, and to eliminate more than one of a series of wills written by the same scribe. On the other hand when a testator had strong religious convictions of his or her own, these may come through, expressed in a variant of the formula usually used by the scribe concerned. If any local historian wishes to study the religious opinions of the peasantry, he should look for these strongly worded individualistic clauses which occur in any run of wills for a parish, which alone record the authentic voice of the dying man.68

Far from revealing the religious beliefs of the average testator, wills and their preambles hide them from the historian’s gaze. Historians of the spread of Protestantism or the persistence of Catholicism need to know what ordinary men and women believed. They have grasped at wills as a guide to such beliefs because most ordinary people left no other written record of their existence and wills are therefore our only large-scale evidence. But we must not use wills to prove what they cannot in fact prove.69 What historians could do was to examine large series of wills to indicate general trends, as suggested by the work of A.G. Dickens.70 Was it safe to assume that the residual tendency was that of conservatism? We would expect that it took an effort of will to write a decidedly Protestant testament when the establishment was Catholic, and vice versa. While it may be true that a cleric or scribe would influence the form of the will’s preamble, it seems probable that only the progressive would use the services of a Protestant and that traditionalists and Catholics would decline to do so. In this way, a long run of wills analysed statistically would reveal a percentage of committed Protestants and Catholics in a reasonably reliable fashion. The forces of conservatism were such that it may well be that statistical studies of this kind would always underestimate rather than overestimate the strength of Protestantism before the reign of Elizabeth. Historians who conducted surveys of wills of this kind classified will preambles in differing ways, thus making direct comparison or collation impossible. Questions of definition were problematic: what constituted a traditional (i.e. Catholic) and a 177

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 178

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Protestant formula? Did the formulae express the views of the testator or of a scribe? Did the formulae reflect the other indications of religious affiliation contained within the body of a will? Nevertheless, the results of their work are of great interest. In general, the research suggests that non-traditional will formulae were increasing in number from the late 1530s onwards. In Kent, this was noticeable from 1538, and in East Sussex from the mid 1540s.71 Not surprisingly, this tendency gathered pace under Edward VI, when there were official attempts to convert the population to Protestantism. But under Mary, when, if this conversion had been merely skin deep, one might have expected a sharp swing back to the traditional formulae, the percentage in East Sussex rose to only 50 per cent of the Henrician rate. Protestant wills in East Sussex actually remained at 10 per cent down to 1557 and traditional wills never amounted to more than 50 per cent of the total. At the accession of Elizabeth, traditional preambles fell to a level of 19 per cent – only slightly higher than the percentage of Protestant wills at that time. Even in Yorkshire, non-traditional formulae were in the majority after 1549, with the exception of York, which long remained conservative.72 A smaller sample of wills for the diocese of Peterborough suggests a similar pattern and indicates that at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, before the Protestant future was determined, 5 per cent of wills were distinctly Protestant in tone and almost 25 per cent neutral in terminology.73 From 1535 onwards, Protestant influence showed itself in Norwich wills and there are indications that the spread of Protestantism was so entrenched by the end of Edward’s reign that Mary was unable to restore the status quo ante, although there was the expected revival of traditional will formulae.74 London wills of the period 1522–47 provide an index of the movement from Catholicism to Protestantism, particularly when the preambles are used in conjunction with the content of the wills themselves.75 So where does all this leave us? J.J. Scarisbrick asserted that a study of some 2,500 wills demonstrates the devotion to traditional Catholicism prevalent in the population. He showed how improbable it was that scribes influenced the actual religious bequests made by testators.76 Work done by Claire Cross on Hull and Leeds wills produced a like conclusion.77 But this did not, as 178

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 179

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

Claire Cross would be the first to argue, remove the ground from beneath A.G. Dickens’s feet. He and others did not argue that England was already Protestant in 1540, 1550 or, even, 1560. What they did say was that Protestantism had made substantial inroads, especially in given regions and localities, before 1558 and that the extent of this Protestantism is underestimated if we merely count martyrs or near-martyrs. The large-scale sampling of wills, even given the difficulties involved in their use, does point to the truth of their assertion. Circumstantial evidence also pointed to this conclusion. Wills were made by those who died with property. In general, they represent the older generations. If we accept that Protestantism had its greatest appeal among the young,78 then we would expect that there would be an inbuilt bias against Protestantism in any sample of wills before 1560. Similarly, if it is true that Protestantism was strongest among those groups who had been most open to Lollard influence – artisans, shopkeepers, lower clergy, et cetera – then we would again expect that any will sample would under-represent Protestantism, as wills were made by the better-off elements of society. John Fines’s index of 3,000 known Protestants between 1520 and 1558 indicates a preponderance of ‘workers’ among early Protestants, which may have been obscured by the attention which historians have always accorded the Marian exiles.79 The common-form dedicatory clause of most wills may hide either positive religious convictions or apathy – which, we shall never know. A few historians, notably scholars who are not interested solely in religious history, sought to establish the church-going habits and religious interests of the English people, using other types of evidence. In Europe, attendance at Easter communion during the Catholic Reformation is said to have reached 99 per cent of the qualified adult population. Levels of participation of this kind do not seem to have pertained in England and Wales. Towns in particular knew much absenteeism. As early as 1540–42, it was said that not half of the qualified communicants of Colchester attended church on Sundays or holy days. Most of the evidence of church attendance, however, relates to the seventeenth century, especially to the later seventeenth century. Historians have tended to lump Tudor and Stuart times 179

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 180

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

together – in a rather dangerous and incomprehensible manner – and it really is not safe to assume that patterns and levels of attendance noted in the 1670s bore any necessary similarity to those in pre- or immediately post-Reformation England. What we do know is that the Church of England attempted, through the system of visitations and consistory courts, to see that the confirmed received Easter communion and that the Church monopoly of marriages, baptisms and burials was maintained. By the seventeenth century, it has been hazarded, some 15 per cent of the qualified population in some dioceses (this included heads of household with their families and servants) were hardened excommunicates.80 These people were, by definition, cut off from the communion of the Church. There were, perhaps, other categories of people who absented themselves from church: the confusion in the popular mind between ‘recusant’ and ‘catholic’ remains a barrier to understanding, especially with respect to the seventeenth century.81 One prevalent view was that the poor were particularly lax in their church attendance. Some scholars suggested that the Church authorities actively shunned the poor and were almost exclusively concerned to secure the attendance of independent householders.82 Mervyn James, for example, believed that those who could not afford to pay pew rents were excluded.83 Peter Clark drew a picture of pre-revolutionary Kent in which 20 per cent of the population – the poor and vagabond – were by the very fact of their poverty excluded from the Church’s communion and community.84 But there was little real evidence of this and some of the sources employed can bear a very different construction: That the lay people of every parish (as they be bound by the laws of this realm) and especially householders, having no lawful excuse to be absent, shall faithfully and diligently endeavour themselves to resort with their children and servants to their parish church or chapel on the holy days, and chiefly upon the Sundays, both to morning and evening prayer and other divine service, and, upon reasonable let thereof to some other usual place where Common Prayer is used, and then and there abide orderly and soberly during all the time of Common Prayer, Homilies, sermons, and other service of God there used, reverently and devoutly giving themselves to prayer and hearing of the word of God. And that the churchwardens 180

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 181

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

and swornmen, above all others, shall be diligent in frequenting and resorting to their parish churches or chapels on Sundays and holy days, to the intent they may note and mark all such persons, as upon any such days shall absent themselves from the church, and upon such shall examine them upon the cause thereof.85

In fact, the articles of visitation in post-Reformation English dioceses constantly repeated this exhortation to church attendance to all people and to vigilance on the part of churchwardens to enforce the policy. The emphasis upon ensuring that householders attend, if indeed such existed, was there because the household head commanded the obedience of his dependants: if he attended church, so, in theory, would his children and servants (including farm labourers); if he held household prayers daily, so would they attend. In The Religion of Protestants (1983) Patrick Collinson called for more research into the attitude of the Church to its poor.86 He made it clear that the Church itself, when it complained of the irreverent or the absentee, did not equate these troublesome elements with the poor.87 The Church wanted full attendance by the laity at church service and extensive participation in communion. The ideal does not seem to have been attained. By the late seventeenth century, perhaps half the qualified were communicating at Easter – suggesting, as more emphasis was placed upon Easter attendance than any other, considerably lower church attendances on ordinary Sundays or holy days. The extreme ignorance of doctrine exhibited by Easter communicants in one parish certainly suggests that most were not regular attendants.88 Work on the appeal of Puritan sermons indicates that the message of the Protestant evangelists was neither as popular nor as effective as some have thought.89 As Bishop James Pilkington wrote in 1560, the pull of the alehouse was a powerful counter-attraction to that of the pulpit: ‘For come into a church on the sabbath day, and ye shall see but few, though there be a sermon; but the alehouse is ever full.’90 The Church authorities adopted holding tactics. Some of those who refused to attend church (but probably only a small percentage) were presented in the course of visitation. Occasionally the authorities would swoop down in an exceptional effort to extirpate nonattendance, as during Archbishop Grindal’s visitation of York in 1575.91 There were attempts, of course, to control or remove 181

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 182

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

counter-attractions. But more and more the authorities and the enthusiasts realized that they would never secure full attendance and tried to use alternative means to reach the populace. Houseto-house visiting had its place, although some Protestant preachers were doubtful about the propriety of their visiting ‘the suspect places’.92 Some scholars pointed to the possibility that those least likely to attend church were perhaps the unmarried young, who disliked the attempts of the Church to control their social and sexual behaviour. Those under the age of twenty-five may have made up more than half of the total population. Patrick Collinson wrote, ‘Many would be removed from this class (of excommunicates) not so much by discipline as by the normal process of ageing and entry to the married state.’93 He might have added that many of the number would be removed by early death. This argument is indeed plausible, but there is as little solid, incontrovertible evidence to support it as there is to buttress the view that it was the poor who failed in attendance and stood in open hostility to the Church. The relationship between the young and the Church was none the less a profitable area for future research. How did churchmen seek to reach the young population? There were three main approaches: catechizing of the young before confirmation; schooling of children and adolescents; the media (or what we might call, perhaps, an imposed popular culture). Historians have given some attention to the first of these – catechizing – but have relatively neglected the latter – schooling and popular culture. This is a mistake. The catechist had to capture his audience before he could captivate them; the teacher and the pamphleteer might captivate their followers first and then catch their minds. On the way to acquiring vital skills for making a livelihood, the child would be imbued with the values of the Christian Church or, at the very least, of the Christian society with its moral and ethical standards. Imogen Luxton examined the extent to which popular culture remained heavily religious in content after the Reformation, in addition to changes in the forms which popular culture took.94 Patricia Took dealt in detail with the use of print made by both Protestants and Catholics in the war for men’s loyalties.95 But it is to more general studies that we must look for full-scale examina182

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 183

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

tion of the changing content and intent of popular culture during the period.96 Historians of the Reformation appeared to regard education as a dirty word. Few of them do more than nod in the direction of acknowledging its importance. Contemporaries of the Reformation would have disagreed. They believed that where the parish priest and schoolmaster led, there would the people follow. They therefore attached the greatest importance to the education of the preacher and teacher, but they also put real effort into designing the content of education for the laity. General studies of early modern education sometimes discussed this concern.97 Scholars clearly had a long way more to travel in their attempt to chart the origins and chronology of the English Reformation. It seemed reasonable to suppose that Lollardy and discontent with the medieval Church and its personnel had prepared the ground to some extent for a religious reformation. It is important to recall, however, that this discontent was by no means predominant in English society. Large sectors of the population remained untouched; they may have been enthusiastic Catholics, conservatives or just plain uninterested. The Reformation itself was initially a political, legislative act. Influential sections of the community supported Henry’s initiative for a mixture of political and economic reasons. His Reformation also opened the door for a number of churchmen and others who were dissatisfied with the state of religion and who were influenced by early Protestantism or humanistic criticism. During the latter years of Henry’s reign and during that of his son, Edward, it seems that Protestantism did take root in the universities and in some of the towns of the kingdom, especially the ports. A number of factors appear to have encouraged the growth of Protestantism: a Lollard heritage; contact with Protestants on the Continent; enthusiastic evangelism; the loyalties of a local magnate; and, under Mary, the example of the martyrs.98 But it was not the case that the people of England were converted to Protestantism by the reign of Mary. There are numerous indications that traditional Catholicism remained strong, particularly in the North and West, but also in the South and East. It was not until the reign of Elizabeth that even cadres were decisive and that Protestantism began to flourish more generally. When it did so, this may have had much to do 183

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 184

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

with the Crown’s now continuous pursuit of a religious policy which assumed the permanence of Protestantism. But it also owed a good deal to the efforts of Protestant church officers, evangelists and laymen. Formal Protestantism must have been difficult to avoid once the parishes were staffed by Protestant clergy, schoolteachers and preachers. The establishment of a Protestant clergy was therefore of the utmost importance in ensuring the growth of Protestantism.99 The Church authorities, for example, were convinced that Catholicism in the wastes of the North could be conquered only by a Protestant mission. They were willing to turn very blind eyes to Protestant practices and preaching there. Beyond this general outline it was and is difficult to go. Historians in the 1960s to 1980s were unable to chart the depth of Protestantism, to establish the extent to which the tenets of the new religion had the people in their grip, or to make clear whether or not the majority of the people had any strong religious convictions or interests. Was Protestantism, even at its most popular, a religion which spoke to rather less than half of the population? Was it a religion of ministers rather than of congregations? Conclusion

Many of the questions which Reformation historians have posed and continue to pose about the Reformation in England demand quantification. To what extent was England Protestant? How quickly and widely did Protestantism spread? Historians in these decades identified a number of variables which appear to have encouraged or hindered the reception of Protestantism. But they were not able, given the sources and the evidence, to place these variables in rank order of importance. The available documentation did not and does not permit the historian to quantify. The temptation was to skirt the issue – to use the language of quantification and to employ the surviving, rather scrappy evidence as if it were quantitative. In fact, we know where there were Protestant congregations, but we know precious little about their size, strength and social importance. Was the answer, then, to be openly impressionistic? Not necessarily, but it had certainly become evident that the historian 184

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 185

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

must needs define the issues much more clearly than had so far been the case. Often it is unclear what the scholars involved were trying to establish – how many people attended church? how many people accepted the official Reformation as a fait accompli? how many people were enthusiastic about the doctrines of the new religion? how many people would have preferred to have retained the old ways? The work in this area was characterized by the shadows which it cast rather than by the light which it created. Patrick Collinson’s magisterial The Religion of Protestants certainly eventually illuminated the path by looking at the church in society. He drew upon the detailed work and ideas of historians in the mid-twentieth century and asked questions about the religious involvement of the English people and about the very nature of English Protestantism itself. He discussed the extent to which the established Church comprehended English Protestantism. When a common definition of this phenomenon is so hard to find, can we measure Protestant commitment? The broadening of the horizons of work on the Reformation during this period surely helped rather than hindered our efforts to answer very difficult and very important questions about the importance of religion to the people as a whole in that society as well as to its leaders. In this way, histoire totale could become our handmaiden instead of our taskmaster. While historians in the 1990s and 2000s went on to challenge many of the findings of those who came before them, they undoubtedly owed much to the groundwork laid in terms both of knowledge and ideas. The post-war decades were exciting ones for the discipline of history in general and the history of the Reformation in particular. In the 1960s and 1970s scholars began to exploit new and diverse source materials in order to answer questions about the Reformation and its impact upon the English people. As they did so, they confronted many challenges. Historians, while rightly wary of the dangers of celebrating technique, now were stimulated to talk much more openly about the methodological difficulties involved in writing about the Reformation at the popular level (and, indeed, history itself), knowing that otherwise they were in grave danger of displaying a naivety about the use of sources and the evidence they yielded similar to that characteristic of their predecessors in the nineteenth century. While Collinson’s masterly 185

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 186

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

synthesis to some extent smoothed the way towards integrating different approaches to interpreting the history of religion and the people, it did nothing whatsoever to solve some of the underlying methodological problems. What was the historian to do when the sources did not yield up the necessary evidence to answer highly pertinent question about the past? The implication always was: look for more evidence or, alternatively, exploit the existing evidence in new ways. But in such circumstances, when new evidence was unforthcoming, was it permissible for the historian to speculate? If so, what should the boundaries of such speculation be? How was the historian to circumnavigate the multitude of possible, plausible and frequently contradictory interpretations based on empirical evidence? What was the place of intuition or indeed of empathy in historical interpretation?100 How best could the historian understand and interpret what she or he discovered? Should the historian be objective and disinterested or, conversely, could it be a virtue, when seeking to understand the import of ‘evidence’, to be partial and compassionate? Was it not inevitable that a historian would use her or his own experience as the basis of understanding and speculation? Was historical truth attainable? Does the answer lie in total immersion in the archives? In a later chapter we shall discuss in more detail the response of Reformation historians to such challenges. For the moment it seems sufficient to reiterate that by the 1980s the major players in the debate remained ‘unreconstructed empiricists’, largely untouched by debates surrounding postmodernism, except in so far as they took on board the need for source criticism and close reading. Yet by the early 1980s few would have been able to subscribe without reservation to G.R. Elton’s statement in 1978 that ‘comprehensive coverage . . . alone can reveal the truth’.101 Notes 1 Not to be confused with postmodernist history. 2 Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past. English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870–1970, The Wiles Lectures for 2003 (Cambridge, 2005, Kindle Edition). This applied as much to young bloods such as Christopher Haigh as it did to more mature scholars such as A.G. Dickens and John Scarisbrick. 3 Strictly speaking, empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowl186

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 187

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE

4

5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

15 16

edge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. It stresses the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas. In the scientific and medical spheres it emphasized evidence derived from experiments. It should not be confused with positivism. Historians adapted this theory of empiricism to cover their own methodology – the historian’s laboratory was the archive and his or her evidence what was discovered in the books and manuscripts it contained. Close reading of the evidence would produce correct interpretations. Historians who looked to a priori reasoning or intuition to describe or interpret the past were dismissed as amateur or unserious. As postmodernists were to point out, this position assumed that what the archives yielded was the equivalent of experimentally derived scientific data. The analogy was unsustainable. Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants (Oxford, 1982), p. viii. As we shall see in Chapter 8, the main criticism levelled against A.G. Dickens was not that he was an empiricist but that he was partial. Haigh, Scarisbrick, Duffy and Collinson were as much (and remained) devotees of the archive as was Dickens. Dickens, in his revision of The English Reformation (1989), p. 391, perhaps more realistically stated that he looked back upon his account ‘with such impartiality as I can command’. One may imagine that what most aggravated his critics was not in fact the partiality towards Protestantism in his analysis but, rather, his personal profession of faith and his impassioned plea in the same work for a truly Christocentric creed within modern Christianity (The English Reformation, 1989, pp. 391–6). C. Haigh, ‘The recent historiography of the English Reformation’, Historical Journal, 25 (1982), 995–1007. H. Davies, Worship and Theology in England from Cranmer to Hooker, 1534–1603 (Princeton, NJ, 1970), pp. 6–7. For more recent contributions to this subject see Chapter 8. W.A. Clebsch, England’s Earliest Protestants, 1520–1535 (New Haven, CT, 1964), p. 10. C.H. Garrett, The Marian Exiles (Cambridge, 1938; 1961 repr.), pp. 20–2, 27–9, 38–59, esp. p. 44. A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (London, 1964), pp. 70–6. A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (London, 1989), p. 380 and elsewhere. Although he has come under attack in the twenty-first century for other parts of his historiography. For this see Chapter 8. Felicity Heal, s.n. ‘Arthur Geoffrey Dickens’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). To him, for example, has been attributed that ‘localisation’ of the Reformation story that was dominant after 1959. His The English Reformation was, in part, ‘a call to younger historians to follow the Dickensian example’ and write the national story of the Reformation through regional and local studies. (P. Collinson and J. Craig, The Reformation in English Towns 1500–1640 (1998), pp. 1–2) It was a call that was answered by droves of young researchers, the present author included. J.F. Davis, Heresy and Reformation in the South-East of England 1520–1559 (Royal Historical Society, 1983). Davis, Heresy and Reformation, p. 149. 187

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 188

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION 17 18 19 20

21

22 23 24

25 26

27 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

Dickens, The English Reformation, p. 36. Dickens, The English Reformation, p. 36. Dickens, The English Reformation (1964), p. 37. M. Bowker, The Secular Clergy in the Diocese of Lincoln, 1495–1520 (Cambridge,1968); M. Bowker, The Henrician Reformation in the Diocese of Lincoln under John Longland, 1521–1547 (Cambridge, 1981). See for example S. Lander, ‘Church courts and the reformation in the diocese of Chichester, 1500–58’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds), Continuity and Change (Leicester, 1976), pp. 215–37. Heal, ‘Dickens’. C. Haigh, Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 163–70. D. Palliser, ‘Popular reactions to the Reformation 1530–70’, in F. Heal and R. O’Day (eds), Church and Society in England, Henry VIII to James I (1977), pp. 36–7. C. Haigh, ‘Anticlericalism and the English Reformation’, History, 68 (1983), 391–407. See R. O’Day, ‘Immanuel Bourne: a defence of the ministry’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 27 (1976), 101–14 and R. O’Day, The English Clergy (Leicester, 1979). C.S.L. Davies, Peace, Print and Protestantism 1450–1558 (1976), p. 155. M.C. Cross, Church and People 1450–1660 (1976), p. 53. J.J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Oxford, 1984), p. 1. Scarisbrick, Reformation, p. 1. Scarisbrick’s analysis found its way into John Guy’s Tudor England (Oxford, 1988), pp. 21–5. Guy’s was the first big history of Tudor England since Elton’s in the 1950s. Such textbooks were of crucial importance in disseminating widely the conclusions reached in more specialized works. This was still the age of the ‘textbook’: large numbers of school and college students still studied the English Reformation, and teaching relied considerably upon the use of general syntheses of this kind as a core text. Scarisbrick, Reformation, p. 12. Scarisbrick, Reformation, pp. 13–15. Cross, Church and People, pp. 9–52. Scarisbrick, Reformation, esp. pp. 19–39, 164–8, 172–3. Scarisbrick, Reformation, pp. 43–8. Scarisbrick’s work inspired that of Eamon Duffy in the 1990s and 2000s, for which see Chapter 8. Scarisbrick, Reformation, pp. 2–12. For a good, brief summary of the problems surrounding Christopher Haigh’s dismissal of anti-clericalism see Guy, Tudor England, pp. 316–25. S.T. Bindoff, Tudor England, Penguin History of England (Allen Lane, 1950, repr.1964), Tudor England, p. 110. Bindoff, Tudor England, pp. 149–50. Dickens, English Reformation, p. 194. L.B. Smith, ‘Henry VIII and the Protestant triumph’, American Historical Review, 71 (1966), p. 1238. Bindoff, Tudor England, p. 150. J. Ridley, Thomas Cranmer (Oxford, 1962), p. 255. 188

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 189

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56

57 58 59

60 61 62 63 64 65

66 67 68 69 70

71

72

R. Lockyer, Tudor and Stuart Britain (1964), p. 105. G.R. Elton, Henry VIII. An Essay in Revision (1962; repr. 1965), pp. 25–6. J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1968), pp. 474–5. M. Bowker, The Henrician Reformation: The Diocese of Lincoln under John Longland, 1521–1547 (Cambridge, 1981). Bowker, Diocese of Lincoln, p. 64. Bowker, Diocese of Lincoln, p. 64. Haigh, Reformation and Resistance, p. 225. R. Manning, Religion and Society in Elizabethan Sussex (Leicester, 1969), p. 279. M. Spufford, Contrasting Communities (Cambridge, 1974). P. Clark, English Provincial Society from the Reformation to the Revolution. Religion, Politics and Society in Kent, 1500–1640 (Hassocks, Sussex, 1977). M.J. Kitch, ‘The Reformation in Sussex’, in M.J. Kitch (ed.), Studies in Sussex Church History (Sussex, 1981), p. 78. Kitch, ‘Reformation in Sussex’, p. 94. W.J. Sheils, ‘Some problems of government in a new diocese: the bishop and the Puritans in the diocese of Peterborough, 1560–1630’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds), Continuity and change (Leicester, 1976), pp. 167–87. Garrett, Marian Exiles, passim. Palliser, ‘Popular reactions’, pp. 35–56. For exemplars see Spufford, Contrasting Communities and K. Wrightson and D. Levine, Poverty and Piety in an English Village: Terling, 1525–1700 (New York, 1979). Kitch, ‘Reformation in Sussex’, p. 94. M. Bowker, ‘Lincolnshire 1536: heresy, schism or religious discontent?’ in D. Baker (ed.), Studies in Church History, 9 (Oxford, 1972), pp. 195–212. See R. Floud, An Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Historians (1973). Floud, Quantitative Methods, p. 3. Floud, Quantitative Methods, pp. 4–5. For instance, J.J. Scarisbrick claimed to have used a ‘random sample’ of wills as the basis of several statements in The Reformation and the English People, pp. 2–12. It is extremely doubtful whether Scarisbrick used a table of numbers to select his sample. See Floud, Quantitative Methods, pp. 162–7. J.A. Froude, History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 12 Vols (1856–70) Vol. 1, 326 n. M. Spufford, ‘The scribes of villagers’ wills in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and their influence’, Local Population Studies, 7 (1971), 29–43. Spufford, Contrasting Communities, p. 334. M. Zell, ‘The use of religious preambles . . .’, BIHR, 50 (1977), 246–9. A.G. Dickens, Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York (Oxford, 1959), pp. 171–2, 215–18; summarized in Dickens, The English Reformation (1989), p. 215. Zell, ‘Religious preambles’; Clark, English Provincial Society; G.J. Mahew, ‘The progress of the Reformation in East Sussex, 1530–59: the evidence from wills’, Southern History, 5 (1983), 38–67. Dickens, Lollards and Protestants; D.M. Palliser, The Reformation in York, 1534–1553, Borthwick Paper no. 40 (York, 1971). 189

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 190

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION 73 W.J. Sheils, The Puritans in the diocese of Peterborough 1558–1610, Northampton Record Society, 30 (Northampton, 1979), pp. 51–66. 74 E.M. Sheppard, ‘The Reformation and the citizens of Norwich’, Norfolk Archaeology, 38 (1983), pp. 44–58. 75 S.E. Brigden, ‘The early Reformation in London, 1520–1547’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, 1977), 333–48; S.E. Brigden, ‘Youth and the English Reformation’, Past and Present, 95 (1982), 37–67. 76 Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People, pp. 2–12. He also discussed the importance of cultural norms. 77 M.C. Cross, ‘The development of Protestantism in Leeds and Hull, 1520–1640: the evidence from wills’, Northern History, 18 (1982), 230–8. 78 S. E. Brigden, ‘The Early Reformation in London, 1520–1547’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge (1977), passim. Susan Brigden’s work on this subject was updated in 1997. For this see her ‘Youth and the English Reformation’, in Peter Marshall (ed.), The Impact of the English Reformation, 1500–1640 (1997), pp. 55–85. 79 J. Fines, Biographical Register of Early English Protestants, c.1525–1558 (Sutton Courtenay, 1981); see Garrett, Marian Exiles, pp. 32–8 and 42–3, where she points to the predominantly aristocratic character of the Marian ‘migration’ to France and Germany. 80 T.P.R. Laslett, The World We Have Lost (1965); R.A. Marchant, The Church under the law (Cambridge, 1969). 81 See TNA SP 12/243/76, f. 203-, Nov ? 1592. ‘Book containing the second certificates of the Commissioners for co. Warwick to the Council, giving the names of such persons as have been presented to them or by their endeavours have been found out or suspected to be recusants. Also of those persisting in recusancy.’ 12 pp. ‘All presented on 20 Sept 1592.’ At f. 212v are notations of those presented for recusancy who are not papists. I am grateful for this reference to Dr Susan Cogan. Cases in the ecclesiastical courts also bear out the point that contemporaries used the term ‘recusant’ in a general sense to cover all who absented themselves from their own parish church. This might be because of debt or fear of process for some offence, or age, sickness, impotency or attending another church’s services. 82 C. Hill, Society and Puritanism in Pre-revolutionary England (1964; 1966 edn), pp. 259–97, C. Hill, 1972, 32–45; K.V. Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971), pp. 189–90. 83 M.E. James, Family, Lineage and Civil Society: A Study Of Society, Politics and Mentality in the Durham Region, 1500–1640 (1974), p. 123. 84 Clark, English Provincial Society, pp. 50–4. 85 W. Nicholson (ed.), Grindal’s remains (Cambridge, Parker Society, 1843), pp. 138–9. 86 Collinson, Religion of Protestants, pp. 216–20. 87 Collinson, Religion of Protestants, pp. 220–1. 88 Collinson, Religion of Protestants, p. 202. 89 C. Haigh, ‘Puritan evangelism in the reign of Elizabeth I’, EHR, 92 (1977), 30–58. 90 J. Scholefield (ed.), James Pilkington, Works (Cambridge, Parker Society, 1842), p. 6. 190

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 191

THE REFORMATION AND THE PEOPLE 91 W.J. Sheils (ed.), Archbishop Grindal’s Visitation, 1575: Comperta et Detecta Book (York, Borthwick Texts and Calendars, 1977), pp. 81–3. 92 R.G. Usher (ed.), The Presbyterian Movement in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth as Illustrated by the Minute Book of the Dedham Classis, 1582–1589 (Camden Society, 1905), p. 72. 93 Collinson, Religion of Protestants, p. 229. 94 I. Luxton, ‘The Reformation and popular culture’, in F. Heal and R. O’Day (eds) Church and Society in England, Henry VIII to James I (1977), pp. 57–77. 95 P.M. Took, ‘Government and the printing trade, 1540–60’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of London, 1979). 96 Such as P. Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (1978); E. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1979). 97 For example, R. O’Day, Education and Society in Britain, 1500–1800 (Hounslow, 1982); J. Simon, Education and Society in Tudor England (Cambridge, 1966) and The Social Origins of English Education (1970). 98 D. Loades, The Oxford Martyrs (1970). 99 R. O’Day, The English Clergy (Leicester, 1979), passim. 100 See R. O’Day, ‘Imagine that you are Erasmus . . . Rabelais . . . Queen Victoria . . . Karl Marx’, in History Today, 40 (April 1990), 4–7 for an attempt to face up to this problem. It calls for a study of historical events, movements and texts within a broader study of society, economy, art, culture and belief. ‘Context is more than mere window dressing. Context supplies meaning.’ 101 G.R. Elton’s preface to Peter Milward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age: a Survey of Printed Sources (1978), p. vii.

191

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 192

7

The Church: how it changed

Introduction

While they were absorbed with the issue of the spread of Protestantism during the English Reformation, most historians gave almost passing attention to an equally important question: what impact did the Reformation have upon the Church of England as an institution? This was perhaps due to the fact that by the later 1960s it was now historians rather than ecclesiastical historians who had command of the field. Nevertheless, some work was produced which helped to provide an answer. To an extent, in the answer to this question may lie the key to that concerning the rate at which Protestantism spread. For, if the Church as an institution changed little from its medieval predecessor, retaining the structure, organization and disciplinary mechanisms of Catholicism, its attempts to plant Protestantism would be doomed. There are many different facets to the Church and it is not feasible to examine all. Here the following questions have been selected as crucial because this is where the focus of historical study has been: what did the Reformation mean for Church–state relations? Did the Church as an institution preserve continuity with the medieval past or was it much changed? Did the Church’s function in society change as a result of the Reformation? For the most part, the historians working on such issues were convinced that thorough research would uncover the answers.

192

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 193

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

The royal supremacy

At one stroke, by the Henrician Act of Supremacy, relations between Church and state were put on a new footing. The fact of the royal supremacy has long fascinated historians. By this declaration, the Crown claimed not only the headship of that English state in which the Church existed (thus demanding the allegiance of all secular or religious citizens) but also headship of the Church, which existed within and of that state. The Crown, therefore, claimed rights within the Church which exceeded those of claiming the loyalty of its personnel: rights of government, of direction and of initiation. The Crown’s rights in the Church were, in other words, active as well as passive. Claire Cross examined the theoretical relationship between Crown and Church and has sought to demonstrate relations between Crown and hierarchy within this framework.1 For several generations, ecclesiastics tried to assimilate the fact of the royal supremacy and its practical implications. The reasoned justification for the supremacy was well-developed by the reign of Elizabeth but churchmen and others had not been reconciled easily to the idea. It had been common to revile Henry VIII – he had cast out the pope of Rome and set himself up in his stead. Some Protestants hoped that the Crown would eventually put into motion a thoroughgoing Protestant Reformation and then withdraw completely from the ecclesiastical stage. So they joined with the Catholics in regarding the Crown’s pretence to supremacy as sacrilegious – and especially so when the person claiming allegiance was a woman. And, in practice, there were grave reservations on the part of the Church’s hierarchy about Crown control of the Church. Many feared that a change of monarch might well mean a complete reversal of the Reformation, as it seemed to mean under Mary. Some, like Thomas Cranmer under Mary, were so loyal to the Crown that they came near to denying all their personal beliefs when the monarchy returned to Rome. Others went into exile rather than face up to the implications of this conflict of loyalties. Under Elizabeth, the conviction of the first generation of her bishops that she alone could secure the cause of Reformation in England persuaded them to accept otherwise unpalatable religious policies as adiaphory. 193

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 194

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

What, then, did this Oh-so-odious royal supremacy entail? In the authoritative style characteristic of historians of his generation, J.J. Scarisbrick described the position under Henry VIII: The English Church was the King’s Church. Its clergy were his ministers, his vicars, his servants; and if official statements never allowed it to be said that the potestas ordinis, the spiritual powers as distinct from the jurisdiction of the clergy, flowed from the Supreme Head . . . they were careful to state that the actual manner of election and appointment of clergy was a matter of local usage allowed by princes.

The king inspected the Church (by visitation) either personally, through his viceregent or through his clergy. Convocation could assemble only when summoned by the king. Its president was to be a layman – the king’s vicar-general. The clergy were to enforce discipline on an authority derived from the Crown and using canons produced by a royal committee. The ecclesiastical courts continued to operate, but appeals therefrom were now not to Rome but to the king in Chancery. The Crown would issue important dispensations and licences. The Crown would not only protect the Church’s doctrine against heretical onslaught, but also declare the nature of that doctrine and, by a series of injunctions, regulate the Church’s practices.2 The precise nature of the king’s supremacy was problematic from the start. The Act of Supremacy was confirmatory of a grant of supremacy to the English Crown from God: it was not an act of creation. But other Acts, such as that restraint of appeals to Rome, were not simply declaratory: they authorized particular and new activities. Parliament (both Lords and Commons) was sharing in the supremacy. ‘If the essential ingredients of the Royal Supremacy . . . were legalized by the parliamentary trinity, then clearly sovereignty in spiritual matters would seem to be vested in that trinity and not in any one member of it’.3 ‘Descending’ and ‘ascending’ theories for the authority of the royal supremacy were both argued. Probably Cromwell believed in the view that the royal supremacy was authorized by Parliament, while Henry believed that his authority came direct from God. No matter what their personal opinions, the instruments which declared the supremacy were confused in the extreme. 194

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 195

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

Elizabeth’s revived supremacy was rather different from that of her father. When her first Parliament restored the supremacy, it did so against a background of discontent with the Henrician model. Probably the government had wanted Parliament simply to assert the supremacy and to wait before defining the religious settlement. In fact, the Queen ensured that Parliament pass an Act of Uniformity to the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI as well as an Act of Supremacy. The Act of Supremacy repealed the Marian ecclesiastical legislation, revived the Henrician laws against Rome, and restored to the Crown the ecclesiastical powers that Henry VIII had enjoyed. All ecclesiastics were to swear an oath of allegiance to the royal supremacy – this enabled Catholic clergy to be deprived. But Elizabeth was dubbed Supreme Governor and not Supreme Head – probably in an effort to appease Catholic subjects. G.R. Elton’s The Tudor Constitution usefully compared the Elizabethan supremacy with that of Henry. Henry, said Elton, saw himself as a lay bishop within the Church; Elizabeth rejected this semi-ecclesiastical role, and disciplined her clergy from outside the Church.4 Elizabeth, like her father, refused to accept that her supremacy derived in any way from Parliament but, in fact, it depended much more than his upon Parliamentary authority. The 1559 Act of Supremacy declared that the powers of Henry over the Church should be restored ‘by the authority of this present parliament’. It was the queen-in-Parliament who ruled the Church. But how did churchmen assimilate the royal supremacy in their thought? When John Jewel penned his Apology of the Church of England, it seemed that the monarchy was indeed the bulwark against the threat of a restored Catholicism. To Jewel the question of whether a subject should disobey his prince in religious matters appeared academic: the settlement of religion in 1559 had been based upon general consent. He believed that the Church would be protected by the Crown, but would be left free to perform its spiritual functions without interference. Jewel’s views were very influential. Richard Hooker adopted much the same position in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, portraying the monarchy as the guardian of the Church. But by 1593, Hooker was implicitly critical of the way in which Elizabeth herself was exercising this royal 195

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 196

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

supremacy. The Queen (and her archbishop of Canterbury, Whitgift) maintained that the Act of Supremacy had declared her authority to rule the Church through her bishops and Convocation; Hooker set out to demonstrate that Parliament had a continuing right to legislate in ecclesiastical matters. The royal supremacy of the Church was not to be seen as part of the monarch’s prerogative power. As such, a defence of the royal supremacy would have been anathema to the Queen; small wonder that Hooker did not publish Book Eight. In fact, this part of his work did not appear until 1648. The practical implications of the royal supremacy, as they emerged, deeply affected thinking on the subject. Many churchmen were content with the supremacy for as long as the monarchy seemed to be the bastion of true religion; when the Queen appeared to be pursuing hostile policies these men began to quarrel with the concept. Obviously, members of the hierarchy differed widely on what we might call the ‘breaking point’ of their tolerance: what were things indifferent to one bishop were things tremendously important to another. The Elizabethan bishops of the first generation did not hesitate to remind Elizabeth of the limits of her influence and of their obligation, in the final instance, to obey a higher power than she. Best known of all is the stand taken by Archbishop Edmund Grindal over Elizabeth’s suppression of the prophesying in 1576 – when Grindal refused to do the Queen’s bidding because he felt it to be contradictory to the will of God, and when he justified his action with an outspoken rebuke, he was suspended from the exercise of his archiepiscopal duties: Remember, Madam, that you are a mortal creature . . . And although ye are a mighty prince, yet remember that he which dwelleth in heaven is mightier . . . Wherefore I do beseech you, Madam, in visceribus Christi, when you deal in these religious causes, set the majesty of God before your eyes, laying all earthly majesty aside: determine with yourself to obey his voice, and with all humility say unto him, Non mea, sed tua voluntas fiat.5

The working relationship between the royal Governor of the established church and her bishops now at length came under close scrutiny. The fact of the supremacy certainly threw into question the authority of the bishops. Patrick Collinson asked, 196

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 197

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

‘What was the competence of a bishop under a monarchy held to be supreme in all causes, ecclesiastical no less than civil? Was it a distinct competence in any way, or merely an extension of omnicompetence, royal government through commissioners or superintendents bearing the courtesy titles of bishops? Certainly, some scholars have seen the bishops under Henry’s Supremacy as an emasculated breed.’6 Margaret Bowker concluded that, as Henry VIII claimed the cure of his subjects’ souls, the bishops ‘one and all became civil servants. They were the king’s men, strengthened in their office by his power and impotent without it.’7 These civil servants did not initiate policy. Patrick Collinson accepted this indictment (although he did not comment upon whether the Henrician and Edwardine bishops shared this new interpretation of their role) but suggested that the position differed under Elizabeth, who was Supreme Governor and not Supreme Head. Collinson drew a distinction, admittedly somewhat blurred, between the supremacy and the jurisdiction. So Richard Hooker had argued that the monarch had supreme authority to uphold the laws and liberties of the Church but not to undermine them. And it was the Church itself which should define what these laws and liberties were – only specialists were capable of defining the doctrines, rites and ceremonies of the Church. (Hooker went on to argue that these laws were given authority by the consent of Parliament, something which both Crown and hierarchy would dispute.) In general, the Crown and the episcopate shared identity of purpose after the translation of Whitgift to Canterbury (1583–1603) and harmony was threatened only in specific areas. Patrick Collinson singled out 1559, 1603 and 1625 as moments of crisis. Awareness of the potential for conflict, however, fed a tradition in which some of the bishops stressed that they were bishops jure divino (by divine right) – that is, that their spiritual jurisdiction derived from God – rather than by the grace of the monarch. James Cargill Thompson observed that the bishops aroused the animosity of many laymen by behaving as though their authority was ‘knytte to theyre byshoprykes jure divino directly’.8 Such bishops believed that they were bishops and not mere civil servants: they acted in accordance with this belief. In The Religion of Protestants we are presented with the complexity of the situa197

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 198

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

tion: there was an ‘ideological framework’ for Church government ‘within which the leading if unequal forces of monarchy and episcopacy manœuvred, sometimes together but often in subdued contention, for a controlling interest’.9 Bishop Richard Neile was able to say of his translation to the bench of bishops and, in consequence, to the House of Lords, ‘When the king gave me this honour and laid his hands upon me’ only then the hierarchy identified itself with the monarchy. It then conceived of the Crown as its greatest protector against onslaughts from Puritans and Catholics. Relations between Crown and Church

In theory and in practice the Reformation altered the relations of Church and state and cast doubt upon the competence of the Church’s hierarchy. It was not only the theoretical relationship between Crown and bishops which changed: the recruitment, role and reputation of the episcopate also were subject to change. The survival of large numbers of diocesan records in a relatively good state of repair and organization encouraged the post-war generation of scholars to explore this rich field of enquiry. And such investigation assume a background of the Crown’s deliberate plunder of the Church. Once, historians were deceived into believing that the suppression of the monasteries was haphazard because so small a part of the total of confiscated monastic property was permanently annexed to the Crown’s estate, most of it being sold or granted away within a generation of 1536–39. The work of Joyce Youings and others, however, demonstrated the moderate, orderly and methodical means by which the monasteries were suppressed and pillaged.10 It is clear that Thomas Cromwell intended that the monastic lands should become part of the Crown’s estate – his plan was confounded. Some thought that the wealth of the secular bishoprics should also be seized. The great survey of ecclesiastical wealth, the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, catalogued the wealth of bishops, deans and chapters, archdeacons, rectors and vicars as well as monasteries. In the autumn of 1534 it was being suggested that the bishops should become stipendiaries, with the state collecting most of their revenues.11 A petition of both Houses was composed in 1536–37 198

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 199

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

to roughly the same effect. Everyone was very much aware of such projects. During the Pilgrimage of Grace, clergy and laity in Lincolnshire feared that Cromwell would turn his attention to the wealth of the parish churches. And among the bishops, there was a feeling that it was necessary to propitiate Cromwell with gifts and obsequious behaviour in an attempt to forestall his plunder. But, in fact, it appears that neither Cromwell nor Henry was wholeheartedly behind such a project. Henry was prepared to mulct the existing sees in order to found new, more modestly endowed sees on a county basis, if he had the support of the episcopal bench. In the event, six of the proposed thirteen new bishoprics were established. But Henry opposed a draft Bill of 1539 which put forward an outright attack on episcopal wealth. Henry’s reluctance arose from his awareness that the bishops needed wealth if they were to command the respect and allegiance necessary for them to do their jobs – as essential propagandists for his policies. Yet he could stoop to piecemeal and damaging plunder of the resources of the episcopate. He depleted the endowment of the see of Canterbury by £277 per annum, during a period of rising prices and heavy responsibilities.12 Indeed, there was agreement among mid and late twentiethcentury historians that Henry’s inconsistent attitude to the financial position of the English Church set a pattern for his successors. There was no fundamental reorganization whereby episcopal lands were centrally administered and the bishops paid a salary by the state. Equally, Crown and courtiers did not hesitate to plunder the Church of its inheritance. And, as a result of Cromwell’s past policies, the Crown did improve its revenues at the Church’s expense. From 1535 to 1540, the revenues from First Fruits brought in £16,000 per annum – more than the Duchy of Lancaster or the Court of Wards. This sum dropped to £9,700 per annum with the Great Dissolution of 1539 – the King could not have his cake and eat it. The Crown received also an average annual subsidy from the clergy of £18,000. Approximate figures for the total income of the Court of First Fruits and Tenths are £52,200 per annum, plus a subsidy of c. £18,000. When one recalls that the Crown’s pre-Cromwellian income totalled only £100,000 per annum, it is clear that adding a sum equal to half that amount was by no means insignificant. And it left the clergy 199

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 200

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

as a body more heavily taxed after 1535 than they had been previously.13 But the image of the Crown as the great predator of episcopal resources came under attack. The total annual income of sees remained almost the same throughout Elizabeth’s long reign – it fell from £27,250 to £23,000. Of course, in a time of inflation, this did not mean that the receipts remained unaltered in real terms, but this was due to circumstances outside the Crown’s control and certainly beyond its comprehension.14 What can fairly be said is that Elizabeth was in general (but not always) unsympathetic to the need for augmentation of episcopal revenues in those hard times. In addition, a certain levelling of episcopal incomes was achieved, whether by accident or by design. The value of rich sees such as Winchester and Durham was lowered while that of impoverished Welsh dioceses was left intact. Did the Crown use other ploys to exploit the wealth of the Church? Traditionally, Elizabeth has been alleged to have left sees vacant for considerable periods of time in order to reap their profits, legitimately, sede vacante. But, in fact, delays were normally caused by the difficulty of finding suitable candidates. Only three vacancies were of long duration and may have had a financial motivation – Bristol, Oxford and Ely. If so, Elizabeth did not choose her victims all that wisely, for both Bristol and Oxford were among the poorly endowed Henrician sees and only Ely was a plum. Of the five other sees which were left vacant for more than two years, only Salisbury was relatively wealthy. If this charge does not stick, then it is none the less true that the Crown was made aware of ways in which its Church patronage could be used to financial effect. In 1575, a list was prepared to demonstrate how frequent translations from one see to another might increase the profits to the Crown from first fruits. Lord Keeper Puckering showed how the successive moves of just five bishops would bring in a welcome profit. But none of these suggestions was implemented: not until the nineteenth century did the rate of translation from one see to another fall so low. Stuart monarchs could much more fairly be accused of indulging in this practice. So Christopher Hill’s charge that Elizabeth was the ‘Supreme Plunderer’ as well as the ‘Supreme Governor’ of England’s Church was shown to be exaggerated. The threat to some sees was real 200

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 201

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

under Henry VIII but it was often removed by Henry’s death.15 Evidence for the dioceses of Lincoln, Exeter, and Bath and Wells indicates that they suffered their worst period of depredation under Edward VI. During Elizabeth’s reign, the Church suffered more at the hands of the Queen’s courtiers than at those of the monarch herself. The plan for a rationalization of episcopal finance in 1559 failed. Ely is the sole outstanding example of Elizabeth’s deliberate plundering of the Church. During a nineteen-year vacancy of this see, from 1581 to 1600, the fruits of the bishopric supported an expensive foreign war. When Martin Heaton was finally appointed, the price of his elevation was a massive exchange of episcopal property, involving thirty-four of the see’s remaining manors. But it is also clear that the see suffered less from this plunder than might have been expected. Ely had escaped lightly under Edward VI, so there was much fat left to pare. And Elizabeth did release the bishops of Ely from the requirement to pay tenths on their property after 1559 – a gesture which saved the see £207 a year. So the income from the see shrank by only about £200 between 1535 and 1608. Of course, the real value of episcopal revenues had fallen, but this was scarcely Elizabeth’s doing. For the historian of the Reformation the question of the reputation of individual monarchs is probably of less relevance than the question of the sufficiency of episcopal incomes. And, in order to know whether or not episcopal incomes were adequate for the job, we have to know just what that job was and what its demands were. Richard Hooker, the great apologist of the English Church, wrote: A Bishop is a minister of God, unto whom with permanent continuance there is given not only power of administering the Word and Sacraments, which power other Presbyters have, but also a further power to ordain ecclesiastical persons and a power of chiefty in government over Presbyters as well as Laymen a power to be by way of jurisdiction a Pastor even to pastors themselves.16

But, apart from this responsibility for the spiritual well-being of his charges, the bishop needed to be able to defend his Church (in speech and/or in writing); to administer the Church and its temporal estates efficiently and responsibly; to recruit personnel for that 201

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 202

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Church wisely and well; to give political advice when called upon; to act as a wise and just judge in his courts of correction and instance; and to accord hospitality and charity to the great and to the lowly, to the greater glory of God. Different ages, different parties and different bishops have lent varying emphases to these responsibilities. The first generation of Elizabethan bishops, for example, were convinced of the primacy of their duty to preach the Word – they were the evangelists. Many of these men deplored the papistical trappings of episcopacy, hesitated about accepting bishoprics and declared progressive intentions. The second generation of bishops – characterized by Whitgift, Aylmer and Freke – saw their position as one of defending the Church and its status quo against all comers, Catholic and Puritan alike. They stressed the bishop’s disciplinary role – he was to enforce conformity – and they paid considerable attention to the Church’s administrative problems. Under James I, the bishops sought to prove their usefulness to the Crown, under a monarch who respected the jure divino status of the bishops and saw the need to support them in matters of administrative reform. These are, of course, broad generalizations – in fact, the traditions often coexisted, but there were marked trends in episcopal thinking. So it would be very difficult, and perhaps unwise, for the historian to suggest which of these responsibilities was the most important. One thing is certain. Even those bishops who were much about the court in James’s time – when the social status of bishops probably reached a new peak – were not expected to be princes of the Church on the model of, say, Wolsey or Gardiner in preReformation times. The bishops had to maintain a certain magnificence in order to command the respect of the lay ruling classes and they had to finance their active episcopates, but there was not the need to impress with pomp and circumstance. Indeed, there was every incentive to play down the wealth of the Church, as it aroused lay jealousy and tempted the greedy. The most exhaustive of the studies of the changes which befell the episcopate during the period of the Reformation was (and remains) that undertaken by Felicity Heal.17 The import of Heal’s study is political, but it argues the case for the changing material circumstances of the Church succinctly and well, and attempts to assess whether the bishops had the wherewithal to fulfil their 202

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 203

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

responsibilities adequately. The pre-Reformation bishops are portrayed as ‘spiritual noblemen’, possessed of all the trappings of authority that Church and Crown could provide. Chief among these accoutrements was land. Some of this land had been donated to the Church by Saxon monarchs and nobles; other had been granted as a reward for services to the Norman kings. The bishops continued to serve the Crown – their functions were similar, as tenants-in-chief, to those of the lay nobility. But they also had responsibilities to their laity arising from the many pious donations of land to the Church – obligations of hospitality and charity. The bishops were prominent local patrons and overlords as a result of their land holdings. And many of them held secular offices which yielded significant additional income and, of course, political power. The bishops also had the power of the purse and they exercised it by maintaining often alarmingly great households and retinues. Sometimes it was necessary to maintain a household in order to fulfil a military function: Rowland Lee complained that he had to have 200 men in livery because he was President of the Council of the Marches. Usually, a large household was required to provide hospitality: Nicholas West, for example, provided 200 hot meals a day and Thomas Ruthal would feed up to eighty beggars at his gates on his visits to his diocese.18 And the bishop had to entertain his flock – the maintenance of his household allowed contact with great and small, enabled the housing of the bishop’s chaplains, and permitted the bishop to educate and nurture the sons of the county gentry and nobility. In the late fifteenth century, the bishop of Winchester ran such a school – one that emphasized scholarship in contradistinction to the schools in noble households, which emphasized martial arts. Sizeable episcopal households were common and made huge demands upon the finances of the bishops. Maintenance of the accommodation itself was a major expense, to which had to be added wages and provisions. If the services which individual bishops rendered the Crown reaped dividends, then the Crown exacted its own reward in the form of enormous benevolences and loans extracted from these spiritual lords. In 1491 John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury, paid no less than half the income of the see to the Crown as a benevolence. After this date, the bishops did not grant benevo203

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 204

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

lences but were asked for substantial loans. Individual bishops raised such sums by a sale of plate and other valuables. It is sometimes suggested that the need to keep a substantial reserve of wealth available for the Crown’s use may have deterred the bishops from making charitable endowments before the last days of their lives. After the Reformation, the bishops were still regarded as ‘a fount of hospitality and charity and as the essential centre of systems of local patronage’.19 Many of the conflicts between the gentry and the bishops had their origin in the bishops’ failure to ‘oil the wheels of local patronage’ by buying the loyalty of the gentry with leases and offices. And, with the advent of the legitimate episcopal family, the bishops found it yet more difficult to meet their obligations of hospitality, charity and patronage. There was no ‘private income’ allocated to the bishops, as distinct from ‘public income’ designed to support the administration of the diocese. The bishops used the same revenues to support their wives and families as they did to maintain the official household, to endow charitable bequests and to administer the episcopal estates. There was much less money to give away. The bishops left a mere £6,255 for learning, the poor and pious works, while bequeathing £22,000 to their families.20 There seems to have been a definite correlation between size of charitable bequest and size of or absence of family. The bishops had other problems associated with their private lives: now that they lived in their dioceses they had to live up to the expectations of the surrounding gentry and to maintain their families in appropriate style. They were criticized if they lived opulently – such a lifestyle co-existed uneasily with the claims of Protestant bishops to be the descendants of the Apostles; at the same time, they were also often despised because they were insufficiently magnificent. The bishops found it more and more difficult to please any of the people for any of the time. The precarious financial state of the episcopate during the early years of Elizabeth’s reign is well illustrated by the Letter Book of Bishop Thomas Bentham.21 Bentham was already in personal debt before he entered the see of Coventry and Lichfield in 1560 and he had no private fortune with which to pay off his creditors. More of the bishops now came from relatively humble backgrounds than had been the case with Henry VIII’s bishops.22 204

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 205

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

Bishop Bentham was greeted immediately with a claim for first fruits and subsidy payments, and for the repayment of some of his predecessors’ debts. This was bad enough, but the situation was made yet more parlous by the fact that the full revenues of the see were not at his disposal and would not be so for some time. He was unable to collect rents from various properties and the collector denied him rentals for the period of vacancy. Bentham’s approach to these temporary difficulties had long-term repercussions for the finances of the see. He succeeded in reclaiming his property, but at great cost. The parsonage of Hanbury, which he regained, was laid waste and he had to lease it for twenty-one years. Although Bentham succeeded in persuading the Crown to forgive him some of his debt, his financial predicament forced him to grant long leases to the Crown for the rest of his episcopate. The situation of the post-Reformation bishops of Coventry and Lichfield, like that of so many of their colleagues on the bench, was perilous because it was one of cumulative indebtedness. Quite apart from this worsening financial position, the bishops now had an unwelcome call upon their time and energies at the very moment when they wished to devote more attention to pastoral duties than ever before. Forty-six per cent of Bentham’s surviving correspondence was entirely devoted to financial problems. Bentham’s was probably an extreme case, as he was an inexperienced bishop who had few useful local connections. The edition of Bentham’s Letter Book is representative of a continuing tradition of making available the original documents of the English Reformation, of which mention has been made in earlier chapters. The Royal Historical Society, in the form of its Camden Series, was to the fore in this activity but important documents were edited by many local record societies and by the new Church of England Record Society. A notable example was the Letter Book of John Parkhurst, Bishop of Norwich.23 This tradition, still alive today, was the precursor of the digitization of primary sources so important in the twenty-first century. While the presentation of the ‘evidence’ for public inspection was seen as important, equally imperative was the awareness of the deficiencies of the sources themselves. There was the problem of missing sources and there was the problem of historians who failed to notice that their sources were deficient and did not contain the 205

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 206

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

‘essential truth’ about a given subject. ‘So we have brick-making without straw and brickmakers who seem unaware that the straw is in short supply.’24 To some extent such deficiencies were remedied by careful, scholarly editing but the onus was still upon the individual historian to use the material responsibly. Dr Heal, displaying characteristic sensitivity to what the sources could be made to yield, warned that it was in the interests of the bishops to claim abject poverty when dealing with the Crown and, in fact, there were a number of strategies available to them which still enabled most to live comfortably and to leave respectable estates to their heirs. Nevertheless, when the Elizabethan episcopate is compared with that of the years before the break with Rome the contrast is very evident: the bishops had lost most of the ‘proud concentrations of land’; both temporal and spiritual revenues had been depleted. And their relative position had deteriorated even more than their absolute position. Inflation had cut into their ability to shoulder the responsibilities assigned them. And their new obligation to their families had further eroded their capacity to fulfil these existing duties. Criticisms of the episcopate were frequent and were complicated by the different understandings of the role of bishops mentioned earlier. One opinion was that the bishops should devote themselves to pastoral work and be married to apostolic poverty; another was that bishops must maintain lavish hospitality and charity; yet another was that the bishops must live extravagantly in order to command respect of high and low as they imposed law and order on local society. Whether or not the bishops had the wherewithal to do the ‘job’ depended upon one’s understanding of what that ‘job’ was. Undoubtedly, Reformation thought about the ministerial order had added complications to this picture – there had always been criticism of the wealth of the bishops, but now such criticism was acceptable even in established circles. These differences of opinion about the bishops’ function also have a bearing upon any assessment of the success of episcopal recruitment. Before and during the Reformation, the bishops were often drawn from among the upper ranks of society, from administrators and lawyers; after the Reformation, the bishops more commonly came from among the gentry than from among the 206

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 207

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

nobility, from the theologians and preachers than from among the administrators and lawyers. The bishops in Elizabeth’s reign, then, were much better equipped to be pastors and evangelists than to administer episcopal estates and husband resources. They were more designed to work with the humble gentry than with the magnates who sat on the Queen’s councils. Bishop Toby Matthew, for instance, had a prodigious preaching record and many bishops did emphasize their pastoral role – preaching throughout their dioceses, confirming children, supervising their clergy, becoming personally involved in the work of correction.25 To the extent that the episcopate had sloughed off earlier obligations, the new bishops were suited to fulfil the function of the office; to the extent that the old obligations lingered, they were not. Patrick Collinson summed it up: the economically and socially diminished episcopal order was required to perform functions which had not been radically redefined and which the enhanced demands of the Tudor state had rendered in many ways more onerous. It was political necessity, not personal vanity, which dictated that their housekeeping should still be consistent with the life style of magnates.26

But the pressures upon them made this difficult if not impossible to achieve. ‘When a new bishop of Norwich arrived in 1603 many gentlemen flew in “like butterflies in the springe” but moved on when they found “little hope of benefit”.’27 It was not only that the bishops had no official resources for the adequate performance of their role. They had been recruited from among those without personal fortunes, without local influence and without local patronage. Most of the bishops lacked local roots. If they attempted in the course of their episcopate to attack one of the dominant gentry ‘affiliations’ within the diocese, the absence of a commensurate ‘church’-dominated faction spelt disaster for episcopal policy. Bishop Curteys of Chichester found himself in just such a predicament: an enthusiastic evangelist, he yet roused the detestation of the ruling elite of Sussex (and of the Privy Council) by calling many wealthy families before his consistory court on charges of recusancy.28 Edmund Freke came to grief when he set himself against the combined strength of powerful local patrons.29 The successful bishop co-operated with local gentry and dealt tact207

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 208

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

fully with the diocesan clergy.30 Historians have judged bishops who worked harmoniously with their county notables to be somewhat un-newsworthy. But the bishops were aware of the need for co-operation if Protestantism were to be established successfully. In the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, commissions of clergy and laity with power to fine and imprison offenders were often suggested as the means to co-operative government of the Church at local level. Some were even set up. But they did not work as well as the bishops had hoped. Oft-times the commissioners fell out among themselves. Occasionally they made the bishop himself the prisoner of a faction. On other occasions the commissioners actually opposed the bishop. Later in the reign the commissions were dominated by clergy and so lost their initial purpose. Again during the early years of Elizabeth’s reign the bishops attempted personal government of their dioceses, with frequent meetings with local gentry and yeomanry to judge petty offences and settle disputes. Certainly, where such contact was possible, relations between the bishop and his people were improved, but it was simply impracticable for most bishops to administer and discipline their dioceses personally. The dioceses were large and communications were frequently difficult. The Reformation had stripped the bishops of many of their episcopal residences and, where it had not, had robbed them of the means to maintain the remainder in habitable condition. No longer was it feasible for the bishop of Lichfield to conduct a progress through his large, unwieldy diocese, lodging in episcopal residences en route, preaching to and disciplining the multitude and conducting congenial conversation with leading notables. There were proposals to create more and smaller diocesan units, which would have permitted more personal government, but these came to nought.31 In short, the Reformation laid fresh obligations upon the Church’s bishops – both civil and ecclesiastical – but it did nothing to prepare the bishops or to provide them with the wherewithal to fulfil the same. Indeed, the financial position of the bishops deteriorated and the age-old machinery of diocesan organization and administration did not receive the necessary overhaul to permit the bishops to perform their duties adequately. Had these faults been corrected it is conceivable that the English bishops would have overcome the undoubted problems caused by their back208

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 209

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

ground and lack of local connection. Problems of recruitment there were, but these were not insurmountable. The choice of bishops could certainly affect markedly the complexion of the Church, but to speak of recruitment perhaps suggests that the Crown – in whose gift all bishoprics lay – had a deliberate policy which it pursued in appointing to the episcopal bench. Closer inspection shows that this was far from the case. In theory, the Crown selected bishops. In practice, the Crown rarely made a personal choice in the reign of Elizabeth. The Crown permitted others to exercise its patronage at this level – because different individuals were granted this favour during the reign, the choice of bishops did reflect rather accurately the Queen’s current position regarding ecclesiastical politics. Early in the reign, Lord Burghley was paramount among the distributors of episcopal patronage, although Leicester, Bedford and Huntingdon all made their mark. The Queen had excluded her first archbishop of Canterbury from direct influence. Elizabeth had been forced to work with the reformers before 1580; at that point, drawing her own conclusions from Archbishop Grindal’s blatant insubordination, she selected her own archbishop, John Whitgift, against advice and determined the direction which her Church was to take. Now the Queen’s men took over. Christopher Hatton and Archbishop Whitgift influenced the choice of bishops. A general willingness to follow the Crown’s conservative ecclesiastical line was now the principal criterion for selection, other things being equal. Whereas some work has been done to explore the selection procedure under James I, and to assess the rank order of the criteria adopted, little has been done to describe episcopal recruitment under Elizabeth. At the start of the reign, the Crown largely had to work with what was available. Although the returning exiles were often not to the Queen’s personal taste, she had little alternative but to use them. After a generation of the production of university-educated, Protestant clerics, the pool of potential recruits was considerably improved and the choices made accorded broadly with the Queen’s sympathies. While Elizabeth seems to have preferred conservative clerics and James I to have been influenced by the quality of a man’s preaching at court, neither monarch appears to have paid much attention to the need to recruit able administrators, pastors or theologians. Instead, they were more 209

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 210

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

concerned with the value of their ecclesiastical patronage in terms of secular politics. The right to select a bishop was granted as a mark of royal favour in the world of secular politics. This said, neither monarch allowed matters to get out of control. The Crown retained an active veto on all appointments, which had to be reconcilable to the broad sweep of current ecclesiastical policy. After the Reformation, then, bishops were selected with but little regard for the needs of the Church as an institution. Churchmen might seek to draw the Crown’s attention to the need for carefully selected Church personnel, but the Crown paid no heed. It goes almost without saying, also, that the bishops were chosen not to implement radical Protestant policies of diocesan organization and pastoral care, but to execute those policies of the hierarchy which the Crown found congenial and, in the main, to preserve the status quo. In short, the bishops were not chosen for their Protestantism. The parish clergy

At any one time, there were twenty-six bishops and two archbishops; there were perhaps 9,000 beneficed clergymen and auxiliaries. The layman probably rarely had contact with his diocesan; he encountered his parish priest almost daily. When we consider the question, ‘Did the clergy change fundamentally as a result of the Reformation?’ we meet with many of the same problems which were present when we spoke of the episcopate. In a real sense the religious Reformation had robbed the clergy of its theoretical raison d’être. The priest was no longer necessary as a mediator between man and God. The acceptance of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers meant that the clergy had to find a new justification for their continued existence because, by implication, the Reformation was anti-clerical. Yet its leaders were prominent churchmen and it is unsurprising that such men found a need for a clergy. The people did not need priests – clergy who by their sacrifice of the mass mediated between man and God – but they did need pastors – clergy who cared for the flock, taught them about God and exercised a fatherly discipline in order to bring the people to God. This distinction between the priest and the pastor became the staple of Protestant teaching on the ministe210

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 211

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

rial order; even so, reformers such as John Hooper found it very difficult to reconcile their views about the direct relationship between the individual soul and God with the existence of a fulltime, paid clergy. This difficulty had still not been resolved in the mid-seventeenth century. The doctrinal reformation, then, involved a rethinking of the clergy’s functions, but this revolution was unacceptable to many. The Crown and many clergy and laity resisted such change. Indeed, it was inevitable that those who resisted the spread of doctrinal Protestantism would also resist this, its concomitant. The manner in which the English clergy discovered a new role makes a fascinating story. It is clear that not all of the clergy themselves shared the Protestant view of the function of a clergy in a reformed Church. J. Ainslie, Doctrines of the Ministerial Order (1944), gives a good account of the various Continental clergies and makes clear some of the links between English and Continental thought on this issue. The many good, recent accounts of the Reformation in the provinces illustrate this simple but oft-overlooked fact. Patrick Collinson’s The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (1967) is a good place to start. But, while theory was important, the role of the English clergy was also defined by circumstances. Before the Reformation the clergy formed an estate of the realm (the others being the nobility and the remainder of lay society) whose members dedicated their lives to God but followed a number of occupations. There were both regular and secular clergy (monks and friars; parish clergy); there were clerks and teachers, scholars and lawyers, civil servants and politicians, preachers and prayers, pastors and priests. With the dissolution of the monasteries, the entire regular clergy were swept away. Monarchy and laity preferred in future to exclude the clergy from political office. Canon law was no longer taught at the universities. When the chantries were dissolved, the mass priests disappeared. The destruction of minor orders removed that pool of clerks from whom administrators and clerks might be recruited. The numbers of laymen who attended the fast-expanding universities now staffed the expanding bureaucracies of the Tudor Church and state without first entering orders. Of course, theory and practice fed off one another. There were theoretical justifications for the abolition of minor orders and the dissolution of monaster211

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 212

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

ies and chantries. Nevertheless, it seems that the role of the clergyman in the Church of England was de facto redefined and narrowed during the Reformation period.32 The English clergy changed in response to diverse forces. The changes were not always conducive to the spread of Protestantism among the laity. One approach is to regard the clergy as a professional group, with a developing esprit de corps, hierarchical structure, internal recruitment and educational policies, and expertise. This view sees the post-Reformation clergy as different from their pre-Reformation forebears. It does not deny the professional features of the medieval Catholic clergy, but urges that the post-Reformation clergy were united by a common occupation and that they professionalized as a result of their deep awareness of the importance of this occupational–vocational bond. The function of pastor dictated a powerful emphasis upon expertise, training, recruitment and performance. Some historians found it difficult to accept this argument, perhaps because they are unused to dealing with the concept of professionalization. Clearly, it is unwise to overdraw the extent to which the clergy professionalized or to claim that the post-Reformation clergy were entirely dissimilar to the pre-Reformation clergy. But it is only by exploring and analysing the occupational group, using as many approaches as possible, that historians will reach a full understanding of the implications of the Reformation for the Church’s personnel. Work done in these decades suggested that the clergy were marked more by change than by continuity. In the place of an estate of men and women performing a variety of functions, there was a single occupation. In the place of celibate personnel, there was a married clergy. In the place of priests, there were pastors. Now, the once relatively uneducated resident clergy had been replaced by resident university graduates. Now, it was accepted that all clergy in the parishes, and not simply a group of theologians in the universities, should have biblical expertise. But the picture seemed to be a complicated one to those who studied it. Some features of the Church before the Reformation, had they been retained, would have given the clergy more control than they now possessed over organization, training and recruitment. The power of the Church to legislate for itself was 212

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 213

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

questioned. The powers of Convocation shrank. The Crown’s position as Governor spelt increased external interference. The further distribution of patronage rights among laity after the dissolution reduced clerical control of recruitment. The expansion of the universities to cater for the secular interests of laymen diluted the professional content of a university education and removed the content and direction of the curriculum still further from ecclesiastical control. The financial organization of the Church (lack of organization might be a more appropriate description) made the establishment of a clerical career structure using criteria of vocational excellence impossible. These features of the post-Reformation clergy made it difficult for the hierarchy to follow a policy, whether their own or the Crown’s, consistently and effectively. Attempts to Protestantize the clergy were, as a result, ad hoc and piecemeal. And some features retained from the medieval Church made it even more difficult to move in a Protestant direction. The primitivists lost their battle against the wearing of clerical uniform. Ceremonial remained a part of the Church’s worship. Neither the recruitment nor the financing of the clergy was completely overhauled in line with Protestant thinking. Given the existence of these factors which made it difficult for the Church, should it so wish, consciously to reform its ministry, the supremely important question remained: how quickly and completely were the clergy converted to Protestantism? or, perhaps more pertinently, how quickly were sufficient Protestant clergy put into the parishes? Historians tackled this question in several ways. Some looked at the clergy as part of the entire scene when studying the pace of Protestantization; others examined the clergy as a discrete group. The extent to which the clergy were Protestant themselves clearly has considerable bearing upon the pace and extent of the Protestantization of the laity. But there are particular problems in assessing the Protestantism of the clergy. The response of the parochial clergy to the Henrician and Edwardian Reformation over the country as a whole remains to be charted. We do, however, have valuable indicators. A.G. Dickens argued that the parochial clergy in general offered little resistance to the new measures – they were prepared to obey their bishops and archbishops, and to enforce government policy even when it 213

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 214

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

conflicted with their private views. It was not the break with Rome which upset individual clergy, but the sacramental, ceremonial and property changes which accompanied it – such worries led a few to participate in the Pilgrimage of Grace or the Western rising of 1549. Michael Zell added considerably to our knowledge of the way in which the clergy expressed their discontent and in which the Church authorities handled it. In Kent, opposition to the new practices and doctrines in Henry’s reign ‘was common but not constant . . . usually disorganised but occasionally found support in more powerful quarters; . . . and it involved a scattered collection of parochial clergy and some zealots among the religious’. The archbishop of Canterbury was able to control this opposition but not to eradicate it, because the Protestant laity reported the clergy who gave voice to their opposition. The government, in fact, was remarkably tolerant of clerical opposition: there were no large-scale deprivations of recalcitrant clergy and only those who actively sought martyrdom were allowed to find it. It seems to have been both important and relatively easy to control the Catholic clergy in Kent. It was far less so in Lancashire, a county characterized by large parishes, poor communications and unsympathetic laity. Detection of the seditious was problematic. Organized opposition became a reality.33 Clerical opposition under Henry was scattered, but the overall impression is one of clergy unenthusiastic about reform or even covertly hostile. Even unstated opposition provided an environment conducive to conservative rather than reformed religious life at parochial level. Positive enthusiasm in the shape of a definite evangelical effort was necessary if Protestantism were to survive and thrive. Nevertheless, because the official Reformation was not itself Protestant, it was natural that there should be no radical purge of conservative priests during the early Reformation. The period, down even to the 1570s and 1580s, was marked by continuity of personnel. Clerical enthusiasm for the Edwardian Church also seems to have varied from region to region. Admissions to the ministry were low, perhaps because of the uncertainty which now surrounded it, perhaps because Protestant bishops refused to accept conservative or uneducated candidates. If the number of clergy who chose to marry is indicative of a favourable response to 214

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 215

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

Protestantism, the clergy of London, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire were more markedly Protestant than those of Lancashire, Lincolnshire or Yorkshire,34 but there are problems involved in using marriage as an indicator.35 The enthusiasm of individual bishops in persecuting married priests (under Mary) may have influenced the figures considerably. And marriage did not necessarily imply acceptance of Protestantism, although it may seem to go hand in hand with a rejection of conservatism. It is much more difficult to locate positive Protestantism among the parish clergy – there are isolated examples of clerical enthusiasm for the new ideas and some of the bishops (Hooper at Gloucester, for instance) were trying hard to re-educate their parish clergy. On the whole, however, significant results at parochial level were not achieved until Elizabeth’s reign. Mary I felt obliged to deprive only 2,000 (about one fifth) of her beneficed clergy, and of these many were promptly instituted to other churches. It may seem that the argument was undermined by the fact that Elizabeth herself deprived only a few hundred clergy at the start of her reign. But in fact Elizabeth wanted a conformable clergy rather than a Protestant one and she was willing to accept the services of all but the most enthusiastic of Catholics. And she had no objection to the celibate priesthood which Mary had reimposed – on the contrary, she opposed clerical marriage. At any one point between the reign of Henry and the early years of Elizabeth, the body of the parochial clergy appear to have been conservative priests, anxious to maintain a low profile (and thereby their jobs), exercising themselves little with doctrinal and political questions, with a minority caring desperately about the religious settlement. When Elizabeth ascended the throne, the problem was less one of a nonconforming than of an absentee clergy. The period 1536–80 saw a turning away from the Church as a career –owing partly to the uncertainty of the religious settlement and partly to the slurs cast on the status of the ministry in the early years of the Reformation. The acute shortage of clergy could not be remedied immediately because of the new emphasis upon educated and resident clergy. This shortage was more acute in some regions than in others. As the status of the ministry improved, so recruitment rates 215

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 216

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

recovered markedly. The emphasis now laid by both hierarchy and others upon university education ensured that by the early seventeenth century most ordinands were graduates and that many held further degrees. It remained difficult, however, for the Church to control the placement of ‘approved’ clergy. The bishops held some but by no means all Church patronage. Although organized attempts to build up clerical factions within the Church by the use of patronage were few and far between, the exercise of Church patronage by the Crown and large numbers of laymen stood in the way of Church control of Church personnel. The law of the Church and of the land prevented the bishops and other ecclesiastical officials from intervening habitually to block the placement of unsatisfactory ministers in the parishes.36 The Protestantism of the ministry, therefore, in the absence of central control over placement, depended upon the supply of Protestant ministers and upon the accidental matching of enthusiastic Protestant patrons with like-minded clergymen. There is a consensus that the parochial clergy, while generally conformable, were not ‘reformed’ until the middle or later years of Elizabeth’s reign. There also is agreement that enthusiastic Protestantism was contained within the Church of England, notwithstanding Elizabeth’s objections to its more radical expressions, until Archbishop Laud forced it into the cold. Thus, many of the beliefs, attitudes, assumptions and practices which have become associated in the popular mind with ‘separatism’ and ‘Puritanism’ were in fact part of the life of the established Church of England prior to Charles I’s reign.37 The main areas of debate remained the difference (in terms of ideology and practice) between the Catholic clergy and the post-Reformation clergy and, therefore, the impact of Protestantism and Reformation upon the ministers’ roles and functions. Church discipline: the ecclesiastical courts

The Church in society was an institution which disciplined its members and acted as a force for the preservation of law and order. Not only its ministers but also its judges, proctors, advocates, registrars and apparitors played important roles in the maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline. Historians have asked 216

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 217

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

whether the nature of ecclesiastical discipline altered as a result of the Reformation. They have asked whether ecclesiastical discipline retained its old importance in society as a whole. There was Protestant criticism of the idea of administering discipline through impersonal courts, but unless such criticism made its impact upon the practice of discipline, it would remain nothing more than a voice crying in the wilderness. Historians saw that it would be all too easy to indulge in a chalk-and-cheese comparison of ecclesiastical discipline before and after the break with Rome. In fact, all was far from well with the Courts Christian prior to the event. ‘The spiritual welfare of a diocese depended to a large extent upon the efficiency and authority of its church courts, especially those of the bishop.’38 But this ‘efficiency and authority’ was very variable. In many dioceses, there were rival jurisdictions which tended to limit the authority of the diocesan ordinary (bishop). In the city of Chichester alone, the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop and dean of Chichester, and the bishop of Exeter all exercised jurisdiction. In late fifteenth-century Sussex there were no fewer than nine distinct ecclesiastical courts in operation. Peculiar jurisdictions, such as that of the dean in Chichester, presented a particular challenge to the bishop’s overall authority. Battle Abbey was exempted from episcopal jurisdiction: as a result, the priest who served the parish of Battle became its ordinary and settled all but matrimonial causes. The existence of the distinct jurisdictions made it very hard to bring an offender to justice – it was such a simple matter to escape to an exempt area. Disputes were also common where jurisdictions clashed. If the diocese of Chichester was typical, which is far from established, measures were being taken by diocesan bishops to remedy the situation prior to the Reformation. Bishop Sherburne of Chichester took steps to eliminate some of the diverse jurisdictions by amalgamation: the archdeacon in one case became the bishop’s commissary; the consistory assumed jurisdiction over the dean’s peculiar court in another. (There is some evidence that similar steps were being taken in the Lincoln diocese. The bishops of Ely, Norwich and Winchester were also taking active interest in their spiritual jurisdiction.) The diocesan administration in Chichester was completely reorganized, with the appointment of trusted officials to implement a reform of the 217

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 218

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

bishop’s own courts. Simultaneously the Chichester courts were marked by increased efficiency and effectiveness. The bishop’s consistory court sat far more frequently in the third decade of the sixteenth century than it had in the first. Matters were dealt with with far greater dispatch. The attack on abuses appears to have been successful – for example, the court prosecuted those responsible for church dilapidation and, what is more, succeeded in getting the necessary repairs carried out; discipline of the clergy was pursued energetically: non-resident clergy were sought out and compelled to reside. While all this had much to do with the reorganization of the courts, it also owed a good deal to Sherburne’s personal interest in the success of his reforms. So, there was evidence for some dioceses at least that the abuses which had bedevilled the efficiency and effectiveness of Church discipline were being eradicated in the early sixteenth century – confused jurisdiction, corrupt and inefficient personnel, cumbersome processes, delay. In those areas where reforms were successfully carried out, the business of the ecclesiastical courts probably increased in volume. For example, in Chichester diocesan consistory the number of office (disciplinary) cases pressed rose from 65 in 1506–7 to 195 in 1520 – a threefold increase. But this rise was confined to official use of the courts to discipline clergy and laity: the spiritual and moral functions of the courts were being revived, but the level of use made by laity and clergy of the courts for party v. party cases remained approximately the same. This suggests that the instance courts of the Church did not assume a more important place than previously in the lives of laymen. Yet the bishop did improve the service to plaintiffs in instance cases – he introduced arbitration, for example, and even the normal processes were less costly and time consuming. The business of probate, in particular, was expedited. In dioceses where reform was not implemented, it seems probable that the bishops did not employ their courts to enforce energetically the necessary spiritual discipline and that parties in instance cases did not receive a value-for-money service. And such unreformed dioceses may have been in the majority. This number may well have included the diocese of London. Here the diocesan courts are said to have been in full decline by the 1520s. Methodological problems beset a systematic and full-scale survey of the ecclesiasti218

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 219

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

cal courts in this important diocese, however, and more work is necessary before we can accept unreservedly the conclusions drawn by Richard Wunderli.39 But clearly, more local studies are necessary before we can be certain that the entire system of ecclesiastical discipline had been overhauled successfully before the Reformation. Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century such studies are out of fashion, while the work still remains to be done. The enthusiasm, enterprise and energy of individual bishops clearly made a good deal of difference to the functioning of the Church courts. This makes it nearly impossible to attribute any identifiable change in the use of ecclesiastical discipline wholly to the Reformation or, indeed, to any other national ‘event’. The diocese of Chichester forms a good case study because it was marked by a revival of the court system immediately before the break with Rome, but even here we can see that the role of individual bishops contributed to the changed style of discipline. Bishop Sherburne had supervised personally the exercise of discipline: Bishop Sampson neglected his see for work in London. There is no indication that a reform of the courts was ‘official’ hierarchical policy. The Reformation period was marked by direct attacks on the spiritual jurisdiction of the bishops. Whatever reforms had been implemented had been insufficient to prevent this. There was violent anti-clerical feeling among members of Parliament in 1529. More specifically, plans for a far-reaching reform of the courts were circulated and a draft Bill in 1532 proposed the abolition of office cases (discipline cases using the ex officio oath – which compelled the accused to incriminate him or herself – brought by the bishop and his officers) in all but heresy cases. A separate spiritual jurisdiction was itself challenged and the planned reform of canon law was a cause for concern among Church lawyers. The future of the Courts Christian hung in the balance. Then the bishops had to face other, more insidious challenges to their authority: in 1534–35, for the first time in over a century, the archbishop of Canterbury staged a metropolitical visitation, during which the jurisdiction of the diocesans was suspended; then, in the autumn of 1535, episcopal jurisdiction was again inhibited when the Crown’s visitors toured the country. In Chichester, the bishop and his officials appear to have been 219

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 220

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

panicked by contemporary attacks on their spiritual discipline and to have reduced their activity in this area very considerably. Similarly, they reduced the number of court days available for instance business. Only probate remained unaffected. In the event, the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts remained untouched and the courts themselves survived in their old shape. The vicegerential court was not revived under Edward or Elizabeth. Although royal visitations were still conducted under Elizabeth, the practice of issuing royal commissions to the bishops was dropped – from 1535 to 1553, such royal commissions had underlined episcopal dependence upon royal authority. But the efficacy of the ecclesiastical discipline was dealt more than a glancing blow. On the one hand, the business of the courts revived but slowly. In Chichester, for example, even in the 1550s office and instance business had not reached their pre-Reformation levels. This suggests either that energetic diocesans were a rarity or that they were disciplining their flocks through different agencies. On the other hand, respect for spiritual sanctions had been seriously undermined – a legacy of the attacks on ecclesiastical jurisdiction encouraged during the 1530s. Prior to the Reformation, the threat of excommunication had in general been sufficient to enforce obedience; even the lesser excommunication (suspension) had frightened offenders enough to make them want to escape sentence. After the Reformation, the greater excommunication was much more frequently pronounced. Both penalties seem to have been debased. Perhaps the inability of the Church to enforce the economic isolation attached to excommunication contributed to this debasement. (No one was to do business with an excommunicate person.) But more important yet was the inability to enforce excommunication over so many persons, for apparently trivial reasons. The Crown and Parliament did little to improve the position of the diocesan courts. When the Crown did attempt to tackle the problem, instead of giving the bishops the right to imprison and fine offenders (thus providing effective punishment for those who were godless and cared not a tittle if they were forbidden the Church’s communion), it created a High Commission with these powers – thus overriding the diocesan structure and further undermining the bishops’ independent authority within their sees.40 220

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 221

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

This High Commission was designed to enforce and uphold religious uniformity, but after a while it attracted a good deal of other business. This left the bishops with the unenviable task of enforcing spiritual discipline in other areas without new sanctions. Nevertheless, the bishops probably regarded the High Commission as a source of support – where an offender was obstinate the case could now be referred to this court. By the reign of Elizabeth, the Courts Christian were involved in a new function – that of maintaining and enforcing the new religious settlement. Of course, the courts had always been there to see that the Church’s rules regarding worship, doctrine, morals and so on were observed, but there had been a real difference. Then, the rules had been accepted if not obeyed: now, the rules were hotly contested (by both conservatives and radicals) and many saw an opportunity of changing them. The Crown used the bishops to enforce its rules concerning church attendance and to see that the churches were equipped for Protestant worship. The bishops were required to ensure a conformable clergy (despite inadequate powers to control recruitment, training and placement) and to ensure the laity also conformed. The disciplinary business of the ecclesiastical courts increased considerably. At the same time, a growing litigiousness in society meant that the instance work of the courts also rose to the levels of the early sixteenth century and beyond.41 There was, then, at the very time when the sanctions of the Church courts were being challenged, a revival of activity. The ecclesiastical courts were in the business of enforcing conformity and uniformity – of imposing a royal supremacy. They were certainly not involved in the ‘Protestantization’ of the provinces in any sense which the reformers would have understood and accepted. The reformed Church, despite plans to the contrary, was not given a revised code of law. The Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum, designed to improve the efficiency of the courts and tighten up their discipline, which was drawn up in Edward’s reign (1551), found no official approval when it was published in 1571. Articles, orders, injunctions and statutes modified the ecclesiastical law throughout the period, giving statutory force to the new liturgy, for instance, but, at core, the ecclesiastical law in 1570 was that of the medieval Church. 221

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 222

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

But, even had the courts been given a new code, it is doubtful whether the discipline they administered would have found favour with the more radical Protestant spirits. For the reformers objected to the whole concept of impersonal discipline administered through a system of courts. The discipline which they favoured was one of fatherly correction by the pastor of his flock. It was a congregational and personal discipline. If a diocesan system had to be employed, then the reformers objected to the fact that the courts were run by professional lawyers and that spiritual sanctions were imposed by far from spiritual persons – law judges. And the abuses which afflicted the system convinced them yet more of its iniquity – corruption, escalating costs, delay. The reforming bishops and officials of the first years of Elizabeth’s reign favoured the abolition of the medieval dioceses and their replacement by much smaller units under the care of superintendents. This would have facilitated a fatherly discipline.42 In the absence of thoroughgoing reform, these men involved themselves personally as much as possible in the work of their diocesan courts – taking particular care to sit in consistory when spiritual offences or grave disciplinary matters were before it, holding courts of audience (Lincoln, Winchester and Norwich), acting as arbiter in intractable cases.43 This tradition was pursued right down to the Civil War. Conscientious bishops continued to employ these means of supervising the courts and ensuring that lay officials did not pronounce sentence in grave spiritual cases. In some dioceses, Coventry and Lichfield for example, clergy were used as regular surrogates in the consistory courts, thus supplementing, if not replacing, the professional judges.44 In other dioceses, and Norwich is a case in point, synods of the clergy went some way towards compensating for regular direct episcopal supervision of the clergy through the courts, although we do not know how active the synods were. At Lichfield, during the episcopate of Thomas Morton in the 1620s, the bishop made a practice of hearing cases involving his clergy in person. The archidiaconal courts which might have helped to make discipline less remote seem to have lost much of their disciplinary function by the reign of Elizabeth. In the Northern Province, rural deaneries and their courts supplied an invaluable smaller unit of administration and discipline which helped to make discipline more immediate. There 222

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 223

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

is some evidence that they were used in at least two of the dioceses of the Southern Province – Coventry and Lichfield and Worcester. Patrick Collinson’s magisterial study of the Elizabethan Puritans made it clear that to the radical Protestant, however, all such measures involved compromise of an unacceptable nature. By definition, unreformed institutions (i.e. basically Catholic although denying the pope’s authority) could not exercise a reformed discipline or be the agent of further reformation. In the 1580s the intolerance towards Protestant nonconformity displayed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, and the markedly still unreformed nature of the Church as an institution appear to have fed a revival of Presbyterianism, on a national scale, under the leadership of John Field. In the 1570s the university teacher Thomas Cartwright had expounded in a series of sermons at Cambridge a form of church government based upon a system of congregations ruled by pastors and elders, under district assemblies or classes (representative of the congregation and, in their turn, under provincial and national synods). Cartwright had no flair for organization and it was John Field who became the movement’s leader. During the 1570s, Presbyterianism attracted little support in the nation – it was by no means clear that reform could not be achieved within the state system laid down by Elizabeth and, in any case, the threat from Rome seemed far more important than that from the hierarchical organization of the Church of England. But, with Whitgift’s rise, Field had some success in co-ordinating the movement from London. In some parts of the country regional district assemblies did meet regularly to supervise the exercise of discipline. For several years, the leaders of these classes did meet on a provincial and even a national basis. Although it is clear that earlier historians (particularly R.G. Usher) overestimated the significance of the Presbyterian movement in Elizabethan England, it is still an important indication of the discontent felt by many reformed clergy with the organization of the new state Church and their attempts to substitute a different kind of discipline. We are fortunate that the records of one of the classes of the 1580s have survived. A set of rules was drawn up at Dedham in Essex on 22 October 1582 by twenty ministers, to govern the behaviour of the classis. The first meeting was held on 22 October 223

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 224

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

1582 and the eightieth and last sometime in 1589.45 A meeting of three hours’ duration was held on the first Monday of each month. The frequency and regularity of the meeting is in itself a point of some significance – they were designed to replace or, at the least, supplement the discipline offered by the Church. The classis discussed and reached decisions on points of discipline, doctrine and ceremonial. For instance, it rebuked absentee ministers, looked into the qualifications of neighbouring ministers, ordered the catechizing of children, discussed the propriety of baptizing the children of the unmarried and so on. The weakness of the discipline lay, inevitably, in its voluntary nature. The classis advised a member not to leave one parish for another: it could do nothing when he ignored this advice. The Presbyterian movement collapsed when Field died in 1588 and when the leaders of the movement, including Cartwright, were prosecuted in Star Chamber for attempting to overthrow the established Church. In fact, the Presbyterians had never conceived of themselves as separatists – they had wanted to reform the Church of England further, not to exist alongside and outside it. When separatist churches emerged in London, the Presbyterians admitted their allegiance to the idea of a comprehensive national Church. Moreover, their fear of being convicted of seditious activities brought them into line.46 Why did not the Presbyterian attempt to introduce a godly discipline gain more support from the laity? One explanation was that most laymen of Protestant leanings (and perhaps most clergy too) felt that the degree of further reform which they desired could in fact be achieved within the framework of the existing national Church – grand, articulate schemes provoked the opposition of the authorities and ultimate suppression, and came to nothing. Far better to work quietly within the system, thus taking advantage of the sympathetic attitudes of so many bishops and so many patrons. Fear of the Crown was undoubtedly important. Too few people cared sufficiently strongly for radical reform to stand fast against charges of sedition and the death penalty. Reformation in practice, covertly achieved, was preferable to Reformation in theory, overtly argued but denied.

224

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 225

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

What impact did the Reformation have upon the Church of England as an institution?

Let us turn now to the question with which this chapter began: what impact did the Reformation have upon the Church of England as an institution? Outwardly, the institution looked remarkably similar to the medieval Church. The ecclesiastical hierarchy was retained. The organization of the Church into provinces, dioceses, archdeaconries and rural deaneries persisted. The system of ecclesiastical courts, with a few additions, continued. It was small wonder that radical Protestants under Elizabeth alleged that this Church was but halfly reformed. As we have seen, the relationship between Crown and hierarchy was fundamentally altered by the assertion of the royal supremacy. The Crown saw the episcopate as a protection against radical change in the social and religious framework. Not all the bishops or other officers of the Church agreed with this conservative position, but as the reign of Elizabeth progressed, the Queen found archbishops and bishops whose views coincided with her own. Under such leadership, a more fundamental Protestantization of the Church of England was indeed unthinkable. Adoption of the Book of Discipline of the English Presbyterians was an unrealizable pipedream. For as long as the Crown was content with the settlement, and for as long as many clergy and laity were prepared to live with it, no further reformation was possible. And a large number of individuals and groups had a vested interest in the retention of the old form of the Church – even including Protestant clergymen and Puritan lay patrons. It is both easy and incorrect to move from this position to another – that the Church of England, apart from its relationship with the Crown, remained totally unreformed. But this is untrue. New ideas about the role of the bishops and the clergy, for instance, had their impact upon the working relationship between Crown and hierarchy, upon the manner in which individual bishops administered their dioceses and disciplined their clergy, and upon recruitment, training and placement of parochial clergy. The Church courts, themselves relics of the medieval Catholic Church, underwent a revival. Unpopular they might have been. Disregarded they almost certainly were by many of the laity. 225

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 226

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Nevertheless, their business increased, their disciplinary function became more important and the attempt to impose a fatherly discipline, through the greater involvement of the parish clergy and the bishops, became more noticeable. Some of these changes might well have occurred had there been no official reformation, but others are more directly attributable to Protestant ideology. The Church of England was not the same as the Church in England. The positive aspects of its half-reformation should be remembered. Because of the Reformation, its surviving institutions were often altered fundamentally from within. The import of this assessment cannot be ignored. The retention of the institutional apparatus and framework of the Catholic Church has been seen as a force for conservatism. The Crown clearly saw it as just that. In so far as the Crown and sympathetic ecclesiastics managed to enforce this conservative line, the status quo would be protected. But, equally clearly, the Crown and hierarchy had but imperfect control. A variety of forces coincided to produce a half-reformation. Crucial was the reformation of the ministry. By the end of Elizabeth’s reign so very many of the clergy and bishops of the Church conceived of their role as different from that of the Catholic priests that the institutions of the Church were inevitably also seen differently. Subtle the changes may have been, uneven their pace and spread; real they nevertheless were. It became apparent to historians that an emphasis upon the institutions of the Church must be balanced by an appreciation of the importance of the personnel who staffed them and ruled them. Conclusion

Studying the Church of England as an institution was almost always a side issue for the majority of early modern historians, who were more concerned with the politics of religious settlement or the spread or otherwise of Protestantism. Those historians who contributed to the study of the Church in this way largely eschewed the Marxist perspective adopted by Christopher Hill in his Economic Problems of the Church. Predominantly they were empirical in their approach. However, they were also wary of any claim to have said the last word about any subject, and more and 226

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 227

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

more sensitive to the peculiarities and deficiencies of their sources. The writing of history was increasingly seen as a collaborative exercise. So historians ‘corrected’ the interpretations of their peers on the basis of newly discovered evidence or fresh perspectives. There was a ‘real’ past out there but it was difficult to visit and beyond the capacity of a single individual. Nevertheless, evidence was still important. Moreover, although historians frequently drew upon their colleagues’ researches and cited their work, that lamentable tendency of twenty-first-century history writing to substitute lengthy secondary bibliographical references for sound and thorough archival work had not yet emerged. Such impetus as there was for institutional research was largely spent by the mid 1980s. Much work remained to be done in this area when a ‘new wave’ overtook the debate on the English Reformation in the 1980s. All the more noticeable have been the occasional contributions made by scholars such as Beat Kumin on the parish or Tom Webster on the clergy. Equally, Kenneth Fincham’s volumes of episcopal visitation articles, and other similar works, have continued that important tradition of scholarly editions of the primary sources of the English Reformation, which extends back into the nineteenth century.47 So that, while a new historiographical trend or trends became dominant from the 1990s on, old themes and methods can be seen to persist to the present day. Notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

M. Claire Cross, The Royal Supremacy in the Elizabethan Church (1969); M. Claire Cross, Church and People 1450–1660 (1976), pp. 15–34. J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1968), p. 385. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 393. G.R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution (Cambridge, 1960), pp. 333–5. Quoted from Grindal’s letter to Elizabeth I, contained in The Remains of Edmund Grindal, D.D. ed. W. Nicholson (1843), pp. 376–90. Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants (Oxford, 1982), p. 3. Margaret Bowker, ‘The supremacy and the episcopate: the struggle for control, 1534–1540’, Historical Journal (1975), 227–43. C.W. Dugmore (ed.), W.D.J. Cargill Thompson, Studies in the Reformation. Luther to Hooker (1980), pp. 94–130. Collinson, Religion of Protestants, p. 38 Joyce Youings, The Dissolution of the Monasteries (1971). Lawrence Stone, ‘Thomas Cromwell’s political programme’, BIHR 24 (1951), 1–18. 227

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 228

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION 12 13 14 15 16 17

18

19 20 21

22 23 24 25

26 27

28 29

30

31

32

F.R.H. Du Boulay ‘Archbishop Cranmer and the Canterbury temporalities’, EHR, 47 (1952), 19–36. J.J. Scarisbrick, ‘Clerical taxation in England 1485–1547’, JEccHist 11 (1960), 41–54. Felicity Heal, Of Prelates and Princes. A Study of the Economic and Social Position of the Tudor Episcopate (Cambridge, 1980), pp. 265–311. Cross, Royal Supremacy, pp. 79–80. J. Keble (ed.), The Works of Richard Hooker, III (1836) from Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book VII, chapter 3 (i), p. 180. Heal, Of Prelates and Princes; see also Andrew Foster, ‘The function of a bishop’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds), Continuity and Change (Leicester, 1976), pp. 33–54. Felicity Heal has since added to our knowledge of episcopal hospitality in her monograph Hospitality in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1990), pp. 223–99. Heal, Of Prelates and Princes, p. 238. Joel Berlatsky, ‘Marriage and family in a Tudor élite: familial patterns of Elizabethan bishops’, Journal of Family History, 3 (1978), 6–22, esp. p. 19. Rosemary O’Day and Joel Berlatsky (eds), The Letter Book of Bishop Thomas Bentham, 1560–1561, Camden Miscellany, 27 (Royal Historical Society, 1979). Heal, Of Prelates and Princes, p. 245. Ralph A. Houlbrooke (ed.), The Letter Book of John Parkhurst (Norwich, Norfolk Record Society 1974–75), p. 43. Collinson, Religion of Protestants, p. 45. Collinson, Religion of Protestants, pp. 48–9; Rosemary O’Day, ‘Thomas Bentham: a case study in the problems of the early Elizabethan episcopate’, JEccHist, 23 (1972), 137–59; O’Day and Berlatsky, Letter Book, pp. 116–20. Collinson, Religion of Protestants, p. 71. Collinson, Religion of Protestants, p. 71 citing Antony Harison, Registrum Vagum, ed. T.F. Barton, 2 vols, Norfolk Record Society, Vols 32 and 33, Norwich, 1963–64, Vol. 2 (33), 238–42. Roger Manning, Religion and society in Elizabethan Sussex (Leicester, 1969), pp. 91–125. D.N.J. MacCulloch, ‘Power, privilege and the county community: county politics in Elizabethan Suffolk’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, 1977), pp. 144–7. Collinson, Religion of Protestants, p. 78; Rosemary O’Day, ‘Ecclesiastical patronage and recruitment, with special reference to the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, 1558–1642’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of London, 1972). Patrick Collinson, ‘Episcopacy and reform in England in the later sixteenth century’, in G.J. Cuming (ed.), Studies in Church History, 3 (Leiden, 1966), pp. 91–125; for examples of such experimentation and of the need for cooperation between bishops, upper clergy and elite laity see Rosemary O’Day, The English Clergy (Leicester, 1979) pp. 38–45, 86–104, 126–43. Rosemary O’Day, ‘The reformation of the ministry, 1558–1642’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds), Continuity and Change (Leicester, 1976), pp. 55–75; cf. 228

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 229

THE CHURCH: HOW IT CHANGED

33

34

35 36

37

38

39 40 41

O’Day, English Clergy; Rosemary O’Day, ‘The anatomy of a profession: the clergy of the Church of England’, in Wilfrid Prest (ed.), The Professions in Early Modern England (Beckenham, 1987); Rosemary O’Day, The Professions in Early Modern England: Servants of the Commonweal, 1450–1800 (2000), especially pp. 18–110. Michael L. Zell, ‘Church and gentry in Reformation Kent, 1533–53’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of California, Los Angeles, 1974); Christopher Haigh, Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire (Cambridge, 1975). David M. Palliser, ‘Popular reactions to the Reformation 1530–70’, in F. Heal and R. O’Day, eds, Church and Society in England, Henry VIII to James I (1977), pp. 35–56, p. 42. For a later study of married clergy see Helen L. Parish, Clerical Marriage and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 2000). I. Calder, ‘A seventeenth century attempt to purify the Anglican Church’, American Historical Review, 53 (1948), 760–75; I. Calder, Activities of the Puritan Faction of the Church of England, 1625–33 (1957). For extensive discussions see O’Day, ‘Reformation of the ministry’; W.J. Sheils, ‘Some problems of government in a new diocese: the bishop and the Puritans in the diocese of Peterborough, 1560–1630’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds), Continuity and Change (Leicester, 1976), pp. 167–87; Christopher Hill, Economic Problems of the Church. From Archbishop Whitgift to the Long Parliament (Oxford, 1956), pp. 245–74; Rosemary O’Day, ‘The law of patronage in early modern England’, JEccHist, 26 (1975), 247–60. Patrick Collinson, ‘Lectures by combination: structures and characteristics of church life in 17th century England’, BIHR, 48 (1975), 182–213; Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants (Oxford, 1982); Rosemary O’Day, The English Clergy (Leicester, 1979), pp. 66–74. S. Lander, ‘Church courts and the Reformation in the diocese of Chichester, 1500–58’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds) Continuity and Change (Leicester, 1976), pp. 215–37, p. 215. R.M. Wunderli, London Church Courts and Society on the Eve of the Reformation (Cambridge, MA, 1981). Ralph A. Houlbrooke, Church Courts and the People during the English Reformation, 1520–1570 (Oxford, 1979), pp. 14–16. R.A. Marchant, The Puritans and the Church Courts in the Diocese of York, 1560–1642 (Cambridge, 1960) and R.A. Marchant, The Church under the Law (Cambridge, 1969) meant that the study of the Church courts in the Northern Province was better served than that of the Southern. Martin Ingram, ‘Ecclesiastical justice in Wiltshire 1600–1640, with special reference to cases concerning sex and marriage’, unpublished DPhil thesis (University of Oxford, 1976) and Martin Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England (1987); Ralph Houlbrooke’s Church Courts and People, and his ‘The decline of ecclesiastical jurisdiction under the Tudors’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds), Continuity and Change (Leicester, 1976), pp. 239–57; Brian P. Levack, The Civil Lawyers in England, 1603–1641 (Oxford, 1973), Brian P. Levack, ‘The English civilians, 1500–1750’, in Wilfrid R. Prest, Lawyers in Early Modern England and America (Brighton, 1981), and O’Day, ‘Law of patronage’ provided a partial corrective. However, the first modern system229

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 230

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

42 43 44 45 46 47

atic attempt to study the ecclesiastical courts per se occurred in R.B. Outhwaite’s The Rise and Fall of the English Ecclesiastical Courts, 1500–1860 (Cambridge, 2006), which was published posthumously on the basis of a draft manuscript. The early modern sections of this were almost exclusively based upon secondary sources. As described in Collinson, ‘Episcopacy and reform’. Houlbrooke, Church Courts, pp. 23–4. O’Day, English Clergy, pp. 199–206. Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (1967), pp. 222–39. Cross, Church and People, pp. 138–52; Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement, pp. 333–55. Beat Kumin, The Shaping of a Community: The Rise and Reformation of the English Parish c. 1400–1560 (Aldershot, 1996); Kenneth Fincham (ed.), Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Early Stuart Church, 2 Vols (Church of England Record Society, 1994 and 1998). These publications underline Michael Bentley’s point that historiographical trends frequently co-exist.

230

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 231

8

The debate in the age of peer review

Introduction

The academy in the British Isles underwent profound changes in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries – changes which affected the history departments in which most professional historians worked and/or were trained and, eventually, the type of history that was practised. The most obvious change was the increase in the number of universities and, therefore, history departments and the veritable explosion in the number of students. There were also many new disciplines/departments, some of which taught aspects of history. These changes began in the 1960s with the creation of ‘new’ universities such as Sussex, York, Warwick and East Anglia. They were realized in the 1980s and 1990s, when many former polytechnics and colleges of education were granted university status. Less self-evident were the implications of changes in the funding of the universities with respect to both teaching and research. It is appropriate to summarize here what happened because this revolution was felt very quickly within history and associated disciplines and it had its impact upon the study of the English Reformation. The funding system for students that had operated after the Second World War, whereby undergraduate education was paid for by the state, was deemed no longer viable when the percentage of the relevant population attending university exceeded well in excess of 30 per cent. By 2001 the national census revealed that about 40 per cent of the age group were engaged in post231

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 232

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

secondary education. Students in England were expected to contribute to their own costs by paying tuition fees and maintenance, assisted mainly by loans. Although Scotland and Wales resisted this change, it seemed improbable that they would be able to hold the line indefinitely. The various governments emphasized even more than previously the vocational aspects of university education and the economic costs and rewards of attendance for both nation and students. Within history departments traditional areas of study such as Renaissance and Reformation began to lose favour when compared to the history of the later twentieth century, which was thought to be more ‘relevant’ and attractive to students. In 2010 the government withdrew funding subsidy for teaching for Arts and Humanities subjects, including history. History departments were expected to fund their teaching from student fees. During the 1990s governments also changed the basis on which research funding was distributed. Various research assessment exercises were carried out to monitor the productivity and worth of departments, using peer review as the main tool. The academy responded with compliance, despite misgivings on the part of many. Some feared the emergence of a two- or three-tier system of university education which divided institutions into research academies and teaching-only academies – this would be a system in which the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Funding itself was distributed by research councils, which encouraged research in particular areas and especially favoured collaborative research. This meant that some areas of study were adjudged particularly worthy of funding – for instance, the history of the domestic interior – and, by implication, others less. There were attempts to rank periodicals and journals and even book publishers. Applications for research funding depended for their success not only upon the worth of a project judged by panels of peers but upon the availability of funds and the past record of success of the applicants. A few universities saw the huge potential benefits for themselves in the new system. Twenty of these, including Oxford, Cambridge, some of the colleges of London University and the old ‘Red Bricks’, set up the Russell Group of elite universities. Its home page states: ‘The Russell Group represents 20 leading UK universities which are committed to 232

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 233

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.’ It ‘represents the 20 major research-intensive universities of the UK. These institutions are vibrant and dynamic organisations, actively contributing to their local communities and economies, yet influencing and achieving impact on a truly global scale.’1 Universities outside the Russell Group jockeyed for position, fighting to be recognized as research active and worthy of support. University administrations developed strategies for obtaining research funding which sometimes excluded particular specialisms and areas. The introduction of, first, the Research Assessment Exercise and, second, the Research Excellence Framework that replaced it, encouraged the expansion of a system of peer review. On the face of it, such a system would appear entirely laudable and beneficial, as monographs and learned articles are subjected to rigorous critique both prior to and after publication, ensuring high standards. In practice, the effects upon scholarship have been mixed. Behind closed doors some scholars, while valuing the criticisms and corrections offered by their peers, complain about censorship of their writing and their interpretations. They are concerned about an increasing tendency to publish on subjects that are ‘in vogue’ and put into print only the views and interpretations that are accepted by anonymous and unaccountable bands of journal and monograph assessors. Points that were once put before the author ‘for consideration’ are now used as the criteria for acceptance or rejection or standing. Whatever one’s conclusions about the general impact of research assessment and peer review, it is certainly the case that the history of the Reformation in the 1990s and 2000s has to be viewed within this context. The world of research and publication is a far cry from that pertaining in the years after the Second World War or even in the 1980s. The existing tendency in the post-Second World War academy for historians to address one another rather than an interested, educated audience has been accentuated so that historians appealing to a general audience are the exception rather than the norm. Joan Thirsk has made a determined effort to communicate with this wider audience and it is worth noting that, as one long since retired, she is not caught up in the academy’s current constraints 233

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 234

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

and straitjackets. Publications are written in often arcane language, eschew narrative and are consumed with an interest in method and definition. The emphasis on productivity has led to an explosion of publications in both journals and books. Peter Marshall has traced the increase in publications containing the word ‘Reformation’ in their title held by the British Library: 1960s – 490 titles contained the word; 1970s – 449; 1980s – 656; 1990s – equivalent; up to 2007 – 563.2 Interesting though evidence of this increase in publications about the Reformation is, it is at least in part a reflection of the general expansion of academic publishing.3 In its turn this led to a fear that much research of dubious merit was being published. As a consequence there has been a new emphasis on where items are published: is the press sufficiently prestigious? is the journal among the top twenty? and has there been peer review on many levels. Yet it has also seen the welcome emergence, growth and consolidation of relatively small and specialized publishing houses such as Manchester University Press, Boydell and Brewer and Ashgate (formerly Scolar Press). These have competed with the ancient university presses of Oxford and Cambridge for quality coverage of specialisms such as the history of medicine and the history of the Reformation. Historians should read their Reformation history, as any other, against this background. There were also over the past twenty years intellectual changes of considerable import in the history discipline. Advances in new technology attracted much interest among scholars who saw the potential for making huge data sets readily available and usable and also the possibility of presenting editions of original sources online. These grandiose ambitions led in many cases to collaborative research projects funded by the research councils. Important institutions such as the IHR set themselves up as portals through which data could be viewed and used online. National and local libraries and archives began to offer online services, including detailed catalogues and search engines that made historical resources much more accessible. Research training for undergraduates and, particularly, post-graduates now included not only the old skills of bibliography, palaeography, statistics and languages but also those of information technology literacy. This training taught students not only how to search out but also how 234

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 235

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

to manipulate electronic data and use it in the services of historical argument. It is worth observing that most of the most notable contributions to the debate on the English Reformation owe little to this online revolution – few collaborative ventures have produced fruit as yet. Behind the scenes, however, the work of individual scholars has undoubtedly been facilitated by the new availability of sources and data sets such as, for example, the Clergy Database, the Foxe Project or the ODNB. There is a concern that the normal critical faculties of academics have been suspended when faced with glossy and well-organized databases of this kind: it is as well to remember that a database of any kind is only as good as the source materials upon which it draws, and the organization and accessibility of the data. -Isms

New -isms became prominent from the 1950s onwards: modernism, postmodernism, deconstructionism, feminism and receptionism being five of the most important for our subject. The modernist trend emerged in the 1870s and remained dominant until the 1970s. Modernism’s belief in the possibility of ascertaining the truth and remaining dispassionately objective had, of course, an immense impact upon the training, researches and publications of historians such as Geoffrey Elton and Geoffrey Dickens. The task of writing history . . . had an investigative aspect aimed at ‘the sources’: one began with ‘research’ in order to acquire ‘the facts’ and having retrieved or ‘discovered’ them, the project involved writing a text that gave a fair, accurate and balanced account of what had been found.4

G.R. Elton, cited by Michael Bentley as the modernist historian par excellence, dismissed those who rejected his view of history as unworthy of consideration. Modernism, however, in some of its manifestations also implicitly or explicitly questioned the nature of reality. Unlike the Whigs, who believed that history was fulfilled in a glorious present, modernists were both utopian and optimistic and asked what in the past had held back progress, be that religion, class or some other factor, in order to move forward. Within the field of Reformation studies perhaps its 235

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 236

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

biggest impact was upon the psychological study of reformers such as Luther, using Freudian theories,5 and upon the Marxist and Weberian interpretations of the Reformation as the manifestation of economic forces.6 Postmodernism, feminism and receptionism

Postmodernism defies consistent definition. Some see it as a movement within modernism that is inherently pessimistic, sceptical, relativist and obscurantist. Those who are more critical label it as ideologically agnostic and morally relativist. It is ‘a worldview characterized by the belief that truth doesn’t exist in any objective sense but is created rather than discovered’.7 Although the term itself is still fluid in meaning, this view of truth had deep significance for historians coming under its influence in the 1980s and 1990s. Generations of historians had believed that they could discover the truth about the English Reformation, for example, by careful research and intelligent, evidence-based observation. A historian such as Elton was confident that his representation of the sixteenth-century past was ‘the truth’.8 Now some were arguing that no such historical truth existed ‘out there’; rather, historians created their own truth, their own history and could not uncover truth itself. The past could not be revisited; at best, it could be imagined.9 Deconstructionism may best be explained as a derivative tendency of postmodernism. It focuses entirely on the text, exposing through intense source criticism its assumptions, frame of reference and so forth and suggesting alternate readings of the material. For historians wedded to the view that context helps to explain the true meaning of a source this idea was heresy indeed. Historians of the Reformation wanted to tell a truthful story about what happened and why, and were interested in critiquing particular texts (including artefacts) only in so far as they furthered this ambition. Nevertheless, postmodernist deconstructionist approaches to source criticism also had a beneficial effect upon historical method: they encouraged Reformation historians to look more carefully at individual sources and the circumstances of their production and reception, and also to engage in what has come to be called micro-history. Eamon Duffy’s Voices of Morebath (2001) presents a good example of the latter. 236

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 237

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

This simplistic and chronological presentation of ‘schools’ of historical thought has, however, been challenged in an interesting way by Michael Bentley. He challenges the view that Whiggism was replaced by modernism and modernism by postmodernism. Instead, he argues, these traditions persisted side by side for generations. ‘The whigs were not “superseded” by the modernists and modernism did not simply disappear in the face of postmodernity.’10 Generations of school and university students, myself included, were raised in the shadow of Whig ideas of progress and British superiority. These ideas were not only difficult to throw off; they led to profound disillusionment with the world as it really is. Michael Bentley suggests that modernism was and is characterized by self-conscious individualism and a conviction that what bound together historians working between 1890 and 1970 was not a theory about history but simply the ‘application of a higher common sense’ to reconstructing the past. Although debates about postmodernism gripped the profession from the 1970s onwards, modernism was not defeated but lived on in modified yet recognizable form into the twenty-first century. Feminism inspired studies of women in all spheres. While most historians deplored the use of history as a handmaiden to a political philosophy, it is none the less true that, without the efforts of the feminists, women would have largely remained outside the story of the Reformation past told by historians. In the 1950s and 1960s little or no attention was paid to the important part played by women: Roland Bainton’s Women of the Reformation in France and England and Patrick Collinson’s ‘The role of women in the English Reformation, illustrated by the life and friendships of Anne Locke’ stand out partly because they were so unusual. Increasing interest in obtaining gender equality within society in the 1970s and 1980s found an echo in historical research, publication and teaching. Universities offered modules in ‘women’s studies’, including women’s history. By the first decade of the twenty-first century, despite a levelling off of interest in women’s studies per se, no book or article purporting to study a society, a community or a movement during the Reformation century would be allowed to ignore the role of women. Yet the feminist proclivities of many of the women’s historians possibly did the subject a disservice by emphasizing at every turn the 237

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 238

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

oppressive nature of patriarchy and perhaps underplaying continuities in women’s lives over the later medieval and early modern period. As we shall see later in this chapter, both Christine Peters and Rosemary O’Day tried, from different perspectives, to provide a corrective.11 Receptionism owed its origins to German literary theory related to understanding any author’s development. In the 1960s scholars began to draw attention away from the author’s intent and to emphasize the text itself and readers’ reception and interpretation of it. Texts drew meaning from active reading rather than from simply discovering what the author had intended.12 Other disciplines, from classics, history of the book and religious studies to cultural, media and material history, became interested in this approach and developed it in a multi-disciplinary way. Now not only publications but also many other forms of communication and exchange were included. Historians have also introduced an interactive element, discussing for instance how far interaction between reformers and scholars on both sides of the Channel affected reception of the Continental Reformation. Multi-disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity

Another distinctive feature of the intellectual landscape has been the multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach to the study of the past. The interest shown by literary scholars in sixteenth and seventeenth century ‘texts’, such as the Bible and the popular printing press, and by art and architectural historians in ‘artefacts’ such as church buildings and furnishings, fed into an interest in cultural and material history. Once regarded as antiquarian and unimportant, at best an appendix to a ‘proper’ history, subjects such as art, architecture, poetry, conspicuous consumption, hospitality and housing became de rigueur. In Britain the Open University, with its huge student population and popular outreach, helped to advertise the advantages of bringing to bear upon period study the approaches and skills of individuals from disparate disciplines. In 1970 it encouraged its first students and the general public to study Renaissance and Reformation, and in 1990 it launched another undergraduate module, Culture and Belief in Europe, 1450–1600, which adopted this approach with respect to 238

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 239

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

the Renaissance and Reformation. Out of the second module emerged a source book which presented not only documents relating to high politics and economics but many pertaining to written, oral and visual culture and religion.13 The former polytechnic/college of education sector gave a boost to interdisciplinarity and to innovations in general. Parallel with developments such as these, scholars exhibited interest in breaking down the lines between the disciplines as historians, literary scholars, art historians and those interested in religion, education and culture all converged on topics once thought to ‘belong’ to one discipline or another. Research projects such as the history of the book grew out of this tendency and reinforced it: this interest in printing, publishing and reading has had especial importance for Reformation studies. It was heralded in the 1970s by Elizabeth Eisenstein’s seminal The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (1979) but has since produced many and divergent offshoots.14 Greg Walker’s Writing under Tyranny (2005) is a good example of more recent work by literary historians, as he shows how authors such as Sir Thomas Elyot, Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Earl of Surrey, John Heywood and William Thynne responded to what Walker views as an autocratic monarchy. His treatment of Elyot’s The Book named the governor of 1531 is especially convincing, as he shows the book to be a ‘handbook of liberal kingship’, an outspoken critique of the King’s rule, in sharp contradistinction to Stanford Lehmberg’s earlier view of the work.15 This emphasis by historians upon the written word is, however, part of a long tradition. That the Reformation might have heralded or been characterized by more general cultural change was still a relatively novel idea in the 1980s. Cultural change had in the historical mind been associated with the Renaissance, not the Reformation.16 Important also has been the renewed specialist interest in visual, oral and material culture. Work on iconoclasm in Europe enabled English historians to see the profound theological and doctrinal implications of images and of iconoclasm.17 Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars, for instance, owes much to this strengthening interest by historians in visual culture. Were there distinct Catholic and Protestant cultures, and how best can we identify them?18 There was a temp239

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 240

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

tation to see Protestantism as always print-centred. In 1986 Patrick Collinson argued in a new and intriguing way that the 1580s marked a cultural watershed within Protestantism itself. In this decade Protestants turned their backs upon using plays, ballads and pictures as vehicles of religious persuasion and knowledge and became ‘the people of a book, and that book was the Bible’.19 He contrasted the iconoclasm of the early Reformation (in which reformers had attacked unacceptable images) with the iconophobia of what he called ‘the second Reformation’ (in which reformers repudiated all religious images).20 Paradoxically, this breaking down of disciplinary barriers has led historians to be more than ever conscious of the importance and distinctiveness of historical method when compared to other arts, humanities and social science disciplines. The discipline has become more self-conscious than ever before. In part this is demonstrated by works of historiography, which consider trends, definitions and approaches. In the area of Reformation studies there have been a number of discussions of this kind: Christopher Haigh’s, English Reformations,21 Eamon Duffy’s ‘English Reformation after Revisionism’,22 and Peter Marshall’s ‘(Re)defining the English Reformation’ are three of the most important. In parallel, some historians have discussed methodological issues of import: for example, Peter Lake and Patrick Collinson both address the problems possibly arising from historians’ vested interest in their subject matter.23 Neo-Catholic revisionism

In fact, Reformation historians have become obsessed by the historiography of their own subject. Unsurprisingly, there has been a late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century reaction against a history of the English Reformation penned by individuals who were almost all raised within the cultural context of Protestantism and heavily influenced by the triumphal, Whig view of history. The revisionists have re-cast the history of their subject. In retrospect, the works of Scarisbrick and Haigh produced in the late 1970s and 1980s (and discussed in Chapter 6 of this book) may appear to be heralds of a profound change in historiographical perspective. Patrick Collinson’s synthesis, The Religion of 240

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 241

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

Protestants (1982), which drew together conclusions from his own work and that of myriad other scholars in the 1960s to 1980s, also has been said to have laid the ground for a revisionist view by arguing that Protestantism remained a minority movement that met with resistance from almost all quarters until the late sixteenth century. These historians are said to have ‘dethroned the master narrative of A.G. Dickens’s English Reformation and argued instead for a slow, unpopular and contested series of religious changes’, the success of which was dictated largely by contingency – the early deaths of Edward VI and Mary I and the longevity of Elizabeth.24 That the dethronement of the Dickens school was accompanied in some quarters by a degree of vitriol against other historians was unfortunate. At a colloquium marking Haigh’s retirement from teaching in 2009 Peter Marshall invoked fond memories of Haigh as ‘historical whistle-blower, naming and shaming fellow-historians who were portrayed as misguided and old fashioned, indeed thoroughly Dickensian’.25 This has been described as the essentially negative and iconoclastic phase of historical revisionism. A certain irony appears therefore that although some of the historians involved protested vociferously that they were not simply replacing one confessional history with another – Haigh, for example, observing that he was not a Catholic – Nicholas Tyacke has shown that the bare bones of their argument closely resemble the work of early twentieth-century Catholic polemicists such as Cardinal Aidan Gasquet and H.N. Birt.26 Christopher Haigh in 1993 offered his own constructive narrative to replace that of A.G. Dickens: English Reformations: Religion and Society under the Tudors (1993). Here Haigh viewed late medieval Catholicism in a highly favourable light. He also held that the Reformation down to the middle of Elizabeth’s reign was not a spiritual event so much as a fight for sovereignty in England and Wales. The book closes with a statement of how little change had occurred in English religion between 1520 and 1580. Many criticisms have been levelled against Haigh’s view. Not least among them is the objection that Haigh sees only four possible scenarios: Reformation from above or below; Protestantization that is either fast or slow. Some suggest that a much more gradu241

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 242

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

ated, nuanced and sophisticated approach is required which allows roles to ‘the intelligentsia and the role of ideas more generally’ and of theology in particular and to the existence and survival of other religious traditions such as Lollardy.27 Haigh and other revisionists have argued that the outpourings of evangelical literature from the Tudor presses reached a tiny fraction of the population, which was largely illiterate. Some historians have countered that in that society ideas were spread by many other means, not least by word of mouth and powerful sermons such as those of Hugh Latimer.28 Moreover, the people who were literate tended to be the leaders in terms of politics, society and religion, whose ideas were listened to and whose rules were obeyed or resisted. In a 2007 work Haigh continued the story down to 1640.29 In it Haigh claims to be driven not by controversy but by the archives. In a narrative thematic account exploring five contemporary stereotypes, which draws upon the archives of a wide spectrum of English society ranging from Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to Leicestershire, Essex and Sussex, he uncovers the voices of ‘ordinary people’ talking about their religion. While it is interesting, unfortunately, as Haigh himself admits, this approach necessarily omits the all-important contextualization of their testimony and of Haigh’s conclusions. One historian who cannot be accused of failing to take account of the importance of the context in which religious identity was formed and expressed is Eamon Duffy. Yet even he adopted the broad-brush approach in his seminal The Stripping of the Altars (1992). ‘That book set out to explore the Catholic world view which was the religion of most English people on the eve of the Reformation, and the impact of radical religious change on the majority who would have liked things to stay more or less as they were’, reflected Duffy in 2001.30 It is the contention . . . of the book that late medieval Catholicism exerted an enormously strong, diverse, and vigorous hold over the imagination and the loyalty of the people up to the moment of Reformation. Traditional religion had about it no particular marks of exhaustion or decay, and indeed . . . was showing itself well able to meet new needs and new conditions.31

242

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 243

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

He contests the inevitability of a triumph of Protestantism. ‘Yet when all is said and done, the Reformation was a violent disruption, not the natural fulfilment, of most of what was vigorous in late medieval piety and religious practice.’32 He sees Catholicism as what bound communities together.33 For him the legacy of the Reformation was not a Protestantized people but a destroyed spiritual and liturgical context. Without the fabric of medieval Catholicism and the communal solidarity which it underlaid, the very survival of Catholicism as a vibrant, popular religion was imperilled. So, while England did not become Protestant until well into Elizabeth’s reign, Catholicism as it had once been was destroyed. In 2001 Duffy returned to the subject and displayed his awareness of the importance of contextualization in his micro study, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village. The book reinforced the message of his earlier tome but Duffy did not argue that Morebath was a typical village and claimed that he did not offer the case study ‘in proof of any thesis’.34 In acceptance of the fact that other historians have uncovered Protestant enthusiasm in certain areas he wrote: ‘A study of the Reformation in an Essex or Suffolk village, in the Stour Valley, say, where many ordinary men and women welcomed the Protestant gospel and eagerly embraced it, would look very different.’35 Nowhere does he discuss whether in fact it was Christianity rather than Catholicism that bound communities together. A micro-study ever attentive to context, Voices of Morebath also challenged an earlier view of the reception of the early Reformation in Devon. Whereas W.G. Hoskins had taken Morebath as ‘the perfect example of a sleepily conformist country community, haplessly accepting all that happened to it’, and this had become the received opinion, Duffy showed that ‘far from being mutely conformist, Morebath was one of the Devon villages which joined the doomed Prayer Book rebellion of 1549’ and that Christopher Trychay’s accounts ‘provide us with the only direct evidence of the motives which drove hitherto law-abiding West Country men into a disastrous rebellion against the Crown’.36 These debates also had the welcome effect of diverting scholarly attention away from the early days of the Reformation and toward the reign of Mary. Patricia Took and Jennifer Loach gave 243

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 244

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

attention to Marian use of the printing press,37 and Susan Brigden (1989) showed just how effective the Marian restoration was in London, even in the face of a strong Protestant minority.38 Both David Loades and Susan Brigden proved a corrective to John Foxe’s view of Mary’s persecution of reformers as wholesale massacre: clemency was offered to those who recanted; some of her advisers – for instance Stephen Gardiner – thought the burnings a mistake.39 Haigh’s English Reformations (1993) continued the theme. In 2009 Eamon Duffy followed up his brief positive reassessment of the reign of Mary Tudor with Fires of Faith, which dealt with the persecution of Protestants and, especially, the campaign of burnings during which 284 ‘Protestants’ were killed for their beliefs.40 In a masterly introduction Duffy summarized the view of Mary’s reign that dominated historiography for the second half of the twentieth century – that expressed first in A.G. Dickens’s The English Reformation (1965) and reiterated with minor modifications by authors as various as John Bossy,41 Rex Pogson42 and David Loades:43 Almost everyone agreed that Mary’s church was backward-looking, unimaginative, reactionary, sharing both the Queen’s bitter preoccupation with the past and her tragic sterility. Marian Catholicism, it was agreed, was strong on repression, weak on persuasion. Its atrocious campaign of burnings was not merely an outrage against human decency but a devastating political blunder, which alienated moderate opinion and helped to inoculate the English nation forever against Roman Catholicism. Its apologists and polemicists . . . were dismissed as unimpressive second-raters their works tedious and unimaginative, the regime in general fatally unaware of the crucial importance of argument and debate in the battle for hearts and minds, and neglectful of the power of both the pulpit and the printing press in that struggle.44

Duffy’s study of the religious aspects of Mary’s reign owes much to the new availability of annotated editions of Foxe’s book online,45 to the reassessment of Cardinal Reginald Pole by Thomas E. Mayer,46 and to a number of doctoral theses and published essay collections.47 At the core of Duffy’s book is his contention that the Marian Church was a manifestation of the Counter-Reformation, which displayed increasing ‘interiority’, sacramentalism and papalism. 244

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 245

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

This is itself in sharp contrast to the views of Lucy Wooding, John Bossy and David Loades,48 who see Marian Catholicism either as ‘the last gasp of the middle ages’ or as something anti-papalist and humanist in character. The most striking part of Fires of Faith, however, is its attention to what had always been ‘the greatest barrier to a positive assessment of the Marian restoration’, the intense persecution of Protestants and the burning of 284 men and women. Duffy argues ‘that the received perception of the campaign of burnings, as manifestly unsuccessful and self-defeating, is quite mistaken’. The regime correctly identified Protestants as seditious and used public execution to rid itself of the threat, just as Protestant regimes had done and would do in the future. Duffy adds to this his belief that Pole and others were well aware that such a strategy was dangerous because it might alienate the public but were able to argue that it was necessary and effective. In the end Pole seemed to be proved right, as fewer heretics were brought to the stake during 1558 than previously.49 Moreover, he was able to show that Pole and others did defend this strategy and did exploit the ‘weakness and divisions of the new faith’ for propaganda purposes. They made effective use of the printing press.50 But they defended their action not through the printed word so much as through the spoken: parish pulpit, execution sermons and public sermons at Paul’s Cross.51 Duffy and Haigh were certainly part of a new phase in historians’ writings about the English Reformation. These works are too numerous to mention individually although one or two cry out for separate treatment. In 1997 Peter Marshall edited a collection of essays52 which was more balanced than Haigh’s and Duffy’s accounts and drew together a number of different perspectives: likewise Marshall and Ryrie’s The Beginnings of English Protestantism,53 which did not deny the strength of traditional piety but studied the multi-faceted processes through which English Protestantism was formed. Of equivalent importance was Ethan Shagan’s Popular Politics and the English Reformation (2003). All reassessed the strength of early English Protestantism as a movement with both central and popular support. What have been the other consequences of revisionism for the historiography of the Reformation in the years since the late 1970s? One important consequence has been a renewed emphasis on the 245

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 246

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

problems of establishing religious identities in sixteenth-century England and elsewhere. Whereas before 1993 any such discussion normally concentrated on Protestant identity alone, now the focus was on Catholic identities. One strain of this debate emerged as a result of John Bossy’s provocative synthesis.54 Bossy’s argument was that parish-based Catholic piety of the type later described by Duffy was effectively destroyed by the 1570s and that it was left to missionary priests from Louvain to revive Catholicism in England. They encouraged English Catholics to opt out of English society and practise their religion covertly. After the accession of James this new Catholicism was dependent upon support from the gentry. Christopher Haigh questioned whether in fact the ‘common experience of proscription, the sharing of a common legal status, the need for co-operation against anti-Catholic activity’ did not create a cohesive community rather than the separatist, secret groupings that Bossy described.55 In other publications he questioned Bossy’s contention that the Reformation destroyed medieval Catholicism, underlining instead continuities between the medieval period and the later sixteenth century.56 All this, combined with Haigh’s views about the unpopularity of Protestantism, opened up lively debate about what constituted Catholicism. As we have seen, Eamon Duffy addressed related questions, discussing both the framework within which Catholicism flourished and the vigour and effectiveness of the Marian regime which sought to restore it. Historians traditionally discussed Catholic identity within the framework of conformity records: recusants, church papists and so on. The work of Michael Questier has drawn attention to the limitations of ‘using ecclesiastical performance as a barometer of religious conviction,’57 and highlighted the need for historians of Catholicism to apply Patrick Collinson’s understanding of the many components of multifaceted Protestantism to the issue of Catholic identity.58 Historians have begun the process, although Bossy and Haigh each defined Catholicism in a way that furthered their own individual arguments. For Bossy the great mass of theologically unsophisticated semi- or reluctantly conforming churchgoers were very nearly Protestant, while for Haigh, with their ability to ‘counterfeit’ the mass out of bits 246

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 247

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

and pieces in the Book of Common Prayer, they were very nearly Catholic.59

In an important book Peter Marshall has written about the character of the Henrician Church of England as Catholic and the contemporary debate about that very claim.60 Here he makes clear that ‘words matter, and it undoubtedly has something important to tell us about the culture of mid-sixteenth-century England that a word whose etymology denotes universality and inclusivity should come to feature so prominently in the pathology of religious division’.61 Were fence-sitters or compromisers Catholic? What was core Catholicism?62 Anthony Milton has studied how Catholic and Protestant identities were forged through a dialectical process,63 and Alexandra Walsham has revealed the relationship between Protestant and Catholic polemic and their similarities on the subject of refusing to conform to government dictates. The behaviour of many of the English people in the context of Church Papistry was also studied.64 Walsham has also explored the negotiation of religious identity within local communities: she shows how communities would, on occasion, protect their Catholic members against the worst excesses of persecution, sometimes substituting their own censures.65 Yet recent articles by Isaac and Shugar indicate that it may be dangerous to see the population as clearly divided into ‘protestants’ ‘papists’ ‘churchpapists’ and ‘puritans’ and more appropriate to visualize a much more complicated situation with individuals shifting their positions from time to time and always ranged upon a continuum of religious practices, beliefs and affiliations. Shagan and Questier have suggested that early modern elites experimented with Catholicism in much the same way as moderns dabble in drugs.66 Moreover, studies of patronage and of networking indicate that early moderns moved within overlapping networks which were not exclusively peopled by their co-religionists. Susan Cogan’s work on Catholic networks in sixteenth-century Midland counties and my own on the network of the Temple family in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire could well indicate that religion did not separate people as much as was once believed. Could it be that blood was thicker than religion?67 247

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 248

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Women, feminism and the debate on the English Reformation

Interest in women and gender has manifested itself in the debate on the English Reformation since the 1960s but perhaps rather more timidly and obliquely than might have been anticipated. The popularity of the subject was in many ways an echo of the burgeoning women’s movement and also of the rising number of female scholars. Bonnie Smith was able to show how history as a subject in the nineteenth century was gendered and how male historians pursued a professional path and favoured political and diplomatic history and females, barred from the academy, addressed subjects that were despised by it. For the most part, female scholars of the Reformation joined rather than overtly rebelled against the rules of the academy. Subtle changes may be detected, however, in their approach to the subject. Women no longer hide from history. A few books and articles have focused on aspects of women’s role in the Reformation. Biographies of eminent women have been published.68 Studies of female martyrs have appeared.69 Some of the books and articles have considered woman’s general role in society and specifically within the family, which was the institution seen as crucial to the ordering of the Christian commonwealth. Such studies have built upon work done earlier on the emphasis laid upon the family by Christian humanists and by Protestants but have neglected some aspects of the findings of Todd, Schucking and Davies, such as the importance of a balanced and structured Christian partnership between husband and wife to harmonious and fruitful family life.70 Historians of women accepted the framework provided by social and political historians – early modern women existed within a patriarchal structure which was essentially oppressive and gave women little opportunity for self-fulfilment.71 Religion provided some relief from this situation.72 Closely following the arguments made by Lawrence Stone, Anthony Fletcher saw the latitude allowed to women in the religious life as a form of social control which reconciled wives and mothers to the hard and often tragic lives they had to endure.73 Mary Prior’s Women in English Society 1500–1800 (1985) led the way in detailed studies that embroider upon the theme of women under patriarchy: her edited volume of essays offered 248

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 249

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

important studies of bishops’ wives, recusant women and women’s writing. Marie Rowlands’ insightful, stimulating and all too frequently overlooked essay on ‘Recusant Women 1560–1640’ discusses the limitations placed upon women by patriarchy but emphasizes the opportunities it also offered for both women and Catholicism. While widowed and single women might be indicted, fined and even imprisoned for their recusancy, married women were not (as femes covert) considered responsible for their own actions, could not be indicted, had no property of their own that the authorities could distrain if they failed to pay fines, and frequently escaped imprisonment.74 She recounts how the authorities, against a changing political backdrop, sought to cope with this problem of controlling the religious practices of recusant wives. Her essay discusses the implications for continuing Catholicism within England and includes useful and early references to ‘networking’.75 It also has a stimulating section on those recusant women such as Mary Ward, who eschewed family life and entered one of the many women’s orders on the Continent.76 Ward’s insistence on the right of women to an independent voice led to conflict with the Catholic Church she sought to serve. Authors frequently argued that women were in charge of religious education and worship within the household.77 This assumption that women were in charge of household religion has been fed not only by prescriptive literature but also by the availability of certain contemporary female writing, such as that of Margaret Hoby and Elizabeth Isham, which has been subjected to historical and literary analysis. But this is a conclusion that may well be challenged by more detailed studies of household religion by young historians such as Fiona Bowler, who look at men’s role as well as at women’s. Diane Willen’s ‘Women and Religion in Early Modern England’ should be regarded as a gem of its kind, providing as it does a succinct summary of the state of play in the late 1980s as well as a fresh and illuminating look at some then current assumptions. For instance, she accepted the conclusion that women ‘sought in religion a path to personal security and a way to give meaning’ to their lives, but commented that ‘they were in these respects no different from their male counterparts’.78 Also she underlined the active lives of women in relation to religion and showed that a division between the public and the private is artificial. 249

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 250

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

In addition, more recent studies of specific families, influenced by the new emphasis on Catholicism, have shown that ‘matriarchs’ had considerable influence in shaping ‘denominational’ identity. Much of this work focuses on the reigns either of Elizabeth or of her early Stuart successors. Magdalen Browne, Viscountess Montague, turned Battle Abbey, Sussex into ‘Little Rome’. In his study of the Brownes, Questier shows how kinship networks were important to Catholics as a way of integrating themselves into an establishment that otherwise excluded them.79 Other historians have emphasized the role of women in religion more broadly conceived. This was fuelled by short case studies produced by several scholars.80 Among the most important of the monographs focusing on women and religion are Christine Peters’s Patterns of Piety and Patricia Crawford’s earlier Women and Religion in England, 1500–1720.81 On balance, these authors were still limited by the earlier emphasis on women under patriarchy and more interested in the way that religion may have offered a route to self-fulfilment to the women concerned than they were in the contribution of women to the development of either Protestant or Catholic identities or to sustaining the faith of others. Crawford’s monograph devoted but a single short chapter to women in the sixteenth century. Peters, interestingly, examined the hypothesis that A religious position that set its face against the Christian unease with sex and childbirth and promoted the values of godly marriage must be accounted a positive advance for women, whatever the fate of those virgin saints tortured by pagan persecutors.82

In so doing she took on the arguments put forward by Patrick Collinson that women’s lives and their religious role were characterized by continuity, not change, and advanced a strong argument that the growing Christocentric nature of late medieval piety (with a reduction in the importance of male and female saints) helped to prepare many to embrace early Protestantism. This argument complements Duffy’s work on Morebath. Probably the most important contribution of women’s historians has been that which underlines the pivotal role of women in patronage and network building and maintenance – so crucial to the formation of religious/cultural identity among the middling 250

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 251

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

and elite classes. Exclusively female networks have been emphasized, but their relationship to more general networks has only recently begun to be studied.83 Melissa Harkrider’s Women, Reform and Community focuses upon Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk and shows how vital was the role played by the Duchess and her network of godly connections, kin and non-kin, male and female, in the spread of Protestantism in Lincolnshire, 1530–80. These views are at variance with those of Retha Warnicke, who believed that women were isolated by a religion practised in the household.84 The more socially exalted a woman was, the more probable it was that she could play a prominent and even public role, but even below the court and the aristocracy there were women who made themselves indispensable and influential. Women’s role in the arrangement of marriages illustrates the importance of female networking within a more general family context.85 Matchmaking drew women out of the household and into society and its overlapping constituent communities.86 The matches they helped to arrange might either confirm or undermine particular religious identities. Studies of how and why women were educated,87 and communicated both with one another and with the opposite sex,88 have helped to shape historians’ appreciation of how women helped to form the networks that underpinned religious identities. The extent to which such networks were restricted to those of ‘identical’ religious persuasion remains to be studied. Susan Cogan’s exciting work on the Midland Catholic gentry represents a huge step forward.89 What has become of Protestantism?

Protestantism has not been fashionable as a topic, although a few traditional studies of the progress of reformation appeared in the late twentieth century.90 It is even less fashionable in the twentyfirst century, although some insightful work is still being done. Ben Lowe’s Commonwealth and the English Reformation (2010) is a case in point. In many ways his methods hark back to those used by historians in the 1960s to 1980s. Lowe uses a collective biographical approach to identifying the ‘politics of religious change in the Gloucester Vale’ from 1483 to 1560. He shows how the success of Protestantism in this area was dependent upon a 251

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 252

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

number of local gentry and town leaders. He asks why some of these men –such as Anthony Kingston and Thomas Bell – underwent a metamorphosis from men who accepted the supremacy but were lukewarm to reformation into ardent evangelicals. What caused sceptics to become fervent advocates of reform? Whereas previously this would have been attributed to the vested interest in reform that redistributed monastic properties gave them, Lowe shows that this is not a sufficient explanation for their ‘risky, even dangerous, not to mention uncharacteristically generous’ actions. But it is not this argument that singles out Lowe’s work. Rather it is his discussion of his findings in the context of neo-Catholic revisionism. He notes that historians such as Duffy and Haigh have identified resistance to theological and liturgical change but that violent resistance was, none the less, limited and contained. This could have been because of what Ethan Shagan calls ‘collaboration’ – the capacity of the English people for bargaining and refashioning such change in their own best interests.91 It could have been because they were just frightened. But, says Lowe, both explanations assume that the English were just not as committed and passionate about their religion as were their contemporaries in Europe. He explores the possibility that many English people could become Protestant (or identify with many features of Protestantism) and at the same time still miss their Latin masses, high altars, feast days and so forth. There was much else that might be appealing about the Protestant message – such as its practical and coordinated concern for the common good – that could have exercised a much greater pull than the desire for a comfortable or comforting worship experience . . .92

In other words, individuals were possessed of ‘intoxicating enthusiasm’ for working towards a ‘more just and equitable society’ such as that recommended by Hooper and Latimer. There is also thoughtful discussion of the meaning of the term ‘Protestant’ in direct response to the expansion of the meaning of ‘Catholic’ by neo-Catholic revisionists.93 Lowe’s work is interesting also because he draws attention to the straitjacket imposed upon the historical community by current orthodoxies. Most, if not all, historians would declare that they are interested in uncovering ‘true’ interpretations but, in fact, 252

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 253

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

there are fashionable areas for study and opinions. Debates are controlled by influential academics. It seems that one orthodoxy about the Reformation has been replaced by another. I realize any work that appears to suggest that there were Protestant successes in the early Reformation opens itself up to accusations of neo-Whiggism. It is hoped that this work can withstand such a charge, as it clearly repudiates the basis on which such earlier interpretations of a rapid Reformation were based.94

Lowe’s is one of the few modern works that continue the story of early Protestantism. Other historians who have returned to the early Reformation have included Andrew Pettegree95 and Susan Wabuda.96 Most scholarly attention has focused on Protestantism in the Elizabethan and early Stuart years. Andrew Pettegree has, however, summarized admirably the dilemma facing historians who accept the revisionists’ line that the English Reformation was imposed by the regime upon a population that remained largely Catholic when they realize that by the beginning of James I’s reign Protestantism had certainly taken hold. The prevailing mood among historians [has] been to regard the translation of England to Protestantism as largely accidental and certainly grudging. If England became a Protestant country, it did so largely at the behest of its rulers, and against its better judgement. If this was so, the transformation was indeed profound. For by the end of the century England and Scotland were rightly regarded as cornerstones of Protestant Europe.97

It is beyond the scope of this book to follow the story of the continuing Reformation through Elizabeth’s reign and into the Stuart period but this is certainly a point to bear in mind when assessing the work of the revisionists. It seems that the revisionists have moved the locus of the English Reformation forward from the reigns of Henry and Edward to those of Elizabeth and James. Yet we should beware. This historiography has been imposed upon the Reformation debate by the neo-Catholic revisionists, who have claimed much for their own work and recast the history of those they sought to supplant. Are Haigh’s English reformations really more than the various stages of the Reformation described by earlier historians? Are they so different from Collinson’s studies from the 1960s 253

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 254

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

onwards of the calls for a continuing reformation of a Church acknowledged as ‘but halfly-reformed’? Is the existence of Duffy’s Catholic sympathizing majority really denied in the pages of Dickens? This is not, of course, to dismiss modern studies as merely re-inventing the wheel. The works of Haigh, Duffy, Scarisbrick, Marshall and Questier, along with a myriad of others, have immeasurably enriched our knowledge of the manner in which English men and women had their being in the Reformation century. They offer us, their readers, the potential for a vicarious experience far beyond the power of mere debate to evoke. The legacy of two luminaries of English Reformation history

It is perhaps too early to assess the legacy of these two luminaries of English Reformation history – A.G. Dickens (d. 2001) and Patrick Collinson (d. 2011). These two clever yet diffident men eventually reached the height of their profession, despite struggles mid-career. Geoffrey Dickens spent long years at Hull before obtaining a chair at King’s College and, in due course, Directorship of the IHR; Patrick Collinson languished as a lecturer in Sudan and at King’s and made his way to become Regius Professor at Cambridge via chairs at Sydney, Kent and Sheffield.98 Certainly both were modernists, yet both belonged in equal measures to that tradition of narrative history writing which privileges high politics that Bonnie Smith has classified as malegendered, and also to a new emphasis on the social history of religion, informed by local knowledge and people-centredness. Both had a great respect and love for archival research as well as an encyclopaedic knowledge of published sources.99 Although neither man was prone to discuss the philosophy of history or his own theoretical perspective on the writing of history, both would have sympathized with a post-positivist, critical-realist viewpoint: One of the most common forms of post-positivism is a philosophy called critical realism. A critical realist believes that there is a reality independent of our thinking about it that science can study. (This is in contrast with a subjectivist who would hold that there is no external reality – we’re each making this all up!). Positivists were also realists. The difference is that the post-positivist critical realist recognizes that all observation is fallible and has error and that all theory is 254

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 255

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

revisable. In other words, the critical realist is critical of our ability to know reality with certainty. Where the positivist believed that the goal of science was to uncover the truth, the post-positivist critical realist believes that the goal of science is to hold steadfastly to the goal of getting it right about reality, even though we can never achieve that goal!100

The story of Dickens’s delving into the archives of the Reformation years in Yorkshire has become legendary. Collinson’s love of the men and women of East Anglia, fed by his knowledge of local records, was no less impressive. Neither man was a media don: their influence spread through the published word, through their appearance at conferences and seminars and through their academic patronage and concern for younger scholars. Both wrote model historical biographies: Dickens of Thomas Cromwell (1959) and Collinson of Edmund Grindal (1979), which provided scholarly yet accessible exemplars for their contemporaries and successors to emulate.101 Dickens earned an enormous international reputation partly because his interests included European Reformation history and he exercised academic patronage both within and without Britain, and partly because he wrote influential textbooks – among them The English Reformation (1964 and 1989) and Thomas Cromwell (1959) – which had a positive impact upon undergraduates throughout the English-speaking world. Collinson’s international reputation was more modest, although he too frequently reflected upon the place of the English Reformation within Europe.102 The difference was exemplified in the response internationally to news of their demise. Dickens’s death received many prompt notices and obituaries abroad, from Washington, DC to Ohio, from Sydney to Ontario, in addition to lengthy obituaries in the English press. Collinson’s demise was barely acknowledged abroad and received fewer notices in the English press. The distinction could be explained partly but not entirely by a reduced interest in academic history by 2011 within the press. Any assessment of their respective legacies must first acknowledge that such an enterprise is fraught. History writing is a collaborative enterprise. Historians (even those who disagree with one another) work together to build up an interpretation of the past. Neither Dickens nor Collinson was in isolation responsible 255

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 256

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

for the trends in historiography that they came to epitomize: masterly narratives covering long sweeps of history that were informed by exhaustive research in primary and secondary sources, at both central and local levels, and resulted in boldly stated interpretations which stimulated controversy. Neither man would have claimed to have been solely responsible. Their individual modesty, aloofness from acrimonious argument, and humour were notable. They interpreted the past as they saw it, drawing upon and acknowledging contemporary research as appropriate and resisting an overtly theoretical or methodological approach. Both effortlessly engaged the reader in the affairs of Tudor (and in Collinson’s case, Stuart) men and women. This was because, for both of them, these same men and women lived and breathed through their archival and published ‘remains’.103 Although both men had engaged in thorough research of specialized areas they also had a talent for general synthesis which displayed an understanding of the period and subject as a whole. Dickens believed in a Reformation that came from both above and below and which had an ‘essential and dialectical character as consisting of complex from-above and from-below interactions’. It had, he thought, already gained much popular support by 1553. Collinson sat on the fence concerning this particular argument but he drew pathbreaking attention to the differences between that first Reformation and a second, which came, he said, in the 1580s. In their work, Whig and modernist tendencies co-existed. Dickens’s literary style was, in his generation, equalled only by that of Hurstfield – it never stood in the way of the telling of a good story. To the modern historian touched by postmodernism there may appear to be a certain charming naivety about Dickens’s and Collinson’s attitude to ‘evidence’. The micro-history of the 1990s and 2000s owed much to their approach but was different in kind. Without the exploitation of English ecclesiastical and local archives characteristic of their work, micro-history would have had little to work with. The self-conscious source criticism and discussions of method that characterized those same decades and, with regard to the English Reformation, focused upon the relationship between the historian and his or her subject and sources, owed a good deal to a negative reaction to the work of both men. 256

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 257

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

Dickens’s so-called Anglican partiality in telling the Reformation story became the butt of many of their arrows. These were arrows aimed by historians who would certainly not have viewed themselves as postmodernist but had sometimes been influenced by postmodernism. But these two were great historians who had the ability to tell that story in an engaging and credible way and to appeal to a much wider audience than the postmodernists or the querulous. Neither believed that history belonged to only a closed professional academic elite. It is no accident that the literate general public now enjoy ‘history’ as presented by media historians (whether in print or otherwise), biographers and historical novelists and have generally turned their backs upon ‘academic history’. This is an audience that wishes to believe that there is a past to visit, that it is possible to revisit the past, and that is simply not interested in the cautious, over-intellectualized imaginings of postmodernists. Only micro-history presents to the general reader an attractive and acceptable alternative to positivist or post-positivist narrative. Britain-in-Europe

It was almost a foregone conclusion that, as Britain became part of the European Union (formerly the Common Market) and changed its relationship to its Continental neighbours,104 there would be a renewed interest on the part of historians in Europe. This has been apparent in books such as Susan Doran, England and Europe, 1485–1603, the collection Tudor England and its Neighbours by Susan Doran and Glenn Richardson (2005), and essays such as Simon Adams’s, ‘England and the world under the Tudors, 1485–1603’. Within Reformation studies this interest was manifest in publications not only about the European Reformation itself but also about the relationship between the English Reformation and its European counterpart and between the English Reformation and that in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This relationship might include evidence of cultural and religious exchange between England and Europe. For instance, such evidence would comprehend translation, dissemination and reading of the Scriptures and religious works. It would include the way in which English people were allowed and encouraged to read 257

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 258

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

works by Continental and Scottish reformers. It would acknowledge the debt that the English Reformers owed to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Bucer and Bullinger. It would attend to the attitudes of Continental reformers to what was happening in England and Scotland. From the 1860s onwards any strong relationship between the English Reformation and the Continental was either ignored or denied by historians and religious writers. The evangelicals, who might have been expected to defend, or at least discuss, the exchange between English and Continental Protestantism, did not follow up on the editions of original documents published in the 1840s and 1850s but withdrew from Church history debates.105 They left the field open for a High Anglican tradition of history writing, which saw the English Reformation as different from the European Reformation, accorded little attention to the reign of Edward VI, emphasized the Catholicism of Henry VIII and of the Church he established, and treated Puritans as outsiders to the Church of England.106 Richard Watson Dixon, as we saw in Chapter 4, saw the Reformation as a political act. Its essence was ‘the abolition of the Roman jurisdiction’, and not a change in theology, doctrine or worship.107 Others agreed: ‘The English Church avoided all that is distinctly Lutheran or Calvinistic in the reconstruction of its formularies.’108 Benjamin Kidd (see Chapter 4) agreed that the English Reformation was essentially ‘juridico-canonical’ and distinguished it from a theological and popular German Reformation.109 F.M. Powicke opened his The Reformation in England with a bold statement that the English Reformation was an act of state. He later stated that Cranmer was too English to be much interested in European reformers’ views.110 A Roman Catholic historian, Philip Hughes, published an important three-volume history, The Reformation in England, but paid little or no attention to its engagement with reform on the Continent.111 Works that emphasized interaction between English Protestants and Continental Reformers were few and far between. Honourable exceptions included Christina Garrett’s The Marian Exiles.112 Garrett adopted a prosopographical method, which became fashionable following the work of Sir Lewis Namier. From the 1950s onwards there were signs of real change as authors such as T.M. Parker acknowledged Cranmer’s debt to the Continental Reformation and Clifford Dugmore found it neces258

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 259

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

sary to deny it.113 Peter Newman Brooks, Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of the Eucharist (1965, 1992), is generally acknowledged as the prime expositor of the view that Cranmer’s Eucharistic doctrine was one of the ‘true presence’ and ‘the common possession of Bucer, Melanchthon, Bullinger, and Calvin’.114 A.G. Dickens notably adopted a wider perspective on the nature of the English Reformation. A truly integrated history of the Reformation has, however, been slow to emerge. Charles and Katherine George strove to define The Protestant Mind of the English Reformation and struggled to incorporate what they knew of English interaction with Continental Protestantism while treading the party line, that England’s was not a Protestant but a state Reformation. It was only when the ‘continental Protestant theology seized the imaginations of English intellectuals’ that the English Protestant mind could develop.115 But from the continent a new generation of Bucerian and Calvinist enthusiasts returned from the exile and the smell of martyrdom that had marked the reign of Catholic Mary and her consort, Philip of Spain. Their zeal and ability was matched by the folly of the Catholic hierarchy in excommunicating and plotting the deposition and murder of probably the most popular and indispensable ruler in English history. The result was an English Church which not only rejected the authority of the Catholic hierarchy at Rome, but created a morale of true independence, and indeed of attack, in relation to the entire spirit of Catholicism. And the more this temper of attack on Catholicism as a whole took possession of England, the more the work of Calvin and the Calvinists appealed to her intellectuals.116

Other monographs tackled specific points of contact between European and English reformation, but most general accounts were satisfied by declarations that the English was the exception to the European rule.117 The most coherent and successful published attempts to include the English Reformation within Europe have been made by Euan Cameron118 and Diarmaid MacCulloch.119 MacCulloch presented Cranmer as a European. The current centre for related research is at the University of St Andrews. With regard to Catholicism, Eamon Duffy has argued cogently that the Marian restoration was part of the wider European Catholic Reformation.120 Meanwhile historians who clung to the traditional High 259

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 260

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Anglican interpretation of the English as a Catholic Church divided from Rome not by theology and teaching but by jurisdiction found themselves arguing for a Church in which there were Anglicans defending against Puritans, who were, because they were Calvinist, by definition outsiders.121 As so many of the hierarchy were themselves Calvinists, such a position was in the end indefensible. Nicholas Tyacke, while primarily an early Stuart historian, contributed considerably to an appreciation that the Church of England took theology seriously and was always integrated into the wider intellectual currents of reformed Europe and, far from being dominated by the ideal of a peculiarly English via media, was dominated by intellectual developments on the Continent – first Calvinism and then Arminianism.122 There have been others who have more or less consistently resisted attempts to integrate the English Reformation into the European. These range from Geoffrey Elton in the later 1970s (despite his wellknown History of the Reformation) through Christopher Haigh in the early 1990s to Owen Chadwick in 2001. Yet others still view the English Reformation(s) as exceptional but seek to uncover why and in what ways this was the case.123 Historians have now begun to question the validity of the labels of ‘Calvinist’, ‘Lutheran’, ‘Zwinglian’. Firstly, the nature of each of these often changed considerably over time. Secondly, what precisely is implied by each label is queried. ‘Calvinism no longer serves the purposes of serious ecclesiastical historians,’ writes Patrick Collinson. ‘It has neither theological nor historical substance and coherence.’124 Scholars are also reassessing the influence and reception of individual theologians, so that Peter Martyr, Bucer and Bullinger are being assigned greater importance than they once were,125 and through personal contact, and similarity between their beliefs and those of English reformers. We are also, however, as historians become ever more critical of the proper or improper use of evidence, constantly being reminded that it is difficult to ascertain what their influence or reception was. This methodological awareness and the intense source criticism that it has engendered is praiseworthy but it has certainly spelt the demise of the scholarly narrative tradition. Elizabeth Leedham-Green, for example, has published an 260

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 261

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

interesting critique of the evidence of reception supplied by various sources. For the written word we depend upon a variety of records: on records of private and of institutional libraries, on records of booksellers’ stock, on the study of surviving books with ownership inscriptions, on citations in printed and manuscript works and, of course, on anecdotal evidence. Each of these presents its own problems, and, as often as not, one set of sources contradicts another.126

She notes that probate inventories list only works in the owner’s possession on death and ignore books that they might once have owned, borrowed or even read. Institutional libraries were in decline and also were highly dependent upon donations. Surviving books will give a very partial view of the owner’s total holdings. Anecdotes may recount the unusual rather than the representative. Booksellers’ stock records may, she believes, be ‘the most reliable witnesses’ of all. Few will doubt that, taken together, these sources provide the historian with useful glimpses into English acquaintance with European writings about the Reformation. They tell us little, however, about the readership of such works (as opposed to ownership or access) or their influence. This said, historians have found intriguing evidence indicating genuine cross-fertilization. As indicated in Chapter 1, Britain has also been brought into Europe by writers on martyrology. They show how John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, so often associated with English identity, was originally part of a greater, wider European project.127 Ian Breward discovered that there were at least fifty editions of the works of the practical, pastoral theologian, William Perkins, printed in Switzerland, with equivalent numbers printed in Germany, yet more in the Netherlands and many others in France, Bohemia, Hungary and Ireland.128 Anne Overell’s Italian Reform and English Reformations, c. 1535–c. 1585, merits special mention. The author begins by commenting that the term ‘reform’ may be applied to ‘an infinite variety of experiments’ and establishing that the book connects two of them: an Italian version that was ‘enigmatic, evasive and incomplete’ and an English one that was ‘political, pragmatic, energetic and liable to pick up other people’s ideas and run with them’. She explores this theme over a period which covers a time 261

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 262

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

of religious turmoil and the reigns of fervent Protestant Edward VI and Catholic Mary I as well as those of their father, Henry VIII, and sister, Elizabeth I, who can be less easily categorized. In the introduction to this work there is an interesting discussion concerning the problems surrounding such a project.129 This is the prelude to a detailed and fascinating exploration of the connections and interaction between Italian reform and English Reformations. This demonstrates how close and how complex these were. English Reformation was also brought into close contact with European movements by spasmodic negotiations with the German Schmalkaldic League.130 Likewise, in her Renaissance and Reform in Tudor England: The Careers of Sir Richard Morison (2010), Tracey Sowerby shows how humanists and professional diplomats like Morison, a committed ‘European’ and an outspoken reformer, forged links and undermined insularities.131 The King’s Reformation revisited

Surrounded by historians pre-occupied with considering whether the ‘process’ of reformation meant that there was, in fact, no English Reformation to debate about, an eminent historian returned to study the Reformation as ‘event’. In 2005 G.W. Bernard published his massive 736-page book, The King’s Reformation. As he said, ‘the claim of this book is encapsulated in its title – that Henry VIII was largely responsible for the break with Rome and for subsequent religious changes’. This volume was the culmination of a large number of articles, reviews and papers on this theme written by Bernard since the mid 1980s. It is a considerable achievement, weaving into its argument both supportive and contradictory work by a whole generation of historians. He uses, for example, the detailed study of contemporary treatises.132 Bernard points to a revised view of Henry VIII: Henry was a more active and a more dominating king than most professional historians have allowed. He was in significant respects a committed reformer of the church, however much that was (or is) seen as simply destructive by those attached to traditional religion, or as confused and misguided by those seeking a fuller protestant church. But that forcefulness and determination proved a dangerous 262

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 263

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

combination: a committed king certain of his rectitude, subordinating means to ends. And that points to a final image of Henry: more than the dominant figure of Holbein’s portraits, the scourge of popes and superstition; ultimately a king who in the 1530s turned into a tyrant.133

Bernard’s style is to take an issue – such as whether Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon ‘of his own volition’ or whether Anne Boleyn was responsible ‘in a more direct and active sense’ for Henry’s doubts about his marriage to Catherine – and then to recite in great detail all the evidence and weigh it up. Christopher Haigh expressed it well in a review in the English Historical Review (of which Bernard was and is the editor) as he notes Bernard’s ‘pleasing perversity’ as he challenges any idea that ‘looks like gaining acceptance among historians’: Did Anne Boleyn seek to advance the evangelical cause? . . . No she did not! Was she attacked by political enemies and framed on false charges? No, she was guilty of multiple adultery and rightly rejected by the king. Did political factions vie for influence over Henry VIII? No, there were no factions and the king was always in charge. Did religious policy shift according to political pressures or diplomatic calculations? No, the king had a consistent and determined policy, and knew exactly what he was doing. Was there a religious reaction, in 1538, or 1539, or 1540? Not at all. In articles, essays and this huge volume, Bernard has argued a coherent case on the nature of Henrician politics and of religious change, encapsulated in the title of the book: it was the king’s Reformation, and he was remaking the English Church as he wanted it to be. It is an interesting and plausible argument, and we have been thereabouts before: James Froude redivivus.134

Bernard’s view sat happily with Haigh’s own. The most interesting sections of The King’s Reformation are those in which Bernard discusses Henry’s early personal campaign to divorce Catherine,135 which Bernard dates as early as May 1527, and the nature of and motivation behind his arguments.136 It is a work of formidable and occasionally forbidding scholarship. There are almost 100 pages of detailed endnotes. Bernard’s approach makes for a very thorough account but not a very accessible one. Not every scholar has judged Bernard’s perversity pleasing. Several others have commented on his castigation of other historians. In a review, J.P.D. Cooper wrote that for Bernard: 263

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 264

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

The Henrician Reformation, in short, belongs to Henry: not to Cromwell (Bernard thus taking on Geoffrey Elton), nor to Cranmer (ditto Diarmaid MacCulloch), nor to evangelicals at court and university (ditto Alec Ryrie), nor to Anne Boleyn (ditto Eric Ives). If that Reformation involved more destruction than rebuilding, then the blame must fall on Henry.137

He writes that the real problem with the book is its ‘tone’. ‘Scores, old and new, are settled’. Paul Seaver sees it as ‘revisionism with a vengeance’ with Bernard ‘taking on’ virtually every other scholar in the field.138 Pettegree describes Bernard as ‘incurably disputatious’.139 Another scholar observed that ‘at times this argumentativeness verges on picking fights’.140 Barrett Beer has noted his ‘low regard for modern scholarship’.141 Patrick Collinson acerbically observed that ‘throughout this massive book . . . he is the only one in step’.142 It is not only general readers who have found his ‘liberal use of speculation and conjecture of concern’.143 And several scholars point to the fact that assertion frequently takes the place of argument in this study, with Bernard sometimes being forced into interpretations which are strangely at odds with the evidence he presents.144 There have also been detailed criticisms of his arguments – too numerous to mention. Some are points of detail with wider implications. For instance, Bernard claims that Henry was already a critic of traditional religion influenced by Erasmian ideas well before the break with Rome, whereas Richard Rex has adduced many examples of Henry going on pilgrimages, and other marks of conventional piety. Paul Lay noted in the History Today Blog that Hugh Latimer noted the King’s extreme reaction to the news that the Holy Blood of Hales was a fraud: ‘What a do there was.’145 As so much of Bernard’s argument rests upon his belief that the state Reformation was Henry’s creation, uninfluenced by events or the views of others, and already formed in the King’s imagination in the 1520s, this detail is important. Paul Seaver has argued that such a case is difficult to make, focusing especially on what he considers to be Bernard’s mistaken treatment of the Ten Articles of 1536 (and especially Article V) as demonstrating Henry’s commitment to a ‘middle way in religion’. Seaver argues that this Article was Protestant and was consistent with Article VI of the Augsburg Confession, which Bernard insists ‘Henry was 264

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 265

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

never prepared to accept’. Even more mystifying to Seaver is Bernard’s denial that the Six Articles of 1539 represented a change in the direction of religious policy, despite the fact that Cranmer saw it as a defeat for the Reformers and both Latimer and Shaxton resigned their sees over it. Moreover, Article I is ‘an unambiguous statement of transubstantiation’ and Article II explicitly rejects a belief in communion in both kinds for the laity which had been implicitly accepted in the Ten Articles three years previously. Pettegree notes with surprise that Bernard, in his treatment of Henry’s response to the Pilgrimage of Grace by dissolving the smaller monastic houses in 1536 and promoting an English Bible, denies, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the ‘vernacular Bible was a distinctly evangelical project’ and sees Henry’s espousal of it as merely an attempt to counter ignorance.146 Bernard’s surely erroneous assumption that in order to be accounted strong a king has to be completely uninfluenced by his advisors appears to have forced Bernard to assert that Cromwell and Cranmer exerted no influence over their master. For Richard Rex this ‘zeal against faction’ also helps to explain Bernard’s ‘misleading characterization of recent historiography’.147 The scanty treatment of the final decade of Henry’s reign has also disappointed. No doubt, Bernard thought that he had laid to rest for another generation the subject of the debate last staged between Elton and Scarisbrick in the 1960s. Henry VIII emerges from this study as the dominant force in the making of what is best called the king’s reformation. In the campaign for the divorce, in the break with Rome, in the making of the codifications of religion, in the dissolution of the monasteries, and in the neutralisation and, sometimes, the destruction of opponents, Henry’s role was full and decisive. What the king sought, he largely achieved. Not that he was an absolute potentate, nor that he behaved as if he were . . . Time and again Henry was cautious in pursuing his aims, not least over the break with Rome itself. But time and again, he not only found highly able servants to carry out his wishes – Wolsey, Cromwell, Cranmer, and Norfolk – but also managed to get them to take responsibility and the blame for what was done.148

265

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 266

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Bernard will be disappointed if he believes that his fellow historians will accept his version. As one reviewer wrote: ‘The King’s Reformation is a major contribution to a debate whose very terms it is likely to shape for the foreseeable future. But its portrait of the king himself and its vision of his Reformation are alike unconvincing.’149 That some of Bernard’s greatest supporters are his erstwhile postgraduate students is in itself an interesting comment on why it is so important for scholars to have doctoral students!150 Conclusion

The historiography of the Reformation since about 1980 has developed against a background of changes in the academy itself as well as of new approaches to the subject matter. From the early 1960s the number of trained historians increased. An equilibrium between the number of new recruits and the supply of university teaching positions in history and related disciplines was difficult to achieve and maintain. Instead, the opportunities for employment, promotion and funding decreased. An academic career became more and more competitive and this had repercussions for both historical research and debate. Historians no longer worked out their political and religious dilemmas through Reformation scholarship but sought through publication and impassioned argument to pursue a successful career. The debate about the English Reformation during these years built upon much of the work accomplished by scholars in the 1960s–1980s. That generation, which had not seen the English Reformation as complete by the late 1540s, had described its different phases, and had been alive to the potential of ‘new’ sources and sensitive to both the advantages and disadvantages they offered. Neo-Catholic histories of the Reformation were not as revolutionary as they liked to claim. Other historians, also, chose to revisit extremely familiar subjects. Historians drew upon post-war developments in the style of historical writing. They sometimes flirted with postmodernism and the linguistic ‘turn’ but then settled down with empiricism. The debate, however, was reformulated. In part this was a feature of the competitive environment in which historians now 266

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 267

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

worked; in part, somewhat contradictorily, due to what we might call the ‘collaborative turn’. Reformation history, like other historical areas, became the victim of fashion. Particular aspects of the field were either ‘in’ or ‘out’ of vogue and either sought out or shunned by conference and project organizers, periodicals and book publishers. Source criticism was central to the training of new recruits to the discipline and played a more prominent role in published work. The debate about the English Reformation was no longer dominated by theologians and church historians. Within it the political and social history of religion now dominated. Multi-disciplinary approaches were favoured. At the same time the debate broadened out so much that it was often difficult to discern what was the history of ‘The Reformation’ and what was not. The precise place of religion in society was now the issue. Historians are moving on from asking whether the English people wanted Reformation or not to questioning whether the rift between Catholic and Protestant was really as deeply felt in everyday existence as has been assumed. The chronology of the debate shifted – from the reigns of the early to the later Tudors and, even, James I. Post-war historians formulated the debate in straightforward terms: for example, who was responsible for the Reformation? what doctrinal position was adopted? More recent historians have assumed less and asked more probing questions. ‘What was the Reformation?’ or even ‘Was there a Reformation?’ and certainly ‘Was there a successful Protestant Reformation?’ Historians now cannot decide when the Reformation occurred. The modern debate about the English Reformation is different in kind from that of earlier ages because it is informed by the standards of the historical profession and the academy as a whole rather than by contemporary political and religious arguments. This said, it is also subject to the political correctness of our age in a way that history in the 1960s–early 1980s was not. Most historians of the Reformation believe that objectivity is both possible and desirable, and that appropriate use of the sources will eventually lead to discerning selection of evidence and an interpretation of past events that will be close to reality. Nevertheless, as indicated above, the highly competitive and pressured academic environment has lent intensity to arcane argument. 267

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 268

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Notes 1 http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk. 2 Peter Marshall, ‘(Re)defining the English Reformation’, Journal of British Studies, 48 (2009), 564–586, p. 564. 3 Ken Jackson and Arthur F. Marotti, ‘The turn to religion in early modern English studies’, in Criticism, 46 (2004), 167–90. 4 Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past. English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870–1970, The Wiles Lectures for 2003 (Cambridge, 2005, Kindle Edition). 5 Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (1959; new edn 1972). 6 R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926; 1938); M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic (1930 English transl.); Christopher Hill, Economic Problems of the Church. From Archbishop Whitgift to the Long Parliament (Oxford, 1956). 7 John McDowell and Bob Hostetler, The New Tolerance (1998), p. 208. 8 Astounded and affronted he must have been that his view of that past became the focus of one of the great controversies and debates of the historical discipline! 9 See Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past, Introduction to unpaginated Kindle edition, for an interesting discussion. 10 Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past, Introduction to unpaginated Kindle edition. 11 Christine Peters, Patterns of Piety: Women, Gender and Religion in Late Medieval England (Cambridge, 2003); Rosemary O’Day, Women’s Agency in Early Modern Britain and the American Colonies (2007). 12 Philip Goldstein and James L. Machor (eds), New Directions in American Reception Study (Oxford, 2008). 13 David Englander, Diana Norman, Rosemary O’Day and W.R. Owens (eds), Culture and Belief in Europe 1450–1600: An Anthology of Sources (Oxford and Milton Keynes, 1990); see also John King, Voices of the Reformation: A Source Book (Philadelphia, PA, 2004). 14 Some of the more important of the works which have attempted to use the findings of historians of the book to illuminate understanding of Reformation England are: Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular Piety, 1550–1640 (Cambridge, 1993); Margaret Spufford, The World of Rural Dissenters, 1520–1725 (Cambridge, 1995; pbk edn, 2011); Judith Maltby, Prayer Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England (Cambridge, 2000); Naomi Tadmor, The Social Universe of the English Bible, Scripture, Society and Culture in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2010); and Lori Anne Ferrell, The Bible and the People (New Haven, CT, 2008). 15 Greg Walker, Writing under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Reformation (2005). 16 Christopher Durston and Jacqueline Eales (eds), The Culture of English Puritanism, 1560–1700 (Basingstoke, 1996); Imogen Luxton, ‘The Reformation and popular culture’, in F. Heal and R. O’Day (eds) Church and Society in England, Henry VIII to James I (Basingstoke, 1977), pp. 57–77; Margaret Aston, England’s Iconoclasts: Laws against Images (Oxford, 1988); 268

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 269

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

17 18

19

20 21 22 23

24

25 26

27 28

Patrick Collinson, Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1988); Norman Jones, The English Reformation: Religion and Cultural Adaptation (Oxford, 2002). Carlos M.N. Eire, War against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin (Cambridge, 1986; pbk, 1989). K.V. Thomas, ‘Ways of doing cultural history’, in Rik Sanders (ed.), Balans en perspectief van de Nederlandse cultuurgeschiedenis (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1991), passim. Patrick Collinson, From Iconoclasm to Iconophobia: The Cultural Impact of the Second English Reformation (The Stenton Lecture 1985; Reading, 1986). Here Collinson was quoting from J.R. Green, History of the English People (1876 edn), p. 447. Collinson, Iconoclasm to Iconophobia, p. 8. Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993). Eamon Duffy, ‘English Reformation after revisionism’, Renaissance Quarterly, 59 (2006). Peter Lake, ‘Anti-puritanism: the structure of a prejudice’, in K. Fincham and P. Lake (eds), Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England (Woodbridge, 2006); Patrick Collinson, ‘Religion, society and the historian’, Journal of Religious History, 23 (1999). Kenneth Fincham and Leif Dixon, ‘Reformation, resistance and retirement’ (on the occasion of Christopher Haigh’s retirement), The Oxford Historian (2009), Issue VII, 14–17, 14. Fincham and Dixon, ‘Reformation’, p. 14. Nicholas Tyacke, Aspects of English Protestantism c. 1530–1700 (Manchester, 2001), pp. 37–8; Cardinal Aidan Gasquet (F.A. Gasquet), The Eve of the Reformation: Studies in the Religious Life and Thought of the English people . . . (1901); H.N. Birt, The Elizabethan Religious Settlement: A Study of Contemporary Documents (1907). Tyacke, Aspects of English Protestantism, pp. 139–47; Anne Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History (Oxford, 1988). Tyacke, Aspects of English Protestantism, p. 41; for oral communication in its many forms see J.W. Blench, Preaching in England in the Late Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Oxford, 1964): M.C. Cross, Church and People 1450–1660 (1976), pp. 31–44; Richard Cust, ‘News and politics in earlyseventeenth-century England’, Past and Present, 102 (1986), 60–90; Robert Scribner, ‘Oral culture and the diffusion of Reformation ideas’, in R. Scribner (ed.), Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (1987), pp. 49–69; Rosemary O’Day, ‘Hugh Latimer, prophet of the kingdom’, Historical Research, 65 (1992), 258–76; Eric Josef, ‘The boring of the ear: shaping the pastoral vision of preaching in England, 1540–1640’, in Larissa Taylor (ed.), Preachers and People in the Reformations and Early Modern Period (Leiden, 2001), pp. 221–48; Susan Wabuda, ‘“Fruitful preaching” in the diocese of Worcester: Bishop Hugh Latimer and his influence, 1535–39’, in E.J. Carlson (ed.), Religion and the English People, 1500–1640: New Voices, New Perspectives (Kirksville, MO, 1998), pp. 49–74; and Susan Wabuda, Preaching during the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2002). 269

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 270

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION 29 Christopher Haigh, The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven: Kinds of Christianity in Post-Reformation England: 1570–1640 (Oxford, 2007). 30 Eamon Duffy, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village (New Haven and London, 2001). 31 Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 2002; pbk 2003), p. 4. 32 Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, 2003 pbk edn, p. 4. 33 The word ‘religion’ derives from a Latin word meaning binding. 34 Duffy, Morebath, 2003 pbk edn, p. xv. 35 Duffy, Morebath, 2003 pbk edn, p. xv. 36 Duffy, Morebath, 2003 pbk edn, p. xiv. 37 P.M. Took, ‘Government and the printing trade, 1540–60’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of London (1979), passim. Jennifer Loach, ‘The Marian Establishment and the Printing Press’ in English Historical Review, 100 (1986), 138–51. 38 Susan Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989). 39 D. Loades, The Reign of Mary Tudor (2nd edn, 1991), pp. 96–128; modified in D. Loades, ‘The spirituality of the restored Catholic Church’, in T.M. McCoog (ed.), The Reckoned Expense (Woodbridge, 1996), pp. 3–20 and D. Loades, ‘The Marian episcopate’ in Eamon Duffy and D. Loades, (ed.), The Church of Mary Tudor (Aldershot, 2006), pp. 33–56; Brigden, London and the Reformation, pp. 626–7. 40 Eamon Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (New Haven, CT and London, 2009). 41 John Bossy, The English Catholic Community (1975). 42 Rex Pogson, ‘Cardinal Pole: papal legate to England in Mary Tudor’s reign’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, 1972). 43 Loades, Reign of Mary Tudor (2nd edn, 1991); D. Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life (Oxford, 1989). 44 Duffy, Fires of Faith, p. 1. 45 www.hrionline.ac.uk/johnfoxe. 46 E.g. Thomas F. Mayer, Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet (Cambridge, 2000); Thomas F. Mayer, Cardinal Pole in European Context (Aldershot, 2000); and Thomas F. Mayer (ed.) The Correspondence of Reginald Pole, several volumes in progress (Aldershot, 2002). 47 See, for instance, John Edwards and Ronald Truman (eds), Reforming Catholicism in the England of Mary Tudor (Aldershot, 2005); William Wizeman (ed.), The Theology and Spirituality of Mary Tudor’s Church (Aldershot, 2006); Lucy Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England (Oxford, 2000); Duffy and Loades, Church of Mary Tudor. 48 See David Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997). 49 Duffy, Fires of Faith, pp. 7, 171–87. 50 Duffy, Fires of Faith, pp. 172–87; see also Jennifer Loach, ‘The Marian establishment and the printing press’, EHR, 100 (1986), 138–51 for a reassessment of the régime’s use of the press. 51 Duffy, Fires of Faith, p. 171. 52 Peter Marshall (ed.), The Impact of the English Reformation, 1500–1640 (1997). 270

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 271

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW 53 Peter Marshall and Alec Ryrie (eds), The Beginnings of English Protestantism (Cambridge, 2002). 54 Bossy, English Catholic Community, 1975. 55 Christopher Haigh, ‘The fall of a church or the rise of a sect? PostReformation Catholicism in England’, Historical Journal, 21 (1978), 181–6. 56 C. Haigh, ‘The continuity of Catholicism in the English reformation’, Past and Present, 93 (1981), 37–69; C. Haigh (ed.), The Reign of Elizabeth I (1984). 57 Michael Questier, Conversion, Politics and Religion in England, 1580–1625 (Cambridge, 1996); see Ethan H. Shagan (ed.), Catholics and the ‘Protestant Nation’: Religious Politics and Identity in Early Modern England (Manchester, 2005), p. 13. 58 Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants (Oxford, 1982), Chapter 6. 59 Shagan, Religious Politics and Identity, p. 7. 60 Peter Marshall, Religious Identities in Henry VIII’s England (Aldershot, 2006), pp. 22–48. 61 Marshall, Religious Identities, p. 42. 62 Shagan, ‘Confronting compromise: the schism and its legacy in mid-Tudor England’, in Religious Politics and Identity, pp. 49–68. 63 Anthony Milton, Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600–1640 (Cambridge, 1995). 64 Alexandra Walsham, Church Papists: Catholicism, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 1993). 65 Alexandra Walsham, Charitable Hatred: Tolerance and Intolerance in England, 1500–1700 (Manchester, 2006). 66 Shagan, Religious Politics and Identity, p. 15; Michael Questier, Conversion, Politics and Religion, p. 9. 67 See Susan Cogan, ‘Catholic gentry, family networks and patronage in the English Midlands, c. 1570–1630’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Colorado, 2012). 68 Pearl Hogrefe, Women of Action in Tudor England: Nine Biographical Sketches (Ames, IA, 1977); Christopher Haigh, Elizabeth I (1988); Retha M. Warnicke, Women of the English Renaissance and Reformation, (Westport, CT, 1983); Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge, 1989); Eric W. Ives, Anne Boleyn (Oxford, 1988); Eric W. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (Oxford, 2004); Eric W. Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (2009); David Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life (Oxford, 1989); David N. Durant, Bess of Hardwick: Portrait of an Elizabethan dynast (2nd edn, 1999). 69 Megan L. Hickerson, Making Women Martyrs in Tudor England (Basingstoke, 2005). 70 For these neglected findings see Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Family (New York, rev. edn, 1966); Levin Schucking, The Puritan Family: A Social Study from the Literary Sources (1969); Margo Todd, ‘Humanists, Puritans and the spiritualized household’, Church History, 49 (1980), 18–34; Margo Todd, Christian Humanism and the Puritan Social Order (Cambridge, 1987); Kathleen Davies, ‘The sacred condition of equality: how original were Puritan doctrines of marriage?’ Social History, 5 (1977), 563–80; Kathleen M. 271

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 272

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

71 72

73

74 75 76 77

78

79 80

81

82 83

Davies, ‘Continuity and change in literary advice on marriage’, in R.B. Outhwaite (ed.), Marriage and society (1981), pp. 58–80; Rosemary O’Day, The Family and Family Relationships, 1500–1900 (Basingstoke, 1994), pp. 29–63. Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (London and New York, 1977) pp. 151–5 and 216. K.V. Thomas, ‘Women and the civil war sects’, in Trevor Aston (ed.), Crisis in Europe (Oxford, 1965), pp. 336, 346; Patrick Collinson, Godly People (1983), pp. 274–76; Patrick Collinson, The religion of Protestants (Oxford, 1982), p. 241; Richard L. Greaves (ed.), Triumph over Silence: Women in Protestant History, (Westport, CT, 1985), p. 6; Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558–1641 (Oxford, 1965), pp. 738–9; Stone, Family, Sex and Marriage, e.g. pp. 135–41, 260–7; R.C. Richardson, Puritanism in NorthWest England, a Regional Study of the Diocese of Chester to 1642 (Manchester, 1972), pp. 109–14; Ralph A. Houlbrooke, The English Family, 1450–1700 (1984), p. 113. Anthony Fletcher, Gender, Sex and Subordination in England, 1500–1800 (New Haven and London, 1995), pp. 347–63; cf. Susan Dwyer Amussen, An Ordered Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1988). Marie B. Rowlands, ‘Recusant women 1560–1640’, in Mary Prior, Women, pp. 149–80, see pp. 149–56. Rowlands, ‘Recusant women’, pp. 156–62. Rowlands, ‘Recusant women’, pp. 166–74. For example, Margaret Spufford, ‘First steps in literacy: the reading and writing experiences of the humblest seventeenth-century autobiographers’, Social History, 4 (1979), 407–35; Rowlands, ‘Recusant women’, pp. 162–6; Sara Mendelson, ‘Stuart Women’s diaries and occasional memoirs’, in Mary Prior, Women, pp. 181–210, see pp. 185–91; Fletcher, Gender, Sex and Subordination, pp. 158–9, 188; Jacqueline Eales, Women in Early Modern England, 1500–1700 (1998), pp. 57–8, 64–70, 95; for general work on female education see Rosemary O’Day, Education and Society in Britain, 1500–1800 (Hounslow,1982), pp. 179–95; O’Day, Women’s Agency, pp. 320–37; Fletcher, Gender, Sex and Subordination, pp. 364–75. Diana Willen, ‘Women and religion in early modern England’, in Sherrin Marshall (ed.), Women in Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1989), pp. 140–165, see p. 148. Questier, Catholicism and Community, passim. Patrick Collinson, ‘The role of women in the English Reformation, illustrated by the life and friendships of Anne Locke’, in G. Cumings (ed.), Studies in Church History (1965), vol. 2, pp. 258–72, reprinted in Collinson, Godly People (1983); Peter Lake, ‘Feminine piety and personal potency: the “emancipation” of Mrs Jane Ratcliffe’, The Seventeenth Century, 2 (1987), 143–65. Christine Peters, Patterns of Piety: Women, Gender and Religion in Late Medieval England, (Cambridge, 2003); Patricia Crawford, Women and Religion in England, 1500–1720 (1993). Peters, Patterns of Piety, Chapter 6. Willen, ‘Women and religion’, p. 152; work to look out for on this subject in the near future includes Susan Cogan, ‘Catholic Gentry, Family Networks and 272

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 273

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW

84

85

86

87 88 89 90

Patronage in the English Midlands, c. 1570–1630’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Colorado, 2012); and Rosemary O’Day, Masterful Mistress: Hester Temple and her Dysfunctional Family, 1580–1660 (forthcoming). Meanwhile there are interesting discussions in the following: Rosemary O’Day, Family and Family Relationships, e.g. pp. 123–4; Rosemary O’Day, ‘Tudor and Stuart women: their lives through their letters’ in James Daybell (ed.), Early Modern Women’s Letter-writing, 1450–1700 (2001), pp. 127–142, especially pp. 131–3; O’Day, Women’s Agency, pp. 72–5, 216–19, 405; Melissa Franklin Harkrider, Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England, Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, and Lincolnshire’s Godly Aristocracy, 1519–1580 (Woodbridge, 2008); Maria Dowling and Joy Shakespeare, ‘Religion and politics in mid Tudor England through the eyes of an English Protestant woman: the recollections of Rose Hickman’, Historical Research 55 (1982), 94–102, p. 101; M.C. Cross, ‘“Hegoats before the flocks”: a note on the part played by women in the founding of some civil war churches’, in G.J. Cuming and Derek Baker (eds), Popular Belief and Practice (Cambridge, 1972), p. 196; Greaves, Triumph over Silence, p. 78; Dorothy Ludlow, ‘Shaking patriarchy’s foundations: Sectarian women in England, 1641–1700’ in Greaves, Triumph over Silence, p. 106; Jacqueline Eales, Puritans and Roundheads: The Harleys of Brampton Bryan and the Outbreak of the English Civil War (Cambridge, 1990); Sara Mendelson and Patricia Crawford, Women in Early Modern England (1998); Christine Peters, Women in Early Modern Britain, 1450–1640 (Basingstoke, 2004); Fletcher, Gender, Sex and Subordination. Retha M. Warnicke, Women of the English Renaissance and Reformation (Westport, CT, 1983), p. 179; cf. her more recent ‘Private and public: the boundaries of women’s lives in early Stuart England’, pp. 123–40 in Jean R. Brink (ed.), Privileging Gender in Early Modern England, Vol. XXIII, Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies (Kirksville, MO, 1993), where she defines her categories of ‘private’ and ‘public’. Sally Gosling, ‘Sex and gender roles in gentle and noble families, c.1575–1660’, unpublished PhD thesis (The Open University, 1999), passim; O’Day, Women’s Agency, 2007, pp. 72–5, 216–19, 357–9; Diana O’Hara, Courtship and Constraint, Rethinking the Making of marriage in Tudor England (Manchester, 2000), pp. 36–9, 44–6, 109. For a discussion of what is meant by the word ‘community’ see Alexandra Shepherd and Phil Withington, Communities in early modern England (Manchester, 2000), pp. 1–15. See note 79. James Daybell (ed.) (2001) Early Modern Women’s Letter-writing; James Daybell, Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England (Oxford, 2006). Cogan, ‘Catholic gentry’. Martha C. Skeeters, Community and Clergy: Bristol and the Reformation c.1530–c.1570 (Oxford,1993); Caroline Litzenberger, The English Reformation and the Laity: Gloucestershire, 1540–1580 (Cambridge, 1997); Muriel C. McClendon, The Quiet Reformation: Magistrates and the Emergence of Protestantism in Tudor Norwich (Ithaca, NY, 1999); Muriel C. McClendon, Joseph P. Ward and Michael Macdonald (eds), Protestant 273

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 274

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

92 93

94 95 96

97 98

99 100 101

102 103 104

105

106

107

Identities: Religion, Society, and Self-fashionings in Post Reformation England (Stanford, CA, 1999); Helen L. Parish, Clerical Marriage and the English Reformation, (Aldershot, 2000). Ben Lowe, Commonwealth and the English Reformation (Farnham, 2010), for full discussion see pp. 135–9. See Peter Marshall and Alec Ryrie (eds), The Beginnings of English Protestantism, (Cambridge, 2002) and Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven, CT and London, 1996). Lowe, Commonwealth, p. 222. Andrew Pettegree, Marian Protestantism: Six Studies (Aldershot, 1996). Susan Wabuda, ‘Henry Bull, Miles Coverdale, and the making of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’, Martyrs and Martyrologies, ed. D. Wood, Studies in Church History, 30 (1993), pp. 245–58; Wabuda, ‘“Fruitful preaching”’; Susan Wabuda, ‘The women with the rock: the controversy on women and Bible reading’, in Susan Wabuda and Caroline Litzenberger (eds), Belief and Practice in Reformation England: A Tribute to Patrick Collinson from his Students (Aldershot, 1998) pp. 40–59; Susan Wabuda, Preaching during the English Reformation. Andrew Pettegree, Europe in the Sixteenth Century, Blackwell History of Europe (Oxford, 2002), p. 192. Patrick Collinson conveniently left a memoir of his life as he would wish us to remember him: as such it has all the advantages and limitations of autobiography.The reader of his obituaries will certainly have recourse to this volume: it is a source of amusement and frustration that the obituaries in the English press disagree on several points – the date of his CBE and of his marriage among them. Nevertheless, the memoir has to be used with care, as there are many omissions and versions of events. See Chapters 6 and 7 above. See article in Web Center for Social Research Methods, http://www. socialresearchmethods.net/kb/positvsm.php. See Chapter 9 for a discussion of this part of their legacy – the scholarly biography as an entrée to the English Reformation debate. In Collinson’s case, he had the example of his own supervisor, Sir John Neale’s, great biography of Elizabeth I before him. For which, see below. I use the term ‘Remains’ in the nineteenth-century sense of the surviving writings of historical figures. Some carp at the use of the adjective ‘Continental’ to describe England’s European neighbours, on the grounds that it has imposed insularity upon the historiography. Be this as it may, for want of a better adjective and to avoid listing individual European neighbours at every turn, I use it here. H. Robinson (ed.), Zurich Letters, 2 vols (Cambridge, Parker Society, 1842–45); H. Robinson (ed.), Original Letters Relative to the English Reformation, 1531–58, 2 vols (Cambridge, Parker Society, 1846–47). I owe this formulation to Diarmaid MacCulloch, who argued the case eloquently at the Colloquium in honour of Felicity Heal, Jesus College, Oxford, April 2011. R.W. Dixon, History of the Church of England, The Reformation (1884). 274

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 275

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW 108 Aubrey L. Moore, Lectures and Papers on the History of the Reformation in England and on the Continent (1890), pp. 5–6. 109 Benjamin Kidd, Social Evolution (1894; 1906 edn), pp. 106–9. 110 F.M. Powicke, The Reformation in England (1941; pbk repr., Oxford, 1965), pp. 1, 34, 65. 111 Philip Hughes, The Reformation in England, 3 vols (1950–4). 112 C.H. Garrett, The Marian Exiles (Cambridge, 1938; repr. 1961). 113 T.M. Parker, The English Reformation to 1558 (London and Oxford, 1950), p. vii; C.W. Dugmore, The Mass and the English Reformers (1958), p. vii. 114 Peter Newman Brooks, Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of the Eucharist (1965, 1992); Patrick Collinson, ‘The fog in the Channel clears’, in Polly Ha and Patrick Collinson (eds), The Reception of the Continental Reformation in Britain (Oxford, 2010), pp. xxvii–xxxvii, esp. p. xxvii. 115 C.H. George and Katherine George, The Protestant Mind of the English Reformation, 1570–1640 (Princeton, NJ, 1961), p. 13. 116 George and George, Protestant Mind, p. 13. 117 It should be noted that historians of all aspects of European history have also tended to see the English, and indeed the British, as non-European. See, for example, Kirsi Stierna, Women and the Reformation (Oxford, 2008), which excludes English, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish women. 118 Euan Cameron, The European Reformation (Oxford, 1991). 119 Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer (1996) and Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490–1700 (2003); see also Diarmaid MacCulloch, ‘Protestantism in mainland Europe: new directions’, Renaissance Quarterly, 59 (2006), 704–6. 120 Duffy, Fires of Faith, pp. 188–207. 121 Horton Davies, Worship and Theology in England from Cranmer to Hooker, 1534–1603 (London and Princeton, NJ, 1970). 122 Nicholas Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists (Oxford, 1987); Nicholas Tyacke, (ed.) England’s Long Reformation, 1500–1800, (1998); Nicholas Tyacke, Aspects of English Protestantism c.1530–1700 (Manchester, 2001); for a historiographical overview see Kenneth Fincham and Peter Lake (eds), Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England (Woodbridge, 2006). 123 See, for example, Patrick Collinson, The Reformation (2003), pp. 105–22. 124 Collinson, ‘Fog over the channel’, p. xxxiii. 125 Patrick Collinson, ‘England and international Calvinism, 1558–1640’, in Menna Prestwich (ed.), International Calvinism 1541–1715 (Oxford, 1985); Torrance Kirby, The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology (Leiden, 2007); Torrance Kirby, ‘Peter Martyr Vermigli’s political theology and the Elizabethan Church’, in Polly Ha and Patrick Collinson, The Reception of the Continental Reformation in Britain (Oxford, 2010), pp. 83–106; Carrie Euler, Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich, 1531–1558 (Zurich, 2006); Anne Overell, Italian Reform and English Reformation c.1535–c.1585 (Aldershot, 2008); Elizabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber (eds), Books in Cambridge Inventories: Booklists from the Vice-Chancellor’s Court Probate Inventories in the Tudor and Stuart Periods, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1986). 126 Elizabeth Leedham-Green, Reception of the Continental Reformation, p. 23. 127 For this see especially the work of Mark Greengrass and Thomas S. Freeman 275

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 276

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments Online, http://www.johnfoxe.org. 128 Ian Breward (1970) pp. xi, 107, 613–32, cited in P. Collinson, ‘The fog in the Channel clears’, in Polly Ha and Patrick Collinson (eds), The Reception of the Continental Reformation in Britain, Oxford, British Academy, pp. xxvii–xxxvii. 129 Overell, Italian Reform, pp. 2–15. 130 Rory McEntergart, England and the League of Schmalkalden 1531–1547 (1992). 131 Tracey Sowerby, Renaissance and Reform in Tudor England: The Careers of Sir Richard Morison (Oxford, 2010). 132 Virginia Murphy, ‘The literature and propaganda of Henry VIII’s first divorce’, in D. MacCulloch (ed.), The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy and Piety (Basingstoke, 1995); for more detail see Virginia Murphy, ‘The debate over Henry VIII’s first divorce: an analysis of the contemporary treatises’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Cambridge, 1984). 133 G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church (New Haven, CT, 2005), p. 606. 134 Christopher Haigh, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church (New Haven, CT, 2005), in EHR, 121 (2006), 1455–6. In this discussion I have drawn upon a number of reviews of Bernard’s big book. This has been not only because they are interesting but also because they represent an important part of the history discipline today. 135 Bernard, King’s Reformation, pp. 9–14. 136 Bernard, King’s Reformation, pp. 14–72. 137 J.P.D. Cooper, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, in JEccHist, 59 (2008), 145–7, p. 146, also online at http://dx.doi.org.libezproxy. open.ac.uk/10.1017/S0022046907002643. 138 Paul S. Seaver, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, in Church History (2008). 139 Andrew Pettegree, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, in History Today, 56:1 (2006), 61. 140 Richard Rex, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, in Journal of Modern History, 80 (2008), 127–8, especially p. 127. 141 Barrett Beer, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation in H-Albion (August, 2007), http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=13500. 142 Patrick Collinson, ‘A very active captain’: review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, in London Review of Books, 28:12 (22 June 2006); see also Pettegree’s review, p. 61. 143 Diarmaid MacCulloch, ‘Protestantism in mainland Europe’, 704–6; see Chapter 9 for reviews of Bernard’s book on Anne Boleyn. 144 Collinson, review, p. 25; Seaver, review, pp. 676–7. 145 Paul Lay, History Today Blog, 9 February 2011. Before the advent of social networking it was possible for a scholar to ensure that ‘friends’ and ‘supporters’ wrote most of the reviews in prominent journals and magazines. Now any interested parties (informed and uninformed) can (and do) have their say. 146 Pettegree, review, p. 61. 147 Rex, review, pp. 127–8. 276

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 277

THE DEBATE IN THE AGE OF PEER REVIEW 148 Bernard, King’s Reformation, p. 594. 149 Rex, review, p. 128. 150 Cooper, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation; Lucy Wooding, Henry VIII (2008).

277

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 278

9

The place of the Reformation in modern biography, fiction and the media

Introduction

Where does the general public acquire its knowledge of the English Reformation? From the writings of such as A.G. Dickens, Christopher Haigh, Patrick Collinson, Felicity Heal, Peter Marshall, Susan Brigden or Rosemary O’Day? I think not. The names of such novelists as Jean Plaidy, Margaret Campbell Barnes, Margaret Irwin, Philippa Gregory, Hilary Mantel, such actors and actresses as Richard Burton, Keith Michell, Paul Scofield, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Dormer, and such few professional historians as have had a media presence or written popular biographies (David Starkey, Antonia Fraser, Helen Castor, Eric Ives and perhaps Diarmaid MacCulloch) are the ones they will recognize now. Their ‘interpretations’ of the English Reformation are the formative ones for the general reader and they demand serious consideration. As will be made clear, the Reformation debate is not at the centre of most popular fiction, drama and film. Rather, it lurks in the shadows. Even in popular biographies the debate is on the periphery while centre stage is occupied by the personality of the subject. Nevertheless, it could be argued that these cultural forms represent an especially potent way of conveying information and views about the Reformation to a public unaware of how such facts and interpretations are derived. Until the early nineteenth century history was regarded by many as a branch of literature. Preoccupations with authenticity and ‘the truth’ (which had in their way exercised Foxe and Strype 278

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 279

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

and had a relevance for Milner and Lingard in the religio-political context) had been pushed into the background for those who saw history as a form of entertainment and, at its most serious, moral instruction.1 The historical fiction of Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was enormously popular throughout the English-speaking world and confirmed Britain in its vogue for the Middle Ages. Kenilworth, published in 1821, paid little regard to historical niceties such as accurate dates. Tudor England also proved a popular subject for novelists.2 Several historians have drawn attention to the expansion in the market for historical fiction from the 1880s onwards and the predilection for particular periods and versions of the nation’s past at set points in time.3 The Fifth Queen Trilogy by Ford Madox Ford (1873–1939) was a notable literary addition in the early twentieth century; which, despite its archaic and unbelievable dialogue, remains readable today.4 Billie Melman has noted how contemporaries of all classes throughout the nineteenth century made these histories their own, as ‘active consumers’ transforming them through a process of ‘secondary production’.5 She focuses particularly upon Ainsworth and Cruickshank’s portrayal of England’s bloody past as epitomized in the story of the Tower of London. The image of the Tower as primarily a state prison in which monarchs had imprisoned and tortured individual citizens found its way into contemporary histories. According to her, the authors replaced the typical male victim with the figure of Lady Jane Grey in an effort to lure Protestant female readers.6 Lady Jane becomes a symbol of national and religious freedom.7 Even Henry Hallam’s Constitutional History of England, written in the 1820s, said that ‘The rack seldom stood idle in the Tower for all the latter part of Elizabeth’s reign’.8 The presentation of the Tower to the public was as a prison and increasingly without reference to what could be documented. For example, in the later nineteenth century visitors were shown miniature models of racks showing the torture of women, whereas as far as is known only one woman – Anne Askew – was ever tortured in the Tower. Melman has also drawn attention to the way in which the state and the elite sought to keep control of this history. For example, until the 1930s adults and children from 279

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 280

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

London’s working classes were effectively barred access to the new national museum – the Tower of London – by high admission fees and inconvenient opening hours.9 In addition, viewing for those who could afford entry was restricted and heavily monitored, at least partly because crowds were feared. In the late 1840s Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay (1800–59), Whig politician and office holder, wrote the highly successful History of England from the accession of James II (2 vols, 1848), which enshrined the so-called Whig interpretation of history, valuing the past not of and for itself but as a step progressing towards the present. Nevertheless, modern historians have paid tribute to the prodigious amount of research that Macaulay did.10 Historians have contrasted this use of the past with the ‘invention’ of scientific history by Leopold von Ranke, its dissemination in Britain and its further development.11 As Chapters 3 and 4 of this book have demonstrated, this contrast is perhaps too simplistic. Moreover, there were contradictory, complex developments during the nineteenth century itself which drew upon the search for the authentic (rooted in methodical documentary research) at the same time as seeking to both entertain and instruct and capitalize upon the new reading public. Some of the authors identified in earlier chapters also had a large exposure to the public because they were widely read in schools. Lingard’s history, for example, was a standard text in many schools and colleges until the Second World War. This draws attention to the difficulties the historian faces when defining popular works of history and distinguishing them from academic history. Most notable perhaps in the move to entertain the public were not the novels but the popular historical biographies that flooded the market, especially around the anticipated and actual accession of Victoria in 1837. Anna Jameson’s Memoirs of Celebrated Female Sovereigns of 1831 and Hannah Lawrence’s Historical Memoirs of the Queens of England of 1838 exemplify this trend. Elizabeth and Agnes Strickland wrote for a living as early as the 1820s and 1830s: Elizabeth serialized lives of female sovereigns in the Court Journal, and Agnes and she turned these into a tenvolume collection, Lives of the Queens of England, in 1845. This was followed by The Life of Mary Stuart and The Lives of the 280

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 281

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

Queens of Scotland (1855) and The Lives of the Tudor Princesses (1868). The Stricklands’ interest in making money from historical writing and their need to attract an audience by writing in an accessible style did not mean that they were uninterested in historical accuracy. Far from it. Agnes, in particular, undertook original archival research for her books and also produced an edition of the letters of Mary Queen of Scots.12 She was ‘undiscriminating and credulous’, however, and did have an unfortunate propensity to accept and perpetuate myths.13 There is, moreover, little indication that she saw herself as part of the burgeoning historical profession. As Anne Laurence points out, ‘Agnes paid little attention to the work of other historians and did not seek their approval; she was more concerned to be considered alongside women of literary repute and sought the good opinion of such writers as Anna Jameson and Lydia Howard Sigourney.’14 Other writers with an interest in Britain’s past focused not on biography but on general narrative. J.R. Green’s and G.M. Trevelyan’s histories commanded huge readerships. Trevelyan’s masterly History of England,15 remarkable for its Whig view of history, showed with literary flair and finesse how the parliamentary system moved towards its inevitable triumph, assisted by the Reformation Parliament and the Reformation by statute. There have been many other twentieth-century editions and shortened versions. Trevelyan’s name, however, is more commonly associated with the constitutional developments of the Stuart period (e.g. England under the Stuarts and The English Revolution, 1688–1698 (both 1938)). Trevelyan (1876–1962) was a fellow and later Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and a professional historian who held the eminent position of Regius Professor of Modern History. E.H. Carr dubbed him the last great Whig historian.16 In the mid twentieth century this tradition of Whig narrative history reached its popular apogee in Winston Churchill’s fourvolume History of the English Speaking Peoples (1956–58). Churchill relied upon his many publications to provide him and his family with an income, and sales of this title were doubtless assisted by its author’s reputation as a great war-time leader. In fact the book was already written by 1939, and written in the context of Churchill’s political opposition to the rise of Hitler in 281

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 282

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Germany. It has never been out of print since first publication and there are many abridgements and versions – including an Illustrated History for children. Churchill (1874–1965) is frequently described as a historian on the strength of this book. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953 was awarded to Winston Churchill ‘for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values’.17 The tradition of readable narrative history remains alive and well in the twenty-first century too, although it is interesting that modern readers still frequently turn to Trevelyan and Churchill for their narrative. Modern professional historians consider their Whiggish view of England’s past as old-fashioned and defective but we should not underestimate its continuing influence upon the reading public. Then, of course, there was the fixation of historical novelists on the Tudor period that saw a flowering in the years during and after the Second World War (Margaret Campbell Barnes, Jean Plaidy and Margaret Irwin) and a second spring in the first decade of the twenty-first century (Philippa Gregory, Alison Plowden, C.J. Sansom, Hilary Mantel). Campbell Barnes, especially, used her novels about Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves to exhibit the patriotism which we most usually associate with Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. An earlier tradition of plays about England in the sixteenth century – which we can trace back at least to Rowley and to Shakespeare and Fletcher – was recalled in the twentieth century by Maxwell Anderson’s Anne of the Thousand Days and Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons and Mary Queen of Scots. Reaching a yet wider audience were televised plays about Henry VIII’s wives and Queen Elizabeth I, and films ranging from The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Mary of Scotland (1936), The Sword and the Rose (Disney, 1953), Young Bess (1953), A Man for All Seasons (1966), and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). It seemed that the public appetite for such historical pageants could not be assuaged, as movies for cinemas and television about the Tudors’ lives were produced in the new millennium – movies like Elizabeth and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) that concentrated upon the accuracy of the sets but cared little, appar282

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 283

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

ently, for historical authenticity. The several series of The Tudors (closing television series shown in the United Kingdom in early 2011) bore witness to the North American fascination for the period’s colour and drama. Finally there are the exhibitions which have reconstructed through artefacts the era of the English Reformation. Recently there have been major exhibitions focusing on Elizabeth I and Henry VIII – curated by professional historians and museum specialists but aimed predominantly at drawing in, through colourful posters and lavish publications, the so-called ‘chattering classes’ and their credit cards.18 One would not ask for or expect, and one certainly will not find, overt debates about the English Reformation in such popular biographies, narratives or fictions. Occasionally they will surface in exhibitions and popular documentaries. At some level, though, they all use a portrayal of past events and characters as a vehicle for entertainment. Even the most thought-provoking – for example, Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, which is a serious study of Thomas More’s tussle with his conscience and his King – made its impact through one particular interpretation of ‘what happened’ in the past and one man’s motivation rather than a discussion of what did happen and why. Indeed, almost all popular histories concentrate on characters and the ways in which they shaped events. The version of history that they represent is essentially voluntaristic. This trend is nourished by popular biographies, many of which are scholarly. The idea that single individuals can create history has such a strong hold upon the popular imagination, as a result, that it is doubtful whether any other view of the causes of the English Reformation could possibly triumph. Most people are at heart convinced that Henry VIII broke with Rome in order to marry Anne Boleyn and have an heir and thus created the English Reformation. They are happy to see Anne Boleyn and Cromwell as complicit in this creation and Cardinal Wolsey as doomed by his failure to secure Henry what he wanted. The academic historian’s doubts about the precise role of any one individual or any one motive have little interest for the general reader. In this chapter it is impossible to study all contributions to these traditions in detail. Rather, the treatments of certain individ283

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 284

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

uals and their contributions to the Reformation have been singled out. In so doing, a few works have been selected because they allow us a window on the popular works of fact and fiction that have shaped knowledge and opinion about the English Reformation and because it might be possible to discern whether their creators had been influenced by current or past scholarship. The relationship between the historical novelist, dramatist or film maker and the past

The historical novelist, dramatist or film maker has a complex relationship with the past. In his biography of Anne Boleyn, the professional historian George Bernard begins by noting how he was influenced, in common with his readers, by the powerful images of Anne presented by novels, films and plays. He writes: [playwrights, historical novelists and film directors] are perfectly free to use their imaginations to fill in the enormous gaps in our knowledge, and if they do so to dramatic effect, that undoubtedly makes for good reading and viewing. But precisely because such representations can be powerful and make a deep impact, they risk embedding images that are at best fanciful and at worst downright false.19

It is worth reflecting further upon this relationship, if only because readers (viewers or listeners) of the genre are not always aware of the distinction between historical fiction and history. Moreover, those academics of a postmodernist persuasion may not believe that there is a distinction. The IHR in London recently hosted an online conference on ‘Novel approaches: from academic history to historical fiction’ and has had a special edition of Reviews in History on this topic. Mark Horowitz’s review of Geoffrey Elton’s Reform and Renewal, Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall usefully contrasts the portrayal of Cromwell by both authors.20 He does not, however, come to grips with the question of the difference between historical fiction and history writing. Although he contrasts Elton’s account, written on the basis of evidence gleaned from the manuscripts, and Mantel’s ‘dialogue between Cromwell and major characters and the development of their personas’, which is ‘fairly true to what is known about Cromwell and his life, 284

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 285

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

such as information gleaned from Cavendish’s book on Thomas Wolsey’, at the end of the review the reader is left with the impression that the two books are equally valid as history writing. Past events and characters inspire the works of writers of historical fiction in whatever form and, in so far as they seek to maintain that their central characters and events are ‘real’, all the authors, playwrights and directors find it important to defend the authenticity of the main events and actions. Catherine Delors, herself a historical novelist, has described the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl as ‘melodramatic abuse of history’ in its portrayal of Anne Boleyn as adulterous and incestuous. Frequently writers of historical fiction lay claim to being ‘historians’. For instance, Philippa Gregory, despite her training in English Literature, has been happy to be called a historian as a result of her many novels about the Yorkist and Tudor periods. In her book The Women of the Cousins’ War (a collection which she explains was ‘written by myself and two other historians’) she describes the process of writing about Jacquetta Duchess of Bedford, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort: In one week I wrote some of this non-fiction biography, some pages of the novel, and a synopsis for a drama screenplay that is based on the novels. All of these are grounded on the few known facts of Jacquetta’s life, and all of them (including the history) are works of speculation, imagination and creativity.21

In a television interview in early September 2011 she maintained that the distinction between historical novels and history was minimal: historians put forward what they think, on the basis of research, is a true interpretation of events, and so likewise do historical novelists. There was no mention of the fact that historians are trained to make clear what is established fact and what is speculation, whereas the novelist necessarily does not do so. Who would want to read a novel which was punctuated with cautious statements, acknowledged gaps in our knowledge or alternative interpretations? These are distinct genres and a disservice is done to both by Gregory’s assertions. Certainly history writing is a selective, creative and speculative process and the historian should offer his or her readers a vicarious experience. But the historian’s imagination is bounded by the record. Much more palatable to a 285

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 286

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

historian is Mantel’s vision of the historical novelist as someone who has tried, through careful research, to inhabit the skin of the historical character and walk emotionally alongside them. Hilary Mantel has spoken about her concern for meticulous research. This obsession, shared by many others, appears to be with the ‘background facts’. In Mantel’s case she kept a card catalogue for the whereabouts at any given time of the various characters in Wolf Hall so that she would not make blunders such as having Thomas Cromwell attend the King on a day when he was not at court. An advertisement for a workshop ‘How to get the History right in your Historical Fiction’ on the IHR website gives the impression that the only problem with the history in historical fiction is that it is perhaps inaccurate: Getting to know other times and other places well enough to describe them convincingly is one of the great pleasures of writing historical fiction but also one of its greatest challenges. Anyone can achieve a basic feeling for an age by reading published histories but to go beyond this, to enter the mental and physical world of the inhabitants of another age to see through their eyes, to touch the objects that they knew and to speak with their voices requires detailed knowledge and the understanding that can come only from autonomous research. Above all, it helps to know and understand contemporary source materials, but to find and use these requires specialised skills.22

If only it were that simple. It has led historians such as Matt Philpott to make statements such as the following: The complications of postmodernism and structuralism have blurred somewhat the distinction between academic and fictional histories and have posed the question (explored in both forms of writing) of whether one is very different from the other.23

Richard Slotkin penetrated more closely to the heart of the matter when he wrote: Thus all history writing requires a fictive or imaginary representation of the past. There is no reason why, in principle, a novel may not have a research basis as good or better than that of a scholarly history; and no reason why, in principle, a novelist’s portrayal of a past may not be truer and more accurate than that produced by a scholarly historian.24 286

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 287

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

His words allow for the existence of a different kind of truth in each discipline. The dedication to accuracy is admirable but of itself it has misled readers and viewers into thinking that The Other Boleyn Girl, A Man for All Seasons, The Tudors and Wolf Hall are works of history. One Amazon reviewer of a work by Jean Plaidy wrote, ‘whilst studying Tudor history at A level, I decided to venture into the world of historical fiction evolving around the Tudor theme . . . Plaidy was clearly a talented writer, having the ability to turn fact into fiction whilst keeping its validity.’25 A site set up for download of the film version of Anne of the Thousand Days is replete with similar sentiments.26 Apparently at least one college history professor in the USA has supplied his students with a site entitled Movies to Study Early Modern History By. This includes brief descriptions of relevant DVDs.27 Historians such as Diarmaid MacCulloch have not helped clarify the issue as they compliment novelists for their amazing attention to detail.28 The writings of Christopher Sansom are, to some extent, an exception. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper in late 2010, C.J. Sansom (1952–) revealed some of his thinking about historical fiction. First of all he ‘deplored’ the television series The Tudors.29 Sansom was drawn to write about the period not by a desire to retell the story of Henry VIII and any one of his wives but by a fascination with the mindset of early Tudor England. ‘I’m drawn to it,’ he explains, ‘because it’s the moment at which the medieval certainties that had endured for centuries were turned upside down. It was a time of extraordinary ferment: in the space of a few years, the state took on a completely different meaning . . . That’s what’s so interesting about writing about the period: to comprehend it, you have to work your way into a totally different worldview.’30

So what about the relationship between fact and fiction? One of the problems about history, claims Sansom, is that information is thin on the ground and frequently contradictory. He does everything possible to build his story around established facts. He always includes a historical note in which he explains what he has changed for plot reasons and also any facts which he himself has uncovered. He explains how in Sovereign, the third Shardlake 287

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 288

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

book, which deals with Henry VIII’s 1541 progress to the north, about which there has been considerable historical debate, he moved backwards and forwards across the line between historian and writer of fiction ‘I ended up publishing an academic article on it. What I uncovered was that it took place because the Crown had uncovered a Yorkshire plot to overthrow Henry at the beginning of the year. They were terrified that there was going to be another northern rebellion, as there’d been five years before. So the point was to overrule the north, tie it firmly in to Tudor England. And it succeeded.’31 Another distinction, and perhaps a more important one, between C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake novels and those of other historical novelists is that his main characters are conjured up out of his imagination – Matthew Shardlake, Brother Guy, Mark and Barak. As we shall see later on, the figure of Thomas Cromwell does play a part but only in the carefully researched backcloth against which the imagined players act. Dissolution [set in the bitter winter of 1537] . . . is a book about the destruction of the monasteries . . . The barriers that the community has built around itself are crumbling: while for much of the book the monastery is cut off from the world, it is the weather, not the walls, that locks the suspects in. By the final pages, the snow has melted – and the walls, too, have come down. The marshy ground uncovered by the retreating ice furnishes an effective metaphor for the treacherous political terrain, where footholds are few, and old paths cannot be relied on.32

Early in this novel Sansom skilfully contrasts the hopes of Christian humanists for gradual reform with the reality of the official Reformation and the Pilgrimage of Grace: This was not the world we young reformers had sought to create when we sat together talking at those endless dinners at each other’s houses. We had once believed with Erasmus that faith and charity would be enough to settle religious differences between men; but by that early winter of 1537 it had come to rebellion, an ever-increasing number of executions and greedy scrabblings for the lands of the monks.33

Sansom’s work does contain minor anachronisms and the biggest one of all is central both to the plots and to characteriza288

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 289

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

tion: Shardlake’s sceptical approach to religion. Sansom is aware of this. He needed Shardlake to be sceptical about religious change and the way in which it was enforced. As he explained in the interview, Shardlake was the early Tudor insider with whom the reader could identify. ‘His is a 21st-century mind in a 16th-century body, a dichotomy deftly symbolised by his hunch.’ Sansom’s ultimate concern was to write a good detective novel, and not to write good history. Because Rabelaisian views were being aired in certain circles, Sansom felt justified in creating a character who dared to think such thoughts but not to voice them. From the first novel, Dissolution, when the reader encounters Shardlake seeking to reconcile his Protestant sympathies with the horror he feels at the terrible actions undertaken in the name of Reformation, to the latest, Heartstone, when the hero finds himself unable to either understand or approve of the war with France, Shardlake is a thoughtful, nuanced presence in a sea of religious zealotry, ignorance and superstition; of his time, but not blinkered by it. Inevitably, there are accusations that the presence of such a man in Tudor society is anachronistic, but Sansom waves them away. ‘It’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to write a character well in the past who is not a projection back of modern sensibilities,’ he says. ‘My defence would be that the 16th century was the time when rational, sceptical enquiry was beginning. . . . I’m not saying a man like Shardlake did exist then, but he could have, where even 20 years earlier he couldn’t. That’s enough for me.’34

However, all the novelists, screenwriters and dramatists take advantage of dramatic licence to a greater or lesser extent. These writers do not as a rule, however, simply tell the story of imaginary characters against a ‘real’ background. Instead ‘real’ individuals and events people their stories and few characters are created: Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, divorce, break from Rome. As a consequence such writers convey interpretations of events, characters, motivation to their readers. Sometimes they use historical interpretations current in academia as part of this.35 Moreover, although a historical period, event or character might be the occasion for the novel, play or screenplay the overriding meaning or message of the piece may be something very different.36 Finally, although these works are creative they are also overwhelmingly commercial. Their writers focus on popular interests – on what 289

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 290

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

will ‘sell’.37 While few modern historians would see the researching and writing of professional history as simply a matter of uncovering ‘the truth’, few would see it simply as an exercise of the imagination. One thinks of the student who interprets the words of his or her teacher that ‘there is no one answer’ to a historical question as meaning that ‘all answers’ are acceptable. History on film

Historical film is a recognized genre about which much has been written. Within this genre there may be discerned three main divisions – films about historical events; biopics about actual monarchs and major figures; fictitious narratives set against a historical background. These sub-genres have clear parallels in literary historical fiction. The nature of film making (its financial ‘backers’, its team-style creation, its production values, the ‘star’ system) and its audience, however, introduce important differences. This is a genre with ‘imprecise boundaries’, as films belonging to it may also be defined as ‘epics’, ‘costume drama’, ‘musicals’, ‘adventure’, ‘mystery’ and so on. Film itself is a medium in which many people – producers, directors, screen writers, designers, editors and actors – play a defining role. A cluster of historical films set in the Tudor period demand our attention because they demonstrate something of how film about the Tudors has been used to serve particular current agendas. Such films in the 1930s tended to be made by émigrés from Europe fleeing oppression. Fire over England (1937) was overtly propagandist against the rise of the Nazi dictatorship and, in the opinion of its historian, was ahead of its time in its warnings, a fact demonstrated by its mediocre success at the box office.38 The film was Korda’s most insistent yet in its overt parallels with the present: Spain/Germany, Philip II/Hitler, the Inquisition/the Gestapo. The message was not lost on contemporaries.

The Sea Hawk (1940) was an overt call to the United States of America to enter the war in Europe against Hitler. The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) has been seen as trying to ‘sell the Englishness of the English to a world public’, ‘expressing an uncomplicated sense of national identity’ and of Merrie 290

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 291

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

England through its portrayal of Henry VIII as a boisterous, vulgar hero. Henry is an English hero not because he is a king, but in spite of it. His life story belongs to the people of later generations, not because it is in the history books, but because it is crude and generous Merrie England and vulgar enough to establish an England about which history books could be made.

The film has been calculated to have been the second most popular film of 1933 and the most popular British film of that year. It broke records at the American box office. Remember that this was an era when it was far from uncommon for people to visit the cinema several times a week. In 1934 a screenplay of the film was published. The film has seen many re-releases. Charles Laughton’s Holbeinesque Henry has made an indelible impression upon cinema (and television) audiences. By the 1950s Young Bess (1953) (based on Margaret Irwin’s novel of the same name) was made to coincide with the coronation of the second Elizabeth and what was perceived to be demand for British historical films in both the British and the American markets.39 Americans, whatever their origins, adopted British history before the War of Independence as their own history. Young Bess took as its subject the suspected relationship between Thomas Seymour and Princess Elizabeth and turned supposition into ‘fact’. By stressing her status as victim, it showed Elizabeth as a symbol of religious and national freedom. Its success was aided by the off-screen romance between Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons, underlining the importance of the ‘star’ system in strengthening the influence of history on film. Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), Mary Queen of Scots (1971) and Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972) were made in a very different era. Filmically, they owed much to the successful cinematic version of A Man for All Seasons (1966), which had won five Academy Awards. Cinema audiences were at an all-time low. There was no European war. American investment in British film making fell dramatically. The British government drastically cut its own investment in the industry. Of Henry VIII and His Six Wives James Chapman writes:

291

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 292

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

In content and tone the film is very different indeed from The Private Life of Henry VIII, demonstrating yet again how the same historical material is moulded to fit different production, cultural and ideological contexts.40

He identifies the success of the BBC television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) as a major motivator in the making of this film. This series had not only been televised on BBC2 and BBC1 within a year but had also been sold widely abroad, including a prime-time showing on CBS network in the United States. So the film was a version of the television series, with continuity of personnel, although it suffered in comparison. At the time, the producers emphasized the historical accuracy of the film and its exploration of Henry VIII’s character. As usual, the film’s production discourse emphasised attention to authenticity, with the music, for example, being composed by David Munro, a specialist in medieval chamber music, and performed by the Early Music Consort of London. Baird claimed that it was the most psychologically accurate portrait of Henry VIII to date: We try and show just what made Henry ‘tick’ and just why he did the things he did. We will also get inside Henry and show the complex inner conflicts of his mind, his desperate yearning for a son, his loves, and what led to his later and finally fatal illness. We hope the result will be the most complete and detailed portrait of a King ever seen on the cinema screen.41

But it seems that cinema audiences had ‘had a surfeit of Tudors’ after two television series, several films and a comedy Carry-on version.42 This view was supported by a Cardiff cinema manager, who said that he was disappointed by the box-office returns of Henry VIII and His Six Wives. He attributed this poor performance to the fact that the public were bored with the Tudors, who had been overdone by both television and cinema. Henry VIII and His Six Wives does not appear to have done well at the box office. It did not secure the worldwide audience that its producers had envisaged. Henry here appears as a lute-playing, cultured Renaissance prince. Keith Michell’s Henry is an enigmatic character, unlike Charles Laughton’s uncomplicated but essentially benevolent monarch. The film is worthy of the Reformation historiographer’s attention because it treats the whole of Henry’s reign and because 292

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 293

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

it accords a good deal of attention to its political and religious events and adopts an informed position (according to scholarship current in the early 1970s) concerning Henry’s motivations: [Henry] is characterised at the outset as a devout Catholic prince who joins the alliance of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire against France – a war, as he sees it, ‘to defend Christendom’. The script indicates that scenes of Henry taking Mass are ‘very, very Catholic’ and involve ‘all the pomp and ceremony of the Roman Church’. If the popular view of Henry’s breach with Rome is simply that he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn, the film adopts a rather more nuanced position in accordance with developments in historical scholarship. In this interpretation, Henry becomes convinced that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon is illegal because she was the widow of his elder brother and that her failure to provide him with a male heir is God’s judgement on their union. The film suggests that Henry was seeking papal authority for a divorce before he had set his sights on Anne Boleyn. When papal dispensation is not forthcoming, it is Thomas Cromwell, his Machiavellian chief minister, who plants the seed that Henry should ‘divorce the Pope’. The break with Rome is seen as an assertion of national independence rather than a doctrinal shift. Henry declares: ‘Obedience to the Pope – the Bishop of Rome – is unmanly, unholy and is unEnglish!’ The film remains faithful to the historical record in characterising Henry as an Anglo-Catholic and suggesting that he died ‘in the religion of Christ’.43

This film, unlike The Private Life of Henry VIII, represents England as a kingdom divided in many ways – by theology, allegiance, social status and wealth. Chapman argues that the emphasis on theological debates in the film (concerning, for example, literal readings of the Bible) was an indirect engagement with the concerns of current popular movements such as the Hare Krishna cult, the Children of God and the Church of Scientology. The film made direct use of historical sources – using, for example, extracts from the King’s correspondence with Anne Boleyn as a linking device in the narrative. As a whole it certainly assumes an intellectually mature audience, although critical responses suggest that such assumptions were perhaps misguided. James Chapman has drawn attention to the fact that many of the films in the 1970s dealt with issues of dissent and division. The argument that the film makers were inviting audiences to draw 293

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 294

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

contemporary parallels with divided English society is open to debate and may or may not be proved by listing causes of social and economic division at the time. It is true, however, that British audiences at the time were intrigued by social and intellectual issues. Henry VIII and His Six Wives, therefore, presents an England of factional strife and dissent rather than one based on consensus. To this extent it was very much a film of its time.44

Moreover, there has been a long tradition of setting topical issues in a historical framework – as if distancing the audience from the action enables them to see the issues more clearly and untrammelled by self-interest. Anne Boleyn

How are particular ‘players’ on the stage of the English Reformation presented? As we saw in Chapters 1 to 4 above, the role of Anne Boleyn in the English Reformation had long been a source of debate. In their play Henry VIII, Shakespeare and Fletcher, writing when they did in 1613, understandably shied away from focusing on Anne and concentrated instead upon the Queen she replaced, Catherine of Aragon. It was not long, however, before Anne and her association with the triumph of Protestantism were highlighted by historians. This laudatory version of events came in for attack by Catholic writers. By the nineteenth century, Lingard, as noted, had been responsible for character assassination of Anne.45 He had firmly established in the public consciousness the idea that she, using feminine wiles, had deliberately entrapped Henry and engineered the divorce from Catherine – and the break with Rome that was its consequence – and her own marriage to Henry and subsequent coronation. This sullying of the origins of the English Reformation was generally countered by distracting attention away from Anne herself. By the time that Pollard wrote, it was possible to see Henry VIII himself as painfully aware of the potential succession crisis and as the initiator of the break with Rome, and Anne Boleyn’s person as relatively insignificant. After the Second World War, when academic historians were 294

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 295

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

wrestling with the nature of Tudor rule and discerning a revolution in government, novelists and dramatists turned their attention to the figures of Anne Boleyn and other wives of Henry VIII. None of the authors of fiction discussed in this section was a trained academic historian. Margaret Campbell Barnes, who had in 1946 dedicated her novel My Lady of Cleves to ‘the courage and endurance of all women who lost the men they loved in the fight for freedom’, in 1949 published Brief Gaudy Hour, probably her best-known and most successful historical novel.46 Her books are still in print and have sold well over two million copies worldwide. Campbell Barnes apparently left no detailed notes concerning her research for her books but she seems to have been a careful researcher and it would seem that she used, among other sources, the printed Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, Chapuys’ reports,47 Cavendish’s life of Wolsey (a humorous reference to which occurs on page 235)48 and published histories and biographies. Brief Gaudy Hour ‘succeeded in blending historical events and utterances with suspense in narrative and spontaneity in character’.49 Interestingly, the twenty-first-century American edition contains a reading guide by the author’s great grand-daughter for use by book groups studying the novel. One of the questions in this guide states: [She] is careful not to pass judgement on any of her characters. But it is scarcely easy for us as readers to remain impartial in the light of such events, especially bearing in mind their verity. Based on the evidence Ms Barnes presents, what verdicts did you as a reader reach in regards to characters such as Anne Boleyn, King Henry, Harry Percy, and Cardinal Wolsey etc.? What led you to reach these verdicts?50

This question makes clear that the author is today seen as entering into a vigorous historical debate and presenting properly researched evidence in support of a given interpretation of events, character and motivation. To some extent Campbell Barnes reinforced the stereotypical view of Anne as a manipulative character who deliberately bewitched Henry VIII and used her control over him for her personal ends. But the novel is essentially sympathetic to Anne and 295

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 296

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

sees her motives as extremely mixed. She seeks to control Henry through her need for revenge – because he (with Wolsey’s help) has separated her from her true love, Harry Percy, and sent the latter far from her. But she falls into her own trap and ends up loving Henry. Then she seeks to use her power and influence to bring Wolsey down, and in the interests of a Protestant Reformation in which she genuinely believes. Intent on bringing about Wolsey’s fall, of Hampton Court she not so innocently opines: ‘Of a truth this is pleasanter than any of your own palaces,’ murmured Anne, nestling close against him [Henry VIII]. ‘And finer,’ admitted Henry . . . ‘Two hundred and eighty bedrooms!’ persisted Anne. ‘And you do not mind?’

And later: ‘And . . . it is so beautiful I should like to live here always.’ ‘With me?’ ‘Is it not fit for a King?’ she teased.

Continuing, Anne makes a persuasive and explicit case to Henry for refusing to live together out of wedlock: ‘Do you not see, Henry, that if you really mean to marry me . . . his Holiness will want to know something about me . . . “Has this lady led a virtuous life?” The last thing they must suppose is that we are already living together in sin. It would destroy your arguments, about your conscience troubling you with regard to your first marriage and your only wanting a legitimate heir for the realm’s sake.’51 We imagine Campbell Barnes writing in 1947, with all the patriotism raised by the Second World War very much to the fore, and with the novelist’s licence, writing perhaps what is the most powerful statement in the book of Anne’s agency and motivation: ‘Then Wolsey is—’ Almost faint with relief, Anne bit back the word ‘finished’ and substituted ‘of no further use to you?’ ‘In this matter, no . . .’ declared Henry. ‘Henceforth I will fight for my divorce alone.’ Anne looked up at him with shining eyes. ‘Oh, Henry, it will be better so, though we two defy the whole of Christendom. You are 296

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 297

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

strong enough. And what do the people of this country want with foreign interference and the ecclesiastic rulings of Rome? Most of them have no taste for foreigners.’ ‘. . . My people’s sense of insularity is at times most inconveniently strong; but it comes second to their unfailing sense of fair play.’

Then, in a continuation of the same episode, Campbell Barnes, again imaginatively seizing upon one interpretation of the motivation for the dissolution, makes Anne sow in Henry’s mind at one particular moment the seeds of the idea of dissolution of the monasteries and use of the proceeds in the interests of reform: ‘The church would be wholly English, and yourself the head of it,’ she said. ‘You could clean up the blatant immorality of some of the convents and clip the power of some of the over-weening bishops. And with some of their wealth, endow colleges for the sons of gifted craftsmen. You could make an abundance of reforms.’ ‘Without taking away any of the beauty of our Holy Offices,’ Henry was quick to stipulate.52

This devotion to the cause of reform does not come unannounced. It builds upon a passage in an earlier chapter regarding George Boleyn’s possession of Tyndale’s Bible. ‘I would give anything to borrow it,’ declares Anne. ‘It is meet that people should read and think for themselves, George, and not have just what is doled out to them by priests like Wolsey, who have lived no better than the rest of us. To read the very words of our Lord for ourselves – the whole story of His Life – must be thrilling.’53 ‘I believe that, with persuasion, Henry would even agree to a Bible being put in every church.’54 Campbell Barnes’s treatment of the issue of the date of Henry and Anne’s first sexual union was, in accord with the sensibilities of the times, fairly discreet yet unmistakeable. Contemplating an encounter with the King and Queen of France, Henry created Anne Marchioness of Pembroke in her own right: A title which had belonged to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, and therefore seemed to include her in the royal family. At the elaborate ceremony her cousin, Mary Howard, held the coronet, and Henry himself placed it upon her head. 297

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 298

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Of their impending visit to France Henry states: ‘“But Pope or no Pope, I will wait no longer. This is to be our honeymoon.” . . . And Anne knew that she could not hold him off much longer.’ ‘Anne gave herself freely that night in Calais, not because her lover was a king but because he was Henry Tudor, a virile redhead who alone could satisfy all her frustrated clamouring of sex.’55 Campbell Barnes’s treatment echoed the view of early Protestant histories, that Anne resisted the King until 1532, thus rejecting Lingard’s assertion (which Pollard later accepted) that she slept with Henry before the Reformation Parliament met in 1529. Interestingly, however, Barnes rarely if ever dates the events she describes in her book and, as a result, it is difficult to match her accounts with those in academic histories. Shortly before publication of Brief Gaudy Hour, the American journalist, lyricist and dramatist James Maxwell Anderson (1888–1959) authored a blank-verse play that was first produced on 8 December 1948 in the Schubert Theatre on Broadway as Anne of the Thousand Days. There were 288 performances. Rex Harrison played Henry VIII and Joyce Redman Anne Boleyn. Although feted at the time, the play has been eclipsed in the popular imagination by the film of the same title, which was released in Britain at the end of 1969 but which bore little similarity to Anderson’s creation. The play is highly dramatic – there was barely any scenery, and effects were created by innovative use of lighting. It focuses on Anne as the victim of an emotional trap laid by Henry as much as a manipulator; and the price that Henry himself pays for ridding himself of her. The following verse taken from the prologue to Act 3 (a verse which was almost the only survival in the 1969 movie) encapsulates the dramatic thrust of the play and Anne’s awareness of the painful drama of her life: Anne Boleyn is seen sitting in her cell in the fur-trimmed gown, as at the beginning of the play. She has her tablet and stylus and begins to write. From the day he first made me his, to the last day I made him mine, yes, let me set it down in numbers, I who can count and reckon, and have the time. Of all the days I was his and did not love him— 298

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 299

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

this; and this; and this many. Of all the days I was his— and he had ceased to love me— this many; and this. In days. [She writes] It comes to a thousand days— out of the years. Strangely, just a thousand. And of that thousand— one— when we were both in love. Only one when our loves met, and overlapped and were both mine and his. When I no longer hated him— he began to hate me, except for that day. And the son we had— the one son—born of our hate and lust— died in my womb. When Henry was hurt at the jousting. Then Henry looked in my face and said, “This marriage is cursed like the other. I’ve known it all along. There’s a curse on it.” And he turned and left me..56

But Scene 5 turns the audience’s attentions to Henry. This scene refers back to a powerful speech in Act 2, Scene 4 in which Henry soliloquizes about the burden of guilt that he drags along behind him through his life.57 Anderson in the later scene indicates Henry’s capacity for pushing away from him the painful, unbearable recollection of his part in Anne’s death but highlights the ‘drag’ on his life to come of the memory bag containing this deed. Open the bag you lug behind you, Henry. Put in Nan’s head. Nan’s head, and her eyes, and the lips you kissed. Wherever you go they’ll follow after you now. Her perfume will linger in every room you enter, and the stench of her death will drive it out . . . Get on with your work.58 299

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 300

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

When Anderson’s play was turned into a film more or less the entire structure of the play was jettisoned. Survivals were few – the play and the film both start with the circumstances of Anne’s imprisonment; in both there are soliloquies which allow both Henry and Anne to reflect upon their fates. The film, unlike the play, relied upon lush visual effects – colourful and lavish scenery and period costumes that won Margaret Furnes an Academy Award. It told in a different but no less dramatic way the story of Anne’s spectacular rise and fall. Essentially, Anne is a sympathetic character, innocent of the charges against her and committed to the Protestant faith. It is interesting to see twenty-first century viewers of this film discussing its merits and commenting on it as a work of history. Kathryn Vacca (2010-12-29 0:31:29) wrote: A Pleasant discovery . . . This is a great DVD detailing the courtship and marriage of Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII; Her rise from commoner to queen; the political intrigues and ruse pervading Henry’s court; the politics behind the break away from the church in Rome and the birth of the Church of England; the birth of her daughter Elizabeth and her failure to give him the promised son; her downfall and beheading in the tower of London. This provided a great review of history and pleasant entertainment for my family and I . . . It was not just a great history lesson; this movie is so well written and acted.59 and Javier Stevens (2010-12-29 0:31:29) said: Wonderful movie, somewhat historically inaccurate. While this is one of my favorite movies, there are some aspects to it that, from a historical standpoint, stretch the imagination a bit. First of all, whether or not Anne Boleyn actually loved Henry VIII is a subject open to debate. I’ve read her story from the standpoint of various authors and most seem to agree that she made the best of a situation that she was forced into, having been denied betrothal to her true love, Harry Percy. And even if she did eventually end up loving the king, I would think that the fact that he had her brother murdered (to whom by all accounts I’ve ever read on her, she was very close to), not to mention several of her friends on trumped up charges of adultery with her, would have cooled her feelings toward Henry somewhat. The scene that I find particularly difficult to 300

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 301

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

comprehend is the one where Henry comes to her in the tower after she’s been condemned. In this scene she spitefully throws it in his face that she’s been unfaithful to him with half his court. ‘But Elizabeth was yours’ she then tells him. If she was so concerned about her daughter’s succession, wouldn’t common sense have told her not to jeopardize this in any way? Then there is the appearance, however brief, of the Princess Mary, daughter of Henry and Katherine of Aragon, at her mother’s deathbed. It’s a historical fact that Mary was denied being with her mother at her death, but this can be overlooked as poetic license. However I think whoever was in charge of casting could have found a better choice than the very attractive Nicola Paget to play this part. Mary was an unattractive girl with rather pinched features and certainly no makeup. Anne’s natural mother Elizabeth of the house of Howard was also already deceased at this time in her life; her father had married a woman considered to be of the lower classes. By most accounts Anne was reported to have a congenial relationship with her stepmother. Nevertheless the movie is a delight to watch.60

The appearance of the film on television and DVD has broadened and extended the influence of this work, as it has that of many other films and television series about the reign of Henry VIII. Whether this influence was what the author intended is another issue. We turn now to another novelist who wrote about the period in the years after the Second World War. Eleanor (Buford) Hebert (1906–93), writing as Jean Plaidy, wrote Murder Most Royal in 1949. This novel told the stories in parallel of the rise and fall of two of Henry VIII’s wives, cousins Anne Boleyn and Catharine Howard. It was the first in a highly successful series of books known as The Tudor Saga. The final book in this saga, The Lady in the Tower, was published in 1986 and returned to the subject of Anne Boleyn. Plaidy’s Anne Boleyn is a highly complex character – a woman who was dealt a poor hand in love (her loves for Percy and Wyatt never given a chance and her relationship with Henry condemned by her inability to bear him a male heir and his own fickle and volatile temperament) but one who was sophisticated, proud and haughty and possessed of an overweening ambition, which tore her apart and caused her eventual downfall. Plaidy’s popularity is legendary and apparently undiminished although none of her Tudor Saga novels appears to have been dramatized. 301

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 302

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

She was fabled for her historical accuracy and, therefore, her readers generally accept the veracity of her romantic Tudor novels. Although it is impossible to isolate sales for individual books, she is reputed to have sold over 14 million books worldwide by the time of her death in 1993, and so her influence on popular perceptions of the events and characters surrounding the Reformation is far from minimal. In 2001 several of her novels were reprinted for an Eastern European market: print runs were of the order of 35,000 copies per book. In 2003 two of the Tudor Saga novels were again reprinted more generally – partly in response to demands from the online historical fiction community – and one of these was The Lady in the Tower; Murder Most Royal followed in 2006. Both books are readily available in the United States of America.61 The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory, appeared in print in 2001. Unlike her predecessors Campbell Barnes and Plaidy, Gregory presents Anne Boleyn as devious, hard and unsympathetic. She seems to be guilty of all the charges laid against her and of much, much more. Her incest with her brother George is coyly implied.62 The monstrous nature of the miscarried foetus is made very clear.63 In contrast to Barnes, Gregory dates each of her chapters – lending their contents a spurious veracity – but this permits the sceptical reader to compare her versions with those presented by academic historians. Of course, it is impossible to deduce from her narrative exactly what Gregory read: her view of Anne Boleyn could be derived from Nicholas Sander or from Lingard and his followers. It has, however, little in common with the Anne Boleyn familiar to us through modern biographies such as those of Eric Ives64 and Retha Warnicke.65 Some of the inaccuracies that creep in may indicate that her reading and research were deficient. For instance, historians agree that Anne was probably the younger sister and Mary the elder and also the eldest of the three Boleyns, but Gregory represents George as four years Anne’s senior and Mary as a year younger than Anne. Anne’s wardship of her nephew, Henry Carey, is seen as an adoption in the modern sense, with little or no appreciation of the contemporary system of wardship. Anne’s father and step-mother are portrayed as coldhearted parents seeking to use their children as sexual pawns in a game for political gain, whereas the evidence directly contradicts 302

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 303

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

this. There are also interpretations with which many historians do disagree – Anne’s supposed propensity for physical violence, her sister’s sexual experiences, the parentage of Mary’s two children, Anne’s incest with George, Anne’s guilt. The Anne and Mary Boleyn story presented in the 2008 film version of The Other Boleyn Girl bears even less resemblance to established facts and occasionally descends into flights of fancy. Anne is said to have been made pregnant with Elizabeth following rape by Henry. At the end of the film Mary Boleyn adopts the young Elizabeth. Allegations of incest between Anne and her brother George are explicitly rejected. George’s homosexuality is not overtly covered. Gregory’s Anne may, however, share much with the perspective of a historian much influenced by neo-Catholic revisionism and its aftermath. David Starkey’s treatment of Anne occurs in his best-selling Six Wives. The Queens of Henry VIII.66 The book begins with a stark statement that colours the account that follows: Once historians . . . thought there were profound social and religious reasons for the change [the Reformation]. It is now clear there were none. Instead, it came about only because Henry loved Anne Boleyn and could get her no other way. And he stuck to what he had done.67

In Six Wives, Anne Boleyn appears as a woman driven by ambition and extremely strong willed. She emerges as an important character in the unfolding story of the Reformation. Starkey is unrivalled in his knowledge of the early Tudor court and its politics. In this work he attempts to set the record straight with regard to all six wives but maintains that ‘as far as . . . Anne Boleyn is concerned, there was neither the need nor the opportunity for such fundamental reconsiderations of character’ because there are scholarly biographies, which have settled most points of dispute. But he does lay claim to two important revisions: one concerns the chronology of Anne’s early relationship with Henry between 1525 and 1527 and the veracity of Cavendish’s account, and the other involves dating letter V of Henry’s letters to Anne to January 1527 and thus establishing that Henry declared a firm intention to marry Anne extremely early.68 Starkey claims that this alters the whole chronology of 303

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 304

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

the divorce and casts the behaviour and motives of both Henry VIII and Wolsey in a new light.69 Henceforward, in the Divorce, Anne and Henry were one. They debated it and discussed it; they exchanged ideas and agents; they devised strategies and stratagems. And they did all this together . . . They were, in short, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth – and Anne, like Lady Macbeth, frequently took the initiative. She was the bolder one of the pair, the more radical and, arguably, the more principled. It is now clear that he [Henry] began the Divorce in thoroughly bad faith and that his supposed conscientious scruples were, as Catherine always insisted, a mere fig leaf to hide his lust for Anne.70

Starkey’s book is scrupulously referenced and refutes the myths and legends that had long been perpetuated by biographers like the Stricklands and novelists. If, as it certainly is, his account of Anne is based on sources essentially hostile to Anne, such as the reports of ambassador Chapuys or Cavendish’s ‘Life of Wolsey’, then the reader is made aware of this. One must, however, doubt the force of Starkey’s argument that the accounts of enemies are more likely to be truthful than those of friends.71 ‘Companions’ to the period also seek a popular, general audience. In the Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart England (1996), which is a collection of essays, an eminent historian of Stuart history, Conrad Russell, was uninhibited in his condemnation of Anne Boleyn and yet brushes her aside: Anne Boleyn was the sister of a former mistress, a Lutheran sympathizer surrounded by heretics, and widely disliked as a gold-digger.72

She was accorded by Francis I the courtesy owing to a queen at Calais in October 1532. She is included in a list of three people who protected reformers. This said, Russell accords neither Anne nor any other subject a controlling role in the official Reformation. This was Henry’s doing. Rosemary O’Day’s Companion to the Tudor Age cautiously states: ‘Her marriage to Henry was the occasion for the English Reformation. [There is modern] debate about her sympathy with the Protestant cause.’ Eric Ives has written scholarly and highly influential biographies of Anne Boleyn, but here we focus on the entry he wrote for the 2004 ODNB, because it seems appropriate in the context of 304

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 305

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

this chapter to include mention of this scholarly and very widely used source, which is readily available on the internet as well as in hard copy in university and major public libraries. In his article Ives summarizes and weighs up what is known of Anne’s life and her part in events. For the purposes of this chapter, we shall focus on Ives’s treatment of Anne as a religious reformer. Protestant historians have long claimed her for their own and sometimes made exaggerated claims regarding her conversion to Lutheranism and her patronage of Protestantism in England. Eric Ives in this article presents a suitably balanced case and asks several important questions. Was Anne a reformer? Was Anne a Protestant? Did Anne have and exercise influence in matters religious? Anne was a sincere believer in evangelical religious reform of the type commonly associated with the Christian humanists. She had become acquainted with their views during her time at the French court and had possibly undergone a ‘spiritual crisis’. Her faith was Bible based and she supported vernacular versions of the Bible and protected the importers of illegal English Scriptures. Her faith focused on Bible-reading and, as she is known to have made a special study of the epistles of St Paul, she was familiar with the doctrine of justification by faith. That the inspiration for such thinking was France is plain. The Bible text Anne used was a French translation by Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples. She sent out collectors to bring back French evangelical texts for her, a number of which survive in the royal library. Some copies were specially commissioned. In at least two cases her brother produced for Anne hybrid versions of reformist works, having the Bible text in French (as was legal) but translating the far more subversive commentary into English; one of these was again by Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples.73

She, along with Cromwell and others, accorded patronage to many clergy, described by Ives as reform minded, who might otherwise never have sat on the episcopal bench or had influence over the development of the Church of England – Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Shaxton, Edward Fox, William Barlow. She intervened in the affairs of the religious houses and sought to turn their resources towards improved education and bestowal of charity. And she promoted the availability of the English Bible: 305

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 306

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Anne was nevertheless not backward in promoting the vernacular English Bible. A lectern Bible was available for her household to use, and she herself owned a specially illuminated copy of Tyndale’s illegal translation of the New Testament. Both before and after becoming queen, Anne protected the importers of illegal English scriptures, and George Joye knew enough of this to send her a sample sheet of the book of Genesis translated into English.74

So Anne may be described as an evangelical reformer by conviction and she certainly had influence, albeit this was shared with men like Cromwell, but was she Protestant? No, says Ives unequivocally: She was not a protestant. Such a label would be wholly anachronistic in the confusion of religious ideas in Henrician England. Despite traditionalists’ hatred of her, Anne’s evangelical position was not heretical. In particular she was wholly orthodox on what Henry VIII saw as the test of sound belief, the issue of transubstantiation. The last night of her life was spent praying before the sacrament.75

Were historians correct, then, in attributing to her any role in furthering the success of Protestantism (as opposed to that of the Henrician Settlement)? Ives’s answer is that her support for Biblebased faith and study of the Scriptures in the vernacular was subversive but she, because of her status, made it acceptable among lay members of the elite. Nevertheless traditionalists were correct when they later blamed her for opening the door to heresy in England. Her focus on personal response to the Bible was deeply subversive of much in the thinking and practice of late medieval Christianity. What was more, her position in society helped to make thoughts previously confined largely to academics in their studies respectable in polite society.76

Ives ends his biographical article with an interesting section on Anne’s reputation and in it draws attention to her portrayal in the media. In his 2010 biography of Anne Boleyn the eminent academic historian G.W. Bernard sets out to test the veracity of the very images of Anne put forward in the aforementioned novels, films and plays. Painstakingly he examines all the preconceptions and myths about Anne and tests them against the surviving, often inadequate, evidence. With endearing honesty he declares when he does not know what or why something happened. 306

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 307

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

We do not know how or why all of this happened. This is where the historian sighs enviously, thinking of how an historical novelist might paint the scene. Later gossip, of no evidential weight, had it that Francis I, a serial womaniser, included Anne among his sexual conquests . . . But for such a romantic story there is absolutely no evidence.77

Unfortunately, the evidence is often so thin that he is frequently forced to employ surmise rather than sources to support his narrative.78 Again we can do no more than speculate about whether Anne remained chaste [at the French court] or whether she enjoyed flings with courtiers . . .

Yet Bernard, using source criticism, is able to cast doubt on the details of the story of Harry Percy’s passion for and relationship with the young Anne Boleyn, which has become a staple of historical fiction reliant upon Cavendish’s account and which matters to historians because it might point to the beginnings of Henry VIII’s infatuation with Anne as well as to doubts about her chastity.79 This biography also has an important section querying Anne’s credentials as a Protestant. ‘How far were Anne’s actions not just personal but religious in thrust?’ Was she, as Eric Ives said, ‘the first to demonstrate the potential there was in the royal supremacy for that distinctive element in the Reformation, the ability of the king to take the initiative in religious change’, or as Maria Dowling argued, ‘a fervent and committed evangelical’? ‘In short, did Henry VIII’s break with Rome and subsequent religious changes owe a good deal to the patronage of Anne Boleyn?’80 This view of Anne’s religion and her importance as an influence has been embedded in historical fiction.81 It may have been largely derived from early Protestant works such as John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments,82 from earlier Protestant histories, second-hand from other fiction or from modern authorities such as Maria Dowling. Bernard usefully points to the ‘polemical’ purposes of many sources for her religion, such as Foxe and William Latymer. His chapter shows her as belonging to the circle interested in the Christian humanism of Erasmus and as committed to the break with Rome, but he questions whether the evidence supports any more than this. Anne, he notes, wrote no religious works (unlike 307

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 308

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

her successor Catherine Parr), she bought few books that indicated sympathy with Protestantism and her patronage of Protestant clerics such as Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer had more to do with her commitment to the Henrician schism than with her personal religion. On the night before her death she was present at a celebration of the mass and worshipped the host, as she had done on countless occasions previously. Eric Ives, Anne’s best-known biographer, has subjected Bernard’s work to intense and extended criticism, which unfortunately is unlikely to be read by Bernard’s intended ‘popular’ audience.83 He takes Bernard to task for presenting now outdated scholarship. For example, he accepts (and gives a good deal of space to) Retha Warnicke’s views on Anne’s miscarriage which were successfully contradicted in 1992 by Jennifer Loach.84 Ives, like so many of Bernard’s critics, deplores the negativism of Bernard’s work on Anne, which is so directed against the contrary views of Ives and Starkey. He adduces ‘compelling evidence’ to contradict Bernard’s claims (above) that Anne’s reputation as a reformer was merely manufactured during her daughter Elizabeth’s reign by Foxe and Latymer.85 He subjects to stinging attack Bernard’s treatment of ‘evangelicalism’ as a form of ‘protoProtestantism’. Biographies of Anne Boleyn have a wide popular audience. They appear to have stimulated considerable debate among the reading public. The large number of reading groups and opportunities for reviewing and blogging means that scholars can penetrate to the views of general readers. As Eric Ives and G.W. Bernard both point out, there are many mysteries about Anne Boleyn, although they disagree fundamentally about their solution. Popular reviewers want her biographers to solve these mysteries but they are not easily won over by the cases presented. Did Anne conspire to bring down Catherine of Aragon and marry the King? Was she an enthusiastic Reformer? Did Anne commit adultery? A generally favourable review of Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions posted on 19 April 2010 on the Amazon site under the heading ‘A tour-de-force of scholarship; alters the accepted view of Anne Boleyn forever’ identified some of the different positions regarding the reasons behind Anne’s downfall; drew attention to Bernard’s use of a previously little-used source; and concluded 308

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 309

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

with Bernard himself that Anne’s guilt was ‘Not Proven’. One extremely direct review of the same book castigates Bernard for critiquing Eric Ives and Retha Warnicke for overuse of speculation and then substituting ‘his own version, full of “Let us imagine . . .”’ ‘Bernard finishes his last chapter “Was Anne Guilty?” with the following: “And so it remains my own hunch that Anne had indeed committed adultery . . .” Sorry, Professor, not good enough . . .’.86 Bernard’s own finely drawn distinction between speculation and informed speculation, perhaps understandably, entirely escaped this reviewer – underlining the difficulties facing an academic historian in explaining his/her craft to a general reader. In a period of history when so much is uncertain, small wonder that a reader wonders what really is the distinction between speculation and truth. While this review criticizes Bernard for relying mainly on two sources, one of them notoriously antagonistic towards Anne, another review posted five days earlier applauds his ‘erudite’ treatment. A reviewer in August 2010 observed that ‘Professor Bernard has made a determined attempt to convince us that Anne Boleyn was guilty of the accusations of adultery which brought about her downfall . . . Much of his theory is based upon evidence’ from one of Anne’s ladies, Elizabeth Browne. The reviewer was not convinced: ‘In my opinion Anne Boleyn was almost certainly “framed”.’87 Reviewers on this popular site were much less exercised by the question of Anne’s role in the Reformation. One review mentions in passing the issue of whether Anne was ‘the great reformer she is usually portrayed as being?’.88 Another reviewer claims that Bernard has ‘debunked’ the popular view that Anne was a ‘rabid evangelical’.89 These reviews demonstrate how the production of a lively biography can to some extent successfully communicate a historian’s wider interpretations to a more popular audience. Bernard’s view of Henry VIII as the prime mover in the Aragon divorce, so cogently argued in his The King’s Reformation (2005), is readily identified in the April and July reviews of Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions. One of these reviewers was able to see this argument as part of a general understanding of Henry’s and Anne’s respective roles, although the subtleties of Bernard’s argument may have been lost. Moreover, it is clearly very difficult to wean the reading 309

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 310

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

public away from their fascination with Henry’s and Anne’s private lives. When serious scholars such as Starkey, Ives and Bernard attempted to recount the story of the Reformation through biography they picked up the baton dropped by historians such as C.V. Wedgwood and A.L. Rowse in writing history for popular audiences. But, whereas Wedgwood and Rowse had taken pride in their non-academic credentials, the above-mentioned trio are representative of an attempt to fuse ‘professionalism with the wider project of reaching the public’.90 Helen Castor, another professional historian with a mission to reach a wider audience than a printed book would command, has recently approached the subject of the Reformation from the perspective of the acute problems facing women who ruled England in their own right. In her book and in her television series, England’s Early Queens: The She-Wolves, she convincingly demonstrates the close links between the various succession crises in the Tudor years and the fate of the Protestant reformation.91 In the next section we turn away from the figure of Anne Boleyn and to two other players in the drama of the English Reformation: Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell featured in all the novels about Henry’s reign. He was the ‘Privy Seal’ of Ford Madox Ford’s trilogy. In this fictionalized account, Ford saw him at the moment when his ‘sun sets’, a man brought down by his loyalty to the Lutheran alliance and by finding Henry VIII the wrong wife, and deserted by his previous friends. Later he emerged as an important player and more rounded character in Jean Plaidy’s Murder Most Royal (1949). She attributed the plan of the schism with Rome entirely to Cromwell. This had little or nothing to do with Protestant belief. It was ‘Cromwell’s daring scheme of separating England from Rome’, for he ‘suffered not at all from superstitious dread of consequences; he was by no means scrupulous; he could bring in evidence against Rome as fast as his master cared to receive it. What had Henry to lose by the separation? He demanded of his King. And see what he had to gain!’92 The King ‘shilly-shallied’. 310

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 311

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

‘Cromwell had talked slyly and persuasively for if he would keep in favour, this matter of the divorce must be settled . . . He explained this was nothing to do with Lutheranism; the religion of the country remained the same; it was merely the headship of the Church that was involved.’ Broadly, Plaidy reached the identical conclusion to G.R. Elton’s! Henry wanted Anne Boleyn and a legitimate male heir; it was Cromwell who wanted and designed the break with Rome – the event that has been dubbed the English Reformation. The timing coincided with the announcement of Anne’s pregnancy. Plaidy wrote that while Henry had loved Wolsey, he relied on cold, clever Cromwell. In a passage concerning Cromwell’s response to Anne’s removal from the King’s favour when she failed to produce a male child Plaidy wrote: Cromwell had retired from court life for several days, on the plea of sickness. Cromwell needed solitude: he had to work out his next moves in this game of politics most carefully. He was no inspired genius; everything that had come to him had been the result of unflagging labour, of cautiously putting one foot forward and waiting until it was securely in its rightful place before lifting the other. He was fully aware that now he faced one of the crises of his career. His master commanded, and he obeyed, though the command was not given in so many words . . . it was the duty of a good servant to discover his master’s wishes though not a word be spoken between them . . . Cromwell had a very good head on a pair of sturdy shoulders, and he did not intend that those should part company . . . one false step now and . . .93

Later, she shows Cromwell forgetting his habitual caution and angrily rebuking the King over his resistance to a potential alliance with Spain. Although Cromwell asked for and received enhanced powers shortly thereafter, her view is that the King, although aware of Cromwell’s virtues as a servant, had been further alienated from Cromwell and that the ground was laid for his eventual fall from grace and execution.94 Until very recently, however, the popular image of Thomas Cromwell was largely derived from the portrait of him painted by Robert Bolt (1924–95) in first the play and then the film versions of A Man for All Seasons. Bolt became a full-time playwright at the age of 33 but previously taught history and English at Millfield School. A Man for All Seasons, his first play, was in origin a work 311

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 312

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

for radio in 1954. It was first performed on stage at the Gielgud Theatre (then called The Globe) in summer 1960. It had success in English regional theatres such as the Victoria Theatre-in-theRound, Stoke-on-Trent.95 When it moved to Broadway it enjoyed a run of over a year. There have been several stage revivals and it was later adapted for full-length feature films in 1966 and 1988. The man for all seasons was, of course, Sir Thomas More and, in essence, the play explores the crisis of conscience faced by this man of principle and the way in which he seeks to salve his conscience and yet stay alive. Bolt’s More is not presented as the saint or martyr of popular legend and popular Catholic biography. He does not take a stand and sacrifice himself for a ‘cause’. Rather, he finds that he cannot betray his own conscience even if this means the death penalty. He tries every way possible to avoid betraying his conscience – especially that of silence. He does not speak out against the divorce. It is only when Cromwell has condemned him to death that he declares his true opinions. It might be argued quite reasonably that these nuances will escape the general viewer of the play or film. However, the play has been and is on school and university syllabuses, and for students the ‘meaning’ of More’s characterization is highlighted. More is presented as a complex and ambiguous figure – only a saint if ignoring reality is a mark of sainthood. Other characters in the play, albeit Bolt himself denied that they ‘stood’ for anything, acted as symbolic foils for his central character. In Mantel’s Wolf Hall a very different More is presented – a More who is far from gentle, an intolerant sadist and a man in love with his own daughter. Such theories find no place in Seymour Baker House’s balanced article in the ODNB. House notes, however, that More is now a controversial figure and that Pope John Paul II in November 2000 made him the patron saint of politicians.96 Bolt’s Thomas Cromwell is the crafty statesman, influenced by Machiavelli, who uses every weapon in his armoury to remove threats to his own position such as that presented by Thomas More. It is tempting to speculate that, given the time when he wrote the original play, Bolt as a teacher would have been aware of G.R. Elton’s great textbook, England under the Tudors, with its emphasis on Cromwell as the power behind the revolution in government. Much more recently Cromwell has appeared in somewhat differ312

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 313

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

ent guises in the works of C.J. Sansom and Hilary Mantel. Mantel paints an altogether more favourable picture of him in her muchpraised and exceedingly lengthy Wolf Hall. Sansom, rare among historical novelists in that he has had research training as an academic historian, albeit in modern history, describes his Cromwell as somewhere between the evil statesman and the hero. Mantel, as we noted earlier, has explained how important it was to her to establish the facts precisely. Notably, she spent a good deal of time researching in archives and acknowledges the help she received from Mary Robertson, a respected Tudor historian, at the Huntington Library, California. When questioned about the figure of Cromwell in Wolf Hall, Sansom explained that Cromwell’s character and motivations were wide open to interpretation. His comments were clearly informed by his knowledge of current scholarship. Mantel’s Cromwell is quite different from mine. Wolf Hall is a wonderful book: its evocation of Tudor life is marvellous. But Cromwell as a character is ripe for interpretation. He’s been controversial ever since he had his head cut off: some think he was the blackest of villains; others that he was a great, positive reformer. I’m somewhere in the middle, but I do believe he had a dark side; much darker and more brutal than Mantel’s portrayal.97

Before discussing in more detail Mantel’s and Sansom’s Cromwells it is appropriate to examine one or two places in which the general reader may encounter such academic views of Cromwell. Howard Leithead’s article in the ODNB is probably the first port of all for many academic readers.98 His portrayal of Cromwell takes account of most modern authorities as well as original archival research. It is informed not only by the work of Elton and Dickens but also by that of neo-Catholic revisionists. Leithead describes Cromwell as ‘a man of opposites, a pragmatic idealist who could be extremely kind or extraordinarily ruthless . . .’, ‘the stern hard-working bureaucrat’ of Holbein’s portrait and a man ‘well known for his wit and generosity’, cultured and committed to social reform, and completely loyal to Henry VIII. He maintains that attempts to define Cromwell’s religious beliefs are inconclusive. At best, he says, Cromwell can be described as evangelical because he never denied the real presence or promoted Lutheran beliefs. Cromwell, after the fall of Wolsey, was allowed 313

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 314

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

considerable freedom to develop and implement religious policy until 1538. At this time Henry became worried about the direction such policy was taking and, thereafter, Cromwell’s influence declined. While Henry was chiefly concerned to use his new status as Head of the Church to boost his own authority, Cromwell ‘was more interested in exploiting the development of the royal supremacy to advance evangelical reform’. The minister wanted to use the proceeds of the dissolution of the religious houses to strengthen the monarchy, when Henry VIII wished to draw upon them to fund his military campaigns. Through relentless implementation of dissolution and attacks on ‘pilgrimages, shrines, ceremonies and images, Cromwell succeeded in removing much of the culture of Catholicism, as well as attacking the doctrine of purgatory’. His more positive contributions were patronage and protection of reformers, and use of the printing press to circulate ‘evangelical literature and propaganda’. His greatest legacy was the vernacular Great Bible of 1539, which became widely available in parish churches. Some general readers will still turn to A.G. Dickens’s attractively written sympathetic biography of Cromwell (1959) or to G.R. Elton’s Reform and Renewal (1970; pbk 1973) – both written before revisionist views of the Reformation had received a public airing and, although written from different perspectives, against a context in which Protestantism was seen as ‘a success story’ – and Elton’s Thomas Cromwell (1991). Recent biographical treatments of Cromwell are few. An exception is Robert Hutchinson’s Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister.99 This has appeared in a paperbound edition and the dust jacket features a miniature of Anne Boleyn, the familiar corpulent representation of Henry and a stern-looking, drably dressed Cromwell. Although this book is carefully researched and referenced, and at times cautious, the overall portrait of Cromwell that it seeks to convey is far from nuanced. In a ‘blurb’ designed to sell the book, Hutchinson’s Cromwell is said to have ‘manoeuvred his way to the top by intrigue, bribery and sheer force of personality’. In the course of faithful service to Henry VIII ‘he organised a “show trial” for Anne Boleyn of Stalinist efficiency’. ‘Not only did he enrich the crown but he made himself a fortune too, soliciting colossal bribes and binding the noble families to him with easy loans. Such was 314

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 315

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

Cromwell’s reputation that when Henry VIII was dealt a knave during his frequent gambling he would hold the card up and exclaim: “I have been dealt a Cromwell!”’100 This is a bald summary of the book’s argument and, of course, is not to say that Hutchinson’s interpretation is unconvincing. He acknowledges that Cromwell is an enigma but ultimately refutes the arguments presented by what we might dub ‘Cromwell sympathisers’. For instance, he produces evidence that Cromwell dipped his fingers into the proceeds of the dissolution of the monasteries, and demonstrates that Cromwell was even more venal than his contemporaries.101 This reassessment has had an impact upon the image of Cromwell presented on television by professional historians. In May 2013 Diarmaid MacCulloch went to great pains to refute the image of Cromwell as ‘the Tudor thug in a doublet’, siding with Hilary Mantel’s more sympathetic characterization, and reverting to an essentially Dickensian interpretation of Cromwell.102 Perhaps more importantly, MacCulloch in his programme, Henry VIII’s Enforcer, attempts to draw the public into the uncertain world of historical interpretation: was Cromwell a ‘great statesman or a thuggish fixer?’ MacCulloch knows exactly where he stands but his thoughtful approach invites the viewer to select and interpret evidence. Sansom’s Dissolution bears the marks of an author steeped in the academic literature surrounding the Reformation. The historical note in its appendix discusses various interpretations and puts forward the author’s somewhat controversial view that the Reformation was concerned with a changing class structure. This should be sufficient to warn the reader that Sansom views the events surrounding the dissolution of the monasteries and its main players from a particular standpoint. With considerable skill, in the first pages of Dissolution C.J. Sansom conjures up the image of Cromwell as a man who was, above all, feared that he wishes to implant in the reader’s mind.103 Our introduction to the minister himself is to the arch bureaucrat: while most men in high office would have had their walls adorned with the richest tapestries, his were lined from floor to ceiling with cupboards divided into hundreds of drawers. Tables and chests stood everywhere, covered with reports and lists.104 315

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 316

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

This is detail for which Sansom had no direct evidence but it is employed for legitimate purposes within the genre of historical fiction. The image is reinforced by the emphasis on Cromwell’s plain manner of dress. Cromwell’s dialogue is frequently used to voice Sansom’s interpretation of action and motivation. Sansom proceeds to make clear Cromwell’s hatred of what he sees as papist superstition, his determination to build a Christian commonwealth and to root out those who would seek to overturn it.105 Cromwell says: ‘That is what monasticism is. Deceit, idolatry, greed, and secret loyalty to the bishop of Rome’ . . . ‘the monasteries are a canker in the heart of the realm and I will have it ripped out.’106 Sansom also emphasizes the patronage nature of early Tudor English society and the importance of Cromwell’s own patronage: ‘I became established as one of Cromwell’s men’.107 In so doing, Sansom tells us of Cromwell’s own rise to power and of his true motivation – that of a religious radical. I met him through an informal debating society of reformers, which used to meet in a London inn – secretly, for many of the books we read were forbidden. He began to put some work from departments of state in my way. And so I was set on my future path, riding behind Cromwell as he rose . . . all the time keeping the full extent of his religious radicalism from his sovereign.108

Sansom’s Cromwell and the dissolution of the monasteries are essential to the plot of the book but Cromwell is not its main character. Mantel’s Cromwell is, however, the central character of her huge novel, Wolf Hall.109 In many ways Wolf Hall is an exploration of Cromwell’s psychology. He is a very different Cromwell, partly because he dominates the whole novel but also because Mantel views him differently and chooses to focus on his rise to power and his relationships with Thomas Wolsey and Thomas More. For her, Cromwell is a bully and a briber but he is also a political genius who yet displays courtesy and compassion to contemporaries and is full of personal charm and charisma, in sharp contrast to Sansom’s dry and somewhat menacing bureaucrat. This is a Cromwell who loved his master, Wolsey. He is a man who is distanced somewhat from Henry VIII’s savagery. He is a clever, kind man. He is a cultured man. This essentially sympa316

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 317

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA

thetic (although realistic) portrait of Cromwell is placed in ironic juxtaposition to a Thomas More who is cruel, incestuous, unforgiving and far from saintly. Does this version of Cromwell (or of More) stand up to academic scrutiny? Suffice it to say that Hilary Mantel does not deliberately distort the facts, and some important aspects of her characterization ring true – Cromwell was a clever, cultured and charitable man. Much of her interpretation of Cromwell and the rest of the cast of players is, however, at best possible and not proven. She derives much of her factual material from a partial source – Cavendish’s ‘Life of Wolsey’. Unlike Sansom, Mantel offers no ‘evidence’ in a historical note for her more controversial ideas. Conclusion

There is much, much more that could be written than has been written here about treatments of the English Reformation and the main characters involved in it. The chapter has not tried to be comprehensive. It will have served its purpose if it has drawn attention to the enormous influence exerted by fiction and popular biography on the views about the Reformation held by a very wide audience; if it has underlined the strange relationship with the past shared by historical novelists, playwrights and film directors; if it has shown that there may have been other purposes than simply telling a good yarn about Merrie England and that we should look for that intent; if it has warned that historical fiction and history writing are different in kind; if it has indicated that the historian’s work is about more than accuracy; if it has suggested the importance of searching out and being aware of historical interpretation when reading or viewing historical fiction. Notes 1 See Anne Laurence, ‘Women historians and documentary research: Lucy Aikin, Agnes Strickland, Mary Anne Everett Green and Lucy Toulmin Smith,’ in Joan Bellamy et al. (eds), Women, Scholarship and Criticism: Gender and Knowledge, 1790–1900 (Manchester, 2000), pp. 125–141, p. 127. 2 See W.H. Ainsworth, The Tower of London (1839–40). Billie Melman, The Culture of History: English USES of the past 1800–1953 (Oxford, 2006), pp. 137–43 analyses this work not only as an advertisement for the Tower and a defence of ‘free rational viewing’ but also as an introduction of the association 317

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 318

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

3

4 5

6 7 8 9 10 11

12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

between the monarchy and violence, as it portrayed the Tower primarily as a state prison with dungeons and torture chambers. See Melman, Culture of History, pp. 15–16; Timothy Lang, The Victorians and the Stuart Heritage: Interpretation of a Discordant Past (Cambridge, 1955); Peter Mandler, ‘“In the olden time”: romantic history and English national identity, 1820–50’, in Lawrence Brockliss and David Eastwood (eds), A Union of Multiple Identities: The British Isles, c.1750–1850 (Manchester, 1997), pp. 78–92. Ford Madox Ford, The Fifth Queen Trilogy (The Fifth Queen (1906), The Privy Seal (1907), The Fifth Queen Crowned (1908)). Melman, Culture of History, pp. 18–19; see Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (1861), iv, p. 391. Societies such as that for Obtaining Free Admission to National Monuments and Public Edifices Containing Works of Art proliferated in the period 1820–49 but had relatively little effect, so that a similar campaign was launched in the East End of London in the 1870s. Melman, Culture of History, p. 166. Melman, Culture of History, p. 174. Quoted in Melman, Culture of History, p. 141. Melman, Culture of History, p. 21, pp. 126–37. John Cannon et al. (eds), The Blackwell Dictionary of Historians (Oxford, 1988), s.n. Thomas Babington Macaulay, pp. 259–61. See Philippa Levine, The Amateur and the Professional. Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England, 1838–1886 (Cambridge, 1986) and Doris S. Goldstein, ‘The organizational development of the British historical profession, 1884–1921,’ in BIHR, 55 (1982). Agnes Strickland (ed.), Letters of Mary Queen of Scots and Documents Connected With Her Personal History, 3 vols (1842–43). David Starkey, Six Wives. The Queens of Henry VIII (2003; pbk edn, 2004), p. xvi. Laurence, ‘Women historians,’ p. 130. G.M. Trevelyan, History of England (1926). See David Cannadine, G.M. Trevelyan: A Life in History (1998). ‘The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953’. Nobelprize.org. 25 March 2011, http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1953/. See ‘Henry VIII: Man and Monarch’, British Library, April–September 2009, guest curated by David Starkey. G. Bernard, Anne Boleyn. Fatal Attractions (New Haven and London: 2010). Introduction to the e-book edition. Mark Horowitz, review of The Many Faces of Thomas Cromwell (review no. 1168), http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1168. Philippa Gregory, The Women of the Cousins’ War (2011), p. 4. ‘Novel approaches: from academic history to historical fiction’, http://ihrconference.wordpress.com/. ‘Novel approaches: from academic history to historical fiction’, http://ihrconference.wordpress.com/. Novel approaches (15) Histories of historical fiction, posted by Matt Philpott 24 November 2011; see also Richard Slotkin, ‘Fiction for the purposes of history’, Rethinking History, 9:2 318

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 319

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA (2005), 221–36; and Jerome de Groot, The Historical Novel (Oxford, 2010). 24 Slotkin, ‘Fiction for the purposes of history’, p. 222. See Matt Philpott’s blog post, 13 November 2011, ‘Novel approaches: postmodernism and historical fiction part 1’, http://ihrconference.wordpress.com/. 25 http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/0099492482/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_ 5?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addFiveStar&showViewpoints=)&sortBy=byRank Descending 26 http://www.ionlinemovie.com/Movie/Drama/Anne-of-the-Thousand-Days/. 27 http://www.nipissingu.ca/department/history/muhlberger/2155/movies.htm. 28 D. MacCulloch, ‘Horrible History’, Radio Times, 18–24 May 2013, pp. 28–9. 29 Guardian, 13 November 2010. 30 Guardian, 13 November 2010. 31 Guardian, 13 November 2010. 32 Guardian, 13 November 2010. 33 Sansom, Dissolution (2003), p. 2. 34 Guardian, 13 November 2010. 35 See below for discussion of Campbell Barnes’ treatment of Anne Boleyn’s attitude towards Protestantism. 36 See below for discussion of Maxwell Anderson’s study of Anne Boleyn, and Robert Bolt’s treatment of Thomas More. 37 Of course, the same could be said of academic historians’ works. For a discussion of the impact of research funding policies upon historians’ own activities see Chapter 8. 38 James Chapman, Past and Present. National Identity and the British Historical Film (2005). 39 The idea that A.L. Rowse is a chief architect of the ‘revival of popular Elizabethanism’ in the 1950s is interesting but flawed. See Melman, Culture of History, pp. 185–6. 40 Chapman, Past and Present, Chapter 11, p. 172; see also p. 13. 41 Chapman, Past and Present, p. 173. 42 It may well be that in May and June 2013, as the BBC launches a three-week extravaganza on Life and Death in the Tudor Court, with four major new programmes and a re-showing of The Tudors drama series, the public will react similarly negatively. 43 Chapman, Past and Present, p. 176. 44 Chapman, Past and Present, p. 179. 45 See above, Chapter 3. 46 Margaret Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (1949; 2008 edn). 47 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), p. 248. 48 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), p. 235. 49 Review of Brief Gaudy Hour, New York Times, 1949. 50 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), p. 381. 51 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), pp. 190–1. 52 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), pp. 228–9. 53 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), p. 195. 54 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), p. 196. 55 Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), pp. 247 and 254. 319

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 320

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79

80

81 82 83 84 85 86

87

88

Anderson, Anne of the Thousand Days, p. 99. Anderson, Anne, p. 82. Anderson, Anne, Act 3, Scene 5. http://www.ionlinemovie.com/Movie/Drama/Anne-of-the-Thousand-Days. http://www.ionlinemovie.com/Movie/Drama/Anne-of-the-Thousand-Days. Lucinda Dyer, Publishers Weekly, 11 November 2002, 249.45, 26–31. P. Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl (2001; pbk edn, 2002), pp. 326–7, 466, 468–9, 475, 483, 504. Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl, pp. 472, 475. E.W. (Eric) Ives, Anne Boleyn (Oxford, 1989) and The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (Oxford, 2004). Retha Warnicke, Anne Boleyn (1989). David Starkey, Six Wives. Starkey, Six Wives, p. xvi. Starkey, Six Wives, pp. 264–83. Starkey, Six Wives, p. xxii. Starkey, Six Wives, pp. xxii, 285–6. Starkey, Six Wives, p. xxi. Conrad Russell in John Morrill (ed.), Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford, 1996), p. 271. Eric Ives, s.n. ‘Anne Boleyn’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Ives, ‘Anne Boleyn’. Ives, ‘Anne Boleyn’. Ives, ‘Anne Boleyn’. Bernard, Fatal Attractions, pp. 244–50. Bernard, Fatal Attractions, pp. 256–61. Bernard, Fatal Attractions, pp. 342–48; e.g. Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (2008 edn), pp. 60–74; Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl, pp. 93–111; Robin Maxwell, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn (2010 reissue), pp. 34–7. Bernard, Fatal Attractions, Chapter 7, and p. 198 citing M. Dowling, ‘Anne Boleyn and reform’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 35 (1984), 30–46; E. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (Oxford, 2004); E. Ives, review of G.W. Bernard (2010) Anne Boleyn. Fatal Attractions, in JEccHist, 62:4 (2011), 763–77. Examples, Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour; Anderson, Anne. Bernard, Fatal Attractions, e-book location 4234, citing Foxe, V, p. 175. Ives, review of Fatal Attractions. Ives, review of Fatal Attractions, p. 763, citing Loach, 1992, p. 287. Ives, review of Fatal Attractions, p. 764. Review posted on Amazon, 25 June 2010, http://www.amazon.co.uk/productreviews/0300170890/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_2?ie=UTF8&pageNumber=2 &showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending. Review posted on Amazon, 28 August 2010, http://www.amazon.co.uk/ product-reviews/0300170890/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_2?ie= UTF8&pageNumber=2&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDe scending. Review posted on Roger Walbank Home, 1 June 2011, http://artb.co.uk/b/ 2011/0601/12665.html. 320

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 321

MODERN BIOGRAPHY, FICTION AND THE MEDIA 89 Review posted on Amazon, 19 April 2010, http://www.amazon.co.uk/ product-reviews/0300170890/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_2?ie= UTF8&pageNumber=2&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDe scending. 90 Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past. English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870-1970, The Wiles Lectures for 2003 (Cambridge, 2005), Kindle location 2782. 91 This riveting series was first broadcast on BBC4 in 2012; the third programme is dedicated to the three Tudor queens, Jane, Mary I and Elizabeth I. 92 J. Plaidy, Murder Most Royal (1949; pbk edn, 2006), p. 194. 93 Plaidy, Murder Most Royal, p. 299. 94 Plaidy, Murder Most Royal, pp. 302–3. 95 Where the production featured Alan Ayckbourn, since then best known as a playwright. 96 Seymour Baker House, s.n. ‘Thomas More’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). 97 Guardian, 13 November 2010. 98 Howard Leithead, s.n. ‘Thomas Cromwell’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). A deliberate decision has been taken to ignore Wikipedia, on the grounds that its articles are under continual review and are not verified. 99 Robert Hutchinson, Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister (2007; pbk edn, 2008). 100 Hutchinson, Thomas Cromwell, extracts from back cover, 2008 pbk edn. 101 Hutchinson, Thomas Cromwell, pp. 134–8. 102 See MacCulloch, ‘Horrible History’, in Radio Times, 18–24 May 2013, p. 29. This concerned Diarmaid MacCulloch’s BBC2 television programme, Henry VIII’s Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell, first broadcast on 24 May 2013. 103 Sansom, Dissolution (pbk edn, 2004), p. 1. 104 Sansom, Dissolution (pbk edn, 2004), p. 9. 105 Guardian, 13 November 2010. 106 Sansom, Dissolution (pbk edn, 2004), p. 13. 107 Sansom, Dissolution (pbk edn, 2004), p. 24. 108 Sansom, Dissolution (pbk edn, 2004), p. 24. 109 And its sequel, Bring up the Bodies, which was published after this chapter was written.

321

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 322

CONCLUSION

Reformation: reformulation, reiteration and reflection

Each age has used the debate about the English Reformation in its own way and for its own ends. The debate itself has been shaped anew many times, although remnants and threads of its earlier fabric have often remained. This debate has also been part of the evolution of the discipline of history itself and, indeed, of the philosophy of history. Modern historians are interested in all these differing manifestations of the debate. The historian studying the Reformation debate in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries is essentially examining the attempts of some contemporary writers to use historical interpretation to shape the nature of the Reformation itself. John Bale, William Tyndale and John Foxe were themselves agents of Protestant reformation. Foxe used a version of history itself to make his point that England and its monarch were elected by God to complete the Reformation. This enormously popular work, supported by other Protestant polemicists in print and pulpit, gave the Reformation ‘form’ and ‘meaning’ for contemporary readers. Some Catholics also used the history of the Reformation to influence the present and future: Nicholas Sander(s)’s unfinished De Origine ac Progressu Schismatici Anglicani, the ‘most complete “Exile” history of the Reformation’ is the most outstanding but by no means the sole example.1 Although some writers on both sides used history in this way, others were nervous of this approach. Protestant reformers who sought to remove from the Church recent accretions found it intellectually difficult to appeal to recent history; Catholics who feared reprisals if they attacked recent innovation preferred instead to address doctrinal issues. 322

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 323

CONCLUSION

Foxe and Sander(s) had both relied upon original source materials. Modern historians have created a cottage industry determining how ‘accurate’ Foxe’s use of archival sources had been. Rather less attention has been paid to Sander(s)’s employment of sources, but his popular nickname ‘Dr Slander’ tells its own story. It is probably fair to say that he used a wide variety of sources but was prepared in the interests of his case to accept rumour as evidence. By the seventeenth century the major polemicists such as Peter Heylyn, the best-known Laudian apologist, introduced new insights. To Heylyn, who employed relatively well-known historical sources to serve his arguments, we owe the modern idea that the ‘official’ Reformation was not the really important reformation. Henry VIII’s importance lay in opening the way for a deeper reformation of religion. Heylyn shifted the emphasis from state to Church; from monarch to ‘godly bishops’. Also he wrestled with the role of Elizabeth and settled for showing her as the politique child of the Reformation who walked warily with the ‘papists’ until it was safe for her to show her hand and seek a Protestant settlement of the English Church. For Heylyn it was the Calvinists who spoiled Elizabeth’s plan and Laud and the Arminians who would bring England back to it. Gilbert Burnet, who wrote in critical response to both Sander(s) and Heylyn, was more concerned than both to provide carefully annotated primary sources to support his interpretation. How else might the reader verify the interpretation? John Strype, in the early eighteenth century, was caught up in a highly specific contemporary controversy regarding Sacheverell’s veiled attack in 1709 on Archbishop Tenison and Whig upholders of religious toleration, which saw Tenison and Queen Anne as counterparts of Archbishop Grindal and Queen Elizabeth. Strype believed that the way of the Church of England was pre-ordained by God and a history of the Church in England would show that. He was also ambitious and allied firmly to Tenison and the Whigs. But Strype was a scholar and an antiquary, whose research methods were those of a historian and not an apologist per se. He also ventured on what is recognizably a historian’s project – a complete, impartial history of the English Reformation through original archival sources. Unfortunately, the project faltered in the execution. Inaccuracy in relatively minor matters led him to make major mistakes in interpretation. He 323

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 324

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

never came to grips with the problem of selection. Yet, he was not a modern scientific historian attempting a narrative but interpretative history of the Reformation, with an imposed plan. Rather, he allowed the manuscripts to dictate the shape of his account, which took the form of annals rather than that modern invention, the monograph. By the Age of Revolutions the debate about the nature of the English Reformation was part of the language of politics. The controversy concerning Catholic emancipation preoccupied contemporaries. Features of the conflict between Catholic and reformer in the sixteenth century which illuminated this current debate were selected for attention. Were the Catholics traitors? Were the Catholics brutal persecutors of the adherents of the new religion? If so, were they any worse than the Protestants in this respect? Was persecution, in fact, a product of sixteenth-century society and culture rather than a necessary attribute of either Catholicism or Protestantism per se? Was the English Reformation really the act of spiritual cleansing which Protestant historians had proclaimed it? Had it not been an act motivated by lust, passion and greed? Had it not destroyed a pristine Catholic Church, and a successful and caring social system, in the interests of a lustful monarch and his money-grubbing, capitalistic courtiers? All these questions were asked because they were seen to have a real bearing upon the current question – should the Catholics be accepted as full citizens or should they not? Nevertheless, the attempt to answer these questions had a profound effect upon the nature of the contemporary and future historical debate about the origins and nature of the Reformation in England. How did it do this? The Catholic historians aired arguments about the nature of sixteenth-century Catholicism and Protestantism which had, in fact, appeared in many previous Catholic defences, but for the first time these arguments were widely read by non-Catholics and were actually countenanced by them. This owed much to the moderate approach of Butler and Berington, neither of whom were historians,2 and yet more to the measured, scholarly work of Lingard. Lingard was the first Catholic historian of the time to attempt a general, comprehensive history of England: ‘Lingard’s history of England has been of more use to us [Catholics] than any thing that has since been written . . . 324

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 325

CONCLUSION

All educated men were obliged to use it . . . It is to this day a tower of strength to us.’3 This development was of service not only to the cause for Catholic emancipation but also to the writing of history, and specifically that of the Reformation. These writers were not polemicists, slinging mud at their enemies, but historians expressing balanced points of view supported by evidence. When the evidence was uncertain – as, for example, respecting the guilt of Anne Boleyn – they would say so. The relative detachment of such writers from the events of which they spoke – despite their involvement in current controversy – made readers sit up and take notice. Lingard’s work had an air of objectivity about it which appealed. While he was indubitably a product of the Enlightenment,4 with a characteristic Enlightenment conviction that a demonstration of the ‘facts’ is sufficient to persuade, and his own Catholicism, Lingard was first and foremost a ‘great historian’. Lingard ‘raised the level of historical debate from one of ideology to one of documentation and interpretation’, but John Vidmar has drawn attention also to Lingard’s flaws: ‘he mistook the reproduction of a manuscript for the exhibition of its truth, and did not comprehend the degree to which an author could still color a seemingly objective set of texts’.5 In addition, the controversy about the nature of Catholicism and early Protestantism raised a very important issue – that of historical specificity. If it could be proved that Catholics persecuted Protestants in the sixteenth century, and vice versa, then why was this so? Was it because Catholicism was for all time and of itself a persecuting creed or was it because conditions in the sixteenth century – political, cultural, social, historical – made active intolerance the order of the day? This was a very pertinent question, and one which still absorbs historians today: how far are particular features of the past part of the general human condition and how far are they contingent upon specific contemporary conditions? Reflection on this theme became part and parcel of the Reformation debate in the early nineteenth century. Reformation historians began to delve deeper for explanations: they were not content to chronicle events or to provide an entirely one-sided perspective upon them. Wait a minute, you may well cry. But what about Cobbett? He is scarcely an example of balanced historical argument! He is the polemicist writ larger than life! What shall we do with him? 325

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 326

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Ironically enough, Cobbett derived his view of the English Reformation and its impact upon society from a reading of Lingard’s History – a measured and careful account. But Cobbett was no historian: he used the work of Milner and Lingard and others to produce a caricature of the English Reformation. This caricature has had a profound impact upon later interpretations of the Reformation because it presents the official Reformation as the brainchild of a lustful monarch and his capitalist courtiers, and as the originator in England of the oppression of the poor by the rich. It is an overdrawn picture, but in it we find the beginnings of the multitudinous social and economic interpretations of the Reformation characteristic of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This should be a reminder to us that, as the preceding discussion demonstrates, it was not only great, if flawed, historians who made an impact upon the debate on the English Reformation, it was also journalists like Cobbett.6 In what other respects did these early nineteenth-century treatments of the Reformation help to shape the nature of the historical debate? Certainly, they focused future attention on the official nature of the Reformation, at the expense of the spiritual. Even ardent Protestants were converted to the view that the English Reformation was a political act first and foremost, and that the sanctity of Protestant heroes such as Thomas Cranmer and Anne Boleyn was not beyond doubt. If some attention was given to the spirituality of the Catholic Church which was destroyed (by Milner, for example), the spirituality of the Protestant Reformation was merely attacked and demolished. Even Protestant historians such as Turner were able to give relatively little attention to the spread of the new faith which buttressed the official Reformation. Working with official state and Church papers, and deprived of local materials, they were condemned to refute attacks on the spirituality of the Protestant Reformation with reiterations of Foxe, and other histories and defences of the heroes of the Reformation based upon these. A corrective was not provided until the mid-twentieth century. For the time being, attention was concentrated upon the political leaders of the Reformation, be they lay or clerical. Henry VIII, Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cranmer, Anne Boleyn – biographers abounded to explain and justify their Reformation roles. 326

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 327

CONCLUSION

Early nineteenth-century writings on the Reformation also drew attention away from the internal affairs of the Reformation Church. Institutional history played little part in the debate: the focus was essentially political. This diversion from the path established by Strype in the early eighteenth century was, however, but temporary. The Church of England’s family squabble of the midnineteenth century – when Anglo-Catholic and Protestant brethren fell out – revived this earlier interest in the nature of the Church of England both in terms of its institutional expression and also in terms of its creed and worship. In the mid-nineteenth century the Church of England experienced anew a crisis of identity which, incidentally, it has never been able to solve. With just a few exceptions, contemporaries adopted a traditionary approach. Polemicists such as Hurrell Froude believed that their own religious position would be justified by consulting the past. Historians, often influenced by the German school of Von Ranke, believed that by offering a thoroughly researched and referenced interpretative work they would be able to display the ‘true’ Church of England. This was the age of the editor, when a historian such as Pocock presented collections of original materials but studied their context and meaning, and weighed the veracity of evidence supplied by these sources in a methodical and measured way. In the twentieth century the debate about the Reformation occurred within a very different environment – that of an academic discipline professedly divorced from political, religious or social bias. At the start of the century an eminent Tudor specialist, A.F. Pollard, was prominent in the design of a training programme for historians at the University of London; by the close of the century possession of a PhD degree in history or a related subject was de rigueur for entry into the university discipline of history. The standards expected of a historian developed during the century, and a PhD written in 2000 was rather different from one produced in 1937 or 1965. Nevertheless, there were certain constants, and these included an emphasis upon careful and original research, awareness of the nature, advantages and disadvantages of the sources, a commitment to objectivity and the removal of bias, and effective communication. These standards were, for the first time, imposed upon historians of the English 327

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 328

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Reformation, a field which had hitherto been dominated by ecclesiastics and theologians. Now the debate was couched in historical terms. Who was responsible for the English Reformation? What was its nature? Where is the evidence? Where is the proof? From the 1940s much of the detailed debate about the Reformation took place in the pages of so-called specialist and learned journals, aimed at a relatively small and informed audience of historians.7 More general arguments and bold conclusions were then offered to students in textbook form and to the general reading public in popular histories. For a good many years the participants were obsessed with high politics. By the early 1970s the debate about king or minister was at deadlock. It was in the later 1960s that a new generation of historians began to re-focus the debate and look at other aspects of the Reformation story. Most of this generation saw themselves as trained historians foremost and secondarily as specialists in Reformation history. They self-consciously took advantage of the availability of new source materials, especially at local and diocesan level, and asked pertinent questions of them. How successful was the Reformation in changing the religion of the people? How did the Church change? How connected to the great European Reformations was the British? They did this at a time when new waves of thinking about the nature of history itself and its relationship with other disciplines were making an impact even upon those most wedded to modernism. When historians examine the development of the debate about the Reformation since 1980 they should do so not only by discussing the substance of the academic arguments but also against the backcloth of changes in the academy. There were now many more historians than there had been in, for example, the 1960s, but much reduced opportunities for securing positions, career advancement and funding. Competition was rife and it had its effect upon the nature of historical research and the style of debate. Historians no longer worked out their political and religious dilemmas through Reformation scholarship but sought through publication and impassioned argument to pursue a successful career. This is not to imply, of course, that the historians involved did not engage in ‘good’ research, using appropriate methodologies and believing fully in the strength of their evidence 328

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 329

CONCLUSION

and their arguments. But it is to state that competition reinforced the impetus to publish, to publish in certain places and to make great, occasionally exaggerated, claims for one’s work. It may explain why some studies were based upon far from exhaustive bibliography and original research. It helps to account for the overwhelming number of publications in what was, after all, a shrinking field – far too many to achieve even a mention in this book. The debate about the English Reformation during these years did not break entirely with the scholarship of the immediate past. The work of the neo-Catholic revisionists, for example, drew directly upon that of both Patrick Collinson and the younger generation of historians in the later 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, who had certainly never seen the English Reformation as complete by the late 1540s, had described its different phases and had been sensitive to the problems surrounding the sources. Patricia Crawford’s Women and Religion in England (1993) owed its inspiration to works of the 1980s such as Mary Prior’s Women in English Society 1500–1800 (1985). Yet a book such as George Bernard’s study of Henry VIII revisited extremely familiar themes and questions. Styles of historical writing also drew upon developments in the post-war period. They were still influenced by PhD research and writing and, despite having taken on board the more positive contributions of the postmodernist critical ‘turn’, were, with a few exceptions, empiricist in nature. This said, the debate in the 1990s and 2000s was reformulated in new ways. Fashionable topics and approaches, a plethora of periodical publications and conferences, highly organized and often generic doctoral training programmes and an immensely competitive environment all had their impact which, if impossible to quantify, is plain to see. If working and publishing within the history discipline was not quite a ‘cut-throat business’, it sometimes seemed surprisingly like it. PhD theses ceased to be what they had once been – primarily contributions to knowledge based on a period of exhaustive research in the archives – and became instead ‘training’ exercises using a chosen topic and its sources, and completed within a very tight time-frame. Source criticism became more and more important and in some ways an indulgence. The debate about the English Reformation is no longer, as 329

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 330

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

it was in the nineteenth century, the preserve of theologians and ecclesiastical historians. The political and social history of religion dominates. Multi-disciplinary approaches have become commonplace. New subjects entered the picture so that it became increasingly difficult to distinguish the debate about the English Reformation from the debate about early modern society. Our understanding of the place of religion in society, as a consequence, has been enriched. A discipline exhausted by the ‘king or minister’ debate displayed relatively less interest in the early Reformation. The chronological place of the Protestant Reformation itself shifted – from the reigns of Henry and Edward to the later years of Elizabeth and the reign of her early Stuart successor, James I. The debate has become much less clearly and simply defined. Instead of questioning who was responsible for the early Reformation, historians now ask ‘What was the Reformation?’ or even ‘Was there a Reformation?’ and certainly ‘Was there a successful Protestant Reformation?’ Recent titles show some uncertainty about when the Reformation was: ‘Shepherds, Sheepdogs and Hirelings: The Pastoral Ministry in Post-Reformation England’;8 English Reformations,9 Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England,10 The Later Reformation in England, 1547–1603.11 Many authors avoid the word, as indeed some have done since the 1950s, preferring to use terms such as ‘the Early Modern period’ ‘the Early Modern Era’ ‘the reign of Elizabeth’ or to use defining dates.12 ‘Is the concept of Reformation dissolving before our eyes?’ asked the Society for Reformation Studies in spring 2008. More recently, a major player in the debate concerning the nature and impact of religious change, Peter Marshall, has written a historiographical article in part debating whether or not historians should continue to debate the English Reformation at all.13 He concludes that contemporaries believed that there had been a Reformation and that, therefore, historians should accept this as the basis of their work. It would be perverse to argue that debate amongst historians was an invention of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. Earlier chapters in this book show clearly that this was not the case. However, the modern debate about the English Reformation is different in kind because it is informed by the standards of the 330

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 331

CONCLUSION

discipline of history rather than by the political and religious arguments of the day. Most historians have rejected the postmodernist theories that created such a furore in the 1980s and early 1990s and have continued to cling to the belief that objectivity is possible and that appropriate use of the sources will eventually lead to an interpretation of past events that will approximate to the truth. Nevertheless, as indicated above, the academic environment of the 1990s and 2000s has given debate a peculiar intensity that owes much to the pressures of university finance and individual career prospects. While such debates seem intriguing to those employed within the historical discipline, they appear sterile and hold little relevance or meaning for the population at large. With the demise of narrative history, the separation between professional history and popular history has become even more stark: the debate as presented in journals and monographs is inaccessible even to educated and intelligent people. The jargon is frequently impenetrable even to the trained historian. Yet, as the final chapter indicates, there is a great and apparently increasing appetite among the general public for early modern English history. Professional historians have attempted with some success to combine accurate scholarship with a more popular history. Biography has proved to be the preferred vehicle. While the Reformation features in biographies of major Tudor figures it is inevitably subservient to the main subject matter, the individual. Rarely the main subject matter of novels, the themes of the Reformation itself have fared better in fiction: the role of the monarch and his ministers; the rivalries and factions; the response of the people; the spoliation of the Church; the persecution of recusants. The form and purpose of fiction – be it in writing or on the stage or on film or television – militates, however, against these themes being presented in the context of a debate. Admirable though some of these treatments are as literature or drama, they are no substitute for thoroughly researched work by professional historians which shows even the so-called facts of the Reformation, and certainly the interpretation of the Reformation, to be contested ground.

331

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 332

THE DEBATE ON THE ENGLISH REFORMATION

Notes 1 2 3

4 5

6

7 8

9 10 11 12 13

John Vidmar, English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, 1585–1954 (Brighton, 2005), p. 13. Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, pp. 44–5 has an interesting discussion about Butler’s and Berington’s approaches to history. I am grateful to John Vidmar for this point. The quotation is from Lord Acton, ‘The Catholic Press,’ The Rambler (1859), pp. 75–6, as cited in Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 53. See Peter Phillips, s.n. ‘John Lingard’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). John Vidmar, English Catholic Historians, p. 74; for further assessments of Lingard as a historian and as a man see Peter Phillips (ed.), Lingard Remembered (Catholic Record Society, 2005) and the same author’s biography of Lingard in ODNB. The current resurgence of Catholic historians’ interest in their forebears is very welcome and long overdue but its focus is upon the development of Catholic history writing and not upon their impact upon the debate on the English Reformation itself, which is the subject of this present work. Witness the articles by G.R. Elton on the work of the Reformation Parliament, for example. Patrick Collinson, ‘Shepherds, sheepdogs and hirelings: the pastoral ministry in post-Reformation England’, in W.J. Sheils and D. Wood (eds), The Ministry: Clerical and Lay (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 185–220. Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993). Kenneth Fincham and Peter Lake (eds), Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England (Woodbridge, 2006). Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Later Reformation in England, 1547–1603 (2001). Cynthia Herrup, ‘Revisionism: what’s in a name?’ Journal of British Studies, 5 (1996), 135–8. Peter Marshall, ‘(Re)defining the English Reformation’, Journal of British Studies, 48 (2009), 564–86.

332

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 333

FURTHER READING All works were published in London unless otherwise stated. General

Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past: English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870–1970 (Cambridge, 2005). P.M.B. Blaas, Continuity and Anachronism: Parliamentary and Constitutional Development in Whig Historiography and in the Anti-Whig Reaction between 1890 and 1930 (The Hague, 1978). G.P. Gooch, History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century (2nd edn, 1952). H.J. Kaye, The British Marxist Historians (Cambridge, 1984). J.P. Kenyon, The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance (1983). Billie Melman, The Culture of History: English Uses of the Past 1800–1953 (Oxford, 2006). A.L. Rowse, Historians I Have Known (1995). Bonnie G. Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women and Historical Practice (Cambridge, MA and London, 1998). 1. Historiography contemporary to the English Reformation, 1525–70

T. Betteridge, ‘From prophetic to apocalyptic: John Foxe and the writing of history’, in David Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997), pp. 210–32. Patrick Collinson, Edmund Grindal, 1519–1583: The Struggle for a Reformed Church (1979). Patrick Collinson, ‘Truth and legend: the veracity of John Foxe’s book of martyrs’, in Elizabethan Essays (1994), pp.151–77 (originally published in A.C. Duke and C.A. Tamse (eds), Clio’s Mirror: Historiography in Britain and the Netherlands, vol. 8, Zutphen, 1985, pp. 31–54). T. Freeman, ‘Notes on a source for John Foxe’s account of the Marian persecution in Kent and Sussex’, Historical Research, 67 (1994), 203–11. 333

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 334

FURTHER READING

T. Freeman, ‘Research, rumour and propaganda: Anne Boleyn in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’, Historical Journal, 38 (1995), 797–819. W. Haller, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the Elect Nation (1963). Felicity Heal, ‘Appropriating history: Catholic and Protestant polemics and the national past’, in Paulina Kewes (ed.), The Uses of History in Early Modern England (San Marino, CA, 2006), pp. 105–28. J.N. King, ‘Fiction and fact in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’, in David Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997), pp.12–35. J.F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (London, 1940). 2. Interpretations of the Reformation from Fuller to Strype

John Drabble, ‘Thomas Fuller, Peter Heylyn and the English Reformation’, Renaissance and Reformation, n.s., 3 (1979), 168–88. Felicity Heal, ‘Appropriating history: Catholic and Protestant polemics and the national past’, in Paulina Kewes (ed.), The Uses of History in Early Modern England (San Marino, CA, 2006), pp.105–28. D. Kelley and D.H. Sacks (eds), The Historical Imagination in Early Modern Britain: Historical Rhetoric and Fiction 1500–1800 (Cambridge, 1997). R. Mayer, ‘The rhetoric of historical truth: Heylyn contra Fuller on The Church History of Britain’, Prose Studies, 20 (1997), 1–20. Anthony Milton, Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600–1640 (1995). Anthony Milton, Laudian and Royalist Polemic in Seventeenthcentury England: The Career and Writings of Peter Heylyn (Manchester and New York, 2007). Peter Milward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age (1978). L. Okie, Augustan Historical Writing (Lanham, MD, 1991). J.H. Preston, ‘English ecclesiastical historians and the problems of bias, 1559–1742’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 32 (1971), 203–20. 334

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 335

FURTHER READING

J. Raymond, Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge, 2003). Nicholas Tyacke, ‘Lancelot Andrewes and the myth of Anglicanism’, in P. Lake and M. Questier (eds), Conformity and Orthodoxy in the English Church c. 1560–1660 (Woodbridge, 2000). John Vidmar OP, English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, 1585–1954 (Brighton, 2005). 3. Historians and contemporary politics, 1780–1850

N. Abercrombie, ‘Charles Butler and the English Jesuits, 1770–1823’, Recusant History, 15 (1979–81), 283–301. Billie Melman, The Culture of History: English Uses of the Past 1800–1953 (Oxford, 2006). L. Okie, Augustan Historical Writing (Lanham, MD, 1991). Peter Phillips (ed.), Lingard Remembered (Catholic Record Society, 2005). John Vidmar OP, English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, 1585–1954 (Brighton, 2005). E.E. Wexler, David Hume and The History of England (Philadelphia, PA, 1979). 4. The Church of England in crisis: the Reformation heritage

W.J. Baker, ‘Hurrell Froude and the reformers’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 21 (1970), 243–59. C. Beard, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in its Relation to Modern Thought and Knowledge (1883; 1927 edn). P. Brendon, Hurrell Froude and the Oxford Movement (1974). D. Andrew Penny, John Foxe, Evangelicalism, and the Oxford Movement (Lampeter, 2002). N. Pocock, Records of the Reformation, 2 vols (Oxford, 1870). G. Rupp, ‘The Victorian churchman as historian: a reconsideration of R.W. Dixon’s History of the Church of England’, in G.V. Bennett and J.D. Walsh (eds), Essays in Modern English Church History: In Memory of Norman Sykes (1966).

335

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 336

FURTHER READING

5. The Church: how it changed

Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past: English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870–1970 (Cambridge, 2005). Patrick Collinson, s.n. ‘Geoffrey Rudolph Elton’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Patrick Collinson, s.n. ‘John Ernest Neale’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Patrick Collinson, s.n. ‘Albert Frederick Pollard’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). A.G. Dickens, ‘Introduction’, in A.F. Pollard, Henry VIII (New York, 1966 edn). A.G. Dickens, ‘Introduction’, in A.F. Pollard, Wolsey (rev. edn 1953; New York repr. 1966). G.R. Elton, The Tudor Revolution in Government (Cambridge, 1953; 1962 repr.). G.R. Elton, England under the Tudors (1955). G.R. Elton, Reformation Europe 1517–1559 (1960). G.R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution (Cambridge, 1960). G.R. Elton, Henry VIII. An Essay in Revision (The Historical Association, 1962; 1965 repr.). G.R. Elton, The Practice of History (1967). G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972). G.R. Elton, Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1974) (collects together his major articles). G.R. Elton, Reform and Reformation, England 1509–1558 (1977). V.H. Galbraith, ‘Albert Frederick Pollard, 1869–1948’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 35 (1949), passim. Christopher Haigh, ‘The recent historiography of the English Reformation’, Historical Journal, 25 (1982), 995–1007. N.B. Harte, One Hundred and Fifty Years of History Teaching at University College, London (1982). Joel Hurstfield, ‘John Ernest Neale, 1890–1975’, Proceedings of the British Academy 63 (1977), 403–21. J.E. Neale, ‘A.F. Pollard’, English Historical Review, 64 (1949), 198–205. R. O’Day, ‘Imagine that you are Erasmus . . . Rabelais . . . Queen Victoria . . . Karl Marx’, History Today, 40 (1990), 4–7. A.F. Pollard, Factors in Modern History (1910). 336

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 337

FURTHER READING

6. The Reformation and the people: discovery

Patrick Collinson, s.n. ‘Geoffrey Rudolph Elton’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). P. Collinson and J. Craig, The Reformation in English Towns 1500–1640, (1998), Introduction. G.R. Elton, ‘Preface’, in Peter Milward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age: A Survey of Printed Sources (1978). Christopher Haigh, ‘The recent historiography of the English Reformation’, Historical Journal, 25 (1982), 995–1007. Felicity Heal, s.n. ‘Arthur Geoffrey Dickens’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). 7. The Church: how it changed

Margaret Bowker, ‘The supremacy and the episcopate: the struggle for control, 1534–1540’, Historical Journal, 18 (1975), 227–43. Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (1967). Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants (Oxford, 1982). M. Claire Cross, The Royal Supremacy in the Elizabethan Church (1969). M. Claire Cross, Church and People 1450–1660 (1976). G.R. Elton, The Tudor Constitution (Cambridge, 1960). Christopher Haigh, Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire (Cambridge, 1975). Christopher Haigh, ‘The recent historiography of the English Reformation’, Historical Journal, 25 (1982), 995–1007. Felicity Heal, Of Prelates and Princes. A Study of the Economic and Social Position of the Tudor Episcopate (Cambridge, 1980). F. Heal and R. O’Day (eds), Church and Society in England Henry VIII to James I (1977). Christopher Hill, Economic Problems of the English Church (Oxford, 1956). Ralph A. Houlbrooke (ed.), The Letter Book of John Parkhurst (Norwich, 1974–75). Ralph A. Houlbrooke, Church Courts and the People during the English Reformation, 1520–1570 (Oxford, 1979). Martin Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England (1987). 337

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 338

FURTHER READING

R.A. Marchant, The Puritans and the Church Courts in the Diocese of York, 1560–1642 (Cambridge, 1960). R.A. Marchant, The Church under the Law (Cambridge, 1969). Rosemary O’Day, ‘Thomas Bentham: a case study in the problems of the early Elizabethan episcopate’, JEccHist, 23 (1972), 137–59. Rosemary O’Day, The English Clergy (Leicester, 1979). Rosemary O’Day, The Professions in Early Modern England: Servants of the Commonweal, 1450–1800 (2000). R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds), Continuity and Change (Leicester, 1976). R.B. Outhwaite, The Rise and Fall of the English Ecclesiastical Courts, 1500–1860 (Cambridge, 2006). J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (1968). 8. The debate in the age of peer review

Michael Bentley, Modernizing England’s Past: English Historiography in the Age of Modernism, 1870–1970 (Cambridge, 2005). Patrick Collinson, ‘A very active captain’: review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, The London Review of Books, 28 (2006). J.P.D. Cooper, review of G.W. Bernard The King’s Reformation, JEccHist, 59 (2008), 145–7. Eamon Duffy, ‘English Reformation after revisionism’ Renaissance Quarterly, 59 (2006), 720–31. G.R. Elton, The Practice of History (1967). Christopher Haigh, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, EHR, 121 (2006), 1455–6. Felicity Heal, s.n. ‘Arthur Geoffrey Dickens’, ODNB (Oxford, 2004). Mark Horowitz, review of The Many Faces of Thomas Cromwell (review no. 1168), URL: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/ review/1168. Ken Jackson and Arthur F. Marotti, ‘The turn to religion in early modern English studies’, Criticism, 46 (2004), 167–90. Peter Marshall, ‘(Re)defining the English Reformation’, Journal of British Studies 48 (2009), 564–86. Andrew Pettegree, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, History Today, 56 (2006), 61. 338

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 339

FURTHER READING

Richard Rex, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, Journal of Modern History, 80 (2008), 127–8. Paul S. Seaver, review of G.W. Bernard, The King’s Reformation, Church History (2008), 458–9. Web Center for Social Research Methods, http://www. socialresearchmethods.net/kb/positvsm.php. 9. The place of the Reformation in modern biography, fiction and the media

G.W. Bernard, Anne Boleyn. Fatal Attractions (New Haven and London, 2010). David Cannadine, G.M. Trevelyan: A Life in History (1998). Helen Castor, The She Wolves (2013). James Chapman, Past and Present. National Identity and the British Historical Film (2005). Jerome de Groot, The Historical Novel (Oxford, 2010). Doris S. Goldstein, ‘The organizational development of the British historical profession, 1884–1921,’ BIHR, 55 (1982), 6–19. Mark Horowitz, review of The Many Faces of Thomas Cromwell (review no. 1168), URL: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/ review/1168. Timothy Lang, The Victorians and the Stuart Heritage: Interpretation of a Discordant Past (Cambridge, 1955). Anne Laurence, ‘Women historians and documentary research: Lucy Aikin, Agnes Strickland, Mary Anne Everett Green and Lucy Toulmin Smith’, in Joan Bellamy et al. (eds), Women, Scholarship and Criticism: Gender and Knowledge, 1790–1900 (Manchester, 2000), pp. 125–41. Philippa Levine, The Amateur and the Professional. Antiquarians, Historians and Archaeologists in Victorian England, 1838–1886 (Cambridge, 1986). Peter Mandler, ‘“In the olden time”: romantic history and English national identity, 1820–50’, in Lawrence Brockliss and David Eastwood (eds), A Union of Multiple Identities: The British Isles, c.1750–1850 (Manchester, 1997), pp. 78–92. A.L. Rowse, An Elizabethan Garland (1953). Richard Slotkin, ‘Fiction for the purposes of history’, Rethinking History, 9 (2005), 221–36. 339

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 340

INDEX

Abbot, Robert 39, 64 Abercrombie N. 95, 335 Acts and Monuments 19–29 see also Foxe, John Adams, Simon 257 Aikin, Lucy 317, 339 Ainslie, J.L. 155, 211 Ainsworth, W.H. 317 Allen, (Cardinal) William 39, 68 Amussen, Susan Dwyer 272 Anderson, James Maxwell 282, 298–301 Andrews, William Eusebius 101 Annales school of history 129 anticlericalism 160–1 Aragon, Queen Catherine of 14, 86, 90, 92, 115, 122, 263 Arbor, E. 36 Aston, Margaret 36, 37 Aylmer, John 24, 25, 57, 202 Ayre, J. 36 Bainton, Roland 237 Baker, Derek 156 Baker, Thomas 59 Baker, W.J. 115, 335 Bale, John 2, 22, 29, 322 Bancroft, (Archbishop) Richard 3, 60 Barlow, Jerome 10, 11 Barnes, Margaret Campbell 278, 295–8 Barnes, Robert 2, 13–14, 26 Batteley, Nicholas 55, 58–9 Beard, Charles 110–13, 116, 335

Becket, Thomas 20 Becon, Thomas 30, 105 Beer, Barrett 264, 276 Bell, Thomas 252 Bellamy, Joan 317 Bennett, G.V. 116, 335 Bentham, Thomas 204–5, 228 Bentley, Michael 2, 68–9, 150, 152, 186, 235, 237, 333, 336 Berington, Joseph 70, 72–4, 83, 94, 324 Berlatsky, Joel 228 Bernard, George 262–6, 284, 306–10, 329 Betteridge, Thomas 28, 37, 333 Bindoff, S.T. 125–7, 148, 167, 168, 188 biography 103, 118–26, 143–4, 280–3, 303–10, 313–14, 331 Biondo, Flavio 9 bishops 198–210 Blackwell, George 74 Boleyn, Anne 27, 40, 46, 83, 87, 89–93, 122–3, 263, 283, 294–310, 326 Boleyn, Mary 90, 92 Bolt, Robert 283, 311–12, 318 Bonner, Edmund 48, 58, 79 Bossy, John 244, 245, 246–7, 270 Boucher, Joan 80 Bowker, Margaret 170, 197, 337 Brendon, P. 115, 335 Breward, Ian 261, 276

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 341

INDEX

Brewer, J.S. 65, 103, 110, 116 Brigden, Susan 176, 190, 244, 270, 278 Brockliss, Lawrence 318, 339 Brooks, Peter Newman 259, 275 Browne, Magdalen 250 Bruni, Leonardo 9 Bucer, Martin 259, 260 Bullinger, Henry 259, 260 Burges, Cornelius 31 Burke, Peter 163 Burnet, Gilbert 4, 49–52, 55–6, 63, 65, 68, 78, 88, 89, 90, 96, 115, 323 Bury, J.B. 128 Butler, Charles 70–1, 77–81, 87, 94–7, 324 Butterfield, Herbert 129 Calder, Isabel, 229 Calvin, John 44, 259 Camden, William 31, 68 Cameron, Euan 259, 275 Campion, Edmund 39 Cannadine, David 318, 339 Cannon, John 318 Carlson, Eric 269 Cartwright, Thomas 47, 223 Castor, Helen 278, 310, 339 Cattley, S.R. 36, 101 Cavendish, George 295 Cecil, William 209 Chadwick, Owen 260 Chapman, James 290–4, 319, 339 Cheke, John 168 Churchill, Sir Winston S. 281–2 Cisalpinists 70, 72–4, 76 Clancy, Thomas, 64 Clark, Peter 172, 176, 180, 189, 190 Clebsch, William A. 155, 187

clergy 210–16 Cobbett, William 67, 85–7, 96, 325, 326 Cockerill, Thomas 57 Cogan, Susan 190, 247, 251 Colet, John 9 Collier, Jeremy 60, 68, 72, 78, 83 Collinson, Patrick 2, 29, 131–2, 153, 181, 182, 184, 196–7, 198, 207, 211, 223, 237, 240, 240–1, 246, 250, 254–7, 260, 264, 278, 329, 333, 336, 337 Cooper, J.P. 149 Cooper, J.P.D. 263–4, 276, 277, 338 Cope, Alan 26 courts, ecclesiastical 216–24 Coverdale, Matthew 2, 22, 274 Cranmer, (Archbishop) Thomas 3, 4, 25, 47, 51, 56, 59, 79–81, 86, 87, 102, 169, 259, 265, 326 Crawford, Patricia 250, 272, 273, 329 Crépin, Jean 25 Cromesholme, Samuel 54 Cromwell, Thomas 14, 15, 17–18, 27, 124, 131–46, 194, 198–9, 255, 265, 283, 284, 288, 310–17 Cross, Claire 36, 164–5, 176, 178–9, 193 Cuming, G.J. 228, 273 Curteys, Richard 207 Cust, Richard, 269 Dalaber, Anthony 105 Darcie, Abraham 31 Davies, C.S.L. 161, 188 Davies, Horton 156, 187, 275 341

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 342

INDEX

Davies, Kathleen M. 248, 271–2 Davis, J.F. 157, 187 Day, John 26, 29–31 De Groot, Jerome n.319, 339 Deborah 23–4, 31 Delors, Catherine 285 despotism 139–43 Dickens, Arthur Geoffrey 2, 135–6, 145, 146, 147, 153, 155–6, 156–9, 161, 162, 169, 176, 177, 179, 213–14, 235, 240, 254–7, 259, 278, 314–15, 336 Dixon, Richard Watson 108–9, 116, 258, 335 Dodd, Charles 72, 78, 95 Doran, Susan 257 Dowling, Maria 273 Drabble, John, 57, 95, 334 drama, historical 298–301, 311–12 Duffy, Eamon 2, 95, 236, 239, 240–3, 244–6, 250, 252, 254, 259, 338 Dugmore, Clifford 66, 227, 258, 275 Durant, David N. 271 Durston, Christopher 268 Eales, Jacqueline 268, 272, 273 Eastwood, David 318, 339 Edward VI, King 4, 27, 29, 44, 195, 201, 330 Edwards, John 270 Eire, Carlos M.N. 69 Eisenstein, Elizabeth 36, 239 Elizabeth I, Queen 23–4, 28, 31, 39, 45–7, 74–7, 86–7, 193, 195, 196–8, 200–1, 209, 254–7, 323, 330 Ellis, H. 36 Elton, G.R. 2, 131–9, 140–3,

146, 147, 153, 168, 195, 235, 260, 264, 265, 314, 336, 337, 338 Elyot, (Sir) Thomas 239 emancipation, Catholic 67–97, 324–5 Erasmus, Desiderius 9, 12, 155 Erikson, Erik H. 268 Euler, Carrie 275 Evelyn, John 51 exile 10–15, 25 feminism 237–8, 248–50 Ferrell, Lori Anne 268 fiction, historical 278–9, 284–90, 294–8, 301–3, 310–11, 313, 314–17 Field, John, 223 film, historical 284–94 Fincham, Kenneth 230, 269, 275, 332 Fines, John 179, 190 Firth, C.H. 128 Fish, Simon 10, 11, 12 Fisher, H.A.L. 128 Fisher, John 40 Fletcher, Anthony 248 Floud, Roderick 175 Flower, William 104 Ford, Ford Maddox 279 Foster, Andrew 228 Foxe, Edward 14, 16–17 Foxe, John 2, 11, 19–29, 31–5, 38, 41, 48, 56, 58, 61, 77, 86, 101, 102–5, 168, 170, 244, 261, 322, 323, 333, 334, 335 Fraser, Antonia 278 Freeman, Tom 25, 275, 333, 334 Freke, Edmund 202, 207 Frith, John 2, 80

342

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 343

INDEX

Froude, James Anthony 4, 105–8, 189 Froude, Richard Hurrell 100–1, 107–8, 115, 335 Fulker, William 39 Fuller, Thomas 48–9, 51–2, 65, 68, 72 Gairdner, James 137 Gardiner, Stephen 14, 16–17, 78–9, 202, 244 Garrett, Christina n.187, 189, 190, 258 Gasquet, (Cardinal) Aidan 241, 269 George, Charles 259 George, Katherine 259 Goldstein, Doris S. 318 Goldstein, Philip 268 Goodman, Christopher 105 Greaves, Richard L. 272, 273 Green, J.R. 269, 281, 339 Green, Mary Anne Everett 317 Gregory, Philippa 278, 285, 302–3 Greig, Martin 65 Grey, Jane 25, 78, 271, 279 Grindal, (Archbishop) Edmund 22, 25, 26, 29, 53, 56–7, 105, 181, 196–7, 209, 255, 323 Guy, John 188 Ha, Polly 275, 276 Haigh, Christopher 153, 159, 170–1, 240, 241–2, 244, 246, 252, 260, 263, 278, 336, 337, 338 Hall, Basil 156 Hall, Edward 9, 92 Hallam, Henry 279 Haller, William 24, 34, 104, 334 Hamer, Anthony 59

Harding, Thomas, 26, 39 Harkrider, Melissa Franklin 251, 273 Harpsfield, Nicholas 26, 68 Harrison, Thomas 59 Harte, N.B. 336 Heal, Felicity 35, 39, 156, 188, 189, 191, 202–6, 334, 337–8 Heaton, Martin 201 Henry VIII, King 4, 12, 15–17, 27, 43–4, 82–4, 90–3, 109–10, 117–47, 166–9, 193–4, 197, 199, 283, 290–4, 323, 326, 330, 338 Herrup, Cynthia 332 Heylyn, Peter 41–9, 68, 72, 73, 78, 323 Heylyn, Rowland 42 Heywood, John 239 Heywood, Thomas 31 Hickerson, Megan L. 271 Hickes, William 55 Hick(e)s, (Sir) William 55, 56, 58, 61 Hill, Christopher 130, 200–1, 226, 337 Hilliard, Richard 40 history 5–6, 8–10, 29–31, 34–5, 38–41, 63, 93–5, 102–8, 115, 128–32, 146–7, 151–2, 235–40, 266–7, 278–84 Hoby, Margaret 249 Hogrefe, Pearl 271 Holinshed, Raphael 20 Holyoake, George 98 Hook, Walter Farquar 65, 75, 95, 96 Hooker, Richard 39, 195–7, 201 Hooper, John 87, 215, 252 Horowitz, Mark 148, 284, 338, 339

343

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 344

INDEX

Hoskins, W.G. 243 Hostetler, Bob 268 Houlbrooke, Ralph 228, 337 House, Seymour Baker 321 Hughes, Philip n.65, 258, 275 Hume, David 69, 90, 95, 335 Humphrey, Laurence 47 Hurstfield, Joel 139–43, 256, 336 Hus, John 25 Hutchinson, Robert 314–15 identity, religious 245–7, 327 Ingram, Elizabeth 36, 37 Ingram, Martin, 229, 337 Institute of Historical Research 118, 128 Irwin, Margaret 278, 291 Isham, Elizabeth, 249 Ives, Eric 122, 264, 278, 304–6, 308–10 Jackson, Ken 268, 338 James I, King 202, 209, 330 James, Mervyn 180, 190 Jameson, Anna 280 Jewel, John 24, 37, 39, 101, 195 Johnson, Hester 54 Johnson, John 54 Jones, Norman 269 Jones, (Sir) William 49 Josef, Eric 269 Joye, George 105 Keble, John 100, 101, 228 Kewes, Paulina 35, 64, 334 Kidd, Benjamin 113–15, 116, 258, 275 King, J.N. (John) 33, 37, 268, 334 Kingston, Anthony 252 Kirby, Torrance 275

Kitch, M.J. 172, 189 Knox, John 105 Korda, (Sir) Alexander 290 Kumin, Beat 230 laity 164–6, 174–86 Lake, Peter 39, 240, 335 Lambert, John 80 Lamont, W. 65 Lander, Stephen 188, 229 Lang, Timothy 318, 339 Lasco, John a 44 Laslett, Peter 190 Lathbury, Thomas 101 Latimer, Hugh 28–9, 30, 87, 102, 252, 264 Laud, William 3, 41, 42 Lauderdale, William 49 Laughton, John 55 Laurence, Anne 317, 318, 339 Lawrence, Hannah 280 Lay, Paul 264, 276 Lee, Sidney 103 Lee, Rowland 203 Leedham-Green, Elizabeth 260–1, 275 Lehmberg, Stanford 239 Leithead, Howard 321 Levack, Brian P. 229 Levine, David 189 Levine, Philippa 318, 339 Lewis, David n.64, 65 Lightfoot, John 54, 56, 58 Lingard, John 77, 78–9, 81, 88, 89, 90–3, 94, 280, 294, 324–6 Litzenberger, Caroline 273, 274 Lloyd, (Regius Professor) Charles 100 Lloyd, William 50 Loach, Jennifer 243–4, 270 Loades, David n.37, 191, 244, 344

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 345

INDEX

245, 270 Locke, Anne 237 Lockyer, Roger 168, 189, 191 Lollardy, 12, 20–2, 25, 156–9 Longland, John 170 Lowe, Ben 251–3, 274 Luther, Martin 9, 12, 25, 155, 227, 268 Luxton, Imogen 182, 191, 268 Macaulay, Thomas Babington 4, 109, 280 McConnell, Anita 66 MacCulloch, Diarmaid 181, 259, 264, 278, 315 McDowell, John 268 McEntergart, Rory 276 Machor, James L. 268 Mahew, G.J. 176, 189 Maitland, S.R. 33, 59, 101, 102–5, 259 Maltby, Judith 268 Manchester School of History 128 Manning, Roger 171, 174, 189, 228 Mantel, Hilary 278, 284, 286, 313, 316–17 Marchant, R.A. 190, 221, 229, 338 Marotti, Arthur F. 268, 338 Marshall, Peter 190, 234, 240, 245, 247, 254, 278, 338 Marshall, William 17 Martyr, Peter 260 martyrology 19–29 martyrs (Oxford) 101–2, 105 Marx, Karl 130, 152 Mary I, Queen 35, 44, 77–9, 193, 215, 244 Mary, Queen of Scots 318 Mat(t)hew, Toby 207

Mayer, Thomas F. 64, 65, 244, 270 Mayhew, Henry 318 Melancthon, Philip 14, 18, 98, 259 Melman, Billie 69, 279–80, 333, 335 micro-history 243–4, 256–7 Milner, John 33, 70–1, 75–6, 78–84, 88, 326 Milton, Anthony 42, 65, 247, 271, 334 modernism 131–2, 147, 235–7 monarchy 132–9 More, (Sir) Thomas 312, 319, 321 Morgan, Edmund S. 271 Morice, Ralph 26 Morison, J.J. 65 Morison, (Sir) Richard 262 Morton, (Archbishop) John 203 Morton, Thomas 222 Mozley, J.F. 25, 34, 36, 104 Namier, (Sir) Lewis 258 Naunton, Robert 31 Neale, (Sir) John 36, 148, 336 Neile, (Archbishop) Richard 198 Newman, John Henry 100 Nichols, John Gough 103, 116 Nicholson, G.D. 35, 36 Nowell, Alexander 21 Noy, William 42 Oakeley, Frederick 101 O’Day, Rosemary 204–5, 215, 278, 336–8 O’Hara, Diana n.273 O’Malley, John n.64 Oldcastle, (Sir) John 12 Outhwaite, R. Brian n.230, 272, 338

345

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 346

INDEX

Overell, Anne 261–2, 275, 276 Oxford movement 100–1

Questier, Michael 246, 250, 254, 271, 335

Palliser, D.M. 160, 172–4, 229 Panzani, Gregorio 96 Parish, Helen L. 274 Parker, (Archbishop) Matthew 20, 26, 29–30, 55–7, 102 Parker, T.M. 258, 275 Parker Society 102 Parkhurst, John 205, 228 Perkins, William 261 Persons, Robert 39, 65, 68, 73 Peters, Christine 237, 250, 268 Pettegree, Andrew 253–64 Phillips, Peter 332, 335 Pilkington, James 181, 190 Plaidy, Jean 278, 301–2, 321 Plowden, Alison 282 Plowden, Charles 70, 73, 75, 96 Pocock, Nicholas 65, 96, 102, 115, 327 Pogson, Rex 244, 270 Pole, (Cardinal) Reginald 55, 68, 79, 90, 244, 245, 270 Pollard, Albert Frederick 117–29, 146–7, 294, 327, 336 Pollen, J.H. 65 postmodernism 3, 236–7, 256–7, 331 Powicke, F.M. 258, 275 Prest, Wilfrid 229 Preston, J.H. 65, 66, 334 Prestwich, Menna 275 Prideaux, William 41 Prior, Mary 248–9, 272, 329 Protestantism measurement of 174–84 spread of 169–74, 251–4 Prynne, William 42

Ranke, Leopold von 115, 280, 327 receptionism 238, 257–62 Reformation definitions 3–5, 266–7, 322–31 European connections 111–13, 155–6, 257–62 Religious Tract Society 101 revisionism, Neo-Catholic 240–7 Rex, Richard 264, 265, n.276, n.277, 339 Richardson, Glenn 257 Richardson, Roger C. n.272 Ridley, Jasper 168, n.188 Ridley, Nicholas 87, 102 Rishton, Edward 40, 64 Robertson, Craig 52 Robertson, J.C. 65, 95 Rowlands, Marie, 249, 272 Rowse, A.L. 310, 319, 333, 339 Roye, William 10, 11 Rupp, G. 116, 335 Russell, Conrad 304, 320 Ruthall, Thomas 203 Ryrie, Alec 245, 264 Salter, Richard 54 Sander(s), Nicholas 39–41, 46, 50, 68, 322 Sansom, C.J. (Christopher) 287–90, 313–16 Scarisbrick, J.J. 2, 143–7, 153, 161–9, 176, 178, 194, 254, 265, 338 Scholefield, J. 190 Schucking, Levin 248, 271 Scribner, R. 269

346

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 347

INDEX

Seaver, Paul 264, 265, 276, 339 Shagan, Ethan 245, 252, 271 Shakespeare, William 6, 294 Sheils, W.J. 176, 189–1, 229, 332 Shepherd, Alexandra 273 Sheppard, Elaine 176, 190 Sherburne, Robert 217, 219 Simon, Joan 191 Simon, J.S.F. 65 Skeeters, Martha C. 273 Skingle, Robert, M.A. 54 Skinner, Quentin 149 Slotkin, Richard 319, 339 Smith, Bonnie G. 248, 333 Smith, Lacey Baldwin 167–8, 169, 188 Smith, Lucy Toulmin 317, 339 Somner, William 66 Sowerby, Tracy 262, 276 Spencer, Herbert 113 Spufford, Margaret 171, 268, 272 St German, Christopher 15, 18 Stapleton, Thomas 39, 64 Starkey, David 278, 303–4, 310 Starkey, Thomas 120 Stone, Lawrence n.149, 227, 248, 272 Stow, John 20, 84 Strickland, Agnes 280–1, 317, 318, 339 Strickland, Elizabeth 280 Strype, John 3, 4, 52–63, 68, 81, 88, 115, 323, 327 supremacy, royal 193–8 Tawney, R.H. 130, 26 Thomas, K.V. 190, 269 Thompson, James Cargill 59, 60, 66, 197, 227 Thomson, J.A.F. 140

Throckmorton, (Sir) John 72, 73, 74 Throyas, Rapin de 68 Thynne, William 239 Todd, Henry John 80–1, 89, 96, 97 Todd, Margot 248, 271 Took, Patricia 182, 191, 243, 270 Townsend, George 105 Transalpinists 70–1, 75–7 Trevelyan, G.M. 139, 149, 281–2, 318 Turner, Sharon 90–1, 97 Tyacke, Nicholas 241, 260, 335 Tyndale, William 2, 9–14, 22, 155, 322 universities 232–5, 327–31 Valla, Lorenzo 9, 155 Vergil, Polydore 9, 92 Vidmar, John 40–4, 95–7, 322, 325, 335 voluntarism 126, 141, 143–4 Wabuda, Susan 253, 274 Walker, Greg 239, 268 Walsh, J.D. 116, 335 Walsham, Alexandra 247, 271 Ward, Mary 249 Ward, William George 101 Warham, (Archbishop) William 16 Warnicke, Retha 251, 271, 273, 320 Watson, William 68, 74 Watt, Tessa 268 Weber, Max 130, 268 West, Nicholas 203 Wexler, E.E. 95, 335 Whitaker, William 39 347

4035 The debate.qxd:-

9/12/13

08:37

Page 348

INDEX

Whitgift, (Archbishop) John 3, 56, 196–7, 202, 209 Whittingham,William 22 Willen, Diane 249, 272 Willet, Andrew 39, 64 Williams, John 42 Williams, Penry 153 Willoughby, Katherine 251, 273 wills 175–80 Wolsey, (Cardinal Archbishop) Thomas 90–2, 123–5,

132–3, 137, 143, 202, 265, 283, 326 women 248–50 Wooding, Lucy 245, 270, 277 Wyatt, (Sir) Thomas 78, 239 Wyclif, John 8, 21, 25, 137 Youings, Joyce 198, 227 Zell, Michael L. 189, 214, 229 Zinberg, C. 66

348