English Reformation

by William J. Tighe

For some time I have been alternately bemused, puzzled and annoyed by the arguments and assertions of those Anglican writers and bloggers who try to defend one or other modern “official Anglican” innovations such as the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, or episcopate. Some of the commentators are often generally "conservative" but somehow they seem compelled to dismiss the lack of any early church precedent for these innovations with remarks along the lines of, "the Church of England rejected papal jurisdiction in the Sixteenth Century, and so is free today to do what it will on its own authority." They usually also contend that the English Church "broke away from Rome" or "freed itself from papal control" or "declared itself independent" at that time. The purpose of these claims seems to be to assert that this act of 450 years ago was indeed a declaration of independence on the part of the "Anglican Church" and one which gives some degree of "historical precedent" for these modern innovations, if only by establishing the "authority" of Anglican churches to depart on their own initiative from Catholic belief and precedent hitherto held to be binding as constitutive of "catholicity."

There are interesting theological and ecclesiological questions underlying such an assertion, but my purpose here is not to discuss those, but, rather, what it was (if anything) that the Church of England "did" between the early 1530s and the mid 1560s to see if these assertions can be justified, or, indeed, whether they have any clear meaning at all.

At the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, and for a long time previously, the Church of England consisted of two church provinces: Canterbury, with nineteen dioceses, and York, with three. To be precise, the English church also included the four Welsh dioceses, in addition to fifteen English ones. Although the English bishops had gathered together in "synods" beginning in the Seventh Century, such synods had ceased to meet by the Fourteenth Century, because of the development of two ecclesiastical assemblies, the Convocation of Canterbury and the Convocation of York.

The Upper House of each convocation consisted of prelates (bishops and abbots) while the Lower House consisted of archdeacons, deans of cathedrals and representatives of the parochial clergy. The convocations' origins were connected with those of the English Parliament. As is well known, the English Parliament is a two-house body, consisting of the House of Lords, in which sat until only a decade ago the "Lords Spiritual" (the bishops of the original 26 dioceses of the Church of England and, until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s some 31 abbots) and the "Lords Temporal" (the hereditary peers, to which were added the life peers in 1964).  The membership of the House of Commons, by contrast, was elected each time the monarch summoned a Parliament. What is not so well known is that at the beginnings of Parliament in the late Thirteenth and early Fourteenth Centuries, "the Commons" included elected representatives of the lower clergy as well as of the laity, but in the 1330s these "proctors of the clergy" began to refuse to participate in parliamentary deliberations, considering them both time-consuming and unsuitably "secular" in nature. Consequently, they began to meet separately under the presidency of a Prolocutor (Speaker) of their own choosing, and at the summons of their respective province's archbishop. This was the origin of the convocations, and the reason why meetings of the convocations took place in tandem with meetings of Parliament, and not otherwise. (1)

Footnote 1: In Ireland, by contrast, the "proctors of the clergy" never absented themselves from the Irish House of Commons, and continued to sit there until their blocking in 1536 of the passage of legislation declaring Henry VIII to be "Supreme Head on Earth under Christ" of the Church of Ireland analogous to the legislation which had been passed by the English Parliament two years earlier. In order to get the legislation passed, they were forcibly ejected and permanently excluded from the Irish Parliament in that year.

The convocations were effectively the "church parliament" for the two provinces of the Church of England. They had two principal functions:
  • to make ecclesiastical laws (canons) which bound both clergy and laity and
  • to vote clerical tax grants to the Crown, analogous to those secular taxes voted by Parliament.
However, while Acts of Parliament required the monarch's approval to become legally valid, those of the convocations did not: they came into force when approved by both houses and promulgated by the archbishop of their respective province. While both convocations were in theory of equal authority, in practice the Convocation of York was a small-scale affair as compared with the Convocation of Canterbury, and normally followed the lead of the latter body. (Indeed, bishops of the Northern Province on occasion sat informally with their southern counterparts at meetings of the Canterbury Convocation.)

In 1216 King John signed Magna Carta. The first clause of Magna Carta granted "that the Church of England may be free" meant originally free from royal interference concerning episcopal elections and church finances. There had been a number of clashes between the Crown and the Church in the Middle Ages both before and after the grant of Magna Carta but after 1341 there were no major ones. There continued to be jurisdictional quarrels between the king's courts and the church courts. Some churchmen resented the various Fourteenth-Century parliamentary statutes that sought to limit papal interference with ecclesiastical appointments within the Church of England, but for the most part Church and Crown coexisted in relative harmony until the reign of Henry VIII. Frustrated by the failure of his attempt in 1529 to secure a papal annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon or, otherwise, papal acquiescence in an annulment to be granted by a specially-arranged papal legatine court meeting in England in June/July of that year, Henry began to browbeat the English Church in order to secure its institutional support for his "divorce." He wanted the support of the church to place pressure on the papacy to grant the annulment.

By June 1530 it was becoming clear that any Roman judgment on Henry's marriage was likely to uphold its validity, and from that point onwards the goal of Henry's diplomacy was to prevent or delay a resolution of the case in Rome, while casting about for some means of resolving the matter in England. At the time, most of the bishops had willingly or otherwise proclaimed their support for Henry's annulment petition as had the convocations (academic assemblies of masters and doctors) of Cambridge and Oxford universities. Nonetheless, when Henry suggested in October 1530 to a group of bishops, clergy, judges and lawyers that perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury might proceed in the case in defiance of the pope, the meeting reacted with consternation, informing Henry that this was impossible. Likewise, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham (d. 1532), who was an unenthusiastic supporter of the king's cause, refused to have any to do with the suggestion.

Beginning in 1531 the king and his officials launched a number of legal attacks on the clergy of England, considered as a corporation, designed not only to mulct them of a large sum of money for a royal pardon -- a pardon for their "offense" in infringing the king's sovereignty by their use of Canon Law -- but also to coerce them into recognizing (for the first time ever) that the king had a responsibility for his subjects' spiritual welfare as well as their temporal weal. As such the king could claim to be "protector and supreme head" of the English Church and clergy. For the first time the suggestion was made that the very existence of church courts and their system of canon law constituted an infringement of the king's prerogative and of English sovereignty.

In February of that year, the Upper House of the Canterbury Convocation recognized the king as "singular protector, supreme lord and even, so far as the law of Christ allows, supreme head of the English Church and clergy," but the Lower House of the Canterbury Convocation accepted this only after reserving all of the traditional liberties of the Church and also the primacy and authority of the pope. It is not clear that the Convocation of York ever accepted the proposal at all. What did become apparent as a result of the controversy was that there were areas of spiritual authority immune from any form of royal and parliamentary control. These would have to be eliminated if the king were to obtain an annulment from Church authorities in England.

The next crisis began in January 1532, when an act was introduced in Parliament to cut off the payment of annates, a sum equivalent to a year's revenue of a see payable to the papacy by newly-appointed bishops. This evoked furious opposition from the clergy, as well as massive resistance in Parliament itself. It was only overcome when the king came in person to the House of Commons and insisted that members vote on the bill in his presence. The aged Archbishop Warham suggested in the course of the debate that the king was attacking the Church in the same manner as Henry II had done some 350 years earlier, and declared that he was himself prepared to suffer the same fate as St. Thomas a Becket. In the middle of this stand-off, a great conflict erupted over the respective jurisdictions of Church courts and Common Law courts. On May 10 the king suddenly demanded that the Church surrender to him its legislative independence by granting him a veto power over all the legislation of the convocations, the right to revoke existing canons that conflicted with royal authority and the assurance that Canon Law itself owed its authority in England to the king alone. Some days of conflict and negotiation followed, until the prelates, for the most part, lost their nerve, and on May 15 (after most of the bishops and abbots had absented themselves) a small rump of the Upper House of the Canterbury Convocation consisting of six bishops and a few abbots submitted to the king with one dissenting vote - John Clerk, Bishop of Bath & Wells (who later submitted when faced with prosecution for treason). The firmest opponent of the king's demands, the future martyr John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was absent recovering from having had his food poisoned by a disgruntled servant.

On the day after the Upper House of the Canterbury Convocation submitted to the king, Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor, tacitly but clearly indicating that he was unable to serve the king any longer in such circumstances. The Lower House, which had shown more mettle in opposing the king's demands, was dispersed without even considering the proposal, and it was not until some years later, after Henry had broken with Rome and adhesion to the papacy had become treason, that the Convocation of York belatedly considered, and accepted, the king's demands.

I have described these actions in such detail because the action of the Upper House of the Canterbury Convocation on May 15, 1532 is the one and only possibility that can be adduced as the Church of England choosing to break with Rome and the papacy, to become an "independent church province." Everything that followed subsequently — the "Act in Restraint of Appeals" of April 1533, which forbade all appeals from English church courts to Rome (2); the order to clergy to preach against the pope in December 1533; the Act of Supremacy a year later, that declared the king to be "the only Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England"; the Treason Bill in early 1535, which made it a capital crime to deny the king's Supreme Headship; the dissolution of the monasteries some years later; the 1539 Act of Six Articles, by which Parliament enacted savage penalties for denials of certain points of Catholic doctrine and practice -- were drawn up, debated and enacted without any formal consultation of, or ratification by, the Canterbury or York Convocations.
 
Footnote 2: Thus it was possible for the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who had been appointed in December 1532 after Warham's death in August, but not consecrated and installed as archbishop until March 1533, to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Queen Catherine in defiance of the pope. (The king had, in fact, already bigamously married Anne Boleyn in January 1533.) It should be noted that Cranmer, upon his appointment as archbishop, had to perjure himself by forswearing in the king's presence, secretly, the oath of canonical allegiance to the Pope that he was to take the following day at his episcopal consecration.

The king, of course, consulted clergy, especially bishops, on theological matters, and on occasion the Convocations were asked to debate various points of doctrine and practice (as in the run-up to the Act of Six Articles), but their role in all of these was purely advisory: Henry could take advice on church matters from whomever he chose, clergy or lay alike, or act wholly on his own initiative; and such doctrinal statements, catechetical materials or revised occasional services (such as the "English Litany" of 1545) as were issued during these years were promulgated and implemented on the king's authority as Supreme Head, not by the authority of the Church.

The same pattern continued under Edward VI after Henry's death in 1547. In fact, once the Crown (used here as a collective term for the officials who governed England under the boy-king) decided to pursue a clearly Protestant policy, first by allowing clerical marriage and then by embracing liturgical and doctrinal reform, it sought advice and suggestions from "advanced" bishops and clergy (such as Archbishop Cranmer). However, it avoided consulting institutions such as the convocations, dominated as they were until the very end of the reign by "conservatives" who were likely to resist change rather than to promote it. The major religious developments of the reign — the requirement of communion in both kinds in 1547, the destruction of images in 1548, the allowance of clerical marriage in 1549, followed by the suppression of the Latin services and the promulgation of the first Prayer Book in that same year, the destruction of altars in 1550 and their replacement by wooden tables, the promulgation of the second Prayer Book in 1552 and the definition of England's new Protestant faith by the Forty-Two Articles and its accompanying Catechism -- were not submitted to, or ratified by, the Convocations. They were all the result of Crown action upon the Church. When consultation was sought, it was with clergy or bishops who were likely to favor the proposed changes. All of these changes, it should be noted, met with widespread resistance from clergy and laity alike.

When Mary Tudor came to the throne in July 1553, after defeating an attempt to replace her with the Protestant Lady Jane Grey, she came to the throne on a wave of enthusiasm that was at least as much religious as it was secular. In many parts of England, altars were erected and priests resumed the use of the old rites even before it became legal to do so. And once she was established on the throne and her first parliament began to meet, the queen requested the Canterbury Convocation to discuss the Mass, transubstantiation, the appropriate form of worship, and to advise her on these matters. In late October and early November the Canterbury Convocation began what proved to be an acrimonious debate on the Mass and the Eucharist.

The different theological views of Catholics and Protestants emerged starkly, and in the end the Convocation resolved that (1) the natural body of Christ really is in the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine by virtue of the words of consecration spoken by the celebrant, (2) that no other substance remains in the Eucharist after the words of consecration but the Body and Blood of Christ and (3) that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice which avails for the remission of the sins of both the quick and the dead, thus upholding the Real Presence, Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass -- all three of which had been repudiated and condemned during the reign of Edward VI.

Because the Protestant bishops who had been appointed during Edward VI's reign had either been excluded and replaced by those Catholic bishops whom they had displaced in that reign, or else had (like Archbishop Cranmer) been charged with treason for supporting the attempt to divert the throne from Queen Mary to Lady Jane Grey, and so were imprisoned under indictment awaiting trial, the Upper House was unanimous in its support of the three articles, but in the Lower House a number of members argued against the propositions, and six members (out of slightly less than a hundred) dissented right to the end. This Convocation debate early in Mary's reign can justly be seen as the first time since 1532 that the Church of England had been able to express its mind freely through its own institutions, and the mind that it expressed at that time was distinctly hostile towards all that had happened over the past two decades, but especially since the introduction of Protestantism in 1547.

When Parliament repealed all of the Henrician legislation against the papacy in the late summer of 1554, the Canterbury Convocation applauded the act, and its members joined with the members of the House of Lords and House of Commons alike when the papal legate, Reginald, Cardinal Pole (soon to become Archbishop of Canterbury in place of the deprived Cranmer) solemnly absolved them, and the whole "Church and Realm of England" from the sin of schism on November 30, 1554.

Mary died on November 17, 1558 and was succeeded by her half- sister Elizabeth. In retrospect, her decision to attempt to reassert the Royal Supremacy over the Church of England seems inevitable — she was Anne Boleyn's daughter and, as such, of illegitimate birth in Catholic eyes (although even they recognized that she was nevertheless the lawful successor to the Crown). (3) But this was far from obvious at the time, despite the hopeful assurance of those Protestants who had fled from England during the Marian years and who would subsequently see the vindication of their cause. Elizabeth had played the role of a devout Bible-reading princess during the reign of her zealously Protestant brother Edward VI, but when Mary succeeded Edward and Catholicism returned as the religion of England, Elizabeth, although initially she resisted attending Mass, eventually asked Mary to send her Catholic books to read and theologians to confer with, and after some months she professed herself to have been converted. For the rest of Mary's reign she lived in all respects as a Catholic, attending Mass in her household, receiving communion publicly from time to time and seeming well content with the established order of things. It appears that even her closest advisers were unaware of her religious sentiments: on the first day of her reign her newly-appointed Secretary, Sir William Cecil, dashed off a memo to remind himself of matters that needed attention over the next few days. Among them was sending notice of the new queen's accession, together with assurances of friendship, to various foreign potentates. First on the list came the pope, but no ambassador was ever sent to Rome, and on this list of potentates the pope's name (alone) has been crossed out, in Cecil's hand but with a different color of ink -- which implies that even he, at first, had little idea what choice his queen would make.

Footnote 3: By law, an illegitimate child had no right of succession to the Crown, or indeed to any other estate or title of inheritance. In 1543, however, Parliament had passed a statute allowing Henry VIII to determine the succession to the Crown by his own will. Acting on the strength of this grant, Henry had decreed that the Crown was to pass after his death to his son Edward and then, if Edward should lack offspring, to his daughter Mary and then, if she should lack offspring, to his daughter Elizabeth. At the time that he did this, both Mary and Elizabeth had been declared legally illegitimate, and his will did not alter their status. When Mary became queen in 1553, Parliament immediately passed an act voiding all of the acts and legal processes that had effected the annulment of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533, thus upholding her legitimacy. No such act was ever passed in Elizabeth's reign, and so she remained even as queen as of illegitimate birth. Henry VIII's will had gone on to decree that if Elizabeth were to die without children, the descendants of Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary Tudor (d. 1532), Duchess of Suffolk, were to inherit the Crown, thus excluding the descendants of his older sister, Margaret (d. 1543), Queen of Scotland. However, when Elizabeth did die in 1603, the provisions of the will were ignored, and Margaret's great-grandson, James VI of Scotland, became James I of England.

Within a month she had unambiguously signaled her intentions, first by walking out of the Christmas Mass at Court when the celebrant refused her request to omit the elevation of the Host and Chalice at the consecration, and then, at her coronation on January 15, 1559, after insulting the monks who welcomed her to Westminster Abbey, by withdrawing from her own Coronation Mass and refusing to receive communion at it (the only English monarch, other than the Catholic James II in 1685, not to receive communion at her own coronation).

Note: I was wrong in what I wrote in the previous paragraph, along with almost every other historian who has written on the subject.  It appears that the Latin (Sarum) Mass was celebrated, behind screens, by George Carew (d. 1584), who was subsequently to be Dean of the Chapel Royal, with the English “Order of Communion” from 1548 interpolated into it, and that the Queen communicated in both kinds at it -- cf. “The Chapel Royal, the First Edwardian Prayer Book, and Elizabeth’s Settlement of Religion, 1559” by Roger Bowers, The Historical Journal, 43:2 (2000), pp. 317-344.  (The article also revives, although on a new basis, the idea that Elizabeth initially wanted to reinstate the 1549 Prayer Book in 1559, but had to abandon the idea in the face of strong opposition from her Protestant councillors and clergy, and the unwillingness of any Catholic bishops and higher clergy to go along with any breach with Rome, however “moderate.”)

Elizabeth's first Parliament met on January 25, 1559 and by the time of its dissolution on May 8 of that year it had passed two acts -- the Act of Supremacy, which effectively restored the royal supremacy over the Church of England, and the Act of Uniformity, which abolished the age- old Catholic services in favor of a version of the second Book of Common Prayer of 1552 which had been slightly modified to exclude a petition against the papacy from the Litany ("From the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, good Lord deliver us") and to alter the words of administration of the Eucharist to render the meaning ambiguous, and as susceptible of a Catholic interpretation as of a Protestant (Zwinglian) "symbolic" one. But this had been achieved only after the Catholic bishops and their lay supporters in the House of Lords had, first, eviscerated the legislation and then nearly wrecked it. In turn, the Crown had to authorize a renewed plundering of the bishops' lands in order to divide the bishops from some of their lay nobleman supporters and also had to modify the monarch's title from "Supreme Head on Earth under Christ of the Church of England" to "Supreme Governor, as well in all spiritual causes, as in temporal." In practice, this was a distinction without a difference, as her powers were identical with those of her father and brother, but it did salve the consciences of some of those, many of her Protestant clerical supporters among them, who did not think that a woman, queen or no, could be in any sense "head" of the church.

Finally, the Queen’s supporters were able to ensure the absence of a few bishops from the session and force that of two more (the most obdurate opponents of the bills) for the critical votes in the House of Lords, where the Act of Uniformity passed on a vote of 21 in favor to 18 against on April 26 (the Act of Supremacy passed by a wider margin three days earlier). It should be noted that all of the representatives of the "spiritual estate" -- all churchmen, in other words -- present in the House of Lords voted against both acts, which led to some suggestions (which were brushed aside) that they lacked legality, as it was a case of laymen (alone) authorizing an alteration in the doctrine and discipline of the Church against the will of the clergy. (4)

Footnote 4: In later times Puritan proponents of abolishing bishops and "presbyterianizing" the Church of England and abolishing the Prayer Book in favor of a Calvinist form of church services invoked the "precedent" of 1559 to justify the prospect of the "godly" laity and their clerical supporters so "reforming" the Church of England despite the opposition of its bishops to any such "reformation."

Both bills came into force on June 24. Because of an influenza epidemic in the last months of 1558 and early in 1559, out of a total of 26 bishops, 9 had died by that time. A quarrel between Pope Paul IV and Queen Mary's husband, Philip of Spain, from late 1557 onwards, ensured that papal approval was withheld from those nominated to replace them, and so the number of vacant sees continued to mount. In the course of the next five months after June 1559 all but one of the 17 surviving English bishops were removed from their offices upon their refusal to accept the royal supremacy. The one exception, Anthony Kitchen, Bishop of Llandaff, was old and decrepit, and while there is no evidence of his having sworn to the royal supremacy, he probably did so -- but he played little part in church affairs down to his death in 1566 and participated in no episcopal consecrations after 1558.

So, beginning with the appointment of Matthew Parker to Canterbury in July 1559 (Cardinal Pole died on the same day as Queen Mary in November 1558), the Crown had to replace effectively the whole hierarchy of the Church of England.

What of the convocations? The Convocation of York never met during the whole course of these transactions, but the Convocation of Canterbury assembled when the Parliament opened in January 1559. In early February, when versions of the later Acts of Supremacy and of Uniformity were laid before parliament for consideration, the Lower House of the Canterbury Convocation took up the challenge, and in the course of that month drew up five articles concerning religion, which they unanimously approved and sent to the Upper House (consisting of the bishops and the abbot of the restored Westminster Abbey) on February 28 "for the disburdening of their consciences and a profession of their faith." The first three articles were identical in wording with those that had been approved by the same Canterbury Convocation in 1553, upholding the Real Presence, Transubstantiation and the Sacrifice of the Mass.

The last two were new. The fourth upheld the papal supremacy and asserted it to be of divine institution and right, and without exceptions or exemptions for any church or realm. The fifth declared that "the authority of handling and defining concerning matters of doctrine, sacraments and ecclesiastical discipline hath hitherto ever belonged, and of right ought to belong, only to the pastors of the Church, whom the Holy Ghost for this purpose hath set in the Church, and not to laymen." The university convocations of Cambridge and Oxford also declared themselves in favor of the first four of these, but ignored the fifth, possibly because it may have seemed to them so to stress the "episcopal magisterium" that it slighted their own "theologians magisterium."

On February 28 the Lower House presented their resolutions to the Upper House, which likewise endorsed them. In the absence of an Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Bonner, the Bishop of London, presented them to Sir Nicholas Bacon, who, as the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, was the queen's chief legal officer (and who was a strong, if covert, Protestant): he received them, but neither he nor any of the officials of the Crown, nor the queen herself, ever responded to them or (to all appearances) took any notice of them as the Parliament took its course and effected an enduring breach with the papacy.

Such is the story in brief, and the conclusion is easy to draw. Far from seeking "independence" from the papacy, far from approving its "reformation," the Church of England throughout this period opposed such measures on every occasion that, through its own organs of government and self-expression, it was able to voice its sentiments. To effect the kind of "reformation" that a few desired for religious reasons and that many more desired for political reasons, the Church had to be bludgeoned into submission by forcible methods wielded by secular authorities, extending so far as making opponents (even those who spoke against Henry VIII's "Supreme Headship") guilty of treason. It has been estimated that some 400 individuals were executed under these law between 1535 and 1547. These laws were repealed by Mary and not reinstated by Elizabeth, although later in her reign draconian legislation was passed against Englishmen who went abroad to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood and returned to England to "seduce" her subjects from their allegiance.

This ought to be no surprise, as the same thing happened in countries like Denmark and Sweden where the pre-Reformation Catholic structure of the church was largely retained after the introduction of a Lutheran reformation by the civil authorities in both countries. (5) In other regions, the Catholic Church as an institution was either abolished, and replaced by a very differently-organized Lutheran or Reformed church, or else, as in France, Poland and parts of Germany where there was a degree of religious toleration, Lutheran and Reformed churches grew up alongside the Catholic Church. This is no surprise. Where the surprise occurs is the obliviousness to these facts by so many Anglicans or, if aware, how despite them they have continued to make claims that the Church of England and its offshoots have preserved a "Catholic essence" that has been lost in the other churches of the Reformation, and this despite the way that the Church of England, the Catholic Church in England, resisted the religious changes of the 1530s, 1540s and 1550s whenever it had an opportunity to do so.

Footnote 5: In Denmark, after a civil war from 1532 to 1536 in which the winning candidate was a Lutheran, one of the new king's first acts was to remove and imprison all the country's Catholic bishops and to replace them with Lutheran "superintendents," followed by the drafting of a Lutheran confession of faith and the imposition of a Lutheran "church order."  (Subsequently, the Danish kings imposed the same on Norway and Iceland, in the face of vigorous, and occasionally violent, popular opposition in both lands.)  In Sweden, by contrast with the swift and decisive nature of the changes in Denmark, it took thirty years of Machiavellian maneuvering by its king between 1527 and 1557, a king whose actual religious views, if he had any, remained obscure throughout the process, to push his country into Lutheranism while allowing the Catholic bishops to die off, and even then Sweden did not officially embrace Lutheranism until 1593. There are many interesting parallels between the English and Swedish "reformations."

Reading suggestions:
Birt, H. N. The Elizabethan Religious Settlement: A Study of Contemporary Documents. London, 1907: George Bell and Sons. Written from a strongly Catholic perspective by a monk of Downside Abbey, the book goes into meticulous detail concerning the promoters of the Elizabethan Settlement and the attitudes and reactions of the church hierarchy to the events of 1559.

Dickens, A. G. The English Reformation. London, 1964, 1989: Batsford. The best "traditional" work on the English Reformation, arguing that it succeeded because the English took rapidly (and sensibly) to Protestantism after some initial hesitations. The 1989 second edition attempts to rebut "revisionists" like Haigh (below) and Eamon Duffy.

Elton, G. R. Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell. Cambridge, 1972: Cambridge University Press. One of the many books of my late doctor-father (who was by no means inclined to favor the Catholic side of things), this deals with the period from 1532 to 1540. I mention it here, because it demonstrates how deeply unpopular Henry VIII's discarding of Catherine of Aragon in favor of Anne Boleyn and the religious changes of the 1530s that ensued were at the popular level, giving rise to many "seditious speeches" from clergy and laity alike -- which brought treason trials and executions to many of these unfortunate folk.

Haigh, Christopher. English Reformations. Oxford, 1993: Oxford University Press. A sharply-written textbook by a self- described "Anglican agnostic" that debunks many of the myths (and especially Anglican myths) concerning the English Reformation.

Jones, Norman. Faith by Statute: Parliament and the Settlement of Religion 1559. London, 1982: Royal Historical Society. An analysis of the legislative activity of the 1559 Parliament and of the politics of the settlement by an impartial agnostic historian. It demonstrates in detail how the change of religion would never have got through the House of Lords had not the government contrived to exclude some bishops, and then imprison two others for refusing to participate in a rigged "debate" arranged by Elizabeth's officials.

Powicke, Sir Maurice. The Reformation in England. Oxford, 1941: Oxford University Press. After remaining in print for 30 years, this short book went out of fashion. It is time for a revival, as Powicke demonstrates that the dynamics of the English Reformation were very largely political, whatever may have been the case elsewhere in Europe.

 

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