Religious Identities In Henry VIII's England (St. Andrew's Studies in Reformation History) (St. Andrew's Studies in Reformation History)

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Religious Identities In Henry VIII's England (St. Andrew's Studies in Reformation History) (St. Andrew's Studies in Reformation History)

RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES IN HENRY VIII’S ENGLAND For my father Religious Identities in Henry VIII’s England PETER MARSHA

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For my father

Religious Identities in Henry VIII’s England PETER MARSHALL University of Warwick

© Peter Marshall, 2006 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Peter Marshall has asserted his moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Gower House Croft Road Aldershot Hants GU11 3HR England

Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 420 101 Cherry Street Burlington Vermont, 05401–4405 USA

Ashgate website: British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Marshall, Peter, 1964– Religious Identities in Henry VIII’s England. – (St Andrews Studies in Reformation History) 1. Reformation – England. 2. Protestantism – England – History – 16th century. 3. Catholics – England – History – 16th century. 4. Identity (Psychology) – Religious aspects – Christianity. 5. England – Church History – 16th century. 6. Great Britain – History – Henry VIII, 1509–1547. I. Title 274.2⬘06 US Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Marshall, Peter, 1964– Religious Identities in Henry VIII’s England / Peter Marshall. p. cm. – (St Andrews Studies in Reformation History) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Great Britain – Church history – 16th century. 2. Henry VIII, King of England, 1491–1547. 3. Identification (Religion). 4. Great Britain – Politics and government – 1509–1547. I. Title. II. Series. BR756.M454 2005 274.2⬘06–dc22 2005005543 ISBN 0 7546 5390 0 This book is printed on acid-free paper. Typeset by Saxon Graphics Ltd, Derby Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall

Contents Preface and Acknowledgements Abbreviations and Notes 1

Introduction: Identifying Religion in Henry VIII’s England Part One

vi ix 1

Evangelical Directions: Travelling From and To


Evangelical Conversion



Fear, Purgatory and Polemic



The Shooting of Robert Packington



The Debate Over ‘Unwritten Verities’


Part Two

Henrician Reforms: Seen From Inside and Out


The Other Black Legend



Forgery and Miracles



Mumpsimus and Sumpsimus


Part Three 9

Catholic Positions: With and Without the Pope

Is the Pope a Catholic?



The Burning of John Forest



Catholic Exiles


Appendix: List of Henrician Catholic Exiles


Select Bibliography




Preface and Acknowledgements This volume is intended as a contribution towards making sense of the processes of religious identity-formation under way in England during the second half of the reign of Henry VIII (c. 1525–47). It does not claim to be a comprehensive history of the Henrician Reformation as a historical event, or to provide an account of the full range of religious positions adopted by Henry’s subjects (I have fairly little material on Lollardy, for example, or on the radical reinterpretations of Christianity which contemporaries were beginning to label ‘anabaptism’). But taken together, I hope that the essays here have much to say about the emergent shape, as well as the ambiguities and paradoxes, of the early Reformation in England, and about its positioning relative to wider European movements and perceptions. The three-fold arrangement of the volume (with sections on evangelicalism, ‘official’ Henrician reform, and varieties of Catholicism) reflects a set of interests developed over the past decade, as well as a conviction that the religious identities of the period can only properly be understood in relation to the forces that attempted to oppose or negate them. In using ‘identity’ as a shorthand for encapsulating historical experience, I seek to imply neither that religious identity must always be the arithmetical sum of a set of consciously held and coherent ideas, nor that a finely calibrated theological spectrum is necessarily the most useful way of understanding religious positions and divisions in this period. The convenient tripartite structure should be regarded as a set of lenses through which to examine similar themes and problems, rather than an attempt to impose schematic or classificatory rigidity. The extent to which all of these groupings produced evolving, overlapping and contested identities is a recurrent theme of what follows. These past identities resemble our own in being an amalgam of the psychological, the cultural and the political. They were a product of the ways people chose, and were forced, to identify themselves relative to a number of competing external influences: inherited cultural resources, family and other forms of association, ecclesiastical and secular authority. In order to be a useful way of illuminating the past, ‘identities’ need to be understood, not as stable, inherent or intrinsic, but as social personae fundamentally constituted by and through forms of engagement and self-representation, very often polemical and political ones. The chapters which follow make use of a combination of general thematic approaches and closely contextualised case studies and microhistories (one chapter in each section uses the predicament of a relatively



obscure individual as a means of illuminating wider forces at work in his society). Although my first book (The Catholic Priesthood and the English Reformation, 1994) involved an attempt to explore the texture of parochial life in early sixteenth-century England, readers will find little in this volume on ‘religious culture’ in a generally synchronic sense. In large measure, this work has been done. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a salutary ‘revisionist’ reinterpretation of the opening stages of the Reformation in England, one which fatally undermined the starting point of earlier ‘whiggish’ and progressivist narratives. We now possess a much clearer understanding of the strength and vitality of the traditional religious culture which Henry’s Reformation began to dismantle. But a consequence of revisionist success over the past two decades has been a relative neglect of the theme of agency in the formulation and reception of agendas for religious change, an imbalance this volume hopes to go some way to addressing. Three of the chapters here (1, 4, 11) were written specially for this volume. The others have appeared in print before, substantially in the present form, though in addition to cross-referencing, standardising presentation and correcting errors, I have taken the opportunity to update the footnotes, add some new references, and rewrite a few passages that seemed to me on reflection to be obscure or inelegant. Earlier versions appeared in the following locations. Chapter 2: as ‘Evangelical Conversion in the Reign of Henry VIII’, in Peter Marshall and Alec Ryrie (eds), The Beginnings of English Protestantism (Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 14–37; Chapter 3: as ‘Fear, Purgatory and Polemic in Reformation England’, in William Naphy and Penny Roberts (eds), Fear in Early Modern Society (Manchester University Press, 1997), pp. 150–66; Chapter 5: as ‘The Debate over “Unwritten Verities” in Early Reformation England’, in Bruce Gordon (ed.), Protestant Identity and History in Sixteenth-Century Europe: Volume I The Medieval Inheritance (Scolar Press, 1996), pp. 60–77; Chapter 6: as ‘The Other Black Legend: The Henrician Reformation and the Spanish People’, in English Historical Review (Oxford University Press), 116 (2001), 31–49; Chapter 7: as ‘Forgery and Miracles in the Reign of Henry VIII’, in Past and Present (Oxford University Press), 178 (2003), 39–73; Chapter 8: as ‘Mumpsimus and Sumpsimus: The Intellectual Origins of a Henrician Bon Mot’, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History (Cambridge University Press), 52 (2001), 512–20; Chapter 9: as ‘Is the Pope Catholic? Henry VIII and the Semantics of Schism’, in Ethan Shagan (ed.), Catholics and the ‘Protestant Nation’: Religious Politics and Identity in Early Modern England (Manchester University Press, 2005), pp. 22–48; Chapter 10: as ‘Papist as Heretic: The Burning of John Forest, 1538’, in Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press), 41 (1998), 354–74. I am grateful



to all of the above editors, presses and journals for permission to republish these essays. On the first appearance of several of these chapters, heartfelt thanks for advice, assistance and encouragement were offered to Ian Archer, Susan Brigden, Bernard Capp, Eamon Duffy, Rebecca Earle, Tom Freeman, Brad Gregory, Steve Hindle, Trevor Johnson, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Andrew Pettegree, Richard Rex, Ethan Shagan, Alec Ryrie, Robert Swanson, Alexandra Walsham and Bill Wizeman SJ. I am eager to re-acknowledge these debts here, not least because virtually all of these friends and well-willers have rendered further invaluable service since (most particularly, I am indebted to Alec and Tom for reading drafts of the new chapters and making numerous helpful suggestions). A number of other colleagues have provided valued support in the compilation of this volume: Virginia Bainbridge, Eric Carlson, Bruce Gordon, Ann Hutchison, John McCafferty and Colmán O’Clabaigh OSB. To all of them I offer sincerest gratitude. Loving thanks are due also to Ali, Bella, Mimi and Kit, for keeping faith.

PM Epiphany 2005

Abbreviations and Notes BL CS CSP EETS JEH LP



British Library Camden Society Calendar of State Papers Early English Text Society Journal of Ecclesiastical History Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. J.S. Brewer, J. Gairdner, and R.H. Brodie (21 vols in 33 parts, London, 1862–1910) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Parker Society State Papers Published under the Authority of His Majesty’s Commission, King Henry VIII (11 vols, London, 1830–52) Transactions of the Royal Historical Society The National Archive (Public Record Office)

In quotations from primary sources, the original spelling has been retained, though the letters u and v have been made to conform to modern usage, and the archaic ‘thorn’ letter has been transcribed as ‘th’. Punctuation and capitalisation have been modernised, and abbreviations and contractions have been silently expanded. All dates are in Old Style, but the year has been taken to begin on 1 January.

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Introduction: Identifying Religion in Henry VIII’s England One of Henry VIII’s greatest achievements was to abolish the practice of religion in England and Wales (he was rather less successful in his other kingdom of Ireland). Put like that, the statement needs some qualification. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the term ‘religion’ was almost invariably used to refer to the particular Christian vocation pursued by monks, friars and nuns in the hundreds of ‘religious houses’ scattered across the English landscape. ‘Ware thou never in religion?’ a character is asked in a 1528 satire by the former Observant Franciscan turned evangelical activist, Jerome Barlow: ‘yes, so God helpe me … a dosen yeres continually’.1 In dissolving the monasteries, Henry erased the most conspicuous of spiritual identities his subjects might fashion for themselves, as a Dominican friar, Premonstratensian canon, or Benedictine nun. Diversity was reduced to the simple binary of clergy and laity, exemplified in the famous Holbein frontispiece attached to the ‘Great Bible’ of 1539.2 Yet if we allow the sense of religion in its approximate modern form – a set of understandings, and related practices, about how humans should respond to the perceived expectations of a creator God – then it is beyond question that the last two decades of Henry’s reign were a period of extraordinary and creative upheaval, when numerous old certainties were destabilised and a range of repositionings became possible, desirable, or unavoidable. In these years a political revolution of unprecedented magnitude (the creation of a royal supremacy over the Church) intersected in both predictable and unpredictable ways with a variety of movements for the renewal of Christian faith and practice. No one living through them could fail to be aware that there was, in Christopher Haigh’s seductively unpretentious formula, reformation ‘from above’ and ‘from below’, or hope to escape from the consequences of their intertwining.3 1 Jerome Barlow, The Burial of the Mass, in E. Arber (ed.), English Reprints (London, 1871), p. 66. See J. Bossy, ‘Some Elementary Forms of Durkheim’, Past and Present, 95 (1982), qualified by P. Biller, ‘Words and the Medieval Notion of “Religion”’, JEH, 36 (1985). 2 Finely reproduced in F. Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 2003), p. 258. 3 C. Haigh, ‘The Recent Historiography of the English Reformation’, in idem (ed)., The English Reformation Revised (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 19–21.



Despite its undoubted importance, Henry VIII’s reign has come to assume the status of a ‘problem period’ in ecclesiastical and religious history. His reformation is perplexing because it does not clearly admit any of the labels which would later be used to identify religious positions in the sixteenth century. It was not Lutheran, Calvinist, or any other recognisable variant of ‘Protestant’; nor was it self-evidently ‘Anglican’. Though Henry VIII invented the idea of an independent Ecclesia Anglicana, and created the unique relationship with the crown which still essentially defines its legal position today, he has usually occupied a distinctly ambiguous position in the foundations myths of the later Church of England. Historically, many Anglican commentators have felt more comfortable situating the origins of their tradition in Elizabeth’s Settlement of Religion of 1559, with its establishment of a supposedly distinctive Anglican synthesis, a putative ‘via media’ between the excesses of Geneva and Rome. For Anglicans of an Anglo-Catholic bent, this starting-point also had the advantage of passing over in silence the zealous iconoclasm and full-blooded Protestant theology of Edward VI’s reign.4 The modern heirs of that full-blooded Protestantism have had fewer problems finding sources of empathy in the period: Henry’s reign after all produced William Tyndale and the first printed vernacular Bible. But Henry himself was clearly no Protestant role model, and heroes and villains were easier to make out among the fires of Bloody Mary’s reign. English Roman Catholic historiography, meanwhile, though happy enough to castigate Henry for his repudiation of the papacy and destruction of the monasteries, experienced some embarrassment at the paucity of martyrs his egregious actions had inspired, and undoubtedly felt more at ease with the heroic recusancy of the Elizabethan age. If the Henrician period posed problems of positioning for some older confessional history, neither does it fit comfortably into the favoured conceptual models of some more recent historians. One of the most influential current approaches to officially sanctioned religious change in the sixteenth century is the concept of ‘confessionalisation’. As pioneered by the German historians Heinz Schilling and Wolfgang Reinhard, confessionalisation denotes the process by which early modern rulers, Catholic and Protestant alike, struck up partnerships with the favoured Church in their territories to promote a religious uniformity which was increasingly expressed in unambiguously doctrinal terms. Adopting and enforcing formal ‘confessions’ (definitive statements of doctrine and belief), states sponsored the creation of mutually exclusive communities of belief in a

4 See D. MacCulloch, ‘The Myth of the English Reformation’, Journal of British Studies, 30 (1991).



Europe where international conflict took on an ever more overtly religious hue. Internally, the clergy acted as agents of the state in the promotion of social discipline, and at the same time they willingly colluded in the sacralisation of state power (assisting the development of what is known by loose short-hand as absolutism). All of this contributed to processes of nation-building and to the creation of national identity in something like its modern form.5 A number of the policies and aspirations of Henry VIII would seem to fit the description here, but developments in England before 1547 are usually excluded from the equation as confused and premature.6 Although the Lutheran Confession of Augsburg (1530) was already in place at the time Henry began breaking ties with the traditions of medieval Catholicism, the great period of confessional doctrinal definition was just getting under way at the time of his death.7 Between 1545 and 1563, the canons of the Council of Trent began the process of turning late medieval Catholic Christianity into early modern Roman Catholicism. Meanwhile Reformed Protestantism expressed its priorities in the agreed statement between Geneva and Zürich of May 1549, the Consensus Tigurinus, and in the Helvetic Confession of 1566. Lutheran orthodoxy was codified in the 1580 Book of Concord. ‘Confessionalisation’, it is therefore usually assumed, is a process only properly under way after c. 1550, and the increasingly distinct religious identities it created were simply not available before then in any developed form. As Diarmaid MacCulloch has observed, it was only in the second half of the sixteenth century that across Europe ‘ordinary people were beginning to own the religious labels that the officially agreed confessions and the decisions of Councils were creating: they found that they were Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed’.8 5

The main works here include H. Schilling, Konfessionskonflikt und Staatsbildung (Gütersloh, 1981); idem, Religion, Political Culture and the Emergence of Early Modern Society (Leiden, 1992); idem, ‘Confessional Europe’ in T.A. Brady, H.O. Oberman and J.D. Tracy (eds), Handbook of European History 1400–1600 (2 vols, Leiden, 1995), ii. 641–70; W. Reinhard, ‘Reformation, Counter-Reformation and the Early Modern State: a Reassessment’, Catholic Historical Review, 75 (1989); idem and H. Schilling (eds), Die Katholische Konfessionalisierung (Gütersloh and Münster, 1995). 6 Schilling locates the beginnings of ‘Anglican’ confessionalisation in the Edwardian Book of Common Prayer, and Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563: ‘Confessional Europe’, p. 641. For an interesting attempt to view Henrician developments within the paradigm, see T. Betteridge, Literature and Politics in the English Reformation (Manchester, 2004), introduction. 7 On Henry VIII’s genuine interest in religious contacts with German Lutherans, see R. McEntegart, Henry VIII, the League of Schmalkalden, and the English Reformation (London, 2002). For stimulating reflections on why Lutheranism failed to establish a long-term presence in England, A. Ryrie, ‘The Strange Death of Lutheran England’, JEH, 53 (2002). 8 D. MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490–1700 (London, 2003), p. 338.



In this context, Henry’s curious Reformation looks distinctly like the product of a pre-confessional age. One sensible approach to the religious policies of Henry’s reign, therefore, and consequentially to the religious identities of Henry’s subjects, is to emphasise the extent to which the religious situation of the time was fluid and indeterminate: ‘boundaries were unclear, where they existed at all, and identities were nascent and contested’.9 As a corrective to the back-projection of some old-fashioned confessional historiographies, anxious to claim an unproblematic continuity with various founding fathers, this is certainly salutary. It is also true that, particularly in the 1530s, orderly credal groupings had not taken final shape, and that across the spectrum of religious opinion, people did not always hold the views, or precisely delineate the positions, that polemicists on all sides would later demand of them. But this does not mean that the religious outlook of people in Henry VIII’s England was by definition ambiguous, embryonic or unformed – a confusing side-track, or at best a mere overture or prologue to the main event. Disorientation may well be the response of religious historians lacking the appropriate conceptual and linguistic tools to bring into focus the priorities and perceptions of their subjects, rather than the felt experience of those subjects themselves. A theme present in one form or another in all of the chapters in this volume is a strong, at times obsessive, contemporary concern with truth, authenticity and candour in matters of religion, one that was manifested both by the leaders of the regime and by a range of individual believers. For contemporaries, there were compelling imperatives to ascertain whether contested doctrines were true, or a damnable falsehood; whether claims to sacred knowledge and power could be verified, or were fraudulent deceits; whether subjects could safely be judged by their words and outward actions, or were secret dissimulators. There was also the impulse, felt by many and acted out by some, to be true to oneself, to behave consistently and honourably even in spite of external pressures to submit and conform. The growing concern, in both official and unofficial circles, to distinguish the true from the false in religion reflects the extent to which the changes of the 1530s brought with them an explicit and irreversible politicisation of the world of faith. It would, of course, be naïve to posit a time when religious affiliation or devotional preference could be entirely devoid of political meaning, but Henry’s break with Rome and the creation of his royal supremacy over the Church left absolutely no room 9

P. Marshall and A. Ryrie, ‘Introduction: Protestantisms and their Beginnings’, in idem (eds), The Beginnings of English Protestantism (Cambridge, 2002), p. 6.



for a privatised sphere of apolitical piety. For mighty and humble alike, behaviour in religious observance became a matter of obedience or disobedience, of acquiescence or subversion, of attempts to advance (or accelerate) the official agenda, to inhibit or redirect it. Attempting to identify and declare what the official agenda actually was, was also of course a supremely political activity. The first part of this book examines the ways these pressures were negotiated by the first generation of English ‘evangelicals’. The selection of this descriptive label, rather than the more familiar ‘Protestants’, is now becoming normative in historical writing on the period.10 Reformers in Henrician England did not call themselves Protestants: when the term was used at all, it was with reference to events in Germany, a rough synonym for ‘Lutheran’ in its political sense. Luther’s own theological and spiritual odyssey was of immense significance for developments in England, as across western Europe, but English evangelicals of the 1520s and 30s were not straightforwardly ‘Lutherans’ (a term of disapprobation which no one willingly appropriated for themselves), or not all of them were. Some reformers (principally Robert Barnes and William Tyndale) had spent time in Wittenberg, and their writings acted as vehicles, though not passive or unduly reverential ones, for the dissemination of Luther’s ideas. But among their leading associates, figures like John Frith and George Joye were already more drawn to the ideas of Swiss reformers such as Oecolampadius of Basel.11 As a generic category, ‘evangelical’ usefully circumvents the theological canons and denominational associations of ‘Protestant’, though in order to justify its application it needs to function as a way of focusing rather than evading questions about the priorities and identities of this group. As they emerged in the middle decades of the sixteenth century, Protestants were people with a group-narrative, a history they had had time to experience or invent.12 The evangelicals of the early years, almost by definition, were not. They were, in fact, late medieval Catholics, albeit ones who had become deeply unhappy with important aspects of medieval Catholic theology and devotion. Increasingly, historians are inclined to locate the origins of that unhappiness within the mainstream of medieval 10 M. Dowling, Humanism in the Age of Henry VIII (London, 1986), ‘Note and Acknowledgements’; D. MacCulloch, ‘Henry VIII and the Reform of the Church’, in idem, The Reign of Henry VIII (London, 1995), p. 168; G. Walker, Persuasive Fictions: Faction, Faith and Political Culture in the Reign of Henry VIII (Aldershot, 1996), pp. 136–7; Marshall and Ryrie, ‘Introduction: Protestantisms and their Beginnings’, pp. 5–6; A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII (Cambridge, 2003), pp. xv–xvi. 11 For a helpful summary of the issues, see Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland, pp. 311–16. 12 See the essays in B. Gordon (ed.), Protestant History and Identity in SixteenthCentury Europe (2 vols, Aldershot, 1996).



Catholicism itself, rather than to trace it back to a supposedly independent source, such as ‘Lollardy’ or ‘humanism’. In the case of the latter, as Richard Rex has forcefully argued, humanism in many ways was the intellectual mainstream of pre-Reformation Catholicism, and it is therefore unsurprising that a number of early reformers had humanist backgrounds, just as their leading Catholic opponents did. If humanism gave birth to the Reformation, it was midwife to the Counter-Reformation too.13 Rex and other revisionists have also been disinclined to allow Lollardy anything more than a weak reactive role in the genesis of evangelical protest. The leaders of the evangelical movement emerged in disproportionate numbers from settings which had been bastions of anti-Lollardy at the beginning of the sixteenth century – the universities, the orders of friars – and, as I emphasise in Chapter 2, they frequently confessed to personal backgrounds which were conventionally pious and orthodox.14 We are rightly becoming more alert to the bridges and connections between late medieval and early reformist mentalities. Both Susan Wabuda and Christine Peters, for example, have recently sought to demonstrate how the Christocentric devotion characteristic of the late Middle Ages was a crucial continuity between pre-Reformation and evangelical piety.15 In Chapter 2 I suggest that evangelical understandings of conversion were heavily indebted to established medieval models, and in Chapter 3 that evangelical writers and their opponents held remarkably similar views of the utility of fear in the ordering of a Christian life. There was, in other words, significant common ground as well as important elements of common vocabulary (not least, common sacred texts as courts of appeal). It is understandable, then, if historians have been tempted to regard the early evangelicals as a fairly amorphous group of Christians, people valuing some contemporary devotional mores at the expense of others, and risking labelling as ‘heretics’ because of largely contingent factors and events.16 13 R. Rex, ‘The Role of English Humanists in the Reformation up to 1559’, in N.S. Amos, A. Pettegree and H. van Nierop (eds), The Education of a Christian Society: Humanism and Reformation in Britain and the Netherlands (Aldershot, 1999); idem, ‘Humanism’, in A. Pettegree (ed.), The Reformation World (London, 2000). 14 J.J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Oxford, 1984), p. 46; R. Rex, The Lollards (Basingstoke, 2002), ch. 5; idem, ‘The Friars in the English Reformation’, in Marshall and Ryrie (eds), Beginnings of English Protestantism; idem, ‘New Light on Tyndale and Lollardy’, Reformation, 8 (2003). But contrast the greater emphasis on the ability of Lollardy to mould and sustain the new heresy in D. MacCulloch, ‘England’, in A. Pettegree (ed.), The Early Reformation in Europe (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 172–3; Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, pp. 233–7. 15 S. Wabuda, Preaching During the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2002), ch. 4; C. Peters, Patterns of Piety: Women, Gender and Religion in Late Medieval and Reformation England (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 60–96; 345–9. 16 Walker, Persuasive Fictions, esp. ch. 5.



Yet it is hardly anachronistic or obstinately teleological to seek to identify some distinctive lineaments of an evangelical world view, already visible by the late 1520s, which were scarcely containable within the late medieval Latin Church as it had hitherto imagined and conducted itself. Opponents recognised in what they called ‘the new learning’ a coherent and contrary force.17 The fervent biblicism which the name evangelical implies had found few safe outlets in later medieval England, due to the blanket ban on vernacular Scripture erected in response to the Lollard threat. From the outset, evangelicals wove an identity for themselves around the authority of Scripture, an authority which, through the dialectical refinement of polemical exchanges, came increasingly to be seen in contradistinction to that of the institutional Church. As I suggest in Chapter 5, an unwillingness to admit any possibility of ‘unwritten verities’ – essential but non-biblical traditions validated by the practice and authority of the Church – was an early and enduring fault-line in English religion. Another was soteriological. Purgatory was arguably ‘the defining doctrine of late medieval Catholicism’,18 but evangelicals without exception loathed it, and waged a highly effective propaganda campaign against it (see Chapter 3). They may sometimes have spoken of the ‘true purgatory’ of faith, or Christ’s blood, but they did so in self-consciously polemical appropriation.19 In its place, theologically and emotionally, they inserted a conviction that Christ’s Passion was sufficient to render the most abject sinner acceptable in the eyes of God. As I argue in Chapter 2, this internalisation of justification by faith alone was characteristically linked to a sense of radical conversion, of scales dropping from the eyes. Recent commentators like Ethan Shagan and Alec Ryrie are undoubtedly correct to insist that only a minority of those who ended up siding with the Reformation actually underwent this kind of ‘conversion experience’ in the course of the sixteenth century.20 But, by association at least, the fellow travellers were all buying into this distinctive, and openly divisive, form of religious brand marketing. All of these characteristics of Henrician evangelicalism were essentially in place before the movement entered into alliance with the royal 17

R. Rex, ‘The New Learning’, JEH, 44 (1993). E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992), p. 8. 19 P. Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002), p. 63. I am less convinced than Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, p. 4, that such usages represent an opposition to traditional religion that was ‘not so absolute that [reformers] would not borrow ideas from it’. 20 E.H. Shagan, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 2–7; A. Ryrie, ‘Counting Sheep, Counting Shepherds: the Problem of Allegiance in the English Reformation’, in Marshall and Ryrie (eds), Beginnings of English Protestantism. 18



supremacy over the Church, a marriage of convenience which, for some, became a genuine affair of the heart.21 It is probably true to say that for leading evangelicals, the possibility of reform sanctioned by the crown ‘stimulated a struggle to build a godly visible Church that tended to overshadow more abstract doctrinal speculation’.22 It also functioned to galvanise networks and affinities into movement and factions. Indeed by the last years of the 1530s (particularly after the fall of Anne Boleyn – a rival pole of evangelical patronage) it becomes possible to speak of the evangelical faction in court and government.23 Under the joint leadership of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer, this grouping chalked up notable successes: the dissolution of the religious houses, the provision of an official vernacular Bible. Part of the price they paid was the need for a hair-trigger sensitivity to the limits of royal tolerance and curiosity. Leading evangelicals in the late 1530s therefore stepped into the front line of the campaign against fellow reformers who espoused ‘sacramentarian’ views inimical to Henry’s own firm belief in the real presence of Christ in the eucharist.24 Ultimately, however, the patent inadequacies of the royal supremacy as a vehicle for godly reformation served to consolidate some of the evangelical movement’s fissiparous tendencies, and to bring about a realignment of the forces of the religious ‘left’. As Alec Ryrie has convincingly demonstrated, from 1543 onwards reformers were increasingly alienated from the regime, a consequence of insult and injury in two crucial areas: the restriction of access to vernacular Scripture in the ‘Act for the Advancement of True Religion’, and the unambiguous condemnation of justification by faith in the King’s Book. The ‘moderate’ evangelicals, often Lutheran in their eucharistic theology, and willing ‘to give the king the benefit of any possible doubt’, began to move in the direction of the exiles, who had sought refuge in the Reformed cities of Strasbourg, Basel and Zürich, rather than the Lutheran centres of northern Germany. ‘By 1547, the struggle for the soul of English evangelicalism had been won decisively by radicals linked to the continental Reformed tradition.’25 Ironically, the very success of the Cromwell–Cranmer grouping in steering Henry towards their agenda on such issues as purgatory, monasticism and images, served increasingly to bring to the foreground the topic on which Henry would not budge, the sacrificial Latin mass. By the end of 21 For Thomas Cranmer’s growing attachment to the doctrine of royal supremacy, see D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven and London, 1996), pp. 278–9. 22 Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland, p. 317. 23 McEntegart, League of Schmalkalden, pp. 92–3. 24 MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 232–4. 25 Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, passim (quotes at pp. 67, 10).



the reign this had become, on all sides, the single most important marker of religious difference. In the writings of the exile John Bale – and in his editorial presentation of the autobiographical narrative of the sacramentarian martyr, Anne Askew – attitudes towards the mass were becoming symptomatic of a deeply polarised religious universe, one in which the forces of Christ and Antichrist battled their way towards a preordained (happy) ending.26 In the progressive refashionings of the story of the 1536 murder victim, Robert Packington (Chapter 4), we can observe some of these homogenizing processes at work. But if an end result of Henry’s Reformation was to forge a greater unity of outlook among English evangelicals, can the same possibly be true of their Catholic opponents? Among the non-evangelical mainstream of English Christians, Henry’s repudiation of the thousand-yearold authority of Rome over the Church in England evoked a variety of responses, from flat rejection, through sullen acquiescence, to ostensible enthusiasm. Splits and realignments among intellectuals who had ‘previously been part of the same world of devout refined humanist Catholicism’ had begun already during the divorce campaign of the later 1520s,27 and Henry’s subsequent unbending insistence on recognition of his new marriage, and title, exported these divisions to the nation as a whole. As Shagan puts it, ‘the politics of the royal supremacy, with its firm, bipartite division of the realm into conformists and traitors, hopelessly splintered the English Catholic majority’.28 Questions of the terminology we should employ with respect to the religio-political views of that majority are, if anything, still trickier than those surrounding the evangelicals. Shagan’s use of ‘conformist Catholics’ to describe nonopponents of the royal supremacy seems unexceptionable, but to characterise those who remained loyal to Rome as ‘radical Catholics’ arguably begs some questions. A number of scholars have argued that we should not use the term ‘Catholic’ at all (on the grounds that all sides in contemporary religious debates at times claimed to be the true Catholics) and propose instead loose functional labels like ‘conservative’ or ‘traditionalist’. I review the debate in Chapter 9, and argue there that there are good reasons for not ditching the descriptive label that all ‘conservatives’ used about themselves, despite, or rather because of the fact that the essential character and identity of ‘Catholicism’ was undoubtedly the pre-eminent political question of Henry VIII’s reign.

26 T. Betteridge, Tudor Histories of the English Reformation, 1530–1583 (Aldershot, 1999); The Examinations of Anne Askew, ed. E.V. Beilin (Oxford, 1996). 27 MacCulloch, ‘Henry VIII and the Reform of the Church’, pp. 172–3. 28 Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 59.



The political (and polemical) fallout from the break with Rome created a new sub-set of English Christians – ‘papists’. Historians continue to be divided over how much genuine enthusiasm the mass of the English people felt for the institution of the papacy at the moment they were ordered to disavow it.29 But the view that principled opposition to Henry’s usurpation of papal authority (or as he saw it, reclamation of the authority usurped from him) was confined to Thomas More, John Fisher and a handful of saintly Carthusians is simply no longer sustainable.30 Chapter 11 examines the most overt expression of this kind of dissidence: the flight into religious exile. Though the numbers involved were relatively modest compared to the religious diasporas of the second half of the sixteenth century, the exiles occupied a high place on Henry VIII’s list of political worries. The fact that their numbers were added to over the course of the reign reminds us of something of which Henry himself was only too well aware, that opposition to the royal supremacy was not simply a hurdle to be overcome in the heady days of the early 1530s, but remained permanently thereafter a real political and religious option for disaffected subjects. While the most dangerous expression of internal disaffection – the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536 – was undoubtedly principally a reaction to interference with the fabric of local religious culture, historians have perhaps been too quick to gloss over the Pilgrims’ demand ‘to have the supreme head of the church towching cure animarum to be reserved unto the see of Rome as before it was accustomyd to be’.31 Hitherto ‘conforming’ Catholics could rally to the banner of the papacy when the times demanded it. Moreover (as the case of Friar Forest examined in Chapter 10 exemplifies), ostensible conformists within the realm might turn out to be secret papists with a network of suspicious contacts. The papalist exiles also often maintained contacts with conforming conservatives at home: the ‘Catholic majority’ was divided, but it was not permanently and irreparably partitioned. Give that evangelicals (and at times, the king himself) were ever apt to see old popish clothes hanging in the conservatives’ closets, to what extent were Catholic defenders of the royal supremacy able to fashion for themselves a distinctive and coherent religious livery? With no obvious ideological descendants to pick up the baton, the thought-world of ‘Henrician’ Catholics has until recently been a neglected subject, but a 29 Compare Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland, p. 24, with R. Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation (Basingstoke, 1993), pp. 33–5. 30 The extent of pro-papalism, first comprehensively surveyed in G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: the Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972), is treated with greater conceptual sophistication by Shagan, Popular Politics, ch. 1. 31 A. Fletcher and D. MacCulloch, Tudor Rebellions (5th edn, London, 2004), p. 147.



number of studies have started to examine the strategies by which such people tried their best to be ‘Catholics without the Pope’.32 These were uncharted waters for ‘traditionalists’. One stimulating recent approach argues that a distinctive ‘Henrician vision’ emerged, contrasting with the more doctrinaire Catholicism of the 1520s or early Elizabethan years, and finding common ground with evangelicals in a shared debt to biblicism and Erasmian humanism.33 This has drawn criticism, however, for overlooking the extent to which Henrician Catholic theologians drew on both medieval scholastic and contemporary continental sources, and for downplaying the polemical and political intentions of Catholic authors.34 In the early 1530s, the self-consciously orthodox and traditional among the political nation were outmanoeuvred, and frequently found themselves overtaken by events. By the end of the decade, however, under the de facto leadership of Bishop Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk (a lay-clerical double act never quite as co-ordinated as the Cranmer–Cromwell duet), an identifiable conservative faction was operating in court and council, and tenaciously defending its selected shibboleths: traditional ceremonies, auricular confession and (particularly) the mass. As I suggest in Chapter 9, its supporters became adept at polemical ploys designed to identify Henrician ‘orthodoxy’ with their own favoured positions. This begins to beg the considerable question of whether ‘the Henrician Reformation’ was itself capable of carrying any coherent set of meanings, of possessing any kind of clear or inherent identity with which its agents and expositors could fully identify. An established view of religious developments in the 1530s and 1540s is inclined to see merely the see-saw of factional politics. That was certainly the view expressed within a couple of decades of Henry’s death by the Protestant historian John Foxe: ‘how variable the state of religion stood in these days … Even as the king was ruled and gave ear sometimes to one, sometimes to another, so one while it went forward, at another season as much backward again.’35 Some 32 P. O’Grady, Henry VIII and the Conforming Catholics (Collegeville, MN, 1990); E.A. Macek, The Loyal Opposition: Tudor Traditionalist Polemics (New York, 1996); L.E.C. Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England (Oxford, 2000). 33 Ibid., chs 2–3. 34 J.A. Löwe, Richard Smyth and the Language of Orthodoxy: Re-imagining Tudor Catholic Polemicism (Leiden, 2003), pp. 5–12; C.D.C. Armstrong, ‘English Catholicism Rethought?’, JEH, 54 (2003). 35 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. S.R. Cattley and G. Townsend (8 vols, London, 1837–41), v. 260. In its essence, this view is preserved in D. Starkey, The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics (London, 1985), chs 6–7; E. Ives, ‘Henry VIII: the Political Perspective’, in MacCulloch (ed.), Henry VIII, pp. 27–34. See also the modified position in McEntegart, League of Schmalkalden, pp. 218–19.



recent assessments, particularly those of George Bernard, have by sharp contrast portrayed Henry himself as a domineering presence in politics, presiding skilfully over the factional quarrels to achieve a coherent ‘middle way’ in religion.36 It is certainly possible to trace some consistent outlines in the shape of religious policy after the break with Rome. The official formularies of Henry’s Church, the Bishops’ Book of 1537 and King’s Book of 1543, elaborated for example a distinctive ecclesiology, and official apologists defended it – a ‘branch theory’ of Catholicism in which Henry’s Ecclesia Anglicana was the local manifestation of a universal visible Church (see Chapter 9). Other persistent concerns include the theme explored in Chapter 7, an obsessive interest in the eradication of ‘superstition’ in popular religion, which owed something at least to the prescriptions of Erasmian humanism. A back-handed tribute to the outward consistency of Henrician religious policy can be discerned in the fact that much European opinion seems to have considered Henry and his advisers to be egregious heretics, just as much in the ‘conservative’ 1540s as in the ‘radical’ 1530s (see Chapter 6). But the extent to which any of this provides conclusive evidence for the existence of an essential ‘Henricianism’, or of ‘Henricians’ as a meaningful taxonomic group, is less certain. I have argued in Chapter 7 and elsewhere that the campaign against ‘forgery’ in religion was a polemically conceived strategy which functioned to mediate some of the regime’s fundamental instabilities, rather than the expression of an intrinsic ‘Erasmian’ moderation.37 The formularies meanwhile were compromises never entirely satisfactory to anyone – ‘subtly adjusted three-way balances between Catholic tradition, Catholic humanist reform and evangelical innovation’ – argued out by the occupants of a deeply fractured episcopal bench.38 As Cliff Davies puts it, ‘the question must be whether there were any Henricians other than the king himself’.39 ‘Henricianism was predicated on Henry.’40 Henry’s own beliefs have challenged historians, just as they must sometimes have baffled his contemporaries. Arch-conservative on some issues (the mass, clerical 36 G. Redworth, ‘Whatever Happened to the English Reformation?’, History Today (October 1987); G.W. Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy, 1533–46: Henry VIII and the Search for the Middle Way’, Historical Journal, 41(1998). And see Dr Bernard’s forthcoming monograph, The King’s Reformation. 37 P. Marshall, ‘The Rood of Boxley, the Blood of Hailes and the Defence of the Henrician Church’, JEH, 46 (1995). 38 MacCulloch, ‘Henry VIII and the Reform of the Church’, p. 174. For the balance of forces among the bishops, see Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland, pp. 186–7. 39 C.S.L. Davies, review of R. Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation, English Historical Review, 111 (1996), 168. 40 Armstrong, ‘English Catholicism Rethought?’, 723.



celibacy, justification by faith), he could be surprisingly radical on others (monasticism, religious imagery, purgatory, vernacular Scripture). His ‘moderation’ could express itself in violent and paranoid ways, as in July 1540 when three ‘papists’ and three ‘heretics’ were executed together at Smithfield.41 The inwardness of Henry’s devotional life is an intriguing subject. Annotations made to his personal psalter in the 1540s suggest an emphatically non-evangelical belief in the power of good works, combined with a pride in the destruction of shrines which had promoted false worship.42 A recent survey of the dedications of Henry’s ecclesiastical foundations (nearly all to God or the Virgin Mary) finds in them ‘the devotional expression of a combination of Erasmian, evangelical and imperial tendencies’.43 My own examination of the ‘mumpsimus–sumpsimus’ idiom employed by Henry in the course of his last address to parliament in 1545 (Chapter 8) reveals a similarly eclectic layering of motifs, with highly selective borrowings from the evangelicals’ lexicon. Some of the most convincing attempts to make sense of Henry’s religion have found their points of orientation not so much in the checklist of soteriological issues dividing European theologians as in the unique institution of the royal supremacy itself. Henry’s was a theology of kingship and obedience, his godly Reformation one in which the means had itself effectively become the end. From this perspective, some of the apparent contradictions start to resolve themselves: his iconoclastic tendencies reflected a self-fashioning based around models of Old Testament kingship; his support for vernacular Scripture, a belief that it would enhance the obedience of his suspects. Justification by faith was suspect because of a fear that it might encourage people to sin without thought for the consequences, but so was purgatory, potentially, a ‘back door’ into heaven. Confirmation, extreme unction and holy orders were downgraded in his theology because they enhanced the status of clergy, particularly bishops, rather than his own quasi-sacral kingship.44

41 Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England, ed. W.D. Hamilton (2 vols, CS, new ser., 11, 20, 1875–77), i. 120–21. 42 P. Tudor-Craig, ‘Henry VIII and King David’, in D. Williams (ed.), Early Tudor England (Woodbridge, 1989). 43 R. Rex and C.D.C. Armstrong, ‘Henry VIII’s Ecclesiastical and Collegiate Foundations’, Historical Research, 75 (2002), 405. 44 Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation, pp. 173–5; idem, ‘The Crisis of Obedience: God’s Word and Henry’s Reformation’, Historical Journal, 39 (1996); C. Haigh, ‘Henry VIII and the German Reformation’, in R. Bonney, F. Bosbach and T. Brockmann (eds), Religion und Politik in Deutschland und Großbritannien (Munich, 2001), pp. 35–6, 40; A. Ryrie, ‘Divine Kingship and Royal Theology in Henry VIII’s Reformation’, Reformation, 7 (2002).



From the early 1530s onwards, the dictates of Henry’s conscience became normative for the nation as a whole. Huge energies were directed towards moulding the subject into religious conformity and obedience, for, as the official propagandist Richard Morison remarked, ‘the King’s Grace shall never have true subjects that do not believe as His Grace doth’.45 Beginning with the Ten Articles of 1536, successive official ‘confessions’ defined and declared orthodox Henrician doctrine; pulpit and press were employed – on an unprecedented scale – to promulgate approved messages (particularly the denigration of the bishop of Rome); religious iconography highlighted the themes of imperial and national identity woven through Henry’s theocratic kingship. All of these surely represented processes of ‘confessionalisation’ under way with a vengeance. Yet what is truly remarkable is how unsuccessful it all in the end turned out to be. Henry’s failure to create a confessionally unified nation, with a coherent state religion dutifully internalised by its inhabitants, was a political miscarriage of profound consequence for the future, arguably inhibiting from the outset England’s ability ever to become a truly confessional state, on, say, the Swedish or Spanish models.46 There were, of course, some crucial legacies. Foremost amongst these was the royal supremacy itself, but this was employed for very different purposes after 1547, when it fell into the hands of the evangelical grouping which ultimately triumphed in the highly polarised, overtly ideological factional politics produced by Henry’s last years.47 Indeed, it is at least plausible that Henry himself may have colluded in the posthumous dismantling of his ‘middle-way’ settlement in order to safeguard Edward’s royal supremacy from potential backsliders among the conservative councillors like Gardiner.48 If Henry himself was not fully committed to ‘Henricianism’ as a theoretically stable religious identity, small wonder if ostensible adherence to it evaporated fairly rapidly over the course of the next reign. It has recently been observed of one Henrician conformist Catholic, Richard Smyth, that ‘following the death of his royal patron he swiftly resorted to his papist roots’.49 Others, including Gardiner, took longer, but within a few years born-again papists like Gardiner, Tunstall and Bonner were 45

Richard Morison, A Remedy for Sedition, cited in Betteridge, Literature and Politics,

p. 45. 46 For some instructive comparisons with sixteenth-century Sweden, see Ryrie, ‘Strange Death of Lutheran England’, 64–5. 47 Cf. McEntegart, League of Schmalkalden, p. 225: ‘it is the birth of ideology as the fundamental dynamic of the political culture of England which makes the Henrician Reformation truly a time of epochal change’. 48 For suggestions to this effect, see P. Marshall, Reformation England 1480–1642 (London, 2003), p. 61; Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, pp. 197–8. 49 Löwe, Richard Smyth, p. 7.



taking their places on Mary’s episcopal bench alongside former exiles like Pole and Goldwell. The elaborate branch theory of the Catholic Church, which had been developed simultaneously to legitimise and to temper the radicalism of Henry’s actions, fell into disuse, until its reinvention by Anglo-Catholic enthusiasts in the course of the nineteenth century. In terms of religious identity-formation, therefore, the 1530s and 1540s were a period of flux, but hardly one of arrested development. For all the rhetoric of unity and obedience, the political dynamics of Henry’s Reformation were intrinsically divisive ones, energising a range of responses and validating a variety of positions among the secular and religious elites. Nor were the mass of the people unaffected, or merely the passive objects of reforming initiatives. As Ethan Shagan has compellingly documented, growing exposure to competing readings of religious truth – enabled rather than inhibited by the Henrician Reformation – meant that ‘English people increasingly conceived of local power structures in terms of confessional divisions, and hence increasingly framed their own local disputes in confessional terms.’50 By the later 1540s, the binary categories of true and false Church which pervaded the theological writings of evangelicals such as John Bale, and the dualism of Catholic/heretic which characterised the writings of their conservative opponents, were firmly insinuating themselves into the cultural life of the nation. At the beginning of Edward VI’s reign, an outbreak of high japes among the schoolboys of Bodmin led to the accidental killing of a calf with a gun converted from a candlestick. A subsequent investigation revealed that the young scholars ‘for better exploiting their pastimes, grew therethrough into two factions, the one whereof they called the old religion, the other the new’.51 Henry VIII had something more serious than such schoolboy role-play in mind when he admonished the nation through its representatives in parliament in December 1545 about the fracturing of religious unity among his subjects, and the rash of divisive and definitive name-calling that went along with it: ‘the one calleth the other hereticke and anabaptist, and he calleth hym again, papist, yypocrite and pharisey’.52 Hypocrite and Pharisee he may have been, but Henry’s disjointed Reformation provided in spite of itself the essential seed-tray for a flowering of self-conscious religiosities to take place among his not always obedient subjects.

50 51 52

Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 24. Ryrie, ‘Counting Sheep, Counting Shepherds’, p. 109. See above.

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Evangelical Directons: Travelling From and To

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Evangelical Conversion I Some religious identities in Henry VIII’s England were consciously chosen, forged rather than inherited. Beginning in the late 1520s, significant numbers of men and women who had been brought up with the old faith turned their backs on aspects of traditional devotion, and embraced a new set of understandings about what was essential in the exercise of Christian belief. Naturally enough, this is a theme which has been touched on in many individual biographies, national surveys and regional studies. Yet it is remarkable that to date there has been little or no attempt to explore the phenomenon of evangelical conversion in the early Tudor period in any systematic or broadly thematic way.1 In any age religious conversion is a particularly intangible and elusive historical topic, which involves complex definitional and evidential problems. What do we mean when we say people ‘convert’ or ‘are converted’? Does this signify an intellectual process, the substitution of new ideas and doctrinal propositions for repudiated old ones? An institutional or social one, the crossing from one ecclesiastical body or network of believers to another? Or a more intimate and psychological kind of transformation, involving moral renewal and reordered personal priorities? These possibilities are not, of course, mutually exclusive. The sources for studying conversion are particularly problematic. Only the convert’s own account, a so-called ‘conversion narrative’, is likely to bring us close to the inner meanings and logic of the event, but these by definition are written after the occurrences they describe, and are likely to involve to varying extents the reordering and reshaping of experience in the light of subsequent understanding and intention. Autobiography is always a form of fiction, and historians of the sixteenth century have now enjoyed sufficient acquaintance with the subtleties of ‘rhetorics of life-writing’ and ‘renaissance self-fashioning’ not to take at face value their subjects’ own 1 There are some suggestive general remarks in S. Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), pp. 119–21; C. Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993), pp. 189–90; A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 157–8. F.W. Bullock, Evangelical Conversion in Great Britain 1516–1695 (St Leonards-on-Sea, 1966) is a rather sketchy account intended to provide ‘a notable testimony to the manifold workings of the spirit of God’ (p. viii).



versions of their personal history.2 These difficulties are exacerbated in studying conversion in the early sixteenth century. Later studies of early modern conversion, ‘Puritan’ and Catholic, can draw on the burgeoning evidence of spiritual diaries, personal correspondence and printed apologia.3 But hardly any full-blooded conversion narratives survive for the pre-Elizabethan period in England, leaving only scraps of biography and (frequently stylised) autobiography tucked away in a range of printed and manuscript sources. It is striking that modern biographers of many of the leading English reformers of the first generation have found considerable difficulty in attempting to date with any precision at all when it was that their subjects converted from traditional Catholicism.4 In making the focus of this essay the origins of the evangelical movement in the reign of Henry VIII, the problems are intensified further, for the people identified in a classic study as ‘England’s earliest Protestants’ were not Protestants at all.5 That is, they would not have applied to themselves a term which was not recognised in a domestic context before the reign of Edward VI, and not universally employed until later even than that.6 The subject of this chapter is therefore not ‘conversion to Protestantism’, a phrase which connotes a much greater clarity of confessional categorisation than is appropriate for the period. Following the lead of recent scholarship, ‘evangelical’ will be employed as the least-worst label for bringing together a variety of forms of early sixteenth-century heterodoxy.7 Nonetheless, I will contend that it is legitimate to identify in Henry’s reign a meaningful phenomenon that we can call ‘evangelical conversion’, with generic features and patterns which contemporaries 2 T.F. Mayer and D.R. Woolf (eds), The Rhetoric of Life Writing (Ann Arbor, MI, 1995); S. Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago and London, 1980). 3 M. Questier, Conversion, Politics and Religion in England, 1580–1625 (Cambridge, 1996); N. Petit, The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Spiritual Life (New Haven, 1966); P. Delany, British Autobiography in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1969); P. Caldwell, The Puritan Conversion Narrative: the Beginning of American Expression (Cambridge, 1983). 4 J. Ridley, Nicholas Ridley (London, 1957), p. 48; A.G. Chester, Hugh Latimer: Apostle to the English (Philadelphia, 1954), ch. 3; L.P. Fairfield, John Bale: Mythmaker for the English Reformation (West Lafayette, IN, 1976), pp. 33–5; D. Daniell, William Tyndale (New Haven and London, 1994), pp. 38–40; D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven and London, 1996), chs 2–3. 5 W.A. Clebsch, England’s Earliest Protestants 1520–35 (New Haven and London, 1964). 6 D. MacCulloch, Tudor Church Militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation (1999), p. 2. 7 G. Walker, Persuasive Fictions: Faction, Faith and Political Culture in the Reign of Henry VIII (Aldershot, 1996), pp. 136–7; M. Dowling, Humanism in the Age of Henry VIII (1986), ‘Note and Acknowledgements’, and see above, pp. 5–6.



were able to recognise, and which proved in the end more significant than the discrepancies. The intention is not so much to attempt to explain why English men and women, individually or collectively, became evangelicals, but rather to suggest a set of approaches to the concept of conversion itself, as its protagonists appear to have understood it. There is an irony, albeit a highly appropriate one, that the early evangelical conversion experience historians think they know most about is that of Martin Luther himself. Luther’s conversion may or may not be the key causal element in the development of the European Reformation, but it is worth considering briefly at the outset here for the light it sheds on the problems and potential of studying the phenomenon in its English context. Luther described his conversion in a preface to the first volume of his complete Latin works (1545), a passage generally referred to as ‘the autobiographical fragment’. An Augustinian friar of the strict observance, Luther found himself weighed down with a sense of sin, and an inability to believe that God could or would be content with the works of satisfaction he had long undertaken. But, studying in the tower room of the Augustinian house in Wittenberg, he underwent a moment of breakthrough and illumination, the so-called ‘tower-experience’ [Turmerlebnis]. After sustained reflection on the writings of St Paul, he at last felt he understood the importance of a sentence in Romans 1: 17, ‘the righteous shall live by faith’. Men’s own ‘good works’ were worthless in the sight of God, who accepted them as ‘justified’ on account of their faith alone: ‘At this I felt myself straightway born afresh and to have entered through the open gates into paradise itself.’8 Here we seem to have the template for explaining both why and how sixteenth-century people came to turn their backs on the faith of their parents, and indeed there are English cases which appear to present close similarities to the Luther model. The Cambridge scholar, Thomas Bilney, burned as a relapsed heretic in 1531, wrote to Bishop Tunstall in the course of his trial recounting how he had found no peace of mind in endless recourse to fasting, pardons and masses. But in Erasmus’ version of the New Testament he had chanced upon a passage in 1 Timothy 1: 15, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief’:

8 E.G. Rupp and B. Drewery (eds), Martin Luther (London, 1970), pp. 5–6. Among the plethora of English-language Luther scholarship, I have found the following most effective in crystallising the issues and controversies: H. Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil, trans. E. Walliser-Schwarzbart (London, 1993), pp. 151–74; S. Ozment, The Age of Reform 1250–1550 (New Haven and London, 1980), pp. 229–30; A. McGrath, Reformation Thought. An Introduction (Oxford, 1988), pp. 73–5.



this one sentence, through God’s instruction and inward working, which I did not then perceive, did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that immediately I felt a marvellous comfort and quietness.

Thereafter he also understood that it was necessary to condemn dependence upon ‘works of man’s righteousness’.9 An apparently similar case of excessive ‘scrupulosity’ resolved by accepting justification by faith is that of Thomas More’s son-in-law, William Roper, as recounted in Nicholas Harpsfield’s life of More. Roper’s fall into heresy ‘did grow of a scruple of his own conscience’; he ‘daily did use immoderate fasting and many prayers … thinking God therewith never to be pleased’. With such exercises he reportedly ‘did weary himself even usque ad taedium [even to exhaustion]’ until through his contacts with the German merchants of the Steelyard he became acquainted with Luther’s works, and became convinced ‘that faith only did justify, that the works of man did nothing profit’.10 Fascinating as these accounts are, they should not be taken at absolutely face value, still less as self-evidently normative for the motives and processes of evangelical conversion.11 It has been argued that Bilney’s apparently frank autobiographical narrative was in fact a carefully constructed exculpatory strategy, designed to appeal to the humanist sympathies of Tunstall.12 Though Harpsfield’s account most likely drew directly on Roper’s own reminiscences,13 its pivotal figure is Thomas More, rescuer of his son-in-law from erroneous ways. The narrative is shaped around this happy conclusion, and one suspects that the prominence in it of Luther’s works is to underscore the achievements of More as Luther’s principal English opponent. Luther’s own ‘autobiographical fragment’ is problematic in all sorts of ways. In common with other conversion accounts of this period, it is thin on circumstantial detail; no year is provided for the tower-experience, which has been variously dated by historians. Further, scholars have been sceptical about what Luther himself represents as a single dramatic moment of discovery, finding in his sermons over the period 1513–18 a


John Foxe, Actes and Monuments (London, 1583), p. 1005. Nicholas Harpsfield, The Life and Death of Sir Thomas More, ed. E.V. Hitchcock and R.W. Chambers (EETS, 186, 1932), pp. 84–6. 11 See here the remark of E.G. Rupp, Studies in the Making of the English Protestant Tradition (Cambridge, 1947), p. 160 that Luther’s ‘discovery’ was ‘not like some scientific invention, a theological spinning jenny to be passed round, adapted, improved and finally patented by others’. 12 Walker, Persuasive Fictions, pp. 160–62. 13 R. Marius, Thomas More (London, 1985), pp. xvi–xvii. 10



number of distinct theological advances and ‘breakthroughs’.14 Whether we should see Luther’s moment of catharsis as primarily an intellectual or an emotional one is another point at issue. A.G. Dickens has argued that Luther’s Turmerlebnis was not a ‘religious experience’ as we might apply the term to either medieval mystics or modern Protestant revivalists; rather it ‘claimed to be a “moment of truth” in a more literal and obvious sense. Luther was not concerned to achieve a revelation from within his own emotional resources.’15 Alister McGrath by contrast insists that Luther’s concern with salvation and righteousness ‘shows a strongly existential dimension’ and was no mere theological problem.16 ‘Conversion narratives’ bring out more strongly than almost any other biographical source a temptation on the part of historians to psychologise their subjects.17 In his famous study of ‘young man Luther’, the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson remarked on the significance of Luther’s conversion experience taking place when the reformer was in his early thirties, ‘an important age for gifted people with a delayed identity crisis’.18 More recently, the historian Richard Marius has related Luther’s experience to ‘the psychological self-examination that made so many in the later Middle Ages scrutinize their own hearts, test their own emotions, crawl dismally on all fours through the dark sewers of their hidden selves’.19 Enough has been said, I think, to establish that the language and structure of conversion narratives is complex, and lends itself to deconstruction of various kinds. But there is limited utility here in attempting to strip back the rhetoric and tropes in order to uncover a putative ‘real’ motivation on the part of converts. Moreover, excessively reductionist approaches to a phenomenon like religious conversion run the risk of turning it into a mere reflection of the concerns of our own society, and conversion demands to be understood on its own terms, rather than


Oberman, Luther, pp. 151–74. A.G. Dickens, Martin Luther and the Reformation (London, 1967), p. 30. 16 McGrath, Reformation Thought, p. 73. 17 Seminal in this respect are the two lectures on conversion by the nineteenth-century American philosopher William James in his The Varieities of Religious Experience, ed. F.H. Burkhardt (Cambridge, MA, 1985), pp. 157 ff. James interpreted conversion in psychoanalytical terms as the process ‘by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior and happy, in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities’. For a survey of the literature on the pyschological/psychoanalytical approach to writing about conversion (and some caveats), see L.R. Rambo, ‘Current Research on Religious Conversion’, Religious Studies Review, 8 (1982), 146–59. 18 E.H. Erikson, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (paperback edn, London, 1962), p. 201. 19 Marius, More, p. 320. 15



rationalised or explained away.20 In what follows, the emphasis will be on the construction of a concept or idea of conversion among early English evangelicals; on seeking to understand how it was patterned and represented, to the self and to others; on the sources of its language, imagery and internal structure; and on what such an investigation may have to tell us about the construction of religious identities in sixteenthcentury England. II A final glance at the case of Martin Luther should remind us of an important fact about conversion in the early Tudor period: neither the word nor the range of meanings it might signify originated with the evangelical protest against Rome. At the time of the tower-experience, Luther had already undergone one dramatic religious conversion: his decision to become a monk.21 ‘Conversion’ was a term widely used in later medieval England to evoke that ‘death to the world’ involved in the transformation from the secular to the religious life. The Yorkshire hermit Richard Rolle, for example, described a demonic temptation that had come to him ‘in the beginning of my conversion’, and the revelation of purgatory and paradise to an anonymous monk of Evesham (printed 1482) came to him after a sickness suffered ‘about the beginning of his conversion’.22 More prosaically, the first English translation of Thomas Kempis’s Imitatio Christi admonished new religious ‘in the beginning of thy conversion thou keep thy cell and dwell well therin’.23 Conversion was thus hardly a new concept to the many English evangelicals who, as Richard Rex has demonstrated, emerged from the ranks of the regular clergy.24

20 The most convincing attempt to ascribe a general underlying pattern to early evangelical conversion is Susan Brigden’s suggestive exploration of the links between support for the Reformation and youthful protest against authority: ‘Youth and the English Reformation’, Past and Present, 95 (1982), 37–67. I have not attempted to pursue this theme further, largely because it does not appear prominently in the accounts of evangelicals themselves, who believed that ‘men are called to repentaunce, some in youth, some in myddle age, and some in olde age’ (Nicholas Wyse, A Consolacyon for Chrysten People to Repayre Agayn the Lordes Temple (London, 1538), sig. E1r. 21 In later years he ascribed this decision to a vow taken to St Anna when praying for protection during a thunderstorm: Rupp and Drewery, Martin Luther, p. 2. 22 Richard Rolle, English Prose Treatises, ed. G.G. Perry (EETS, 20, 1866), p. 5; The Revelation to the Monk of Evesham, ed. E. Arber (London, 1901), p. 19. 23 Thomas Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, ed. B.J.H. Biggs (EETS, 309, 1997), p. 26. 24 R. Rex, ‘The Friars in the English Reformation’, in P. Marshall and A. Ryrie (eds), The Beginnings of English Protestantism (Cambridge, 2002).



‘Conversion’ was also used with reference to Jews and pagans. Late medieval pious texts looked forward to the time when ‘jews shall convert’, and back to the age when heathens were by holy men ‘converted … to Christian faith’.25 The travel narrative of Sir John Mandeville, which appeared in at least four editions in the reign of Henry VII, included the intriguing snippet that the court of the Great Chan contained many Christians, ‘converted to good faith by the preaching of religious Christian men’.26 But the words ‘convert/conversion’ seem to have been most commonly employed in late medieval sources to indicate not so much an outwardly measurable category change (layman to monk; heathen to Christian) as a turning away from sinfulness to a greater love and service of God. Perhaps the most famous example of this type of convert in fifteenth-century England was the laywoman Margery Kempe, formerly ‘a sinful woman’ whose confessor could refer to how things stood ‘after your conversion’.27 In a text printed by Caxton in 1484, the devil boasts of his success in acquiring the soul of a dead woman, telling a priest that he had feared he might have ‘taken her away from me, and converted her with thine long preaching and good examples’.28 In Stephen Hawes’s verse treatise The Conversyon of Swerers (1509), these sinners are represented as rending the body of Christ, and Christ addresses them: ‘Be by me converted/Tear me now no more’.29 Conversion to and by Jesus is a recurrent theme of The Imitation of Christ. The reader is advised to ‘learn to despise outward things and to convert thee to inward things’; ‘Convert us, Lord, to thee, that we may be meek, kind, and devout’. Like an iron in the fire losing its rust, ‘so a man converting himself wholly to God is … changed into a new man’.30 This understanding of conversion even had its distinct and regular celebration in the Church’s calendar, with the institution on 25 January of the festival of the Conversion of St Paul. The homily provided for this feast in the popular sermon collection, The Golden Legend, asked rhetorically ‘Why is Paul’s conversion celebrated, while that of other saints is not?’ The answer given was that ‘no sinner, no matter how grievous his 25

Cursor Mundi, ed. R. Morris (7 vols, EETS, 57–109, 1874–93), iii. 1096, iv. 1279; John Mirk, Festial, ed. T. Erbe (EETS, 96, 1905), p. 217. 26 Mandeville’s Travels, ed. M.C. Seymour (Oxford, 1967), pp. xiii, 172. 27 The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. S.B. Meech (EETS, 212, 1940), p. 44. 28 The Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry, ed. T. Wright (EETS, 33, 1868), p. 140. See also the reference to Christ’s converting common whores and turning them to goodness in book 16 of William Langland’s Piers Ploughman, ed. J.F. Goodridge (Harmondsworth, 1959), p. 201. 29 Stephen Hawes, The Conversyon of Swerers, ed. D. Laing (Edinburgh, 1865), sig. A3v. 30 Imitation of Christ, pp. 40, 45, 77, 115.



sin, can despair of pardon when he sees that Paul, whose fault was so great, afterwards became so much greater in grace’.31 This was a sentiment with which evangelicals, not noted for their admiration of the Golden Legend, could scarcely have found fault. In fact, if we turn to look for examples of usage of the phrase ‘to convert’ in evangelical writings of the 1520s and 30s, it is this sense of a penitential reorientation that comes most clearly to the fore. In 1534, Robert Barnes explained that the attack on litigiousness in his famous Cambridge sermon of Christmas Eve 1525 (which marked the start of his public career as a reformer and has been called ‘the first set-piece confrontation of the English Reformation’)32 had been prompted by the behaviour of a grasping churchwarden suing a poverty-stricken executor in pursuit of a small legacy to the church. Barnes had reasoned with him in private to no avail, and spoke in public ‘because I had not clearly converted him’.33 This was not a question of recruitment into an evangelical brotherhood, but of calling him to repentance. The same quality of hard-heartedness, though with clearer doctrinal overtones, is alluded to in George Joye’s 1531 call to the clergy to allow the Scripture in English, and ‘to repent you therefore and be converted to God’.34 In a letter of around 1539, the future archbishop Matthew Parker declared that there was nothing more acceptable to God ‘than to convert the hearts of his reasonable creatures in true faith and knowledge unto him’.35 In many ways, conversion and repentance were more than related concepts; they were virtual synonyms which together connoted that ‘turning to God’ which early Tudor evangelicals thought they were about. In his translation of Luther’s Prologue to the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, William Tyndale spoke of the status of a man that ‘hath forsaken sin and is converted to put his trust in Christ’.36 In his own preface, ‘W.T. unto the Reader’, in the New Testament of 1534, Tyndale explained at some length the philological and theological connections between repentance and conversion, in the process justifying the attack

31 Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, tr. W. Ryan (2 vols, Princeton, NJ, 1993), i. 119. See also Mirk, Festial, pp. 52–6. 32 Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, p. 170. 33 Robert Barnes, A Supplicacion unto the Most Gracyous Prynce H. the .viii (London, 1534), sig. F3r. See J.P. Lusardi, ‘The Career of Robert Barnes’, in Thomas More, The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, ed. L.A. Schuster et al. (New Haven and London, 1973), pp. 1367–415. 34 George Joye, The Letters whyche Iohan Ashwell Priour of Newnham Abbey besydes Bedforde sente secretly to the Byshope of Lyncolne (Strassburg, 1531), sig. B1v. 35 Matthew Parker, Correspondence, ed. J. Bruce (PS, Cambridge, 1853), p. 10. 36 Tyndale’s New Testament, ed. D. Daniell (New Haven and London, 1989), p. 211.



on traditional sacramental practice implicit in his decision to translate the Greek verb metanoeo as ‘repent’ rather than ‘do penance’: Concerning this word repentance or (as they used) penance, the Hebrew hath in the Old Testament generally Sob [shub] turn or be converted. For which the translation that we take for Saint Jerome’s hath most part converti to turn or be converted, and sometime yet agere penitenciam. And the Greek in the New Testament hath perpetually metanoeo to turn in the heart and mind, and to come to the right knowledge, and to a man’s right wit again … And the very sense and signification both of the Hebrew and also of the Greek word, is, to be converted and to turn to God with all the heart, to know his will and to live according to his laws.37

Tyndale went on to argue that this ‘conversion or turning if it be unfeigned’ would be accompanied by four elements: confession of sinfulness, not to a priest, but before God and the congregation; contrition or sorrowfulness; faith; and satisfaction or the making of amends, not to God, but to those we have offended.38 What most clearly differentiates Tyndale’s sense of conversion/repentance from that of Thomas Kempis is, of course, the new theological framework through which the concept is mediated. Here it is significant that the context of the discussion is St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, for Tyndale, following Luther, was convinced that ‘the sum and whole cause of the writings of this epistle, is, to prove that a man is justified by faith only’.39 Throughout the reign of Henry VIII, English evangelicals disagreed about a great deal, from eucharistic theology to the possibilities of compromise with the regime, but the one clear common denominator, if not the defining element of evangelicalism, was the belief that men were saved only through their faith in Christ, and not through their own works. In order to ask what was distinctive about evangelical conversion in the reign of Henry VIII, we need consider more closely the symbiotic relationship between an existential or emotional experience, and the internalisation of a profoundly theological and intellectual proposition.40 Mature Protestant theology of the sixteenth century, particularly in its Lutheran manifestation, preserved a fairly clear distinction between two modes of divine action upon the Christian believer: justification and sanctification. The former was, in forensic terms, an unmerited verdict of 37

Ibid., pp. 9–10. Ibid., p. 10. 39 Ibid., p. 223. 40 That English Christians other than evangelicals underwent conversion experiences in this period is a point worth bearing in mind: in the early 1530s, for example, the courtiers Sebastian Newdigate and Sir John Gage renounced wealth and office to enter the London Charterhouse: Brigden, London, p. 227. 38



acquittal, which did not in and of itself effect an inward transformation of life. In theological jargon, justification was a matter of ‘imputation’ rather than ‘impartation’. Sanctification was the subsequent, and complementary, process whereby the Holy Spirit brought about the regeneration of the elect, and a visible and outward holiness which was the consequence not the cause of salvation. Reformers regarded it as a fundamental error of Catholic theologians, pre- and post-Reformation, that they understood by justification a process of ‘making righteous’, rather then simply ‘declaring righteous’.41 Yet from the outset, the dynamics of the conversion process functioned to blur the boundaries between external judgement and internal change in the subjectivity of the believer. Luther’s influential concept of the ‘Law/Gospel dichotomy’ is a case in point. This was the mechanism through which God brought sinners to an understanding of their condition, and their total dependence on Christ. For English readers, a clear account of the doctrine was set out by George Joye in his 1531 printed apologia. The Word of God contains both Law and Gospel, and the function of the former is to instil despair: unable to meet the demands of God’s Law, ‘a sinful conscience feeleth herself bounden and holden under the power of sin and carried towards damnation’. But hearing and believing the glad tidings of forgiveness through the death of Christ, the sinner ‘feeleth his heart eased, comforted and loosed’.42 The justifying faith which Joye proclaimed here was surely not just a theological principle, but an experimental one, encompassing an experience of conversion. Joye fell out spectacularly with William Tyndale over some points of theology,43 but on this they spoke with one voice. Tyndale urged readers of his Prologue to Romans to behold their just damnation in the Law of God, and then to turn their eyes to Christ to see the exceeding mercy of the Father. Further, they were to remember that Christ did not die for their sins so that they could live in them still, ‘but that thou shouldest be a new creature and live a new life after the will of God’.44 Indeed, it seems to have been broadly characteristic of the theology of Tyndale and other 41

On these points, see McGrath, Reformation Thought, pp. 82–4; B. Reardon, Religious Thought in the Reformation (2nd edn, London, 1995), pp. 117–18, 126–7; Rupp, English Protestant Tradition, pp. 165–70; C. Trueman, Luther’s Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers 1525–1556 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 56–67. The elaboration of the doctrine of sanctification is particularly associated with Philip Melanchthon. 42 Joye, Letters, sigs A6v – 7r. 43 Specifically, the fate of souls prior to the Last Judgement, Joye charging Tyndale with teaching the error of ‘soul sleeping’: see N.T. Burns, Christian Mortalism from Tyndale to Milton (Cambridge, MA, 1972), pp. 102–11; P. Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002), pp. 223–4. 44 Tyndale’s New Testament, p. 224.



early English reformers to emphasize the element of moral transformation inherent in justification by faith.45 In the so-called Cologne Fragment of 1525, Tyndale wrote that the hearts of the elect ‘begin to wax soft and to melt at the bounteous mercy of God’ when salvation through Christ is preached, and five years later in his prologue to the Pentateuch he described the process thus: ‘the Spirit entereth the heart, and quickeneth it, and giveth her life, and justifieth her’.46 III The use of such language in the foundational texts of English reformed theology should give pause for thought. There has been a tendency to perceive the rise of Protestantism in terms of the triumph of intellect over emotion, of the controlled and printed Word over the affective, ritual, and mimetic religion of the Middle Ages. It has recently been suggested that in the first generation of the English Reformation ‘conversions to reforming ideas were on the whole described in intellectual terms’, as a progression from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to illumination.47 It is undeniably the case that ‘knowledge’ was regarded as a crucial element in the process of conversion. According to his secretary, Ralph Morice, Cranmer once defended himself against a fellow evangelical’s charges of overleniency to papists, by remarking ‘what will ye have a man do to him that is not yet come to the knowledge of the truth of the gospel?’48 The London mercer (and fiery evangelical) Henry Brinkelow remembered in his will the men who ‘laboured in the vineyard of the Lord to bring the people … to the knowledge of Christ’s gospel’.49 In a letter accompanying the gift of a New Testament to his mother in around 1536, the Yorkshire law student Robert Plumpton sententiously advised her not to worry about her understanding, ‘for God will give knowledge to whom he will give knowledge of the Scriptures, as soon to a shepherd as to a priest’. In a subsequent letter he stressed that his admonitions were not designed ‘to bring you into any heresies, but to teach you the clear light of God’s doctrine’.50 45 Trueman, Luther’s Legacy, pp. 89–94. In this, Trueman argues, Tyndale was rather closer to continental reformers with a humanist background (such as Martin Bucer) than to Luther himself. 46 Ibid., pp. 89, 99. 47 A. Ryrie, ‘English Evangelicals in the Last Years of Henry VIII’ (D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 2000), p. 187. 48 Narratives of the Days of the Reformation, ed. J.G. Nichols (CS, old ser., 77, 1859), p. 246. 49 Brigden, London, p. 418. 50 The Plumpton Correspondence, ed. T. Stapleton (CS, old ser., 4, 1839), pp. 231–2.



This metaphor of enlightenment was a recurrent one in evangelical sources – light from heaven had of course been central to the archetype of Christian conversion narratives, Paul’s experience on the Damascus road. At his trial in 1538, John Lambert acknowledged his debt to the works of Luther, ‘for by them hath God showed unto me, and also to a huge multitude of others, such light as the deceivable darkness of them … that name themselves, but amiss, to be the holy church, cannot abide’. In a treatise of the same year, Nicholas Wyse addressed himself to ‘ye that are the people of God and have received the light of his gospel’.51 John Bale described George Joye’s conversion in terms of ‘the light of truth’ dawning upon him, and Joye himself called on his enemies to pray to God ‘that he would illumine your hearts and loose you with the keys of the knowledge of his holy word, and unlock your wits out of this blind ignorance and unbelief’.52 Writing from exile in Mary’s reign, John Olde described his ‘first entry into the gospel’ of ten or eleven years earlier as a calling out from ‘the damnable darkness of Antichrist’s iniquity into the true light of Christ’s gospel’s verity’.53 Knowledge and ignorance, light and darkness, these were the states separated by the ‘turning to God’ that gospellers had identified in themselves and looked for in others. But when they recounted a transformative encounter with the Word of God, evangelicals did not typically do so in terms which spoke only of an intellectual, credal type of conversion. When Henry VIII’s last wife Katherine Parr wrote of how she had come to know Christ as her saviour, she regarded it as a knowledge ‘infused by grace, into the hearts of the faithful, which can never be attempted by human doctrine’.54 The language used to describe the experience of conversion was often sensual, somatic, sometimes even sexual in its emphasis. The courtier George Zouche was reported to be ‘so ravished with the spirit of God’ upon reading a copy of Tyndale’s Obedience of a Christian Man filched from a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn that he could scarcely be prevailed upon to return it.55 Cranmer spoke of the need to ‘allure men to embrace the doctrine of the gospel’, an image that appealed also to Brinkelow (‘repent and believe the Gospel in embracing the same’) and to William Turner, who later wrote to Foxe of how he had exhorted his friend Rowland Taylor ‘zealously to embrace the evangelical 51 Foxe, Actes and Monumentes (1583), p. 1102; Wyse, Consolacyon for Chrysten People, sig. G2r. 52 C.C. Butterworth and A.G. Chester, George Joye 1495?–1553 (Philadelphia, 1962), p. 24; Joye, Letters, sig. B1v. 53 John Olde, A Confession of the Most Auncient and True Christen Catholike Olde Belefe (Emden, 1556), sig. E7r, A2v. 54 Katherine Parr, The Lamentacion of a Sinner (London, 1547), sig. B6r. 55 Reformation Narratives, ed. Nichols, p. 52.



doctrine’.56 The promise of the gospel absorbed the senses as well as the mind. Latimer recalled in 1552 how he had begun ‘to smell the word of God’ after an encounter with Thomas Bilney.57 Bale said of Joye’s conversion that ‘from the purest fonts of the Gospels did he drink the spiritual and wholly undiluted philosophy of Christ, with which he bedewed the parched hearts of many’.58 The imagery of physical nourishment permeated evangelical discourses on conversion to a remarkable degree. At his trial in 1538 John Lambert insisted that ‘the Scripture is the spiritual food and sustenance of man’s soul’, and others, including Bilney, Tyndale, Joye, Cranmer and Coverdale, vividly described the experience of ‘tasting’ God’s holy Word.59 This habitual substitution of ‘tasting’ for reading/comprehending/believing persisted into the martyrological accounts of a subsequent generation. According to John Foxe, the monk Richard Bayfield was one of those who, having spent time in Cambridge, ‘tasted so well of good letters’ that he could never return to his abbey. In his account of the early career of Martin Luther, Foxe noted that those hearing his sermons ‘received good taste of this sweet doctrine’ and began to understand the difference between the Law and the Gospel.60 That the experience of receiving the Gospel could be one of ‘sweetness’ is an intriguing pointer. In a discussion of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 with its ‘bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang’, Eamon Duffy has recently argued that in terms of religious imagery, ‘sweet’ was a quintessentially Catholic word. All-pervasive in the prayers, primers and homilies of the pre-Reformation period, references to the ‘sweetness’ of Christ and his Passion were progressively expunged from Protestant devotional language because of their affective, sentimental associations, and their potential to be a distraction from faith.61 Yet in the reign of Henry VIII evangelicals seem to have had few qualms about this adjective. Years after the event, Foxe’s correspondent William Maldon recalled as a 56 Ibid., p. 246; Henry Brinkelow, The Complaynt of Roderyck Mors … and the Lamentacyon of a Christen Agaynst the Cyte of London, ed. J.M. Cowper (EETS, extra ser., 22, 1874), p. 120; Nicholas Ridley, Works, ed. H. Christmas (PS, Cambridge, 1843), p. 494. 57 Hugh Latimer, Sermons, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1844), p. 334. 58 Butterworth and Chester, George Joye, p. 24. 59 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), pp. 1005, 1116; Trueman, Luther’s Legacy, p. 89; Joye, Letters, sig. B6r; Reformation Narratives, ed. Nichols, p. 247; H.C. Porter, Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge (2nd edn, Hamden, CT, 1972), p. 46. 60 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), pp. 844, 1021. 61 E. Duffy, ‘Remembering Catholicism in Shakespeare’s England’, a paper at the conference on ‘Catholic England’, St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, 27 April 2000. For the ubiquity of ‘sweet’ in pre-Reformation devotional discourse, see Duffy’s magisterial The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992), passim; on the Gospel itself so described, J. Ziegler, Medicine and Religion c. 1300 (Oxford, 1998), p. 70.



young man joining the throng gathered on Sundays in Chelmsford church in 1538 to hear men reading from the newly sanctioned vernacular Bible, ‘that glad and sweet tidings of the gospel’. Despite parental disapproval, the experience made him determined to learn to read English for himself.62 At much the same time, a more socially elevated convert, the courtier Sir Nicholas Carew, was reportedly giving thanks to God ‘that ever he came in the prison of the tower, where he first savoured the life and sweetness of God’s most holy Word, meaning the Bible in English’.63 By withholding the Bible in English, charged Nicholas Wyse, the clergy denied people ‘the sweet fruit that they should have had in his scripture’, and Joye similarly accused opponents of vernacular Scripture of pretending ‘that which is sweet to be bitter’.64 Tyndale urged hearers of the Word preached to consider ‘how sweet a thing the bitter death of Christ is’ and to ‘feel the goodness or … sweetness’ in God’s law.65 The Yorkshire reformer, Francis Bigod, contrasted the ‘judicial captivity of that babylonical man of Rome’ to ‘the sweet and soft service’ of the Gospel.66 Thomas Bilney reported how his chance discovery of a sentence in Paul’s first letter to Timothy acted as a ‘most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul’. Thereafter, ‘the Scripture began to be more pleasant unto me than the honey or the honey-comb’, with its message that good works done without trust in Christ were worthless.67 Katherine Parr was another who found ‘pleasant and sweet words’ in the New Testament, as, according to a later acount, was the London grocer John Petyt: ‘one of the first that with Mr. Frith, Bilney, and Tyndale caught a sweetness in God’s word’.68 Here the reformers might deploy exactly the same kind of imagery as their religious opponents, such as the conservative Kentish priest in the early 1540s who, disliking the Pater Noster in English, compared it to the hard shell of a nut, ‘and the Pater Noster in Latin to the sweet kernel’.69 It should occasion no surprise to discover either that the evangelical concept of conversion borrowed from a range of ideas developed over the course of the Middle Ages, or that the language used to describe the experience drew on a contemporary repertoire of religious imagery. After all, 62

Reformation Narratives, ed. Nichols, pp. 348–9. Edward Hall, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke (London, 1548), fo. 234r. 64 Wyse, Consolacyon for Christen People, sig. F6v; Joye, Letters, sig. B1v. 65 Trueman, Luther’s Legacy, pp. 89, 100. 66 A.G. Dickens, Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York (Oxford, 1959), p. 70. 67 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), p. 1005. 68 Parr, Lamentacion, sig. B2v; Reformation Narratives, ed. Nichols, p. 25. 69 P. Marshall, The Catholic Priesthood and the English Reformation (Oxford, 1994), p. 102. 63



‘early evangelicals were late medieval Christians’.70 The study of the early Reformation, in England and elsewhere, has undoubtedly suffered from an anachronistic obsession with the ‘origins’ of later confessional movements, and an insufficient interest in or understanding of the extent to which early evangelicals were shaped within, and emerged from, the complex religious culture of their own age. Nonetheless, in investigating the experience of evangelical conversion in the quarter-century following Luther’s break with the papacy it would be strange to suggest that we are not somewhere near the source of what would later be called Protestantism. Though it is right to be wary of anachronism and premature confessional labelling, it is surely valid to insist that those persecuted as heretics in the 1520s and 30s for acting on the imperatives of a scripturally patterned experience of conversion were something other than slightly heterodox Catholics punished for indulging an ill-judged religious enthusiasm. In the remaining part of this chapter, I want to sharpen the focus on the ways in which shared understanding of the meanings of conversion contributed towards the formation of subjective religious identities in sixteenth-century England, and towards the permanence of religious division. IV The evangelical representation of conversion was by no means all sweetness and light, and nor was the experience of being converted. Contemporary social scientists characterise conversion as ‘a problematic discontinuity demarcated by distinctive continuous states either side of the conversion happening’.71 Or as another modern authority more succinctly puts it, ‘conversion is from and to’.72 The ‘from’ of evangelical conversion narratives, the understanding of the pre-conversion self, is an issue that requires further examination if we are to place the phenomenon meaningfully in a context of emergent confessional identities. If conversion was typically represented as repentance, a turning to God and away from sin, then, logically enough, the former life of the 70 B. Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA, 1999), p. 141. See also ibid., pp. 158–60 for the argument (parallel to that developed here) that early Protestants martyrs continued using a ‘medieval monastic vocabulary’, and that the terms they deployed about Scripture ‘do not reflect dispassionate encounter with a text’. 71 R. Ireland, ‘Pentecostalism, Conversions and Politics in Brazil’, Religion, 25 (1995), 141. 72 The Encyclopedia of Christianity, ed. E. Fahlbusch et al. (Grand Rapids, MI, 1999), i. 683. See also A.J. Kreilsheimer, Conversion (London, 1980), p. 157.



convert was unlikely to appear in flattering terms. This is certainly the case with one of the earliest of English evangelical autobiographical fragments, ‘the author’s prologue’ in The Myrrour or Lookynge Glasse of Lyfe (1532) by the London publisher, John Gough. The mirror in question was ‘the holy words of God, by the writing of the evangelists and of St Paul … and the more I looked in this most pure glass, the more knowledge I had of my foul spotted soul’. Goughe described himself as ‘one that hath lived many years in the enormity and ambition of vainglory’.73 A more expansive treatment of the same theme was provided in Katherine Parr’s The Lamentacion of a Sinner, composed probably in the winter of 1545–46, and published in the first year of Edward VI’s reign.74 Much of the treatise was taken up with reflection on an ‘evil and wretched former life’, Parr feeling ‘forced and constrained with my heart and words, to confess and declare to the world, how ingrate, negligent, unkind, and stubborn, I have been to God my creator’.75 This postulation of an unregenerate former self, it should be said, was hardly an unfamiliar theme in the religious culture of the later Middle Ages. Among the saints, Paul and Mary Magdalene had long exemplified the possibility of sharp contrast between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of conversion. The theme was also at the centre of that locus classicus of conversion narratives, The Confessions of St Augustine, and those not familiar with the original might hear a potted version preached from the Golden Legend recounting how the saint had once been a ‘wicked slave of evil desires’.76 Medieval hagiography also served up the formerly wicked lives of a number of less eminent saints, including St Pelagia, St Brice and St Thais, courtesan.77 It is worth noting too that Katherine Parr’s Lamentacion was firmly rooted in a late medieval genre, looking back past Marguerite of Navarre’s The Mirror of the Sinful Soul to the late fifteenth-century Mirror of Gold to the Sinful Soul of the monk Dionysius Carthusianus, translated into English in 1507 by Henry VIII’s impeccably pious and orthodox grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort.78 Yet in evangelical sources of the early to mid-sixteenth century, there was a distinctive and decisive shaping element at work in the process we might call the invention of an ‘other’ self. Increasingly, past ‘wickedness’ was understood in terms of doctrine rather than personal morality. Gough stated that he had lived a life of vainglory, ‘judging myself a good 73

J[ohn] G[ough], Here Begynneth a Lytell Treatyse called the Myrrour or Lookynge Glasse of Lyfe (London, 1532), sig. A2v. 74 S.E. James, Kateryn Parr. The Making of a Queen (Aldershot, 1999), pp. 234–6. 75 Parr, Lamentacion, sig. A1r. 76 Voragine, Golden Legend, ii. 117. 77 Ibid., 230, 301, 234. 78 James, Kateryn Parr, pp. 235–7.



Christian man’, and in railing against ‘the great enormity of sin reigning in the common people’, he had in mind their disdain for God’s Word ‘and the pronouncer or speaker thereof’.79 Parr was even more emphatic: ‘I would have covered my sins with the pretence of holiness, I called superstition, godly meaning, and true holiness, error … the blood of Christ was not reputed by me sufficient for to wash me from the filth of my sins’.80 It has been customary to think of individual trajectories from ‘Catholicism’ into ‘Protestantism’ following an arc passing through such points as ‘humanism’, ‘anticlericalism’, ‘disenchantment’. In many cases it may indeed have been so.81 But those reformers who left first-person narratives of their spiritual odysseys seem almost to have vied with each other in stressing the depth and extent of their commitment to the worst type of unreformed Catholicism.82 John Bale, for example, claimed to have been ‘a most obstinate papist’ [obstinatissimus papista] before the break with Rome, and John Barlow was on his own admission ‘sometime a fautor of the papistical sect’.83 An early anonymous biographer of Cranmer laid great emphasis on how in his youth at Cambridge the archbishop had been ‘nouselled in the grossest kind of sophistry, logic, philosophy moral and natural … chiefly in the dark riddles and quiddities of Duns and other subtle questionists’.84 In a letter to Heinrich Bullinger of January 1546, the exiled John Hooper bitterly repented the time when ‘like a brute beast … I have been a slave to my own lusts’. These wicked impulses seem to have been rather spiritual than sexual ones: ‘I had begun to blaspheme God by impious worship and all manner of idolatry, following the evil ways of my forefathers, before I rightly understood what God was’.85 Writing in Edward’s reign, another Henrician evangelical, Thomas Becon, included himself in a collective confession of past 79

Gough, Myrrour or Lookynge Glasse of Lyfe, sigs A2v–4r. Parr, Lamentacion, sigs A2v, A4v. 81 In his recantation of 1528, for example, the Augustine friar Thomas Topley warned all Christians to ‘beware of consenting to Erasmus’s Fables [The Colloquies], for by consenting to them, they have caused me to shrink in my faith’: Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), p. 1047. 82 A point noted by J.J. Scarisbrick, who remarked how converts to Protestantism did not suggest their conversion had been preceded by slow disillusionment, but rather ‘came as a sudden release from an elaborate way of life which, up to the moment when scales fell from eyes, had enjoyed wholehearted commitment’: The Reformation and the English People (Oxford, 1984), p. 56. 83 Cited in R. Rex, ‘John Bale, Geoffrey Downes and Jesus College’, JEH, 49 (1998), 491n; LP, x. 19. 84 Reformation Narratives, ed. Nichols, pp. 218–19. 85 Original Letters relative to the English Reformation, ed. H. Robinson (2 vols, PS, Cambridge, 1846–47), i. 33–4. 80



guilt: ‘How ran we from post to pillar, from stock to stone, from idol to idol, from place to place, to seek remission of our sins … How were we bewitched to believe, that in observing the pope’s ceremonies there was everlasting salvation, and in neglecting them eternal damnation’.86 The reformer who seems to have returned to the theme most insistently, however, was Hugh Latimer. In a letter to Sir Edward Baynton in December 1531, Latimer confessed how I have thought in times past, that the pope, Christ’s vicar, hath been Lord of all the world, as Christ is; so that if he should have deprived the king of his crown, or you of the lordship of Bromeham, it had been enough; for he could do no wrong … that the pope’s dispensations of pluralities of benefices, and absence from the same, had discharged consciences before God … that the pope could have spoiled purgatory at his pleasure with a word of his mouth … that if I had been a friar, and in a cowl, I could not have been damned, nor afraid of death; and by occasion of the same, I have been minded many times to have been a friar, namely when I was sore sick and diseased: now I abhor my superstitious foolishness … I have thought in times past that divers images of saints could have holpen me, and done me much good, and delivered me of my diseases … It were too long to tell you what blindness I have been in, and how long it were ere I could forsake such folly, it was so corporate in me.87

There was perhaps an element of calculation in Latimer’s frank confession. Under investigation by Bishop John Stokesley of London, he denied the bishop’s right to search out the secrets of his conscience, slyly noting that ‘men think that my lord himself hath thought in times past, that by God’s law a man might marry his brother’s wife’. But in a subsequent letter, Latimer vehemently defended himself against the charge of some of Baynton’s friends that ‘think that I made a lie, when I said that I have thought in times past that the pope had been lord of the world’.88 Years later, in a sermon of 1552, Latimer recalled that he had once been ‘as obstinate a papist as any was in England, insomuch that when I should be made bachelor of divinity, my whole oration went against Philip Melancthon and against his opinions’.89 Whether any of these fragments of personal history represent totally reliable accounts of an individual’s lived experience is of course a distinctly moot point. They should probably be regarded as part of the construction or ‘fictionalisation’ of conversion experience, something which heightens 86 Thomas Becon, The Catechism … with Other Pieces, ed. J. Ayre (PS, Cambridge, 1844), pp. 413–14. 87 Hugh Latimer, Sermons and Remains, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1845), pp. 332–3. 88 Ibid., pp. 333, 348. 89 Latimer, Sermons, p. 334.



rather than reduces their value and interest. Then, as now, religious ‘conversion’ acquires its name and meaning only through a process of subsequent reflection, and contemporary sociological studies identify distinct elements of stereotyping in the accounts provided by religious converts. The paradigm of sinfulness–conversion–regeneration seems particularly prominent among recruits to modern Protestant sects.90 Early sixteenth-century evangelicals were perhaps especially predisposed to (re)interpret their experience in this way. The search for validating biblical prototypes provided the epitome of instantaneous conversion in the experience of St Paul, and the widely recognised tendency among early moderns to construct their world-view in terms of binary oppositions may have served to sharpen an artificially antithetical juxtaposition of ‘before’ and ‘after’. No doubt things were frequently less tidy in reality. We know that some converts to evangelical ideas in the 1520s and 30s were not stout papists, but longstanding Lollard sympathisers, and it is probable that many converts stumbled gradually rather than leaped suddenly to occupy new ground, needing, like the Winchester scholar William Ford, to be ‘at length with much ado brought from the popish doctrine’.91 Yet there are few hints of caution, confusion, or gradualism in the accounts that have been bequeathed to us. A common thread was the sense of a profound ontological change. Evangelicals spoke of eyes being opened, of the ‘veil of Moses’ being lifted, of being clothed ‘in a new garment’.92 The idea of being ‘born again’, still prevalent in modern religious discourse, was used as well: one friar, a protégé of Latimer, was styling himself ‘Two-Year-Old’ in 1536.93 There were sound theological reasons for representing things in this way. Being able to perceive the truth in religion was not the exercise of an active personal choice, but a receptiveness to the initiating action of the Holy Spirit: conversion was God’s doing, not man’s. The verb ‘to convert’ was itself sometimes used as a transitive rather than intransitive one, with God as the subject. Thus George Joye urged in 1544 that gospellers should pray to God for their persecutors ‘that he would for Christ’s sake have mercy upon them and convert them’.94 There was clearly a fear in some quarters that to recognise 90

T.F. O’Dea, The Sociology of Religion (Princeton, NJ, 1966), pp. 61–3. A. Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History (Oxford, 1988), ch. 10; Reformation Narratives, ed. Nichols, p. 29. 92 Parr, Lamentacion, sigs B4v, B5v; TNA: PRO, SP 1/115, fo. 31r (LP, xii (1). 212); Brigden, London, p. 417. 93 S. Wabuda, ‘“Fruitful Preaching” in the Diocese of Worcester: Bishop Hugh Latimer and his Influence 1535–1539’, in E. Carlson (ed.), Religion and the English People 1500–1640 (Kirksville, MO, 1998), p. 68. 94 George Joye, A Present Consolacion for the Sufferers of Persecution for Ryghtwyseness (Antwerp, 1544), sig. G4v. 91



the convert’s own agency was to risk re-admitting that ‘works righteousness’ against which the reformers had set their face so firmly. In a treatise on justification published in 1543, the Gloucestershire gentleman and lay reformer Richard Tracy denied that God gave justifying faith to any man because of a virtuous disposition to repentance he saw in him. Rather, he insisted (with St James) that ‘every perfect gift is from above’ and remarked on the absurdity of praising for its swift flying through the air a thrown stone ‘whose nature is to lie still, if it be not removed’.95 Joye emphasised that ‘Paul as he was going to persecute Christ’s Church was smitten down a murderer and rose again a justified man, which yet had done no good works’.96 Katherine Parr claimed to have discovered that ‘mine own power and strength could not help me, and that I was in the Lord’s hand, even as the clay is in the potter’s hand’.97 In describing the conversion of a former conservative in 1545, John Bale laid all the emphasis on God’s action: ‘we laud that heavenly lord, which thus of mere pity and mercy hath found out his almost perished sheep, laid him upon his shoulders, and brought him again to his fold’.98 The insistence in a modern reference work that ‘conversion is a conscious act on the part of the subject, not an event passively experienced’ would have seemed grossly presumptuous to all of these writers.99 Yet despite the emphasis on divine initiative in the conversion process, evangelical converts did not usually claim to resemble St Paul in being literally struck down by a blinding light from heaven as they went about their papist business. Conversion narratives featured a clear interest in instrumentality, in the mechanisms and means God had employed to open their hearts, and to show them the error of their ways. Indeed, the characteristic fashioning of these narratives around the principle of sudden transformation tended to accentuate the significance of stimuli, triggers and catalysts. Not surprisingly, a very common theme was the effect of exposure for the first time to vernacular Scripture. For evangelicals, the medium was the message here, the New Testament both imparting the doctrinal verity of justification by faith, and at the same time bringing about the possibility of experiential encounter with the risen Christ, the eternal ‘Word’ of God. Examples of Henry VIII’s subjects supposedly converted by reading Scripture could be multiplied without 95 Richard Tracy, The Profe and Declaration of thys Proposition: Fayth only Iustifieth (London, 1543), sigs A7r–v. 96 Joye, Letters, sig. B6r. 97 Parr, Lamentacion, sigs D3r–v. 98 John Bale, A Mysterye of Iniquyte contayned within the Heretycall Genealogye of Ponce Pantolabus (Antwerp, 1545), sigs A3r–v. 99 The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J.D. Douglas (Exeter, 1974), p. 259.



great difficulty, from the Essex Lollard, John Tyball, confessing in 1528 how he fell into ‘errors and heresies’ by reading the evangelists, and the epistles of Peter and Paul in English, to the Lincolnshire gentlewoman Anne Askew, converted ‘by oft reading of the sacred Bible’.100 Books other than the text of Scripture itself were sometimes credited with bringing about conversions (though presumably people taking the risk of reading forbidden heretical works must often have done so with some kind of predisposition to accept their arguments). John Foxe claimed that in addition to the New Testament, it was Tyndale’s works, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon and The Obedience of a Christian Man, that had persuaded Richard Bayfield; the Wicked Mammon was also claimed to have converted the London leather-seller, John Tewkesbury.101 Luther’s works were identified by the temporarily apostate evangelical William Barlow in 1531 as the means whereby he had been ‘enticed unto their faction’, and similar confessions, or boasts, were made by John Lambert, and by William Roper.102 Another member of the More circle, Sir Thomas’s brother-in-law, John Rastell, had engaged in a literary disputation with the young reformer John Frith over the question of purgatory, and was converted to the cause of radical reform in the last few years of his life by reading Frith’s rejoinder.103 Rowland Taylor was reportedly converted by the Lutheran tract Unio Dissidentium, and without specifying titles, Nicholas Shaxton confessed during his recantation sermon of August 1546 that his sacramentarian views were the result of reading ‘heretical books of English’.104 It was sometimes suggested that the suffering of persecuted evangelicals subverted the intention of the persecutors by inspiring others to find the truth. George Joye suggested in 1544 that ‘our innocent blood shed for the gospel shall preach it with more fruit … then ever did our mouths and pens’.105 There must have been an element of wishful thinking here, but John Bale claimed in 1545 to have met several persons in Colchester who were ‘converted from your papism unto true repentance’ by the 100 John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials (3 vols, London, 1721), I (ii). 35; Anne Askew and John Bale, The Lattre Examinacyon, of Anne Askew (Wesel, 1547), fo. 15r. 101 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), pp. 1021, 1024. 102 William Barlow, A Dialogue Describing the Originall Ground of these Lutheran Faccions, ed. J.R. Lunn (London, 1897), p. 70; Harpsfield, More, p. 85; Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), p. 1102. 103 John Frith, ‘A Disputation of Purgatory’, The Work of John Frith, ed. N.T. Wright (Oxford, 1978), p. 211. See the introduction by A.J. Geritz to his edition of Rastell’s The Pastyme of People and a New Boke of Purgatory (New York, 1985). 104 Ridley, Works, p. 494; Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England, ed. W.D. Hamilton (2 vols, CS, new ser., 11, 20 1875–77), i. 170. 105 Joye, Present Consolation, sig. B4v.



steadfast demeanour at the stake of the anabaptist Peter Franke.106 He also claimed that a great number of those present were converted by the burning of Anne Askew and her companions in 1546, though his allusions in this context to the centurion acknowledging Christ’s divinity at the Crucifixion should alert us to the elements of narrative structuring and stock topoi so clearly present in Reformation martyrology.107 Alongside books and burnings, it was brethren who were most commonly recognised as the secondary causes in God’s plan to bring about the conversion of an individual. The word ‘converter’ was even used by contemporaries in this sense, an evangelical in Northamptonshire being reported to the authorities in May 1546 as ‘a common converter of the people from the laws and ordinances of the Church’.108 Pedigrees and genealogies of conversion are a recurrent feature of the narratives in Foxe’s Actes and Monuments. John Frith’s road to martyrdom begins when ‘he fell into knowledge and acquaintance with William Tyndale, through whose instructions he first received into his heart the seed of the gospel’. Thomas Bilney is said to have ‘converted Dr Barnes to the gospel of Jesus Christ our Saviour’ along with a host of others.109 But the theme was already well established by the time Foxe began his compilation. From the perspective of Edward’s reign, John Bale attributed his conversion to the persuasions of Thomas Lord Wentworth, and Hugh Latimer was in no doubt that ‘Master Bilney, or rather Saint Bilney … was the instrument whereby God called me to knowledge; for I may thank him, next to God, for that knowledge that I have in the word of God’. After Latimer had delivered an aggressive sermon against the teaching of Melanchthon, Bilney had come to him requesting Latimer to hear his confession, by which ‘I learned more than before in many years … and forsook the school-doctors and such fooleries’.110 This, almost certainly, is the context for the sentiment (unusual in an evangelical) that Latimer is reported to have voiced in a sermon of 1536: ‘if ever I had amendment of my sinful life the occasion thereof came by auricular confession’.111 In his turn, Latimer became identified by others as the cause of their entry into the Gospel. The conversions of John Cardmaker and John Tyrel were attributed to Latimer’s preaching, and John Olde was another proud to acknowledge ‘the reverend father of blessed memory Hugh Latimer’ as 106

Bale, Mysterye of Inyquyte, fo. 54v. John Bale, Select Works, ed. H. Christmas (PS, Cambridge, 1849), pp. 143, 243. On this theme, see D. Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1997). 108 A.G. Dickens, Late Monasticism and the Reformation (London, 1994), p. 142. 109 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), p. 1031; Actes and Monuments (London, 1563), p. 479. 110 Fairfield, John Bale, p. 33; Latimer, Sermons, pp. 334–5. 111 TNA: PRO, SP 1/104, fo. 202r (LP, x. 1201). 107



the ‘right worthy instrument’ for opening to him the true Christian faith.112 William Turner dedicated his Preservative, or Triacle, agaynst the Poyson of Pelagius (1552) to this ‘most steadfast, godly, and true preacher of God’s word’, adding that ‘first in Cambridge about 20 years ago, ye took great pains to put men from their evil works’ and that ‘this foundation of God’s word once laid, we that were your disciples had much to do in Cambridge, after your departing from us’.113 Though it involved a repudiation of past beliefs, and sometimes of friendships and family ties, evangelical conversion was not typically represented as a solitary or atomising process. The construction of a conversion experience was frequently cemented and buttressed by perceived personal obligations and solidarities, a perception strengthened further when, as so often, the facilitator of one’s conversion later died a martyr’s death. V The Swiss historian Peter Blickle has confessed that ‘I do not know what motives drove people from the Roman Church and to the reformers, nor does anyone else know it. Why did people around 1515 want to see the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, but around 1525 demand to hear the Word of God? No one has produced a plausible answer to this question, much less an adequate one.’114 This chapter makes no claims to have solved Blickle’s conundrum. Questions of deep-rooted motivation in religious conversion are individually opaque, and collectively present a kaleidoscope of shifting interpretative patterns. What is asserted here, however, is that for those who did follow this path, the sense of undergoing a profound change, of experiencing a ‘conversion’, and of being able to rationalise and, to an extent, to systematise that experience, was a profoundly important dimension of a new religious and social existence. It was perhaps the most significant factor giving shape to an emergent ‘Protestantism’, in the years before that phenomenon found either institutional structures or an agreed set of descriptive labels. In a classic study of conversion in the classical and early Christian world, A.D. Nock wrote that

112 J. Fines, ‘A Biographical Register of Early English Protestants’, part 2 (unpublished typescript), no. T3; Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1583), p. 1043; Olde, Confession of the … Olde Belefe, sig. A2v. 113 W.R.D. Jones, William Turner (London, 1988), p. 9. 114 Cited by R.N. Swanson, ‘The Pre-Reformation Church’, in A. Pettegree (ed.), The Reformation World (London, 2000), p. 9.



even when the fact of conversion appears wholly sudden and not led up to by a gradual process of gaining conviction, even when the convert may in all good faith profess that the beliefs which have won his sudden assent are new to him, there is a background of concepts to which a stimulus can give new life.115

This observation undoubtedly applies to the patterns of evangelical conversion we have observed under Henry VIII. Early evangelicals were formed in a religious culture which esteemed and espoused conversion as an ideal of Christian life. Nock also observed, with respect to the conversion of Augustine, that it did not represent progression in a continuous line: ‘it is like a chemical process in which the addition of a catalytic agent produces a reaction for which all the elements were already present’.116 In early Tudor England that catalytic agent was the solfidian theology of the continental reformers and their English followers. The characteristic evangelical conversion was the result of a powerful synthesis: a profound yearning for personal religious renewal with a plausible theological explanation of how that yearning could be made effectual within the subjective experience of conversion itself. Historians who work with the phenomenon of religion in early modern England seem sometimes to want to keep the theology and the sociology of the topic apart, like white and non-colourfast garments in the wash-cycles of meaningful historical explanation. But in this case we should cheerfully let the colours run together. The ‘conversion-experience’ of early English evangelicals was a dye finely compounded of social, cultural and theological pigments, and it made an indelible mark on the appearance of a distinctive Protestant identity.

115 A.D. Nock, Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford, 1933), p. 8. 116 Ibid., p. 266.


Fear, Purgatory and Polemic Did late medieval religion function primarily to deliver consolation to its practitioners, or to foster in them debilitating anxiety? Controversy over this question has been agitating Reformation historians for the best part of a generation, and is at root, of course, a debate about the causes of the Reformation itself.1 Proponents of the model of a fear-laden preReformation piety tend to identify the Church’s penitential system as prime culprit: the mandatory confession of sins to a priest was an inquisitorial and guilt-inducing procedure; what is more, the logic of Catholic penitential teaching pointed to a fiery posthumous punishment in purgatory, where the satisfaction for sins not paid for by penances in this life would be relentlessly exacted.2 In the English context, however, a considerable body of recent work, most notably by Clive Burgess and Eamon Duffy, has begun to question whether the prospect of purgatory was really such a fearful one for a great many laypeople, and has proposed alternative or at least complementary explanations for the vast and complex accretion of forms of commemoration and intercession which is so marked a feature of late medieval religious life.3 Yet the attempt to 1 See in particular S.E. Ozment, The Reformation in the Cities: The Appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-Century Germany and Switzerland (New Haven, 1975), pp. 22–32; idem, The Age of Reform 1250–1550 (New Haven, 1980), pp. 216–22; L.G. Duggan, ‘Fear and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 75 (1984); E. Cameron, The European Reformation (Oxford, 1991), pp. 305–11; T.N. Tentler, ‘The Summa for Confessors as an Instrument of Social Control’, in C. Trinkaus and H.O. Oberman (eds), The Pursuit of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Religion (Leiden, 1974), pp. 103–26; J. Delumeau, Sin and Fear: the Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture 13th–18th Centuries, tr. E. Nicholson (New York, 1990), especially chs 6–7; 10–11. (Delumeau, however, regards Protestant Christianity as almost equally inclined to inculcating fear: chs 19–21.) 2 On the medieval development and rationale of the doctrine of purgatory, see J. Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, tr. A. Goldhammer (Aldershot, 1984); P. Binski, Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (London, 1996), pp. 181–99. 3 C. Burgess, ‘“A Fond Thing Vainly Invented”: an Essay on Purgatory and Pious Motive in Late Medieval England’, in S.J. Wright (ed.), Parish, Church and People: Local Studies in Lay Religion 1350–1750 (London, 1988), pp. 56–84; E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c. 1400–c. 1580 (New Haven and London, 1992), ch. 10, especially pp. 346–7; R.L. White, ‘Early Print and Purgatory: the Shaping of an Henrician Ideology’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, 1994), pp. 21, 84, 109. P. Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002), pp. 25–7. These works redress the bleaker assessments to be found in A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (2nd edn, London, 1989), pp. 29–30; A. Kreider, English Chantries: The Road to Dissolution (Cambridge, MA, 1979), pp. 41–2, 91, 93 (the abandonment of purgatory ‘brought joyful release from an acutely existential dread’).



write persuasively about the prevalence of fear in past societies, more especially on the ‘metaphysical’ fears associated with afterlife and judgement, can be a particularly hazardous historical endeavour.4 Despite the temptation to apply the resources of information technology to the large numbers of surviving wills, individuals’ fear of the conditions that awaited them after death offers no meaningful potential for quantification, and given the complexity of the cultural and psychological issues it comprehends, scope for only the most guarded attempts at qualification.5 Whether or not most English Christians at the start of the sixteenth century lived in constant fear of the fate that awaited them in purgatory is arguably not only a question that can never satisfactorily be answered, but one that begs innumerable other questions within its own referencing. The intention of this chapter is to approach the issue in a manner both less ambitious and more unashamedly textual. It hinges on a recognition that in England in the first half of the sixteenth century discussion of the connection between soteriology and fear represented an important element of contemporary theological discourse. Of necessity a broad survey, it will attempt to explore how early English reformers made use of the topos of the ‘fearfulness’ of purgatory in their polemics against traditional orthopraxy, and how conservative writers responded to the charge. Further, it will seek to elucidate what the exchanges reveal, not only about literary strategies of persuasion and conversion, but about contemporary perceptions of the appropriateness and utility of the state of ‘fear’ in ordering people’s relations with God and with their neighbours. I In the early stages of the Reformation in England the validity of the Church’s teaching on purgatory rapidly emerged as a major focus of controversy. Luther’s ambivalence towards the existence of purgatory in the 1520s prompted treatments of the doctrine by English Catholic 4 See the somewhat overwrought presentation of P. Camporesi, The Fear of Hell: Images of Damnation and Salvation in Early Modern Europe, tr. L. Byatt (Oxford, 1990), and of Delumeau, Sin and Fear. For a more circumspect approach, see C.M.N. Eire, From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 78, 176–7, 189–95. See also the discussion of the methodological and conceptual difficulties in W. J. Bouwsma, ‘Anxiety and the Formation of Early Modern Culture’, in B.C. Malament (ed.), After the Reformation (Manchester, 1980), pp. 215–46. 5 For the dangers of attempting to use wills as the basis for a comprehensive assessment of religious mentalité, see in particular, among a burgeoning literature, Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, ch. 15; C. Burgess, ‘Late Medieval Wills and Pious Convention: Testamentary Evidence Reconsidered’, in M.A. Hicks (ed.), Profit, Piety and the Professions (Gloucester, 1990), pp. 14–33.



writers in their anti-Lutheran writings, but the doctrine became much more of a live public issue when the existence of purgatory was openly impugned in Simon Fish’s populist tract, A Supplication for the Beggars, which was distributed in London in the early part of 1529.6 Fish’s short pamphlet provoked two weighty responses, Thomas More’s Supplication of Souls (1529) and John Rastell’s New Boke of Purgatory (1530). These were answered in their turn by John Frith’s Disputation of Purgatory, a work which set the tone for much of the subsequent Protestant polemic against purgatory.7 In the first half of the 1530s controversy over purgatory intensified, as More continued the literary debate with other antagonists such as William Tyndale and George Joye, and as radical preaching on purgatory and prayer for the dead became increasingly common, much of it emanating from the evangelicals’ rising star, Hugh Latimer.8 In the last decade of Henry VIII’s reign, literary and pulpit debates over the existence of purgatory and the value of suffrages for the souls there 6

For the early development of Luther’s views on purgatory, see A.F. Mayne, ‘Disputes about Purgatory in the Early Sixteenth Century’ (unpublished M.Phil. thesis, University of London, 1975), pp. 10–13; C.M. Koslofsky, The Reformation of the Dead: Death and Ritual in Early Modern Germany, 1450–1700 (New York, 2000), pp. 34–9. For references to the doctrine in the first wave of English anti-Lutheran polemic, see Henry VIII, Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, in Miscellaneous Writings of Henry VIII, ed. F. Macnamara (n.p., 1924), p. 44; R. Rex, The Theology of John Fisher (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 98–9; Thomas More, Responsio ad Lutherum, ed. J.M. Headley (New Haven and London, 1969), pp. 257–9. Fish’s Supplication is reprinted as an appendix in More, Letter to Bugenhagen. Supplication of Souls. Letter against Frith, ed. F. Manley, G. Marc’hadour, R. Marius and C.H. Miller (New Haven and London, 1990), pp. 412–22. 7 More, Supplication of Souls; John Rastell, A New Boke of Purgatory whiche is a Dialoge and Dysputacyon betwene one Comyngo an Almayne … and one Gyngemyn a Turke (London, 1530); John Frith, A Disputation of Purgatory, in N.T. Wright (ed.), The Work of John Frith (Oxford, 1978). 8 For the most pertinent passages, see Thomas More, The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, ed. L.A. Schuster, R.C. Marius, J.P. Lusardi and R.J. Schoek (New Haven and London, 1973), pp. 90–91, 102–3, 210–11, 288–91, 372–5, 407, 578, 625, 702–3, 967–9, 1033–4; idem, The Answer to a Poisoned Book, ed. S.M. Foley and C.H. Miller (New Haven and London, 1985), pp. 187–9; idem, The Apology, ed. J.B. Trapp (New Haven and London, 1979), pp. 72–4, 88, 101; William Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scripture, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1848), pp. 48, 122, 148, 158, 235–8, 243–9, 268–72, 302–3, 318–21, 330–31, 342, 424, 531; idem, Expositions and Notes on Sundry Portions of the Holy Scriptures, together with the Practice of Prelates, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1849), pp. 48–9, 159–62, 286–7; idem, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1850), pp. 27–8, 47, 121, 141–3, 180–81, 214, 273–83; George Joye, The Subversion of Moris False Foundacion (Emden, 1534), fo. 36v. On contentious preaching, see Kreider, English Chantries, chs 4–5. For Latimer’s early contributions, see Hugh Latimer, Sermons, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1844), pp. 36–7, 48–51; idem, Sermons and Remains, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1845), pp. 218, 235–9, 245–9.



became more muted, not because the issue had ceased to interest theologians or laity, but because official policy had intervened to restrict the terms of the debate. The Ten Articles of 1536 undercut the traditional understanding of the place of post-mortem purgation by remarking that ‘the name thereof, and kinds of pains there … be to us uncertain by scripture’, and the King’s Book of 1543 went substantially further, insisting that it was impossible to know how masses or suffrages might benefit the dead, and stipulating that the king’s subjects ‘abstain from the name of purgatory, and no more dispute or reason thereof’.9 Not surprisingly, some Henrician conservatives seem thereafter to have proceeded with circumspection, and to have avoided mentioning purgatory by name.10 Though controversies about purgatory were most intense in Henry’s reign, they continued through later decades. The acccession of Edward VI signalled a renewed burst of evangelical agitation against purgatory and intercession, achieving its logical triumph in the Chantries Act of 1547, which abolished intercessory institutions and declared purgatory to be a ‘vain opinion’. Church of England formularies thereafter would reiterate this line.11 Theological debate in the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth tended to focus on other concerns, but the existence or otherwise of purgatory remained a pertinent issue: the early 1560s, for example, witnessed the production of significant works by the exiled French Protestant, Jean Veron, and the English Catholic exile, William Allen.12 Certain fundamental themes recurred repeatedly in evangelical polemic against purgatory. In the first place, the reformers regarded it as quite unwarranted by Scripture and would have no truck with Catholic suggestions that it should be regarded as an ‘unwritten verity’ of the faith.13 There was, Simon Fish opined, ‘not one word spoken of hit in al 9

Formularies of Faith put Forth by Authority during the reign of Henry VIII, ed. C. Lloyd (Oxford, 1856), p. xxxii; The King’s Book 1543, ed. T.A. Lacey (London, 1895), p. 156. 10 See, for example, a late 1530s sermon by the conservative preacher Roger Edgeworth: ‘I will not contende aboute this vocable Purgatory … but let A. be his name’: Sermons very Fruitful, Godly and Learned, ed. J. Wilson (Cambridge, 1993), p. 128. Note also the studied avoidance of the term in a chapter contending that ‘the masse is profitable to the deade’ in Richard Smyth’s Defence of the Sacrifice of the Masse (London, 1546), fos 126 ff., and the excision of overt references to purgatory in a 1540s reprinting of a medieval didactic work noted by J.F. Preston, ‘The Pricke of Conscience (Parts I–III) and its First Appearance in Print’, The Library, 6th ser., 8, no. 4 (1985), 313–14. 11 Kreider, English Chantries, ch. 8; E.J. Bicknell, A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England (2nd edn, London, 1925), p. 347. 12 Jean Veron, The Huntyng of Purgatorye to Death (London, 1561); William Allen, A Defense and Declaration of the Catholike Churches Doctrine touching Purgatory (Antwerp, 1565). 13 See below, Chapter. 5.



holy scripture’.14 The point was elaborated in Frith’s Disputation: if such a thing had been ordained by God, ‘then I am sure that Christ and all his Apostles would not have forgotten to have remembered us of it.’15 Furthermore, the reformers missed few opportunities to reiterate how intimately the doctrine and development of purgatory was tied up with the authority of the pope, a circumstance that undoubtedly allowed previously unorthodox views about the fate of souls to make headway in the England of Henry VIII. Frith’s translation of Luther’s Revelation of Antichrist memorably observed that ‘the Pope is … made the Kinge of them that are dead and raigneth in purgatorye’.16 Without doubt, however, the most substantial objection evangelical polemicists had to the theory and practice of purgatory was that it took away the allsufficiency of Christ’s passion: by their reckoning, the only ‘true purgatory’ was the cross of Christ and His Precious Blood.17 In rehearsing their deep-seated theological rejection of purgatory, evangelicals repeatedly seized upon the dread and fearfulness inhering in the Catholic teaching, which, in the words of John Hooper, offered nothing but ‘the curse of that painful fire’.18 From their unshakeable premise that the object of such fear was illusory, indeed delusory, evangelical writers proceeded to explore its origins and rationale. Their diagnosis was rapidly and confidently arrived at: fear of the fires of purgatory was deliberately inculcated into the laity by the clergy for the purpose of pecuniary gain. The tone here had been set by Simon Fish’s Supplication, which itemised with specious precision the vast sums passing into the hands of the priests, particularly the friars, and concluded that they had no ‘other coloure to gather these yerely exaccions ynto theyre hondes but that they sey they pray for us to God to delyver our soules out of the paynes of purgatori’.19 The theme resonated through subsequent polemic in which the putative destination of souls was repeatedly epitomised as


Fish, Supplication, p. 419. Frith, Work, p. 104. 16 John Frith, The Revelation of Antichrist (London, 1529), sigs F8r–v, cited in More, Supplication of Souls, p. lxxii. For other representations of purgatory as the ‘kingdom’ of the pope, see John Bale, The Complete Plays, ed. P. Happé (2 vols, Cambridge, 1985–6), i. 35; Tyndale, Expositions and Notes, p. 287. 17 Frith, Work, pp. 90–91; Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 214; John Hooper, Later Writings, ed. C. Nevinson (PS, Cambridge, 1852), p. 32; Thomas Becon, The Catechism … with other Pieces, ed. J. Ayre (PS, Cambridge, 1844), pp. 381, 414; Veron, Huntyng of Purgatorye to Death, sig. A5v. See also C.R. Trueman, Luther’s Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers 1525–1556 (Oxford, 1994), pp. 131, 142. 18 John Hooper, Early Writings, ed. S. Carr (PS, Cambridge, 1843), p. 568. 19 Fish, Supplication, p. 419. 15



‘purgatory pick-purse’.20 In this vein, John Frith sarcastically conceded the truth of the traditional obiter dictum repeated by Thomas More that the fire of purgatory was hotter than any earthly fire: ‘it hath alone melted more gold and silver, for our spiritualty’s profit, out of poor men’s purses, than all the goldsmiths’ fires within England’.21 Only a desperate fear of fiery punishment in store could make sense of the level of investment in clerical services, and it followed that the clergy must be assiduous in promoting this fear. Dying men robbed their heirs of their inheritance, thought Tyndale, because the clergy ‘fear them with purgatory’, a theme endlessly rehearsed in Jerome Barlow’s satire, The Burial of the Mass.22 According to Miles Coverdale, the clergy manipulated ‘this weak fear of pain to withdraw simple people from the whole love of Christ’.23 In such polemics, one adjective more than any other was paired with purgatory, serving at once to explain and, it was hoped, to expel the fearfulness with which the concept was claimed to be indelibly imbued. Above all else, purgatory was ‘feigned’. John Frith’s Disputacion of Purgatory was predicated on the assumption that the papists had contrived to ‘feign a purgatory’.24 Frith’s collaborator Tyndale excelled in references to ‘that terrible and fearful purgatory they have feigned to purge thy purse withal’, a purgatory ‘as hot as their bellies can feign it’, a ‘feigned purgatory, where we must suffer seven years for every sin’.25 Latimer noted that purgatory was infinitely profitable ‘to the feigners of it’; Coverdale, that out of greed ‘feigned they this horrible bog of purgatory’; Cranmer, that purgatory was simply ‘feigned for lucre’.26 In acknowledging the literary conceit of More’s Supplication of Souls, in which the departed souls themselves present the argument, George Joye portrayed him as ‘the 20 Frith, Work, pp. 90, 183; Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, pp. 122, 148, 237–8, 244–9, 302–3, 318, 342, 424; idem, Expositions and Notes, pp. 286–7; idem, Answer to More, pp. 47, 143, 214; Latimer, Sermons, pp. 36, 50, 71; Sermons and Remains, pp. 239, 363; Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, ed. J.E. Cox (PS, Cambridge, 1846), pp. 64, 182; John Bradford, Letters, Treatises, Remains, ed. A. Townsend (PS, Cambridge, 1853), pp. 280, 292; Heinrich Bullinger, The Decades: the Fourth Decade, ed. T. Harding (PS, Cambridge, 1851), p. 395; Hooper, Early Writings, pp. 570–71; Miles Coverdale, Remains, ed. G. Pearson (PS, Cambridge, 1846), pp. 270–71; Bale, Complete Plays, i. 40, 70–71; Becon, Catechism, pp. 174–5; idem, Prayers and Other Pieces, ed. J. Ayre (PS, Cambridge, 1844), pp. 129, 277. 21 Frith, Work, p. 183. 22 Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 244; J. Barlow, The Burial of the Mass, in E. Arber (ed.), English Reprints (London, 1871), pp. 133ff. 23 Coverdale, Remains, p. 475. 24 Frith, Work, p. 141. 25 Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 302; idem, Expositions and Notes, pp. 287, 162. 26 Latimer, Sermons, p. 50; Coverdale, Remains, p. 475; Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 182.



proctour of purgatory fayning to have come fro[m] thence’.27 Hooper epigrammatically linked a number of key themes in adducing a ‘feigned purgatory that the scripture of God feareth no man withal’.28 In a culture which, from our perspective, was habituated to a much heightened polarity of truth and falsehood, the ‘feigning’ of purgatory was intended to carry profoundly uncomfortable resonances.29 By revealing that the terrors of purgatory were no more than the hook for an elaborate confidence trick, evangelical writers sought not so much to persuade as to jolt, almost to embarrass their readers into abandoning their belief: Frith argued that ‘their painful purgatory was but a vain imagination … a vain and childish fear which our forefathers had’.30 Tyndale stressed that the only foundation for fear of purgatory was the ‘poetry’ of the bishop of Rome, and concluded severely that ‘fools be out of their wits to believe it’.31 II In responding to this onslaught against purgatory in heretical works, traditionalist writers did not attempt to deny that the contemplation of purgatory ought to evoke fear in the believer. The observation of a number of modern commentators that purgatory was a humane and consoling doctrine in so far as it permitted the greater mass of Christians to elude damnation was, for reasons which will become apparent, largely absent from contemporary Catholic polemic.32 In fact, Thomas More did adduce purgatory as a source of consolation in his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, but in a rather different sense: the believer suffering tribulation in this life could take comfort from the knowledge that it 27

Joye, Subversion of Moris False Foundacion, fo. 36v. Hooper, Early Writings, p. 571. 29 For further discussion of this theme, see Chapter 7 below. 30 Frith, Work, pp. 90, 207. 31 Tyndale, Expositions and Notes, pp. 159, 287. Frith also noted that those who believed in purgatorial punishment were ‘fools’: Work, p. 142. The theme was picked up in the contention of the Edwardian articles of 1553 that belief in purgatory was a ‘fond thing, vainly feigned’: The Two Liturgies … in the Reign of King Edward VI, ed. J. Ketley (PS, Cambridge, 1844), p. 532. Cf Stephen Greenblatt’s suggestion that to Protestant critics in the sixteenth century purgatory was quintessentially ‘a poet’s fable’: Hamlet in Purgatory (Princeton, NJ, 2001), ch. 1. 32 D. Loades, Revolution in Religion: The English Reformation, 1530–1570 (Cardiff, 1992), p. 23; R. Houlbrooke, ‘Introduction’, in idem (ed.), Death, Ritual and Bereavement (London, 1989), p. 4; Burgess, ‘Fond thing vainly invented’, pp. 63–4. Some continental Catholic polemicists seem to have been readier to make the point: Delumeau, Sin and Fear, p. 384. 28



would reduce the penance that would otherwise be exacted in purgatory.33 More’s perception drew on a long tradition of the didactic and homilectic use of purgatory to encourage repentance and good works in this life. This was predicated upon the axiom that such works were infinitely more effective than post-mortem suffrages in securing relief for the individual’s soul after he died, a formulation that perhaps received its most emphatic expression in the preaching of John Fisher.34 When the concept of purgatory came under attack in the late 1520s, a rationale implicit in such teaching was more explicitly evoked: fear of purgatory was essential to restrain the people from sin. This argument was a central theme of John Rastell’s New Boke of Purgatorye, which had ambitiously set out to establish purgatory ‘by naturall reason and good philosophye’. In Rastell’s view, the good order of a commonwealth depended equally upon laws to punish vice in this world and on ‘a drede to be punysshed in an other world for offence done here’. Loss of purgatory would ‘put away the drede of god from the most parte of the people in the worlde, and gyve them boldness to do and commytte offences and synnes’.35 The same theme recurred throughout the polemical writings of Thomas More, who remained insistent that ‘fere of payn to be suffred … refrayneth men from the boldenes of synne’.36 More’s Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer contained a merciless caricature of what would inevitably follow from the teaching of justification by faith: ‘neyther purgatory nede to be fered when we go hens, nor penauns nede to be done whyle we be here, but synne and be sory and syt and make mery, and then synne agayne and then repent a lytell and ronne to the ale and wasshe away the synne, thynke ones on goddys promyse and then do what we lyste’.37 As far as 33 Thomas More, A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, ed. L. Martz and F. Manley (New Haven and London, 1976), pp. 37–8. 34 Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, pp. 303, 339–40, 342; White, ‘Early Print and Purgatory’, pp. 46, 60; G.R. Keiser, ‘St Jerome and the Bridgettines: Visions of the Afterlife in Fifteenth-Century England’, in D. Williams (ed.), England in the Fifteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1986 Harlaxton Symposium (Woodbridge, 1987), p. 151; Here begynneth a Lytel Boke, that speketh of Purgatorye (London, ?1531), sigs A2r, B2v; John Fisher, English Works, ed. J.E.B. Mayor (EETS, extra ser., 27, 1876), pp. 10–11, 15, 24, 362–3; English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. Sermons and Other Writings 1520–1535, ed. C.A. Hatt (Oxford, 2002), pp. 226, 237–8. 35 Rastell, New Boke of Purgatory, sigs H3v–4r. 36 More, Supplication of Souls, p. 175. See also pp. 199–200; idem, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, p. 377; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 90, 289–90, 967–8; idem, Answer to a Poisoned Book, pp. 187–8. It had been a cardinal principle of Utopian religion that subjects could not be trusted to obey the king if they had ‘nothing to fear but laws and no hope beyond the body’: Utopia, ed. E. Surtz and J.H. Hexter (New Haven and London, 1965), p. 223. 37 More, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 90–91.



More was concerned, heretics were deliberately and irresponsibly propagating false teaching which served to undermine a necessary fear of purgation: ‘of purgatory by two meanes they put men out of drede. Some by slepyng tyll domys daye, and some by sendyng all strayt to hevyn, every soule that dyeth and is not dampned.’38 The reference to Luther’s teaching on the ‘sleep of the soul’, and the diversity of opinion it engendered, was a shrewd one, much canvassed by More in his writings. Already in the 1530s this teaching was a cause of controversy among English reformers, and was later to be decisively repudiated by the mainstream of English Protestantism.39 After More’s death, the argument that denial of purgatory ‘bringes a man to carnall libertye’ recurred in the preaching of Roger Edgeworth, and could even evoke an echo in those generally less committed to the upholding of traditional orthodoxy: the ‘Henrician’ humanist Thomas Starkey judged it to be folly to deny purgatory its place as ‘a holesome tradition to the conseruation of the christian lyfe’. In a letter to Henry VIII in 1536 Starkey warned about the unsettling effects of radical preaching: ‘with the despysing of purgatory, they began little to regard hell’.40 Given the centrality of such arguments to Catholic defences of purgatory, it is unsurprising that evangelical polemicists went to considerable lengths not only to deny that belief in purgatory was an effective deterrent against sin, but that, to quote John Hooper, ‘it causeth men to live in a greater security and liberty of life’.41 At best, purgatory was superfluous as a means of constraining man’s propensity to sin. Frith and Tyndale both argued that if the unmistakable monitions of the Old and New Testaments did not induce men to reform themselves, fear of purgatory would hardly do so.42 Indeed, the specious assurance of ultimate salvation that purgatory conveyed, combined with the myriad possibilities for ameliorating its pains, undermined any restraining effect it could possibly have. Frith envisaged the young saying to themselves, ‘I will take my 38

More, Answer to a Poisoned Book, p. 187. More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, pp. 354, 365–6, 377, 544–5; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 288, 625, 702; idem, The Apology, pp. 88, 101; idem, Supplication of Souls, pp. 177, 198; Tyndale, Answer to More, pp. 180–81; Frith, Work, p. 490; George Joye, An Apology to W. Tindale, ed. E. Arber (London, 1883), p. 15; Liturgies of Edward VI, ed. Ketley, p. 537; Hooper, Later Writings, p. 63; Bullinger, Fourth Decade, pp. 389–90; Becon, Prayers and Other Pieces, p. 182. See also Mayne, ‘Disputes over Purgatory’, pp. 55–60; W.A. Clebsch, England’s Earliest Protestants, 1520–1535 (New Haven, 1964), pp. 219ff. 40 B.J. Verkamp, The Indifferent Mean: Adiaphorism in the English Reformation to 1554 (Athens, OH, 1977), p. 110n; Kreider, English Chantries, p. 115. 41 Hooper, Early Writings, p. 566. 42 Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 28; Frith, Work, p. 122. 39



pleasure while I may, and if I may have but one hour’s respite to cry God mercy, I care not, for then shall I go but to purgatory.’ Meanwhile the older generation clung avariciously to their goods, confident that they too could cry ‘God mercy’, and that their executors ‘shall redeem me thence well enough’. In a sweeping inversion of the argument of Rastell and More, Frith concluded that ‘to believe purgatory is rather an occasion of reckless boldness than of the fear of God’.43 Later writers worked the same vein: Hooper charged that Catholics ‘thinke to redeem all their sins after death’; Bradford that ‘it maketh no matter at all how thou live here, so thou have the favour of the pope and his shavelings’.44 The respective efficacies as social constraint of the traditionalist and reformed views of the afterlife were juxtaposed in dramatic form in Jean Veron’s dialogue The Huntyng of Purgatorye to Death. When a Catholic character expresses his fear that ‘magnifying thus the grace and mercy of God … shal minister an occasion unto many folke to do evell’, his Protestant neighbour retorts that those ‘thinking to make satisfaction in purgatory for their syns, do geve the[m] selves to all kind of abhomination and fylthynesse all their lyfe tyme’.45 To remark that such arguments seem hardly consistent with the line advanced by these same writers that the effect of purgatory was to terrorise the laity into giving to the clergy for the multiplication of commemorative services is perhaps to take us to the crux of the polemical campaign against intercession for the dead. The absurdity of a purgatory which could not exist, and which no one need fear, was best exposed by accentuating the dialectical confusion of fearfulness and easiness which, it could be argued, underlay the whole intercessory system. As Tyndale put it, ‘what great fear can there be of that terrible fire, which thou mayest quench almost for three half-pence? … Show the pope a little money, and God is so merciful that there is no purgatory.’46 Hugh Latimer similarly suggested that the availability of various means of indulgence must render facile the vaunted rigours of purgatory: ‘if the bishop’s two fingers can shake away a good part; if a friar’s cowl, or the pope’s pardon, or scala coeli of a groat, can dispatch for altogether, it is not so greatly to be cared for’.47 In his commentary on the 43 Frith, Work, p. 132. Such views were shortly afterwards subsumed into the government’s propaganda. The 1536 proclamation outlawing papal indulgences charged that as a result of them many of the king’s subjects ‘have been more encouraged to commit sin and to withdraw their faith, hope, and devotion from God’: Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. P.L. Hughes and J.F. Larkin (3 vols, New Haven and London, 1964–69), i. 237. 44 Hooper, Early Writings, p. 569; Bradford, Letters, Treatises, Remains, p. 290. 45 Veron, Huntyng of Purgatorye to Death, fos 308r–v. 46 Tyndale, Answer to More, pp. 28, 143. 47 Latimer, Remains, p. 239. For the claims made by religious orders about special privileges for those dying wearing their cowls, see R. Copsey, ‘Simon Stock and the Scapular



will of William Tracy, Frith pointed to the paradox of people making elaborate preparations to alleviate ‘the grievous pains of purgatory’ when they might ‘be quenched both with less cost and labour’ if ‘the Pope’s pardon is ready at hand’.48 English reformers proved particularly adept at drawing attention to awkward questions raised by the system of papal pardons, and at reiterating the arguments which Luther had employed in 1517, and which indeed pre-dated the Reformation itself: what motive, it was asked, other than squalid pecuniary advantage, could the pope have for not releasing all the souls suffering in purgatory?49 If indulgences did represent such a sure and certain means of escaping speedily from purgatory, then the insistence of Catholic polemicists on the utility and beneficial effects of a healthy fear of its pains were inevitably undermined. In fact, some orthodox writers actively sought to play down the potency of pardons. The Bridgettine writer William Bonde suggested that it was wrong to rely on them too heavily, and Thomas More insisted that heretics exaggerated their comforting effects: ‘that fyre is not so lyghtely quenched, that folke sholde uppon the boldenesse of perdons, stande out of the fere of purgatory’: one could never be sure that some fault on the part of the purchaser or the beneficiary of the indulgence might not have impeded its validity.50 In a sense, however, such caveats served to strengthen the hand of More’s opponents, for the cumulative intention and effect of evangelical discussion of post-mortem intercession was not make a consistent case that, objectively considered, it was too burdensome or too easy, but to imply that it was uncertain and contradictory, menacing yet somehow comical, and hopelessly compromised by the base motives of those who administered it. In The Obedience of a Christen Man, Tyndale remarked with mock astonishment that ‘the very gods themselves, which sell their pardon so good cheap … trust not therein themselves’ but endow colleges, chantries and masses. In his Exposition of Tracy’s Testament, he contrived to turn Vision’, JEH, 50 (1999), 652–83. On the diffusion and popularity of the ‘scala coeli’ indulgence, see Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, pp. 375–6; N. Morgan, ‘The Scala Coeli Indulgence and the Royal Chapels’, in B. Thompson (ed.), The Reign of Henry VII: Proceedings of the 1993 Harlaxton Symposium (Stamford, 1995), pp. 83–103. 48 Frith, Work, p. 250. For the importance of Tracy’s will as an evangelical text, see J. Craig and C. Litzenberger, ‘Wills as Religious Propaganda: The Testament of William Tracy’, JEH, 44 (1993), 416–31. 49 Fish, Supplication, p. 419; Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 244; Frith, Work, p. 93; Latimer, Sermons and Remains, p. 339; Coverdale, Remains, p. 271. See also J. Bossy, Christianity in the West (Oxford, 1985), p. 56. The text of Luther’s 95 theses is most conveniently available in E.G. Rupp and B. Drewery (eds), Martin Luther (London, 1970), pp. 19–25. More attempted to answer this objection in Supplication of Souls, pp. 199–200. 50 William Bonde, Pylgrimage of Perfection, cited in White, ‘Early Print and Purgatory’, p. 84; More, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 289–90.



More’s remarks on pardons to his own purposes, stressing the unreliability of indulgences ‘which have so great doubts and dangers, what in the mind and intent of the granter, and what in the purchaser, ere they can be truly obtained with all due circumstances, and much less certitude than they have authority’.51 In 1536, the year of Tyndale’s death, Hugh Latimer appropriated the theme of uncertainty in his notorious sermon before Canterbury Convocation: that the souls in purgatory were in need of our help was at the very least ‘ambiguous, uncertain, doubtful, and therefore rashly and arrogantly with such boldness affirmed in the audience of the people’.52 In a funeral sermon early in Edward’s reign, John Hooper took up the refrain, commenting on the confusion of those who imagined their friends’ souls to be roasted in the fire of purgatory: ‘even as they fear they wot not what, so seek they their remedy they know not how’.53 By deftly and ironically seeming to invert this theme of uncertainty, Jean Veron further underscored the shiftiness and unreliability of popish claims: a Catholic preacher is portrayed as claiming an exact and perfect knowledge of the topography of the afterlife so that ‘there is neyther halle, parlour, chaumber, nor closed, there is neyther kytchen, cave, nor dongeon, there is neyther chymney, fornace, nor oven … pothookes, fleshhookes, ketel nor cawderon, that he hath not so lively described unto us that I sawe the very thing before myne eyes’. It is significant that the effect is intended to be comic when Veron has his protagonist conclude that ‘I now do quake and tremble to thinke on it.’54 To fear purgatory was thus irrational, a product of muddle and gullibility. It was also self-destructive, in so far as it was likely to lead one to rely on ‘feigned’ promises which promoted a false sense of security and consequently made the prospect of damnation more likely. A handful of evangelical polemicists were prepared to go further than this and argue that even if a fear of the torments of purgatory were able to restrain overt wickedness, it would have accomplished more harm than good. To John Frith, abstaining from evil purely for fear of punishment was in itself a morally culpable act: ‘God’s law requireth a thing to be done with a wellwilling heart … If thou do it for fear, then workest thou not of love, but rather hatest both the thing that thou doest and also the law that constraineth thee unto it.’55 A generation later, Veron would similarly 51 Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 330; Answer to More, p. 281. For Luther’s view on the uncertainty of indulgences, see D.N.V. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518–1525 (Minneapolis, 1991), p. 35. 52 Latimer, Sermons, p. 37. 53 Hooper, Early Writings, p. 561. 54 Veron, Huntyng of Purgatorye to Death, fo. 159v. 55 Frith, Work, pp. 119–20, 132, 142.



argue that good works done under compulsion were not truly meritorious, and he posed the rhetorical question of whether one would account a man a friend ‘that woulde be diligente aboute you, and do you servyce, onelye for feare?’56 It was characteristic of evangelicals to vindicate their own cause in terms of deliverance from the bonds of fear, the fear of death in particular, and conversely to claim that Catholic soteriology thrived on it like a parasite. ‘If we should feign a purgatory’, argued Frith, ‘it were not possible to imagine a greater obstacle to make us fear and fly from death.’57 Tyndale took a similar line: true Christians ‘are delivered from fear of everlasting death’, and are as bold with God ‘as young innocent children, which have no conscience of sin … which were impossible, if God now (as the bishop of Rome painteth him) did shake a rod at us of seven years’ punishment, as sharp as the pains of hell, for every trespass we do’.58 In his encomium for the early evangelical rolemodel, William Tracy, whose will of October 1530 famously and precociously denied the efficacy of intercession, Tyndale painted a picture of ‘a perfect Christian man, and of such a one as needed not to be aghast and desperate for fear of the painful pains of purgatory, which whoso feareth as they feign it, cannot but utterly abhor death’.59 By the mid-Tudor period it had become an axiom of the reformers that knowledge of the gospel cast out fear of death, and an ‘Exhortation agaynst the Feare of Death’ (probably the work of Cranmer) was included in the Edwardian Book of Homilies of 1547.60 A few years later, the concept received an emphatic endorsement in The Sick Man’s Salve, Thomas Becon’s Protestant redaction of the ars moriendi handbook. In this dialogue the dying testator, Epaphroditus, resists the blandishments of his neighbours to follow traditional funerary custom. Instead he affirms his faith in Christ, and roundly declares ‘I fear the popish purgatory and the pains thereof nothing at all.’61


Veron, Huntyng of Purgatorye to Death, fo. 310r. Frith, Work, pp. 141–2. 58 Tyndale, Expositions and Notes, p. 159. 59 Tyndale, Answer to More, pp. 280–81. 60 Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547), ed. R.B. Bond (Toronto, 1987), pp. 147–60. See also John Frith [?], Of the Preparation to the Cross, and to Deathe, and of the Comforte under the Crosse and Deathe (London, 1540), sig. K4v; Latimer, Sermons, p. 549; John Bale, Select Works, ed. H. Christmas (P S, Cambridge, 1849), p. 228. 61 Becon, Prayers and Other Pieces, p. 129. This work is discussed by N.L. Beaty, The Craft of Dying: A Study in the Literary Tradition of the Ars Moriendi in England (New Haven and London, 1970), pp. 108–56. 57



III Thus far it would appear that the treatment of purgatory by a range of evangelical writers, and some of the responses formulated by the defenders of Catholic orthodoxy, points to a dogged endorsement of the necessity of fear on the part of the latter, and a wholesale determination by the former to eliminate fear from the relationship between the faithful Christian and his Maker. Such an assessment would seem to lend weight to the view that much of the popular appeal of the Reformation in the first generation should be seen in terms of a liberation from scrupulosity and morbid anxiety. But there are grounds for caution here; indeed, we should probably regard the transcendence of fear as an important strand in evangelical polemical and devotional discourse, rather than as the defining characteristic of the movement or its essential point of departure from traditional pieties. In the first place, suggestions that the fear of death and punishment was a temptation Christians should strive to resist were hardly unique to reforming writers. Relieving the fearfulness of death had been one of the concerns of the fifteenth-century ars moriendi genre, a tradition maintained by the Bridgettine monk, Richard Whitford, who in 1537 published a treatise to demonstrate how ‘the fere or drede of deth [is] to be excluded, exiled, and utterly put away’.62 Roger Edgeworth was similarly persuaded that Christians should endeavour to depart this life ‘without al feare’.63 Moreover, conservative writers were capable of construing the fear of purgatory in more subtle and nuanced ways than the evangelical caricature might suggest. In his sermons on the penitential psalms, John Fisher presented the experience of such fear as a necessary transitional phase, leading to contrition and repentance; fear was inextricably linked with hope and ‘noo thynge is more profytable to the synner than to have a iuste moderacyon of them bothe’.64 In devotional works written in the Tower, both More and Fisher can seem as emphatic as John Frith that love not fear should inspire the sinner’s hope for salvation. In a short prayer, More sketched out his desire to be with God ‘not for thavoiding of the calamyties of this wretched world, nor so much for the avoiding of the paines of purgatory … as even for a very

62 Beaty, Craft of Dying, pp. 7–8, 33–4; R. Whitford, A Dayly Exercyse and Experyence of Dethe (London, 1537), quote at sig. A2r. 63 Edgeworth, Sermons, p. 307. 64 Fisher, English Works, pp. 29–30, 113–14. For sensitive discussion of the interaction of fear, penitence and mercy in Fisher’s thought, see Rex, Theology of John Fisher, pp. 34–40; E. Duffy, ‘The Spirituality of John Fisher’, in B. Bradshaw and E. Duffy (eds), Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: the Career of Bishop John Fisher (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 205–10.



love to the’.65 In a ‘Spiritual Consolation’ addressed to his sister, Elizabeth, John Fisher lamented the times when he feared he might not have served God ‘more rather for his love, then for feare of his punyshement’.66 If Catholic writers sometimes consciously stepped back from an all-ornothing endorsement of the desirability of fear of post-mortem punishment, evangelicals were equally capable of affirming its utility as an instrument of social control, though of course with hell rather than purgatory as the object of apprehension. In his polemical exchanges with John Rastell, for example, Frith was at pains to deny the charge that he had given licence to sin by impugning the existence of hell.67 Cranmer’s homily of 1547 remarked that Christians ought to fear damnation ‘for it is an everlasting losse, without remedy, of the grace and favor of God’.68 Preaching in 1552, Latimer proved as skilled in evoking the pains of hell as any indulgence preacher might the pains of purgatory, and unhesitatingly affirmed that Christ wanted ‘to make us afraid thereof’.69 Indeed, an important aspect of the evangelical rejection of purgatory as a means of bringing men to repentance was to insist that hell was a more terrifying and effective deterrent: as Tyndale pithily put it, ‘to fear men … Christ and his apostles thought hell enough’.70 IV It should now be becoming apparent that religious writers of different persuasions employed the idea of fear for a variety of polemical, theological and devotional purposes. In the process they make clear that within contemporary culture fear was an ambivalent, if not multi-faceted, theme, capable of diverse constructions and meanings. That any writer should simply seek to banish fear on the grounds that it contributed to the misery of the human condition was quite inconceivable. Franklin Roosevelt’s famous assurance that ‘we have nothing to fear, but fear itself’ would have seemed preposterous, even blasphemous, to the Tudor mind. The scriptures on which all contemporary theologians relied were replete with striking monitions to accept and embrace fear: ‘Fear God, and keep his commandments’, ‘Happy is the man that feareth alway’, ‘Who would not fear thee, O King of nations?’, ‘Wouldst thou be wise, 65

Thomas More, Treatise on the Passion, Treatise on the Blessed Body, Instructions and Prayers, ed. G.E. Haupt (New Haven and London, 1976), p. 230. 66 Fisher, English Works, ed. Mayor, p. 354. 67 Frith, Work, pp. 226–7. 68 Certain Sermons or Homilies, ed. Bond, p. 148. 69 Latimer, Sermons and Remains, p. 191. 70 Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 28.



the first step is fear of the Lord’, ‘There is no want to them that fear Him’, ‘The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever’, ‘Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord’, ‘My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgements’, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’.71 But, confusingly, the Bible also taught that the spirit of God was not ‘a spirit of slavery, to govern you by fear’, and that ‘perfect love casteth out fear’.72 Long before the Reformation, in fact, scholastic theologians had elaborated sophisticated taxonomies of fear, usually predicated on a basic distinction between ‘servile’ and ‘filial’ fear of the Lord, the former corresponding to the mere fear of being punished, such as a servant might feel towards his master, the latter approximating to the natural, reverential fear a child should have of displeasing its father.73 English Catholic writers of the early Reformation period deployed these concepts in varying ways. In A Devoute Treatyse for them that ben Tymorouse and Fearefull in Conscience, addressed to the sisters of Syon Abbey, William Bonde warned that only the ‘holy feare of God’ nourished charity, and that servile fear ‘contentyth not God but rather yf it be undiscretely usyd, moche dysplesyth hys grace’.74 In his Answer to a Poisoned Book, Thomas More took an arguably more utilitarian view, accepting that ‘though fere of hell alone be but a servyle drede’, men already feared it too little rather than too much, a trend likely to be exacerbated by heretics presenting its punishments in expressly metaphorical terms.75 Roger Edgeworth’s sermon ‘intreating of the feare of God’, preached probably in the early 1540s, more ambitiously laid out a tripartite structure for fear, comprehending a ‘carnall and worldly fear’ of losses and gains in this life, a ‘servyle fear’ of the pains of hell, and a ‘fillial and charitable feare’ whence ‘the former feare of punyshment vanysheth and goeth awaye’. Edgeworth took a fairly forgiving view of human infirmity: carnal fear was not damnable if it was simply a spontaneous reaction to pain, danger or deprivation. Moreover, Edgeworth departed from the tradition that servile fear was also damnable, arguing that such fear of 71 Ecclesiastes 12: 13; Proverbs 28: 4; Jeremiah 10: 7; Ecclesiasticus 1: 16; Psalms 34: 9; 19: 9; 128: 1; 119: 120; 111: 10. I quote from the Authorized Version and from Ronald Knox’s translation of the Vulgate. 72 Romans 8: 15; 1 John 4: 18. 73 The locus classicus here is Thomas Aquinas’s discussion in the Summa Theologicae, 2a2ae. 19: ed. and tr. T. Gilby et al. (60 vols, London, 1964–81), xxxiii. 43–85, which considered four potential classifications of fear in the light of scriptural, patristic and classical testimonies. 74 William Bonde, A Devoute Treatyse for them that ben Tymorouse and Fearefull in Conscience (London, 1534), fos 2v–4r. See also idem, The Pylgrymage of Perfeccyon (London, 1531), fo. 73. 75 More, Answer to a Poisoned Book, pp. 187–8.



punishment developed a habit of justice and of doing good which would gradually develop into true filial fear.76 Edgeworth’s oration, like the scriptural meditations of John Fisher, and the pastoral treatises of Bonde and Whitford, was characteristic of Catholic writing on this issue in combining a fairly rigid typology of states of fear with a model of progression and improvement.77 Such approaches encouraged the educated audiences they addressed to accept a construction of fear as an inter-locking set of existential categories. Implicit also was the recognition that a laudable fear of God might slip into scrupulosity, that a natural fear of judgement might tip over into despair. Evangelical polemic against purgatory, while at one level ignoring or caricaturing such subtleties and difficulties, in another sense paid service to them. At root, the objection to purgatory seems to have been not so much that it caused fear as a first principle, but that it misappropriated and corrupted a potentially godly and distinctly malleable set of impulses. In the prologue to his Disputation of Purgatory John Frith praised the perspicacity of his immediate fore-runner Simon Fish for grasping that the common people ‘was fallen into that frantic imagination, that they more feared the Pope and his decrees, which are but vanity, than God himself and his law, which are most righteous and eternal’.78 Quite conversely, but no less pertinently, John Bradford was later to argue that with the easy availability of prayers, masses and pardons to smooth the way into heaven ‘who will be so earnest to amend … and live in a godly and true fear of God?’79 In seeking to persuade the English people that preparation for the prospect of purgatory was fundamentally misdirected and misconceived, evangelical writers thus exploited the ambiguities of fear as a cultural construct, and co-opted the contemporary ambivalence towards ‘fearfulness’ into a set of polemical strategies that may have been the more effective because they were unsettlingly inconsistent. To suppose that medieval Christianity was sustained by an undifferentiated emphasis on fear, and that the aim and achievement of the reformers, like that of a modern pyschotherapist with a disturbed patient, was to restore society to a condition of feeling at ease with itself, is to accept at face value a contingent aspect of their own propaganda. In fact, as far as the ontology of fear was concerned, the polemical sallies of rival theologians traversed 76

Edgeworth, Sermons, pp. 163–4. By stating at the outset that it will deal only with the ‘dread terror’ of God and not concern itself with ‘authentic Judeo-Christian maxims’ about the fear of the Lord, Delumeau’s Sin and Fear (pp. 4–5) arguably imposes an anachronistic framework on its subject. 78 Frith, Work, p. 93. 79 Bradford, Letters, Treatises, Remains, p. 293. 77



an impressive area of consensus. Evangelical and Catholic writers agreed that fear was in some sense a natural property of man, and could lead him in godly as well as ungodly directions. They usually accepted that fear of post-mortem judgement and punishment was unavoidable, and also that it served a useful social and religious function in reinforcing moral regulation in this world. More problematically, however, they also accepted that in itself such ‘servile fear’ was at best morally neutral, and that a purer form of ‘fearing’ God, a God who preferred service performed out of love than out of fear, was an attainable goal. If there appears to be a degree of tension in the simultaneous holding of all these assumptions and aspirations, it was a tension indelibly enscripted within the traditional teaching on purgatory. The doctrine’s heady mix of fear, hope, self-interest, altruism, punishment, purgation and salvation rendered it, of all the centre-pieces of medieval theology, perhaps the most vulnerable to deconstruction and vilification.80 But in so far as English reformers shared the vision of a righteous God who decreed eternal punishments for the wicked, and who expected fear to animate but not to overwhelm His servants, their alternative explanations of how God’s ineffable justice might be made compatible with His infinite love would never be found universally convincing.


A theme I develop at more length in Beliefs and the Dead, chs 1–2.


The Shooting of Robert Packington The study of religious violence in the Reformation era has proved a fruitful one in recent years, but not for historians of religious change in sixteenth-century England.1 Particularly in its earlier Henrician phase, the English Reformation seems remarkable both for the passivity with which it was endured and for the unbloodthirsty way in which it was promoted or imposed. Acts of individual brutality were few and far between, and there were no co-ordinated assassinations or communal massacres. Even the great outpourings of popular discontent against officially sponsored reform in the Northern Rebellions of 1536–37 turned out to be relatively bloodless affairs. There was, of course, a fair amount of state-sponsored violence, in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace and at other times: ‘papists’ hanged, drawn and quartered, as well as (sporadically) ‘heretics’ burnt at the stake. But the early Tudor state proved remarkably successful at maintaining a monopoly of violence, at least where the arbitration of religious faith was concerned. It is not the purpose of this chapter to attempt to account for this broad phenomenon, but rather to explore what we might learn from a single exception to the rule. Adopting the theory of practitioners of microhistory, that the untypical incident can provide a privileged point of entry into otherwise unspoken assumptions and mentalities, this chapter examines the circumstances of what was believed to be a religiously motivated murder committed during the reign of Henry VIII, and its ramifications over the succeeding decades. The aim is to bring into sharper focus the ways in which religious allegiances were coalescing in these years, and also to observe some of the discrepancies and contradictions accompanying these processes.

1 See in particular N.Z. Davis, ‘The Rites of Violence’, in her Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Cambridge and Oxford, 1987), pp. 152–87; D. Crouzet, Les Guerriers de Dieu: La Violence au Temps des Troubles de Religion (vers 1525–vers 1610) (Seyssel, 1990); B. Diefendorf, Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris (Oxford, 1991). For an insightful analysis of English religious (anti-Catholic) violence in a later period, see J. Walter, Understanding Popular Violence in the English Revolution: The Colchester Plunderers (Cambridge, 1999), ch. 6.



I We begin, then, with an account of a violent crime. On the morning of Monday 13 November 1536 the London mercer Robert Packington rose early, at four o’clock, and, as was his custom, left his lodging ‘at the sign of the Leg’ in Soper’s Lane, Cheapside, in order to hear an early mass. In a part of the city teeming with churches, his destination was not his parish church of St Pancras, but the chapel of the mercers, dedicated to St Thomas of Acres, and lying only a short distance away on the far side of the ‘great conduit’ of Cheapside. Although it was ‘a greate mistie mornyng such as hath seldome besene’, Packington was observed leaving his house by a group of labourers standing at the end of Soper’s Lane. But he never made it across the not-yet-busy thoroughfare, murdered in cold blood as he attempted to cross over to the other side.2 Two aspects of this undoubtedly newsworthy event struck contemporaries as particularly shocking. In the first place, no culprit was apprehended for the crime. It was ‘not knowne who slew him’ remarked the chronicler Charles Wriothesley, and writing four days after the murder, Lord Lisle’s correspondent Francis Hall told him that the murderer ‘cannot yet be known’. This was in spite of ‘a proclemacione by the mayer if anny man can tell tydynges how he myght be knowyne he shuld have a gret rewarde for hys labor’. ‘Many were suspected’, remarked another Hall (the chronicler, Edward), ‘but none could be found fauty.’ What seems to have disturbed contemporaries even more, however, was the manner of the crime. Packington was shot dead, in all likelihood victim of the first ‘gun-related murder’ to be recorded in the capital. All the chroniclers of the event emphasised that he had been ‘slayne with a gunn’, the labourers in Soper’s Lane hearing the shot, but seeing nothing. In Francis Hall’s account, this circumstance seems almost to fix the victim’s identity, a postscript to his letter describing ‘the burying of Mr Paggynton that was slain with a gun’. ‘Gun control’ was very much on the mind of the Tudor authorities in the mid-1530s, though not so much out of a concern for public order as from anxieties about a perceived decline in aptitude with the longbow: an act of 1534 complained of the disregard of previous statutes banning the 2 This paragraph is based on five near-contemporary accounts: Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England, ed. W.D. Hamilton (2 vols, CS, new ser., 11, 20, 1875–77), i. 59; The Grey Friars Chronicle of London, ed. J.G. Nichols (CS, 53, 1852), p. 39; Francis Hall to Lord Lisle, 17 Nov. 1536: The Lisle Letters, ed. M. St Clare Byrne (6 vols, Chicago, 1981), iii. 516; Two London Chronicles from the Collections of John Stow, ed. C.L. Kingsford (Camden Miscellany, 12, 1910), p. 13; Edward Hall, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre [and] Yorke (London, 1548), fo. 231v.



shooting of crossbows and handguns, and laid down fines for infringements.3 Its provisions were reinforced by a royal proclamation of 1537 and a second statute in 1542. With respect to these latter measures, it is tempting to detect a connection with the Packington case. The 1537 proclamation was issued a mere two months after the shooting, and the follow-up statute complained of ‘diverse detestable and shamefull murthers’. But the implied context is of a boom in highway robberies, and in withdrawing an earlier exemption for gun owners on the marches with Scotland, the act looks like a riposte to the demand of the northern rebels in December 1536 for ‘the statutes of handgunnys and crossboyes to be repellid’.4 In any case, the unusual manner of Packington’s death was not finally its main meaning. And although the shooting provided the stuff of lapidary chronicle entries, neither was it a one-week wonder. No one was ever brought to justice for it, but few believed that this was a random or ultimately unfathomable crime. For years to come it would be periodically picked over, motives would be assigned, and names would be named. II But first, what of the victim himself? Robert Packington was a Worcestershire man, born of minor gentry stock in the parish of Stanford-le-Tene in around 1489.5 As a young man he followed his elder brother John to the Inns of Court in London (the Inner Temple), though it seems the purpose of this was to provide polish and connections rather than pave the way for a career as a common lawyer. By 1510 he had already completed his apprenticeship to the Mercers’ Company, and was setting up as an exporter of cloth and importer of sundry wares. Nonetheless, he retained strong connections with the world of the law: his first wife, Agnes, whom he had married by 1520, was a daughter of Sir John Baldwin, Chief Justice of Common Pleas. Within a few years, Packington was a leading figure among the ‘Merchant Adventurers’ who ran the lucrative trade with the Netherlands. In 1516 he was one of the ‘worshipful commoners’ present at their general court, and as a new parliament was summoned in 1523, Packington was one of the Merchant 3 Statutes of the Realm, ed. A. Luders et al. (London, 1810–28), iii. 457–9 (25 Hen. VIII, c. 17). On concerns about archery, see C.G. Cruickhank, Elizabeth’s Army (Oxford, 1966), pp. 102–4. 4 Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. P.L. Hughes and J.F. Larkin (3 vols, New Haven and London, 1964–9), i. 249–50; Statutes, iii. 832–5 (33 Hen. VIII, c. 6); A. Fletcher and D. MacCulloch, Tudor Rebellions (5th edn, London, 2004), p. 148. 5 This paragraph draws heavily on the short biography of Packington in S.T. Bindoff (ed.), The House of Commons, 1509–1558 (3 vols, London, 1982), iii. 48–9.



Adventurers elected by the Mercers ‘to devise such articles as should be thought necessary … for the weal and profit of the said company’. The Court of Aldermen of the City reposed a similar trust in him. He was one of those selected ‘to devise what things be most necessary and behoveful for the common weal of this city to be moved at this next Parliament’. In 1527–28, Packington was Warden of the Mercers’ Company. Parliament was summoned again in 1529, though no one knew at the time that this was to be the ‘Reformation Parliament’, which would sit through till 1536 and oversee a jurisdictional revolution in the world of English religion. Once again, Packington was nominated by the Mercers to help draw up articles for presentation to the House of Commons. This body has been seen to be, in Stanford Lehmberg’s designation, ‘the anticlerical commons’ and one of the five articles presented by the Mercers explicitly complained of abuses in the Church: to have in remembrance how the King’s poor subjects, principally of London, [have] been polled and robbed without reason or conscience by the ordinaries in probating of testaments and taking of mortuaries, and also vexed and troubled by citations, with cursing one day and assoiling the next, et haec omnia pro pecuniis [and all of this for money].

These grievances sought redress in the ‘anticlerical’ statutes passed in 1529, regulating probate fees for wills and establishing a clear scale of charges for the mortuaries (or death fees) levied by the parish clergy.6 Debate has raged for over two decades now as to the extent and nature of anticlericalism in early Tudor society.7 Yet there is broad agreement that if ‘anticlericalism’ is to be found anywhere in lay circles, it is among the common lawyers and merchants who supplied a disproportionate percentage of the membership of the 1529 Commons. The former had long-standing grievances about the competition offered to their business by the church courts, while the latter had reason to feel resentful towards Cardinal Wolsey, whose foreign policy and war taxation had disrupted

6 S.E. Lehmberg, The Reformation Parliament, 1529–1536 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 76–94; S. Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), p. 177. 7 C. Haigh, ‘Anticlericalism and the English Reformation’, in idem (ed.), The English Reformation Revised (Cambridge, 1987); A.G. Dickens, ‘The Shape of Anticlericalism and the English Reformation’, in his Late Monasticism and the Reformation (London, 1994); D. Loades, ‘Anticlericalism in the Church of England before 1558: an “Eating Canker”?’, in N. Aston and M. Cragoe (eds), Anticlericalism in Britain, c. 1500–1914 (Stroud, 2000); E.H. Shagan, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), ch. 4. See also ch. 8 of my The Catholic Priesthood and the English Reformation (Oxford, 1994), and a forthcoming article: ‘Anticlericalism Revested? Expressions of Discontent in Early Tudor England’, in C. Burgess and E. Duffy (eds), The Late Medieval English Parish.



their trade.8 As a leading mercer and former habitué of the Inns of Court, we might expect Packington to share the prejudices of both groups. Within a few years Packington had himself entered the Commons, returned as one of the London common council members in a by-election of October 1533 after the incumbent, the draper William Bowyer, had to relinquish his seat upon being named alderman. Packington was reelected to the new parliament of 1536. At the time of his sudden and violent death, therefore, he was a man of substance and status in the City, political as well as economic. He was assessed at 500 marks for the subsidy of 1534, and by the following year was shipping 75 long cloths and 168 short cloths to the summer mart at Antwerp.9 But alongside the cursus honorum of the successful city merchant, and the conventional attitudes of caste and place, there is another trajectory to be traced in Packington’s life, a story of growing religious commitment and self-awareness. Whether he underwent a conversion experience of the kind described in Chapter 2 is something we cannot know, but there is no doubt that by the time of his death Packington was a convinced evangelical. The roots of conviction may lie in conversations and connections at the Inns of Court in the early 1520s. His contemporaries there included the future martyr James Bainham, the propagandist Simon Fish, the translator of heretical tracts, Francis Denham, as well as the man who was to serve as godfather to the evangelical movement in the 1530s, Thomas Cromwell.10 If Packington did not know Cromwell at the Inns (the future minister became a member of Gray’s Inn in 1523) he had certainly entered his orbit by the early 1530s. The conduit was Stephen Vaughan, a fellow Merchant Adventurer, and an old friend of Thomas Cromwell’s, who had entered his service as early as 1524. Cromwell’s cautious commitment to the evangelical cause was amplified in the enthusiastic activism of Vaughan. In 1529 he was fortunate to deflect an accusation of heresy by the governor of the Adventurers in Antwerp. In 1531, he was engaged (on Cromwell’s initiative) in an abortive attempt to recruit the exiled arch-heretic William Tyndale for the king’s service. By the end of the year he had become an ardent admirer of the Lutheran friar Robert Barnes, and was sending copies of Barnes’s books to his master.11 Throughout the mid-1530s he acted as the eyes and ears of Cromwell, 8

Haigh, ‘Anticlericalism’, pp. 60–66. Lehmberg, Reformation Parliament, p. 21; idem, The Later Parliaments of Henry VIII 1536–47 (Cambridge, 1977), p. 8; Bindoff (ed.), House of Commons, iii. 48. 10 Brigden, London, p. 116. 11 D. Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography (New Haven and London, 1994), pp. 209–17; G.R. Elton, Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 38–46. 9



and by extension the English government, in the Low Countries.12 In September 1535, Vaughan despatched Packington from the Merchant Adventurers’ base at Bergen-op-Zoom to report to Cromwell on the state of affairs in Flanders, recommending that the Secretary ‘cherisshe hym, and geve hym thankes; ye shall finde he deservethe them’. ‘The King’, effused Vaughan, ‘hathe no truer subiect, ne honester man of a marchant in his realme.’13 Packington, then, orbited around the overlapping reformist circles, which brought together individuals of conviction from the worlds of government, London commerce and religious exile in the Low Countries. But his connection to Tyndale ran closer than this, for Packington’s younger brother Augustine had a brief but memorable cameo part to play in the reformer’s story. The anecdote is recounted in the chronicle of Edward Hall, who sat with Robert Packington in the Reformation Parliament as member for Much Wenlock. Indeed, it is quite possible that Packington was Hall’s source, for it is probable they knew each other. Hall seems likely to have been one of the lawyers appointed by the Commons to draft the mortuary and probate bills in response to the Mercers’ petition, and despite his Shropshire seat, he was a Londoner who moved in the upper echelons of City governance, elected common serjeant of London in 1533 and under sheriff in 1535.14 According to Hall, while Bishop Tunstall of London was in Antwerp on a diplomatic mission in the summer of 1529, he had set himself the task of destroying Tyndale’s ‘false and erroneous’ translation of the New Testament. Augustine Packington, like his brother a mercer, had gone to Tunstall offering to buy up all the copies that were to be had in the city, an offer the bishop eagerly accepted. But Packington was secretly acting in support of Tyndale, who was encumbered and endangered by the piles of New Testaments he had about him in Antwerp. When the plan was explained, Tyndale welcomed the opportunity to get himself out of debt, finance a corrected new edition, and see the bishop excoriated for burning the Word of God. As Hall puts it, ‘the bishop had the bookes, Packyngton had the thankes, and Tyndale had the money’.15 With its tightly moralistic structure, the story as told here is somewhat too good to be true, but it surely has a basis of fact. The case for Robert Packington’s evangelical commitment, however, does not rest entirely on his associations and relations. On 23 November

12 13 14 15

See below Chapter 11, pp. 242–3. TNA: PRO, SP 1/90, fo. 195r (LP, ix. 346). ODNB. Hall, Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies, fos 185r–v.



1535 Packington drew up his last will and testament.16 To do this at a time of health (and assuming he had no premonition of his impending death) was in itself an unusual act: wills were usually dictated from the deathbed in this period, their construction itself part of the ritual of dying.17 As a frequent sea-traveller, and father to several ‘lytell childryn’, Packington may have felt it was prudent to set his affairs in order.18 Yet his will was also clearly intended as a statement of faith, and it articulates a distinctive vision of Christian community, very different from that of his orthodox Catholic contemporaries. The opening clause of the will, the preamble, saw him ‘bequeath my soule to Almyghty God that creatyd hit, trusting to hym only by the meryttes of Ihesus Crist the salvacion of my soule’. The conventional entrusting of the soul to Virgin Mary and Saints was thus omitted in favour of an overt affirmation of justification by faith, something which in a rather more emphatic formulation had led to the posthumous conviction for heresy of the Gloucestershire gentleman William Tracy just four years previously.19 Absent too was any provision for ‘the health of my soul’ in the conventional Catholic understanding: no gifts to parish churches or religious houses, no customary payment for ‘tithes forgotten’, no requests for masses, prayers, trentals, or any of the mechanisms of active remembrance designed to speed the soul through purgatory. In their place, Packington left charitable bequests to the poor of Stanford, the parish of his birth, of his father’s home parish of Wynd, and of St Pancras, his parish of residence in London (there was no suggestion of an expected counter-gift of prayers). There was also £20 to be distributed towards the marriages of ‘poor maydens’. Bonds of human sociability were recognised in generous cash gifts to kin, servants and apprentices, as well as to the Company of Mercers ‘to make theym a dyner’. Where Catholic testators might seek to locate themselves within a single ‘community’ of living and dead, under the patronage of the saints, and spilling outwards from a core of named framers and recipients of prayer to embrace ‘all Christian souls’, Packington substituted a tightly drawn network of social and ideological affinity, including 19 named beneficiaries who were each to receive a


TNA: PRO, PCC, Prob. 11/27, fo. 32v. See S. Coppel, ‘Willmaking and the Deathbed’, Local Population Studies, 40 (1988); E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992), pp. 355–7. 18 Packington’s second wife was the widow of Richard Collyer, who had died in 1533: Bindoff (ed.), House of Commons, iii. 48. 19 J. Craig and C. Litzenberger, ‘Wills as Religious Propaganda: the Testament of William Tracy’, JEH, 44 (1993). The implication of Brigden, London, p. 265 and n. is that Packington’s is the first known London will to express a belief in justification by faith. 17



memorial ring, ‘price xl s’.20 Among the names on this list was Dr Edward Crome, a leading evangelical reformer who had been appointed to the wealthy city living of St Mary Aldermary early the previous year through the good offices of Anne Boleyn. Crome was notorious for his preaching against purgatory, intercession of saints and prayer for the dead, and had already been made to recant his opinions (begrudgingly and half-heartedly) in 1531. By the mid-1530s a trickle of prominent Londoners were requesting Crome to preach at their funerals, in place of the traditional intercessory masses. In 1537, Crome was one of the memorial preachers asked for by the wealthy draper, Humphrey Monmouth, who (like Augustine Packington) had acted as sponsor to Tyndale’s work of bible translation in the 1520s.21 Crome did not preach at Packington’s own funeral after the fatal shooting in November 1536; that task fell to Stephen Vaughan’s favourite, Robert Barnes. We do not know what was said, but it must have been inflammatory. Lord Lisle’s informant Francis Hall reported that the day after the sermon, Barnes was taken to the Tower. The reformers John Field, John Goodale and George Marshall, with another of ‘that sort of learning’ were also taken into (protective) custody by an agent of their patron, Thomas Cromwell.22 These were certainly tense and turbulent times for London’s evangelical community: just over a month earlier, the northern counties had exploded in armed revolt, and on the day Packington was shot, leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace were returning to Yorkshire with a temporising (and, for Henry, humiliating) offer of further negotiations from the king.23 In the weeks preceding the assassination, there had been near panic among London’s governors that the Pilgrims might march south, and that within the city there might be a large fifth column of crypto-papists waiting to welcome them in. Measures were taken to control both servants and vagrants, and the clergy in particular were objects of suspicion. On 10 October all priests within the city wards were ordered to surrender any weapon in their possession, saving only a knife for cutting meat.24 Just as 20 For another example of the distribution of memorial rings in a London evangelical will of this period, see A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), p. 241. 21 ODNB; S. Wabuda, Preaching during the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 57–8. 22 Lisle Letters, ed. St Clare Byrne, iii. 516; D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven and London, 1996), p. 171; Brigden, London, p. 253, who speculates that the unnamed evangelical may have been John Bale. Barnes was ‘known by contemporaries to be an extraordinarily zealous and effective preacher’: J. Craig and K. Maas, ‘A Sermon by Robert Barnes, c. 1535’, JEH, 55 (2004), 543. 23 Fletcher and MacCulloch, Tudor Rebellions, p. 35. 24 Brigden, London, pp. 248–52.



conservatives hoped for a change in the times, evangelicals feared what it might mean for them. We have an insight into the dilemma of one family, courtesy of the much later reminiscences of the octogenarian Rose Hickman, née Locke. Her father, William Locke, was another member of the Mercers’ Company, who used to supply Queen Anne Boleyn with gospels and epistles in French garnered on his overseas trips. Rose’s mother would read to her and her two sisters out of ‘some English books sent privately to her by my fathers factours from beyond sea’. But after Packington ‘was slaine with a gun as he went in the street’, Rose’s mother ‘charged us to say nothing of her reading to us for feare of trouble’. Interestingly, Rose remembered Packington as ‘a merchant who used to bring English bybles from beyond sea’, a detail uncorroborated elsewhere, but well within the bounds of plausibility.25 The Lockes regarded Packington’s murder as an attempt to intimidate the known evangelicals within London’s parishes and livery companies. Although, as we have seen, no culprit was apprehended, within these same circles rumours about the authorship of the crime soon began to circulate. III Though chroniclers and letter writers had taken note of the affair, the first printed commentary on Packington’s shooting in an overtly evangelical source came a decade after his death, in John Bale’s The Image of Both Churches. This commentary on the Book of Revelation was probably printed in 1545 in Antwerp, and was clearly circulating in London evangelical circles by 1546, when the conservative theologian and former Dominican William Peryn condemned the attraction it was exerting for ‘busy readers’.26 The context for Bale’s discussion is the false wonders which must accompany the coming of Antichrist, and which are the work of the clergy and their ‘byfurked ordinaries’, the conservative bishops. Their actions included raising up the Maids of Ipswich and Kent ‘to worke wonders and marvels’, as well as instigating ‘the folyshe northern menne’ to rise up in the Pilgrimage of Grace.27 Furthermore, by whispering ‘in that eare, and that eare’ they had managed ‘to fetche awaye the true favourers and preachers of the Gospel at dyverse tymes’, to such an 25

M. Dowling and J. Shakespeare (eds), ‘Religion and Politics in mid Tudor England through the eyes of an English Protestant Woman: the Recollections of Rose Hickman’, Bulletin of Historical Research, 55 (1982), 97. 26 Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, p. 107. 27 John Bale, The Image of Bothe Churches (?Antwerp, 1545), pp. 440–41. The Maids in question are the Catholic visionaries Anne Wentworth and Elizabeth Barton. For further discussion of their cases, and of this theme in general, see below, Chapter 7.



extent that they might truly be called ‘workers of wonders’. Yet other than the public recantations of the evangelical preachers Alexander Seton, William Tolwyn and Edward Crome, Bale had only one instance of this campaign of eradication to cite: ‘the discrete citizen of London, master Packyngton, [who] was slayne with a gonne at Saynt Thomas of Acres (as they call it) not without their prevye legerdemayne’. Bale promised his readers that, ‘the Lorde sendynge me lyfe’, he would discuss the case at greater length in another treatise, a promise that sadly seems to have remained unfulfilled. Bale’s insinuations were soon supplemented, however, by a fuller, more circumstantial account of Packington’s death, with the publication in 1548 of Edward Hall’s Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York. Hall had died in the spring of the preceding year, with his great work of history uncompleted, and had left instructions for the publisher Richard Grafton to see it through the press. The post-1532 material had been left in ‘divers and many pamphlets and papers’ which Grafton edited for publication.28 It is likely that Hall, a fellow MP and evangelical sympathiser, had known Packington personally, a probability strengthened by references to him in this text as ‘a man of good substaunce, and yet not so rich as honest and wise’, ‘a man of great courage and one that both could speak and also would be harde’, and as one of the burgesses of the parliament, who (like Hall himself), ‘had talked somewhat against the couvetousness and cruelties of the clergie’. It was for this reason, Hall suggested, that Packington ‘was had in contempte with theim, and therfore mooste lyke by one of them thus shamefully murdered’. Hall’s accusation against the clergy lacked the apocalyptic dimension of Bale’s similar conclusion, but he added a powerfully resonant conjecture of his own. Packington had been murdered by the clergy, ‘as you perceive that Master Honne was in the sixte yere of the reigne of this kyng’. The death in 1514 of the merchant Richard Hunne in suspicious circumstances in the Bishop of London’s prison was a London cause célèbre which Hall had written up at length earlier in his chronicle.29 Hunne, a likely Lollard sympathiser, had provocatively refused in 1511 to pay the customary mortuary on the death of his infant son (a link to the Packington–Hall agenda in the parliament of 1529). After the presentation of suit and counter-suit, Hunne ended up facing heresy charges, and was found hanging in his cell. 28

ODNB, sv Hall, Edward. Hall, Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies, fos 50r–55v; Among many modern accounts of the case, the most reliable is J.D.M. Derrett, ‘The Affairs of Richard Hunne and Friar Standish’, in Thomas More, The Apology, ed. J.B. Trapp (New Haven and London, 1979). 29



An insistence on ‘benefit of clergy’ meant that the episcopal chancellor, Dr William Horsey, and the minor clerical officials suspected of murdering Hunne could not be brought to trial, and feelings in London mercantile circles ran high. Memory of the case was kept fresh into the 1530s by Thomas More’s determination to prove that all right-thinking people believed Hunne to have taken his own life, and by the efforts of his evangelical opponents to assert the contrary.30 Neither Bale nor Hall did anything to resolve the mystery of Packington’s death, but both instinctively sought to make sense of it by placing it within an exemplary pattern. In Bale’s case, the pattern was a theological one, the identifying traits of the true and false churches; in Hall’s, a more down-to-earth anticlerical outlook is on display: the clergy would get their revenge on those who crossed them. In the second half of the sixteenth century, interest in Packington was sustained by his inclusion in the famous martyrologies of John Foxe. The first of these to include near-contemporary material was the Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum, published in Basel in 1559, just before Foxe’s return from continental exile.31 Foxe is known to have had a copy of Hall’s Chronicle with him when writing the Rerum,32 and he may have drawn on it here, describing a shooting in the street on the way to dawn mass. Curiously, Foxe asserts that the weapon used was a crossbow (‘balista’), though this may be a case of seeking for the most elegant Latin usage, rather than a barbarous neologism like ‘harcabusius’. More significantly, Foxe went further than Hall in actually naming a culprit: John Stokesley, bishop of London, had paid a certain priest 60 gold coins to undertake this ‘office of murder’.33 Rather than a random act of religious violence by a choleric cleric, Packington’s death was thus the result of a major conspiracy, instigated by one of the ‘byfurked ordinaries’ whom Foxe, like Bale, regarded as the primary agents of Antichrist. Stokesley (who had died in 1539) undoubtedly made an attractive suspect: a stolid conservative, notorious among evangelicals for his addiction to ‘unwritten verities’, he appears regularly in Foxe’s later work as a persecutor of

30 See R. Marius, Thomas More (1985), ch. 8; William Tyndale, An Answer to More to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1850), pp. 146, 166–7. 31 John Foxe, Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum (Basel, 1559), p. 146; Foxe and Bale were living and working together in Basel, and returned to England together: J.C. Warner, ‘Elizabeth I, Savior of Books: John Bale’s Preface to the Scriptorum illustrium maioris Brytanniae catalogus (1559)’, in C. Highley and J.N. King (eds), John Foxe and his World (Aldershot, 2002), p. 92. 32 I am indebted to Tom Freeman for this information. 33 ‘Ioan. Stokysleus antistes Londinensis, conductum aureis sexaginta sacerdotem huiusce caedis ministrum procurasse.’



the godly in his diocese.34 Yet in the end, Foxe had to admit that he had no more to work with here than rumour and common talk (‘famae’) and therefore he would let the matter go. Foxe rehearsed the case again in the fuller English martyrology which we know as the Actes and Monuments, the Packington material appearing in all four of the editions published in Foxe’s lifetime.35 Here the account was substantially reshaped from 1559. The allegation against Stokesley was dropped, though in the 1570 and subsequent editions Foxe was careful to identify Robert as ‘the brother of Auten Packyngton above mencioned, who deceaved Byshop Tonstall in bying the new translated Testament of Tyndall’. Foxe now drew much more evidently on Hall, for most of his account represents a verbatim reprinting of the latter’s description of the circumstances of Packington’s shooting.36 As a coda to this, however, Foxe added a startling new revelation, which identified another perpetrator of the crime: The cause of whose distructyon was one D. Vincent Deane of Poules, who hired a certain straunger for lx crownes to do the dede, thinking it to be well done to make such a man away. But afterward repented the fact at his death by his confesssion to his ghostly father, as we are creadibly informed by men both of great creadit and worshipful estimation.37

In 1570 and after, Foxe tweaked the allegation to specify that the assassin was an Italian, and that the sum exchanging hands was ‘lx crownes or thereabout’. ‘Vincent’ was given the more accurate spelling of Incent. As to his deathbed confession, ‘the names both of them which heard hym confesse it, and of them, whiche heard the witnesses reporte it, remaine yet in memory, to be produced if nede required’. The emergence of such evidence was no less than providential: ‘Whose pitious murder although it was privy and soden, yet it hath so pleased the Lord not to kepe it in darkenes, but to bryng it at length, to light.’38 What are we to make of this dramatic resolution of a thirty-year-old mystery? We have, of course, no way of consulting the (unnamed) credible witnesses to whom Foxe directed his readers, though we can sense 34 See below, pp. 91–2. See also A.A. Chibi, Henry VIII’s Conservative Scholar: Bishop John Stokesley and the Divorce, Royal Supremacy and Doctrinal Reform (Berne, 1997). 35 John Foxe, Actes and Monuments (London, 1563), p. 526; (1570), p. 1291; (1576), p. 1105; (1583), pp. 1130–31. 36 Curiously, however, having dated the episode to 1536 in the Rerum, Foxe misdated to 1537 in his 1563 edition, and to 1538 in the subsequent ones. It is similarly misdated in the ODNB entry on Packington’s grandson, Sir John Packington. 37 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1563), p. 526. 38 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1570), p. 1291 (unchanged in the editions of 1576 and 1583).



still something of the revelatory creditworthiness of a reported deathbed confession, a circumstance which must have impressed itself powerfully on contemporaries. At the same time, the rowing-back from confidence about the sum of sixty crowns (a detail carried forward from the very different 1559 account) suggests a strong element of recycled gossip and rumour to which Foxe was prepared to lend his considerable imprimatur.39 We cannot now identify with any certainty Foxe’s sources. We can, however, to a limited degree investigate the suspect himself. IV John Incent, dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, faced his own death in 1545. He died intestate, leaving no list of witnesses to a will, a clue to who might or might not have heard the confession Foxe alleges.40 Incent is at first glance an unpromising subject for study, a rather faceless ecclesiastical bureaucrat and career churchman of the kind whose outline curriculum vitae can be reconstructed from such standard reference works as Foster’s Alumni Oxoniensis and Le Neve’s Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae. In so far as he is remembered today, it is as the founder of Berkhamsted School, an act of piety (in 1541) towards his home town in Hertfordshire.41 Incent was probably born there sometime before 1485; his father, Robert, had been secretary to Cicely Neville, Duchess of York.42 Incent studied at Cambridge, and subsequently became a fellow of All Souls, Oxford, where he acquired degrees as Bachelor and then Doctor of Civil Law. These smoothed his way to membership of the prestigious Doctors’ Commons in London in 1514, an equivalent of the Inns of Court for civil and ecclesiastical lawyers. Among its luminaries at the time were John Colet, a predecessor as dean of St Paul’s (and founder of another famous

39 On Foxe’s use of (sometimes dubious) oral sources, see A. Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1999), pp, 101–3; T.S. Freeman, ‘Fate, Fact and Fiction in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’, Historical Journal, 43 (2000). 40 The value of Incent’s goods amounted to £331 15s. 3½d. Administration of them, and the payment of funeral expenses, was underaken by the notary Anthony Husee, esq.: LP, xxi (2). 475 (48). 41 A fifteenth-century structure, reputed to be Dean Incent’s house, today forms part of the Berkhamsted ‘heritage tail’: 42 Funeral monuments to Robert and Katherin Incent, ‘the father and mother to Iohn Incent, Doctor of the Law; who hath done many benefytes, and ornaments to this Chappell of St. Iohn Baptist’ remained in Berkhamsted church in the early seventeenth century, along with a florid Latin elegy ‘under the cote and crest of Doctor Incent’: John Weever, Ancient Funerall Monuments (London, 1631), p. 587.



school), and Thomas More, who was admitted the same year.43 In 1519, Incent became a canon and prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral; he became a residentiary canon in 1534. In the interim, he pursued a career as an ecclesiastical administrator, serving as chancellor to the absentee Italian bishop of Worcester, and then in the diocese of Winchester, as vicar general to Richard Fox and Thomas Wolsey, and chancellor to Stephen Gardiner.44 Along the way he picked up the wealthy rectory of Sutton, and masterships of St Cross Hospital, Winchester, and St Nicholas’s Hospital, Portsmouth.45 At the time of Packington’s death, Incent was not yet dean of St Paul’s, being instituted by royal grant on 3 June 1540 in succession to the new bishop of Chichester, Richard Sampson (perhaps as compensation for St Nicholas’s Hospital, surrendered the previous day).46 The very conventionality of this only moderately glittering career makes Incent seem an unlikely candidate for the role of murderer, and we cannot demonstrate any openly expressed suspicion of this in his lifetime.47 His position almost inevitably brought with it a role in the prosecution of heresy – he was one of the commissioners presiding over the trial of Richard Bayfield in 1531, and he played a part in the condemnation of William Cowbridge in 1538.48 Yet he does not appear to have been an obdurate or inflexible crypto-papist: in 1535, during Cranmer’s metropolitical visitation, he seems to have been briefing the archbishop against his diocesan, Stephen Gardiner, and in 1536 he was in dispute with a priest suspected of exalting the pope in confession.49 In 1539, he acted alongside Thomas Legh as a dissolution commissioner.50 But Incent was certainly no friend to the evangelicals, and in the mid-1530s, he is to be found at the heart of factional infighting among the canons of St Paul’s, clerical squabbles with a sharp ideological edge. In May 1535, one 43 J. Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis … 1500–1714 (4 vols, Oxford, 1891–92), ii. 786; J. and J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part 1 (4 vols, Cambridge, 1922–26), ii. 447; P. Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More (London, 1998), p. 149, who points out that the Hunne case must have been an object of ‘intense speculation’ to the members of Doctors’ Commons in the year of More’s (and Incent’s) admission. 44 LP, iv (3). 6298; vii. 341. 45 LP, vi. 1383 (14). 1594; xi. 301; xv. 743. 46 Ibid.; J. Le Neve, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300–1541, V. St Paul’s, London, ed. J.M. Horn (London, 1963), pp. 7, 68. 47 We should probably not read too much into an unexplained entry in Cromwell’s ‘Remembrances’ for 1537: ‘The speaking with Dr. Insent and his answer.’ LP, xii (1). 1079. 48 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1563), p. 485; LP, xiii (1). 1434. Incent was not picked out by writers like Bale or Henry Brinkelow in the 1540s as an example of a bloody persecutor. 49 LP, viii. 7040; xi. 301–2. 50 LP, xiv (2). 26.



of the canons, John Smith, was writing to Anne Boleyn’s vice-chamberlain, Sir Edward Baynton (another evangelical sympathiser), with complaints against ‘my unkind brother, Mr. Incent’. Incent was seeking to evict him from the deanery house, and Smith begged Baynton to remember the ‘diligent love and service’ he had showed at Anne’s coronation, and at the birth of Princess Elizabeth. Furthermore, he protested that he had ‘always furthered the promotion of her chaplains against Incent’s opposition, who used such odious words as I am ashamed to write’.51 In December, Smith wrote to Cromwell about ‘controversy’ and ‘contentions’ among the residentiaries, and warned him that Incent, who ‘presumes he stands high in your favour’, intended to renege on an agreement to grant Cromwell the right of next presentation to the vicarage of St Giles Cripplegate.52 Incent’s opposition to the evangelical agenda and the protégés of the Queen was not confined to the internal affairs of the chapter of St Paul’s, but, remarkably, reached as far as Anne Boleyn’s lordship of Pembroke in West Wales. In the summer of 1534, Anne had secured the promotion of the reformer William Barlow to become prior of the Augustinian house at Haverfordwest (in 1536, after a break on a diplomatic mission, he was appointed to the local bishopric of St David’s). In Pembrokeshire both Barlow and his fiery younger brother John found themselves locked in bitter in-fighting with the (numerous) conservatives among the local clergy, including the previous bishop, Richard Rawlins. Barlow considered there to be no diocese ‘more corrupted nor none so farre out of frame’.53 When news of Anne’s arrest reached the locality in the spring of 1536, the conservative vicar of Tenby, Robert Colyns, audaciously claimed that John Barlow must have been privy to her treason. In retaliation, Barlow had Colyns arrested on suspicion of popish treason (specifically, failing to ensure the thorough erasure of the pope’s name from service books in his church). Languishing in the episcopal gaol at Lawhaden Castle in June 1536, Colyns wrote to Incent in London, asking him to arrange legal counsel.54 The discovery that Packington’s alleged murderer was a moderately influential opponent of the religious agenda of Anne Boleyn, one who must have rejoiced at the news of her fall, introduces another intriguing thread into this already tangled case. In the 1570 edition of the Actes and 51

LP, viii. 722. LP, ix. 922. 53 Three Chapters of Letters Relating to the Suppression of the Monasteries, ed. T. Wright (CS, old ser., 26, 1843), p. 79. 54 E. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (Oxford, 2004), pp. 261–2; G. Williams, Wales and the Reformation (Cardiff, 1997), pp. 62–4, 111; LP, x. 1182. 52



Monuments, Foxe included a section on the false accusations that papists symptomatically levied against ‘good men’: ‘So was it layd agaynst one Syngleton, chapplein sometyme to Queene Anne Bullen, that he was the murderer of Packyngton, and afterwards that he was a styrer up of sedition and commotion.’55 Singleton was one of a coterie of reform-minded Boleyn chaplains assembled in the early 1530s.56 In April 1536, as the storm clouds gathered around Anne, he preached against purgatory at Paul’s Cross. But in July 1543, alongside Thomas Becon and Robert Wisdom, he made an abject recantation of unspecified heresies. Eight months later, he was put to death at Tyburn for treason, in confusing circumstances. The affair, which Stephen Gardiner later referred to as ‘Singleton’s conspiracy’, may have involved the incendiary exposition of dark prophecies, or it may have been part of the fallout from the 1543 ‘Prebendaries’ Plot’ in Kent: there is some evidence to suggest that Singleton had conspired with one of Cranmer’s agents to conceal evidence of heresy there.57 Before his spectacular fall, Singleton had been of service to Cromwell in addition to Anne as an informer against traditionalist clergy. Was the linking of his name with the death of Packington then both a piece of deliberate misinformation and of score-settling? And if so, was it put about at the time of Packington’s death, or only after Singleton himself was an excoriated traitor, and safely dead? Motive, means, opportunity: the case against Incent looks plausible, if, in Scots legal terminology, ‘not proven’.58 But Foxe’s authoritative statement on the matter did not command universal assent in Elizabethan England. Richard Grafton’s Chronicle, published in 1569, merely repeated verbatim Hall’s account, without allusion to the charges against Incent that Foxe had made public six years earlier.59 The accusation against Incent was similarly absent from Holinshed’s Chronicle, first published in 1577. This too recycled Hall’s description, but interestingly toned down the assertion that Packington was ‘mooste lyke’ murdered by the clergy, in favour of the merely factual statement that ‘it was


Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1570), p. 1439. M. Dowling, ‘Anne Boleyn and Reform’, JEH, 35 (1984), 37–41. 57 ODNB; The Letters of Stephen Gardiner, ed. J.A. Muller (Cambridge, 1933), p. 422; Brigden, London, pp. 259, 348–52; MacCulloch, Cranmer, p. 311n. 58 Though note here the view of the early twentieth-century Anglo-Catholic historian James Gairdner that Foxe’s allegation against Incent was ‘a malicious scandal’: Lollardy and the Reformation in England (4 vols, 1908–13), ii. 382n. For Anglo-Catholic impugning of Foxe’s integrity as a whole, see D. Loades, ‘Afterword’, in Highley and King (eds), John Foxe and his World, pp. 286–7. 59 Richard Grafton, A Chronicle at Large and Mere History of the Affayres of England and Kinges of the Same (London, 1569), p. 1235. 56



mistrusted least by some of them he came thus to his ende’. There was also a dramatic alternative resolution to the mystery: At length the murtherer in deed was condemned at Banburie in Oxfordshyre, to die for a felonie which he afterwards committed: and when hee came to the gallowes on whiche he suffered, he confessed that he did this murther, and till that time he was never had in anie suspicion thereof.60

The information here is tantalisingly vague (though again validated for readers by the assumption of unimpeachable veracity on the part of a man about to meet his Maker). But there is no suggestion that the felon was an Italian, or that he was in the employ of Incent or any other clergyman: at least implicitly, the account is a firm refutation of Foxe. It was this version of the story that found favour in the antiquarian John Stow’s Survey of London in 1598 (Stow adds the information that there was a monument to Packington remaining in St Pancras Church).61 As a historian of the recent past, Stow’s outlook could hardly have been more different from that of Foxe. In his case, a nostalgic conservativism, and sense of outrage about iconoclastic excesses, stands in place of Foxe’s progressivist revelation of the destiny of the ‘true’ Church.62 There was a more explicit repudiation in the work of Foxe’s leading Catholic critic, Nicholas Harpsfield. In a discussion of the Hunne case, Harpsfield reproved Foxe for slandering Chancellor Horsey, just as he had slandered Incent.63 A half-century and more after it took place, Packington’s violent death continued to act as a marker of religious difference. V Who, then, killed Robert Packington, and why? The truth is we will never know.64 His historical significance is in any case not ultimately to be merely the body in an intriguing Tudor whodunnit. More important is 60 Raphael Holinshed, The Firste [Laste] Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande and Ireland (London, 1577), p. 1570. 61 John Stow, A Survey of London (London, 1598), p. 210. 62 See L. Manley, ‘Of Sites and Rites’, and I. Archer, ‘The Nostalgia of John Stow’, both in D.L. Smith, R. Strier and D. Bevington (eds), The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576–1649 (Cambridge, 1995); P. Collinson, ‘John Stow and Nostalgic Antiquarianism’, in J. Merritt (ed.), Imagining Early Modern London: Perceptions and Portrayals of the City from Stow to Strype, 1598–1720 (Cambridge, 2001). 63 Nicholas Harpsfield, Dialogi Sex contra summi pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatores, et pseudomartyres (Antwerp, 1573), p. 615. 64 A recent ingenious theory that Packington was murdered in a case of mistaken identity by episcopal agents eager to avenge Augustine Packington’s embarrassment of Bishop



the finding that, by tracing reactions to, and readings of, this relatively minor yet decidedly unusual event, we have been able to observe in miniature a number of interesting developments in the morphology of sixteenth-century religion. Through a series of textual disclosures, a member of a self-consciously evangelical network is turned into a ‘Protestant’ martyr, and an epigrammatic figure in the delineation of two contrasting ‘Churches’.65 But this evolving meta-narrative hardly takes note of the fact that in 1530s London the evangelicals and their opponents breathed the same air and moved in the same circles. As Susan Brigden has pointed out, the resolutely orthodox Thomas More and the adventurously heterodox Robert Packington were members of the same Mercers’ Company, and when another mercer, Thomas Crispe, made a piously traditional will in 1531, he appointed Robert Packington his executor.66 A listing of the king’s creditors in 1536 included in its enumeration of ‘merchants that be contented to forbear unto a longer day’ both Robert Packington and his putative nemesis, John Incent.67 In 1542 Incent and Packington’s brother and executor Humphrey served together on a commission investigating the complaints of prisoners in Ludgate.68 In February of the same year, Arthur Bulkeley was consecrated bishop of Bangor ‘in the chappel of John Incent LL D, dean of St Paul’s’: one of the assisting bishops was the same evangelical William Barlow of St David’s, whose local opponents Incent had been sponsoring only a few years earlier.69 It is worth reminding ourselves here that Packington was killed on his way to worship with fellow Catholic Christians, whether of the ‘new learning’ or the old. As Hall put it, he ‘used daily at foure of the clock Winter and Sommer to rise and go to masse’.70 Although by 1535 Packington had abandoned his belief in purgatory, and (presumably) in the salvific efficacy of a host of traditional ‘good works’, he retained at the centre of his devotional life participation in a rite which scarcely two Tunstall in 1529 can be safely discounted. The proposition fails to take account of the fact that Robert was a significant evangelical figure in his own right, and, more pertinently, that Augustine was already dead by November 1535 (as Packington’s will reveals). See W.R. Cooper, ‘A Tale of Two Packingtons’, The Tyndale Society Journal, 17 (2000), consulted online at 65 See C. Shrank, ‘Andrew Borde and the Politics of Identity in Reformation England’, Reformation, 5 (2001), for a parallel argument about how ‘signed-up Protestants’ looking back on their history felt retrospectively ‘the need to model it into some kind of order, dividing the players into reformed heroes and unreformed villains’ (quote at p. 26). 66 Brigden, London, pp. 182, 4. 67 LP, xi. 1419. 68 LP, xvii. 1012 (27). 69 John Strype, Memorials of the Most Reverend Father in God, Thomas Cranmer (London, 1694), p. 95. 70 Hall, Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families, fo. 232r.



decades later would be regarded as a source of pollution – something to which true Christians should respond by fleeing the country rather than risk contaminating themselves.71 In recycling Hall’s account for the 1563 Actes and Monuments, Foxe made one small but significant change: Packington’s habit was to rise early ‘to go to praier’, rather than to mass.72 Religious identities were on the move in mid-Tudor England, even, or perhaps especially, when their bearers were stopped dead in their tracks.

71 J. Wright, ‘Marian Exiles and the Legitimacy of Flight from Persecution’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 52 (2001). 72 Foxe, Actes and Monuments (1563), p. 26. This knowing act of censorship was not emulated by Grafton, Holinshed or Stow. Compare here the reformer Thomas Becon’s systematic removal of the phrase ‘sacrament of the altar’ from the Elizabethan reprints of his books published in the early 1540s, something (in Alec Ryrie’s words) ‘symbolic of the extent to which modern scholarship has viewed Henrician evangelicals through an Edwardian and Elizabethan prism’: Gospel and Henry VIII, p. 138.

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The Debate Over ‘Unwritten Verities’ In April 1546, as the reign of Henry Tudor in England was drawing to its close, the fathers of the Roman Catholic Church gathered at Trent issued the decree De Canonicis Scripturis. Here the Gospel of Christ was defined and declared to be contained in written books and in unwritten traditions which were received by the Apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or, by the same Apostles, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were handed on and have come down to us … This Synod receives and venerates, with equal pious affection and reverence, all the books both of the Old and New Testaments … together with the said Traditions …1

Six years later, in the fifth of the 42 Articles put forth by the Edwardian Church, Henry’s erstwhile archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, confidently reasserted a very different conception of the deposit of revealed truth: Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is neither read therein, nor may be proved thereby, although it be sometime received of the faithful as godly, and profitable for an order and comeliness; yet no man ought to be constrained to believe it as an article of faith, or repute it requisite to the necessity of salvation.2

During the quarter-century preceding the Tridentine pronouncement, these mutually exclusive perceptions of the content and transmission of essential Christian doctrine had been debated at length in the writings of English religious polemicists, and their conclusions had been reflected and refracted in the various official and quasi-official statements of the Henrician and Edwardian Church. It is the aim of this chapter to supply a survey of the arguments employed for and against what English evangelicals came to refer to with contemptuous irony as ‘unwritten verities’, and also to suggest a number of ways in which the issue informed the development of a unique ecclesial polity in England from the 1530s onwards. In the process it hopes to point to a number of unresolved tensions within the theological terms of reference assumed by both reforming and conservative writers in England in the first half of the sixteenth century, and to 1

Documents of the Christian Church, ed. H. Bettenson (Oxford, 1943), p. 365. The Two Liturgies … in the Reign of King Edward VI, ed. J. Ketley (PS, Cambridge, 1844), p. 527. 2



show that in the early stages of the formulation of an English Protestant identity, the repudiation of ‘man’s traditions’ for the high ground of sola scriptura proved to be a very rocky and unpredictable path. I The question of how Christians should view the relationship of Scripture to tradition, between what is written down and what is handed down, was hardly a new one in the sixteenth century. An important concern of medieval theologians was whether the Bible was materially sufficient for salvation; that is, whether, if interpreted correctly, the Scriptures would provide all the doctrines a man or woman needed to believe in order to be saved.3 Most medieval commentators discerned an essential co-inherence of Scripture and tradition: the latter was regarded as the authoritative exegesis of the former, and the true meaning of the Bible could be understood only in the light of the Church’s traditions. Yet from the patristic period onwards, a growing number of writers had been able to identify specific items of belief or ceremonial practice, without any obvious basis in Scripture, which had been handed down orally from the time of the Apostles. No definitive tariff of these was ever laid down by the Church, but the most commonly rehearsed items included such matters as the tradition of praying to the east, Lenten fasting, and a host of ceremonies used in the administration of baptism, the mass, and other sacraments.4 By the later Middle Ages some theologians were prepared to allow the unwritten traditions received in the Church a normative authority equal to that of the written word of Scripture, and the late medieval Church worked, in effect, with two quite distinct theories regarding the transmission of revelation: a ‘single-source’ or exegetical theory, and a ‘twosource’ theory which allowed for an independent oral tradition.5 Given the elasticity of medieval thought on these matters, the temptation is to perceive the Lutheran assertion of sola scriptura as primarily an extrapolation and intensification of the exegetical tradition, while the 3 For pre-Reformation views of the relationship of Scripture to Tradition, see Y. Congar, Tradition and Traditions, tr. M. Naseby and T. Rainborough (London, 1966); A. McGrath, The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation (Oxford, 1987), ch. 5; H.A. Oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism (Cambridge, MA, 1963), ch. 11; idem, Forerunners of the Reformation: the Shape of Late Medieval Thought (2nd edn, Philadelphia, 1981), ch. 2; G.H. Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church: the Crisis of the Protestant Reformation (London, 1959). 4 Congar, Tradition and Traditions, pp. 50–56. 5 Oberman, Harvest of Medieval Theology, p. 371; Forerunners of the Reformation, pp. 54–5, 58–60.



Church of the Counter-Reformation fell back with increasing insistence on a ‘two-source’ theory. Such an interpretation would, however, fail to emphasise what was truly revolutionary about Luther’s position: his insistence that all traditions must be tested against Scripture, and that beyond the explicit mandates of the Bible lay a great vista of Christian liberty. These insights were embodied in Luther’s reform manifestos of 1520, and in particular in his Babylonian Captivity of the Church, with its shocking denial of four of the seven sacraments on the grounds of lack of scriptural warrant.6 Luther’s repudiation of centuries of Catholic belief and practice provoked a vigorous reaction in England in the early 1520s, and a number of anti-Lutheran polemicists began strongly to reassert the necessity of extra-scriptural traditions. Foremost among these, of course, was Henry VIII himself, whose Assertio Septem Sacramentorum appeared in the summer of 1521. Henry’s defence of the sacraments rested firmly on the argument that ‘many things were said and done by Christ which are not recorded by any of the Evangelists, but by the fresh memory of those who were present: delivered afterwards as it were from hand to hand from the very times of the Apostles down to us’.7 Similar claims were made by the leading theologian among Henry’s bishops, John Fisher, in his anti-Lutheran sermon of May 1521, and in his Assertionis Lutheranae Confutatio of 1523. According to Fisher, revealed truth was transmitted ‘partim scripto, partim non scripto’, a formula which was taken up with relish by other Catholic controversialists, and which came within a whisker of being incorporated into the Tridentine decree of 1546.8 The same theme runs like a thread through the polemical writings of Thomas More in the 1520s and early 1530s.9 Ranged against these writers, leaders of the first generation of English evangelicals, such as Robert Barnes, John Frith and William Tyndale, denied the power of traditions unrecorded in Scripture to bind the


R.H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York, 1950), pp. 105–10. Henry VIII, Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, in Miscellaneous Writings of Henry VIII, ed. F. Macnamara (n.p., 1924), p. 78. 8 John Fisher, The English Works, ed. J.E.B. Mayor (EETS, extra ser., 27, 1876), pp. 311–17; R. Rex, The Theology of John Fisher (Cambridge, 1991), p. 88; Congar, Tradition and Traditions, p. 165. 9 See in particular, Responsio ad Lutherum, ed. J.M. Headley (New Haven and London, 1969), pp. 93, 99–101, 203, 243, 599; A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, ed. T. Lawler, G. Marc’hadour et al. (New Haven and London, 1981), pp. 56, 144, 148–9, 152; The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, ed. L.A. Schuster et al. (New Haven and London, 1973), pp. 153–4, 225–6, 808–9; The Apology, ed. J.B. Trapp (New Haven and London, 1979), pp. 18, 23, 26. 7



consciences of Christians.10 More’s ‘unwritten verities’ were, in Tyndale’s view, ‘as true and authentic as his story of Utopia’.11 While More or Henry VIII could cheerfully contemplate the counter-factual proposition of a Christianity without Scripture,12 to Tyndale and his allies such a thought was simply inconceivable: ‘God careth for his elect, and therefore hath provided them of Scripture’.13 From this controversy of the decade preceding the break with Rome several themes emerge which serve to illuminate the concerns and constraints of early Reformation polemic. Perhaps most striking is the extent to which a debate over the existence or otherwise of binding extrabiblical traditions was itself a matter of scriptural exegesis. Central to the Catholic defence of unwritten traditions was the interpretation of a number of key biblical passages. In the course of his instruction of the Corinthians, St Paul remarked ‘the rest will I set in order when I come’.14 In his second letter to the Thessalonians he instructed the brethren to ‘stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle’.15 Both these texts were held to imply that Paul and the other Apostles had imparted truths which they chose not to commit to writing.16 The ultimate source of these truths was presumed to be Christ himself. St John’s Gospel records that ‘many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book’, and ends with the assertion that if all the things Jesus did were to be written down, ‘even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written’.17 In addition, Catholic writers turned repeatedly to an earlier passage in the same Gospel: ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.’18 Here was confirmation of a 10 W.A. Clebsch, England’s Earliest Protestants 1520–1535 (New Haven and London, 1964), pp. 45–6, 90–91; W. Tyndale, Expositions and Notes … Together with the Practice of Prelates, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1849), pp. 142–3; idem, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1850), pp. 26–30, 96–100. 11 Tyndale, Expositions and Notes, p. 100. 12 More, Responsio, p. 599; idem, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, p. 144; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, p. 481; Henry VIII, Assertio, p. 109. The lack of an absolute necessity for Scripture to have been written was still being argued by conservative preachers in the 1530s: S. Wabuda, Preaching During the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2002), p. 77. 13 Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 133. 14 1 Corinthians 11: 34. 15 2 Thessalonians 2: 15. 16 Fisher, English Works, p. 332; More, Responsio, pp. 99, 243; idem, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, p. 148; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, p. 316. 17 John 20: 31; 21: 25. 18 John 16: 12–13.



crucial belief: that the Catholic Church infallibly grounded its teaching on the continuing inspiration of the Holy Spirit.19 Taken as a whole, these passages could be used to underpin a blanket endorsement of the religious status quo. Some unwritten truths rejected by the reformers – for example, the sacraments of orders, matrimony, confirmation and anointing – might be supposed to descend directly from the teaching of the Apostles, while others – like the institution of communion in one kind for the laity – which had demonstrably evolved since apostolic times, could be argued to have taken place under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There was undeniably an element of post hoc rationalisation about all of this, and evangelical writers of the 1530s and later not only disputed the interpretation of all these passages, but adduced numerous scriptural references of their own to demonstrate that the written word pointed to no authority beyond itself.20 It was frequently pointed out, for example, that the papists tended to be economical in their citation of John 20. The verse about Christ’s unreported acts went on to note ‘but these are written that ye might believe’, an apparent endorsement of the contention that the Bible contained, as Tyndale put it, ‘the pith and substance … of everything necessary unto our soul’s health’.21 Beyond this, as Luther had argued so passionately, Christian Liberty obtained, and Tyndale remarked, apropos of tradition in general, that ‘he that may be free, is a fool to be bound’.22 The idea that long-cherished beliefs and practices might be at best ‘things indifferent’ horrified Catholics such as Thomas More. Indeed, in his Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer More attempted a comprehensive indictment of the whole concept of Christian Liberty: The Church hath none such as make no matter to salvation. For everything that God will have believed pertaineth to salvation, since the contrary belief is disobedience to God …23 19

Fisher, English Works, pp. 311–17; More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, pp. 145–6; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 133, 151. 20 William Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1848), pp. 218–19; idem, Answer to More, pp. 96–7, 135; Thomas Becon, Early Works, ed. J. Ayre (PS, Cambridge, 1843), pp. 434–7; Alexander Alesius, Of the Auctorite of the Word of God agaynst the Bisshop of London (?Leipzig, ?1537), sigs C3v–D7v; Thomas Becon, Prayers and Other Pieces, ed. J. Ayre (PS, Cambridge, 1844), p. 324; Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, ed. J.E. Cox (PS, Cambridge, 1846), pp. 19–22, 53–5. 21 Alesius, Auctorite of the Word of God, sig. D7r; Roger Hutchinson, Works, ed. J. Bruce (PS, Cambridge, 1842), p. 124; John Philpot, Examinations and Writings, ed. R. Eden (PS, Cambridge, 1842), p. 360; Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 26; Philip Nicolls, The Copie of a Letter sent to one Maister Chrispyne Chanon of Exceter, for that he Denied the Scripture to be the Touchstone or Trial of al other Doctrines (London, 1548), sigs F4r–v. 22 Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 94. 23 More, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 481–2.



From this perspective, ‘freedom’ to accept or reject any facet of traditional Christian practice was clearly an epistemological fallacy: If I believe it in deed, and yet believe therewith that I may lawfully choose whether I will believe it or not, I say that in so believing I believe nought, nor my belief shall not serve me.24

II For Catholic writers, in England as on the Continent, one doctrine in particular provided a crucial test case as to whether nothing unproven by Scripture was required to be accepted by all Christians. This was the belief that, after the birth of Christ, his mother had remained perpetually a virgin. Scripture was notably silent on this matter; indeed, in its references to the brothers and sisters of Christ it seemed to imply the opposite. Acceptance of the doctrine as a necessary truth appeared to rest solely on the constant tradition of the Church, and hence on its authoritative judgement in matters of belief.25 Ironically, it was the very lack of controversy over the perpetual virginity of Mary between traditionalists and their evangelical opponents that made the issue such a potent controversial weapon. None of the mainstream reformers denied the truth of the doctrine; indeed, according to one recent commentator, they displayed a ‘neurotic attachment’ to it.26 There were, however, noticeable differences as to the grounds on which they accepted it. Cranmer was later to suggest that, contrary to appearances, the doctrine was grounded in Scripture, alleging the words of Ezekiel 44: ‘This gate shall be shut … and no man shall enter in by it.’ Other reformers suggested that where St Matthew noted that Joseph knew not his wife ‘till she had brought forth her firstbegotten son’, the Gospel was in fact stating that he never knew her, and


Ibid., p. 314. Henry VIII, Assertio, pp. 109, 129; More, Responsio, pp. 89, 397; idem, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, pp. 115, 150–51, 463; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 287, 314–15, 366, 472, 656–7, 809, 1005–6; idem, Apology, p. 18; idem, The Answer to a Poisoned Book, ed. S.M. Foley and C.H. Miller (New Haven and London, 1985), p. 251; idem, Supplication of Souls, ed. F. Manley, G. Marc’hadour et al. (New Haven and London, 1990), p. 195; Rex, Theology of John Fisher, p. 98; Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church, pp. 120–21. Catholic writers frequently adduced that St Jerome had refuted the heretic Helvidius on this issue, without recourse to direct scriptural proof. 26 D. MacCulloch, ‘Mary and Sixteenth-Century Protestants’, in R. Swanson (ed.), The Church and Mary, Studies in Church History, 39 (2004), p. 213. MacCulloch convincingly argues (pp. 205–14) that a powerful motive was the need to refute the christological heresies of radical sectarians. 25



alluded to similar scriptural instances of this figurative usage.27 Although sharing this view, Tyndale was unwilling to locate the doctrine definitively in Scripture, but claimed to accept it with a ‘story faith’; that is, he assented to it as a historical truth, but insisted it was ‘yet none article of our faith to be saved by’.28 It followed that if one of the elect were to die denying the doctrine in good faith – if, that is, he failed to realise that, according to the custom of the age, scriptural references to Christ’s brethren implied near kinsmen – his scepticism would not affect his salvation. Thomas More chose to interpret Tyndale as saying that if any Christian were instructed properly in the doctrine, he was then bound to accept it, and he concluded, rather optimistically, that Tyndale ‘hath so meshed and entangled himself therein, that he hath in the handling of that one matter alone, utterly destroyed the foundation of all the heresies that they have in all their whole ragman’s roll’.29 Mary’s perpetual virginity was the thin end of the doctrinal wedge: if it could be established as an ‘unwritten verity’, then so could more controversial beliefs. In his Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, Henry VIII wondered why Luther thought that lack of scriptural proof disqualified four of the sacraments, since he accepted the perpetual virginity of Mary.30 In the Supplication of Souls, More argued that the universal acceptance of the Marian doctrine was by the same token ‘a proof full and sufficient for purgatory’.31 In these, as in other cases, the validating principle of unwritten traditions was seen to be, not so much the magisterial assertions of the contemporary Church, as the consensus among its faithful down the ages.32 In 1521 Henry VIII alleged as the clinching argument for auricular confession that ‘when I consider that all people have discovered their sins to the priests for so many ages … I cannot think or believe it to be 27 Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 60; John Bale, Select Works, ed. H. Christmas (PS, Cambridge, 1859), pp. 567–8; William Tyndale, Expositions of Scripture and Practice of Prelates, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1849), p. 227; Hugh Latimer, Sermons and Remains, ed. G. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1845), pp. 105–6. 28 Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 96. 29 Ibid., p. 33; More, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 472, 656–7. Tyndale’s insistence on an inclusive reading of the term ‘brethren’ was echoed by a number of other reformers, who stressed the point not merely to deny that a cherished belief was contradicted by Scripture, but to illustrate the dangers of invoking scriptural passages in isolation: Latimer, Sermons and Remains, p. 105; John Hooper, Early Writings, ed. S. Carr (PS, Cambridge, 1843), pp. 160–61; Heinrich Bullinger, The Decades, ed. T. Harding (4 vols, PS, Cambridge, 1849–52), iv. 437. 30 Henry VIII, Assertio, p. 109. 31 More, Supplication of Souls, p. 195. 32 W.A. Clebsch fundamentally misunderstood More’s thinking on this point: England’s Earliest Protestants, p. 296. For a more balanced interpretation, see A. Fox, Thomas More: History and Providence (Oxford, 1982), pp. 156–9.



established … by any human invention’.33 The concept found its most epigrammatic expression in More’s Dialogue Concerning Heresies of 1528: ‘the common faith of the Church [is] as well God’s own words as was Holy Scripture’.34 Yet despite such confident assertions of the self-sufficiency of tradition, Catholic writers were often more than willing to ground disputed practices in the Bible itself: ‘many things that they say be not in Scripture are yet in Scripture indeed’.35 It was a commonplace of Catholic polemic, for example, to argue that the doctrine of purgatory was clearly discernible in Scripture, or that divine authorship of all seven sacraments could be adduced from the Bible.36 Even that bench-mark of unwritten tradition, the perpetual virginity of Mary, was at least implicitly proclaimed in Scripture, More arguing that when Mary told the angel ‘I know not man’, she was speaking colloquially, and referring to a vow of chastity she had already undertaken.37 Of course, to traditionalists like More, it was inconceivable that there should be any contradiction between the meaning of Scripture and the traditions of the Church, and there was nothing necessarily incongruous in this belt-and-braces approach to the defence of disputed beliefs. Yet at the same time, there seems to have been a reluctance among Catholic controversialists to commit themselves irrevocably to a concept of a self-validating oral tradition. In his anti-Lutheran Confutatio of 1523, for example, Fisher depicted Scripture as ‘a sort of treasure chest holding all things that it is necessary for a Christian to know’, a position that was shared by continental Catholic polemicists such as Schatzgeyer, Clichetove, or Driedo, and that was to be vigorously defended by a number of the fathers at Trent.38 It would be misleading, however, to suggest that there was any meaningful common ground between Luther and his opponents over the


Henry VIII, Assertio, p. 99. More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, p. 188. See also, B. Gogan, ‘Fisher’s View of the Church’, in B. Bradshaw and E. Duffy (eds), Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: the Career of Bishop John Fisher (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 141–2. 35 More, The Apology, p. 28. 36 More, Supplication of Souls, pp. lxxiv–lxxxvii; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, p. 633; idem, The Apology, p. 28; Roger Edgeworth, Sermons very Fuitfull, Godly and Learned, ed. J. Wilson (Woodbridge, 1993), p. 128; Rex, Theology of John Fisher, pp. 98–199; Congar, Tradition and Traditions, p. 513. 37 More, Answer to a Poisoned Book, pp. 58–9. More departed here from the view of Erasmus, who insisted that the perpetual virginity, while true, ‘is not expounded in the sacred books’: MacCulloch, ‘Mary and Sixteenth-Century Protestants’, p. 193. 38 R. Rex, ‘The Polemical Theologian’, in Bradshaw and Duffy (eds), Humanism, Reform and the Reformation, p. 117; Congar, Tradition and Traditions, p. 513; Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church, pp. 195–209. 34



question of the comprehensiveness of Scripture. Central to Luther’s concept of sola scriptura was his refusal to allow the visible Church its traditional role as authoritative interpreter, and the establishment of the Word of God as its own exegete: scriptura sui ipsius interpres.39 To his opponents, such an attitude was the sheerest perversity. As an exasperated Erasmus remarked in a letter to More of 1527, ‘with what arms is one to overthrow a man who receives nothing but Holy Scripture, which he interprets according to a rule of his own?’40 In England, as on the Continent, Reformation debates about the sufficiency of Scripture had an inescapable hermeneutic dimension: who was to decide if beliefs and practices were implicitly commended in Scripture, or implicitly or explicitly condemned?41 Catholic emphasis on the visible Church under papal headship as sole legitimate judge in these cases went hand in hand with frequent assertions of the hardness and darkness of Scripture, as well as the oft-rehearsed claim that the Church could not be subject to the Bible, since it preceded it in time, and on its sole authority had fixed the canon.42 Few patristic texts were as consistently appealed to by Catholic authors as Augustine’s confession in his Contra Epistolam Manichaei that he would not have believed the Gospel had not the Catholic Church moved him to do so.43 The rejection of the ecclesiology of the papal Church was, of course, at the very heart of the Reformation protest. Among the foremost challenges facing English reformers was the need to formulate a convincing rival conception of the Church, one which could claim to derive its authority from the Word of God, while at the same time offering a framework within which Scripture could be clearly expounded. In this respect, events after 1533 were to present English evangelicals with opportunities and predicaments in almost equal measure.

39 McGrath, Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation, p. 151. For later Lutheran attempts to construct a less potentially anarchic hermeneutic framework, see McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction (Oxford, 1988), pp. 111–15. 40 Cited in the Introduction to More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, p. 463. 41 Cf Erasmus’s comment in his book against Luther that ‘the controversy in this case is not about Scripture, because both sides embrace and honour the same Scripture. The battle is about the sense of Scripture.’ Cited in D.V.N. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists 1518–1525 (Minneapolis, 1991), p. 165n. 42 Rex, Theology of John Fisher, p. 73; Henry VIII, Assertio, p. 109; More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, pp. 136–7, 144–6, 253, 539–40; idem, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, pp. 223–6, 250, 381; idem, The Apology, p. 26. 43 R. Pineas, Thomas More and Tudor Polemics (Bloomington, IN, 1968), p. 100; Henry VIII, Assertio, p. 109; More, Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, p. 800.



III There is no doubt that the question of the authority of Scripture was of central importance, both to the origins and to the subsequent course of the ‘official’ Henrician Reformation.44 The whole weight of Henry’s divorce case rested upon the argument that an explicit mandate of the book of Leviticus (‘Thou shalt not uncover the nakedeness of thy brother’s wife’) outclassed the dispensing power of the pope. In the context of Henry’s supreme headship, the idea that unwritten traditions sanctioned by the Church of Rome might enjoy equal status with the Word of God in Scripture was clearly an unacceptable one, and arguments which had been central to Henry’s Assertio of 1521 were quickly discarded. The changed emphasis in official doctrine is clearly comprehended in the first doctrinal formulary of the Henrician Church, the Ten Articles of 1536. In the Preface to the Articles, a crucial distinction was introduced between those articles ‘commanded expressly by God, and necessary to our salvation’, and those ‘prudently instituted and used in the churches of our realm … although they be not expressly commanded of God, nor necessary to our salvation’.45 As is well known, the Ten Articles expounded only three of the seven traditional sacraments; the grounds for omitting the others was implicit but clear nonetheless: only baptism, penance and the eucharist were ‘instituted and ordained in the New Testament by Christ’.46 In applying the same reductionist criterion to the doctrine of purgatory, the Articles began a process that would lead ultimately to the Dissolution of the Chantries and the destruction of the medieval intercessory system: prayer for the dead was said to be laudable, but ‘the place where they be, the name thereof, and kind of pains there … be to us uncertain by Scripture’.47 The overt scripturalism, if not quasi-Lutheranism, of the Ten Articles reflected the growing influence of the evangelicals on Henry’s bench of bishops, as well as the vice-gerential authority of Thomas Cromwell, whose Injunctions of 1536 stressed that in explaining the Articles curates were to make clear ‘which of them be necessary to be believed and

44 On this theme see, G. Redworth, ‘Whatever Happened to the English Reformation?’, History Today (October 1987), pp. 29–36; R. Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation (Basingstoke, 1993), pp. 124–6. 45 Formularies of Faith put forth by Authority during the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. C. Lloyd (Oxford, 1856), p. xvi. 46 Ibid., pp. xviii, xx, xxv. The sacrament of the altar is not explicitly said to have been instituted by Christ – presumably this went without saying. 47 Ibid., p. xxxi. See P. Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002), pp. 73–92.



observed for their salvation, and which of them be not necessary’.48 The evangelicals’ determination to root out the dead weight of human traditions was revealed at a synod convoked by Cromwell in the early part of 1537, as part of the deliberations leading to the production of the Institution of a Christian Man or Bishops’ Book.49 The central issue under contention at this meeting was, according to Alexander Alesius, ‘whether all things necessary unto our salvacyon be conteyned in the Scripture, or but a part only’.50 That the agenda was firmly weighted in a reforming direction was made clear by Cromwell’s opening address: the assembled bishops were left in no doubt as to what was now official policy: neither will his Magesty suffer the Scripture to be wrested and defaced by any glosys, any papistical lawes, or by any auuctoryte of doctors or councels, and moch lesse will he admit any articles or doctrine not conteyned in the Scripture but approved only by contynuance of tyme and old custome, and by unwriton verytes …51

More particularly, the bishops were asked to discuss whether, in the words of Cranmer, the ceremonis of confirmacyon, of orders and of annealing (which can not be proved to be institute of Christ, nor have any word in them to certifye us of remissyon of sinnes) ought to be called sacramentes and to be compared with baptism and the Supper of the Lord …52

Seven conservative bishops believed that they should.53 Among these, John Stokesley of London seems to have held closest to the traditional, and now unfashionable, arguments. He denied that ‘nothing perteyneth unto the Christen faith but that only that is writon in the Byble’, and

48 Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation, ed. W.H. Frere and W.M. Kennedy (3 vols, London, 1910), II. p. 5. 49 Our knowledge of this Synod depends upon the account of one of the participants, the Scottish reformer Alexander Alesius, who claims to have been invited to attend after running into Cromwell in the street: Alesius, Auctorite of the Word of God, sig. A5r. Despite his violent bias against the conservative bishops, there is no reason to doubt the substantial veracity of his testimony. For a general account of the synod, see D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer (New Haven and London, 1996), pp. 185–96; also J. Guy, ‘Scripture as Authority: Problems of Interpretation in the 1530s’, in A. Fox and J. Guy (eds), Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500–1550 (Oxford, 1986), pp. 201–2. 50 Alesius, Auctorite of the Word of God, sig. A5r. 51 Ibid., sigs A6r–v. 52 Ibid., sig. A8r. 53 Lee of York, Stokesley (London), Clerk (Bath and Wells), Sampson (Chichester), and Repps (Norwich). Against them were Cranmer, Shaxton (Salisbury), Goodrich (Ely), Fox (Hereford) and Latimer (Worcester).



boldly asserted that unwritten traditions handed down from the Apostles ‘be of like autoryte with the Scripture’, a speech which, according to Alesius, elicited wry smiles from the evangelical bishops as they saw him retreat ‘unto his old rusty sophistry and unwritton verities’.54 Inevitably perhaps, as the product of a committee, the resultant Bishops’ Book of 1537 was less radical than Alesius, Cranmer, or Latimer would have wished, but its theology was still a world away from the atavistic aspirations of Stokesley. The missing four sacraments of 1536 were now restored, but with the important proviso that ‘there is a difference in dignity and necessity between them and the other three sacraments … because these three sacraments be instituted of Christ, to be as certain instruments or remedies necessary for our salvation’.55 In the Bishops’ Book, and in its more conservative redaction of 1543, the King’s Book, the main issues raised by the controversies of the 1520s – the status of unwritten tradition, the role of the visible Church as arbiter of Scripture, the normative significance of custom and consensus – were all aired, but hardly unambiguously resolved. It is worth noting that in their exposition of the third article of the creed, the two formularies asserted the perpetual virginity of Mary, but gave no explicit grounds for doing so.56 Moreover, their interpretation of the eighth article of the creed envisaged the Holy Spirit as ‘chief president in the Catholic Church of Christ’. The third person of the Trinity revealed to the members of the Church ‘the secrets and mysteries of all truth, which is necessary for them to know, and … shall also continually from time to time rule them, direct them, sanctify them’ – a form of words quite divorced in spirit from the evangelical perception of the Holy Spirit as guarantor of the manifest teaching of Scripture.57 In addition, the value of Catholic consensus continued to be stressed: the four ‘lesser’ sacraments were said to deserve the name since they had been ‘of long time past received and approved by the common consent of the Catholic Church’.58 Indeed, in its assertion of infant baptism, the King’s Book came close to invoking a formula of which Thomas More or John Fisher might have approved: ‘the universal consent of the Churches in all places and of all times … is a sufficient


Alesius, Auctorite of the Word of God, sigs B6r–7r. Formularies of Faith, ed. Lloyd, pp. 128–9. 56 Ibid., pp. 37, 232. The Henrician theorist, Christopher St German, argued in a late manuscript work that this doctrine was sufficiently founded on Scripture to be believed of necessity: Guy, ‘Scripture as Authority’, p. 218. Guy’s study of the treatment of Scripture in the writings of More, Gardiner and St German leads him to conclude that there was no single ‘Henrician’ position on the authority of Scripture: ibid., pp. 219–20. 57 Formularies of Faith, ed. Lloyd, pp. 51, 243. 58 Ibid., p. 128. 55



witness and proof that this custom of the Church in baptizing of infants was used by Christ’s apostles themselves, and by them given unto the Church’.59 For all that the Henrician Church claimed to be thoroughly grounded on the Word of God, throughout Henry’s lifetime it enforced mandatory acceptance of a range of ceremonies and beliefs for which most English evangelicals could, to say the least, find no warrant in the Bible. In so far as this apparent paradox could be resolved, it was through the innovative ecclesiology espoused by the Henrician formularies. These presented the Catholicity of the Church as ‘a mere spiritual unity’ of autonomous national Churches, and sanctioned the ‘divers using and observation of such outward rites, ceremonies, traditions, and ordinances, as be instituted by their governors’.60 Thus, what had once been held to be binding extra-scriptural traditions could be redesignated as mere ‘positive laws’, to be retained or abrogated at the king’s pleasure, and it was explicitly on these grounds that in the late 1530s some traditional practices – such as strict Lenten fasting – were laid aside, while others – such as ‘creeping to the cross’ on Good Friday, or placing lights before the sacrament – were ordered to be preserved as ‘good and laudable ceremonies’.61 Whether such matters could be regarded as adiaphora – ‘things indifferent’ – in the Lutheran understanding of the term, is, however, open to question. Henry considered the positive laws of his Church to be binding in conscience on all his subjects, and to that extent to insist that they were not necessary to salvation was something of a semantic evasion.62 For English evangelicals, the ambivalent legacy of the break with Rome became increasingly obvious from the latter months of 1538, as the exigencies of foreign policy combined with a genuine fear of heresy to steer Henry firmly back in a conservative direction. That sola scriptura, in the Lutheran sense, was not the consistent guiding principle of Henrician religious policy was made abundantly clear by the Six Articles of 1539. These asserted that clerical celibacy and vows of chastity, practices that most evangelicals considered directly repugnant to the teaching


Ibid., p. 255. Ibid., pp. 55–6, 243. For further discussion of the ecclesiology of the Bishops’ and King’s Books, see below, pp. 182–3. 61 Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. P.L. Hughes and J.F. Larkin (3 vols, Yale, 1964–69), i. 260–61, 273–4. 62 Thomas Starkey argued in his Exhortation to Unity and Obedience that things indifferent in themselves were made ‘binding under pain of damnation’ by the determination of common authority: B.J. Verkamp, The Indifferent Mean: Adiaphorism in the English Reformation to 1554 (Athens, OH, 1977), p. 41. For a rather more cautious contemporary view, see Edgeworth, Sermons, p. 189. 60



of Scripture, were binding ‘by the law of God’.63 Insult was subsequently added to injury by the restrictions placed on expounding and reading Scripture by a proclamation of 1539, and by a statute of 1543 – the, to evangelicals, ironically titled ‘Act for the Advancement of True Religion’.64 The ultimate authority of Scripture remained emblematic for the English Church throughout Henry’s lifetime: even the restoration of the abrogate feast days of Luke, Mark and Mary Magdalene in July 1541 was justified on the grounds that ‘the same saints [have] been often and many times mentioned in plain and manifest Scripture’.65 Nonetheless, beyond denying that apostolic traditions enjoyed equal authority with Scripture, the Henrician Church elaborated no very satisfactory explanation of how the authoritative teaching of Scripture was to be distilled and decreed.66 Moreover, a number of prominent figures within the Henrician establishment remained far from convinced that unwritten traditions were as disposable as a liberal reading of the Church’s formularies might seem to imply. As we have seen, Bishop Stokesley clashed with Cromwell and Cranmer over the issue in 1537, while Stephen Gardiner in his 1546 Detection of the Devil’s Sophistrie defended the view, anathema to evangelicals, that Paul initially taught the Corinthians the mystery of the mass by word of mouth, and that ‘the Churche hathe not forgotten it, but hath taught it without wrytynge as she receyved it’.67 Similar echoes can be caught in the preaching of conservative clerics such as Nicholas Wilson, Rowland Phillips, or Roger Edgeworth.68

63 Documents of the Christian Church, ed. Bettenson, p. 328. Henry, however, resisted an attempt by Tunstall, Lee and Gardiner to have auricular confession designated in these terms: G. Redworth, ‘A Study in the Formulation of Policy: the Genesis and Evolution of the Act of Six Articles’, JEH, 37 (1986), pp. 60–63. 64 Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. Hughes and Larkin, i. 284–6; 34 & 35 Hen. VIII, c. 1. For insightful discussion of how the act disillusioned moderate evangelicals who hitherto had entertained high hopes of the regime, see A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 46–50, 252–4. 65 Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. Hughes and Larkin, i. 301. 66 Note here the comment of David Loades that Henrician propagandists such as Gardiner ‘proceeded mainly by a process of bald assertion’, accepting, for example, Christian consensus as normative for orthodox doctrine, but not for papal primacy: The Oxford Martyrs (2nd edn, Bangor, 1992), p. 49. 67 Stephen Gardiner, A Detection of the Devil’s Sophistrie (London, 1546), fos 120r–v. 68 S. Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), p. 330; Wabuda, Preaching during the English Reformation, p. 78; Edgeworth, Sermons, pp. 60–62, 169. See also E.A. Macek, The Loyal Opposition: Tudor Traditionalist Polemics, 1535–1558 (New York, 1996), pp. 116–20.



IV Without doubt, the most dogged defender of unwritten verities in the last years of Henry VIII’s reign was Richard Smyth, regius professor of divinity at Oxford, and future persecutor of the Oxford Martyrs.69 In a number of works of the late 1540s, most particularly, A Brief Treatyse setting forth Divers Truths, Smyth unashamedly reprised the view that ‘Christe and hys Apostles taught and lefte to the Churche manye thynges wythout wrytynge, whyche we must both beleve stedfastly, and also fulfyll obedientlye under peyne of damnation’. He was able to adduce no fewer than 45 such beliefs and practices.70 Like More and Fisher before him, Smyth rehearsed the perpetual virginity of Mary, but he also made much capital out of a second doctrinal paradigm, designed to cause maximum embarrassment to his evangelical opponents. The necessity of infant baptism had been touched on as an unwritten verity in the controversies of the 1520s,71 but growing concern about anabaptist sectaries lent the issue greater polemical urgency in the late 1540s. According to Smyth, those who demanded a manifest Scripture to validate every Christian truth ‘do open the dore and give an occasion by that theyr fonde opinyon to the heresy of the … anabaptistes … sence thys necessary thinge hangeth only upon the apostles tradition wythout anye scripture that can prove it sufficiently’.72 The appearance of Smyth’s Brief Treatyse in the early months of 1547 caused considerable alarm to the new regime of Protector Somerset.73 Although the papacy was nowhere mentioned in Smyth’s work, his entirely traditional defence of unwritten verities seemed to endorse the authority over doctrine of the supranational Catholic Church. In May, Smyth was made to recant his views at Paul’s Cross, accepting the authority of Scripture to be ‘distincte, diverse, and of higher, surer, more stable and firme order and credence’ than that of tradition. In addition, he 69 On Smyth’s career, E.A. Macek, ‘Richard Smith: Tudor Cleric in defense of Traditional Belief and Practice’, Catholic Historical Review, 72 (1986), now superseded by J.A. Löwe, Richard Smyth and the Language of Orthodoxy: Re-imagining Tudor Catholic Polemicism (Leiden, 2003). 70 Richard Smyth, A Brief Treatyse settyng forth Divers Truths (London, 1547), sig. D7r and passim. Smyth had also published a Defence of the Blessed Masse (London, 1546) and an Assertion of the Sacramente of the Aulter (London, 1546) under the patronage of Bishop Bonner; Löwe, Richard Smyth, pp. 32–4; Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation, p. 131. 71 More, Responsio, p. 385. 72 Smyth, Brief Treatyse, sigs G7v–8r, H2r. 73 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. J. Pratt (8 vols, London, 1870), vi. 35; The Letters of Stephen Gardiner, ed. J.A. Muller (Cambridge, 1933), pp. 284–5, 293.



acknowledged the position laid down in the 1530s that ceremonies introduced by popes, bishops, or general councils ‘doth not bynd but where they be receyved’, and that any person might be dispensed from them by royal authority without scruple of conscience.74 In July Smyth was made to repeat his declaration in Oxford, having apparently claimed that his Paul’s Cross statement was ‘but a retractation, and not a recantation’.75 Coming as it did on the back of the recent Tridentine decree, Smyth’s attempt to rehabilitate ‘unwritten verities’ encouraged numerous Edwardian evangelicals to reassert unequivocally the sole sufficiency of Scripture.76 ‘Unwritten verities’, they argued, had been devised to serve the self-interest of priests.77 The familiar claim, reiterated by Smyth, that the phrases spoken and ceremonies performed in the course of the mass derived directly from the tradition of the Apostles provoked a wave of historical disparagement, with polemicists such as John Mardy, Hugh Hilarie, John Bradford and Thomas Becon painting the Catholic service as a hotch-potch of different authors.78 According to John Hooper, ‘the histories be plain what the bishops of Rome hath done in this matter; how and by whom these ceremonies hath been augmented’.79 The Catholics’ appeal to long-standing consensus as proof of their doctrine received similarly rough handling. In his controversy with the conservative canon of Exeter, Richard Crispin, the Devon reformer Philip Nicolls poured scorn on his opponent’s reliance on ‘olde custome (for you have nothynge else), and longe continuance of tyme’.80 The Confutation of Unwritten Verities, probably compiled from Cranmer’s notes by a Marian exile in the mid-1550s, similarly noted that the papists invariably sought to prove their doctrine ‘by the long continuance thereof, and lucky prosperity of their kingdom’. By this line of reasoning, ‘the gentiles 74 Richard Smyth, A Godly and Faythfull Retraction made and published at Pauls Cross in London (London, 1547), sigs C1r, C3r–v. 75 Richard Smyth, A Playne Declaration made at Oxford (London, 1547), sigs A2r–3r. 76 Anon., Of Unwrytten Verytyes (London, 1548); Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547), ed. R.B. Bond (Toronto, 1987), p. 61; Becon, Prayers and Other Pieces, pp. 324, 520, 603; Thomas Cranmer, Answer Against the False Calumniations of Dr Richard Smyth, in Remains of Thomas Cranmer, ed. H. Jenkyns (Oxford, 1833), III. 3; ‘E.P’., A Confutation of Unwritten Verities in Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 1–67; Bullinger, Decades, i. 63–4, 208, ii. 311, iv. 532–5; Nicolls, Copie of a letter. 77 Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 64; Of Unwrytten Verytyes, sig. A3v; Bullinger, Decades, i. 64. 78 John Mardy, A Breife Recantacion of Maystres Missa (London, 1548), sig. A2v; Hugh Hilarie, The Resurrection of the Masse (Strasbourg, 1554), sig. A4r; John Bradford, Letters, Treatises, Remains, ed. H. Townsend (PS, Cambridge, 1853), p. 310; Becon, Prayers and Other Pieces, pp. 266, 270. 79 John Hooper, Early Writings, ed. S. Carr (PS, Cambridge, 1843), p. 237. 80 Nicolls, Copie of a Letter, sig. B8r.



and pagans have a great advantage of us Christians’.81 Moreover, Protestants of the mid-Tudor period, like Tyndale before them, could make effective use of the divergences in doctrine and practice between the Western and Eastern Churches to impugn the idea of inherited custom as a guarantee of apostolic authenticity.82 Yet despite its unanimous opinion that Scripture contained all the doctrines necessary to be believed, and its repeated assertion that its liturgies contained nothing ‘but the very pure word of God, the holy Scriptures, or that which is evidently grounded upon the same’,83 the Edwardian Church struggled to establish an unimpeachable procedure for laying down which doctrines and practices were, or were not, scriptural. In contrast to the judgement of both pre-Reformation and Henrician writers that the Scriptures were often obscure and hard to interpret, it was a commonplace of Edwardian Protestantism that the sense of the Bible was usually plain to any genuine seeker after truth.84 Ultimately, therefore, Scripture had to be presented as its own expositor, a position that was arguably as problematic as the need to accommodate it to an unwritten oral tradition, and inevitably differences emerged in the formation of a new Protestant polity. In the view of John Hooper, there is no man hath power to interpret Scripture. God, for the preservation of his Church, doth give unto certain persons the gift and knowledge to open the Scripture; but that gift is no power bound to any order, succession of bishops, or title of dignity …85

Cranmer’s Articles of 1553, by contrast, were prepared to put more emphasis on ‘the visible Church of Christ’ as ‘a witness and keeper of holy writ’, and as the forum in which ‘the pure Word of God is preached’. But they too stressed that the visible Church was subject to the authority of Scripture, and had no power to ordain anything contrary to the Word of God.86 Preaching before Edward VI in 1549, Hugh Latimer similarly implied that responsibility for interpreting the Scriptures rested with the clergy, ‘sitting in Moses chair’, though the exponents of Scripture had themselves to submit to its judgement, and no account was to be taken of 81

Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 62. Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 133; Bullinger, Decades, iv. 537. 83 The First and Second Prayer Books of Edward VI, ed. E.C. Gibson (London, 1910), pp. 4, 322; English Historical Documents Vol. V, ed. C.H. Williams (London, 1967), pp. 849, 853. 84 Loades, The Oxford Martyrs, p. 66. The 1547 homily of the Holy Scripture explicitly denied that ‘the hardness thereof is so great that it is meet to be read only of clerks and learned men’: Certain Sermons or Homilies, ed. Bond, p. 64. 85 Hooper, Early Writings, p. 82. 86 Liturgies of Edward VI, ed. Ketley, p. 531. 82



those preachers who ‘digress out of Christ’s chair’.87 The understandable reluctance of the Edwardian authorities to recognise any external locus of scriptural authority was thrown into sharp relief in early 1550 by Hooper’s refusal to accept consecration to the bishopric of Gloucester in the required cope and surplice. In a set of notes subsequently dispatched to the Privy Council to explain his decision, Hooper averred that ‘nothing is to be used in the Church unless it enjoys the sanction of the express Word of God, or otherwise is a thing indifferent in itself’ – in Hooper’s view the association of vestments with a sacrificing priesthood meant that their use contravened the imperatives of Scripture.88 Though Hooper was eventually persuaded to back down, echoes of the controversy were clearly audible in the campaign waged by John Knox to excise the requirement to kneel to receive communion from the Prayer Book of 1552, something which provoked Cranmer to protest against those who seemed to assume that ‘whatsoever is not commanded in the Scripture is against the Scripture’.89 A few decades earlier, English bishops might have sought to confound Knox and his supporters by insisting that kneeling to receive was an unwritten tradition of the Apostles.90 The decisive repudiation of immutable apostolic traditions by most shades of opinion in the English Church from the 1530s onwards meant in practice that all such matters had to be reclassified in one of several ways. Some ostensibly extra-scriptural traditions, it could be suggested, proved on closer inspection to be thoroughly grounded on the Word of God, a position that, as we have seen, Catholic polemicists were themselves sometimes willing to concede. It is revealing that in the recantation Richard Smyth was obliged to read at Paul’s Cross in May 1547, infant baptism, the virginity of Mary, the Trinity, and the procession of the Holy Spirit were included in this category.91 To some extent, this practice impelled Protestant apologists to undertake the kind of hermeneutic dexterity they so deplored when they encountered it in their opponents. The Cranmerian Confutation of Unwritten Verities, for example, endorsed infant baptism by reference to the ‘figure of the old law’ in circumcision, as well as to a number of more or less enigmatic New Testament passages.92 The same work, as we have seen, adduced the words of Ezekiel to confirm the perpetual virginity of 87

Loades, The Oxford Martyrs, pp. 65–6. Verkamp, The Indifferent Mean, pp. 72–3. 89 Ibid., p. 67. 90 The practice of praying on one’s knees was periodically adduced by Catholic authorities as an unwritten verity: Congar, Tradition and Traditions, pp. 31, 58. 91 Smyth, Godly and Faythfull Retraction, sig. B4v. 92 Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 60. 88



Mary. Bullinger’s reference to the same passage provoked a telling rebuke from Richard Smyth: ‘this Bullinger wresteth this prophet’s sentence from the literal sense unto an allegory’.93 Matters which reflected less doctrinal consensus could be categorised in one of two ways: as superstitions repugnant to the letter and spirit of Scripture, or as ‘things indifferent’ in the sense that, though not necessary for salvation, they were expedient and consistent with the teaching of Scripture. After the break with Rome, it fell to the positive law dispensed under the royal supremacy to determine which traditions could be accounted true adiaphora, a circumstance which brought into sharp focus the status of the visible Church and of the monarch as its head. The unhappy experience of English evangelicals in the last years of Henry VIII’s reign underlined the dangers of according too much latitude to the positive determinations of the visible Church, and offered the temptation, resolutely resisted by most, of a direct appeal against them to the plain sense of the Gospel.94 In Edward’s reign, by contrast, the opposition of Hooper to the Ordinal of 1550, or the faultfinding attitude of Knox and others to the Prayer Book of 1552, exposed the tensions that would inevitably arise when positive law became circumscribed by the assertions of individual conscience, and the latter’s claim to discern the authentic doctrinal and ritual implications of the Word of God in Scripture.

93 Smith, Brief Treatyse, sigs O5v–6r. Cf MacCulloch’s comment that in their treatment of this text, Zwingli and Bullinger temporarily ‘abandoned their humanism’: ‘Mary and Sixteenth-Century Protestants’, p. 213. 94 On the evangelical exiles who gave up on Henry VIII after 1538 and went abroad, see Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, pp. 93–112, 266–70, though note his contention (p. 112) that for most of this period the exiles remained ‘a side-show’.

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Henrician Reforms: Seen From Inside and Out

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The Other Black Legend I The arrest of two suspicious strangers in the episcopal town of Salisbury in Wiltshire on 25 July 1541 was brought immediately to the attention of the bishop, John Salcot. Together with the local dignitary Charles Bulkeley he examined the suspects, and was sufficiently alarmed by the outcome to despatch the prisoners post-haste to the Council in London, together with a description of the circumstances of their arrest, and a record of their interrogations. Salcot’s alacrity in the matter was prompted by the discovery that the two men were Spanish priests, their names Juan Abbad and Pedro Ladron, and that they had arrived in England with the intention ‘to perswade the heddes of this countrey to leve theirre error and adhere to the truthe’. In London the prisoners were questioned by Archbishop Cranmer, the bishops of London and Westminster, Edmund Bonner and Thomas Thirlby, as well as by other councillors. At the end of July these forwarded a detailed account of what they had learned to the council attending upon the king, and in September they supplied an update on the interrogations with a request to know the king’s pleasure in the matter.1 The encounters between the Spanish priests and the English bishops were characterised by obstinacy on the part of the prisoners, combined with frustration on the part of their interrogators. In fact, this requires some immediate qualification, for one of the two priests, Juan Abbad, was found to be ‘a verie simple person’ who responded to questions 1 The documents pertaining to the case are Salcott and Bulkeley’s letter of 25 July to the Council in London (TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fo. 136v; LP, xvi. 1032(1)); a set of interrogatories in Latin ministered to Ladron in Salisbury (TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fo. 138r; LP, xvi. 1032(2)); a self-justificatory Latin oration composed by Ladron (TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fos 139r–v; LP, xvi. 1032(3)); the letter, dated 29 July 1541 of Cranmer and other councillors resident in London to the Council with the king (TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fos 143r–144r (LP, xvi. 1047), quote at fo. 143r); a second letter of 2 Sep. from Cranmer and the Council (TNA: PRO, SP 1/167, fos 16r–17r; LP, xvi. 1141). In addition a number of documents were confiscated from the two Spaniards on their arrest: Ladron’s certificate of admission to the diaconate (TNA: PRO, E 135 6/85); a dispensation for him to be ordained priest in his 23rd year (TNA: PRO, E 135 6/87); and letters of capacity granted to Abbad in March 1541 (TNA: PRO, SP 1/165, fo. 27r; LP, xvi. 630). I have hispanicised the names of the two priests from the English and Latin forms found in the documents. Ladron (the style given in E 135 6/87) usually appears there as Latronensis.



about the pope’s primacy with the claim that he ‘was unlernyd and woolde not medle therewith’. He protested that he had come with the other priest ‘onelie for companye as an olde famyliar of his’.2 His companion, Pedro Ladron, was, however, a very different proposition, a young man of unshakeable resolve, who signed himself ‘servus servorum Dei’. Bishop Salcot and Archbishop Cranmer in turn found him ‘a stowte champion for the bisshop of Rome, and an open impugnator of the kinges majesties title of supremitie’. Thus to both of them he seemed ‘lyke a traytorous wreche’, ‘like an errande traytor’, appellations that carried a powerful emotional charge, despite their uncertain legal status in application to one who was not an English subject. Asked why he had left Spain for England, and what doctrine he wished to introduce here, he put forward his opinion that the English had withdrawn from the communion of the faithful by denying the Roman pontiff to be the Vicar of Christ. He defended the papal primacy with reference to Matthew 16 (‘Tu es Petrus’) and other scriptural texts, and believed it to be vindicated by apostolic succession. In addition to rejecting Henry’s royal supremacy over the Church, Ladron also condemned the king ‘for the dyssolvyng of monasteryes’ and for the expulsion of monks and hermits. The pulling down of religious houses seemed to him to represent the conversion of the house of God into a stable. The combined theological learning of the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishops of London and Westminster, could not disabuse him of these opinions, though Cranmer noted sarcastically that he grounded his arguments ‘onelie uppon the olde errours and the lawe canon, which it appearith by his own confession he hathe onelie stoodied and that not past fowre yeres’.3 Of course, the Council’s interest in the two priests went beyond a desire to wean them from their erroneous views. What precisely were they doing in England, who had sent them, and what contacts did they have in the country? Answers on all these points were vague and unsatisfactory. It was clear that they had landed at Dartmouth, and were making their way to London when they were picked up in Salisbury. Ladron’s own version was that they had initially taken ship for some unspecified destination, but ‘beyng dryven by wether to land in England he presumeth to be sent hither by god, and the good spirite’. The authorities in England were understandably suspicious of this providentialist narrative. Officers were despatched to Southampton, Poole and other southern ports to search for similar infiltrators, though it seems that none were found. Moreover, repeated interrogations could elicit little more information out of the prisoners ‘but that they were addressed hither by god and fortune’. Cranmer 2 3

TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fo. 143v; 167, fo. 16r. TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fos 136v, 138r, 139r–v, 143r; 167, fo. 16r.



was also deeply wary of Ladron’s claim to be a secular priest, noting him as one ‘whome we take to be a religious person thoughe himselfe denye the same’.4 Whether or not the arrival in England was as fortuitous as Ladron claimed, the sense of divine appointment was clearly at the heart of his mission. In his written apologia, he explained that he had been spurred on to make his journey after some two years’ reflection on the words of Scripture ‘exi de patria tua et de cognatione tua’.5 Though the text does not appear exactly in this form in the Vulgate, this was clearly a reference to Genesis 12: 1, God’s injunction to Abraham to ‘go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you’. Quite probably, Ladron had in mind the New Testament reprise of the passage, recited by the proto-martyr Stephen in Acts 7: 2–3. Appearing before the Council, did Ladron fashion himself on Stephen before the Sanhedrin? Certainly, when Cranmer threatened him with the full penalties of the treason law, Ladron responded that ‘he woolde rather suffre x deathes then he wolde forsake the truthe’.6 Whether it was to be his lot to undergo even one of these is unknown. The last we hear of him is in early September 1541, when still maintaining his opinions, he was committed to the Tower. His more malleable companion remained in Cranmer’s custody, and similarly disappeared from history.7 In itself, the incident I have described is a fairly trivial one. Though the men came to the attention of the Council, and, most probably, of the king himself, their activities did not directly affect governmental policies at a national or regional level in other than a very minor way. It is not immediately evident that the brief emergence from obscurity of the obdurate Spanish priest, Pedro Ladron, has anything important to tell us about the wider religious and political conditions of either England or Spain in the middle decades of the sixteenth century. Clearly, he was something of a religious zealot, and it would be easy to dismiss him as a ‘crank’ or ‘fanatic’. There was, moreover, a distinct element of fantasy about what he hoped to achieve, and it is tempting to imagine him as a prototype Don Quixote, with the ‘simple and unlearned’ Abbad in the role of Sancho Panza. Yet it would be a mistake to assign to Ladron an automatic marginality to processes of historical explanation. It is not necessary to put him forward as a representative or ordinary figure to 4

TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fo. 143r (LP, xvi. 1047). The itinerancy of the two priests might suggest that they were friars, though there is no evidence of this in the sources. Cranmer’s own detestation of the ‘sect’ of friars is well documented: D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven and London, 1996), pp. 143–4. 5 TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fo. 139r. 6 TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fo. 143v. 7 TNA: PRO, SP 1/167, fo. 17r.



acknowledge that his ideas and ideals could not have been formed in a vacuum, and I hope to show that his story opens up a seam of interest and meaning for the historian that runs deeper than the merely anecdotal or picaresque. In this chapter I plan to work outwards from the details of the case in order to trace and identify some broader patterns of religious and ethnic conflict in mid-sixteenth-century Europe. Placed in its appropriate context, the story of the priests’ abortive mission can function in a manner akin to the hinge of a diptych, linking together two sharply contrasting portrayals of religious change in Henrician England, the one a flattering self-portrait, the other a harsh caricature. Viewing these contested versions side by side invites us to question some of the familiar paradigms which have informed our views both of the nature of the Henrician Reformation, and of the development of Anglo-Spanish relations in the sixteenth century. II To begin this process it is necessary to look towards the milieu from which the two Spaniards came, to follow their path back across the Bay of Biscay to the coast of northern Spain, and to start searching for the connections between the outlook and preoccupations of the lower Spanish clergy, and the religious changes that were taking place in early Tudor England. From the records of interrogation, and the documents carried by the priests themselves into England, a little can be pieced together about their personal histories in the years before their ill-fated expedition. Both were natives of San Roman, a village a couple of miles to the west of Santander on the Atlantic coastline of northern Spain.8 This was in Cantabria, the Castilian province lying between the Basque country to the east and Asturias and Galicia to the west. Then as now, Cantabria was a mountainous region, its inhabitants known as montañeses, highlanders.9 But in the 8 San Roman is a common Spanish place-name, there being at least six other villages across the Peninsula with this title. That the priests originated from the Cantabrian coast, however, seems virtually certain from the details about Ladron’s parents recorded in his dispensation to advance to the priesthood: his mother was a native of San Roman, and his father of Hoz de Anero, another village in the close vicinity. 9 On Cantabria in the sixteenth century, see J.L. Casado, M. Echegaray, A. Rodriguez and M. Vaquerizo, Cantabria a Traves de su Historia: La Crisis del Siglo XVI (Santander, 1979); J.L. Casado Soto, Cantabria en los Siglos XVI y XVII (Santander, 1986). The religious history of the region in the early modern period is covered by J.F. Montes, El Clero en Cantabria en la Edad Moderna (Santander, 1996). A classic study of Cantabrian religious attitudes in a later period is W.A. Christian, Person and God in a Spanish Valley (New York and London, 1972).



first half of the sixteenth century it was also part of Spain’s window on the world, an important centre for trade with northern Europe. Along with other north-eastern ports, such as Laredo, Portugalete, Bermeo, Fuenterrabia, San Sebastián and Bilbao, Santander participated in the triangular pattern of trade linking Spain, Flanders and England, a pattern that particularly involved London and Southampton, but also drew in Exeter, Plymouth and Dartmouth (Ladron’s point of entry to England). Cloth, leather, skins, pewter, lead and wheat all came from England into Spanish markets via the Cantabrian and Basque ports, while iron and wool travelled in the other direction.10 A sizeable English merchant community was based in these northern ports, which could be reached by sea from south-west England in less than a week.11 Ladron and Abbad thus sprang from a society which knew about England and the English. Indeed, one of the few hard facts about their intentions which the interrogators were able to glean from them in July 1541 was that they had an acquaintance in England, a London-based merchant named Francisco de Guebera, whom they hoped would advance them money.12 It seems, however, that Ladron’s journey to England did not proceed directly from Cantabria, in either a geographical or intellectual sense. Though Santander, and its satellite parish of San Roman, lay in the diocese of Burgos, both priests seem to have been performing their clerical functions in the diocese of Calahorra, lying some way to the south-east in the Ebro valley of the province of Rioja. It was here in December 1540 that Ladron had been ordained deacon in the appropriately bellicose-sounding church of Santa Maria de Victoria.13 Calahorra itself was a fairly unpre10 The most useful study of Anglo-Spanish trade in this period is still G. Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake: A Study of English Trade with Spain in the Early Tudor Period (London, 1954). See also Casado et al., Cantabria a Traves de su Historia, pp. 85 ff; Casado Soto, Cantabria en los Siglos XVI y XVII, pp. 189ff. 11 Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, p. 11. 12 TNA: PRO, SP 1/166, fos 136v, 138r (LP, xvi. 1032 (1, 2)). The Spanish presence in England had, however, declined over the first decades of the sixteenth century; in December 1540 Charles V’s ambassador, Chapuys, estimated that there were no more than six Spanish merchants resident in London: Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 16, 130. 13 TNA: PRO, E 135 6/85. There is no record in the English archives of when or where Ladron was ordained priest, though in November 1540 he had acquired a dispensation from Rome to be priested when he reached the age of 23: TNA: PRO, E 135 6/87. The church where he was ordained deacon seems likely to be the cathedral of Calahorra, which was dedicated to the Virgin, though in conjunction with the martyrs Emeterio and Celedonio: M. De Lecuona, ‘La Catedral de Calahorra: Notas Histórico-Arqueológicas’, Berceo, ii, 2 (1947), 65. There is an appropriate symbolism in the fact that in the absence of the diocesan, Ladron was ordained by the bishop of Tripoli, a deputy holding his see ‘in partibus infidelium’. Rather less appropriately, at the very time Ladron was on his mission to restore the true faith to England, Protestantism was being introduced into Valladolid by a native of Burgos named Francisco San-Roman. See F. Meyrick, The Church in Spain (London, 1892), p. 390.



possessing place. Despite a distinguished past as a centre of Roman rule, it was reported in 1562 to be a town of ‘very little authority’.14 The population in the 1570s was just over a thousand, and one historian of early modern Spain has described it as an ‘overgrown village’. In the year of Ladron’s ordination, the great local excitement was a dispute over the running of bulls in the precincts of the cathedral.15 But in one particular way, Calahorra was distinguished in the years the two priests found their way there: it had become one of the leading centres in northern Spain for the detection and punishment of heresy, the seat of the Navarrese tribunal of the Inquisition. This had come about through accident rather than design. When French armies invaded Navarre in May 1521, the tribunal fled westwards and came to a halt in Calahorra, the nearest episcopal town. It was to remain there, despite complaints that the town was remote and could not provide the requisite legal and theological expertise, until 1570 when it relocated to the larger Riojan town of Logroño. Throughout the middle decades of the century, the Inquisition at Calahorra exercised jurisdiction over Navarre, parts of Old Castile, and the Basque provinces, including the important trading ports of Bilbao and San Sebastián. In an administrative if not a geographical sense, then, Calahorra was in the front line as fears intensified over the introduction of ‘Lutheranism’ into Spain by foreign merchants trading in the Biscayan ports. In early 1539 the Calahorran Inquisition began a sweep into the Basque country, and uncovered a knot of English ‘heretics’ at San Sebastián. In May of that year a young Fleming and naturalised Englishman named John Tack was burned at Bilbao, the first foreign Protestant to be executed by the Inquisition in Spain.16 In this climate an idealistic and impressionable young priest might well be encouraged to perceive England as a source of heretical contamination, or as a potential mission territory as much in need of true Catholic teachers as New Spain or Peru.

14 W. Monter, Frontiers of Heresy: The Spanish Inquisition from the Basque Lands to Sicily (Cambridge, 1990), p. 144. Calahorra had been an episcopal seat since the fourth century, though the Middle Ages witnessed repeated attempts to move the see to the town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. This was settled by a papal bull of 1232 establishing the diocese of Calahorra and La Calzada. See I.F. Blanco, ‘Apuntes sobre la Translacion de la Silla Episcopal de Calahorra’, in Calahorra: Bimilenario de su Fundacion: Actas del I Symposium de Historia de Calahorra (1984), pp. 387–9. 15 M. García Calange, ‘Las Instituciones Municipales en la Ciudad de Calahorra en el Siglo XVII’, in Calahorra: Bimilenario de su Fundacion, p. 395; W.J. Callahan, Church, Politics and Society in Spain, 1750–1847 (Cambridge, MA, 1984), p. 6; P. Gutiérrez Achútegui, Historia de la muy noble antigua y leal ciudad de Calahorra (2nd edn, Logroño, 1981), 117. 16 Monter, Frontiers of Heresy, pp. 143–6; H. Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision (paperback edn, London, 1998), p. 100.



III With the fate of Tack we have reversed the angle of vision, from the persecution of Spaniards holding what were regarded as unorthodox views in England, to the troubles of their English counterparts in Spain. This was not an isolated case. Throughout the late 1530s and early 1540s a growing number of the English merchants trading in Spanish towns were to have brushes with the Inquisition, both in the northern ports and in the other main field of English mercantile activity, the Andalusian coastline in the vicinity of Cadiz and Seville. Their accounts of their experiences, though undoubtedly sometimes partial and selective, offer important insights into how the religious policies of Henry VIII’s government were perceived in one of England’s near neighbours, and provide an illuminating backdrop to the stage on which the Henrician authorities sought to play out their own approved version of the nature and extent of religious reform in England. English merchants in Spain were falling foul of the Inquisition as early as 1534, Thomas Cromwell raising the matter with the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, in October of that year, and again in February 1535.17 In July the scholar and diplomat John Mason reported to Thomas Starkey from Valladolid that two merchants who had brought with them ‘a follishe booke agaynst the Pope’ had been arrested and suffered confiscation of goods. They would have been burnt ‘if we had not made for them great frinds and intreatance’. By the early 1540s, the treatment of English merchants in the Emperor’s lands had become a serious diplomatic issue. In January 1540, Thomas Wyatt, Henry’s ambassador in Paris, raised the matter of ‘the evill handlyng that thei have there by the Inquisition’ with Charles V himself during the latter’s stay in France. Charles responded evasively, asserting that ‘the auctoryte of the inquisition dependid not apon him’, and that Englishmen trading in his domains must obey his laws. These protestations were somewhat disingenuous. The emperor had already intervened to protect English merchants from the Inquisition early in 1535, and was to do so again in January 1546.19 Wyatt himself claimed in 1541 that during his time as ambassador in Spain only Charles’s personal intervention had kept him out of the clutches of the inquisitors for speaking against the bishop of Rome: ‘th’emperore had myche a doe to save me’.20 But the English 17

LP, vii. 1297; viii. 189. H. Ellis (ed.), Original Letters Illustrative of English History (2nd ser., 4 vols, London, 1827), ii. 59. 19 LP, viii. 327; CSP, Spanish, ed. P. de Gayanagos et al. (15 vols in 20, London, 1862–1954), viii. 185. 20 K. Muir (ed.), Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt (Liverpool, 1963), pp. 204, 196. 18



remained distinctly unsatisfied with the king of Spain’s efforts in this behalf. Henry VIII returned to the theme in a meeting with the imperial ambassador, Van der Delft, in July 1545, complaining of seizures in Spain where ‘his subjectes were denied a hearing and called heretics’. Such treatment, he warned, would no longer be tolerated.21 Without doubt, the intensity of the potential persecution English subjects faced in Spain was affected by the state of diplomatic relations between the Emperor and the English king. It was a tap that, to some extent, Charles could turn on and off to suit his diplomatic agenda.22 But the pressure in the system appears to have been an intense popular hostility to what was thought to be happening in England, a hostility fanned by and finding its institutional outlet in the activities of the Inquisition, but that was by no means confined to the officials and employees of that body. In order to establish that this was actually the case, and to delineate some of the salient features of this popular hostility, it is necessary to look in more detail at the accounts sent home from Spain by Englishmen in the late 1530s and early 1540s. A recurrent feature of these is the suggestion that the Inquisition’s predatory interest in the opinions of English merchants was fully supported by a wide swathe of the population with whom the English came into contact, something which seems to apply equally to the English presence in the Basque provinces and Cantabria in the north, and in Andalusia in the south-west. From the Basque port of Rentería in August 1537, Hugh Typton’s advice was to keep social contacts with the Spanish to a minimum, ‘for they have not orderyd oure nassyon well this yere’.23 This was the voice of experience: in July, Typton and another merchant, Thomas Shipman, had been put to public penance in San Sebastián for words against the pope and prayer to saints, and for saying that ‘our kinge did make no lawes in England but that … did stand with godes lawes’.24 Another Englishman who learned the value of circumspection in his dealings with the locals was Thomas Pery, arrested by the Inquisition at Lepe on the Gulf of Cadiz in October 1539 after an argument with a priest over whether Henry VIII was a good Christian or a heretic. Pery was imprisoned in the Inquisition’s headquarters in the castle of Triana on the outskirts of Seville, was put to torture, and after recanting and undergoing public penance was sentenced to six months’ incarceration.25 Looking into the 21

LP, xx (1). 1087. On this point, see Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 101–2, 105, 122, 126. 23 TNA: PRO, SP 1/123, fo. 217r (LP, xii (2). 443). 24 TNA: PRO, SP 1/124, fo. 251r (LP, xii (2). 716 (2)). 25 Pery supplied a full account of his experiences in letters sent from prison in Spain to Richard Field and Ralph Vane: BL, Cotton MS Vesp. C vii, fos 91v–95r, 102r–106r. The 22



ill-treatment of Pery and other English merchants was part of the remit of Roger Basyng, a member of the royal household despatched to Spain to buy horses in the early summer of 1540. In Bilbao Basyng reported coming across ‘dyvers spytefull persones that opprobryously speke against the kynges maiesty and his councell in the busshop of Romes favour … specially relygous personnes and preestes’. If they managed to get any Englishman on his own, they would seek to debate the pope’s authority, hoping to ‘take an advanntage of his wordes’ and present him to the Inquisition. All those who had raised these matters with Basyng (who seems to have managed to remain circumspect in his replies) had insisted that ‘the busshop of Rome and his cardynalles be Ecclesiam Catholicam, and he that denyeth this, they say is an heretycke and worthy to be brunte’.26 In July, Basynge travelled south to San Lúcar to hold conference with a gathering of the ‘Ynglysh nacion’ resident in Andalusia under their newly elected governor, William Ostrych. Basyng presented them with a book of the complaints of Thomas Pery, and in reply they prepared a document confirming the veracity of Pery’s story, and describing their own collective experience of the state of relations with their Spanish hosts. This matched Basyng’s own observations in Bilbao. The inhabitants, both spiritual and temporal, would not desist ‘dayly in all places’ from vehemently dishonouring King Henry, affirming him to be ‘an heretyke and Lutheran’. Any Englishman defending his king was liable to be imprisoned with loss of goods and threats of death, and all merchants lived in fear of the Inquisition. Four or five English merchants were said still to be in the Inquisition’s prison, and others currently in England dared not return to Spain. Repeatedly, the English in Andalusia emphasised the common people’s extreme hostility towards them, and their support for the actions of the Inquisition. They ‘have no other communicacion but demande us and every of us if his grace be retorned agayne to the faith and the opinion of hollie Churche … with such malicious and slanderous woordes that it is not to be wrytten’. The danger of being arrested for ‘speking some worde in the honour of our … sovereign lorde’ was such that ‘we dare nott company nor comon with the naturalles of this cuntreth nor conacte with theym as in tyme past we have done’.27

letter to Vane is printed, with some transcription errors, in Ellis, Original Letters, ii. 139–53; an account of Pery’s tribulations is given by Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 111–18. 26 TNA: PRO, SP 1/160, fo. 152r (LP, xv. 787). 27 TNA: PRO, SP 1/161, fos 65r–67r (LP, xv. 859); Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, pp. 118–21.



While there may have been an element of playing to the gallery in the formalised complaint of the English merchants in Andalusia, the substance of their allegations is amply confirmed from other sources. Richard Abbis, who visited both Corunna and Cadiz in the late summer of 1538, judged himself well able to assess the ‘favor bothe in worde and dede that this Spanyards … bare towardes the kynges grace and his subiectes’. His perception was that ‘the Kynges subiecttes hathe her in all partis lyttel or no favor … thay all be takyn in derycion and hattyde as torkes and cawllyde eretykes and lutaryos’.28 Sir Thomas Wyatt, looking back in 1541 on his experiences as ambassador in Spain in 1538–39 similarly recalled ‘the name that Inglysshe men then had to be all Lutherans’.29 That all were likely to be tarred with the same brush was discovered by Nicholas Lesse in the Galician port of Bayona in October 1539. A Spaniard there began to taunt him, saying that King Henry was ‘a greatte favorar of heretykes’ and that the whole realm was infected with the same vice. When Lesse reproached him, reasoning that ‘on man or twayn myght offende not to condem a wholl realm’, the Spaniard threatened him, saying ‘that I was on off them’.30 This was neither the only nor the most dramatic confrontation between Englishmen and Spaniards on the Atlantic coast in 1539. In February of that year fighting broke out in Lisbon between the crews of English and French ships anchored in the harbour there. Despite their recent history of national hostilities with France, the ‘Biscayans’ present pitched in against the English until local officials restored order.31 There is an obvious danger here of painting too monochrome a picture of English experiences in Spain in the years after Henry VIII’s break with Rome. After all, English merchants remained in Spain, and AngloSpanish trade continued throughout the period. It is also legitimate to question whether all Spaniards were really filled with righteous indignation against England and all things English. At a high point of international tension between England and Spain in January 1539, a letter from William Ostrych could make mention of ‘our friends here’ who were giving ‘secret warning to take care of our goods’ as they foresaw the approach of war.32 It would also be possible to argue that the narratives in which English merchants retailed their sufferings at the hands of inquisitors and an inscrutably hostile population can be seen to exhibit, 28

BL, Cotton MS Vesp. C vii, fo. 87r (LP, xiii (2). 429). Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt, p. 204. 30 TNA: PRO, SP 1/155, fo. 99r–v (LP xiv (2). 659). 31 CSP, Spanish, vi (1). 109. Religious sympathies were probably reinforced by the fact that the French were heavily outnumbered, and had taken up the cry ‘Empire! Empire!’ 32 LP, xiv (1). 158. 29



like so many other documentary records of the period, distinctly ‘fictive’ qualities, in which themes of simple patriotism and guileless victimhood are consciously fashioned. Nonetheless, the multiplication of such reports does appear to provide clear evidence of the existence, if not of an unproblematically hostile ‘public opinion’, at least of a prevalent ‘public discourse’, in terms of which it was increasingly legitimate to regard the English ipso facto as tainted with heresy. These reports, moreover, are echoed by evidence coming from areas outside the Iberian peninsula. In November 1538 Henry’s ambassadors in Brussels were challenged over dinner that ‘religion was extinct in Englande’.33 The following year Lord Lisle complained that the religious controversies in Calais had led ‘universally in all parts overseas, as France and Flanders and other exterior parts, to run into great slanders’, endangering all the king’s subjects. As evidence that ‘the people of the said exterior parts have conceived very evil opinions towards our nation’, he cited a recent case in Picardy, where a priest refused to begin mass when he saw an Englishman in the church. The rest of the congregation ‘plucked him out of the church and churchyard by the ears’. In the village of Marguison, the people had refused burial in the churchyard to an Englishman’s child being nursed there.34 Writing to the duke of Norfolk from Bruges in July 1540, Richard Pate reported claims being made locally that ‘all pietie and religion having no place was banished owte of Inglande’.35 In the same letter of 2 September 1541 in which the Council reported the continued obstinancy of Pedro Ladron, reference was made to an enclosed letter of complaint from certain English merchants ‘by the which letter you shall perceve how unkyndely Englishmen be delt withall by the Frenchmen’.36 That Englishmen could plausibly be portrayed as the archetypal purveyors of heresy is suggested by an incident in Lisbon in the first weeks of 1539. The imperial ambassador there, Luis Sarmiento de Mendoza, reported to Mary of Hungary, governor of the Netherlands, that placards had been placed in churches containing ‘the most detestable heresies that could be imagined’. Mendoza thought the culprit most likely to be some ‘literary Jew’, but the placards had appeared with a quatrain under them stating that ‘all inquiries would be vain and fruitless, as the placards were the work, not of a Castilian, French, Italian or Portuguese subject, but of an Englishman’. The claim was clearly designed to be plausible, as well as to 33

TNA: PRO, SP 1/139, fo. 164v (LP, xiii (2). 880). The Lisle Letters, ed. M St Clare Byrne (6 vols, London and Chicago, 1981), v. 553. 35 TNA: PRO, SP 1/161, fo. 87r (LP, xv. 876). Pate affirmed, however, that since the fall of Cromwell, and in the light of his own assurances, such misconceptions had abated. 36 TNA: PRO, SP 1/167, fo. 16r (LP, xvi. 1141). 34



maximise offence with its assertions of impunity. Predictably, Mendoza commented that ‘all this proceeds from there not being in Portugal a Holy Inquisition’.37 IV In all of this an obvious and significant irony becomes apparent. A great many of the cases cited above in which foreigners, Spaniards above all, seem to perceive England as a hub of heretical depravity coincide exactly with the period when, in the view of many historians, the Henrician Reformation was entering its most conservative phase. In November 1538, according to one influential recent account, ‘Henry VIII stopped the Reformation dead’.38 The following year saw the passing of the Act of Six Articles, which reaffirmed transubstantiation, private masses, communion in one kind, religious vows, clerical celibacy and auricular confession. In 1543 the King’s Book ruled firmly against justification by faith, and an ‘Act for the Advancement of True Religion’ placed severe restrictions on access to vernacular Scripture. Historians of the Henrician Reformation remain divided about how ‘conservative’ the 1540s actually were,39 but one thing is beyond dispute. This was a period when Henry was desperate to vindicate his orthodoxy to the outside world, to project an image of himself as a ‘Christian, Catholic prince’.40 No doubt this was how the king genuinely saw himself, but questions of policy had a part to play as well. In the late 1530s Henry had been haunted by the prospect of a General Council convening under papal auspices, and had also been severely rattled by the brief Franco-imperial entente inaugurated by the Truce of Nice in June 1538.41 A draft treatise of 1539, headed ‘A sumarie declaration of the feith uses and observacions in England’, and clearly intended for an overseas audience, provides an intriguing insight into the Henrician Reformation as the king and his advisers wanted others to see 37

CSP, Spanish, vi (1). 109–10. C. Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993), p. 152. The crucial indicators here are said to be Henry’s proclamation against heresy of that month, and the trial of the sacramentarian, John Lambert. Haigh’s chapter on the 1540s is entitled ‘Reformation Reversed’. 39 For suggestions that official policy in the 1540s remained radical in significant respects, see D. MacCulloch, ‘Henry VIII and the Reform of the Church’, in idem (ed.), The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy and Piety (Basingstoke, 1995), pp. 176–7; G.W. Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy, 1533–1546: Henry VIII and the Search for the Middle Way’, Historical Journal, 41 (1998), 321–49. 40 See below, Chapter 10. 41 See below, pp. 209–10, 224–5. 38



it.42 The text began dramatically with the claim that ‘Englishmen have forsaken Satan his satellites and all workes of darkenes’, and proceeded to itemise what ‘Englishmen’ believed, including a resounding assertion of the fundamental Catholic orthodoxy of Henry’s Church and nation: Englishemen deteste the anabatistes [sacramentaries and all other heresies] and with grete reverence do solempnise holy baptism, the sacrament of the blessed body and blud of Christ and other sacramentes and sacramentalls as they have done in tymes passed with all the laudable ceremonys and [dayly] masses, and do the [other] service of god in their churches as honourably and devotely [paye tythes and offeringes truly] as ever they did and [as any men] do in any part of christendom.43

This was the line Henry expected his ambassadors abroad to pursue on every available opportunity. The instructions the king drafted for Ralph Sadler on his departure to Scotland in February 1540 emphasised the importance of ensuring that James V was not deceived by ‘persuasion of untrue and fayned tales’, and was not to think of him ‘otherwise than of every Christen and Catholique prince as he is in dede’.44 In his conversation with the Emperor in January 1540, Thomas Wyatt argued the unreasonableness of the Inquisition’s pursuit of English merchants on the grounds that Henry ‘concurrid and agreid with all notable ceremonys usid in the cyrche with punishmentes of heresis, as Sacramentarys, Anabaptistes and other’. ‘The difference alone’, he suggested, ‘was but abowt the bishopp of Rome.’45 It was a source of considerable irritation to the English authorities that the Spanish seemed incapable of grasping that (putting aside England’s more enlightened attitude towards the papacy) the two nations shared the same faith. The distinct asymmetry of treatment experienced by Henry’s subjects in Spain, and Charles’s subjects in England, was an issue featuring prominently in the instructions given to Wyatt’s successor, John Mason, on his departure for Spain late in 1540. Mason was to threaten to ‘rendre the semblable’ if Englishmen continued to be ‘most extreamely, rigorouslye and iniustlyye handled there’.46 On an earlier occasion, complaining to Chapuys about the ill-treatment of Englishmen by the Inquisition, Thomas Cromwell made the aggrieved

42 TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fos 198–206 (LP, xiv (1). 402). The document is discussed by G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: the Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 195–8, where the hand is identified as that of Thomas Derby, clerk of the Privy Council, evidence of the treatise’s ‘official’ status. 43 TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fo. 198r (interlineations in square brackets). 44 BL, Cotton MS Calig. B i, fos 59v, 62v–63r (LP, xii (1). 1313). 45 Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt, 124. 46 TNA: PRO, SP 1/164, fos 53r–v (LP, xvi. 354).



protestation that ‘if they had been convicted of real heresy, the king and his council would have been glad that they had been burned’.47 The definition of ‘real heresy’ is of course the very point at issue, and Cromwell was begging some pretty big questions. Nonetheless, a significant and longstanding strand of historiographical opinion has tended to vindicate the line advanced by Wyatt and Cromwell in their diplomatic roles, and to view the religious settlement enforced by Henry VIII as a kind of ‘Catholicism without the pope’. In this approach, emphasis is laid on Henry’s determination to retain the sacramental structure of traditional Catholicism, particularly the mass, with a concomitant tendency, either implicitly or explicitly, to interpret such striking features of the Henrician Reformation as the destruction of shrines and images, and the dissolution of monasteries as essentially marginal to the preservation of ‘Catholicism’ in England.48 The royal supremacy itself is classified as a jurisdictional rather than doctrinal matter.49 Other historians, some writing from within the Catholic tradition, have not agreed, arguing that by severing links with the papacy, the Ecclesia Anglicana disqualified itself from membership of the universal Catholic Church – in contemporary terms, the view of Thomas More rather than Thomas Wyatt.50 Yet a criticism that can be made of all sides in this long-running controversy is that they have tended to reify a construct that is by definition highly unstable, contingent and contested. Orthodoxy, like beauty, resides in the eye of the beholder, and judgements as to whether or not the Henrician Church was really ‘Catholic’ are the business of theologians, not historians.51 To Pedro Ladron, it is quite clear that the papal 47 LP, viii. 189. It does seem to be the case that most of the English merchants troubled by the Inquisition in 1534–46 were arrested for espousing views which would not have been considered heretical at home. Of course, in their letters of complaint to contacts and patrons in England, the victims had a vested interest in stressing that their ‘crimes’ amounted to no more than defending the ecclesiastical policies of their sovereign. 48 See, for example, A.F. Pollard, Henry VIII (London, 1902), pp. 310–11; G. Constant, The Reformation in England: I The English Schism, tr. R.E. Scantlebury (New York, 1934), pp. 430–35; H.M. Smith, Henry VIII and the Reformation (London, 1948), pp. 167, 452, and more recently, G. Redworth, In Defence of the Church Catholic: The Life of Stephen Gardiner (Oxford, 1990), pp. 48–9. 49 Connell-Smith, for example, comments that in Henry’s reign ‘the religious question … was clearly not yet one of doctrine’ and that ‘the religious quarrel at this stage was political rather than doctrinal’: Forerunners of Drake, pp. 107, 198. 50 E.C. Messenger, The Reformation, the Mass and the Priesthood (2 vols, London, 1936–37), i. vi, 240; P. Hughes, The Reformation in England (3 vols, London, 1950–54), i. 197, 217, 278, 360; J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (London, 1968), p. 399; P. O’Grady, Henry VIII and the Conforming Catholics (Collegeville, MN, 1990), pp. 10, 122; R. Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation (Basingstoke, 1993), pp. 171–2. 51 For further discussion of this point, see below, Chapter 9.



supremacy was not a matter of church government, but a crucial issue touching the faith. In this, he was by no means unusual. The priest who clashed with Thomas Pery in Ayamonte thought Henry VIII a heretic because he would be ‘pope within hym selfe in his reyme’,52 and as we have seen, it was over the issue of the royal supremacy that the citizens of Bilbao seemed to want to pick fights with Roger Basyng in June 1540. In October 1538, Cromwell’s correspondent in Seville, Richard Abbis, bemoaned that ‘all our nashon her is abhoryde and saythe wee be erytykes, and is bycawsethe kynges grace wryttes in his tytull as most worthy suprym hed of the church’. Indeed, Spanish courts would admit no documents bearing the title, which had made it impossible for one Mr Rochis to recover 12,000 ducats from the executors of Thomas Howell bequeathed to the Drapers’ Hall.53 This legal barrier was to be a recurrent irritant. In July 1536, Henry himself had raised it with the imperial ambassador, complaining of the imprisonment of one of his subjects for exhibiting in judgement ‘a certain power’ naming the king as Supreme Head. It was an issue about which Henry understandably had strong feelings: ‘he knew not what injury could be greater than to take away from him that title and prerogative which God and reason had given him.’54 Chapuys promised to write to the emperor about it, but Spanish prickliness about the issue showed no signs of abating. In June 1545 reports were being forwarded to Paget that English merchants ‘ar not only very moche empeched in Spayn by thinquisitors but also somtyme in other courtes repelled from pursuing their right as persons excommunicate and heretikes, in the whiche the kinges majestie is also named’.55 Meanwhile, the matter of the king’s title continued to bedevil Anglo-imperial relations at the highest level. In early 1543 plans for an anti-French alliance were immensely complicated by Charles’s refusal to sign any treaty according Henry the style of Supreme Head, and Henry’s determination not to concede on the issue, an impasse only broken by an implicit agreement by both sides to read what they wished into the form ‘Defender of the Faith, etc.’.56 Along with the royal supremacy, the issues that seem to have resonated most with foreign observers, and to have provided for them the most compelling evidence of England’s slide into heresy, were the actions taken in the Henrician campaign against ‘superstition’ – the treatment of images, relics, shrines and monasteries. This was explicitly recognised by 52 53 54 55 56

BL, Cotton MS Vesp. C vii, fo. 102r. TNA: PRO, SP 1/137, fo. 244r (LP, xiii (2). 660). LP, xi. 40. TNA: PRO, SP 1/202, fo. 105r (LP, xx (1). 981). Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, pp. 439–40.



the 1539 ‘Declaration of the feith’ which, while presenting the king’s crackdown on various aspects of traditional religion as godly and justified, admitted that ‘calumnators do diffame and slaunder the nation thereby, sayng that Inglyshmen have put down the christen religion, churches, holy dayes, pardons, images and brent holy saintes and reliques’.57 This was precisely what some were saying in Brussels in 1538. Henry’s ambassadors there reported meeting with a nobleman who told them ‘it was thought in thise partyes of many … that saintes were burned, and al that was taken for holye clerely subverted’.58 Among the ‘slanders and obloquies’ Richard Pate had been hearing in Bruges were claims that ‘we nother observed holydays nor regarded sainctes as we had, none of there images stonding within our churches’, that the English ‘no more fasted then dogges, the lent abrogated’.59 In October 1538, Cromwell’s agent Thomas Theobald was reporting from Padua that ‘they have made here a wonderous matter and reporte off the shryne and bornyng of the Idols bournt at Canterberye’.60 These motifs are particularly prominent in the encounters Englishmen reported with Spanish critics. To the Spaniard who berated Nicholas Lesse at Bayona in October 1539, the clinching evidence that Englishmen ‘were all heretykes’ was the fact of their king having ‘cast forthe off all hys chyrches all manner off ymages’.61 Particularly revealing in this respect is the case of Thomas Pery, already referred to. Here the catalyst for the quarrel with a local priest, and the subsequent preferal of heresy charges by the Inquisition was the priest’s detection in Pery’s warehouse in Ayamonte near Seville of a large brass bell, which a colleague of Pery’s had imported and intended to sell. Rightly or not, the priest believed the bell to be spoil from a dissolved religious house, provoking the outburst: ‘what a goode Crysten is yowre Kinge of Ynglande to pute downe the monesterys and to take a waye the belles’. Pery responded to the provocation, in the event unwisely, by challenging the priest ‘that if yowe thinke that he be not a goode Crystyane go yowe thyther and showe his grace so’. The priest, in this respect clearly a more cautious individual than Pedro Ladron, answered ‘that he had neyde to have more helpe’ to undertake such an endeavour, and after further exchange of words he hurried off to delate Pery to the Inquisition. Later, when the inquisitors demanded what 57

TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fo. 202r. TNA: PRO, SP 1/139, fo. 164v (LP, xiii (2). 880). 59 TNA: PRO, SP 1/161, fo. 87r (LP, xv. 876). 60 H. Ellis (ed.) Original Letters Illustrative of English History (11 vols in 3 series, London, 1824–26), III, iii. 128. He added that it was believed the King and his council were become sacramentarians, on account of overtures to Henry from the Elector of Saxony: the Italians Theobald spoke to clearly had a shaky grasp of Lutheran eucharistic theology. 61 TNA: PRO, SP 1/155, fo. 99r (LP, xiv (2). 659). 58



evidence he had for his claim that Henry VIII was a good Christian, Pery made answer in terms which the king himself would surely have applauded: hys grace hathe cawssyde openly to be proclaymyde throwe owt his reyme commandyng all hys trew and feythefwll subgettes to upserwe and keype all manner of holly sacrementes and sacrementaws, and all holly serwes to be sownge and saide in all paryschyre [parishes] and chyrchis throwe owit his Reyme, to the oner and glory of gode, and that hys grace hym selfe dowthe dayly here masse and serwe gode within hys owyne chappell whiche is within his owne manner, and confessyth hym selfe, and recewithe hys maker yerlye acording to the lawdebull usse and costom of our holy mother churche, and so commandythe all hys subgettes to do the same apone payne of deythe, and also to keype the yemberinge fastys and all other fasting dayes acording to the olde ansyent costome.

This eloquent assertion of English religious practice as el catolicismo sin el papa was substantially that which Wyatt would proffer to Charles V in Paris early the next year, but it made little impression on the Seville Inquisition. Repeatedly, Pery was pressed on whether he had said and believed that the king did well to put down monasteries and take away bells, and eventually under torture he admitted he had done so. The judge in the case, Pero Diez, was anxious that Pery should understand the true character of his sovereign, and his words, assuming Pery reported them accurately, provide a revealing sketch of the Henry VIII inhabiting the imaginations of middle-ranking Spanish clergy: ‘abowit x or xii yere a gone your kyng wrytte agaynste Lwtther that greyt erytycke, and no crysten kynge so myche as he, and nowe he is the gretteste erytycke in the worlde, and yf we had hym heyere we wolde brone hym, all the world showlde not sawe hym’. He was, moreover, ‘a wery tyranitte, and a man qwyller … and spendithe hys tyme in all vysshwsness, and in howntyng and halkynge’. Having forsaken his lawful wife, he took another ‘and lewyde with hir in a vowtery; and within shorte space after he cawssid hir heyde to be stroken of’.62 Pery’s misfortunes were a cause célèbre, but he was not the only Englishman for whom the dissolution of the monasteries created severe difficulties. According to the English merchants assembled at San Lúcar in July 1540, it was the usual procedure of the Inquisition to demand of English suspects ‘yf they thynke the kinge doo well to pulle downe abbays and monasteryes and to put the relligious men to deth’.63 62 BL, Cotton MS Vesp. C vii, fos 102r, 104r, 105v. It is perhaps surprising that remarks of the kind attributed to Diez about Henry’s repudiation of Katherine of Aragon, and his subsequently lurid matrimonial life, do not figure more prominently in the reports coming back from Spain. It is possible that English correspondents may have filtered out this topos from their accounts of what Spaniards were saying as too sensitive to be directly alluded to. 63 TNA: PRO, SP 1/161, fo. 66v (LP, xv. 859).



The fall of the monasteries also dogged the progress of Henry’s envoy, Roger Basyng, who was closely monitoring the fate of Pery and other English prisoners. From Seville in August 1540 he reported he had been arrested for debt at the suit of a certain Frenchman, who then accused him of being a Lutheran, solely on the grounds that he had been granted the farm of an abbey by Henry, ‘thynkyng thereby to have the mor favour and advantage against me’.64 As we have seen, a horror at the fate of religious houses played a significant part in Pedro Ladron’s indictment of religious policy in England. V In fact, it is now possible to acknowledge that the views espoused by Pedro Ladron before Bishop Salcott and Archbishop Cranmer in 1541 – that Henry’s repudiation of the pope was a departure from the faith, that the putting down of monasteries was a scandal – seem fairly typical of what many Spanish clerics and laypeople were thinking and saying in the late 1530s and 1540s. The emergence of forms of mutual hostility – political, cultural and religious – between England and Spain in the sixteenth century is not, of course, a new topic. But historians have shown decidedly more interest in how the English came to perceive the Spanish than in the obverse of the relationship. We have become familiar with the ‘Black Legend’ of Spanish cruelty and fanaticism as it developed in England after the reign of Mary Tudor,65 but arguably not enough attention has been paid to the formation of an ‘English Black Legend’ taking shape in Catholic Europe, particularly in Spain, in the reign of Henry VIII. The English king, who regarded himself as a paragon of Catholic orthodoxy, and wished the rest of Europe to see him in the same light, appears to have been widely represented in Spain as a ruthless iconoclast, a barbaric traducer of sacred places and sanctified things, a slaughterer of holy and sanctified persons.66 From this perspective, the judgement of the 64

TNA: PRO, SP 1/162, fo. 62r (LP, xv. 977); SP 1/164, fo. 53r (LP, xvi. 354). W.S. Maltby, The Black Legend in England: The Development of Anti-Spanish Sentiment, 1558–1660 (Durham, NC, 1971). See also C. Gibson (ed.), The Black Legend. Anti-Spanish Attitudes in the Old World and the New (New York, 1971). 66 Conceivably, the horror that Henry’s iconoclastic actions seem to have aroused was a reflection of the centrality to contemporary Spanish religious culture of shrines, relics and a general sense for the embodiment of the sacred, as documented by W.A Christian in his Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton, NJ, 1981). How uniquely Spanish these instincts were, however, is another question. Images and localised saint-cults were certainly a crucial part of pre-Reformation English religious life. See E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992). 65



evangelically minded dean of Exeter, Simon Heynes, in May 1539 that Henry was ‘cownted in all the world a Christen Catholik prince’ was wishful thinking of the highest order.67 The significance of this for religious and cultural developments within Spain is worth reflecting upon, if a historian of Tudor England may be permitted briefly so to do. The failure of the Reformation in Spain is a familiar historical theme: a short trajectory from the beginning of moves against Erasmian alumbrados in the 1520s to the spectacular series of autos-da-fé in Valladolid and Seville which eradicated the small pockets of indigenous Protestantism in 1558–62.68 Nonetheless, historians of the Inquisition have consistently recognised the importance of a supposed ‘Lutheran’ threat in revitalising an institution which by the early decades of the sixteenth century had been left without much of a raison d’être by virtue of the very success of its campaigns against conversos and ‘judaisers’. The number of actual sympathisers with the Reformation in Spain may have been extremely small, but the Inquisition enjoyed considerable success in mobilising, or even creating, popular concerns about Protestant heresy.69 Thus, in later sixteenth-century Spain, the ‘Lutheran’ became ‘a bogeyman to be raised against all forms of dissent quite unconnected with genuine Protestantism’, ‘a permanent spectre … which was made to “collaborate” in the task of stabilising a feudal, aristocratic and authoritarian social order’.70 The fact that some Spaniards seem to have regarded inglés and luterano as virtually interchangeable terms strengthens the case for this being seen as a discursive strategy already firmly under way in the 1530s and 1540s. These, J.H. Elliott has argued, were crucial decades in the development of the Spanish Inquisition, the period when it transformed itself into ‘a great apparatus operating through delation and denunciation’. He suggests also that it was about this time that most Spaniards were coming to consider the Holy Office as ‘a necessary protection’.71 67

BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E v, fo. 60v (LP, xiv (1). 1055). Good short recent surveys are A. Gordon Kinder, ‘Spain’, in A. Pettegree (ed.), The Early Reformation in Europe (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 215–37; H. Kamen, ‘Spain’, in B. Scribner, R. Porter and M. Teich (eds), The Reformation in National Context (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 202–14. 69 S.T. Nalle, God in La Mancha: Religious Reform and the People of Cuenca, 1500–1650 (Baltimore and London, 1992), pp. 32–4, 56–7; S. Haliczer, Inquisition and Society in the Kingdom of Valencia 1478–1834 (Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford, 1990), pp. 293–4; J. Contreras, ‘The Impact of Protestantism in Spain, 1520–1600’, in S. Haliczer (ed. and tr.), Inquisition and Society in Early Modern Europe (London and Sydney, 1987), pp. 47–63. 70 Kinder, ‘Spain’, p. 229; Contreras, ‘Impact of Protestantism’, p. 62. 71 J.H. Elliott, Imperial Spain 1469–1716 (paperback edn, Harmondsworth, 1970), p. 218. Contreras agrees in identifying the 1540s as a turning point in the development of ‘religious intransigence’: ‘Impact of Protestantism’, p. 52. 68



Historians of early modern Spain often recognise the nationalistic, indeed xenophobic, impulses that ran through the institutions and the culture of the Spanish Counter-Reformation,72 but none to my knowledge has drawn particular attention to the processes by which England, a traditional ally and trading partner, seems to have come to represent a dire moral warning, an exemplar of national apostacy. Though clearly by no means a sole or sufficient explanation, it can be suggested that the growing identification of England with a heretical/Lutheran ‘other’ played a noticeable role in firming up that commitment to absolute ideological purity characteristic of Habsburg Spain – what one historian of Spanish Catholicism has described as ‘the development of a strong sense of mission, and even an explicit “chosen people” complex, among Spanish leaders and spokesmen and apparently many of the common people as well’.73 Pedro Ladron exemplified these trends in an advanced but not, I would suggest, abnormal or pathological form. A couple of years before Ladron’s journey, Richard Abbis had found many in Cadiz who ‘say here playnly that they trust shortly to have war with Ynglande, and to set in the byshop of Rome with all his dyssypuls agayn in Yngland’.74 A couple of years after Ladron’s arrest, Henry’s ambassador in Spain was warning that ‘dyverse naughtie freers in Sevill’ planned to poison the English king by sending over as a gift ‘dyverse costelye boxes of marmelado’.75 To understand fully the ways in which news about (and hostile views of) events in England were diffused and disseminated in mid-sixteenthcentury Spain would require considerable further research, but the pulpit must have been a crucial medium: the peninsula in the early 1540s seemed to be full of preachers who, as Wyatt protested to the emperor, ‘diffame the kyng and the nation and provok your subiectes agaynst the kinges’.76 In this context, Ladron’s mission seems more like an overly enthusiastic response to a prevailing national mood, than a bizarre aberration. Recent work on other early modern ‘fanatics’ has made the point 72 Kamen, Spanish Inquisition, p. 100; Nalle, God in La Mancha, p. 208; Contreras, ‘Impact of Protestantism’, pp. 53, 61: ‘The foreigner was always a potential enemy because it was alleged that his very nature inclined him towards heresy.’ 73 S.G. Payne, Spanish Catholicism: An Historical Overview (Madison, WI, 1984), p. 45. 74 BL, Cotton MS Vesp. C vii, fo. 87r (LP, xiii (2). 429). 75 TNA: PRO, SP 1/176, fo. 91v (LP, xviii. 231 (1)). 76 Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt, pp. 123–6. It seems likely also that the Inquisition’s ‘Edict of Faith’, which was proclaimed annually in Lent in cathedrals and other churches, had a role to play here. From the early 1530s, denunciations of ‘Lutheranism’ were added to the traditional descriptions of Jewish and Islamic ‘heresies’: Haliczer, Inquisition and Society in Valencia, pp. 293–4; H.C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain (4 vols, New York, 1906–7), ii. 91–101; iii. 422.



that it is often more helpful to explore them as figures who act as channels for discourses and experiences latent within the networks from which they emerge, rather than merely to dismiss them as alien outsiders.77 Furthermore, there is a natural tendency to regard as fanatics only those who were ultimately unsuccessful in their aims. After all, Ladron arrived in England only a year after the formal ratification by the pope of a new religious order founded by another religious enthusiast from northern Spain’s Atlantic coast, the members of which were to play a significant role in attempts to win England back to the ‘true faith’ in a subsequent generation.78 Ladron was no Ignatius Loyola, and his experiences in England in the summer of 1541 were undoubtedly a folie de grandeur. But they can also be seen as a microcosmic encounter between the religious sensibilities of Spain on the cusp of the Counter-Reformation, and England in the throes of that highly ambiguous construction, the Henrician Reform, a prelude to decades, if not centuries, of mutual mistrust and misunderstanding to come.

77 See, for example, A. Walsham, ‘“Frantick Hacket”: Prophecy, Sorcery, Insanity, and the Elizabethan Puritan Movement’, Historical Journal, 41 (1998); P. Marshall, ‘Judgement and Repentance in Tudor Manchester: The Celestial Journey of Ellis Hall’, in K. Cooper and J. Gregory (eds), Retribution, Repentance, and Reconciliation, Studies in Church History, 40 (2004). 78 It is worth noting here that one of Ignatius’s early companions (and first biographer), Pedro de Ribadeneira, who entered the Society in August 1540, and who was on the brink of spearheading a Jesuit mission to England in Mary’s reign, went on in later life to compose what became for Spaniards the standard (hostile) account of the English Reformation: Historia ecclesiastica del scisma del reyno de Inglaterra (Madrid, 1588). See J.W. O’Malley, The First Jesuits (Cambridge, MA, 1993), p. 36; T.M. McCoog, The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541–1588 (Leiden, 1996), pp. 343–8.

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Forgery and Miracles In June 1534, as the final ties connecting the English Church to Rome were inexorably being severed, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issued an order for the preservation of ‘unity and quietness’. For the space of a year, preachers were to steer clear of six topics which ‘have caused dissension amongst the subjects of this realm’, namely, ‘purgatory, honouring of saints, that priests may have wives, that faith only justifieth, to go on pilgrimages, to forge miracles’.1 The first four items on this list represent important doctrinal flash-points of the early Reformation; the fifth, an increasingly contentious ingredient of popular religious culture. But the sixth – ‘to forge miracles’ – is a more puzzling and arcane inclusion, which those scholars noticing the document have generally passed over without comment, or glossed as a reference to miracles in the round.2 Starting from this textual loose end, this chapter aims to unravel a thread which can be found running through the course of the Reformation in Henry VIII’s reign: a persistent concern to identify and accentuate instances of the fraudulent and the counterfeit.3 From asking why the idea of ‘forged miracles’ might have been at the forefront of Cranmer’s thinking at this particular juncture, it goes on to consider the broader implications of the theme for understanding profound and long-term shifts in religious and political culture taking place from the 1530s. A significant achievement of recent scholarship has been to reinsert the miraculous as a core element of early modern religious experience, and to insist upon the fundamental lineaments of the ‘supernatural universe’ inhabited by Catholic and Protestant Europeans alike throughout the sixteenth century and beyond.4 But the following discussion stands in a 1

Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, ed. John Edmund Cox (PS, Cambridge, 1846), pp. 460–61. 2 J. Ridley, Thomas Cranmer (Oxford, 1962), p. 91; A. Kreider, English Chantries: The Road to Dissolution (Cambridge, MA, 1979), pp. 105–6; D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven and London, 1996), p. 124. 3 There has been no sustained attention to this theme, though there are insights in Margaret Aston’s magisterial work on image-breaking: England’s Iconoclasts: Laws against Images (Oxford, 1988), pp. 235–6; idem, Faith and Fire: Popular and Unpopular Religion, 1350–1600 (London, 1993), pp. 263–4, 266–70. 4 The most important works here include S. Clark, Thinking with Demons: the Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1997); R. Gillespie, Devoted People: Belief and Religion in Early Modern Ireland (Manchester, 1997); A. Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford, 1999). Effective distillations of the theme are R.W.



somewhat contrapuntal relationship to this approach, aiming to elucidate the development of a particular strain of scepticism, and its connection to a distinct moment of cultural rupture. Close attention to the meanings of ‘forgery’, I will argue, brings into focus important questions about the intellectual parentage of Henrician religious policy, and about its doctrinal and functional consistency. It also helps us better to comprehend the perplexing fragility exhibited by what Eamon Duffy has christened ‘traditional religion’ in the early years of the English Reformation.5 I Public ‘dissension’ over forged miracles in the early summer of 1534 may have been largely of the government’s own making. A few weeks prior to the issuing of Cranmer’s edict, on 20 April 1534, the execution took place at Tyburn of Elizabeth Barton, the Nun or ‘Holy Maid’ of Kent, a figure once a mere footnote in the historiography of the period, but recently the focus of considerable scholarly interest, emerging as perhaps the most formidable of all Henry’s early opponents.6 Barton was a maidservant in a Kent gentry household, who began to experience visions and trances after falling ill in 1525, and was cured of her sickness after a pilgrimage to the image of Our Lady in the chapel of Court-at-Street. Her reputation as a visionary and worker of miracles continued to grow after she became a nun at St Sepulchre’s in Canterbury, and her revelations (mostly concerning purgatory, confession and prayer to the saints) were widely publicised

Scribner, ‘Incombustible Luther: the Image of the Reformer in Early Modern Germany’, in Scribner, Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (London, 1987); P.M. Soergel, ‘The Afterlives of Monstrous Infants in Reformation Germany’, in B. Gordon and P. Marshall (eds), The Place of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2000). 5 E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992). Puzzlement about the apparent inability of local communities to resist reformist inroads into a thriving religious culture has been a notable byproduct of the ‘revisionist’ surge in English Reformation studies. For a helpful summary of the issues, see C. Marsh, Popular Religion in Sixteenth-Century England (Basingstoke, 1998), ch. 5, ‘Conclusions: The Compliance Conundrum’. 6 See R. Rex, ‘The Execution of the Holy Maid of Kent’, Historical Research, 64 (1991); D. Watt, Secretaries of God: Women Prophets in Late Medieval and Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1997), ch. 3; idem, ‘Reconstructing the Word: The Political Prophecies of Elizabeth Barton (1506–1534)’, Renaissance Quarterly, 1 (1997); E.H. Shagan, ‘Print, Orality and Communications in the Maid of Kent Affair’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 52 (2001); idem, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), ch. 2. Collectively, these works supersede the overly hagiographical account in Alan Neame, The Holy Maid of Kent. The Life of Elizabeth Barton 1506–1534 (London, 1971).



by a group of clergy around the Canterbury Benedictine Edward Bocking. But as the divorce campaign gathered pace, her revelations took a dangerously political turn, and she prophesied that Henry would not remain king for six months if he put aside Queen Katherine. Barton’s importance for this chapter resides in the orchestration of her end, a campaign of denigration channelled primarily through two public narratives: a sermon preached at Paul’s Cross, and again at Canterbury, in late 1533, and an act of attainder passed in March 1534.7 Both texts relentlessly cast Barton as a fraud and a faker, and are determined to demonstrate, rather than merely assert, the falseness of her claims. Assurances were repeatedly given that she had confessed all to be ‘counterfeited and feigned’. In her cell at St Sepulchre’s had been found ‘brimstone, arcefetida, and other stinking gommes and powders’ for staging dramatic diabolical visitations. Satan had reportedly spat in her face after his advances to her were spurned, and the napkin which wiped the spittle away was presented to her confessor, ‘black as soot and as stinking as carrion’. But Barton had simply taken soot ‘and mingled it with a stinking thing, you wot what I mean’. Another ‘solemn relic’, a letter penned for Barton by St Mary Magdalene, was ‘by much inquisition’ traced to a Canterbury monk named Hawkhurst. Barton’s veil, scorched by demonic fire, was also ‘shewn as a relic to divers’, but ‘she was the devil herself which burned the veil’.8 Not simply the deluded dupe of conservative forces, Barton was an artful instigator, her spiritual productions premeditated deceits. In the attainder, the words ‘feign’ and ‘feigned’ appear no fewer than thirty-seven times, along with much ‘hypocrisy’, ‘craft’ and ‘dissimulation’. The imperatives here were candidly admitted. Barton’s trances had brought her into ‘marvellous credit’ with the people; moreover ‘the great grudge and contradiction, which have been made against the lawful and godly marriage’ (Henry’s to Anne Boleyn) was said to have been specially grounded upon ‘false miracles and revelations’. Now that the falsehood was detected, however, the king’s subjects would never again be lured into sedition by such ‘false persuasions’.9 This was a set of equations pregnant with future possibility. Reinterpreted by the regime’s apologists, 7 ‘The Sermon against the Holy Maid of Kent and her Adherents, delivered at Paul’s Cross, November the 23rd, 1533, and at Canterbury, December the 7th’, ed. L.E. Whatmore, English Historical Review, 58 (1943); Statutes of the Realm, ed. A. Luders et al. (London, 1810–1828), iii. 446–51 (25 Hen. VIII, c. 12). 8 ‘Sermon against the Holy Maid’, 469–70, 471, 473–4; Statutes, iii. 448, 450. 9 Statutes, iii. 447; ‘Sermon against the Holy Maid’, 475. For the suggestion that the attainder may have been printed for public consumption, see G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972), p. 210n.



the life of Elizabeth Barton brought together a number of motifs which were to re-emerge with growing insistence over the course of the Henrician Reformation: unverifiable private revelations, mired in dark ulterior motives; false relics, exhibited to the credulous; contrived ‘miracles’, with entirely naturalistic explanations; pilgrimages to wonderworking images, fostered ‘for lucre’.10 Barton was an exceptionally dangerous opponent of the king’s proceedings because her manipulation of the supernatural order met expectations deeply rooted in contemporary religious culture.11 But by the same token, the reshaping of her narratives as exemplary stories of ‘forged miracles’ drew on a range of long-established interpretative possibilities. The remainder of this chapter explores where the materials for a plausible counter-hagiography based on allegations of fraud may have come from, and shows how, by the 1530s, they were combining in new ways to suggest possibilites more ambitious than the demonisation of a young Kentish nun. II In the succeeding decades Elizabeth Barton was to become a secure reference-point for popish guile and trickery, one who ‘passed all others in devilish devices’.12 Yet her exposure in 1533 came as no surprise to the growing minority of English evangelicals, able already to identify her miracles as false by the application of quite independent criteria. By the late 1520s, the discernment of ‘true’ from ‘false’ miracles had become a defining issue for the emergent evangelical movement. To William Tyndale, ends not means were what counted; Barton’s miracles, like those of the ‘Maid of Ipswich’ before her, promoted the idolatrous invocation of saints and worshipping of statues, and thus could not be true, a perception shared by other early evangelicals such as Thomas Bilney, John Frith and 10 The rector of Aldington, Richard Master, was said to have encouraged pilgrimage to the Court-at-Street chapel ‘for hys own lucre and advauntage’: Statutes, iii. 447. 11 For discussion of earlier prophetic ‘holy women’, see R. Voaden (ed.), Prophets Abroad: The Reception of Continental Holy Women in Late-Medieval England (Cambridge, 1996); C.W. Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley, 1987); Shagan, Popular Politics, pp. 134–6. 12 A Confutation of Unwritten Verities, in Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 65–6; Richard Morison, Apomaxis Calumniarum (London, 1537), fos 71r–74r; The Itinerary of John Leland, ed. L. Toulmin Smith (5 vols, London, 1964), iv. 66; John Bale, A Mysterye of Inyquyte contayned within the Heretycall Genealogye of Ponce Pantolabus (Geneva [i.e. Antwerp], 1545), fo. 30r; Henry Brinkelow, Complaynt of Roderyck Mors and The Lamentacyon of a Christen Agaynst the Cyte of London, ed. J.M. Cowper (EETS, extra ser., 22, 1874), p. 82; Edward Hall, Chronicle, ed. H. Ellis (London, 1809), pp. 803–23; William Lambarde, A Perambulation of Kent (London, 1576), pp. 149–52.



Robert Barnes: the miracles of wonder-working images were ‘but elusyons of ye deuil’.13 All necessary truths were contained within Holy Writ, and did not require miracles for their verification. However, Scripture was not silent on the subject of false miracles: the confrontation of Moses and Aaron with the sorcerers of Pharaoh (Exod. 7: 11) showed God permitting false miracles in order to harden the hearts of the unfaithful. The New Testament contained the false miracle-workers Simon Magus and Elymas (Acts 8: 9, 13: 7), as well as the words of Christ Himself (Matt. 24: 24; Mark 13: 22) that false prophets would come displaying ‘great signs and wonders’. St Paul’s warning (2 Thess. 2: 3–12) was yet more explicit: in due course Antichrist (‘that man of sin’, ‘the mystery of iniquity’) would confound the unfaithful with ‘power and signs and lying wonders’.14 Thus, suppositious miracles like the revelations of Barton were not so much ecclesiastical abuses susceptible to reformation, as powerful signifiers in a particular eschatological reading of history. Tyndale detected an increasing tempo of ‘Antichrist’s lying miracles’, deceptions which ‘grow daily more and more’. The question of instrumentality, however, could be left conveniently open: miracles either feigned by the clergy for profit and power, or transacted by the devil to confirm false doctrine.15 13 William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, ed. Henry Walter, (PS, Cambridge, 1850), pp. 89–91; G. Walker, Persuasive Fictions: Faction, Faith and Political Culture in the Reign of Henry VIII (Aldershot, 1996), p. 148; The Work of John Frith, ed. N.T. Wright (Oxford, 1978), p. 419; Robert Barnes, A Supplication Made … unto the most Excellent and Redoubted Prince King Henry the Eyght (London, 1531), fo. 138v. For the miraculous cure of Anne Wentworth, the ‘Maid of Ipswich’, at the chapel of Our Lady there in 1516, see D. MacCulloch, Suffolk and the Tudors (Oxford, 1986), pp. 143–6. 14 These texts were repeatedly cited by evangelical writers as the context for reading papist miracle-claims, both current and historical: William Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures, ed. Henry Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1848), pp. 195, 232–5, 286–7; Tyndale, Answer to More, pp. 103, 129; Frith, Work, p. 413; George Joye (?), The Souper of the Lorde, in Thomas More, The Answer to a Poisoned Book, ed. S.M. Foley and C.H. Miller (New Haven and London, 1985), pp. 335, 339–40; (Heinrich Bullinger), A Commentary upon the Seconde Epistle of S. Paul to the Thessalonians, tr. R.H. (Southwark, 1538), esp. fos 48v ff; John Bale, The Epistle Exhortatorye of an Englyshe Christyane (Antwerp, 1544), fos 3v–4r; Bale, Select Works, ed. Henry Christmas (PS, Cambridge 1849), p. 233; John Hooper, Early Writings, ed. Samuel Carr (PS, Cambridge, 1843), p. 532; Hooper, Later Writings, ed. Charles Nevinson (PS, Cambridge, 1852), p. 45; Confutation of Unwritten Verities, pp. 45–8. See also the correspondent of Cromwell’s who professed scepticism about Barton’s revelations, ‘for I have lernyd the gospell, Attendite a falsis prophetis’: BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 87r (Three Chapters of Letters relating to the Suppression of Monasteries, ed. T. Wright (CS, old ser., 26, 1843), p. 14). 15 Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, pp. 286, 325; idem, Expositions and Notes … together with The Practice of Prelates, ed. Henry Walter (PS, Cambridge 1849), pp. 268, 293. See also William Roy and Jerome Barlow, The Burial of the Mass, in E. Arber (ed.), English Reprints (London, 1871), pp. 63, 73, 94–5, 106–7, which alternates between presenting miracles as clerical inventions and as ‘the devils arte’.



For Tyndale’s leading opponent, true and false miracles performed an equally essential validating function. Much of Sir Thomas More’s 1529 Dialogue Concerning Heresies comprises a commentary on the discernment of miracles; their truth is adduced from the common consent of Christ’s Church, the testimony of credible men, and a universal belief among all nations. It was absurd for heretics to insist that the devil could transact them by God’s sufferance, but deny that God might perform them himself.16 A more doctrinaire restatement followed in More’s Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer: miracles were a mark of the true Church, and a striking characteristic of heretics down the ages was that God permitted no miracles to be performed among them.17 But this emphasis did not underwrite an indiscriminate credulity. More made a point of stressing how exceptional miracles were, and firmly committed himself to only one of the ‘great and undoubted miracles’ supposed to have taken place at pilgrimage sites: Anne Wentworth’s cure through the intercession of Our Lady of Ipswich.18 More’s scepticism about Elizabeth Barton is well attested, and of a piece with attitudes from his earlier career.19 In a dedicatory epistle of 1506, More airily announced that there was scarcely a saint’s life uncorrupted by the insertion of pious falsehoods, a sentiment firmly in line with the view of traditional hagiography taken by his friend Erasmus.20 A decade later, he mocked private revelations and the appeal to untrustworthy miracles in his defence of Erasmus against the London Carthusian John Batmanson, despairingly recounting a meeting with a Coventry Franciscan, who had attained local renown by preaching that anyone saying the psalter of the Blessed Virgin every day could not be damned: ‘the whole gist of his reasoning was dependent on miracles’. More found it laughable.21 16 Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, ed. T.M.C. Lawler et al. (New Haven and London, 1981), pp. 61–2, 71–5. 17 Thomas More, The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, ed. L.A. Schuster et al. (New Haven and London, 1973), pp. 243–6, 253, 274–8. 18 More, Dialogue, p. 92: an occasion where there could be ‘no suspycyon of faynnynge / no possybylyte of counterfettynge’. See also his Supplication of Souls, ed. Frank Manley et al. (New Haven and London, 1990), p. 197, where it is alleged that God preserves the merit of faith by ensuring that ‘apparycyons, reuelacyons, and myracles shold not be to copyouse and commune’. 19 See R. Marius, Thomas More (London, 1985), pp. 446–53. 20 Thomas More, Translations of Lucian, ed. C.R. Thompson (New Haven and London, 1974), pp. 5–7. In response to a request from Albert of Brandenburg to write some saints’ lives in 1517, Erasmus observed that they were typically ‘old wives tales … no educated or serious-minded person can read them without disgust’: The Correspondence of Erasmus, tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thomson, Collected Works of Erasmus, v (Toronto, 1979), p. 250. See also the attack on ‘fables’ and ‘ridiculous tales of miracles’ in his The Edition of St Jerome, ed. and tr. J.F. Brady and J.C. Olin, Collected Works, lxi (Toronto, 1992), pp. 19–24. 21 Thomas More, In Defense Of Humanism, ed. D. Kinney (New Haven and London, 1986), pp. 285–9.



By the time he came to write the Dialogue Concerning Heresies, More was noticeably less critical of both religious orders and popular piety, but still the possibility was frankly admitted that miracles might be faked. Three specific cases were cited. The first was a tale More claimed to have heard from his father, of a beggar in Henry VI’s reign falsely claiming to be cured of blindness at the shrine of St Alban.22 Better known was the notorious Jetzer case of 1507, a cause célèbre involving a group of Bernese Dominicans who had faked appearances of the Virgin to discredit the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.23 His third case revolved around another ‘holy maid’, Elizabeth of Leominster (Herefordshire), who in the reign of Henry VII had been enclosed behind iron grates in the priory rood loft, her only food unconsecrated eucharistic bread, sometimes seen to fly miraculously to her mouth from the paten in the prior’s hand. In the end, she confessed to being the prior’s lover and it emerged that the host-miracle depended on a device using thin wire.24 More had good reason for his apparent candour, however. Far from discrediting miracles, these were the exceptions to prove the rule, manifest instances of the providence of a God who ‘always bryngyth suche false myracles to lyght’.25 That ostensibly sacred things might be fakes was thus hardly an astonishing revelation to educated Catholics of More’s generation. Indeed, it was a trope with a venerable ancestry. By the later Middle Ages, there were longstanding anxieties on the part of clerical elites about the authenticity of relics in particular, a canon of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) ordering that pilgrims were not ‘to be deceived by lying stories or false documents, as has commonly happened in many 22 The charlatan unmasked himself when Duke Humphrey of Gloucester ascertained that despite claiming to have been blind since birth, he could identify and name colours: More, Dialogue, pp. 85–6. The incident reappears in Tyndale’s Practice of Prelates, pp. 297–8, where it is insinuated that the clergy conspired to murder Gloucester because of his talent to ‘spy false miracles’. It eventually found its way into Shakespeare (2 Henry VI, II, i, 62–165). 23 More, Dialogue, p. 88. A contemporary account is Johan Vetter, De quattor heresiarchis ordinis Praedicatorum (Nuremberg, 1509). Erasmus rehearsed the events again in the colloquy Exequiae Seraphicae of 1531: The Colloquies of Erasmus, ed. C.R. Thompson (Chicago and London, 1965), p. 502. 24 More, Dialogue, pp. 87–8. See A Confutation of Unwritten Verities, p. 64. There is a parallel with a miracle claimed by the Maid of Kent. When Henry was at mass in the Church of Our Lady in Calais in October 1532, an angel lifted the host from the hands of the priest, and delivered it to Barton, who had been invisibly transported there: BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 87v (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 15); Statutes, iii. 448. For enlightening discussion of the eucharist as ‘holy food’ in the lives of female saints, see Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast. 25 More, Dialogue, pp. 239, 88–9.



places’.26 By the fourteenth century, the false pardoner touting forged bulls, relics and miracle stories had become a stock literary character, Langland imagining a rogue pardoner beguiling ‘the ignorant folk’ with letters of indulgence, and a document ‘covered with bishops’ seals’, before splitting the proceeds with a corrupt parish priest.27 His Italian equivalent, Boccaccio’s Friar Cipolla, returns from Jerusalem exhibiting ‘a small phial containing some of the sound from the bells of Soloman’s temple’ as well as ‘one of the feathers of the Angel Gabriel’.28 The pardoner in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales employs a more homely, but no less efficacious, relic as his meal-ticket: ‘a sholder-boon, which that was of an hooly Jewes sheep’, able to cure sick livestock if washed in their drinking-water.29 Chaucer’s pardoner was at once a caricature and a stereotype, but not an unrecognisable one in early Tudor England. In 1494, and again in 1497, false pardoners were pilloried in London ‘ffor gederyng of money by a ffayned pardon’.30 The satirical genre was going strong into the early 1530s. In the interludes of John Heywood, pardoners proudly display ‘the great-toe of the Trinity’, ‘of All-Hallows, the blessed jaw-bone’, ‘a buttock-bone of Pentecost’, in addition to the nowclassic bone of ‘a holy Jewes shepe’.31 Here we are returned to the milieu of Thomas More, Heywood’s patron and uncle by marriage. In More’s Dialogue, the scandal of fraudulent relics is an argument allowed to the interlocutor known as ‘the Messenger’: reverence is often paid ‘to some olde rotten bone that was happely some tyme as Chaucer sayth a bone of

26 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. N.P. Tanner (2 vols, London, 1990), i. 263. See C. Morris, ‘A Criticism of Popular Religion: Guibert of Nogent on The Relics of the Saints’, in G.J. Cuming and D. Baker (eds), Popular Belief and Practice, Studies in Church History, 8 (Cambridge, 1972); J. Sumption, Pilgrimage: an Image of Medieval Religion (London, 1975), pp. 35–41. 27 William Langland, Piers the Ploughman, tr. J.F. Goodridge (Harmondsworth, 1966), p. 27. 28 Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, tr. G.H. McWilliam (Harmondsworth, 1972), pp. 507, 512. 29 The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L.D. Benson (3rd edn, Oxford, 1988), pp. 194–5. 30 K.W. Cameron, The Pardoner and His Pardons: Indulgences Circulating in England on the Eve of the Reformation (Hartford, CT, 1965), p. 7; J.A.F. Thomson, The Early Tudor Church and Society (London, 1993), p. 94. For earlier attacks on unauthorised pardoners, see W. Scase, Piers Plowman and the New Anticlericalism (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 142–3. 31 John Heywood, The Play Called The Four PP, in Medieval and Tudor Drama, ed. J. Gassner (New York, 1963), pp. 245–6; idem, The Pardoner and the Frere, in English Miracle Plays, Moralities and Interludes, ed. A.W. Pollard, (8th edn, Oxford, 1927), pp. 117–18. See also Cock Lorell’s Bote: A Satirical Poem, ed. E.F. Rimbault (Percy Society, London, 1843), pp. 4–8, and a similarly rumbustious Scottish treatment of the theme in Sir David Lindsay, Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estatis (EETS, original ser., 37, 1869), pp. 453–62.



some holy Iewes shepe … some one sayntes hed is shewed in .iii. places. And some one hole sayntes body lyeth in dyuers countreys’.32 In making these objections, the Messenger shows himself not so much a follower of Luther, as of Erasmus. The Dutch humanist’s scorn for the relic trade was well known to educated opinion throughout Europe, and his sharpest strictures on the topic, importantly for our purposes, have a conspicuously English setting. The 1526 colloquy Peregrinatio religionis ergo (A Pilgrimage for Religion’s Sake) is a thinly fictionalised account of visits to Walsingham and Canterbury in 1512–14, and a corrosive satire on the greed of those administering the shrines and the credulity of the worshippers. Targets include foolish beliefs about statues smiling and inclining their heads, and about letters from the Virgin delivered by angels (‘to prevent suspicion of fraud, you shall see the very autograph’). At Walsingham, Erasmus was scornful of miracle-claims: a mounted knight who had been able to gallop through a tiny gateway into the enclosure to escape his enemies, a structure housing two wonderworking wells miraculously transported there ages before. Erasmus thought the house didn’t look very old, and was pointed to a mouldy bear-skin as proof of antiquity. The shrine’s premier relic, a crystal vessel containing milk of the Virgin, fared no better at his hands. Just as Christendom had enough surviving fragments of the true cross to provide ‘a full load for a freighter’, so it was remarkable that a woman with only one child could have produced so much milk. The relic, he slyly suggested, seemed like ‘powdered chalk, tempered with white of egg’.33 By contrast, it could hardly be doubted that St Thomas Becket’s bones were actually housed at Canterbury. Erasmus was shown the martyr’s skull: ‘the top of the cranium is bared for kissing, the rest covered with silver’. Yet here too sharp practice is detected: an almshouse on the London road, from which the inmates waylay travellers with a relic purporting to be St Thomas’s shoe; the monks’ collection of linen rags, with which ‘they say, the holy man wiped the sweat from his face or neck, the dirt from his nose’. While Erasmus seems to have been prepared to play along gamely at Canterbury, his companion John Colet was repelled, shrinking from kissing an arm with flesh still attached, and refusing one of the fluid-stained rags as a gift.34 At both of 32 More, Dialogue, p. 98. More answers the objection by suggesting that apparent duplication of relics may in fact be caused by partition of the body, the coincidence of saints with similar names, or the veneration of genuine relics of saints ‘unknowen and mysnamed’: ibid., pp. 221–2. 33 Erasmus, Colloquies, pp. 288–289, 293–7, 301. For incisive remarks on the theological and cultural difficulties presented by relics of the Virgin’s milk, see N. Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 41–2. 34 Erasmus, Colloquies, pp. 305, 308, 310.



England’s leading pilgrimage sites, humanist piety and scholarship were deeply affronted by the superfluous wealth, the superstitious veneration of the relics, and, perhaps most of all, by the absence of reliable verification of their authenticity. ‘Forged miracles’ and ‘feigned relics’ were then in no sense a discovery of the early Reformation, but a medieval cliché, invested with greater moral purpose in the early sixteenth century by the strictures of Christian humanism. By the early 1530s two distinct approaches were crystallising: a broadly ‘Erasmian’ Catholic position which looked to eradicate such abuses through vigilant oversight and sound scholarship, and an evangelical, ‘apocalyptic’ stance which identified fraudulent miracles with the false wonders of Antichrist. The latter had an alternative medieval tradition it could draw on here, a fierce Lollard critique of saint-cults which fulminated against offerings made to ‘worme-eten bonys … olde raggis and many othur thinggis that ben callid imagis, reliquiis’, and which warned that ‘monye syche signes that ben holdone myraclis may be don bi the feend’. 35 But these discourses were neither unconnected nor intrinsically incompatible. The assertion of an early sixteenth-century Salisbury Lollard, that ‘among the reliques that be worshipped in churches is many a shippes bone’, was close to being a Chaucerian/Erasmian truism, tolerated in other contexts, and when Tyndale alleged saints’ lives to be corrupted with ‘lies and feigned miracles’, he was reiterating a point Erasmus and More had long since conceded.36 Indeed, Tyndale may have been the translator of the first English edition of Erasmus’s best-seller, the Handbook of a Christian Knight, a work which condemns those rejoicing in possessing ‘a lytell pece of the crosse’, or having in greater reverence the ashes or bones of Paul than his ‘quycke ymage’ speaking through his writings. ‘Let the vnfaythfull meruayle at these myracles and sygnes for whome they be wrought.’37

35 The Works of a Lollard Preacher, ed. A. Hudson (EETS, original ser., 317, 2001), p. 231; A. Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History (Oxford, 1988), p. 305. 36 Ibid.; Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 336; idem, Answer to More, pp. 129, 135. 37 Erasmus, Enchiridion Militis Christiani: An English Version, ed. A.M. O’Donnell (EETS, original ser., 282, 1981), pp. 115–17. For the question of Tyndale’s involvement, see D. Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography (New Haven and London, 1994), pp. 70–74. Note here an orthodox medieval tradition applying apocalyptic warnings about false prophets to the coming of the friars: P.R. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition in Medieval Literature (Princeton, NJ, 1986), pp. 211–12, 226.



III By mid-1534, attention to the clergy’s ability ‘to forge miracles’ had been sharply concentrated by the war of books between More and his evangelical opponents, and by the requirements of disparaging the Nun of Kent. From the following year, however, the theme began to play a greater, at times pivotal, role in the execution of government policy. The catalyst was the campaign against the monasteries, principal repositories of relics and sites of miracle-generating shrines. An injunction carried by the visitors inspecting religious houses in 1535 was that monks ‘shall not show any relics or feigned miracles for increase of lucre’.38 While the frequent allegations about false relics in the reports of the monastic visitors have long been noted by historians of the dissolution, there has been little attempt to identify their antecedents or assess their potency as an aspect of anti-monastic propaganda.39 Despite a reputation as unprincipled thugs, the visitors appointed by Thomas Cromwell – Richard Layton, Thomas Legh, John Ap Rice, John Tregonwell – were intelligent and educated men, their interim reports to the minister often witty, cruel and politically astute.40 In August 1535, Layton despatched from Bath ‘a bowke of Our Lades miracles, well able to mach the Canterberie Talles’, and reported that at Farley, a cell of Lewes priory, he had confiscated ‘vincula Sancti Petri’ (the chains of St Peter) which women placed round themselves during childbirth. Significantly, he charged the monks with ‘haveyng therof no writyng’, and a similar inability to ‘tell howe they came by’ combs of Mary Magdalene, St Dorothy and St Margaret.41 From Bristol Layton promised to send the relics he had gathered at Maiden Bradley Priory, ‘wherein ye shall se straingeis thynges’. These included ‘Godes cote, Oure Lades smoke, parte of Godes supper’, as well as the stone on which Jesus was 38

J. Youings, The Dissolution of the Monasteries (London, 1971), p. 151. This mandate had been anticipated by a proposal for legislation in the 1531 parliament (probably the work of Christopher St German) banning any publicity for miracles until they had been investigated by the Church: Aston, England’s Iconoclasts, p. 215; J.A. Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven and London, 1980), pp. 151–2. 39 G. Baskerville, English Monks and the Suppression of the Monasteries (London, 1937), pp. 22–4, 228–9; D. Knowles, The Religious Orders in England: III The Tudor Age (Cambridge, 1959), pp. 287–8; G.W.O. Woodward, The Dissolution of the Monasteries (London, 1966), pp. 51–4. There is a more considered treatment of the issue in G.W. Bernard, ‘Vitality and Vulnerability in the Late Medieval Church: Pilgrimage on the Eve of the Break with Rome’, in J.L. Watts (ed.), The End of the Middle Ages? England in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Stroud, 1998). 40 Knowles, Religious Orders, pp. 270–73. Layton and Legh were products of humanist Cambridge. 41 TNA: PRO, SP 1/95, fos 38r–v (LP, ix. 42).



born: ‘belyke ther is in Bethelem plentie of stones and sum qwarrie and makith ther maingierres off stone’.42 At Bury St Edmunds John Ap Rice found ‘moche vanitie and superstition, as the coles that Saint Laurence was tosted withall, the paring of S. Edmundes naylles, S. Thomas of Canterbury penneknyff and his bootes’, and (invoking a familiar Erasmian trope) ‘peces of the holie crosse able to make a hole crosse of’.43 The summary of the reports of the Northern and East Anglian visitations, known as the Compendium Compertorum, noted dozens of cases of ‘superstition’, including numerous saints’ girdles to assist the safe delivery of children, at least seven specimens of the Virgin’s milk, and ten pieces of the true cross. The spurious character of sacred objects and the uncertainty of their origins is often remarked. The summary judgement on Bury St Edmunds was of many ‘vain and fictitious relics’, and on Walsingham, ‘much superstition in feigned relics and miracles’.44 Relics removed from churches in 1535 included a portion of Our Lady’s milk from St Paul’s, ‘which was broken and founde but a peece of chalke’, one of many ‘used for covetousness in deceaphing the people’.45 The Virgin’s milk in fact supplies the clearest evidence of insistent probing around issues of authentication. In 1535 articles issued for Walsingham Priory relentlessly grilled the Augustinians about practices at the shrine. Which relics were most esteemed and ‘what probacion or argument have they to shewe that the same are trewe reliques’? ‘What is the gretest miracle and moste undoubted whiche is said to have ben doon by Our Ladye here, or by any of the said reliques?’ The canons were demanded whether proper depositions had been taken from witnesses, and admonished ‘whether they knowe not that men shulde not be light of credite to miracles, unlesse they be manifestly and invinciblie proved’. There was a particular concern with the principal Marian relic: ‘Item, whether Our Ladys milke be liquid or no?’ The former sexton was to be asked whether he had renewed the relic when it seemed likely to dry up, and whether he had ‘invented any relique for thaugmentacon of his prouffet’. The articles owed a clear debt to Erasmus’s account of Walsingham in the Peregrinatio. In addition to their concern with the viscosity of the milk, they asked about other objects of Erasmus’s derision: the antiquity of the house over the wells, the bear-skin, the miracle of the knight. An article about the holding up of boards to shame 42

BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 300r (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 58–9). BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 145r (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 85). 44 TNA: PRO, SP 1/102, fos 85r–104r (quotes at 101v, 103v: ‘hic multa apparuit superstitio in fictes reliquiis et miraclis’, ‘vane relique et ficte’) (LP, x. 364). 45 Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England, ed. W.D. Hamilton (2 vols, CS, new ser., 11, 20, 1875–77), i. 31. 43



pilgrims into making offerings also seems to be modelled on Erasmus’s comments about practices at Walsingham and other European shrines.46 It would appear that the withering contempt of radical Erasmianism, rather than the theological resolve of early Protestantism, was the ideological face of the dissolution in its first phase. In the event, ‘superstition’ was not a primary public justification for the parliamentary dissolution of the lesser monasteries in the spring of 1536. The government had, for the moment at least, decided to preserve the larger houses where many relics were housed. But the drafting of a bill ‘agaynst pilgrimages and superstitious worshippinge of reliques’ suggests the range of policies being considered at this time. It prescribed immediate expulsion for religious who ‘for lucre sett furthe their images or reliques’ and allure people ‘to rune abowte on pylgrymage’ to them.47 The visitation had certainly garnered evidence to condone further action along these lines. In June 1536 Bishop Hugh Latimer preached to convocation attacking ‘false miracles’, and the ‘pig’s bones’ often taken for saints’ relics. There were ‘plenty of such juggling deceits’, as yet unredressed.48 The royal injunctions issued in August instructed curates not to ‘set forth or extol any images, relics, or miracles for any superstition or lucre’.49 And in the following year the government openly co-opted the international authority on bogus relics, sponsoring or permitting the publication in English translation of the Peregrinatio religionis ergo.50 The (anonymous) translator’s preface attacks the ‘counterfayting’ involved in Palm 46 BL, Harleian MS 791, fos 27r–28r. See Erasmus, Pilgrimages to Saint Mary of Walsingham and Saint Thomas of Canterbury, ed. and tr. J.G. Nichols (London, 1875), pp. 209–12; Henry de Vocht (ed.), The Earliest English Translations of Erasmus’ Colloquia (Louvain, 1928), pp. l–lv; Erasmus, Colloquies, pp. 293, 296. 47 TNA: PRO, SP 6/1, fos 123r–127r. Both G.R. Elton and Stanford Lehmberg regarded this as a ‘private’ bill, unconnected with Cromwell’s secretariat: Elton, ‘Parliamentary Drafts 1529–1540’, in his Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government Vol. II (Cambridge, 1974), p. 71; Lehmberg, The Reformation Parliament, 1529–1536 (Cambridge, 1970), p. 224. The draft’s heavy dependence on the phraseology of the monastic injunctions and findings of the visitors, however, makes it less evident that this was the case. I am indebted to Anthony Shaw for discussion of this point. 48 Hugh Latimer, Sermons, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1844), pp. 53–5. 49 Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation, ed. W.H. Frere and W.M. Kennedy (3 vols, London, 1910), ii. 5–6. 50 A Dialogue or Communication of Two Persons, Devysed and Set Forthe in the Laten Tonge by the Noble and Famose Clarke Desiderius Erasmus intituled Ye Pylgremage of Pure Devotyon (London, ?1537). The STC date of 1540 is followed by J.K. McConica, English Humanists and Reformation Politics under Henry VIII and Edward VI (Oxford, 1965), pp. 189–90, but see Aston, England’s Iconoclasts, pp. 197–8; de Vocht, Earliest English Translations, pp. xliv–li, For Thomas Cromwell’s regard for Erasmus, see G.R. Elton, Reform and Renewal. Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 31–2.



Sunday ceremonies at Jerusalem and Compostella, though more pernicious were those ‘that setforthe uncertayn relyques for certayne’. Erasmus earns praise for exposing the superstitious worship of ‘bones, heades, iawes, armes, cotes, cappes, hattes, shoes, mytres, slyppers, sadles, rynges, bedes, gyrdles, bolles, belles, noses, gloves, toyes, taperes, candelles, bootes, sporres’ – a rhythmic litany evocative of the derisive lists of the monastic visitors.51 In the text itself, a sceptical comment of ‘Menedemus’ on the Walsingham relics – ‘multa talia fingantur ad quaestum’ – is translated as ‘that many of thes be faynyd for lukre’, the very phrase used in the monastic visitation injunctions of 1535.52 ‘Feigning for lucre’ was a trope employed to devastating effect over the next couple of years to help bring down the remainder of England’s monasteries, and with them the whole apparatus of shrines and pilgrimage. The exposure of forged miracles and feigned relics reached a climacteric in the early months of 1538. In February, the commissioners suppressing the Cistercian monastery of Boxley in Kent, site of a famous crucifix called ‘the Rood of Grace’, discovered ‘certen Ingynes & old wyer wyth olde Roton stykkes in the backe of the same that dyd cause the eyes of the same to move & stere in the head therof lyke unto a lyvelye thyng’. The Rood was exhibited in Maidstone to let the people see ‘the false, crafty & suttel handelyng’, and was subsequently paraded at court, where Henry reportedly hardly knew ‘whether more to rejoice at the exposure or to grieve at the long deception’.53 On 24 February the bishop of Rochester, John Hilsey, displayed the ‘idolatrie and crafte’ of the rood at Paul’s Cross, pronouncing that the monks ‘had gotten great riches in deceavinge the people.’54 The case was an instant cause célèbre, reformers on the continent excitedly reporting that ‘the imposture of the priests is made known to every one’.55 But more conservative English chroniclers also recorded the ‘slayghtes and false inventions that were fownde in the same’.56 Hilsey 51

A Dialogue or Communication, fos 3r–4v. Ibid., sig. B6r; Erasmus, Opera Omnia (Amsterdam, 1969–), i (3). 478. Thompson gives ‘many such affairs are contrived for profit’: Colloquies, p. 295. For further examples of evangelical colonisation of Erasmian tropes, particularly in the course of translation, see J.K. Yost, ‘German Protestant Humanism and the Early English Reformation: Richard Taverner and Official Translation’, Bibliothèque d’humanisme et renaissance, 32 (1970); idem, ‘Taverner’s Use of Erasmus and the Protestantization of English Humanism’, Renaissance Quarterly, 23 (1970); A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 116–18. See also Chapter 8, below. 53 TNA: PRO, SP 1/129, fo. 12r (LP, xiii (1). 231); LP, xiii (1). 348. 54 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 74–6. 55 Original Letters relative to the English Reformation, ed. H. Robinson (2 vols, PS, Cambridge, 1846–47), ii. 604, 606, 609. 56 ‘Chronicle of the Years 1532–1537, Written by a Monk of St Augustine’s Canterbury’, in Narratives of the Days of the Reformation, ed. J.G. Nichols (CS, 75, 1859), p. 286. 52



combined his exposure of the Rood with shocking claims about another of England’s pilgrimage centres. The Holy Blood of Christ venerated at the abbey of Hailes in Gloucestershire was ‘but a duckes blood’.57 In October, a commission headed by Bishop Latimer impounded the relic, concluding that it was an amber-coloured gum which appeared red when placed in the glass reliquary.58 Towards the end of November Hilsey reappeared at Paul’s Cross, displaying the relic ‘so that every person might well perceive the abuse of the sayd thinge.’ He retracted the duck’s blood story, and delivered the considered verdict that it was ‘hony clarified and coloured with saffron’.59 Alongside Elizabeth Barton, the Rood of Boxley and Blood of Hailes were to acquire emblematic status as paradigms of popish deceit.60 But they by no means exhausted the potential for uncovering forgery in miracles and relics. In March 1538 Bishop Barlow of St David’s chanced upon a ‘develish delusyon’ called ‘our ladyes taper of Cardigan’, a candle believed to have burned for years without being consumed, but which turned out to be partly made of wood. The parish clergy were issued with injunctions to expound to the people the ‘disceatfull iugglinge of their predicessours there’.61 In the same month, Cromwell ‘rejoiced not a little’ to hear a relic in Calais identified as a ‘sheep’s tail’.62 Through the summer, confiscation and disposal of suspect relics continued apace. At Wisborough Green in Sussex the churchwardens surrendered an extraordinary collection of ‘faynyd and superstytius relyckes’ including milk of the Virgin, relics of the tomb and vestments of St Thomas Becket, of the hair shirt and bones of St James, of the beard of St Peter, and the stones with which Stephen was martyred.63 From the Welsh Marches, Richard Ingworth told Cromwell he had acquired ‘Malkows ere that Peter strake of’ and a thousand ‘as trewe as that’. In a passage that might have been lifted from a Heywood interlude, he went on to say that he was sending ‘the holyest relyke in all northe Walys’, worth twenty marks a year to the friars of Bangor: ‘ther may no man kysse yt but he muste knele so sone as 57 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 75–6. This was an old Lollard accusation: Hudson, Premature Reformation, p. 304n. 58 TNA: PRO, SP 1/138, 49 (Hugh Latimer, Sermons and Remains, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1845), pp. 407–8). 59 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 90. 60 See P. Marshall, ‘The Rood of Boxley, the Blood of Hailes and the Defence of the Henrician Church’, JEH, 46 (1995). 61 BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fos 141r, 143v (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 183–7). See also LP, xiii (2). 719 for London’s suggestion of chicanery with an image by the Crutched Friars of Tellisford, Somerset. 62 The Lisle Letters, ed. Muriel St Clare Byrne (6 vols, Chicago, 1981), v. 66. 63 TNA: PRO, SP 1/135, fo. 92r (LP, xiii (2). 101).



he se yt, thowgh yt war in the fowleest place in all the contre, and he must kys every stone, for in eche ys gret pardon’.64 Meanwhile in Oxfordshire, John London was suppressing the shrine of Our Lady of Caversham, and confiscating ‘many prety relykes’ such as ‘the holy dager that kylled kinge Henry and the holy knyfe that kylled seynte Edwarde’. He had missed nothing ‘butt oonly a peece of the holy halter Judas wass hangyd withall’. He subsequently discovered the canons had smuggled away what he grandly termed ‘the principall relik of idolytrie within thys realm’, an angel with one wing that had brought to Caversham the spearhead that pierced Jesus on the cross.65 Taking the surrender of the Grey Friars of Reading, London compiled an inventory of their relics beginning with ‘twoo peces of the holye crosse’ and concluding with ‘a multitude of small bonys, laces, stonys, and armys, wich wolde occupie iiij. schetes of papyr to make particularly an inventary of every part’.66 Back in Oxford at the end of the year, London told Cromwell that he had collected two heads of St Ursula, but would hang on to them ‘tyll I have another hedd of herse’, a sardonically Erasmian touch.67 A few weeks later, he scribbled a sarcastic codicil on the inventory of relics at Coventry Cathedral Priory: ‘among thees reliques your lordeshipp shall fynde a piece of the most holy iawe bone of the asse that kyllyd Abell, with divers like’. (An echo of Chaucer’s bone of a ‘hooly Jewes sheep’?)68 It is unlikely that such objects were always the centre of a vibrant popular cult. Reading’s relic collection, for example, seems to have been substantially complete before the end of the twelfth century. Moreover, as Ronald Finucane has argued, there seems to be a later medieval shift in the main focus of popular devotion away from saints’ relics to shrines and images with a primarily Marian or Christocentric theme.69 Yet the monasteries’ continued possession of old, extensive and inauthenticable collections of ‘roten bones that 64

BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 319v (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 212). BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fos 267r, 268r, 264r (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 221–5). 66 BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 265r (Three Chapters Of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 225–7). 67 BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 240v (Three Chapters Of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 234). 68 BL, Egerton MS 2603, fo. 26r (LP, xiv (1). 69). 69 D. Bethell, ‘The Making of a Twelfth-Century Relic Collection’, in Cuming and Baker (eds), Popular Belief and Practice, p. 61; R.C. Finucane, Miracles and Pilgrims: Popular Beliefs in Medieval England (London, 1977), ch. 11. See also A. Vauchez, Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages, tr. Jean Birrell (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 444–53 for the argument that in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries miraculous cures effected by saints were increasingly associated with images and did not involve direct contact with the relics. The English visitors regularly noted the demand for the girdles of female saints from women in labour, though these may often have been belts engirdling an image of the saint, a suggestion I owe to Robert Swanson. 65



be called reliques’ made them highly vulnerable to charges of profiteering and idolatry.70 A cult still thriving into the 1530s was that of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. There were powerful political imperatives behind the denigration of Becket, papal martyr for the independence of the Church; significant therefore that charges of forgery were prominent at this, perhaps the best historically authenticated of all England’s major shrines. In August 1538 Cranmer wrote to Cromwell that he suspected the relic of Becket’s blood in Canterbury to be ‘but a feigned thing and made of some red ochre or like matter’, and requested a royal commission to examine it.71 For the suppression of the shrine itself in September we rely on the chronicler Charles Wriothesley, who reported that Becket’s bones were burned on Cromwell’s orders, and that in the process the commissioners ‘found his head hole with the bones’. The monks had enclosed another skull in silver for people to offer to, ‘so that nowe the abuse was openly knowne’.72 Erasmus, who had venerated the laminated skull a quarter-century earlier, would probably not have been surprised. At Canterbury more than elsewhere, the government needed to show the very impulse to venerate the relics to be grounded on fiction and lies. A proclamation of November 1538 struck Becket’s name from the calendar, and insisted that there was nothing in his life ‘whereby he should be called a saint, but rather esteemed to have been a rebel and traitor’.73 Hagiographies of Becket were thus epitomes of Tyndale’s ‘legends corrupt with lies’, and one of the charges leading to the execution of the abbot of Glastonbury in 1539 was that he possessed a ‘counterfit lyfe’ of Becket.74 Reformers petitioned that the ‘feyned story of his death’ be removed from stained glass windows, and in 1543 Cranmer asked convocation to ensure that Becket’s name, with all other ‘apocryphas, feigned legends’, was thoroughly excised from service books.75 70 Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 218–19: the commissioners’ judgement in Sep. 1538 on the collections in the Winchester monasteries of Hide and St Mary. 71 Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 378. 72 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 86–7. Whether or not the bones were actually burned is an enduring historical mystery: see J. Butler, The Quest for Becket’s Bones (New Haven and London, 1995). 73 Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. Paul L. Hughes and James F. Larkin (3 vols, New Haven and London, 1964–69), i. 276. 74 Tyndale Answer to More, pp. 129, 135; Knowles, Religious Orders, p. 488. At the same time that England’s patron saint was being vilified, Bishop Barlow was arguing that the accounts of David, patron of Wales, were ‘so uncerten of trueth, and certenly ful of lyes that not only his sayntly holynesse ys to be suspected, but rather to be dowted whether any soch person was ever bisshop there’: BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 316v (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 208). 75 TNA: PRO, SP 1/144, fo. 69r (LP, xiv (1). 444); Visitation Articles, ed. Frere and Kennedy, ii.109n.



At the end of September 1538, a new set of royal injunctions provided post hoc justification for the destructive work of a long busy summer. The 1536 warning against extolling images, relics and miracles was now glossed to specify ‘feigned images … abused with pilgrimages’, ‘feigned relics’, suffered for the sake of avarice.76 In this spirit, the evangelical bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Shaxton, issued his own injunctions condemning the ‘intolerable superstition’ caused by ‘stinking boots, mucky combs, ragged rochets, rotten girdles, pyld purses, great bullocks’ horns, locks of hair, and filthy rags, gobbetts of wood, under the name of parcels of the holy cross’. Shaxton understood that the requirement to provide trustworthy verification represented an unanswerable challenge, the channel through which a radical agenda could proceed under the guise of judicious and reasonable reform. He ordered that all ‘relics’ be brought to his house at Ramsbury together with supporting documentation. He and his council would examine them, ‘and those that be esteemed and judged to be undoubtedly true relics, ye shall not fail at convenable times to have again’. It is safe to assume that Shaxton did not expect to issue many, if any, such permissions.77 While the visitors and commissioners went about their business in the late 1530s, a flood of official and unofficial propaganda took up the theme of forgery and feigning. In the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Yorkshire gentleman Wilfrid Holme composed an epic poem devoting several stanzas to the papists’ ‘girdles invented, and their faire hayres died, with their chaulke oled for the milke of our Lady’.78 In 1538 Nicholas Wyse attacked the ‘furred hodes’ who mocked the people with feigned miracles, claiming to know personally of a rood in a house of friars who ‘have made the people to beleve and thynke that the heare of his heed and berde dyd grow’. An image would typically have ‘some old wrytten table by it, contaynyng ther in an abhomynable lye, and a false fayned myracle or twayne’. But for sure ‘the box to receyve offrynge monye’ was not far off. Wyse was another who had read his Erasmus, and recycled a sarcastic trope from the Peregrinatio: it was surprising a strong box was necessary, that the image did not strike down anyone


Ibid., pp. 38–9. Ibid., pp. 59–60. At around the same time, Mathew Parker was preaching in Suffolk that Christians should not put their trust in ‘men’s bones and coats, whereof we have no certainty whether they were the relics of saints or no’: Correspondence of Matthew Parker, ed. J. Bruce (PS, Cambridge 1853), p. 7. 78 Wilfrid Holme, The Fall and Evill Successe of Rebellion (London, 1572), sigs E1v, G3v–4r. On Holme, see A.G. Dickens, Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York (Oxford, 1959), pp. 114–31. 77



attempting to pilfer the offerings.79 Also appearing in 1538 was a translation of Heinrich Bullinger’s commentary on 2 Thessalonians, which helpfully substituted for Bullinger’s ‘dyvers pylgremages of hys owne contrye … these of our olde acquayntance’ a list including the Virgins of Wilsdon, Ipswich and Walsingham, the Rood of Grace, Canterbury, all with ‘more testymonyes of myrackles, then a great navye of shyppes coulde carye awaye’. A now-familiar litany was invoked: images which moved, spoke or sprouted beards, stinking bones of wicked men set forth to be worshipped, ‘the fayned myracles of the holy maydens of Kent & Ipswich’. This text went beyond the mocking tones of Erasmianism to reiterate themes evangelicals had been rehearsing for a decade and more. ‘Fayned myracles’, and the wax votives and crutches hung up at healing shrines, were the ‘false sygnes’ of Antichrist. Where Thomas More had seen the exposure of the Berne Dominicans as a guarantee of authentic miracles, here it represented an unmistakable disclosure of the ‘mysterye of iniquyte … to the derogacion and shame of all other false myracles’.80 The Fantasie of Idolatrie, a ballad composed by Cromwell’s client William Gray in 1538–39, supplied a veritable gazeteer of ‘fayned myracles and lyes’: the ‘jugling casts’ practised at the shrine of St Erth in Cornwall; the Rood of Ramsbury (Wiltshire), supposedly immovable by sixteen oxen, but taken down by a single man; the Blood of Hailes, now ‘knowen to be but the bloud of a ducke’. Here too the tone was evangelical, the devil able ‘to worke ryght wonderful thinges’.81 The most complete apologia for the government’s actions, and the most clearly official in provenance, was ‘A sumarie declaration of the feith uses and observacions in England’, composed in 1539 for the benefit of an overseas audience.82 Forgery is a recurrent theme. There is confirmation that the skull venerated at Canterbury was ‘but a feyned 79 Nicholas Wyse, A Consolacyon for Chrysten People to Repayre Agayn the Lordes Temple (London, 1538), sigs E3v–4r, F8v–G1r. Cf. Erasmus, Colloquies, p. 293. For a similar itemising of the images, relics and roods which had been created ‘for lucre sake’, see Lancelot Ridley, A Commentary in Englyshe upon Sayncte Paules Epystle to the Ephesyans (London, 1540), sigs A6v–7r. 80 Bullinger, Commentary, fos 36r–v, 49r–v, 50r–51r. 81 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. S.R. Cattley (8 vols, London, 1843–49), v. 404–9. See E.W. Dormer, Gray of Reading: A Sixteenth-Century Controversialist and Ballad-Writer (Reading, 1923). The official status of the text can be ascertained from the fact that two of its stanzas were composed to be fixed on the gallows of the Observant friar John Forest in May 1538. 82 See Butler, Quest for Becket’s Bones, pp. 119–20; Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 195–8, which identifies the hand as that of Thomas Derby, clerk to the Privy Council. It appears to have been prompted by the promulgation of the papal excommunication of Henry in December 1538, which itself was precipitated by the King’s sacrilegious handling of Thomas Becket’s relics.



fiction’, and of the falseness of Barton’s revelations and ‘letters from St Mary Magdalen’. The image of Our Lady of Worcester, stripped of her ornaments, was found to be ‘the symilitude of a bishop’. At Boxley ‘and sundry other places’, monks had manipulated images with ‘certain keys and stringes’. Relics were ‘for the most part but feyned thinges’, Christ’s blood in some places ‘a pece of redd sylk enclosed in a thyk glasse of Chrystallyn’, elsewhere ‘oyle colored of sanguinis Drachonis’, the milk of Our Lady ‘a pece of chalk’. There were ‘other innumerable illusions, supersticions and apparent deceiptes, and more of the holy crosse then three waines maye carry’.83 The detection of forgery evidently played an important role in the regime’s attempts to justify itself to the outside world. In November 1538, Henry’s ambassadors in the Netherlands were confronted by a nobleman angry about events in England, and ‘declared in suche wise the religion of your Maiestie, the abuses of Cannterbury, Boxley and other places, that he seamed moche to reioyse of thone, and to detest thother’.84 The 1539 declaration lacked the apocalyptic dimension of more overtly evangelical works, but supplied in its place an emphasis on Henry’s role as abuse-finder general, an idea to which evangelicals were often prepared to pay fulsome tribute. In a panegyric published in 1540, John Pylbarough rejoiced that God had raised up Henry to overthrow ‘supersticions, counterfeite religion, feyned relyques’, and to abolish ‘Peters dissimuled successours counterfayte gospell’.85 Thomas Becon likewise rejoiced that the fall of false religion ‘hath God brought to pass by his dearly-beloved servant, Henry’.86 The fullest treatment is in William Thomas’s Peregrine (The Pilgrim), a tract composed at the end of the reign purporting to be a true account of conversations with some gentlemen in Bologna. The latter regard Henry as the tyrant who spoiled shrines of saints and overthrew the monasteries, but Thomas ripostes with the abuses and frauds his reforms have uncovered. Inventively elaborated accounts of the deceptions at Canterbury, Boxley and Hailes are supplied, though there had been miracles ‘thousands as true as this’. To 83 TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fos 203r–205r (LP, xiv (1). 402). The comic revelation about Our Lady of Worcester acquires an edge from the attempt of a townsman in 1537 to revive devotion to the image, claiming the ending of pilgrimage had decayed ‘the lucre and profett of this towne’, and arguing ‘though our Ladyes cotte and her yoelles [jewels] be taken awaye from her, the symylytude of this is no worse to pray unto’: TNA: PRO, SP 1/124, fo. 111r (LP, xii (2). 587). 84 TNA: PRO, SP 1/139, fo. 164v (LP, xiii (2). 880). 85 John Pylbarough, A Commemoration of the Inestimable Graces and Benefites of God (London, 1540), sigs B2r–C1v, See also the fragmentary [A Panegyric of Henry VIII as the Abolisher of Papist Abuses] (London, not after 1537). 86 Thomas Becon, Early Works, ed. J. Ayre (PS, Cambridge 1843), pp. 180–81.



bring an end to ‘the falsehood of these jugglers’ the king despatched commissioners, first to examine, and then close the religious houses.87 Henry’s pivotal role here was not just ascribed, but enthusiastically assumed. The royal commission for the closure of St Hugh’s shrine at Lincoln in June 1540 made reference to ‘dyverse feuyned reliquys and juellys wherewith all the simple people be moche deceyvyd’.88 During his northern progress in autumn 1541, Henry was appalled to find shrines and shrine-coverings still standing, despite his orders that ‘all such writings and monuments of feigned miracles’ were to have been taken away.89 In the self-congratulatory preface supplied under Henry’s name for the King’s Book in 1543 the purging and cleansing of the realm from ‘hypocrisy and superstition’ looms large among royal achievements.90 The motif of the feigned miracle was thus no mere decorative accompaniment to the progress of the Henrician Reformation, but a valuable hermeneutic prism through which the regime’s policies could be refracted to appear in the best possible light. The motif was a compound and flexible one. Evangelicals found in the exposure of monkish frauds an inspiration in their cosmic struggle against Antichrist, and a confirmation of the prophetic models of church history their theorists were starting to formulate.91 But the concept could equally seem formally free of any real doctrinal implications. Traditionalists could hardly protest against the exposure of forgery and fraud, and several of the crown’s leading agents in the campaign to expose feigned miracles and relics, men like John London and Thomas Wriothesley, had little sympathy for the evangelical cause.92 Even the resolutely conservative prelate Stephen Gardiner reportedly said in September 1538 that ‘he misliked not the doing at Canterbury’.93 Another religious conservative, the humanist Sir Thomas Elyot, assured Cromwell that there was no man living who detested as 87 William Thomas, The Pilgrim: A Dialogue on the Life and Actions of King Henry VIII, ed. J.A. Froude (London, 1861), pp. 9–12, 36–44. For further examples of expatriate Englishmen defending the King as a reformer of the abuses of shrines and monasteries, see above, Chapter 6. 88 M. Bowker, The Henrician Reformation: The Diocese of Lincoln under John Longland 1521–1547 (Cambridge, 1981), p. 94. 89 Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 490. 90 The King’s Book 1543, ed. T.A. Lacey (London, 1895), p. xi. 91 See T. Betteridge, Tudor Histories of the English Reformation 1530–83 (Aldershot, 1999). 92 On London’s religious conservatism, see MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 300–301; on Wriothesley’s, G. Gibbons, The Political Career of Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton (Lampeter, 2001), pp. 271–82. 93 TNA: PRO, SP 1/137, fo. 35r (LP, xiii (2). 442). The still more conservative John Stokesley of London could also be critical of relics: A.A. Chibi, Henry VIII’s Bishops: Diplomats, Administrators, Scholars and Shepherds (Cambridge, 2003), p. 204.



much as he did ‘vayne supersticions, superfluouse ceremonyes, sklaunderouse iouglynges, countrefaite mirakles’.94 IV From the outset, two complementary pressures acted to maximise the scope of the ‘forged miracle’ theme: the determination of evangelicals to conflate specific instances of fraud with a more general critique of traditional religion, and the extent to which almost all assertions of supernatural power seemed to come from opponents of government policy. Elizabeth Barton was not the only individual to disavow Henry’s actions in visions and revelations. A Cistercian of Jervaulx, George Lazenby, was executed in August 1535 after seeking to ‘establishe his treason with revelations’ from Our Lady and St Anne.95 A few years later, a priest in Calais was reported to have denied the king’s title, and to have shown a fellow priest ‘divers fond and folysh visions’.96 In 1534–35, as Henry’s wrath fell upon the most obdurate of England’s monks, the Carthusians, stories of Charterhouse visions began to emerge. In the summer of 1534, there were unspecified reports about a brother of Mountgrace: ‘I pray god that his revelations may prove better than the Maid of Kent.’97 More details were forthcoming from the London Charterhouse, where the sexton had enjoyed a vision of the recently deceased Prior John Batmanson (he whom More had lambasted for appealing to private revelations against Erasmus) kneeling before the Trinity and interceding for the order. The brethren’s fine habits were to be changed for cheap blanket cloth, and they should eat from wooden, not pewter, plates. These were hardly seditious messages, and the vision itself was old news (Batmanson died in 1531). But in 1534 the authorities took notice, particularly since a potentially feigned ‘relic’ was involved, a little piece of cloth ‘sent from heven by some angell’.98 In June 1535, another London Carthusian 94 BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 260r (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 141). In his Pasquil the Playne of 1533, however, Elyot had lamented ‘miracles reproved for jougglynes’ by the German reformers: cited in G. Walker, ‘Dialogue, Resistance and Accommodation: Conservative Literary Responses to the Henrician Reformation’, in N.S. Amos, A. Pettegree and H. van Nierop (eds), The Education of a Christian Society: Humanism and Reformation in Britain and the Netherlands (Aldershot, 1999), p. 91. 95 TNA: PRO, SP 1/94, fo. 102r (LP, viii. 1069). See Dickens, Lollards and Protestants, pp. 79–82, though the observation (p. 81) that Lazenby ‘seems to a modern eye to display a pathetically superstitious and subnormal intelligence’ may have more to say about the scholarship of the 1950s than the religion of the 1530s. 96 TNA: PRO, SP 1/157, fo. 27v (LP, xv. 37). 97 TNA: PRO, SP 1/85, fos 100r–v (LP, vii. 1047 (ii)). 98 TNA: PRO, SP 1/85, fo. 100r (LP, vii. 1047 (i)).



confessed to receiving visitations from a deceased brother, urging him to follow the example of their executed prior, John Houghton, a ‘marter in hevyn next unto angelles’ alongside the recently beheaded Bishop John Fisher.99 This was particularly alarming in view of rumours circulating in London that Fisher’s head had been miraculously preserved from corruption when it was put on public display.100 Like relics, apparitions of the dead constituted a category where Erasmian and evangelical reforming instincts overlapped. Erasmus had scorned tales about ‘ghosts, spectres, phantoms and the dead’, which served mainly to make profit for preachers and demagogues.101 For evangelicals who rejected the existence of purgatory, all stories of ghosts and apparitions were by definition feigned. The souls departed, observed Robert Wisdom, ‘do not come again and play boo peape with us’.102 Tolerance in court circles towards messages from beyond the grave cannot have been increased by rumours circulating in Dover in 1536 that the candles around the sepulchre of Katherine of Aragon had spontaneously ignited the day before the execution of Anne Boleyn, or in Salisbury in 1538 that the ghost of Jane Seymour had appeared to the king and desired him to go on pilgrimage to St Michael’s Mount.103 Pilgrimage was also the object of the Suffolk rector, Robert Crewkerne brought before Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Shaxton and Latimer in March 1536 over a vision in which the Virgin urged him to preach ‘that she wold be honorid at Eppiswhiche and at Willisdon as she hath bee in old tymes’.104 In January 1540, a woman from Wells on the Norfolk coast was placed in the stocks for claiming the image of Our Lady of Walsingham had worked a miracle after being brought to London for destruction.105 In May 1538, after the pulling down of the miracle-working rood of St Margaret Pattens in London, fire broke out and ravaged the neighbourhood: conservative opinion in the capital 99

BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 160r (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 34–5). LP, ix. 873. The head was precipitately thrown into the Thames. 101 Erasmus, Praise of Folly, ed. A.H.T. Levi, tr. B. Radice (Harmondsworth, 1971), p. 125. The colloquy Exorcismus, sive Spectrum revolves around a faked apparition: Colloquies, pp. 230–37. 102 BL, Harleian MS 425, fos 4–7. For the growing official coldness to the doctrine of purgatory in these years, see P. Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002), ch. 2. 103 BL, Cotton MS Vit. B. xiv, fo. 203v (LP, x. 1023); TNA: PRO, SP 1/135, fo. 54r (LP, xiii (2), 62). The re-igniting candle was an established hagiographical motif, one of the miracles associated with St Peter Martyr: Jacob de Voragine, The Golden Legend, tr. William Granger Ryan (2 vols, Princeton, 1993), i, 264. 104 BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 131r (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 36–7). 105 TNA: PRO, SP 1/157, fo. 69r (LP, xv. 86). 100



discerned divine judgement.106 Such interpretations had an alarming capacity to circulate. At St Germans on the south coast of Cornwall, a priest rashly opined that all knew ‘what folowed thereof’ when the St Margaret Pattens rood was demolished.107 By the later 1530s almost any linking of miracles with images or roods had become unacceptable. Cromwell’s postbag in 1538–39 included denunciations of the vicar of Highley, Shropshire, for new-gilding an image said to have restored sight to a blind woman; the vicar of Ticehurst, Sussex, for recounting a miracle of St Martin, and urging parishioners to offer candles to St Loy for their horses and St Anthony for their cattle; and a priest in Ashford, Kent, for preserving an ‘erronyous tabull’ next to a rood.108 In the contest over the royal supremacy and royal policies of reform, the miraculous weighed in one side of the balance only; perhaps because in times of crisis invocations of forces beyond all earthly power are intrinsically more appealing to marginalised and oppositional groups.109 Rather than miracles or visions, the crown’s supporters preferred to adduce the ‘sundry old authentic histories and chronicles’, which according to the 1533 Act of Appeals proved England to be an empire, and which contrasted with the forged ‘donation of Constantine’ used to support papal claims to universal jurisdiction.110 There were occasional suggestions of providential occurences revealing God’s blessing on the king’s purposes, but this genre looks underdeveloped in the 1530s and 106 London Chronicle during the reigns of Henry the Seventh and Henry the Eighth, ed. C. Hopper, in Camden Miscellany vol. 4 (CS, 73, 1859), p. 13. See also John Stow, The Chronicles of England from Brut unto the Present Year (Newbury, 1580), p. 1013; S. Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), pp. 290–91. 107 TNA: PRO, SP 1/137, fo. 188r (LP, xiii (2), 596). On the potency of rumour in the 1530s, see E.H. Shagan, ‘Rumours and Popular Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII’, in T. Harris (ed.), The Politics of the Excluded, c. 1500–1850 (Basingstoke, 2001). 108 TNA: PRO, SP 1/141, fo. 147r (LP, xiii (2). 1243); SP 1/133, fo. 59r (LP, xiii (1). 1199); SP 1/151, fo. 173r (LP, xiv (1). 1052). 109 A classic statement of this idea is N. Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (London, 1957). For a parallel recourse to political prophecies by Henry VIII’s opponents, see Elton, Policy and Police, ch. 2; S.L. Jansen, Political Protest and Prophecy under Henry VIII (Woodbridge, 1991). 110 Documents Illustrative of English Church History, ed. H. Gee and W.J. Hardy (London, 1896), p. 187. Lorenzo Valla’s De Falso Credita et Ementita Constantini Donatione Declamatio (1440), which exposed the ‘donation’ as an eighth-century forgery, was published in 1534 in an English translation (possibly by William Marshall): A Treatyse of the Donation or Gyfte and Endowment of Possessyons, given and granted unto Sylvester Pope of Rome by Constantyne Emperour of Rome (London, 1534). The conservative Stephen Gardiner was equally ready to throw the donation in the face of papalist opponents: L.E.C. Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England (Oxford, 2000), p. 60.



40s.111 A distinct nervousness, if not downright suspicion, towards all claims to private and supernatural revelation is an almost defining characteristic of ‘Henrician’ religion in its official manifestation.112 If political pressures were pushing to collapse into one another the categories of the ‘miraculous’ and the ‘feigned’, evangelical polemic was working hard to show how particular examples of religious fraud revealed the broader pattern of a popish religion whose ‘falseness’ was not simply error, but a pathological predisposition to lying and deceit. The doctrine of purgatory, which Duffy terms ‘the defining doctrine of late medieval Catholicism’, was repeatedly said to have been ‘feigned to purge thy purse’.113 Clerical celibacy was ‘feigned chastity’; the apparent holiness of the clergy, ‘fayned godlynes falsly pretendynge’.114 Papist mistranslations of Scripture were ‘feigned words’, ‘juggling terms’.115 This was a grammar of defamation springing naturally from evangelical lips. Reformers in St Albans complained of the ‘crafty juggling’ of local conservative priests; the curate of Lenham, Kent, called the chrismatory ‘a juggling box’; John Younge of Rye was reported to have said ‘that the mass was of a juggler’s making, and a juggling cast it was’.116 The language of feigning in relation to the eucharist was without doubt its most sensitive application; throughout Henry’s reign evangelicals might go to the stake for denying the real presence of Christ. Nonetheless, evangelical writers ridiculed the traditional proposition that transubstantiation was a miraculous event, and did not hesitate to subsume the mass itself into the capacious category of the ‘false miracle’.117 It was the very 111

See Hall, Chronicle, p. 823 for the claim that the heavy rain which prevented the rebel army crossing the river Don during the Pilgrimage of Grace was ‘a great miracle of God’. Marian London supplies an intriguing case of a Protestant ‘forged miracle’: a young woman induced to denounce religious policy as a disembodied voice from within a wall in Aldersgate Street. Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, ed. John Gough Nichols (CS, 53, 1852), p. 90; The Diary of Henry Machyn, ed. J.G. Nichols (CS, 42, 1847), p. 66. For the subsuming of later Protestant readings of the miraculous into the theory of providentialism, see the superb treatment in Walsham, Providence. 112 An isolated example of a ‘pro-regime’ vision ended with its recipient in the Tower and on the rack. For the, admittedly murky, circumstances, see BL, Cotton MS Calig. B. i, fo. 130r (LP, xii (2). 80); Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 58–9, 384. 113 Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, p. 8. See above, pp. 48–9. 114 Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises, p. 438; Becon, Early Works, pp. 134–5, 241; Roy and Barlow, Burial of the Mass, p. 131. 115 Tyndale, Answer to More, pp. 22, 103. 116 TNA: PRO, SP 1/191, fo. 95r (LP, viii. 407); LP, xviii (2). 546 (p. 315); xi. 1424. 117 Joye, Souper of the Lorde, pp. 334–5; Tyndale, Answer to More, p. 178; Bale, Select Works, p. 233; Hooper, Early Writings, pp. 164–5; Roy and Barlow, Burial of the Mass, p. 63. The ‘feynid miracle of the sacrament of bred’ was an earlier Lollard trope: A.E. Nichols, Seeable Signs: The Iconography of the Seven Sacraments 1350–1544 (Woodbridge, 1994), p. 92.



nature of transubstantiation to deceive the senses and make itself understood by the unseeing eye of faith: in the characteristic eucharistic miracle of the later Middle Ages, the sceptic is confounded by the appearance of the host turned bloody flesh.118 To evangelicals, all such ‘miracles’ were by definition false, and they could hardly have hoped for a better demonstration of how fraud, miracles and old-fashioned eucharistic piety belonged together than the penitential appearance in February 1545 of a priest at Paul’s Cross ‘for fayninge and counterfeyting a miracle’, pricking his finger during mass to make it seem that the host itself had bled.119 To speak of the mass as a species of ‘juggling’ was the rhetoric of an avant-garde, but its cadences inflected offical pronouncements in ways that went beyond the exposure of ‘fraud’ in images and relics. The surrender documents drafted for religious houses in 1538–39 sometimes proclaimed release from ‘our pretended religion’, ‘feigned dissimulation’.120 An exhortation read in churches in 1543 attacked the ‘counterfaite pardons’ with which people had formerly been abused.121 There is an echo too in the 1541 proclamation outlawing ‘superstitious and childish observations’ customarily observed on the Feast of St Nicholas, when children were ‘strangely decked and appareled to counterfeit priests, bishops, and women’.122 ‘Counterfeit’ in these contexts is a revealing word. It might signify simply a representation or likeness, but it usually connoted spurious imitation or deceit, a tension at the heart of some contemporary anxieties about all forms of religious imagery.123 It also implied, then as now, particular reference to some forms of secular material reproduction, especially of coins and documents, and here I want to suggest a final set of resonances and connections.

118 See M. Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 112–29; Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, pp. 102–9; Nichols, Seeable Signs, pp. 51n, 247, 256. 119 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 152. See also Chronicle of the Grey Friars, ed. Nichols, p. 48; Confutation of Unwritten Verities, p. 66. 120 Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, ed. N. Pocock (7 vols, Oxford, 1865), iv. 259, 261. We can note here references to ‘pretensed religion’ and ‘simulate povertie’ in the relics bill of 1536 (TNA: PRO, SP 6/1, fo. 126v). See also Elton, Policy and Police, p. 195 for a pamphlet drafted within Cromwell’s circle in 1539–40 condemning ‘merciless monks, false friars … and other fools of feigned religion’. 121 P. Ayris, ‘Preaching the Last Crusade: Thomas Cranmer and the “Devotion” Money of 1543’, JEH, 49 (1998), 699. Cf. Bishop Barlow’s condemnation of ‘fayned indugences’ in 1538: BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 316v (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 208). 122 Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. Hughes and Larkin, i. 302. 123 See Aston, England’s Iconoclasts, pp. 401–8; M. Howard and N. Llewellyn, ‘Painting and Imagery’, in B. Ford (ed.), The Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain: Vol. 3 Renaissance and Reformation (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 237–8.



V The Reformation Parliament which sanctioned the attack on the monasteries addressed itself to a range of fraudulent practices rather different from that of which the monks stood accused. A 1530 statute banishing ‘outlandish people calling themselves Egyptians’ referred to the ‘crafte and subtyltie’ they used to defraud people in fortune-telling, while the vagrancy act of the following year, in addition to attacking pardoners lacking ‘suffycyent authoryte’, prescribed whipping for idle persons putting on ‘subtyle craftye and unlawfull games and playes’, or ‘feynyng themselfes to have knowledge in physyke, physnamye, palmestrye’.124 In the industrial sphere, action was taken in 1532–34 against pewterers employing ‘unlawful and diseyvable weightes’; dyers using ‘a false sleygthie and deceyvable waye in dyeng’; tanners whose work was ‘deceyvably tanned’. A little later there followed an act ‘to avoyde the sleyghtye and false making of pynnes’.125 Economic regulation of this kind was neither new nor overtly connected to the religious policies of the regime.126 But there are conspicuous correspondences here to the language employed by reformers to castigate traditional piety. The importance of things being what they seemed found further expression in the 1533 revival of sumptuary legislation, concerned to avoid ‘the subvercion of good and politike ordre in knowelege and distinccion of people according to their estates’.127 There were matters too of direct and immediate affront to the king’s majesty. Counterfeiting the king’s coin, and forging his great or privy seals were offences under the Treason Act of 1351. But in 1536 a new law made it high treason to counterfeit the royal sign manual or privy signet, under the terms of which a clutch of offenders were executed at Tyburn over the next few years.128 In 1534 ‘counterfettors of any coin’ 124 Statutes, iii. 327, 330 (22 Hen. VIII, cc. 10, 12). Paul Slack has commented on the tendency in Tudor vagrancy legislation to demonise formerly tolerated itinerant entertainers. ‘It is as if social boundaries were being redrawn and proper, repectable society being newly and more tightly defined’: Poverty and Policy in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 1988), p. 24. 125 Statutes, iii. 417, 419, 444, 904 (24 Hen. VIII, cc. 1, 2; 25 Hen. VIII, c. 9; 34 & 35 Hen. VIII, c. 6). These measures were a mixture of government and privately sponsored bills: Elton, Reform and Renewal, pp. 109–10. 126 Some of the same language, in a less concentrated burst, appears in economic measures enacted in Henry VII’s parliaments, though not, interestingly, in the vagrancy statute of 1495: Statutes, ii. 545, 569, 582, 591, 651 (4 Hen. VII, c. 22; 11 Hen. VII, cc. 2, 19, 27; 19 Hen. VII, c. 6). 127 Statutes, iii. 430 (24 Hen. VIII, c. 13). 128 Statutes, iii. 532 (27 Hen. VIII, c. 2); Chronicle of the Grey Friars, ed. Nichols, p. 44; Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 60; Stow, Chronicles of England, p. 1013. Cromwell’s memoranda suggest a more general measure against ‘forging of false evidence’ was being considered at



headed the list of offenders in the Marches of Wales henceforth to be tried in royal courts.129 Here, at the crux of the Henrician Reformation, we encounter (unsurprisingly perhaps) a heightened concern about symbolic representations of royal authority.130 The instinct to equate symbols of royal and divine dominion came naturally to contemporaries. In the fifteenth century, Archbishop Arundel defended the worship of images by analogy with the doffing of caps accorded to letters sent by kings and lords ‘ensealed with their arms or with their privy signet’.131 Thomas More drew on a similar equivalence in formulating a sanguine response to the charge that the Church might erroneously canonise ‘untrewe men’. It was right to offer hospitality to all who came into one’s country wearing the king’s badge, even if among them were spies or enemies of the king.132 Evangelical writers employed the metaphor of the king’s seals and arms not in connection with images or saints, but as an analogue of the sacraments, unimpeachable tokens of an unseen sovereign power.133 Yet they also understood that the vulnerability as well as the inviolability of royal symbols was a reverberant religious metaphor. In his convocation sermon of 1536, Latimer placed a distinctive gloss on the parable of good stewardship in Luke 16. The faithful steward was one ‘that coineth no new money, but taketh it ready coined of the good man of the house; and neither changeth it, ne clippeth it’. Prelates and curates had failed this test, ‘despising the money of the Lord, as copper and not current’ they either ‘coined new themselves, or else uttered abroad newly coined of other’.134 True religion, like the coin of the realm, invited the predatory attention of coiners and clippers. Latimer’s subtlety contrasts with the crassness of a remark attributed to this time: LP, x. 254. Note that the 1536 Suppression Act accused abbots of having ‘lately fraudulently and craftily made feoffments, estates, gifts, grants, and leases’ under their convent seals, a ‘fraud’ firmly in the eye of the beholder, depriving the crown of spoils it expected to accrue: Documents, ed. Gee and Hardy, p. 261. 129 Statutes, iii. 502 (26 Hen. VIII, c. 6). Royal commissioners examined a string of suspected coiners at Bewdley and Shrewsbury in October 1534: TNA: PRO, SP 1/86, fos 4r–10r (LP, vii. 1225). The activity of clippers in 1537 prompted consideration of ‘a proclamation for false and clipped coin, and great punishment for possessors of false money’: LP, xii (2). 1122, 1151 (2), 1151 (3). 130 It is ironic, though not necessarily paradoxical, that the regime itself was shortly to threaten the integrity of the coinage by experimenting with debased issues: C.E. Challis, The Tudor Coinage (Manchester, 1978), pp. 82–95. 131 Bale, Select Works, p. 95. 132 More, Dialogue, pp. 217–19. In view of the obsessive concern the Henrician regime would manifest through the 1530s with traitors within, this seems a particularly unfortunate analogy. 133 Frith, Work, p. 397; Hooper, Early Writings, p. 191. 134 Latimer, Sermons, p. 36.



the conservative vicar of Ticehurst in Sussex, who, holding up a groat, said that people would not dare to spit upon the king’s face on it, but they would spit upon an image, meaning ‘thow spettes apon god’.135 Clerical counterfeiting was not always metaphorical. In 1530 a priest was imprisoned at Rye for coin-clipping, and another was hanged in London for the same offence in July 1532; in a shocking break with precedent he was executed without first being degraded from his orders.136 Among those implicated in a coining operation in the Welsh Marches in 1534 were the vicar of Talgarth and a Cistercian of Strata Florida. Coining charges were also brought in 1534 against the bailiff of Norton Abbey (Cheshire), after the abbot had taken into his service a former employee of the Tower mint.137 In December 1536 a French priest was executed for counterfeiting the sign manual.138 Earlier that year, the commissioners sequestering valuables at Walsingham Priory made a remarkable discovery: a secrete privye place within the howse, where no channon nor annye other of the howse dyd ever enter, as they saye, in which there were instrewmentes, pottes, belowes, flyes of suche strange colers as the lick non of us had seene, with poysies, and other thinges to sorte, and denyd gould and sylver, nothing ther wantinge that should belong to the arte of multyplyeng.139

‘Multiplication’ was the alchemical attempt to transmute base into precious metal.140 Here, in a secret laboratory of dissimulation, monks were gnawing at the financial sinews of the state, just as the shrine’s feigned relics sought to sap its spiritual fibre. Connections between secular and religious concerns about forgery may be ultimately impalpable. Yet in their confluence it is tempting to detect a paradigm in motion, a shift in the direction of that amplifed polarity of truth and falsehood, essence and inverse, which we have been taught to recognise as the 135

TNA: PRO, SP 1/133, fo. 52r (LP, xiii (1). 1199). Challis, Tudor Coinage, p. 276; Brigden, London, p. 213. Anne Boleyn was reported to have refused to intercede for him, saying there were too many priests in the country already: E.W. Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (Oxford, 2004), p. 156. 137 TNA: PRO, SP 1/86, fos 7v–8v (LP, vii. 1225); G. Williams, Wales and the Reformation (Cardiff, 1997), p. 80; Challis, Tudor Coinage, p. 287. 138 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 60. 139 BL, Cotton MS Cleo. E. iv, fo. 275r (Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 138). ‘Denyd’ gold and silver may refer to coins failing to meet requisite standards of weight and fineness. See Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. Hughes and Larkin, i. 145–7, 156–73. 140 This was banned by statute of Henry IV’s reign: 5 Hen. IV, c. 4. See W.H.L. Ogrinc, ‘Western Society and Alchemy from 1200 to 1500’, Journal of Medieval History, 5 (1980). For a shortlived and disastrous interest on the part of Henry VI, see R.A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI (London, 1981), p. 386. 136



bedrock of early modern intellectual systems.141 The regime of Henry VIII (whose father had come to the throne with the flimsiest and least convincing of hereditary claims) placed a distinct premium on authenticity.142 The Henrician assault on traditional religious culture has been well covered in recent scholarship, particularly in Eamon Duffy’s justly celebrated book The Stripping of the Altars.143 But the tendency in some revisionist writing to focus almost exclusively on the experience of dispossessed local communities can make it difficult to understand the motivation behind the campaigns, and the levels of elite support they were undoubtedly able to command. In directing attention away from the stripped and towards the strippers, I have hoped to recover some of the dynamics and momentum of the reforming process itself. It is not the intention of this essay to resurrect the thesis that the Henrician Reformation possessed an essentially ‘Erasmian’ character, or indeed to propose the existence of any stable ideological core around which the religious policies of Henry VIII’s government revolved.144 Rather, I have

141 See Stuart Clark, ‘Inversion, Misrule and the Meaning of Witchcraft’, Past and Present, 87 (1980); idem, Thinking with Demons. For sensitive applications of the model to later sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English religious culture, see M. Hunter, ‘The Problem of “Atheism” in Early Modern England’, TRHS, 5th ser., 35 (1985); P. Lake, ‘AntiPopery: The Structure of a Pejudice’, in R. Cust and A. Hughes (eds), Conflict in Early Stuart England (London, 1989). 142 See C.S.L. Davies, ‘The Cromwellian Decade: Authority and Consent’, TRHS, 6th ser., 7 (1997), 178 for insightful comments on the Henrician regime’s consciousness of its own weakness. See also D. MacCulloch, ‘Henry VIII and the Reform of the Church’, in D. MacCulloch (ed.), The Reign of Henry VIII (London, 1995), p. 162: ‘The Tudor dynasty knew that it had been put in place by God’s peculiar favour, and not by much else.’ 143 Other notable contributions include Duffy, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village (New Haven and London, 2001), ch. 5; J.J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Oxford, 1984), chs 4–5; R. Whiting, The Blind Devotion of the People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 1989); A.D. Brown, Popular Piety in Late Medieval England: The Diocese of Salisbury 1250–1550 (Oxford, 1995), ch. 10; C. Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993), chs 7–9 (the last-mentioned is somewhat more optimistic about the ability of parishes to circumvent the destructive impulses of Henrician policy). 144 For the 1530s as a fundamentally ‘Erasmian polity’, see McConica, English Humanists, ch. 6. The case for the Henrician reforms possessing a high degree of consistency based on broadly humanist principles is also made by Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism, ch. 2; G.W. Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy, 1533–1546: Henry VIII and the Search for the Middle Way’, Historical Journal, xli (1998); Bernard, ‘The Piety of Henry VIII’ in Amos, Pettegree and van Nierop (eds), Education of a Christian Society. For a salutary reminder that humanist learning was the common inheritance of Catholic and Protestant thinkers, and that Erasmus’ legacy was a deeply contested one, see R. Rex, ‘The Role of English Humanists in the Reformation up to 1559’, ibid.



attempted to account for the powerful instrumentality of manifestly radical change in a profoundly unstable religious landscape. Erasmian (and pre-Erasmian) tropes about deceptions practised by the clergy had a longstanding tenancy among educated lay elites; they were ideas singularly susceptible to appropriation and adaptation by coteries with distinct agendas; and once licensed by the crown, they exercised a highly destructive effect on important areas of late medieval English religious culture. The exposure of ‘forgery’ not only functioned as a powerful metaphor or discourse, which gave some favour of coherence to the faction-ridden religious politics of the Henrician state, but it was a line of attack which pressed unerringly on the weakest points of traditional religion, where conservatives could hardly begin to mount a convincing defence. It was a representational strategy which harnessed idealism to opportunism, fusing evangelical fervour and Erasmian rigour in ways that helped to rehabilitate the former and radicalise the latter. It had great inflationary potential, seeping from its precise limits to infuse a broader discourse of ‘reform’ and underwrite a more wholesale condemnation of traditional religion as ‘superstition’ and ‘hypocrisy’ – not least because of its ability to resonate with broader concerns about forgery and verification in the governance of the realm. It was also a vital legacy to the Protestant successor regimes. In the first year of Edward’s reign, ‘artificial figures which moved their heads, arms and legs’ were again displayed at Paul’s Cross, official homilies denounced the ‘papistical leven of mans feyned religion’, and royal injunctions ordered the utter extinction of shrines, tables, pictures, paintings ‘and all other monuments of feigned miracles’.145 Under Elizabeth and James, the association of Catholicism with ‘false miracles’ became a staple ingredient of Protestant polemical writing.146 In its origins, this linkage was in large measure a defensive strategy, formulated to counter the temerity of those who subjected the King’s proceedings to the discernment of visionary charisma. Yet its 145

CSP, Relating to the Negotiations between England and Spain … 1547–49, ed. Martin A.S. Hume and Royall Tyler (London, 1912), pp. 219–20; Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547), ed. R.B. Bond (Toronto, 1987), p. 112; Visitation Articles, ed. Frere and Kennedy, ii. 126. 146 See C. Davidson, ‘“The Devil’s Guts”: Allegations of Superstition and Fraud in Religious Drama and Art during the Reformation’, in C. Davidson and A.E. Nichols (eds), Iconoclasm vs. Art and Drama (Kalamazoo, 1989); A. Fox, Oral and Literate Culture in England 1500–1700 (Oxford, 2000), pp. 122, 176; H.L. Parish, ‘“Then May the Deuyls of Hell Be Sayntes Also”: The Mediaeval Church in Sixteenth-Century England’, Reformation, 4 (1999); idem, ‘“Impudent and Abhominable Fictions”: Rewriting Saints’ Lives in the English Reformation’, Sixteenth Century Journal, 32 (2001); A. Walsham, ‘Miracles, Visions and the Counter-Reformation Mission to England’, Historical Journal, 46 (2003).



corrosive capacity resided finally in a simple fact of experience. For as Thomas More had conceded, ‘alwaye it renneth in mennys myndys that myracles may be fayned’.147


More, Dialogue, p. 240.


Mumpsimus and Sumpsimus I Henry VIII’s appearance before the assembled houses of parliament on Christmas Eve 1545 was perhaps his finest hour. In what has been called a ‘pioneer royal Christmas broadcast’, the king delivered an impassioned and eloquent speech lamenting the religious divisions that afflicted his kingdom, and urging his subjects towards unity and charity.1 According to William Petre, the king himself wept as he recounted how ‘charity between man and man is so refrigerate’, and few of his audience could restrain themselves from doing likewise.2 Another eyewitness, the chronicler Edward Hall, wrote down the speech ‘worde for worde, as near as I was able to report it’. This account gives details of how Henry illustrated the breakdown of fraternal love among his people: ‘the one calleth the other hereticke and anabaptist, and he calleth hym again, papist, yypocrite and pharisey’; rival preachers inveighed against each other ‘without charity or discrecion’. To the king’s mind, the blame for this deserved to be apportioned to all sides, and to reinforce the point, Henry presented his audience with one of the more curious metaphors of contemporary religious discourse: ‘some be to styff in their old Mumpsimus, other be to busy and curious in their newe Sumpsimus’.3 Recent historians of the reign have understandably devoted considerable attention to this speech, arguably the most famous of all Henry VIII’s public pronouncements, and most have quoted the mumpsimus–sumpsimus idiom, with varying degrees of wry amusement.4 Yet there has been little 1

The phrase is Diarmaid MacCulloch’s: Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven and London, 1996), p. 348. 2 TNA: PRO, SP 1/212, fos 110v–111r (LP, xx (2). 1030). 3 Edward Hall, Hall’s Chronicle, ed. H. Ellis (London, 1809), pp. 864–5. The charge of religious name-calling was hardly new in 1545. In an earlier exhortation to unity and charity, Thomas Starkey had lamented the fact that ‘eche one in hart iugeth other to be eyther pharisee or heretyke, papist or schismatike’: An Exhortation to the People Instructynge them to Unitie and Obedience (London, ?1536), fo. 27v. 4 J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (London, 1968), pp. 470–71; S.E. Lehmberg, The Later Parliaments of Henry VIII 1536–1547 (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 229–31; S. Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), p. 378; G.R. Elton, England under the Tudors (3rd edn, London, 1991), 200; C. Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993), p. 164; R. Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation (Basingstoke, 1993), p. 172; MacCulloch, Cranmer, p. 348; G.W. Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy, 1533–1546: Henry VIII and the Search for the Middle Way’, Historical Journal, 41 (1998), 348; F. Heal, Reformation in Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 2003), p. 150.



attempt to explain why the king should use precisely these words to epitomise the polarisation of religious positions in the early 1540s.5 It is not always apparent from modern accounts that the terms ‘mumpsimus’ and ‘sumpsimus’ did not represent the king’s own attempt at faux-bucolic neologism, but were an established (though not very long-established) literary trope.6 In the following short discussion, I hope to demonstrate how an investigation of the derivation and precedents of the phraseology employed by Henry in his Christmas speech can throw some revealing light on the processes by which religious typologies were constructed and utilised in the course of the Henrician Reformation, as well as providing some points of orientation in that most formidable of terrae incognitae, the mind of Henry VIII himself.7 II Credit for introducing mumpsimus and sumpsimus to the language is given by The Oxford English Dictionary to the humanist and diplomat Richard Pace, but in fact the origins of the phrase can be traced further back, to the lodestar of the early sixteenth-century humanist movement, Desiderius Erasmus. In a letter of August 1516 to an English correspondent, Henry Bullock, Erasmus railed against the opponents of his recent edition of the New Testament, specifically those who were arguing that no textual changes to Scripture were permissible unless it were on the authority of a General Council.8 This seemed to Erasmus wilfully block5 An exception here is Lehmberg, Later Parliaments, p. 231, which notes that the phrase was derived from a 1517 treatise by Richard Pace. As I shall show, this does not give the complete picture. 6 See D. Starkey, Elizabeth: Apprenticeship (London, 2000), p. 56: ‘Henry invented new words because the old ones were not vivid enough to characterise the folly of religious disputation’. In the subsequent American edition, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne (New York, 2001), p. 334n, Starkey concedes a proximate derivation from Pace’s Latin treatise, but concludes (wrongly) that ‘it is Henry who, in this speech, first imports the words into English’. 7 Recent stimulating, and contrasting, attempts to locate Henry’s religious centre of gravity include D. MacCulloch, ‘Henry VIII and the Reform of the Church’, in idem (ed.), The Reign of Henry VIII: Politics, Policy and Piety (Basingstoke, 1995), pp. 159–80; Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy’; idem, ‘The Piety of Henry VIII’, in N.S. Amos, A. Pettegree and H. van Nierop (eds), The Education of a Christian Society: Humanism and Reformation in Britain and the Netherlands (Aldershot, 1999), pp. 62–88; A. Ryrie, ‘Divine Kingship and Royal Theology in Henry VIII’s Reformation’, Reformation, 7 (2002); R. Rex and C.D.C. Armstrong, ‘Henry VIII’s Ecclesiastical and Collegiate Foundations’, Historical Research, 75 (2002). 8 For a useful short discussion of the controversy, see S. Wabuda, Preaching During the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 72–6.



headed; the corruption in some passages was too obvious to be overlooked, and by way of analogy he brought in a personal reminiscence. A printer in Paris, possessed of a mere smattering of learning, had confessed to him that twenty years earlier his press had produced service books and books of hours according to the use of Trier, which were subsequently found to have a great many discrepancies and errors. Of course, Erasmus noted, the printer corrected them all for subsequent editions, just as the leaders of the Church should now be willing to allow necessary corrections to the far more important text of holy writ itself. If they opposed this, they would resemble ‘the mass-priest who refused to change the word mumpsimus which he had used for twenty years, when someone told him that sumpsimus was what he ought to say’.9 The context for the malapropism is the postcommunio prayer in the canon of the mass, where ‘sumpsimus’ (the first-person plural perfect indicative of sumere, to take up) appears in numerous variant settings.10 Erasmus does not claim directly that this priest had been using one of the defective Trevisan missals, though the implication is that some such corrupted text (a simile for the Vulgate) must have come into his hands. Whether such a priest ever really existed must remain questionable. The letter was included in the edition of Erasmus’s letters published at Louvain in 1516, and thus came to the attention of the English humanist scholar, royal secretary and diplomat, Richard Pace.11 Pace was clearly taken with the anecdote. In a letter to Erasmus from Constance of 5 August 1517, he reported that a collection of Erasmus’ letters had come into his hands, and he wholeheartedly joined with Erasmus in excoriating critics of the New Testament: ‘They ought to be satisfied by your story of our mass-priest and his mumpsimus for sumpsimus.’12 Moreover, he appropriated the 9 Opus epistolarum De. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P.S. Allen, H.M. Allen and H.W. Garrod (Oxford, 1906–58), ii. 322–3; The Correspondence of Erasmus, Letters 446 to 593, 1516 to 1517, ed. and tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thompson (Toronto, 1977), pp. 43–6, where it is pointed out at p. 46n. that no record can be found of breviaries, missals or primers after the use of Trier being printed at Paris in this period. Troyes is suggested as an alternative. 10 The Sarum Missal, ed. J.W. Legg (Oxford, 1916), pp. 194, 234, 237, 284, 296, 320, 326, 333, 338, 343, 364, 394. 11 Pace had been part of the community of young English scholars in Padua at the turn of the sixteenth century, and had been known to Erasmus since about 1508. On his career, see J. Wegg, Richard Pace, A Tudor Diplomat (London, 1932); Richard Pace, De Fructu qui ex doctrina Percipitur, ed. F. Manley and R.S. Sylvester (New York, 1967), introduction; J. Woolfson, Padua and the Tudors: English Students in Italy, 1485–1603 (Cambridge, 1998). The most substantial recent work is C.M. Curtis, ‘Richard Pace: Pedagogy, Counsel and Satire’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1997). 12 Opus epistolarum Erasmi, iii. 40; The Correspondence of Erasmus, Letters 594 to 841, 1517 to 1518, ed. and tr. R.A.B. Mynors and D.F.S. Thompson (Toronto, 1979), pp. 58–9.



exemplum for a work of his own appearing from the Basel presses later that same year, De Fructu qui ex Doctrina Percipitur, an educational treatise extolling the different branches of learning and the benefits they variously confer.13 Here the ignorant cleric has become ‘a certain boorish English priest’ (‘quidam indoctus sacrificius Anglicus’), who has a part to play in a debate between Rhetoric and Grammar over the importance of teaching the proper names and forms of letters. In their discussion, ‘S’ is found to be the most unfortunate of letters, as the afore-mentioned cleric had driven her away from her own property for thirty years, being ‘not ashamed at having read mumpsimus instead of sumpsimus for that long a time. And when a learned man advised him to correct the mistake, he replied that he didn’t want to change his old mumpsimus for some new sumpsimus.’14 Clearly, Pace found the word mumpsimus a useful allpurpose tool for the indictment of obscurantism, for he used it in another place in the same treatise to lambast certain medical doctors. These, ignoring the advice of Nicolas Leonicensus, professor of medicine at Ferrara, had failed to learn Greek properly and they thus prescribed the snake-bite antidote theriaca without knowing how to prepare it properly: ‘they preferred to use their old mumpsimus rather than Leonicensus’ – or rather, Truth’s – sumpsimus’.15 The suitability of the phrase for lampooning opponents of classical learning struck a chord with other English humanists. In his Boke named the Gouvernor (1531), Sir Thomas Elyot devoted a chapter to ‘Magnanimitie … a vertue much commendable and expedient in a governor’. He recognised, however, that the word itself ‘beinge yet straunge, as late borowed out of the Latyne, shall not content all men, and specially them whome nothing contenteth out of their accustomed mumpsimus’; ‘good courage’ was proposed as a more familiar synonym.16 In short, ‘mumpsimus’ was part of the currency of humanist wordplay, a pointedly referential Latinate joke. It may have appealed particularly to English humanists because of its suggestion of mummering or mumming, terms which meant muttering or mumbling, as well as the disguising and play-acting associated with mummers’ plays.17 To humanist writers, it 13 Richard Pace, De Fructu qui ex Doctrina Percipitur (Basel, 1517). The references which follow are to the modern edition by F. Manley and R.S. Sylvester, cited above. 14 Pace, De Fructu, pp. 102–3. 15 Ibid., pp. 64–5. 16 Thomas Elyot, The Boke named the Gouvernor, ed. H. Croft (2 vols, London, 1880), ii. 288–9. 17 Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edn, Oxford 1991), s.v. ‘mum’, ‘mummer’. Cf. John Skelton’s poem, Collyn Clout, where the ignorance of the clergy is mocked in these terms: ‘And as for theyr connynge, / A glommynge and a mommynge’. The Complete English Poems, ed. J. Scattergood (London, 1983), p. 248.



was a versatile weapon of ridicule, though one which had been forged from their characteristic disdain for the ignorant mass of the parish clergy. Impatience with clerical shortcomings was de rigueur among the circle of Erasmus’ acquaintance in early sixteenth-century England, with figures like Thomas More and John Colet arguing that what the Church needed was fewer priests and better ones.18 In an ordination sermon of around 1510, Colet’s friend, the chancellor of York Minster, William Melton, bemoaned the existence of that ‘crop of oafish and boorish priests’ liable to ‘throw aside their books in contempt’ at the slightest temptation.19 That priests should be no more than barely competent (if that) in the liturgy was a particular source of humanist sarcasm. In his fictive Dialogue between Pole and Lupset, Thomas Starkey bewailed the scandal whereby unlearned curates were placed in benefices who very often could do no more ‘but pattur up theyr matyne and mas, mumblyng up a certayn nombur of wordys no thyng understonde’.20 In a letter to Starkey (then in Padua) from Valladolid in July 1535, the scholar–diplomat John Mason retold the story of an ‘ignorant preist of my contrey’ who was clearly first cousin to the champion of mumpsimus. This cleric ‘wolde not suffer the name of Satanas in the Masbook, butt strake itt owte and putt God in the place of itt, and so he made “abrenuncio Deo et omnibus operibus ejus”’.21 Within the world of humanist scholarship then, the mumpsimus–sumpsimus motif can be seen to have had a dual function, serving to satirise both the ignorant parish clergy and the more highly placed and formally educated opponents of humanist learning. The particular potency of the concept derived from its utility for conflating the latter with the former. III It was these highly transferable properties of the mumpsimus metaphor which help explain its attraction for the first generation of English evangelical reformers. Like the humanists, early reformers had nothing but 18 P. Marshall, The Catholic Priesthood and the English Reformation (Oxford, 1994), pp. 56, 59; J.R. Lander, Government and Community: England, 1450–1509 (London, 1980), pp. 129–30. 19 William Melton, Sermo Exhortatorius Cancelarii Eboracensis (London, ?1510), sig. A4r, translated extract in A.G. Dickens and D. Carr (eds), The Reformation in England to the Accession of Elizabeth I (London, 1967), pp. 15–16. 20 Thomas Starkey, A Dialogue between Pole and Lupset, ed. T.F. Mayer (CS, 4th ser., 37, 1989), p. 88. 21 H. Ellis (ed.), Original Letters Illustrative of English History (2nd ser., 4 vols, London, 1827), ii. 58–9.



contempt for the ‘Sir John Lack-Latins’ among the parish clergy, mumbling their matins without understanding.22 But they were under no illusions that the real obstacles to the implementation of the Gospel were their ‘papistical’ enemies in the episcopate and among the higher clergy. It is in this context that we find the first deployment of the mumpsimus theme by an English evangelical, in William Tyndale’s Practice of Prelates (1530), a work which, against the trend of English reformist opinion, opposed Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon. In Tyndale’s account, Cardinal Wolsey, having planted the idea in Henry’s mind that Katherine was not his true wife, used as a pretext the condemnation of the evangelicals Thomas Arthur and Thomas Bilney to call together all his doctors and chancellors ‘to seek subtle arguments and riddles to prove his divorcement’. These ecclesiastics, Tyndale derisively noted, were ‘all lawyers, and other doctors, mumpsimuses of divinity’.23 This was a direct iteration of the Erasmian critique of ‘scholarly ignorance’, albeit in a much more overtly doctrinal context. The mumpsimus here metonymically stood for the doctors themselves, and was intended to signify not so much a lumpish attachment to outdated modes of textual criticism as a short-hand code for opposition to the biblicist and solfidian agenda Tyndale was seeking to promote. In this sense, mumpsimus was to prove a potent weapon in the rhetorical armoury of English evangelicalism, functioning in a manner similar to the polemical expression ‘new learning’, which, as Richard Rex has shown, was widely employed by religious conservatives in Henrician England as a loose (and therefore adaptable and effective) synonym for heresy.24 Indeed, an important part of the appeal of mumpsimus was that it so pithily subverted the polemical agenda encapsulated in the sarcastic sobriquet ‘new learning’. If the Catholics’ teaching could be represented as ‘mumpsimus’, then it was they rather than the evangelicals who ought to be associated with ‘novelty’, and with demonstrably corrupt deviation from true apostolic doctrine. Some further examples will help to illustrate this strategy. In March 1535 Thomas Skypwyth and Gregory Waren wrote to Cromwell to complain about the clergy in the liberty of St Albans, whose misdemeanours included making treasonous utterances in confession, condemning the works of Luther, Melanchthon, Tracy, Tyndale and Frith, and denouncing as heretics any who loved the Word of God, or whom they suspected of the ‘new learning’. They sadly reported that 22

On this theme, see Marshall, Catholic Priesthood, pp. 96–8. W. Tyndale, Expositions and Notes on Sundry Portions of the Holy Scriptures together with The Practice of Prelates, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge 1849), p. 320. 24 R. Rex, ‘The New Learning’, JEH, 44 (1993), 26–44. 23



there were no priests in the area ‘that doth manyfest the full trwght in ther prechyng, but rather smellyth of ther olde mumsymus’, with the exception of the archdeacon, the curate and a single monk of St Albans Abbey.25 Cromwell was hearing about mumpsimus from other correspondents in 1535, among them another solitary evangelical monk, John Placett of the Benedictine abbey of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire. Placett wrote offering to take up his pen against ‘mony wolde bokys and ragyde pawmphylions de purgatorio … whych hath cawsyde sum men to be yn there olde mumsimus’.26 From this evangelical perspective, the very epitome of the type in the summer of 1535 were the inmates of the London Charterhouse. In the aftermath of the execution of Prior John Houghton, a client of Cromwell’s named John Whalley had been imposed as procurator with a brief to reduce the remaining Carthusians to conformity and obedience. While formulating grandiose plans to subject the monks to a barrage of exhortations from all the leading bishops, Whalley complained of their utter intractability in a letter to Cromwell: ‘no question of it, they be excedingly supersticious, ceremonius and phrasaicall, and wondesly addicte to theire olde mumpsimus’.27 The phrase was used in almost exactly the same sense in May 1541 by no less a figure than Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, as tensions erupted between conservatives and radicals among the new prebendaries of his cathedral church of Canterbury.28 At Faversham, Cranmer confronted two of the most implacable opponents of further reform, Arthur St Leger and Richard Parkhurst. The archbishop accused them of being knit together in a bond which he was determined to break. His earlier good judgement of them had proved misplaced, for ‘ye wyll not leve your olde mumsemundes; but I will make you to leave them or else I will make ye to repent it’. According to his own account, St Leger made a calm and dignified reply: ‘I trust we use no mumsemundes but these that be consonant to the laws of God and owr Prynce’.29 The protean qualities of the term are particularly evident in these last examples. No more than the monks of the Charterhouse could either prebendary be plausibly represented as an ignorant rural curate: St Leger was a former prior of Leeds, and brother of the powerful local landowner, Sir Anthony St Leger; Parkhurst was a former secretary to Archbishop Warham.30 25

TNA: PRO, SP 1/91, fos 93r–v, 95r–v (LP, viii. 406, 407). TNA: PRO, SP 1/98, fo. 131r (LP, ix. 723). 27 TNA: PRO, SP 1/92, fo. 67r (LP, viii. 600). 28 These were to lead to attempts to unseat Cranmer in the so-called ‘Prebendaries’ Plot’, on which, see M.L Zell, ‘The Prebendaries Plot of 1543: A Reconsideration’, JEH, 27 (1976), 241–53; MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 297–322. 29 LP, xviii (2). 546, p. 378. See also ibid., pp. 322, 349. 30 MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 285, 299. 26



Yet it would seem that while Cranmer was invoking mumpsimus to lambast the conservative clergy of Kent, the term remained sufficiently capacious for it not to become simply an emblematic party label, or the sole property of an evangelical faction. In April 1538 it turns up in a rather unexpected place, a somewhat ingratiating letter from the archconservative nobleman, Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk to his governmental colleague (and arch-rival) Thomas Cromwell. With reference to some unspecified ‘pronostications’ that Cromwell had apprised him of, Norfolk commented: ‘I thinke Almightie God doth entende no longer to wynke, but to loke brodewaking, aswell on those that do determine themselffes to followe his comawndementes as on thothers acordinge to their desertes, that be bent to followe their olde mumpsimus, and superstitions.’ He thought it likely that God would shortly visit punishment upon the bishop of Rome, his ‘ungratiouse cardinalles’, and all who support their ‘damnable procedinges’.31 This should be read as an example of more self-consciously ‘Henrician’ rhetoric, seeking to associate ‘superstition’ and ‘mumpsimus’ directly with allegiance to Rome, rather than with adherence to traditional sacramental theology.32 In the years after 1545, mumpsimus seems more securely located in the polemical vocabulary of Protestantism, where it was to enjoy an extremely long shelf-life.33 In a sermon preached on the first Sunday in Advent in 1552, Hugh Latimer characterised anyone sticking doggedly to the practice of fasting on Friday as determined to ‘abide by his old mumpsimus’. He returned to the metaphor in a sermon on Sexagesima Sunday early the next year, indicting those who called themselves Christians while being unable to stomach the name of the Gospel: ‘some be so obstinate in their old mumpsimus, that they cannot abide the true doctrine of God’.34 In his stirring autobiographical narrative of his travails in Mary’s reign, the gospeller Edward Underhill described his interrogation before the Council in August 1553 for composing a ballad against the papists. Challenged by Sir John Gage as to what he actually meant by the term ‘papist’, Underhill archly retorted, ‘I thynke yff yow loke amonge the pristes in Pooles, ye shall fynde some old mumsymussis 31

TNA: PRO, SP 1/131, 108r (LP xiii (1), 784). I explore some of the contours of this rhetorical strategy in ‘The Rood of Boxley, the Blood of Hailes, and the Defence of the Henrician Church’, JEH, 46 (1995), 689–96. See also Chapter 7, above. 33 In the aftermath of the ‘Popish Plot’, for example, Robert Bolron described the Jesuits as the most zealous for the propagation of popery ‘in their old Mumpsimus way’: The Narrative of Robert Bolron of Shippon-Hall, Gent. Concerning the late Horrid Popish Plot (London, 1680), p. 9. 34 Hugh Latimer, Sermons and Remains, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge 1845), pp. 17, 211. 32



ther’. Gage was not amused: ‘Mumsymussis, knave, (sayde he,) mumsymussis? Thou art an herytike.’35 IV By the mid-1550s, then, to hand out accusations of mumpsimus was to declare oneself a Protestant. As we have seen, however, the history of the phrase over the preceding four decades reveals a rather complex pedigree. Henry’s version of 1545 – with its direct juxtaposition of ‘mumpsimus’ and ‘sumpsimus’ – seems to suggest a familiarity with Pace’s text, but in variant forms the phrase was clearly current in circles close to the king himself. The foregoing brief examination of its diffusion after 1516 suggests that Henry’s utilisation of the motif on this most public of occasions cannot be used unproblematically as evidence that the king was consciously steering a ‘middle way’ in religious matters.36 As informed contemporaries would have been well aware, Henry’s bon mot was not quite so even-handed as it might first appear: sumpsimus is, at worst, pedantry, while mumpsimus is just plain wrong. As a pejorative label, ‘sumpsimus’ does not seem to have featured at all in anti-evangelical discourse of the 1530s and 1540s. Yet in so far as linguistic meaning is the sum of linguistic usage, a deconstruction of the terms in which Henry framed his famous appeal for unity reveals a complex layering of strands and sources. What the king was invoking appears to represent a melange of discursive ‘otherings’: the rhetoric of reformist Christian humanism, decisively appropriated into more overtly evangelical discourses, though still to an extent countenanced by the anticlerical and antipapal attitudes of conservative lay elites. It would be difficult to find a more perfect encapsulation of the idiosyncratic religious outlook of Henry VIII, or of the complexities and ambiguities of the reforming processes the king had unleashed; processes which, in 1545, Henry was trying, and failing, to bring under control.

35 Narratives of the Days of the Reformation, ed. J.G. Nichols (CS, old ser., 77, 1859), p. 141. 36 Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy’, 348, cites the passage as a final piece of evidence for Henry’s ‘middle way’.

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Catholic Positions: With and Without the Pope

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Is the Pope a Catholic? The question of whether Henry VIII remained a Catholic after his break with Rome, and of whether the religious settlement he subsequently imposed represented ‘Catholicism without the Pope’, has long been a staple of historical and theological controversy. Henry’s first modern biographer, A.F. Pollard, was insistent that the king ‘never wavered in his adhesion to the cardinal points of the Catholic faith’. This judgement was endorsed in the 1930s and 40s by the French historian Gustave Constant, and the Anglo-Catholic Henry Maynard Smith.1 Yet at the same time, in a work of careful historical theology, E.C. Messenger took his fellow Catholic Constant to task for attempting to ‘whitewash’ Henry, solemnly pronouncing of the English Church after 1535 that ‘we must decline to give it the title of “Catholic”, or to speak of its bishops as “Catholic bishops”’.2 An equally emphatic judgement was arrived at in the early 1950s by the priest–historian Philip Hughes, author of an undervalued three-volume account of the Reformation in England. Hughes syllogistically disposed of Henry’s claims to be a Catholic ruler: Catholics are defined ‘at all times’ as those recognising the teaching authority of the Church whose supreme earthly ruler is the pope – a test Henry quite clearly fails.3 Henry’s most significant twentieth-century biographer, J.J. Scarisbrick, leaned in the same direction, writing that ‘“Catholicism without the Pope” will not do … there can be no doubt that the Henrician Church took long strides towards the Reformers’.4 Into the 1990s, scholars remained divided over whether ‘Henrician Catholicism’ should be regarded as a tautology or an oxymoron. L.F. Solt argued that in ‘substantive matters of heresy, theology, and the cure of souls’ the Henrician settlement could indeed be considered ‘Catholicism without the Pope’, a view shared, with caveats, by the biographer of Stephen Gardiner, Glyn Redworth.5 In a general survey of 1993 1

A.F. Pollard, Henry VIII (London, 1902), p. 310; G. Constant, The Reformation in England: I The English Schism, tr. R.E. Scantlebury (New York, 1934), pp. 430–35; H.M. Smith, Henry VIII and the Reformation (London, 1948), pp. 167, 452. 2 E.C. Messenger, The Reformation, the Mass and the Priesthood (2 vols, London, 1936–37), i., pp. vi, 240. 3 P. Hughes, The Reformation in England (3 vols, London, 1950–54), i. 197, 217, 278, 360. 4 J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (London, 1968), p. 399. 5 L.F. Solt, Church and State in Early Modern England 1509–1640 (Oxford, 1990), p. 41; G. Redworth, In Defence of the Church Catholic: The Life of Stephen Gardiner (Oxford, 1990), pp. 48–9.



Richard Rex described ‘Catholicism without the Pope’ as a ‘slick label’ doing little justice to the idiosyncratic nature of Henry’s religious settlement. Yet he accepted that the Henrician Church presented a fundamentally conservative doctrinal face, the creation of a king whose conscience ‘had been formed, and largely remained, within the Catholic tradition’.6 Any such concession is stoutly repudiated by the American scholar Paul O’Grady: ‘a melange of incoherent prejudices is very far from a firm Catholic theology, anti-papal or not’. Henry VIII was not a Catholic because ‘he adamantly refused to define, or allow to be defined, the corporate nature of a visible, teaching Church’.7 In the face of such entrenched positions, some historians have attempted a bold outflanking manoeuvre: the revival of a historiographical tradition regarding the Henrician Reformation as predominantly humanist or ‘Erasmian’ in character, and involving (at an official level at least) a more or less coherent blending of Catholic and reforming influences.8 Was Henry then a Catholic, and was Henricianism Catholicism? It seems to be a matter of perception and definition. But there is a danger here, whichever side of the argument one is inclined to support – the temptation to ‘reify’ or ‘essentialise’, to approach the Henrician religious scene via a notional and arguably a-historical conception of Catholic ‘orthodoxy’: so many points deducted for dissolving monasteries, others awarded for retaining the mass. In fairness, much modern scholarship on the early English Reformation has been keen to avoid anachronism and confessional rigidity, anxious to recognise the fluidity of religious positions and the problematic nature of religious labels. Few scholars writing today would commit the solecism of N.S. Tjernagel, and refer to ‘the leading Roman Catholic conservatives’ among Henry’s advisers in the 1540s, or to Henry’s own ‘personal faith in Roman Catholic theology’.9 Indeed, it is questionable whether it is at all helpful to call Henry a ‘Roman Catholic’ even before he made the break with Rome. As Diarmaid MacCulloch has recently observed, ‘this familiar term makes no sense before the Reformation … when everyone consciously or 6 7

R. Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation (Basingstoke, 1993), pp. 171–3. P. O’Grady, Henry VIII and the Conforming Catholics (Collegeville, MN, 1990), p.

10. 8 See J.K. McConica, English Humanists and Reformation Politics under Henry VIII and Edward VI (Oxford, 1965), esp. ch. 6; G.W. Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy, 1533–1546: Henry VIII and the Search for the Middle Way’, Historical Journal, 41 (1998); idem, ‘The Piety of Henry VIII’, in N.S. Amos, A. Pettegree and H. van Nierop (eds), The Education of a Christian Society: Humanism and Reformation in Britain and the Netherlands (Aldershot, 1999); L.E.C. Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England (Oxford, 2000), ch. 2. 9 N.S. Tjernagel, Henry VIII and the Lutherans (St Louis, MO, 1965), p. 212.



unconsciously formed part of the same Catholic church structure’.10 Historians have become accustomed to recognising that, prior to the Council of Trent, Catholic belief was hardly rigidly codified, and also that ‘evangelical’ is a more apt designation than ‘Protestant’ for much early sixteenth-century heterodoxy.11 But well-intentioned attempts to exclude anachronism can run the risk of readmitting it by the back-door. In an influential study of Henrician humanism, Maria Dowling announced that ‘because such terms are anachronistic’ she would not describe any of the subjects of Henry VIII as either ‘Catholics’ or ‘Protestants’, and in his magisterial biography of Archbishop Cranmer, MacCulloch has likewise dispensed with the descriptive label ‘Catholic’, for fear of ‘lapsing into anachronism and partisanship’.12 There is no doubting that ‘Protestant’ is an anachronistic construction. A neologism of the late 1520s, it seeped into English usage during the early 1530s as a description of the German princes in opposition to Charles V.13 It does not seem to have been applied to the domestic scene in Henry VIII’s reign, or even much in Edward VI’s. At the latter’s coronation procession in 1547, a place was allotted to ‘the Protestants’, meaning the ambassadors of the German reforming Princes.14 ‘Catholic’, by contrast, is a term which permeates the religious discourse of the age. It is, as we shall see, a highly problematic, even a protean, word. But it is precisely for that reason that we are obliged to confront it: historical understanding is not served by banishing categories of classification employed by contemporaries because they might turn out to be partisan or imprecise. The aim of this chapter therefore is to track occurrences of the word ‘Catholic’ (adjective, noun, occasionally adverb) across the textual landscape of Henrician England. The purpose, it must be stressed, is not to pronounce 10

D. MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490–1700 (London, 2003),

p. 38. 11

See above, pp. 5–6. M. Dowling, Humanism in the Age of Henry VIII (London, 1986), ‘Note and Acknowledgements’; D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven and London, 1996), p. 3. A similar demur was made in the 1950s by L.B. Smith, Tudor Prelates and Politics 1536–1558 (Princeton, NJ, 1953), p. 132, and more recently by E.A. Macek, The Loyal Opposition: Tudor Traditionalist Polemics (New York, 1996), p. 189 who argues that ‘use of the term “Catholic” before 1558 in England imposes a post-Tridentine distinction upon beliefs and parties that does not always reflect the fluidity of the contemporary religious realities’. According to George Bernard, ‘In c.1530 … men and women were simply Christians … To call them “Catholics” is anachronistic’ (review of E.H. Shagan, Popular Politics and the English Reformation, English Historical Review, 119 (2004), 448.) 13 See, for example, TNA: PRO, SP 1/202, fo. 193r; LP, xix (1). 302, 558; xx (1). 1226. 14 D. MacCulloch, Tudor Church Militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation (London, 1999), p. 2; MacCulloch, Reformation, p. xx. 12



on whether Henry was really a Catholic, or whether the experience of 1534–47 was emphatically one of ‘Catholicism without the Pope’. It is rather to observe contemporaries asking themselves these very questions, and by listening carefully to the modalities and inflections of their replies, to attempt to come to a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which their religious identities were formed and tested. The catchpenny question in the chapter title is not a merely rhetorical one. I ‘Catholic’ – word and concept – was woven deeply into the liturgical and doctrinal fabric of pre-Reformation England. At every mass, the priest offered the sacrifice on behalf of the Holy Catholic Church (‘pro ecclesia tua sancta Catholica’), and in the creed, belief was affirmed in ‘unam sanctam Catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam’.15 In a sermon of 1521, Bishop John Fisher remarked that the Church was called in the creed ‘Catholica, that is to saye unyversall … bycause it is not lymyt to any certayne nacyon, but it is comen to all nacyons’.16 But alongside its descriptive application to a supra-national institutional Church, ‘Catholic’ carried for contemporaries a set of more emotive, normative meanings. Pre-eminently, it characterised orthodox Christian belief, what the Bridgettine monk William Bonde termed ‘the Catholicall or generall fayth of the Chirche’, commending those ‘that in a true herte catholycally byleveth the same’.17 A devotional treatise on the eucharist might be addressed ‘to all good Catholyke persones’.18 In an early sixteenthcentury translation of the French romance, Melusine, the eponymous lady protests that ‘my byleve is as a Catholyque byleve oughte to be’, and she requires her beloved to swear ‘upon all the sacrements and othes that a man very Catholoque and of good feith may doo’.19 Such descriptors point to negative as much as positive attributes, for to be a ‘Catholic man’ meant as much as anything else not to be a heretic, to be like the early fifteenth-century regent of Scotland, the duke of Albany, who was described by the chronicler Andrew Wyntoun as ‘a constant Catholike, all Lollard he hatyd and heretike’.20 In a famous sermon of 15 The Sarum Missal, ed. J.W. Legg (Oxford, 1916), pp. 221, 211. The equivalents of ‘Catholic’ in Latin and the major West European languages are fairly exact ones. 16 John Fisher, The English Works, ed. J.E.B. Mayor (EETS, extra ser., 27, 1876), p. 343. 17 William Bonde, The Pylgrymage of Perfeccyon (London, 1531), pp. 186, 197. 18 Friar Garard, The Interpretacyon and Sygnyfycacyon of the Masse (London, 1532), fo. 1r. 19 Melusine, ed. A.K. Donald (EETS, extra ser., 68, 1895), pp. 31–2. 20 J.A.F. Thomson, The Later Lollards 1414–1520 (Oxford, 1965), p. 202n.



1511, John Colet warned his auditors that heretics might appear as ‘Catholyke and faithfull men’, and in Archbishop Warham’s anti-Lollard sweep through Kent that same year, the sentences imposed on heretics specified deviation from ‘the universal, Catholic and Apostolic Church’.21 One side of the linguistic coin was thus a token of devotional commitment, the other an instrument of ideological control. Almost inevitably, the latter emphasis was accentuated when new currents of heresy flowed into England from abroad through the 1520s. In 1529 convocation condemned works by Tyndale, Frith and others as ‘contraria fidei Catholicae’, and an anti-heresy proclamation of the same year boasted that the king’s ‘noble realm of England hath of long time continued in the true Catholic faith of Christ’s religion’. A second proclamation of June 1530 condemned imported books intending ‘to pervert and withdraw the people from the Catholic and true faith of Christ’.22 Recanting heretics, like William Goderidge in 1529, were made to promise ‘to defend the Catholic faith of holy church’.23 In June 1531, and under episcopal suspicion, Nicholas Shaxton swore to uphold all ‘articles and points as the Catholic Church of Rome believeth holdeth, or maintaineth at this time’.24 Yet this explicit identification of the Catholic Church with the Roman Church begged the very question which a number of religious radicals were beginning to pose. At his execution in August 1531, Thomas Bilney denied that he had ever said he did not believe in the Catholic Church. But he admitted that at one time he had inadvisedly said that ‘I beleve not ecclesiam Catholicam as it is now used’.25 Such suggestions that the real Catholic Church was something other than the institutional Church in communion with Rome infuriated the defenders of orthodoxy. In his sermon against Luther of 1521, John Fisher remarked that it was characteristic of heretics down the ages to ‘repute themeself and theyr adherentes only to be of the Chirche Catholyke’.26 Germaine Gardiner attacked John Frith for portraying ‘the holy Catholic Church of Christ’ as a ‘universal church of the elect’, rather than as ‘the known church’ and ‘the 21 J.H. Lupton, Life of John Colet (2nd edn, London, 1909), p. 298; N. Tanner, ‘Penances Imposed on Kentish Lollards by Archbishop Warham 1511–12’, in M. Aston and C. Richmond (eds), Lollardy and the Gentry in the Later Middle Ages (Stroud, 1997), pp. 245–9. 22 The Anglican Canons 1529–1947, ed. G. Bray, Church of England Record Society 6 (London, 1998), p. 24; Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. P.L. Hughes and J.F. Larkin (3 vols, New Haven and London, 1964–9), i. 181, 183, 194. 23 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. S.R. Cattley and G. Townsend (8 vols, London, 1837–41), v. 27. 24 Hughes, Reformation in England, i. 206. 25 Foxe, Acts and Monuments, iv. app. III. 26 Fisher, English Works, pp. 342–3.



governors of the same’.27 The theme was also a major preoccupation of the polemical writings of England’s best-known anti-Lutheran propagandist, Thomas More. For much of the time ‘Catholic’ served More as a blunt-edged rhetorical weapon, a simple antonym of heretic. The ‘trew Catholyke folke’ and the ‘false heretykes’ frequently stand in sharp juxtaposition.28 But More’s concern with the articulation of an explicitly Catholic identity went beyond mere name-calling. He argued that Luther’s propensity to draw distinctions between the Church of the pope and the true Catholic Church would ‘reduce the Catholic Church of Christ to two or three heretics buzzing in a corner’. Tyndale was admonished to submit himself to the judgement of ‘the hole Catholyke Chyrche, not the Chyrch of onely electys whyche no man can knowe, but unto the Catholyke knowen Chyrche’.29 This phrase, ‘the known Catholic Church’ reverberates through More’s massive Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer.30 Perhaps the most epigrammatic definition is to be found at the very outset of More’s polemical career, in the Responsio ad Lutherum of 1523. Here it is stated that the ‘common and perceptible multitude of men professing the name and faith of Christ is the Catholic Church by whose teaching the Scripture is determined and the faith is learned and recognised with certainty’.31 Subsequently, More accepted the challenge to prove that ‘these wordes of the crede, sanctam ecclesiam Catholicam, be understanden of the knowen Catholyque Chyrche’, and he referred the reader to St Augustine’s emphasis on the universality of the true Catholic Church, ‘spred abrode thorowe out the hole worlde’.32 Augustine’s obiter dictum, 27 Cited in J.C. Warner, Henry VIII’s Divorce: Literature and the Politics of the Printing Press (Woodbridge, 1998), p. 136. 28 Thomas More, The Apology, ed. J.B. Trapp (New Haven and London, 1979), pp. 160, 9, 11, 29, 32, 41, 45, 46, 49, 155, 158, 160; idem, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, ed. T.M.C. Lawler et al. (New Haven and London, 1981), pp. 33, 361, 406, 409; idem, The Confutation of Tyndale’s Answer, ed. L.A. Schuster et al. (New Haven and London, 1973), pp. 29–30, 38–9, 57, 34, 470, 625, 649, 658, 727, 789, 954; idem, The Answer to a Poisoned Book, ed. S. Foley and C.H. Miller (New Haven and London, 1985), p. 3; idem, The Debellation of Salem and Bizance, ed. J. Guy et al. (New Haven and London, 1987), pp. 15, 25; idem, Treatise on the Passion, ed. G. Haupt (New Haven and London, 1976), p. 171; idem, Letter to Bugenhagen. Supplication of Souls. Letter against Frith, ed. F. Manley et al. (New Haven and London, 1990), p. 236. 29 Thomas More, Responsio ad Lutherum, ed. J.M. Headley (New Haven and London, 1969), p. 119; idem, Confutation, p. 62. 30 Ibid., pp. 134, 147, 275, 379, 390, 398, 561, 564, 574–6, 598, 603, 649, 655–6, 662, 668–9, 673, 675, 678, 682, 712, 724, 727, 734, 740, 801, 835, 839, 841–2, 909, 912, 914, 939, 942, 951, 975, 980–81, 993 ff. 31 More, Responsio, p. 201. 32 More, Confutation, pp. 975–6.



that he would not have believed the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church moved him to, was a particular favourite of More’s, cited at least thirty times in his writings.33 For Augustine, More insisted, the adjective here was in no sense detachable from the noun: evyn the very name he sayth of Catholyke, that is to say universall, gave toward the gettyng of his credence the Catholyke Chyrche great authoryte, whych name of universall the same Chyrche alone among so many heresyes hadde so obtayned, that where as every secte of heretykes wold fayne be taken for Catholykes, yet yf a straunger shold come among them and aske where were any Catholyke Chyrche that he myghte go to, there were none heretyke that durst for shame bryng hym to any chyrch or any house of theyrs.34

More’s persuasive rhetoric encases a paradox, however. The Catholic Church and its Catholic faith were represented in inclusionary terms, stressing their knowability and universality. But at same time, as continual referencing of past schisms and patristic disputes makes clear, division, distinction and exclusion were built into his definitions of what it was to be a Catholic: ‘the generall catholyke churche is nat the nombre of all that embrace the name of Christ’. Heretics such as Luther, Zwingli, Wyclif and Tyndale ‘wylfully leave and forsake the Catholyke Church and the Catholyke faythe therof’.35 II Even as More drew his line in the sand, seismic events were reshaping the ground beneath his feet. As England’s links with the papacy were progressively severed in the early 1530s, the question of what it meant to be a Catholic man was reformulated in a new and pressing form. Could one be a Catholic without the pope, in spite of the pope? In a letter of February 1532, the duke of Norfolk congratulated himself on the way he had hectored the papal ambassador; he had, he remarked, ‘lyke a trew Catholyke man discharged my conscience’.36 Yet very different connotations of this powerful phrase were evoked a few weeks later when Thomas More met with George Throckmorton, an opponent of the government’s legislative programme, in a little chamber in the parliament house. More told Throckmorton that he was ‘very glad to hear the good report that goeth of you and that ye be so good a Catholic man as ye be’. 33 34 35 36

More, Apology, pp. 316–17n. More, Confutation, p. 735. Ibid., p. 562. TNA: PRO, SP 1/69, fo. 121r (LP, v. 831).



He urged him to ‘continue in the same way that ye began and be not afraid to say your conscience’.37 In commending Throckmorton as a ‘good Catholic man’, More might plausibly have claimed to be uttering no more than a polite commonplace. In a work written that same year, More argued that it was appropriate for every member of the universal Church to be called Catholic, something one could perceive ‘by the very comon maner of every mannes talking, wherin every man sayth of an heretike, This man is no Catholike man. And of him in whom they perceive by his faithful communicacion or his good verteouse christen workes, a good zele to the Catholike fayth and doctrine, theie say, This is a good Catholike man.’38 But there is little doubt that More and Throckmorton’s mutual recognition as Catholic men represented a coded commitment to oppose further moves against the papacy. The Lollards who referred to each other as ‘known men’ were perhaps not alone in England at this time in feeling a sense of a bonded secret identity.39 In the Confutation, More looked back to a time of persecution by Arians and Donatists, heretics who had grown so ‘stronge and mighty that they had gotten into their secte the strength of greate princes of christendome’. But one thing marked them out as false believers: ‘this word Catholike … made the difference betwene the true Church and theirs’. Indeed, if any virtuous man of the Catholic Church met with another Christian, ‘lest he might happe unware to meddle with ani heretike’, he would demand of him first ‘arte thou a Catholyque man?’40 A thousand years later, the right to describe themselves as Catholic men was claimed as a badge of allegiance by the irreconcilable opponents of the supremacy. In April 1540 the government got wind of a conspiracy in Calais centred around one of Lord Lisle’s chaplains, Gregory Botolph. A witness deposed that Botolph had described Cardinal Pole in these terms: ‘a good Catholyke man as ever I reasoned with’, and he had spoken of the pope’s sorrow about the condition of ‘the good Catholic men whiche be in ynglande’. Another witness was specifically demanded by the commissioners ‘yf ye hard hym not saie that Pole was a Catholyke man?’41 Oppositionist rhetoric laid claim to an exclusive Catholic identity openly as well as surreptitiously. After his condemnation for treason in July 1535, Thomas More put aside coded exhortations and oblique 37 J. Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven and London, 1980), pp. 198–9, 211. 38 More, Confutation, pp. 1025–6. 39 For the significance of this phrase, see A. Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffie Texts and Lollard History (Oxford, 1988), pp. 57, 143. 40 More, Confutation, p. 1027. 41 TNA: PRO, SP 1/158, fos 180r, 181r, 208r (LP, xv. 478).



historical analogy to declare that ‘this realm, being but one member and small part of the Church, might not make a particular law disagreeable with the general law of Christ’s universal Catholic Church’. At his execution, More urged the onlookers ‘to bear witness with him that he should now there suffer death in and for the faith of the Holy Catholic Church’.42 Two weeks earlier, John Fisher had ‘come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s holy Catholic Church’, and similar appeals to the authority of the Catholic Church seem to have been made at the execution of the three Carthusian priors and the Bridgettine Richard Reynolds on 4 May 1535.43 Writing to the Dominicans of Newcastle in early 1536 to explain why he had fled abroad, Prior Richard Marshall included among his reasons the teaching of the Catholic Church.44 The same rationale motivated a more famous exile, Reginald Pole, whose actions were justified ‘afore God, and the Catholic Church’.45 The most dangerous of Henry’s internal opponents, the rebel leader Robert Aske, claimed that all men murmured against the statute of supremacy, ‘a mean of division from the unity of Catholic Church’.46 Whether or not Aske’s view was as widely shared as he claimed, correspondence to and from the continent in the mid-1530s often evinced a sense that the English Church had ceased to be Catholic, that ‘Catholics’ in England were by definition the opponents of royal policy. Writing to the king in January 1532, Clement VII suggested that ‘Catholics will grieve and heretics rejoice to hear that he has repudiated hys queen’.47 A month later, the imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys optimistically reported that the most part of Henry’s subjects were ‘good Catholics’, whose refusal to live under an interdict might yet compel Henry to accept a papal sentence in his marital case.48 That, of course, proved not to be the case, and by 1535 Katherine was writing to her imperial nephew urging him ‘to bear in mind our holy Catholic Faith, and the peril in which this realm is standing for want of it’.49 Shortly after Katherine’s death the following year, Chapuys reported that her confessor, George 42 William Roper, ‘The Life of Sir Thomas More’, in R.S. Sylvester and D.P. Harding (eds), Two Early Tudor Lives (New Haven and London, 1962), pp. 248, 254. 43 Hughes, Reformation in England, i. 280; L.E. Whatmore, The Carthusians under King Henry the Eighth (Salzburg, 1983), pp. 73–4, 83; J. Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials (London, 1721), I i. 197 44 G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972), p. 18. 45 Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, I ii. 222. 46 LP, xii (1). 901 (p. 407). 47 LP, v. 750. 48 LP, vi. 142 49 LP, viii. 514.



D’Athequa, had tried to flee the country, ‘finding that he could not live here as a Catholic’. In a letter to Charles V’s counsellor Granvelle of around the same time, Chapuys included a bitterly ironic reference to Cranmer, ‘this notable and good Catholic archbishop of Canterbury’.50 Letters from the emperor’s proctor at Rome, Pedro Ortiz, reported that Fisher and More died ‘for the Catholic faith’; that Katherine on her deathbed prayed God ‘to bring back the kingdom to the Catholic faith’; that Henry’s excommunication was for ‘his great sins against the Catholic faith’.51 English travellers abroad in these years were sometimes left in no doubt that their hosts did not view them as fellow Catholics. From Bilboa in June 1540, Roger Basyng lamented that the locals believed ‘the busshop of rome and his cardynalles be Ecclesiam Catholicam, and he that denyeth this, they say is an heretycke and worthy to be brunte’.52 III At home and abroad, then, the charge that the Ecclesia Anglicana had lost its claim to be part of the Catholic Church demanded refutation. As an irrevocable break with the papacy was being formalised in 1533–34, a number of opportunities were taken to reaffirm the Catholic identity of the English Church. The 1533 Act in Restraint of Appeals laid down that the clergy were to continue to administer sacraments in spite of any interdict from Rome ‘as Catholic and Christian men ought to do’.53 The declarations accepting the royal supremacy imposed on religious houses and cathedral chapters from mid-1534 obliged signatories to preach the Word of God in a Catholic and orthodox way (‘Catholice et orthodoxe’).54 Similarly, an inhibition issued by Cranmer and other bishops in April of that year, requiring preachers to obtain new licences, instructed them not to teach anything that might ‘bring in doubt and opinion the Catholic and received doctrine of Christ’s church’. A subsequent ‘order taken for preaching, and bidding of the beads’ required preachers to pray for ‘the Catholic Church of this realm’ and for the king, ‘next unto God the only and supreme head of this Catholic Church of England’.55 The 50

LP, x. 429, 283. LP, viii. 786; x. 427, 82. Granvelle similarly saw Fisher and More as ‘these two good Catholics and martyrs’: LP, ix. 449. 52 TNA: PRO, SP 1/160, fo. 152r. See above, Chapter 6. 53 Documents Illustrative of English Church History, ed. H. Gee and W.J. Hardy (London, 1896), p. 191. 54 Elton, Policy and Police, p. 228 ; BL, Cotton Cleo. E. iv, fo. 14v. 55 Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, ed. J.E. Cox (PS, Cambridge, 1846), pp. 283, 460. 51



clearest of all signals was contained in the 1534 Dispensations Act, which insisted that neither the king nor his subjects had any intention ‘to decline or vary from the congregation of Christ’s Church in any things concerning the very articles of the Catholic faith of Christendom’.56 The politically astute among Henry’s subjects quickly learned the style. The Cistercian monks of Coggeshall in Essex complained in 1536 that their abbot had maintained the bishop of Rome, in derogation of his duty to ‘the supreme hede of the Catholike Chyrche of this realme’; the antiquary John Leland, in a dedication to the king, rejoiced to see the ‘craftely coloured doctrine of a rowte of the Romaine bishopes totally expelled oute of this your moste Catholique realme’.57 ‘Catholic’ was too valuable a piece of ideological currency to be lightly given away. Moreover, the political here was the personal, for if Henry was not ‘the Catholic King’ (a title bagged by his Spanish erstwhile inlaws), he was in no doubt that he was a Catholic king, a motif which did much to shape the king’s public and private persona. Thus, the proclamation against anabaptists and sacramentaries of November 1538 noted that ‘his highness, like a godly and Catholic prince, abhorreth and detesteth the same sects’.58 Other rulers were sometimes chided for their insufficiencies in a similar role. In 1532 Henry let the emperor understand that it would be ‘not at all Catholic’ if his manoeuvring for the Kingdom of Hungary were to endanger Christendom. Requesting the hand-over of English exiles from the Netherlands in 1546, Henry sententiously reminded the governor that it was the ‘part of a Christian ruler’ to guard against ‘the menace to the Catholic Faith through permitting heretics to spread their wicked opinions’.59 In May 1539, the evangelically inclined dean of Exeter, Simon Heynes, effused that Henry was ‘cownted in all the world a Christen Catholik prince’.60 That this was evidently not the case is suggested by the instructions the king himself drafted for his ambassador Ralph Sadler on his departure to Scotland in February 1540. It was important that James V was not deceived by ‘persuasion of untrue and fayned tales’, and he was not to think of him ‘otherwise than of every Christen and Catholique prince as he is in dede’.61 Yet even where Henry’s status as a Catholic prince was recognised, it could sometimes be used to exhort as much as 56

Documents, ed. Gee and Hardy, p. 225. TNA: PRO, SP 1/103, fo. 212r; The Itinerary of John Leland, ed. L. Toulmin Smith (5 vols, London, 1964), i., p. xxxviii. 58 Tudor Royal Proclamations, ed. Hughes and Larkin, i. 272. 59 LP, v. 850; LP, xxi (1). 1098. 60 BL, Cotton Cleo. E v, fo. 60v (LP, xiv (1). 1035). 61 BL, Cotton Calig. B i, fos 59v, 62v–63r. 57



to flatter. In the early 1530s, more perhaps in hope than expectation, Thomas More was still praising Henry’s ‘moste catholyque purpose and entent’ on the basis of his authorship of the Assertio Septem Sacramentorum.62 Chapuys meanwhile was telling Henry he ‘could not believe that so virtuous, wise, and Catholic a prince’ would abandon Queen Katherine. When Henry replied that it was Charles who had shown him it was not always necessary to obey the pope, by having appealed to a future general council, Chapuys urged him to ‘act like a good Catholic, to follow the same path and appeal to the Council’.63 Chapuys’s reports of the mid-1530s suggest how the ‘Catholic prince’ topos was being deployed for distinctly different purposes among Henry’s leading servants. In May 1533 Anne Boleyn’s ally Edward Foxe informed the ambassador that since the king had been moved by the Holy Spirit to find that he could not keep Katherine as his wife, ‘like a Catholic prince, he had separated from her’. Yet when news of Clement VII’s final illness came through the following year, Chapuys reported the conservative nobles Norfolk and Exeter saying of Henry ‘that like a Catholic prince, he would make no difficulty in obeying the new pope’. At around the same time, Chapuys held a clandestine meeting with Lord Hussey, who expressed dismay that the emperor ‘as a Catholic prince and chief of other princes’ was not doing more to remedy matters in England.64 Through 1535–36 the phrase became a verbal ping-pong ball in the diplomatic game-playing between Chapuys and Thomas Cromwell, each making sure to describe his own master as ‘a virtuous and Catholic prince’ while neglecting to extend the appellation to the other’s.65 Henry’s claim to be a just as much of a Catholic prince in 1535 as he had been in 1521 was thus a useful diplomatic resource, as well as a piece of royal self-fashioning. It was a claim, moreover, with a considerable degree of theological ballast, for in parallel with the divorce campaign and antipapal propaganda of the 1530s, a new and distinctive ecclesiology was being forged for the Henrician Church, one in which assertions of an authentically ‘Catholic’ identity played a central part. An early and pithy statement was provided by an official tract of 1534, insisting that ‘the pope is neither the Catholyke holy Church of Christe, nor yet the head of the same’, but merely ‘a member thereof … if he be a true Christen man’. Supporters of the pope who adduced ‘this text Credo sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam’ spoke nothing to the 62

More, Confutation, p. 28; idem, Letter to Bugenhagen. Supplication of Souls. Letter against Frith, pp. 10, 162, 233. 63 LP, vi. 351. 64 LP, vi. 465; vii. 1257, 1206. 65 LP, viii. 556, 666; x. 351.



purpose.66 In a sermon preached and printed in the summer of 1535, Simon Matthewe invited his audience to commend to God ‘the Catholike Church of Christendom, in especial this Churche of Englande’. He went on to clarify the relationship between the two. The Church was ‘one misticall body, having dyvers membres deputed to dyverse offices’. Diversity of regions and countries did not make for diversity of Churches, but the ‘unitie of fayth maketh all regions one church’. This unity depended on the knowledge of Christ, so that many thousands are saved ‘whiche never harde of Peter, nor yet of the bishop of Rome’. The Church of Rome was co-equal with all ‘other Churches in the worlde, both France, Britayne, Affrica, Persis’, its bishop of no less or greater authority than ‘at a poore citie in Italy called Eugubium, or at Constantinople’.67 Very similar arguments were produced by a more significant Henrician theorist, the humanist Thomas Starkey. Starkey drew a distinction between political and spiritual unity: the former was no more than an agreement to enact and obey laws in common, while the latter was ‘a certayne consente of spirite and mynde’ established in His flock by Christ. This remained unbroken ‘though there be never so moch diversitie of worldly policie’, and it did not require papal headship. For having rejected papal claims, the Greeks were ‘most uniustly noted, not to be as members of Christes universall and Catholyke body’. The ‘Indians’ under ‘Preter John, their kynge and heed’, had been true professors for a thousand years without recognising papal authority. It was entirely appropriate, Starkey thought, that the Armenian patriarch was termed Catholicos ‘as he that was a trewe professour and maynteyner of the Catholyke faythe’. Papal authority was at best a thing indifferent, taking its power from the consent of men, ‘and so som Christian nations may it receyve and mayteyne, and some hit reiecte … withoute anye breche of the Christian unitie, by schism or heresie’.68 It should be evident therefore that supporters of the royal supremacy could recite without any qualms of conscience the creed’s affirmation of ‘the holy Catholic Church’. Here, in fact, the regime could draw on the moral and intellectual authority of Erasmus, whose exposition of the creed was translated in 1533 by Cromwell’s client, William Marshall, at the request of Thomas Boleyn.69 Four tokens were provided by which the 66 Records of the Reformation: The Divorce 1527–1533, ed. N. Pocock (2 vols, London, 1870), ii. 543, 546. 67 Simon Matthewe, A Sermon made in the Cathedrall Churche of Saynt Paul at London (London, 1535), sigs A5v–8v, C4v. 68 Thomas Starkey, An Exhortation to the People, Instructynge them to Unitie and Obedience (London, 1536), fos 64v–69r, 60v–61r. 69 McConica, English Humanists, pp. 136–7.



Catholic Church might be known, none of which were offensive to Henrician sensibilities: the authority of ancient councils, and that of canonised interpreters of Scripture, the ‘bredthe or largeness’ of the Church, and the purity of life to be found within it. The text also noted that the word ‘ecclesia’ had a double signification: on the one hand, ‘the prevy or secrete society and felowshyp of them that are predestinate to eternall lyfe’, but also the totality of all who had received baptism.70 This duality of meaning, which, as we have seen, was anathema to Thomas More, lay as a potential fault-line in the emergent landscape of Henrician ecclesiology. In his own exposition of the creed, in the official primer of 1535, Marshall distinctly emphasised the former sense, defining the Church as ‘the congregation and comunyon of holy men, that is of righteous and faythfull men on the earth’.71 The Bishops’ Book of 1537 recognised that in Scripture the word Church ‘is taken sometime generally for the whole congregation of them that be christened and profess Christ’s Gospel: and sometime it is taken for the Catholic congregation, or number of them only which be chosen, called, and ordained to reign with Christ in everlasting life’. A similar statement was produced by the group of English and German theologians meeting in London in 1538.72 Interest in the Catholic Church as a congregation of the elect was, however, noticeably absent from the more conservative King’s Book of 1543, and in the main, the official formularies of Henry’s reign were, like Matthewe or Starkey, more concerned with the nature of the Catholic Church as a visible institution. The Bishops’ Book laid down that the Church was ‘Catholic’ because ‘it cannot be coarcted or restrained within the limits or bonds of any one town, city, province, region, or country; but … is dispersed and spread universally throughout all the whole world’. It was composed of ‘particular churches’, between whom there was ‘no difference in superiority, preeminence, or authority’. Therefore ‘the Church of Rome is not, nor cannot worthily be called the Catholic Church, but only a particular member thereof, and cannot challenge or vindicate of right, and by the word of God, to be head of this universal 70 Desiderius Erasmus, A Playne and Godly Exposition or Declaration of the Comune Crede (London, 1533), sigs D1r–v, N7v–8v, O1v–2r. 71 A Prymer in Englyshe, with Certeyn Prayers and Godly Meditations (London, 1535), sig. C8r. 72 Formularies of Faith put forth by Authority in the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. C. Lloyd (Oxford, 1825), p. 75; Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 473–4; Tjernagel, Henry VIII and the Lutherans, pp. 290–92. Note that Henry added personally to the Anglo-German draft article on the nature of the Church: ‘this is our Catholic and apostolic Church, with which neither the bishop of Rome nor any other prelate or bishop has anything to do except in his own diocese’: R. McEntegart, Henry VIII, the League of Schmalkalden, and the English Reformation (London, 2002), p. 110.



Church’. Since (à la Starkey) the unity of the Church was ‘a mere spiritual unity’, particular Churches might differ in outward rites and ceremonies without damaging the unity of the Catholic Church, and none of them ‘ought to be reputed as a member divided or precided from the same, for any such cause of diversity or difference’.73 The definition of the Catholic Church in the King’s Book (approved by convocation ‘Pro Catholicis et Religiosis’)74 followed that of 1537 in most respects, though with a still stronger condemnation of the ‘hypocrisy and usurpation of the see and court of Rome’. It elaborated that ‘the Church of Rome, being but a several Church, challenging that name of Catholic above all other, doeth great wrong to all other Churches’; it had no more exclusive right to the name than ‘the Church of France, Spain, England, or Portugal, which be justly called Catholic Churches, in that they do profess, consent, and agree in one unity of true faith with other Catholic Churches’.75 Official determination to have this new doctrine understood was graphically displayed in May 1538 when an Observant friar, John Forest, was burned as a heretic for having maintained that ‘the Holie Catholike Church was the Church of Rome, and that we ought to beleeve out of the same’.76 In 1536 another suspected papalist, the vicar of Croydon, Rowland Phillips, showed considerably greater circumspection when it was demanded of him ‘whom he meant by the Catholic Church when he said that the Catholic Church shall never err in things that be necessary for Salvation?’ He replied that he meant ‘the universall multitude of Christian people, as well laymen as clergy, subjects as rulers’.77 IV The precision of Phillips’s reply, specifying clergy and laity, is significant, as this type of inclusionary language was a recurrent feature of the propaganda of the 1530s. Its characteristic note was struck by the Appeals Act of 1533, which defined the English Church as a ‘body politic, compact of all sorts and degrees of people, divided in terms, and by names of spiritualty and temporalty’.78 The polemical possibilities were explored in a 73

Formularies of Faith, ed. Lloyd, pp. 52–7. Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, I i. 378. 75 Formularies of Faith, ed. Lloyd, pp. 246–8. It seems nonetheless to have been common in the 1540s for English diplomats to label the contending parties in Germany ‘the Catholykes’ and ‘the Protestantes’: TNA: PRO, SP 1/161, fos 26r–v (LP, xv. 842); SP 1/202, 193r (LP, xx (1). 1046); LP, xix (1). 302, 558; xx (1). 1226. 76 Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England, ed. W.D. Hamilton (2 vols, CS, new ser., 11, 20, 1875–77), i. 79. The episode is examined in detail in Chapter 10 below. 77 S. Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), pp. 261–2. 74



tract by Thomas Swynnerton of the following year, significantly entitled A Mustre of Scismatyke Bysshoppes of Rome. Though the papists taught that the only way to discern the true Word of God was by the spiritualty, lay people too were members of the ‘the hole Catholyke Churche of God’, whom the Holy Spirit would instruct in everything necessary for their salvation.79 The common lawyer Christopher St German was much less of a theological radical than Swynnerton, but he too made use of the topos, accusing the clergy of ‘meanynge only by that worde church, prestes: for all Catholyke people make the Churche, which is the spirituall mother, so that preestes be but onely a parte of it’.80 The same point was made in a draft treatise prepared under conciliar auspices in 1539: ‘the Catholyque Churche is a communion and congregation of all the … hole clergye and realme considering the Christen lay persons aswell as the clergye’.81 This feels distinctly like tilting at a straw man, as it is unlikely that any papalist taught that the Catholic Church consisted of the clergy alone. Indeed, Thomas More had chastised Tyndale and Barnes for misrepresentation on this very point.82 Nonetheless, the topos was clearly central to the articulation of a ‘Henrician’ Catholic identity, one which saw itself as more authentically Catholic than a clericalist Roman model. One of the arguments put forward by a 1538 treatise on general councils was that councils summoned by popes had displayed a flawed ecclesiology: princes and kings had been required to obey the councils, but neither they nor other laity had any voice there, the bishops, priests and religious supposing that they alone comprised the unerring universal Church. This, however, was a great error: ‘the universall Church is the congregation of all faithefull people’.83 The regime’s recurrent interest in the idea of the general council, a body represented in Henrician propaganda as quintessentially Catholic, was another important strand in the argument that ‘Catholicism under the pope’ was intrinsically exclusionary and sectarian. By appealing to a general council over the divorce, Henry was said in 1534 to have acted 78

Documents, ed. Gee and Hardy, p. 187. Thomas Swynnerton, A Mustre of Scismatyke Bysshoppes of Rome (London, 1534), sig. F2r. 80 Christopher St German (?), A Treatise Concernynge Divers of the Constitucyons Provynciall and Legantines (London, ?1535), sig. A8v. 81 TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fo. 200r (LP, xiv (1). 402). 82 More, Confutation, pp. 600, 614, 831. 83 A Treatise concernynge Generall Councilles, the Byshoppes of Rome, and the Clergy (London, 1538), sigs C5r–v. The treatise is attributed to Alexander Alesius by P.A. Sawada, ‘Two Anonymous Tudor treatises on the General Council’, JEH, 12 (1961), 197–214, though there are circumstantial and stylistic reasons for suspecting it to be the work of St German – a suggestion I owe to Richard Rex. 79



‘like a true Christened and Catholike prince’.84 In 1536, Thomas Starkey wrote that the usurped authority of the pope dispensed with ‘the good and Catholyke grounds and canonyke, propowned by generall counselles’.85 In a letter to his former patron, Reginald Pole, Starkey insisted that the pope had no power to dispense with ‘laws made in general councels, Catholic laws and universal grounds’.86 The message that it was the pope who was the real schismatic was one which Pole was hearing from other ex-friends at this time. When Cuthbert Tunstall wrote to condemn the wrong-headedness of Pole’s De Unitate Ecclesiae he insisted that the king’s purpose was not ‘to separate himself from the Catholic Church, but to reduce his Church of England out of all captivity to foreign powers’, a measure entirely compatible with the teaching of the eight general councils.87 By the late 1530s the convocation of an actual council was the very last thing Henry wanted to see,88 but official propaganda continued to affirm the ideal, while protesting against any council that might be summoned under papal auspices. The treatise of 1538 made reference throughout to ‘Catholike general councilles’ and argued that their function was to ‘declare the trewe Catholyke fayth, accordynge to the rules and grounds of scripture’. But at the present day, ‘a free Catholique generall councill’ could only be convoked by kings and princes.89 The King’s Book insisted that the bishop of Rome had no universal authority ‘of any ancient Catholic council’.90 In view of the papacy’s subversion of Catholic general councils, and its clericalist, sectional view of the composition of the Catholic Church, it might seem that supporters of the pope did not deserve to be called Catholics at all. Indeed, the Henrician regime had another more appropriate sobriquet for them – papists. Versions of this epithet had been familiar in England a decade before the break with Rome. Fisher’s sermon against Luther of 1521 complained of his derisive use of the terms ‘papistas, papastros, and papanos’, and More responded to Luther on behalf of those ‘whom you call papists’ (‘quos tu papistas vocas’).91 The first anglicisation of the term, however, seems to be in the Articles devised by the Holle Consent of the Kynges Most Honourable Counsayle

84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91

Records of the Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. 546. Starkey, Exhortation, fo. 66r. Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, I ii. 188 LP, xi. 72. See below, pp. 209–10. Treatise Concernynge Generall Councilles, sigs A2v, A3r, C4v, C7v, C8v, D3r–v. Formularies of Faith, ed. Lloyd, p. 283. Fisher, English Works, pp. 344–5; More, Responsio, pp. 224–5.



(1533), where the superiority of a general council over the pope is vindicated against ‘the sayings or preachings of any papists’.92 Much wider currency was provided the following year with the publication of A Litel Treatise Agenste the Mutterynge of Some Papistes in Corners, and thereafter the expression became an enduring staple of religious discourse. Cromwell’s remembrances in 1534 included a prompt ‘to apprehend any papists’ who preached in favour of the bishop of Rome, and in his circular letter to JPs in May 1537 he urged destruction of ‘the privy maintainers of that papistical faction’.93 A number of dignitaries, including the judge John Oliver, Lord Lisle and Sir Thomas Denys, wrote to Cromwell in the late 1530s to clear themselves of ‘the mortal, deadly shame of a papist’. Denys showed he well understood the potency of the label by remarking ‘I do reckon a papist and a traitor to be one thing.’94 But from the moment of its coining, the term’s circulation as a unit of rhetorical currency was remarkably wide, denoting rather more than formal adherence to the papal primacy. In November 1534, for example, Stephen Vaughan wrote to his patron, Thomas Cromwell, attacking the new bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, Rowland Lee, as ‘a papist, and idolator and a fleshy priest’.95 More humble correspondents of Cromwell’s also regularly attacked local enemies as ‘papists’ and maintainers of ‘papistical custom’ without feeling the need for much precision in the accusation.96 Moreover, the regime itself found the capaciousness of the expression a useful propaganda tool. The surrender deeds of religious houses, for example, sometimes forswore ‘papisticall ceremonies’ such as the wearing of mendicant habits, while in a further circular to JPs of December 1538, Cromwell characterised those spreading false rumours of taxes as ‘miserable and papisticall superstitious wretches’.97 No less than the term Catholic itself, ‘papist’ and ‘papistry’ proved highly susceptible to semantic slippage, and by the 1540s they were being regularly used by evangelical reformers, not to vindicate the Henrician settlement, but to condemn practices and individuals who continued to enjoy official sanction. In the syllogistic reasoning of William Turner, Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, was a papist: ‘the pope’s doctrine is the pope, and ye hold still the pope’s doctrine, ergo ye hold still the pope’.98 92

Records of the Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. 526–7. The term was also used in 1533 in George Joye’s The Souper of the Lorde: R. Rex (ed), A Reformation Rhetoric. Thomas Swynnerton’s The Tropes and Figures of Scripture (Cambridge, 1999), p. 164. 93 LP, vii. 177.420; Elton, Policy and Police, p. 253. 94 Dowling, Humanism in the Age of Henry VIII, p. 47; LP, viii. 607; xiii (1). 120. 95 Hughes, Reformation in England, i. 266n. 96 Elton Policy and Police, pp. 20, 250; LP, ix. 747; viii. 297; xiii (2). 658. 97 LP, xiii (2). 501, 1171. 98 Cited in Smith, Tudor Prelates and Politics, p. 161.



Gardiner recognised the rhetorical strategy being employed by his opponents in representing transubstantiation as the doctrine of ‘papistes’: the term ‘serveth for a token to them to prove the matter nought’.99 Already in 1536, Thomas Starkey had lamented the outbreak of religious namecalling among Henry’s subjects, ‘pharisee or heretyke, papist or schismatike’, and by 1545, the king himself was publicly echoing the complaint.100 Starkey also bemoaned the tendency of religious factions to judge each other ‘to be slypped from the trewe and Catholike faithe’, a frank admission of how far the term was open to rival appropriations and annexations.101 V So far we have explored the significance of the word ‘Catholic’ as a contested trophy between opponents and supporters of the royal supremacy, in particular examining the attempts of the latter to disengage the term from connotations of papal loyalism, and to effect its re-assimilation into approved discourse through the construction of a distinctively antipapal set of ecclesiological descriptors for the Church of England. But a straightforwardly binary approach is hardly sufficient here. The next part of the chapter will describe the ways in which appeals to the ‘Catholic’ faith or Church acted as a cipher for distinctive agendas within the Henrician Church, and will suggest that the religious potency of this terminology, combined with its semantic plasticity, made it an almost inevitable focus of ideological confrontation. In the first place, the fact that so many of the official pronouncements and doctrinal formularies of the Henrician Church invoked ‘Catholic’ legitimation undoubtedly provided a kind of rhetorical space for religious conservatives, one in which they could simultaneously protest their loyalty to the regime while condemning whatever they saw as deviations from traditional orthopraxy. A good example is the letter Archbishop Edward Lee of York sent to Cromwell in February 1535, enclosing his profession to the supremacy. In language alarmingly reminiscent of convocation’s qualified acceptance of the supremacy in 1531 (‘so far as the law of God allows’), Lee declared himself ready ‘to folowe the pleasure and commandment of the kinge, so that our Lorde bee not offended, and the unitie of the faiethe, and of the Catholique Chyrche saved’. But Lee did not wish this to be thought a grudging or partial acceptance – had 99 100 101

Stephen Gardiner, A Detection of the Devils Sophistrie (London, 1546), fo. 8v. Starkey, Exhortation, fo. 27v. See above, Chapter 8. Starkey, Exhortation, fo. 31r.



not the Dispensations Act of 1534 contained a pledge to uphold the articles of the Catholic faith? ‘For saveng wherof I well perceyve the kinges Christen and Catholique mynd in a statute the xxvth yere of the king in the xxi chapitr’.102 Another conservative, Bishop William Rugge of Norwich, was brought to task by Cromwell in April 1539 over the contents of his preaching. In response, he protested that ‘I have spokyne nothynge but that hath been conformyde to Holy Scripture, to the perpetuall consent of the Catholyke Churche’.103 Such protestations were by no means necessarily disingenuous, but one does not have to look very hard to discover examples of a distinctly partisan and exclusionary usage of the word Catholic by religious conservatives within the Henrician fold. In the early 1530s, a Bristol priest complained about the sermons of Hugh (soon to be Bishop) Latimer, saying that ‘the good Catholicke people in the seyde towne do abhorre all soche hys prechyng’.104 In around 1539, another Bristol priest, Roger Edgeworth, argued that it was properly ‘the exercise and labour of catholike clerkes’ to interpret the bible for the laity.105 The passing of the Act of Six Articles was welcomed in some quarters as a party victory, one lay noble observing that ‘never prince shewed him self so wise a man, so well lerned and so Catholik as the kinge hath don in this parlyment’.106 Another conservative observer in the early months of 1539 anticipated with excitement that ‘the faith Catholyc shalbe harde, for som that lately did prech luters herysess do now reform theymself and in thyr sarmones have revoked herises’.107 A printed ballad rejoicing at the fall of Cromwell in 1540 crowed that ‘Thou dyd not remembre, false heretyke, / One God, one fayth, and one kynge Catholyke, / For thou hast bene so long a scysmatyke’.108 A similarly ‘us and them’ flavour characterises evidence collected at the time of the attempted putsch against Cranmer in 1543, the so-called ‘Prebendaries’ Plot’. John Myllys reported the view that Cranmer was remiss in punishing the conservative preachers Edmund Shether and Robert Serles, ‘which two hath the more part of the people … to testify of their Catholic preaching’. Myllys himself had heard Shether in the pulpit, and judged that ‘he preached all Catholic and godly’. According to 102

TNA: PRO, SP 1/190, fo. 172r. TNA: PRO, SP 1/150, fo. 182r. 104 BL, Cotton Cleo. E v, fo. 394v. 105 Roger Edgeworth, Sermons very Fuitfull, Godly and Learned, ed. J. Wilson (Woodbridge, 1993), p. 141. 106 BL, Cotton Cleo. E v, fo. 138r (LP, xiv (1). 1040). 107 TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fo. 121r (LP, xiv (1). 331). 108 E. Dormer, Gray of Reading: A Sixteenth-century Controversialist and Ballad Writer (Reading, 1923), p. 77. 103



another of the conservative prebends, William Hunt, when the priest John Willoughby presented evidence to the council of heretical preaching in Kent, ‘the Council well allowed him of that presentation’, saying that he was (that evocative phrase again) ‘a good Catholic man’.109 That Cranmer’s arch-rival Gardiner had come to regard ‘Catholic’ as an exclusive party badge seems clear from remarks made in a work of 1546. Rejecting claims by his enemies that he operated in a devious and conspiratorial way, Gardiner denied that he had even ‘kepte one scholer at Cambrydge or Oxford syns I was bisshop to be brought up in the Catholyque opinion, whiche is also myne’. He admitted that his chaplain had dropped Robert Barnes from the preaching-rota for Paul’s Cross in Lent 1540 to make way for Gardiner himself, judging it ‘better to disapoynt Barnes on the morowe then some other Catholyque man’.110 The Catholic label served Henrician conservatives, however, not merely as a monogram of self-identification (in this they resembled their ideological cousins, unreconciled papalists). It was also a rallying-call against doctrinal deviation. In an attack on Barnes in 1540, John Standish praised the king’s readiness ‘to pourge and clense this his Catholyke regyon from all heresy and schismes’; while in a Paul’s Cross sermon of 1545, Cuthbert Scott urged his listeners ‘to maynteyne the trewe Catholike fayth of Christe’.111 Religious conservatives in a position of authority employed the term in a prescriptive as well as a persuasive context. In his visitation injunctions of 1542, Bishop Edmund Bonner insisted that every preacher in London was to declare the Gospel ‘not after his own mind, but after the mind of some Catholic doctor’.112 As in the pre-Reformation period, the term’s most overt application as a mechanism for controlling thought and behaviour is to be seen in recantation sermons, particularly those preached in Bonner’s diocese of London. On 18 December 1541, the reformers Alexander Seton and William Tolwyn were made to recant at Paul’s Cross. Seton promised hereafter ‘to cleve unto the trouthe and Catholyke determynacyons of our holy mother the Church’. Tolwyn admitted to being suspected of heresy ‘agaynst the Catholyke fayth’, and of failing to perform laudable ceremonies ‘of this Catholyke Churche of Englande’. He undertook 109

LP, xviii (2). 546 (pp. 365, 368). Stephen Gardiner, A Declaration of such True Articles as G. Joye hath gone about to Confute (London, 1546), fos 7r–8v. 111 John Standish, A Lytle Treatise composed by Johan Standyshe against the Protestation of R Barnes (London, 1540), sig. A2r; William Chedsay and Cuthbert Scott, Two Notable Sermones lately Preached at Pauls Crosse (London, 1545), sig. F2v. 112 Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Period of the Reformation, ed. W.H. Frere and W.M. Kennedy (3 vols, London, 1910), ii. 89. 110



henceforth ‘to lyve as a Catholyke man ought’.113 Robert Ward’s abjuration of c. 1540 included the admission that he ought to have sought ‘good aduyse and Catholique doctrine of other’, and Edward Crome in 1546 ‘exhorted all men to embrace auncientnes of Catholike doctrine, and forsake new fanggelnes’.114 In the same year Nicholas Shaxton confessed how he had fallen into sacramentarianism, but by the learning of the bishops of London and Worcester and other doctors had been ‘broughte from my said erroure and heresye unto the true Catholyck faith’. He was now fully persuaded, ‘specyalle by the unyforme consent of the whoole Chatholyke Churche in that artycle evyn from the Apostells tyme unto this our age’.115 The close identification of the Catholic faith with the doctrine of transubstantiation was a conscious and considered strategy, as a small batch of treatises on the eucharist published in the last year of Henry’s reign reveals. Stephen Gardiner, in his Detection of the Devils Sophistrie, asserted that Satan was striving to lead people from ‘the true Catholique byleefe in this most holye sacramente’. He translated Damascene’s De Orthodoxa fide as ‘of the right Catholyque fayth’, and argued that Christ’s words of institution at the Last Supper were ‘the foundation of our faith in their right Catholyque understanding’.116 William Peryn’s Thre Godly and Notable Sermons began by noting that the ‘malignitie of thys present tyme’ was a spur to the sincere Christian ‘to bende and force hym selfe in the defence of the fayth Catholycke’. Peryn himself claimed to be writing at the importunate request ‘of certayne Catholyque parsons, my frendes’. In dedicating the treatise to Bonner, Peryn hoped that it might find favour ‘wyth the Catholyke people’, a group clearly not envisaged as the totality of the baptised. The doctrine of transubstantiation was repeatedly inscribed as a ‘Catholyke veritie’, testified to by numerous ‘auncient Catholyke wryters’. Opponents of the doctrine, from Berengarius through to Wyclif, were lumped together as ‘the hateful enemyes of the evangelical and Catholyke faythe’ (a linkage for modern scholars to ponder).117 In Peryn’s theology, the body of Christ is simultaneously the symbol and the instrument of Catholic orthodoxy, the eucharistic sacrifice serving to ‘gether together in to one syncere fayth 113

Alexander Seton, The Declaration made at Poules Cross (London, 1542), sigs A3r, B2v–3r; Brigden, London, pp. 335–7. 114 London Guildhall MS 9531/12, fo. 62v; H. Ellis (ed.), Original Letters illustrative of English History (2nd ser., 4 vols, London, 1827), ii. 177. 115 Foxe, Acts and Monuments, v. app. xvii. 116 Gardiner, Detection, fos 5r, 32r–v, 54v. 117 William Peryn, Thre Godly and Notable Sermons of the Moost Honorable and Blessed Sacrament of the Aulter (London, 1546), sigs *2r–v, *4r, B6r, D3r, D8v, G6v, H1r, H2r, H6r, M5v.



Catholyke, all Christiane people … and inclose them strongly within thy Churche Catholyke’. The treatise drew to a close in suitably epigrammatic fashion: ‘Hec est fides Catholica’.118 A third text of 1546, Richard Smyth’s Assertion and Defence of the Sacramente of the Aulter, was likewise saturated with tendentious references to ‘the Catholike Church’, ‘Catholyque faith’, ‘Catholyke exposition’, ‘Catholyke opinion’, ‘Catholike custom and usage’, ‘Catholyque writers’.119 Like Peryn, Smyth saw the eucharist both as the doctrinal test for ‘Catholics’ and as a means for their incorporation: whoever denied the real presence ‘is without doubte no membre of Christes Churche, for Christes Church is a Catholyque and an universall congregation of faithful people and a body gathered togither in one Christen faith’.120 VI How did evangelicals react in the face of these attempts to disqualify them from any share in a Catholic identity? In some quarters, particularly by the 1540s, there was a sense of frustration with the propensity of conservatives to equate the term with their own party (and an implicit recognition of their success in doing so). In prison in 1543, for example, Robert Wisdom wrote sarcastically of the ‘Holy Fathers and priests of our mother the holy Catholick Chirche, which have procured the forbidding of the Scripture among the people’.121 The manoeuvres designed to bring down Cranmer in the same year were ascribed by his secretary Ralph Morice to ‘the pope-Catholic clergy of Kent’.122 An anonymous evangelical tract of the mid-1540s, complaining that royal injunctions concerning the clergy were being ignored outside the capital, noted bitterly that ‘whoso is most necgligent remisse and slak in dooing them, he is most Catholyque’.123 A similar charge was made by John Bale in 1544, attacking a ‘hereticall, trayterous, and blasphemous’ oration by the leading conservative preacher Hugh Weston, one that ‘was iudged a 118

Ibid., sigs *8r, N8r. Richard Smyth, The Assertion and Defence of the Sacramente of the Aulter (London, 1546), fos 6r, 7r, 11v, 12r, 14r–v, 26r, 57v, 63v, 69r, 77r, 78r, 79v, 83r, 93r, 94r, 109v, 121r, 140r, 194r, 195r, 205r, 214r, 220r, 223v, 236r, 247r, 253v, 256v, 258v. 120 Ibid., fo. 57v. 121 Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, I ii. 316. The act which restricted access to Scripture claimed to be in agreement with ‘the true doctryne of the catholike and apostolicall church’: Statutes of the Realm, ed. A. Luders et al. (London, 1810–28), iii. 894. 122 LP, xviii (2), p. li. 123 BL, Royal 17 B xxxv, fo. 8v. 119



good matter and a verye Catholyck sermon’.124 The conservatives’ unrepentant self-ascription as the Catholics clearly rankled with Bale, for in the previous year he had devoted considerable attention to it in the course of a commentary on the abjuration of William Tolwyn. ‘Catholic’, Bale reminded his readers, was a ‘terme the Scripture hath not’. Yet it was a singularly appropriate description for ‘the faythe of ther Churche’: For Catholyk is as moche to saye, as unyversall or admyttynge all. For in ded they allowe all maner of faythes, that faythe only excepted which they owght to allowe most of all. No Iewyshe ceremonye refuse they, nor yet heythen superstycyon. So longe as the Gospell is not trewlye preached, ther faythe is good ynowgh. For it is Catholyck.

Tolwyn’s promise to live as a Catholic man meant ‘to remayne from hence forth a false periured Chrystiane, a double sworne papyst, a newe professed traytoure’. If Bonner were to look in the Scriptures, he would find that ‘every where are they contrarye to the Catholyke faythe of your Churche’. Yet the clergy of London diocese seemed to set more store by the Enchiridion of the German papist Johan Eck: ‘everye Ser Iohan must have yt that can rede, to make hym therwith a Christen curate, a good ghostlye father, and a Catholyck member of holye Churche’.125 Bale’s disgust with traditional religion, and the terms in which it was conventionally described, are quite evident. But in the main reformers were not prepared simply to pass the title-deeds to the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church into the hands of their doctrinal opponents. In 1540, for example, the evangelical layman Richard Tracy applauded Henry’s efforts to maintain the unity Christ had commanded to be ‘kepte in the Catholyke Church’, and in a tract praising the king for leading his realm out of darkness and superstition, John Pylbarough rejoiced that it was now upon Christ that ‘our Catholyke congregation immediately is firmely settled’.126 Thomas Becon condemned anabaptism as ‘contrary to the rule of the Catholyke fayth’, and the exile William Turner wrote of ‘the hole Catholike Chirche whiche is Christis spouse’.127 In 1544, 124

John Bale, The Epistel Exhortatorye of an Inglyshe Chrystian (Antwerp, 1544), fo.

30v 125 John Bale, Yet a Course at the Romyshe Foxe (Antwerp, 1543), fos 16v, 30v–33v, 54v. On the volume in question, see P. Fraenkel, ‘John Eck’s Enchiridion of 1525 and Luther’s Earliest Arguments against Papal Primacy’, Studia Theologica, 21 (1967). 126 Richard Tracy, The Profe and Declaration of thys Proposition: Fayth only Iustifieth (London, 1540), sig. A2v; John Pylbarough, A Commemoration of the Inestimable Graces and Benefites of God (London, 1540), sig. B1r. On Pylbarough, see A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 60–61. 127 Thomas Becon, A New Yeares Gyfte more Precious than Golde (London, 1543), sig. D6r; William Turner, The Rescuynge of the Romishe Fox (Bonn, 1545), sig. B4r.



George Joye included among the consolations available to sufferers of persecution the ‘great felowship emonge the faithfull congregacions of whom mencion is made emonge the articles of our faithe. We belevinge them to be the holy Catholyke Chirche.’128 As this last reference suggests, the impulse to contest the very nature of the Catholic Church remained close to reformers’ hearts. Miles Coverdale argued that Standish had fundamentally misunderstood St Augustine’s dictum about not believing the Gospel until the Catholic Church moved him to, inferring from it that the authority of the Church was somehow greater than that of Scripture. The point was rather that Augustine would believe no doctrine other than the Gospel, which was maintained by ‘the whole consent and auctorite of the Catholike or universall church’. This was a slightly expanded translation, for as Coverdale pointed out, behind Augustine’s Latin lay the Greek Kauolikós, ‘as much to say as universalis’. The Catholic Church was thus properly defined as ‘the universall congregacion and multitude of them that beleve in Christ’, and Coverdale repeatedly made reference to the ‘catholike or universall church’, a linkage clearly designed to detach the word semantically from its traditionalist associations.129 Less sophisticated, but concerned to make essentially the same point, was a ballad in defence of Cromwell penned by William Gray in 1540. The gospellers were ‘I am sure more Catholyck, then are your popysshe sorte / Beynge the membres of Chryst, and him selfe the hed of the same / Neyther heretyckes nor papistes, but men of honest fame’.130 Such reflections may on occasion have provided a casuistical lifeline for persecuted evangelicals. If recantation sermons required an affirmation of the Catholic faith, but those who recited them had a completely different conception of that faith from those who wrote them, then they might prove an uncertain instrument for fastening consciences.131 It seems likely that Thomas Cromwell exploited the interstices of meaning in his scaffold speech of July 1540, using words which seem conventionally penitential in tone, but were rich with the potential for ambiguity: ‘I intend this day to dye Gods seruant, and beleiue in the holy Catholique


George Joye, A Present Consolacion for the Sufferers of Persecucion (Antwerp, 1544), sig. E5r. 129 Miles Coverdale, A Confutacyon of that Treatise, which one John Standish made (Zürich, 1541), sigs K6r–L1r, L6v. 130 William Gray, The Returne of M. Smythes Envoy (London, 1540). 131 Susan Wabuda has demonstrated how Edward Crome and other evangelicals were sometimes able to subvert the intentions of their persecutors on these occasions: ‘Equivocation and Recantation During the English Reformation: The “Subtle Shadows” of Dr Edward Crome’, JEH, 44 (1993), 224–42.



fayth. I beleiue in ye lawes ordained by ye Catholique Church, and in ye holy sacrament without any grudge.’132 The issue comes most clearly into focus with the persecution of the Lincolnshire gentlewoman and sacramentarian heretic Anne Askew in March 1546. Bonner drew up a recantation for her to sign, affirming belief in transubstantiation, and concluding ‘I do believe in this, and in all other sacraments of holy Church, in all points according to the old Catholic faith of the same’. Yet when this was passed to Askew, she wrote only ‘I Anne Askew do believe all manner things contained in the faith of the Catholic Church’. At this, Bonner ‘flung into his chamber in a great fury’, and was only persuaded out again by Dr Hugh Weston, who suggested that Anne had written ‘Catholic Church’ because she did not understand the expression ‘holy Church’. Yet it seems likely she knew exactly what she was doing. The exchanges provided her contemporary biographer, John Bale, with a chance to score points off his old adversary Bonner on a familiar topic: This word ‘Catholic’ was not wont to offend them. How becometh it then now a name so odious? Peradventure, through this only occasion: they knew not till now of late years (for it come of the Greek) the true signification thereof; as that it is so much to say in the English as the universal, or whole. But now they perceive that it includeth the laity so well as them, no longer do they esteem it. Other cause can I none conjecture, why they should more contemn it than afore.133

Shortly before her burning in July 1546, Askew penned an appeal to the king, protesting that concerning the eucharist she believed as much as Christ ‘willed me to follow and believe, and so much as the Catholic Church of him doth teach’. Even after her racking by Richard Rich and Thomas Wriothesley, she refused to sign the recantation with which she was presented, though in the end she subscribed with the following formula: ‘I, Anne Askewe, do believe this, if God’s word do agree to the same, and the true Catholic Church.’134 Anne’s fellow martyr, John Lascelles, boasted to George Blagge in Newgate after his condemnation: ‘My Lord Bishop would have me confess the Roman church to be the Catholic Church, but that I cannot, for it is not true.’135

Bodleian Library, Fol. ∆ 624, p. 462. John Bale, Select Works, ed. H. Christmas (PS, Cambridge, 1849), pp. 175–8. 134 Ibid., pp. 217, 230. 135 D. Wilson, A Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women and Society in Reformation England (London, 1972), p. 229. 132 133



VII This chapter has concerned itself solely with the reign of Henry VIII, though it is worth briefly noting that long after 1547 ‘Catholic’ remained just as freighted a term of religious controversy. When in 1550 Cranmer published A Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament, Gardiner countered with An Explication and Assertion of the True Catholic Faith, touching the most Blessed Sacrament, marvelling that Cranmer could call his teaching Catholic when in the whole history of the Church only some half a dozen taught such doctrine.136 After 1553, the Marian authorities made a concerted attempt to assert sole copyright to the epithet. Wayland’s primer of 1555 was the first to be given the title An Uniforme and Catholyke Primer, and the articles put to heretics almost invariably laid a strong emphasis on the Catholic faith, in a way designed to make explicit that this was the exclusive property of the regime’s supporters.137 Yet at the examinations of John Rogers and John Philpot, for example, what precisely should be understood by ‘the Catholic Church’ was a highly contested issue.138 The London martyr John Warne defined the Holy Catholic Church as ‘a holy number of Adam’s posterity, elected, gathered, washed, and purified by the blood of the Lamb’.139 John Hooper meanwhile counterposed ‘God’s most true and Catholic religion’ (set forth by Edward VI) with ‘their papistical religion’, and spoke of the controversy between ‘us Catholics and Roman innovators’ (‘inter nos Catholicos et Neotericos Romanos’). The Roman Catholic Church had as much to do with the Holy Catholic Church as Belial did with Christ.140 At the Westminster Disputation of April 1559, the Marian Bishop Oglethorpe insisted ‘we are of the Catholic Church, and in possession of the truth’, while the returned exile Robert Horne solemnly protested that his party ‘stood to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, although they understood not by the Catholic Church the Romish Church’.141 This pattern of rhetorical appropriations was to 136

J.A. Muller, Stephen Gardiner and the Tudor Reaction (London, 1926), p. 209. See Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vi., vii., viii. passim. 138 Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vi. 593 ff.; vii. 669–75. 139 Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vi. 83. 140 John Hooper, Later Writings, ed. C. Nevinson (Cambridge, 1852), pp. 375–6, 401, 532. Note also the title of the Protestant exile John Olde’s A Confession of the Most Auncient and True Christen Catholike Olde Belefe (Emden, 1556). For further instances of Marian martyrs insisting that theirs was the true Catholic Church, see P. Collinson, ‘Night Schools, Conventicles and Churches: Continuities and Discontinuities in Early Protestant Ecclesiology’, in P. Marshall and A. Ryrie (eds), The Beginnings of English Protestantism (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 231, 233–4. 141 Messenger, The Reformation, the Mass and the Priesthood, ii. 227–8. 137



remain, mutatis mutandis, a permanent feature of the English religious scene. A Cambridge undergraduate in the early 1980s who admitted to being a Catholic was liable to be asked if he meant English or Roman.142 This survey has been by no means exhaustive (though it may have been exhausting), but sufficiently recurring and interlocking patterns have emerged to allow some concluding observations. It is evident that in the reign of Henry VIII, Catholicism (if we allow that slightly anachronistic packaging of the root word) was an unstable category, a polemical construction, a matter of ascription rather than description, a contested discourse. Yet these glib phrases do not convey much sense of the pain felt by contemporaries at the splintering of previously shared attitudes and values. As Reginald Pole wrote ruefully to Tunstall after Henry’s break with Rome, and Pole’s break with Henry, had driven a wedge between them: ‘we are brought to such case, worse than Babylon, that no man understands another in his own tongue. What one calls captivity, another calls liberty; [what] one says is against the king, another calls with the king.’143 Yet amidst the fragmentation, that venerable verbal token of a common faith – ‘Catholic’ – continued to function as a theological lingua franca. For the Henrician schism it represented a pledge of continuity, and supplied a major source of ideological legitimacy, but only in so far as it could be comprehensively annexed from the remaining adherents of Rome, a task which was never successfully accomplished. At the same time, the near universal recognition of one ‘Holy Catholic Church’ allowed both proponents and opponents of further reformation a ‘semantic space’ in which to operate with a modicum of safety. All sides recognised the potency of the term, and it helped to bind them in discourse with each other, even as it focused and accentuated their theological differences. The semantic history of this one word (and similar explorations could be made for a number of others) serves as a reminder that religious identity-formation in the Reformation era was a fundamentally dialectical process. In this area, the word and the thing, the signifier and the signified, cannot be considered separately from each other – after all in English usage ‘denomination’ means a name for purposes of classification, as well as ‘religious sect’. Religious identities are created, not independently of, but through language. Historians delude themselves if they suppose the language can be stripped away like old wallpaper to expose a free-standing reality underneath. We should, in the idiom of

142 An experience of my elder brother’s. Cf. MacCulloch, Reformation, xix: ‘“Catholic” is clearly a word which a lot of people want to possess.’ 143 W. Schenk, Reginald Pole: Cardinal of England (London, 1950), p. 74.



medieval scholasticism, adopt a nominalist rather than a realist approach. 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.

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The Burning of John Forest Chronicling the burnings which took place in England in 1538 proved to be a ticklish assignment for the martyrologist John Foxe. According to the Acts and Monuments, five Englishmen suffered the penalty for heresy in that year, but none of these were, from Foxe’s point of view, entirely unproblematic events. In one of the cases, Foxe clearly knew very little of the circumstances involved. In another two, those of William Collins and William Cowbridge, Foxe had to admit that the victims were probably mad: the latter ‘a man more fit to be sent to Bedlam, than to the fire in Smithfield’. The case of the sacramentarian John Lambert, burned at Smithfield in November 1538, provided Foxe with a more dependable witness for the Protestant cause, but at the same time it raised distinctly uncomfortable questions about the role of Archbishop Cranmer, not to mention the reforming credentials of Henry VIII, who had presided over the trial clad in the white of theological purity.1 The other condemned heretic of that year posed problems of a different kind, for, in Foxe’s terms, John Forest was not really a martyr at all, ‘unworthy of place, and not to be numbered in this catalogue’. His unworthiness was exemplified by the manner of his death. In marked contrast to the serenity and steadfastness with which Foxe’s Protestant martyrs invariably face the end, Forest squirmed and struggled to elude the flames ‘as never any man that put his trust in God, at any time so ungodly or unquietly ended his life’.2 If Forest’s execution disturbed the equilibrium of Foxe’s Protestant martyrology, it poses equal difficulties for the modern historian, for Forest’s was a heresy of the ‘right’, rather than of the sacramentarian ‘left’. The first and most substantial of the heresy charges on which he was condemned was that he had maintained that ‘the Holie Catholike

1 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. S. R. Cattley and G. Townsend (8 vols, London, 1837–41), v. 179–80, 229–34, 251–4. For modern consideration of these cases, see S. Brigden, London and the Reformation (Oxford, 1989), pp. 117, 273, 259–60, 296–8; D. MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: a Life (New Haven and London, 1996), pp. 232–4. 2 Foxe, Acts and Monuments, v. 180. Foxe’s account of Forest’s end is derived substantially from that of Edward Hall: Chronicle, ed. H. Ellis (London, 1809), pp. 825–6. Other contemporary, or nearly contemporary, descriptions are Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England, ed. W.D. Hamilton (2 vols, CS, new ser., 11, 20, 1875–77), i. 78–81; Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London (CS, old ser., 53, 1853), p. 42; Bodleian Library, Ashmole MS 861, fo. 335; Chronicle of King Henry VIII of England, tr. and ed. M.A.S. Hume (London, 1889), pp. 77–81.



Church was the Church of Rome, and that we ought to beeleve out of the same’.3 If revisionist historians of the English Reformation are only halfright, this belief was held by thousands of Forest’s fellow countrymen and women throughout the sixteenth century, but no other English Catholic ever went to the stake for holding it. By the manner of his trial and execution, therefore, Forest appears to undermine one of the most immutable paradigms of state persecution in sixteenth-century England: namely, that those out of step with the religious policies of the Henrician, Edwardian or Elizabethan regimes because of their support for advanced Protestantism were liable for the traditional penalties for heresy, while those who continued to regard the pope rather than the monarch as head of the church risked execution for the rather different crime of treason. In the Elizabethan period, it was to become one of the central planks of government propaganda that Catholics, in particular missionary priests, were punished not for reasons of spiritual conscience, but for their political disloyalty to a queen who famously did not want to make ‘windows into men’s souls’.4 To the victims, such reasoning must sometimes have seemed sophistical; the sixteenth-century penalties for treason and for heresy were equally appalling. Indeed, as much was admitted by Thomas Cromwell in the course of his interrogation of Thomas More in June 1535. In an attempt to break down More’s notorious silence over his reasons for refusing to recognise the royal supremacy, Cromwell reminded the ex-chancellor that he himself had forced suspected heretics to affirm or deny the pope’s supremacy, and he dismissed More’s protestation that the cases were different with what can only be called gallows humour: ‘they were as well burned for the denying of that as they be beheaded for denying of this, and therefore as good reason to compel them to make precise answer to the one as to the other’.5 Yet the remark served a polemical rather than a philosophical purpose. In general, the government Cromwell served, like all Tudor governments, was as determined as the Mikado’s Lord High Executioner to ‘let the punishment fit the crime’. Burning the body for heresy prefigured the punishment of the 3

Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 79. William Cecil, The Execution of Justice in England, ed. R.M. Kingdom (Ithaca, NY, 1965), pp. 1, 7–10, 20–21, 36–7; P. McGrath, Papists and Puritans under Elizabeth I (London, 1967), pp. 55, 177–8. See here the remark of G.R. Elton that ‘no conforming English Protestant in the reign of Elizabeth ever called popery heretical … the question of applying the treatment prescribed for heretics – burning at the stake – could not arise over papists’: ‘Persecution and Toleration in the English Reformation’, in Studies in Tudor and Stuart politics and government (4 vols, Cambridge, 1974–92), iv. 185. 5 The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, ed. E.F. Rogers (Princeton, 1947), pp. 557–8, cited in G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: the Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972), p. 417. 4



soul in hell-fire, while the ‘cumulation of deaths’ enacted in the hanging and dismemberment of traitors was intended to assert the uniqueness of treason as the most heinous of crimes.6 A little over five years after the exchange between Cromwell and More, this taxonomy of violent death received its definitive expression. On 30 July 1540, a mere two days after Cromwell’s own execution, six notables were executed together at Smithfield. The reformers Robert Barnes, Thomas Garrett and William Jerome were burned as heretics, while three of Katherine of Aragon’s old supporters, Thomas Abell, Richard Featherstone and Edward Powell, were hanged, drawn and quartered in a grotesque assertion of theological even-handedness and judicial proportionality.7 The incident brings into sharper focus the apparent incongruity of the burning of Forest a little over two years before. While a number of commentators have noted en passant the discrepancy involved in the manner of Forest’s execution,8 none has attempted to explain it, nor to draw out the implications for the theological and political concerns of Henry VIII’s Church, and its attempts to monitor and control religious dissent. In what follows, I will seek to argue that investigating the construction of Forest’s ‘heresy’ reveals a considerable amount about the sensitivities of the government in the early months of 1538, a government riven by conflicting visions of which route the English Church should follow, and faced with threats on both international and domestic fronts. Moreover, I will suggest that attempting to unravel Forest’s own apparently inconsistent behaviour over the crisis period of the mid-1530s can take us some considerable way towards understanding both the potential and the limitations of the means of coercion and persuasion open to the Henrician authorities as they sought to secure compliance with a wrench of allegiance of unprecedented magnitude.

6 R.C. Finucane, ‘Sacred Corpse, Profane Carrion: Social Ideals and Death Rituals in the Later Middle Ages’, in J. Whaley (ed.), Mirrors of Mortality: Studies in the Social History of Death (London, 1981), pp. 50–51, 58. 7 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 120–21. 8 See M. Aston, Faith and Fire: Popular and Unpopular Religion, 1350–1600 (London, 1993), p. 276; Brigden, London, p. 290; E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992), p. 404; P. Marshall, ‘The Rood of Boxley, the Blood of Hailes and the Defence of the Henrician Church’, JEH, 46 (1995), 695; MacCulloch, Cranmer, p. 214. The fullest modern account of Forest’s career is in K. Brown, ‘The Franciscan Observants in England, 1482–1559’ (unpublished D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 1986), but this notes merely (p. 216) that Forest was condemned ‘uniquely and ironically on a charge of heresy’.



I The salient features of Forest’s career prior to 1538, and the immediate circumstances of his trial and execution, can be fairly briefly rehearsed.9 John Forest was a senior figure in the Franciscan Observant community at Greenwich, perhaps already sixty years old in 1530. In the early 1530s he was well known as a regular preacher at Paul’s Cross, and like many of his confrères he had strong links with the household of Katherine of Aragon, though there appears to be no direct contemporary evidence for the later tradition that he was her confessor. At the same time he was increasingly the subject of a series of complaints directed to Cromwell by two malcontented friars of the house, John Lawrence and Richard Lyst, who accused him inter alia of opposing the king’s proceedings.10 As a result, in the spring of 1533 Forest was exiled from Greenwich to one of the northern houses of the order, either Newcastle or Newark. Shortly after this the storm broke over the Observant houses in the capital. In the spring and early summer of 1534 the friars of Greenwich and Richmond, along with the rest of the religious, were required to swear acceptance of the king’s new position as head of the Church. The Observants’ refusal led to the imprisonment of many of the friars, the suppression of the order in England, the flight abroad of numerous Observants, and the dispersal of the remainder among the priories of their despised Conventual Franciscan rivals, where individual resistances to the oath seem in the main to have been broken down.11 Franciscan tradition has it that Forest was arrested and imprisoned in 1534, perhaps in connection with the activities of Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, but it is impossible to confirm that this took place.12 All that is known for certain is that 9 For Forest’s activities before 1538, see D. Knowles, The Religious Orders in England: vol. III The Tudor Age (Cambridge, 1959), pp. 206–11, 369–70; Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 153–67, 211–14, 258–9; idem, ‘Wolsey and Ecclesiastical Order: the Case of the Franciscan Observants’, in S.J. Gunn and P.G. Lindley (eds), Cardinal Wolsey: Church, State and Art (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 219, 230. 10 LP, vi. 116, 168, 309, 334, 512. 11 On the Observants in exile, see below, pp. 231–2. 12 The English Franciscan martyrologist Thomas Bourchier included in his Historia Ecclesiastica de Martyrio Fratrum Ordinis Minorum of 1582 a series of letters supposedly written from the imprisoned Forest to Katherine of Aragon and members of her household. These are calendared in LP, vii. 129–34, and printed in translation in J.M. Stone, Faithful unto Death: an Account of the Sufferings of the English Franciscans during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London, 1892), pp. 54–61. Their authenticity is fairly convincingly impugned in Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 212–13, though Brown is perhaps unduly sceptical about Bourchier’s claim that Forest had written a work, De Auctoritate Ecclesiae et Pontificis Maximi, attacking the royal supremacy. In the 1530s a number of Katharine’s partisans succeeded in having works published abroad: see below, p. 230.



by early 1538 Forest had turned up again in London, domiciled at the house of the Conventual Franciscans, and that in the meantime he, like the majority of his brethren, had submitted to the royal supremacy.13 By March or early April of that year, however, Forest had been arrested for encouraging sedition in the confessional, and a decision had been made to try him on heresy charges. Though the formal proceedings relating to the case do not appear to survive, it seems most likely that this action was taken on the basis of a commission to Cranmer issued on the vice-gerential authority of Thomas Cromwell, rather than through the ordinary jurisdiction of the archbishop.14 On 6 April Cranmer wrote to Cromwell for instructions on the case, and suggested that if everything was to be above board ‘there must be articles devised beforehand, which must be ministered unto him’.15 This was duly done, and a record survives of Forest’s answers to the questions put by the tribunal, answers which served only to incriminate him. Forest’s conviction on heresy charges promised a propaganda coup for the evangelical agenda which Cromwell and Cranmer had been seeking to promote: in the past evangelical supporters had been forced to read humiliating abjurations at Paul’s Cross; now a papist friar would do the same.16 In the event, the plan back-fired. In Newgate, Forest was incarcerated with the Carmelite Laurence Cooke and the Carthusian William Horne, who between them seem to have talked him into a final act of defiance: at his abjuration on 12 May he refused to read his recantation, and thus condemned himself to the only course open for relapsed heretics, death by burning.17 The heresies which Forest was to have abjured were nonetheless proclaimed by Bishop Latimer: First that the Holie Catholike Church was the Church of Rome, and that wee ought to beeleve out of the same. Second, that wee should 13

LP, xiii (1). 1043 (2); TNA: PRO, SP 1/132, fo. 155 (LP, xiii (1). 1043 (1)). For evidence that such trials could and did take place, see S.E. Lehmberg, ‘Supremacy and Vicegerency: a Re-examination’, English Historical Review, 319 (1966), 225–35; Brigden, London, pp. 236, 271; P. Ayris, ‘Thomas Cranmer’s Register: a Record of Archiepiscopal Administration in Diocese and Province’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1984), pp. 32, 100. 15 Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, ed. J.E. Cox (PS, Cambridge, 1846), pp. 365–6 (LP xiii (1). 687). 16 On evangelical abjurations, see Brigden, London, pp. 91–2; S. Wabuda, ‘Equivocation and Recantation during the English Reformation: the “Subtle Shadows” of Dr Edward Crome’, JEH, 44 (1993, 224–42, and see above, pp. 189–90. 17 Knowles, Religious Orders, p. 371; Hugh Latimer, Sermons and Remains, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1845), p. 392. As a means of psychological coercion, imprisonment of Elizabethan seminary priests together could prove similarly counter-productive: P. Lake and M. Questier, ‘Prisons, Priests and People’, in N. Tyacke (ed.), England’s Long Reformation 1500–1800 (London, 1998). 14



beleeve on the pope’s pardon for remission of our sinnes. Thirdlie, that wee ought to beleeve and doe as our fathers have donne aforetyme fowertene yeares past. Fourthlie, that a priest maie turne and change the paines of hell of a sinner, truly penitent, contrite of his sinns, by certaine pennance enjoyned him in the paines of purgatorie; which said articles be most abhominable heresies, blasphemie against God … and to abhorr any true Christian hart to thinck.18

Forest’s stubbornness was a bitter disappointment to his persecutors. Requested to preach again at the execution, or as he put it, ‘play the fool after my customable manner’, Hugh Latimer expressed to Cromwell his wish that Forest ‘would yet with heart return to his abjuration’.19 But if Forest’s was a burning that should never have taken place, Cromwell contrived nonetheless to turn it into an extraordinary piece of political theatre. The crowd of thousands gathered at Smithfield on 22 May included, in addition to Cromwell, Cranmer and Latimer, the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the earl of Sussex, the earl of Hertford, the bishop of London and other councillors, the lord mayor and sheriff.20 Forest was suspended from a gallows on a nest of chains and the fire was lit beneath him. Extra fuel for the pyre was provided by the ‘abused image’ of Dderfel Gadarn, a great wooden statue from the pilgrimage site of Llandderfel in North Wales. After Latimer had preached, and Forest had reiterated his defiance, friar and wooden image burned together in what has been called ‘the ritual wedding of the anti-papal cause with that of radical iconoclasm’. 21 Specially commissioned verses were hung on the scaffold mocking both ‘David Darvell Gatharn’ and ‘Forest the friar’.22 The tradition that the Welsh had a prophecy that Dderfel Gadarn would one day set a forest on fire seems likely to be a subsequent invention.23 But the conjoining of the 18

Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 79. Latimer, Sermons and Remains, pp. 391–2. 20 Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 80; Bodleian Library, Ashmole MS 861, fo. 335. 21 Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, p. 404. On Dderfel Gadarn, see Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 80; Hall, Chronicle, p. 826; Three Chapters of Letters Relating to the Suppression of the Monasteries, ed. T. Wright (CS, old ser., 26, 1843), pp. 190–91. On the related iconoclasm of 1538, see M. Aston, England’s Iconoclasts. i. Laws Against Images (Oxford, 1988), pp. 234–6; idem, Faith and Fire, pp. 266–70, 276–7, 304–7; Marshall, ‘Rood of Boxley’, and see above, pp. 138–42. 22 Foxe, Acts and Monuments, v. 180; Hall, Chronicle, p. 826. The author of the verses was Thomas Cromwell’s protégé, William Gray, who recycled them in a longer ballad, The Fantasie of Idolatrie: Foxe, Acts and Monuments, v. 403–9; J. Morris and J.H. Pollen, Lives of the English Martyrs (London, 1904), i. 307. For Gray, see E.W. Dormer, Gray of Reading: Sixteenth-century Controversialist and Ballad-writer (Reading, 1923). 23 The ‘prophecy’ has been accepted as contemporary by some modern authorities: Brigden, London, p. 290; Aston, Faith and Fire, p. 303; greater scepticism is exercised by K. Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (Harmondsworth, 1978), p. 502. The earliest 19



judicial execution with the iconoclastic spectacle was not merely fortuitous and opportunistic. On the day Cranmer had written to Cromwell about procedure in the Forest trial, a letter about the idolatry attending the cult of Dderfel Gadarn had been sent to the vice-gerent by Elis Price, commissary-general of the diocese of St Asaph. Price reported that ‘there is a commyn saying as yet amongist them that whosoever will offer anie thinge to the saide image … he hathe power to fetch hym or them that so offers out of hell when they be dampned’.24 The parallel with the heresy attributed to Forest – the power of clerically imposed penances to convert the pains of hell to those of purgatory – suggests that some version of the Welsh belief may have been been put to Forest at his trial, and that the friar’s response had obligingly enabled Cromwell (and Latimer in his sermon?) to establish a connection between the pretensions of the reactionary clergy, and the unscriptural superstitions attendant upon image-worship.25 The apparent linking of the cases should alert us to the possibility that the charges against Forest represented more than a random list of outdated conservative attitudes. II Rather than suggesting an act of casual vindictiveness, the decision to proceed against Forest as a heretic can be fitted into a pattern dating back to the very inception of the break with Rome. From the first session of the Reformation Parliament in 1529, issues relating to the definition, delation and prosecution of heresy proved highly contentious, with members of the lower house acutely sensitive to any suggestion that their own allusion to the prophecy seems to be Hall’s Chronicle, p. 826. The fact that heresy proceedings against Forest had been instigated before the authorities in London had heard of Dderfel Gadarn means the existence of any prophecy can be discounted as the motive prompting the unique handling of Forest’s case. 24 Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 190–91. 25 That the two statements might be connected was first suggested by Morris and Pollen, Lives of the English Martyrs, i. 304–6. For the possibility that such beliefs may have been widely diffused in pre-Reformation culture, and might relate to misapprehensions about the nature of indulgences, see Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, pp. 290–91. Forest’s own view most probably resembled the orthodox position taken by John Fisher that a sinner who deserved eternal pain could ‘mytygate them in to temporall paynes in this lyfe by penaunce, and after they be deed to make full satysfaccion in purgatory’: Fisher, The English Works, ed. J.E.B. Mayor (EETS, extra ser., 27, 1876), p. 10. See also P. Marshall, Beliefs and the Dead in Reformation England (Oxford, 2002), p. 72. Protestant writers continued to insist, however, that priests claimed to deliver souls from hell: Thomas Cranmer, Writings and Disputations, ed. J.E. Cox (PS, Cambridge, 1844), p. 354; Jean Veron, The Huntyng of Purgatorye to Death (London, 1561), fo. 96r.



grievances against the clergy might stem from ‘lack of faith’.26 In the early part of 1534, parliamentary unease about the case of the suspected heretic, Thomas Philips, who was widely believed to have been victimised by Bishop Stokesley, and about ex officio procedure in heresy cases in general, culminated in the creation of a new heresy law which received royal assent on 30 March.27 One of the most frequent complaints about the old heresy law had been the vagueness and elasticity of the concept, allowing the Church to frame heresy charges against those who had merely attacked corruption, or opposed the excessive power of the clergy.28 In repealing the act of Henry IV’s reign, the new statute complained that ‘it doth not in any parte therof declare any certeyne cases of heresye’ which subjects could recognise and avoid. But the new act remedied this defect in a negative sense only: henceforth ‘noo maner of spekyng, doing, communicacion or holdyng agenste theseid bisshop of Rome … shalbe deemed, reputed accepted or taken to be heresie’.29 There was as yet no official suggestion that the converse might be true, that those upholding the pope’s supremacy might themselves be counted as heretics. But among the king’s more evangelical advisers there was clearly a growing mood to that effect. When John Hale, vicar of Isleworth, was arrested in 1534 for treasonable conversations about the Boleyn marriage, Cromwell’s endorsement of a letter relating to the case referred to ‘one Hale in his heresie atteynted’.30 Thomas Cranmer was still more convinced that opponents of the Gospel could be classed as heretics. In a stinging letter to the conservative Kentish gentleman Sir Thomas Cheyney in October 1537, Cranmer threatened to proceed against those of Cheyney’s servants who upheld images, saints and purgatory ‘as against heretics’.31 More pertinently, Cranmer had employed the accusation of 26

S.E. Lehmberg, The Reformation Parliament 1529–1536 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 83–4, 117–18; J.A. Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven and London, 1980), pp. 118–19. 27 Lehmberg, Reformation Parliament, pp. 186–7; J.A. Guy, ‘The Law of Heresy’, in Thomas More, The Debellation of Salem and Bizance, ed. J. Guy, R. Keen, C.H. Miller and R. McGugan (New Haven and London, 1987), pp. lxii–lxvii. 28 For expressions of this belief, see P. Marshall, The Catholic Priesthood and the English Reformation (Oxford, 1994), pp. 219–21. 29 Statutes of the Realm, ed. A. Luders et al. (11 vols, London, 1810–28), iii. 454–5 (25 Hen. VIII c. 14). 30 L.E. Whatmore, The Carthusians under King Henry VIII (Salzburg, 1983), p. 67. It may be relevant to note here that when the Londoner Elizabeth Tyse was brought before the aldermen in autumn 1537 for saying ‘the pope should bear as great authority as ever he did’, she was told she deserved to be burned: Brigden, London, p. 277. 31 Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings, p. 352; MacCulloch, Cranmer, p. 207. By contrast, Cranmer seems to have been extremely reluctant to apply the label ‘heretic’ to anyone on the evangelical end of the religious spectrum: ibid., pp. 101–2.



heresy against the Nun of Kent and her adherents at the end of 1533, making sure that the term was included when the sermon of denunciation preached against her at Paul’s Cross in November by John Salcot was reprised in Canterbury in December by Nicholas Heath.32 Although Elizabeth Barton and her associates were to meet their deaths as attainted traitors in the following year, Heath’s sermon implied strongly that a different path of retribution might have been pursued: the books of the nun’s revelations compiled by her spiritual director, Edward Bocking, were said to contain manifold ‘erroneous or heretical propositions … of which heresies and errors it will be hard for you … to avoid if they shall be laid to your charge’.33 It is relevant to note here that the nun’s revelations were said to have been spread abroad by certain priests and religious, ‘specially by friar Observants’. Moreover, the nun’s recorded revelations spoke of the soul of a certain man ‘delivered from that place … where he was punished – a place of no salvation – unto purgatory, a place of salvation’ – an intriguing foreshadowing of the motif we have noted linking Dderfel Gadarn to Forest’s claim that ‘a priest maie turne and change the paines of hell … in the paines of purgatorie’.34 By the mid1530s, then, the trail which would lead Forest to the stake was already being mapped out. The growing identification of conservative disaffection with heretical belief was not, however, solely a reflection of the reformist convictions and growing influence of Cromwell and Cranmer. It emerged also from two evolving and inter-connected processes set in motion by Henry’s breach with the papacy in the early 1530s: the need to establish a coherent ecclesiology and locus of spiritual authority for the Ecclesia Anglicana, and the need to locate the English Church theologically within the wider Christian community. In other words, it related to the problem of defining ‘Catholicism without the pope’.35 Never far from the heart of this process was that elusive body which appeared alternately to Henrician hopes as deus ex machina and as dies irae: a general council of the Church.36 The notion of an appeal against the pope to a general council had first surfaced during the campaign for the divorce, and it 32 ‘The Sermon against the Holy Maid of Kent and her Adherents, delivered at Paul’s Cross, November the 23rd, 1533, and at Canterbury, December the 7th’, ed. L.E. Whatmore, English Historical Review, 58 (1943), 463–75; MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 105–7. 33 ‘Sermon against the Holy Maid’, 470. 34 Ibid.; Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 79. 35 See above, pp. 178–83. 36 For Henry’s appeal to a general council against Clement VII, see J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII (London, 1968), pp. 262–3, 319; for Cranmer’s abiding interest in conciliar theory, see MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 27–9, 105, 151, 592.



rapidly emerged as a major theme in the government’s propaganda of the early 1530s. The government-sponsored tract of 1532, the Glasse of the Truthe, for example, adduced the 1415 decree of the Council of Constance that the pope was subject to a general council in matters of faith, an argument reiterated by the 1534 tract A Litel Treatise Ageynste the Mutterynge of some Papistis in Corners.37 The possible implications of this had been more explicitly drawn out by a third official publication produced towards the end of 1533, the Articles devised by the Holle Consent of the Kynges most Homourable Counsayle. This aligned itself with the most extreme manifestation of fifteenth-century conciliarism, the Council of Basel, in holding that whoever opposed the superiority of a council to the pope ‘is to be taken by all true Christian people as an heretic’. By upholding Pius II’s decree Execrabilis (1460) condemning appeal to a council from papal pronouncements, the current pope, Clement VII, was thus ‘determined by a general council Vere haereticus, that is to say an heretycke’.38 From here it was but a short step to concluding that all who supported papal pretensions were heretics as well. The failure of the heresy legislation of 1534 to provide any map of the contours of orthodoxy in the new national Church was addressed in 1537 with the appearance of the first full statement of belief of the Henrician Church, the Institution of a Christian Man or Bishops’ Book. Here orthodoxy was defined clearly and conventionally as acceptance of the twelve articles of the creed, with the stern monition that ‘whosoever being once taught will not constantly believe them … be very infidels or heretics, and members of the devil, with whom they shall perpetually be damned’.39 This definition of right faith meant, of course, acceptance of the twelve articles as glossed by the Bishops’ Book itself. In its exposition of the ninth article – ‘I believe that there is one holy Catholic and universal Church’ – the Bishops’ Book located the Catholic Church in the sum of ‘particular churches’, none of which enjoyed ‘superiority, preeminence or authority’ over any other. It followed therefore that ‘the Church of Rome is not, nor cannot worthily be called the Catholic Church, but only 37 Both tracts are reprinted in Records of the Reformation: The Divorce 1527–1533, ed. N. Pocock (2 vols, London, 1870), relevant passages at ii. 407, 540–41. The Glasse is assigned to 1531 in S.W. Haas, ‘Henry VIII’s Glasse of Truthe’, History, 64 (1979), but see the convincing reinstatement of a later date in R. Rex, ‘Redating Henry VIII’s A Glasse of the Truthe’, The Library, 7th ser., 4 (2003). 38 Records of the Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. pp. 526–7, 530. For the texts of the conciliar and papal decrees, see Documents of the Christian Church, ed. H. Bettenson (Oxford, 1943), pp. 188–90. 39 Formularies of Faith put forth by Authority during the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. C. Lloyd (Oxford, 1825), p. 61.



a particular member thereof’.40 In terms of the theology of the Bishops’ Book, there seems no doubt therefore that Forest was legitimately convicted of heresy. But this in itself does not explain why such reasoning was brought to bear in his particular case, and the drastic course pursued with Forest may had have much to do with a number of more urgent developments impinging on the political consciousness of the government in 1537–38. In the first place, the issue of a general council, which Henry had made so free with in his propaganda campaign against Clement VII, had returned to haunt the king and his ministers. In June 1536, Clement’s successor Paul III issued the bull Ad dominici gregis curam, summoning a general council to meet at Mantua in May the following year, an event which provoked a flurry of written responses in circles around the Henrician court, designed both for both domestic and international consumption.41 In the view of G.R. Elton, with France and the Empire at war in 1537, England could comfortably attend to its own affairs, and the convocation of the Mantuan council was ‘easily ignored’ by Henry VIII.42 But this is to take too sanguine a view – the prospect of a council attended by some or all of the Catholic powers was pregnant with dangers for Henry at a time when strong measures against England appeared to Paul III as one of the most important tasks facing a council, and when the newly appointed papal legate Reginald Pole was doing his utmost to urge concerted military action against his errant homeland. The convocation of a council was said to be the thing ‘the King dreads most’.43 It thus became a Henrician imperative not only to reprise the theme that the pope was subject to a general council, but also to stress that any council summoned on the authority of the pope rather than the pooled authority of Christian princes was ipso facto illegitimate.44 In A Treatise Concerninge Generall Councilles, the Byshoppes of Rome and the Clergy (1538), this campaign produced the most emphatic statement 40

Ibid. H. Jedin, History of the Council of Trent, tr. E. Graf (2 vols, London, 1957–61), i. 288–318; P.A. Sawada, ‘Two Anonymous Tudor Treatises on the General Council’, JEH, 12 (1961), 197–214; MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 193–4. In the spring of 1538 it emerged that the authority of Mantua had been treasonably endorsed by the abbot of Woburn: LP, xiii (1). 981. 42 G.R. Elton, Reform and Reformation: England 1509–1558 (London, 1977), p. 276. 43 Jedin, History of Trent, i. 303, 352; C. Höllger, ‘Reginald Pole and the Legations of 1537 and 1539; Diplomatic and Polemical Responses to the Break with Rome’ (unpublished D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 1989); S. Brigden, ‘“The Shadow that you Know”: Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Francis Bryan at Court and in Embassy’, Historical Journal, 39 (1996), 8. Henry’s concern is palpable in his correspondence with his ambassadors at the French and Imperial courts: LP, xi. 151; xiii (1). 279, 695, 709, 891, 915, 917. 44 See above, pp. 185–6. 41



to date of the heretical nature of papal claims and the bad faith of those who supported them: If a man wylle say, and abydingly stand in it, that the byshop of Rome is heed of the universalle Churche of Christe: it is not onely untrue, but it is also heresye, and is directly agaynste Scripture, Ecclesiastes. v. where it is sayde: Universe terre rex imperat servienti, that is, the kynge commaundeth the hole countrey as his subiecte. Wherupon it foloweth, that the emperour, whiche is kynge in Italye, may commaunde the byshoppe of Rome as his subiecte. And if the byshoppe of Rome shuld be heed of the universall Churche: then he shulde be heed over the emperour … And also it is sayd Sa. vi. here ye kynges and understande: lerne ye that ye be iudges of al partes of the worlde … It is heresie, therefore, to say that the byshope of Rome is heed of the universall Churche.45

It was John Forest’s misfortune to be found proselytising for the pope at a moment when the Henrician authorities were more than usually sensitive to the illegitimacy, not to say the impiety, of papal claims. Indeed, Forest’s trial may well have taken place at almost the same time that the Treatise Concerninge Generall Councilles was being printed, and it is at least plausible that Cranmer’s request for articles to be drawn up in the Forest case may have prompted Cromwell to draw directly on the arguments of the treatise.46 Moreover, the papers relating to Forest’s examination and confession reveal a clear determination to force the accused to commit himself on the issues of papal and conciliar authority. Alongside the heresies for which he was ultimately condemned, Forest was supposed to have asserted that the first council of Nicaea (325) was summoned by ‘an heretic bishop who applied unto him certain other bishops, whereat was neither the pope nor the emperor, where was made a certain ordinance whereby the Church of Rome should have no power over them, and the same was taken for no council because it was not full’.47 During the campaign for the divorce and subsequently, Henrician propaganda had repeatedly alluded to Nicaea, alleging it to have established the immutable principle that ecclesiastical causes should be settled in their 45

A Treatise Concerninge Generall Councilles, the Byshoppes of Rome, and the Clergy (London, 1538), sigs C3v–4r. 46 Internal evidence suggests the final version of the Treatise Concerninge Generall Councilles must have been composed after September 1537, and it must have been printed in or before April 1538 when ambassadors were instructed to take copies with them to Spain: Sawada, ‘Two Anonymous Treatises’, p. 211. An MS extract from the Treatise may survive among the state papers. J.H. Froude cited from it the passage quoted above in his History of England (12 vols, London, 1858–70), iii. 107–8, and (though he was unaware of its provenance) suggestively linked the document with the Forest trial. I have been unable to identify or consult this MS in TNA: PRO. 47 TNA: PRO, SP 1/132, fo. 155 (LP, xiii (1). 1043 (1)).



province of origin.48 Most likely Forest found himself manoeuvred into denying the Catholicity of the council in response to some such antipapal interpretation of its teaching. III That Forest’s fate needs to be seen in the context of the Henrician response to the threat of a papal council seems beyond question. This, however, is to tell only part of the story. From the point of view of the authorities, Forest was a troubling figure not merely because he was a papalist friar whose views contradicted the quasi-conciliarist theology of the new regime. Equally, if not more seriously, he could be viewed as a symptom of a disease which some feared racked the Henrician body politic and threatened to destroy it from within: the virus of deceit and dissimulation.49 Forest’s notoriety among evangelicals of his own day was due not so much to his papalist sympathies as to the fact that he was an avowed equivocator. The verses affixed to Forest’s gallows in May 1538 epitomised him as ‘Forest the freer, that obstinate lyer’.50 Twelve years after he had preached at Forest’s execution, Hugh Latimer touched on the theme of dissembling in a sermon before Edward VI, and spoke of an unnamed bishop who had held that while laws were to be obeyed outwardly, ‘my heart in religion is free to think as I will’. The idea triggered an instant association in Latimer’s mind: ‘so said Friar Forest, half a papist, yea worse than a whole papist’.51 The undiluted contempt which Forest evoked represented a reaction to a circumstance that emerged in the course of his trial. Forest confessed that he had told a penitent that when he had sworn the oath of supremacy, ‘he had denyed the busshope of Rome by an oth given by his outwarde man but not in thinward man’.52 48 Records of the Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. 402–3, 525; LP, xi. 124 (8). See also V. 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), pp. 157–8; MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 59–60. Ironically, dispute over whether or not Nicaea had been summoned by papal authority was to play a part in bringing about Cranmer’s temporary recantation in 1556: ibid., pp. 586–7. 49 For an important general discussion of the theme of dissimulation, see P. Zagorin, Ways of Lying: Dissimulation, Persecution, and Conformity in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA, 1990). For the identification of Catholicism with dissimulation and hypocrisy in English Protestant polemic, see J.N. King, English Reformation Literature: the Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition (Princeton, NJ, 1982), pp. 157–8. 50 Hall, Chronicle, p. 826; Foxe, Acts and Monuments, v. 180. 51 Hugh Latimer, Sermons, ed. G.E. Corrie (PS, Cambridge, 1844), p. 266. For a further instance of Latimer’s uncompromising attitude to lies and deceit, see ibid., pp. 500–503. 52 TNA: PRO, SP 1/132, fo. 155 (LP, xiii (1). 1043 (1)).



The temptation perhaps is to dismiss this formula as a piece of meaningless sophistry, yet to do so might well be a mistake. The separation of the inward and the outward man may have been regarded by Forest as profoundly meaningful. In reacting to it with such undisguised fury, his enemies perhaps understood all too well its significance in exposing the fragility of the popular ‘consent’ upon which Henry’s royal supremacy presented itself as resting.53 Early sixteenth-century England was a society long familiar with oaths, and oath-taking, but in requiring the whole realm to swear to accept the Boleyn marriage and succession, and in subsequently imposing a more explicit repudiation of papal authority on clergy (especially the regular clergy) and on officeholders, the Henrician authorities sought to produce an unprecedented symbolic demonstration of acquiescence in the royal will: ‘never before had a spiritual instrument of commitment been used as a political test’.54 The fact that those required to take the oath overwhelmingly agreed to do so has been interpreted variously as a symptom of moral spinelessness on the part of the English clergy, of widespread indifference to the institution of the papacy, or more realistically perhaps, of the effectiveness of the deterrents with which the regime could threaten dissidents: on the day Londoners were summoned to take the oath of succession the dismembered corpses of the Nun of Kent and her adherents were affixed to the city gates.55 Yet acquiescence need not signal acceptance, and resistance could take passive as well as active forms. Those charged with the administration of the oaths were well aware of the highly variable degree of enthusiasm with which they might be embraced. Writing to Cromwell in June 1534, John Hilsey reported that he had not found any religious who had refused, but that some had 53 Gardiner’s De Vera Obedientia of 1535 suggested that the whole realm, both learned and unlearned, had consented to Henry’s new title: Obedience in Church and State: Three political tracts by Stephen Gardiner, ed. P. Janelle (Cambridge, 1930), p. 156. C.S.L. Davies has plausibly suggested that this passage refers to the oaths taken in 1534, rather than to any act of parliament: ‘The Cromwellian Decade: Authority and Consent’, TRHS, 6th ser., 7 (1997), 184–5. 54 The enforcement of the succession and supremacy oaths of 1534 is discussed by Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 223–30; Brigden, London, 222–31 (quote at p. 223). For a sensitive discussion of the centrality of oath-taking in pre-Reformation civic culture, see idem, ‘Religion and Social Obligation in Early Sixteenth-century London’, Past and Present, 103 (1984), 86–92. 55 See the various perspectives offered in P. Hughes, The Reformation in England (3 vols, London, 1950–54), i. 270–79; A.G. Dickens, Reformation Studies (London, 1982), pp. 65, 69, 77–9; R. Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation (Basingstoke, 1993), p. 21. The likelihood that the execution of Elizabeth Barton and her supporters was intended to send an unmistakable message about refusal of the oath is persuasively presented in idem, ‘The Execution of the Holy Maid of Kent’, Historical Research, 64 (1991), 216–20.



sworn with an ill-will and ‘slenderly hathe takyn an othe to be obedyent’.56 It deserves to be more widely recognised that such recalcitrants, Forest undoubtedly among them, could have had recourse to a range of strategies, not merely to salve their consciences over the oath, but to nullify its binding power. In other words, they may have taken the oath casuistically. It is important here not to equate casuistically with lightly or cynically. The problem of how to reconcile one’s duty to properly constituted secular authority with one’s duty to God and conscience was common to persecuted minorities across early modern Europe. In the English context, a number of recent studies have sought to explore how both pre-Elizabethan evangelicals and Elizabethan Catholics could justify dissembling their true opinions in the face of official intolerance.57 By contrast, relatively little attention has been paid to the dilemma of what may well have been a much larger body of opinion in the mid-1530s.58 Indeed, in the most thorough recent analysis of these themes it has been argued that as far as England is concerned, the Catholic casuistical techniques of equivocation and mental reservation were not in evidence until the later sixteenth century, and the story ‘begins with the Catholic missionary priests’.59 As I shall argue, this judgement requires significant qualification. Both ‘equivocation’ and ‘mental reservation’ represented legitimate means of misleading an unjust interrogator, while remaining within the confines of an absolute Augustinian prohibition on lying. Broadly defined, equivocation involved making a statement which could bear two meanings, that which the speaker wished the hearer to take, and that which he himself ‘intended’ in a purely technical sense. Mental reservation involved making assent to an unpalatable proposition with the addition of a silent subsequent clause.60 These techniques reached their fully 56

TNA: PRO, SP 1/84, fo. 239 (LP, vii. 869). Wabuda, ‘Equivocation and Recantation’; A. Pettegree, ‘Nicodemism and the English Reformation’, in idem, Marian Protestantism: Six Studies (Aldershot, 1996), pp. 86–117; E. Rose, Cases of Conscience: Alternatives Open to Recusants and Puritans under Elizabeth I and James I (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 71–102; P.J. Holmes (ed.), Elizabethan Casuistry (Catholic Record Society publications, records series, 67, 1981); Zagorin, Ways of Lying, pp. 186–220; A. Walsham, Church Papists: Catholicism, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modern England (Woodbridge, 1993), ch. 4. 58 The only satisfactory approach to this question is the brief discussion in Brigden, London, pp. 226–31. By contrast, huge attention has been paid to the scruples of the only English layman to refuse the oath of succession, Thomas More. For a useful and incisive treatment, see R. Marius, Thomas More (London, 1985), pp. 460–70. 59 Zagorin, Ways of Lying, p. 186; cf. Rose, Cases of Conscience, p. 101: the science of casuistry was ‘virtually a creation of the late sixteenth century’. 60 Useful definitions and discussion in Rose, Cases of Conscience, pp. 89–90; Zagorin, Ways of Lying, pp. 163–4; J.P. Sommerville, ‘The “New Art of Lying”: Equivocation, 57



developed form in the Enchiridion of the Spanish casuist Martin de Azpilcueta (known as Navarrus) in 1549, and their apotheosis in the works of Navarrus’s Jesuit followers, but their roots were firmly in the central canonical tradition of the Middle Ages. A vital locus classicus was to be found in a passage from Gregory the Great’s Moralia, incorporated into Gratian’s Decretum: The ears of men judge our words as they sound outwardly, but the divine judgement hears them as they are uttered from within. Certainly he is one that knows, who explains from the words of another his will and intention, because the intention should not serve the words, but the words the intention.61

The distinction between outward and inward, words and the true intentions of the heart, strikingly prefigures Forest’s bifurcation of his conscience and allegiance in 1534/5. None of the medieval or early modern authorities suggested that one could dissimulate at will. The Italian Dominican Silvestro Mazzolini da Priero (known as Sylvester) argued in 1515, for example, that mental reservation was permissible in the case of a man forced by thieves to swear an oath to bring them more money. His great Dominican predecessor, Thomas Aquinas, had argued that a man was not bound to admit the truth to a judge proceeding unlawfully.62 How far either case could be applied to the actions of Henry VIII was a nicely balanced point. Could the king be considered an unjust judge; the oath he imposed an unlawful one which Christians might swear equivocally without committing perjury? In his cell in the Tower, Thomas More’s thoughts in 1534 or 1535 turned inexorably to such questions as he composed for himself a short sequence of notes on the theme of perjury.63 Without exception, perjury was a mortal sin, but More defined the sin closely as the ‘violation of a lawful oath’. An oath, particular or general, was unlawful if it bound anyone to reveal ‘such a secret as can and should be kept hidden’. Such an oath should be refused, and if anyone was forced to swear in such circumstances, he would not only not be bound to discharge what he had sworn, but ‘bound not to discharge it’. More’s lonely vigil in the Tower in April 1534, as the London clergy trooped to take the oath of succession, stands as famously eloquent testimony to his personal integrity. But the reasons why More Mental Reservation, and Casuistry’, in E. Leites (ed.), Conscience and Casuistry in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 159–84. 61 Cited in Zagorin, Ways of Lying, p. 169. 62 Ibid., p. 171; Sommerville, ‘New Art of Lying’, p. 172. 63 R.S. Sylvester, ‘More’s Discussion of Perjury’, in More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, ed. T.M.C. Lawler, G. Marc’hadour and R.C. Marius (New Haven and London, 1981), pp. 763–9.



refused to swear were kept ‘secret in my conscience’.64 In a very real sense, More’s silence was itself a form of equivocation: his life depended on the inability of his persecutors to place a construction on it which could condemn him. At one of his interrogations at Lambeth, More neatly laid open the contradictions inherent in the government’s use of compulsion to secure an ostensibly free declaration of assent: he was willing, he said, to swear that his reasons for refusing the oath were good ones ‘which if they trusted not, what should they be the better to give me any oath?’65 Less sophisticated minds than Sir Thomas’s clearly shared his sense that the oaths the government was seeking to extract were rendered unjust and unbinding by the element of compulsion. In February 1536, the Crutched friar George Rowland told a penitent (unwisely as it transpired) that ‘an othe loslie made may loslie be brokyn’. His stance was justified by homely analogy: if a friend were to press him, with ‘importynate suete’, to take drink with an enemy, and under pressure he promised on his faith to do so and took the drink, ‘trowe you that I wyll forgyve hym with mi harte? … and so in lyke wise uppon this othe concernyng the abiuracyon of the pope I wyll not abiure hym in my harte’.66 At his trial in 1538, John Forest too made clear why he believed the oath he had sworn had been an unlawful one. He accepted the proposition that by the laws of God, no subject might make any profession withdrawing them from their obedience to their prince, but at the same time he insisted that he was bound by a prior obedience: it was not lawful for him to change his Observant habit as it was against the rule he had professed. Uneasily Forest sought to reconcile the conflicting claims: his obedience, he said, was a double one, ‘firste to the kinges highnes by the lawe of God, and the seconde to the busshop of Rome by his rule and profession’.67 Not the least ironic aspect of the enforcement of the Henrician oaths was the authorities’ insistence that all such long-standing 64

St Thomas More: Selected Letters, ed. E.F. Rogers (New Haven and London, 1961), p. 219; Brigden, London, p. 228. 65 More, Selected Letters, p. 218. 66 TNA: PRO, SP 1/102, fo. 73v (LP, x. 346). Rowland also claimed that he had said as much to Archbishop Cranmer at a previous interview, and had been told he might pray for the pope secretly, but not openly, an allegation treated sceptically in Elton, Policy and Police, p. 29, and more agnostically in MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 97–8. It is worth noting here the claim made in Elizabeth’s reign that the apologist of Henrician supremacy, Stephen Gardiner, justified his volte-face under Mary by arguing that the oaths he had taken to Henry and Edward were ‘Herod’s oathes’: T.E. Hartley (ed.), Proceedings in the Parliaments of Elizabeth I, 1559–1581 (Leicester, 1981), p. 352. I owe this reference to Susan Brigden. 67 TNA: PRO, SP 1/132, fo. 156 (LP, xiii (1). 1043 (1)).



professions of obedience to the papacy represented unjust and unlawful oaths which could with a clear conscience be laid aside. The Glasse of the Truthe had argued in 1532 that the archbishops might settle the divorce in England ‘their unjust oath made to the pope notwithstanding’.68 In March 1533 the new archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, took an oath of loyalty to the papacy, but did so with casuistical intention: his oath was immediately followed by a solemn protestation that it could not override the law of God, or his loyalty to the king.69 Forest was by no means alone among religious conservatives in taking a very different view of the inviolability of a solemn prior affirmation: in December 1533 Katherine of Aragon’s servants reportedly refused to take a new oath to her bereft of her royal title on the grounds that no man sworn to serve her as queen might change that oath without committing perjury.70 Among the propositions discussed by the ‘pilgrims’ gathered at Pontefract in December 1536 was that of whether ‘if one othe be made, and after one oder othe to the contrary, and by the latter othe the partie is sworn to repute and take the first oath voyde, whether it may be so by … law or noo’.71 Clerical opponents of the king’s proceedings in 1534–55 lacked the systematic training in casuistry later imparted to Elizabethan seminarists at the college at Douai, and thus could not manifest the same sophisticated employment of equivocation and mental reservation that a number of those priests later displayed on the English mission.72 Yet Henrician papalists in the mid-1530s did not find themselves entirely without pointers as to how they might swear an unjust oath without committing the sin of lying. An important precedent in this respect had been established in 1531 when, in return for pardoning the English clergy from a charge of praemunire, Henry had sought to secure from the convocation of Canterbury recognition of his status as ‘supreme head’ of the English Church. The articles to which convocation ultimately assented, however, 68

Records of the Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. 418–19. MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 88–9. 70 LP, vi. 1541. 71 TNA: PRO, SP 1/112, fo. 26 (LP, xi. 1182 (2)). The issue was pertinent to the Pilgrimage of Grace in another way: the rebels were themselves bound to their enterprise by oaths, conceivably inspired by the mass-swearing of 1534. On this aspect, see M. Bush, The Pilgrimage of Grace: a Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536 (Manchester, 1996), p. 12 and passim. 72 Holmes, Elizabethan Casuistry, pp. 1–6. The most notorious case, at the time and subsequently, was that of John Ward in 1606. In captivity, Ward denied that he was a priest, or that he had been across the seas, but was later induced to confess that he had mentally reserved ‘of Apollo’ to the question about his priesthood, and ‘Indian’ to that about seas: Sommerville, ‘New Art of Lying’, p. 160. 69



accepted the new title ‘as far as the law of Christ allows’.73 While this addition has usually, and rightly, been seen as a limiting formula, temporarily putting off the evil hour for the clergy, it deserves to be noted also that it was an unmistakable case of equivocal swearing. Conservatives assenting to the proposition did so knowing that their construction of its meaning did not correspond to that of the king.74 Three years later the tactic could to an extent be repeated in the face of a much more inflexible attitude from the government. In May 1534 Prior Houghton and the London Carthusians were with great reluctance prevailed upon to take the oath of succession, but with the reservation ‘as far as it was lawful’. According to the community’s chronicler, Maurice Chauncy, an attempt to employ the same reservation in swearing to the supremacy in the following year was swept aside by Cromwell.75 Nonetheless, when the master and fellows of Balliol College, Oxford, subscribed to the supremacy in August 1534 they added the proviso that by doing so they did not ‘intend anything against divine law, nor against the rule of orthodox faith, nor against the doctrine of our mother, the holy Catholic Church’.76 The most elaborately equivocal oath-swearing of all may have taken place in the household of Katherine of Aragon in May 1534. Our account here depends upon an anonymous Spanish chronicle which is unreliable in some respects, but whose author was resident in London in the mid-1530s and may have had information at first or second-hand from a Spanish member of Katherine’s household. When Bishop Tunstall and Archbishop Lee came to Buckden to require subscription to the oath, Katharine herself would not consider submission, but secretly instructed her maestrasala, Francisco Felipez, that he should offer to swear on behalf of the rest of the household, a compromise accepted by the commissioners. Felipez thus swore ‘que el rey se ha hecho cabeza de Iglesia’ – that the king has made himself head of the Church; identical in sound but distinct in meaning from ‘sea hecho’ – he may be made.77 73 For divergent views of Henry’s motives in 1531, see J.A. Guy, ‘Henry VIII and the Praemunire Manoeuvres of 1530–1’, English Historical Review, 97 (1982), 481–503; G.W. Bernard, ‘The Pardon of the Clergy Reconsidered’, JEH, 37 (1986), 258–82. 74 This much was obvious to Chapuys, who wrote to Charles V that ‘as to the king himself, the restriction is null and void’: CSP, Spanish, ed. P. de Gayanagos et al. (15 vols in 20, London, 1862–1954), iv (2). 635 (p. 63). The possibility that the additional clause was in fact suggested by Cromwell or Audley suggests the government may have been prepared to collude in an equivocal acceptance of the royal supremacy at this stage: Lehmberg, Reformation Parliament, pp. 113–14. 75 Knowles, Religious Orders, pp. 229–31; Whatmore, Carthusians, p. 27. 76 T. Rymer, Foedera (20 vols, London, 1704–35), xiv. 498 (my trans.). 77 Chronicle of King Henry VIII, ed. Hume, pp. 39–41. Some of Katherine’s servants were not prepared to swear any kind of oath, among them her chaplain, Thomas Abell, one of the three ‘traitors’ executed at Smithfield in July 1540: ibid., p. 42n.



Conceivably, this may be a post hoc representation of how things ought to have transpired, rather than how they actually did, but the incident fitted precisely the canonists’ model of legitimate equivocation in the face of unjust questioning. A famous exemplum in Raymond of Peñaforte’s thirteenth-century Summa de casibus conscientiae involved a householder asked by a murderer if his intended victim was within. The householder could with a clear conscience reply ‘non est hic’ – ‘he is not here’, but meaning also, ‘he is not eating here’.78 How many subscribers to the oath of supremacy went one step further from such verbal equivocation and mentally reserved a formula such as ‘as far as the law of Christ allows’, we cannot ever hope to know, though it should now be clear that John Forest must have done so in considering himself bound by the outward man only. A draft treatise against treason drawn up in 1539 laid the charge against the recently executed abbot of Reading, Hugh Cooke, that he ‘did not use the same evasion as Friar Forest’, but said that when sworn to the king’s supremacy, he added, in his conscience, ‘of the temporal Church, but not of the spiritual’.79 Perhaps some similar evasion was employed by the chancellor of Chichester, George Croftes, who had subscribed to the oath, but proclaimed defiantly in 1538 that ‘he is in his stomach the same man in all opinions that he was xx yeares past’.80 To one evangelical, writing in the mid-1540s, it was notorious that conservative clergy would claim that still ‘they keepe their inward man free’ when forced to conform outwardly.81 But outward conformity had a psychological price: Croftes confessed that ‘there was none act or thing that ever he did more grieved his conscience than the oath which he took to renounce the bishop of Rome’s authority’. None of the papal loyalists making a casuistical subscription to the oath can have found it easy, but for the London Carthusians who had seen their prior martyred in 1535 it must have been harder than most. When the remnants of the Charterhouse finally subscribed to the Act of Supremacy in May 1537, they did so making a tacit reservation. One of their number, Maurice Chauncy, later remarked ruefully that ‘in this we are not justified’.82

78 Sommerville, ‘New Art of Lying’, p. 167; Zagorin, Ways of Lying, p. 177. On Raymund, see T.N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton, NJ, 1977), pp. 31 ff. 79 LP, xiii (2). 613. 80 LP, xiii (2). 829. 81 BL, Royal 17 B xxxv, fo. 19r, cited in A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), p. 79n. 82 Whatmore, Carthusians, p. 180.



IV Though they may have anticipated by half a generation the development of a fully formulated Catholic moral theology of casuistry, papalist clergy taking the oath had one immensely important point of reference in their attempts to evade the oath’s consequences: their experience in the confessional. In a number of ways, the similarities between the enforced oathswearing of 1534–35 and the mandatory attendance of all adult Christians at auricular confession are striking ones: both were potent symbolic gestures of social cohesion, involving the enscription of an at least notional voluntary undertaking within a structure of ideological control. Swearing and confessing intersect in another significant way: the early development of the ‘science’ of casuistry grew directly out of the literature designed for confessors: Raymond of Peñaforte’s Summa de casibus conscientiae, Sylvester’s Summa Summarum, Navarrus’s Enchiridion, sive Manuale Confessariorum et Paenitentium, were all designed to guide the priest in administering the sacrament of penance.83 Moreover, the legitimate techniques of dissimulation – equivocation and mental reservation – were originally admitted to enable priests to preserve intact the seal of the confessional. Many later commentators, including Sir Thomas More, followed Aquinas in reasoning that a confessor could legitimately employ a mental reservation in denying knowledge of matters that had come to him in confession: the knowledge was his only as God’s minister, not as a man.84 It may not be too fanciful to suggest that the functional, even ontological, duality implicit in this rationalisation may have evoked in experienced confessors like Forest a heightened awareness of the distinctive obligations of the ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ man. Yet priests’ administration of confession provided them not only with a set of categories to help negotiate their own responses to the abrupt demands of the new supreme head, but also with an ostensibly hermetic forum for the formation and direction of the individual consciences of others. Confession might thus function as the antithesis, perhaps even the antidote, to the public and communal binding of conscience at the heart of the oath-taking of 1534–35. The potential of the confessional for encouraging disaffection to the Henrician reforms 83 Zagorin, Ways of Lying, p. 159. Raymund’s Summa was not printed in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, but was heavily plagiarised by the Manipulus Curatorum of Guy de Monte Rocherii: Tentler, Sin and Confession, p. 31. The Manipulus may have been the most widely diffused confessional manual in pre-Reformation England: see Marshall, Catholic Priesthood, pp. 8n, 114. 84 More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies, pp. 281–2; Somerville, ‘New Art of Lying’, p. 169; Zagorin, Ways of Lying, p. 171. For a discussion of the seal of confession, see Marshall, Catholic Priesthood, pp. 19–23.



has, of course, been noted before.85 One of the charges against Forest was that ‘he used and practised to induce men in confession to hold and stick to thold fashion of bileve’. Similarly, George Rowland ordered a penitent to steer clear of the preaching of Latimer, ‘for so shall all my gostly chyldrene’.86 Yet to assume that conservative priests always took the initiative in stiffening the resolve of their penitents may be to risk typecasting the transactions of the confessional too much in terms of clerical agency. Sixteenth-century laypeople understood that they could go to their confessor, not merely to confess their sins, but ‘to desire him of his ghostly counsel’.87 At his trial in 1535, the Bridgettine Richard Reynolds protested that he had never declared his opinion about the royal supremacy ‘unless it was asked me in confession, when I could not refuse for discharge of my conscience’.88 Reynolds had done this with a vengeance in 1532 when he had been sought out by Sir George Throckmorton, currently engaged, with the encouragement of More and Fisher, in attempting to frustrate the government’s legislative programme in parliament. Throckmorton later admitted that he had showed Reynolds his conscience ‘in all thies causes and other as they came to my mind at that time … and [he] advised me to stick to the same to the deth, and if I did not, I shulde surely be dampned’.89 The fact that a number of treasonable utterances by priests in confession were clearly relayed to the authorities via agents provocateurs reinforces the impression that confessors may not have been unduly surprised or have exercised suitable caution if penitents were to raise issues of considerable political sensitivity: it was just such a betrayal which seems to have led to the arrest of Forest in 1538.90 Though such betrayals account for virtually all the cases we know about, they were by definition exceptional: collusion must have been the essence of the vast majority of those unknowable seditious exchanges which took place under the protection of the seal. In 1535, a St

85 Brigden, London, pp. 242–3; Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 27–30; Marshall, Catholic Priesthood, pp. 28–9; Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation, p. 36. 86 TNA: PRO, SP 1/132, fo. 156 (LP, xiii (1). 1043 (1)); SP 1/102, fo. 73r (LP, x. 346). 87 LP, xviii (2). 546 (p. 310). 88 LP, viii. 661. 89 TNA: PRO, SP 1/125, fo. 255. Throckmorton’s confession is printed in Guy, Public Career of Thomas More, pp. 207–12. For arguments as to whether Throckmorton can be considered part of an ‘opposition group’, see Lehmberg, Reformation Parliament, p. 180; G.R. Elton, ‘Sir Thomas More and the Opposition to Henry VIII’, in R.S. Sylvester and G.P. Marc’hadour (eds), Essential Articles for the Study of Thomas More (Hamden, CT, 1977), pp. 79–91; G. Walker, Persuasive Fictions: Faction, Faith and Political Culture in the Reign of Henry VIII (Aldershot, 1996), pp. 4–14. 90 TNA: PRO, SP 1/102, fos 73–4 (LP, x. 346); SP 1/132, fo. 155 (LP, xiii (1). 1043 (1)); SP 1/91, fos 105–6 (LP, viii. 406).



Albans priest urged a penitent (fruitlessly as it transpired): ‘whatever I have sayd unto the, reporte it not, but speke lyke a goostly chyld by me, and I shall report lyke wysse by the’.91 In countless similar cases the admonition must have been heeded, or was simply implicit in the transaction. Throughout the 1530s, the Henrician authorites were acutely sensitive of the dangers posed by confession, particularly in the hands of reformed religious orders like the Observants and Bridgettines. In the early part of 1534 Cromwell received a report from Sir John Markham about seditious preaching by an Observant at Newark, and with it the observation that great hurt might ensue if such men were suffered to preach and ‘to move and styr men in comunycacions and in theyr confessyons, consydering the credyt they be in emongest the peopll’.92 At the Bridgettine house at Syon in 1535, Cromwell’s agent Thomas Bedyll prohibited the less conformable of the monks from hearing the nuns’ confessions, and threatened Richard Whitford, an acknowledged expert in the arts of spiritual counsel, that ‘he myght be the occasion that shrift shalbe layed downe throughe England’. Bedyll was particularly concerned that the Bridgettine fathers had been hearing confessions, not merely of the nuns in their charge, but of all comers, and proposed that the place where such confessions were heard should be walled up: ‘ffor that hering of utward confessions hath been the cause of muche evyl, and of muche treson whiche hath been sowed abrode in this mater of the kinges title, and also in the kinges graces mater of his succession and mariage’.93 Similar concerns provoked the new bishop of Rochester, John Hilsey, to inhibit a number of the Crutched friars from hearing confessions in Lent 1536, and Ambassador Chapuys became convinced that the king intended to forbid the greater part of the religious from hearing confessions, leaving the task to the secular clergy.94 The increasingly apparent linkage between confession and sedition was grist to the mill of those evangelicals who detested the traditional theology of penance. In John Bale’s play King Johan, first performed in Cranmer’s residence a few months after Forest’s death, confession was presented in unequivocal terms as an insidious instrument of papal power. In the confessional ‘Nobility’ is sworn to


TNA: PRO, SP 1/91, fo. 105. TNA: PRO, SP 1/81, fo. 126 (LP, vi. 1664). On the dissidents at Newark, see Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 181–3. 93 Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 49. Whitford’s credentials as a confessor were impressive: despite the threats of Bedyll he went on to publish a Dialogue or Communicacion bytwene the Curate or Ghostly Father and the Parochiane or Ghostly Chyld for a Due Preparacion unto Howselynge (London, 1537), discussed by Marshall, Catholic Priesthood, pp. 15–16. 94 Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, p. 37; LP, x. 494. 92



silence by his father confessor, ‘Sedition’, when he is told of the pope’s plan to depose the king.95 Of all the potential stirrers of dissent in the confessional, none were more suspect than the dispersed remnants of the Observant Franciscans. London’s pious cognoscenti had long been in the habit of seeking out Observant confessors, and for some the habit survived the Observants’ absorption into the ranks of the Conventual Franciscans.96 The government was well aware that Observants, including Forest, had continued to confess members of the household of Katherine of Aragon,97 and after Katherine’s death there were still those in court circles who determinedly sought out former Observants to make their confession. One such was John, Lord Mordaunt, whose confession to Forest at the London Franciscans in Lent 1538 precipitated his own interrogation and Forest’s arrest.98 Forest had, of course, been under suspicion for some time, but the catalyst for his arrest may have been a shocking report which reached Cromwell some time in March. Robert Crewkerne, rector of Dennington in Suffolk, a priest who had previously been in trouble for his outspoken defence of shrines and pilgrimage, had been openly preaching that a priest was bound to conceal treason revealed to him in confession, and he had affirmed that all the clergy would agree with him ‘that have not utterly in contempte the cure of mans soule’.99 This must have seemed at once a confirmation of all the authorities feared was happening, and a shameless incitement to further disloyalty. In such circumstances determined action against a suspect friar with court connections was hardly surprising.

95 The Complete Plays of John Bale, ed. P. Happé (2 vols, Cambridge, 1985–86), i. 59–60; illuminating discussion in G. Walker, Plays of Persuasion: Drama and Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 211–14; P.W. White, Theatre and Reformation: Protestantism, Patronage, and Playing in Tudor England (Cambridge, 1993), p. 36. It is relevant to note here also that William Marshall’s 1535 translation of Marsilius’s Defensor Pacis added a marginal note that ‘to absolve the subiecte from the bonde and othe of his allegeaunce is manyfeste heresye’: The Defence of Peace (London, 1535), fo. 59r. See also S. Lockwood, ‘Marsilius of Padua and the Case for the Royal Ecclesiastical Supremacy’, TRHS, 6th ser., 1 (1991), 104–7. 96 William Tyndale, Doctrinal treatises, ed. H. Walter (PS, Cambridge, 1848), p. 337; Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 61. 97 TNA: PRO, SP 1/142, fo. 201 (LP, xiv (1). 190). 98 LP, xiii (1). 880, 1043 (2). 99 TNA: PRO, SP 1/130, fo. 215 (LP, xiii (1). 633). For Crewkerne’s previous brush with the authorities, see Three Chapters of Letters, ed. Wright, pp. 36–7.



V It should now be possible to acknowledge that John Forest’s conviction for heresy in the spring of 1538 brought together, and attempted to exorcise, a remarkable number of the spectres which had been haunting the government of Henry VIII in the middle years of the 1530s. The abjuration which Forest was intended to have recited at Paul’s Cross would have stressed the error of supposing the Catholic Church to be coterminous with the Church of Rome, at a time when papal authority appeared to be on the international ascendant and threatened to appropriate to its own purposes the conciliar ideal to which Henry had paid repeated lipservice. At a time when the authorities were all too painfully aware of the damage priests could do in the confessional, it would have sought to discredit the inflated claims made in this context for the sacramental powers of priests, and to have associated them with the repudiated ‘pardons’ of the pope, and the idolatry and error adhering to cults like that of Dderfel Gadarn. It is hard to believe also that Forest’s recantation would not have highlighted the hypocrisy and dissimulation with which he had attempted to evade the crown’s legitimate claims upon his obedience. Those who conceived and carried through this conviction and execution for heresy, principally Cromwell, Cranmer and Latimer, intended it as a powerful ritual of exclusion, a reformulation of the traditional boundaries of heresy in order to proclaim and vindicate the orthodoxy of a self-confident, evangelically renewed Church. Yet the precedent was never to be repeated, and within months of Forest’s death the former classification of papalism as a species of treason had been unequivocally restored. The three Benedictine abbots executed towards the end of 1539 were all accused of upholding papal supremacy, but they went to the gallows rather than the stake.100 What had occasioned this volte-face? Quite possibly the spectacle of Forest’s burning had not turned out to be the propaganda triumph for which Latimer, Cranmer and Cromwell had hoped. It is remarkable that no attempt seems to have been made, then or subsequently, to preserve the words of what must have been one of Latimer’s most high-profile setpiece performances, not even by Augustine Bernher, Latimer’s old servant and the industrious collector and editor of his sermons.101 Perhaps Latimer’s attempt to discredit Forest in the eyes of the crowd badly 100

Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 155–60; Knowles, Religious Orders, pp. 376–82. Proceedings for heresy do seem to have been instigated against another conservative exfriar, William Watts, in October 1539, though the case was not pursued to its conclusion: MacCulloch, Cranmer, pp. 260–61. 101 I am indebted to Tom Freeman for this insight.



misfired: the anonymous Spanish chronicle provides a blow-by-blow account of how Latimer was bested by Forest in debate.102 The provenance and hagiographical intentions of this account render it suspect, but it is noteworthy that even the hostile Wriothesley chronicle reported that Forest had defied Latimer ‘with a lowde voyce’, making his own the words of St Paul that ‘if an angell should come downe from heaven and shew him any other thing then that he had beleeved all his liffe tyme past, he would not beleeve him’.103 We have no evidence as to how the crowd reacted at the death of Forest, but it is clear from the evidence of other sixteenth-century burnings that spectators might seek to comfort the victims, rather than to jeer at them.104 Latimer’s sermon must have invited the onlookers to make the connection between heresy and what had until only recently been commonplace and orthodox beliefs. It would be surprising indeed if all were prepared to do so. Whether or not the execution of Forest for heresy had played badly on the domestic stage, there can be little doubt that a return to the status quo ante was once again influenced by developments on the international scene. A mere week before Forest’s execution, representatives of Charles V and Francis I had met at Nice and begun negotiations which by July had blossomed into a personal meeting between the sovereigns, and a pledge of lifelong friendship. By the end of the year the papal bull of excommunication (suspended since 1535) had been openly promulgated, and frantic preparations were under way in England to counter a threatened invasion.105 In such circumstances the instincts of the king, and of his more conservative counsellors such as Bishop Gardiner (returned from France in September) were to re-emphasise the traditional orthodoxy of the English Church, and to do nothing to cause gratuitous scandal to the Catholic powers. A draft ‘Declaration of the faith’, drawn up in 1539 and clearly intended for an international audience, stressed that More, Fisher, the Carthusians and the ‘freres obstinate’ had been justly condemned as traitors, and added the disingenuous claim that ‘the king never caused any man to be put to dethe auctoritate absoluta, but by ordinary process’. No one at all had been condemned ‘but by xii of his peers’.106 There was clearly nothing to be gained from flaunting the fact 102

Chronicle of King Henry VIII, ed. Hume, pp. 78–81. Wriothesley, Chronicle, i. 79–80. 104 C. Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993), p. 233. 105 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, pp. 361–2; Walker, Plays of Persuasion, pp. 195–7. 106 TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fo. 205 (LP, xiv (1). 402). The treatise is discussed by Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 195–8, though arguably Elton was somewhat over-eager to accept the regime’s own version on this point. 103



that Henry’s pro-papal subjects might be considered heretics in their homeland, for if believing in the papal supremacy was heresy in England, must it not also be so in Italy, France and the Empire? On reflection it may have occurred to leading churchmen in England that the designation of papalism as heresy threatened not only to cause unnecessary offence abroad, but to unravel the already tenuous coherence of the eccclesiology espoused in the Henrician formularies. Could Henry continue to maintain that his Church was but one of a multitude of co-equal ‘particular Churches’ comprising the Catholic Church spoken of in the creed, if the greater part of the others were peopled by heretics, excluded by definition from belonging to the Catholic Church?107 Moreover, less than twenty years before, the traditional powers of the pope had found no more fervent defender than the king himself. Rendering the arguments of the Assertio Septem Sacramentorum heretical rather than merely wrongheaded threatened to create a remarkable hostage to fortune. There is no doubt that Henry was acutely sensitive to aspersions of this sort: the Treason Act of 1534 had made it a capital offence to name the king ‘infidel’, ‘schismatic’, or ‘heretic’.108 To attempt to identify a high-water mark of the advance of the Reformation in Henry VIII’s reign may well be a fruitless exercise, and there is no sense in which the progress of reform stopped dead in its tracks in 1538.109 Nevertheless, it is hard not to detect something powerfully, if symbolically, climactic in the conjunction of motives and circumstances that made for the unique handling of Friar Forest in the early summer of that year. VI Despite the uniqueness of his case, and the complexity of meaning which it presents, Forest’s fate has not much interested recent historians of the English Reformation. Neither of the two most widely read general studies, those of A.G. Dickens and Christopher Haigh, make any mention of the affair; nor, surprisingly, does G.R. Elton’s magisterial account of the enforcement of the Henrician Reformation, Policy and


Formularies of Faith, ed. Lloyd, p. 61. Documents Illustrative of English Church History, ed. H. Gee and W.J. Hardy (London, 1896), p. 248. A number of Englishmen were reported in the 1530s for calling the king a heretic: Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 341n, 354, 367; E.H. Shagan, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 32–5. 109 For caveats to this effect, see MacCulloch, Cranmer, p. 235; G.W. Bernard, ‘The Making of Religious Policy, 1533–1546: Henry VIII and the Search for the Middle Way’, Historical Journal, 41(1998). 108



Police.110 Perhaps a Thomas Cromwell who orchestrated gruesome autos-da-fé did not conform to the approved Eltonian model. Nonetheless, it has been the argument here that the resistance of Friar Forest, and the treatment meted out to him in 1538, provide an intriguing set of clues to the febrile religious and political atmosphere of the late 1530s. Forest’s punishment points to a different, yet more dogmatic and doctrinaire route the Henrician Church might have taken; yet it also illustrates the acute sensitivity of the authorities to how that Church was perceived from outside, as does the rapid abandonment of this radical extension of the heresy law. It underlines the ruthlessness of the authorities in dealing with dissent, particularly when it was seen to emanate from the religious orders.111 But at the same time, Forest’s recidivism illuminates the degree to which conformity to the Henrician settlement could be contorted, conditional, contingent. The attitudes and activities of this ‘obstinate friar’ revealed all too clearly how the binding intention of oaths could be casuistically evaded, how loyal subjects might be subverted, or disloyal ones confirmed in their disloyalty by secret persuasions, how recantations could be recanted. Implicit in the savagery with which the ‘outward man’ was dealt with in 1538 was a recognition that the ‘inward man’ could prove a more subtle and elusive adversary.

110 A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (2nd edn, London, 1989); Haigh, English Reformations. 111 For Cranmer’s particular hatred of the Observants as an incorrigible papal ‘sect’, see D. MacCulloch, ‘Archbishop Cranmer: Concord and Tolerance in a Changing Church’, in O.P Grell and B. Scribner (eds), Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Reformation (Cambridge, 1996), p. 209; idem, Cranmer, pp. 112–13, 143–4. G.W. Bernard makes a convincing case for Henry’s own hostility to monks and friars (a consequence of a perceived threat to his supremacy): ‘The Piety of Henry VIII’, in N.S. Amos, A. Pettegree and H. van Nierop (eds), The Education of a Christian Society: Humanism and Reformation in Britain and the Netherlands (Aldershot, 1999), pp. 66–73.


Catholic Exiles The theme of exile surely belongs close to the heart of any study of religious identity-formation in the early modern era: exiles are people who have made a life-defining choice, albeit one that has been forced on them by circumstances not of their own choosing. Religious exile has long been recognised as an important point of orientation on the shifting landscape of Reformation Europe. Through the course of the sixteenth, and into the seventeenth, century, the rise and repression of reform movements, their (patchy) territorial triumph, and (partial) capitulation to resurgent Catholicism generated regular displacements of the losers of the hour to sympathetic centres beyond the borders of the polity. At both ends of these processes, the British Isles played a conspicuous role. Evangelicals from both England and Scotland sought safety from persecution outside their respective kingdoms in the early decades of the sixteenth century, while after the accession of Edward VI, English evangelicals were able to offer refuge to victims of official intolerance from the Netherlands, France and Germany. The pace quickened in the second half of the century. Perhaps a thousand Protestants left England during the Catholic persecution of the later 1550s, and in the following decades, a steady stream of irreconcilable Catholics followed suit, if not route, to a different set of bases in continental Europe (a considerable number of them subsequently returned to work as covert missionaries in their homeland). These themes have a secure place in the historiography of the English Reformation. There are good modern studies of the ‘stranger churches’ in Edwardian and Elizabethan England, and much attention has been paid to the numbers, patterns of dispersal and psychology of the Marian exiles, as well as to their significance, or otherwise, for the shape of the Elizabethan Settlement in 1559.1 The importance of exile for the character and survival of English Catholicism in Elizabeth’s reign has long been taken as a given.2 1 A. Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London (Oxford, 1986); O.P. Grell, Calvinist Exiles in Elizabethan and Stuart England (Aldershot, 1996); C. Garrett, The Marian Exiles (Cambridge, 1938); A. Pettegree, Marian Protestantism: Six Studies (Aldershot, 1996); J. Wright, ‘Marian Exiles and the Legitimacy of Flight from Persecution’, JEH, 52 (2001); N.L. Jones, Faith by Statute: Parliament and the Settlement of Religion, 1559 (London, 1982). 2 See in particular J.A. Bossy, ‘Elizabethan Catholicism: the Link with France’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1961); A.J. Loomie, The Spanish Elizabethans: The English Exiles at the court of Philip II (New York, 1963).



Turning to the earlier period represented by Henry’s reign, however, we encounter a curiously selective historical vision. The evangelical exiles of the first generation – John Frith, George Joye, Miles Coverdale and (particularly) William Tyndale – are rightly the focus of attention in both particular and generalised accounts. To this has been added a valuable recent study of the ‘second Henrician exile’, the more radical evangelicals who went abroad in the reactionary climate of the last decade of the reign.3 But modern surveys, even those with a markedly ‘revisionist’ bent, generally contain no discussion of Catholic exiles from Henry VIII’s England – those who left the country because of their aversion to the break with Rome or subsequent reformist policies.4 Perhaps such a group hardly existed. One of the few twentieth-century historians to consider the question, the monastic historian David Knowles, devoted a passage to exploring the question of why, with the exception of a small number of friars ‘in the early days of trouble’, virtually none of the ex-religious sought to pursue their vocation in exile. Knowles identified a notable absence of what would we today term ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors: ‘Neither the authorities in Rome nor religious opinion in France and Spain was awake to the real trend of English affairs, and individual exiles would have had to fare far to find a warm welcome.’ Moreover, the orders had ceased in any meaningful sense to be international, and in individual houses, ‘inmates had sunk so deep into the earth of its neighbourhood that the passage of an individual or even of a group to a foreign land would have been all but unthinkable’.5 Mutatis mutandis, might Knowles’s characterisation stand for early Tudor English Catholicism as a whole – too intertwined with custom, tradition and local authority structures; too establishment-minded to muster the resources for a clear-headed appraisal, and principled rejection, of the lead provided by an anointed king? Such an assessment would fit with the common perception that sees the creation of self-consciously ‘confessional’ identities as a process only properly under way in the latter decades of the sixteenth century.6 And yet: any such evaluation is obliged to take account of the fact that a significant number of Henry VIII’s subjects did defy his will by abjuring the realm in the years after the break with Rome. And, pace David 3

A. Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), ch. 3 (though Ryrie is inclined to downplay rather than magnify the importance of this group). 4 For example, A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (2nd edn, London, 1989); C. Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993). 5 D. Knowles, The Religious Orders in England: III The Tudor Age (Cambridge, 1959), p. 412. 6 See above, pp. 2–4.



Knowles, many of them found more than adequately warm welcomes in a variety of foreign places of resort. It has been possible to identify 127 individuals who left England for conservative ideological reasons between the beginning of 1533 and the end of 1546, a figure which is almost certainly a significant under-estimate of the true one.7 The numbers here are undoubtedly smaller than they were to become in later decades, but are not negligible nonetheless: ‘Catholic’ exiles by some distance outnumbered evangelical fugitives in the same period.8 Moreover, they asserted their right to a good measure of official attention: Henry’s regime was well aware that it had an ‘exile problem’, and energetically sought ways to deal with it. The theme of Catholic exile has not been totally neglected in recent scholarship. The most prominent of Catholic exiles from Henry VIII’s England, Cardinal Reginald Pole, has, for example, long been the focus of individual attention.9 Ethan Shagan, in his study of popular reactions to the early English Reformation, has identified flight from the realm in the mid-1530s as a significant theme, rightly characterising it as ‘an absolute repudiation of the Henrician regime, a conscious decision by some English subjects not to live under a heretical government’.10 In addition, Clare Kellar has convincingly identified the presence of religious refugees on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border as an important complicating factor in relations between Henry VIII and James V, and a contributory cause to the outbreak of open hostilities in 1542.11 Yet to date there has been no overarching assessment of the scale, style and significance of Henrician Catholic exile, a deficiency this chapter seeks to remedy.12 It 7

See Appendix, below. Ryrie gives names of 37 reformers who fled the realm between the passage of the Act of Six Articles and the death of Henry: Gospel and Henry VIII, pp. 266–70. 9 M. Hallé, Life of Reginald Pole (London, 1911); W. Schenk, Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England (London, 1950); Christoph Höllger, ‘Reginald Pole and the Legations of 1537 and 1539: Diplomatic and Polemical Responses to the Break with Rome’ (unpublished D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 1989); T.F. Mayer, Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet (Cambridge, 2000). 10 E.H. Shagan, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 35, 124–6. 11 C. Kellar, Scotland, England, and the Reformation 1534–1561 (Oxford, 2003), pp. 24–8, 36–45, 71–6. The importance of the exiles as a factor in the breakdown of relations in the early 1540s is also emphasised by R.W. Hoyle and J.B. Ramsdale, ‘The Royal Progress of 1541, the North of England, and Anglo-Scottish Relations, 1534–1542’, Northern History, 51 (2004), esp. 251–3. 12 It should be conceded at the outset that the following represents a preliminary overview of the subject, conceived in the hope of encouraging future research. A full investigation of the activities of English exiles would be a major undertaking, requiring intensive investigation in a wide variety of foreign archives. 8



begins with a brief chronological overview of patterns of departure from the realm, identifying individuals, locations and motivations. It goes on to discuss the pattern of response from the authorities in England, and to assess the degree of threat which the exiles were seen to represent, and may have presented in reality. The characteristic activities of Catholic exiles (in so far as they can be identified from the sources) will be discussed, and there will be an attempt to assess the longer-term significance of the Henrician exile experience for the development of English Catholicism in the sixteenth century. I The Catholic exiles of Henry VIII’s reign did not leave England in a swift and co-ordinated exodus. Their departures mirrored the confused and confusing state of the early Reform process itself: a series of reverberations from the irregular pulses that constituted the beat of the Henrician Reformation. The very first religious refugees left before the break with Rome was complete, stout partisans of Queen Katherine during the endgame of the king’s divorce proceedings. These were the Franciscan Observant friars William Peto, the provincial of the order in England, and Henry Elston, warden of the Franciscan house at Greenwich. At Easter 1532, Peto had openly attacked the divorce in a sermon at Greenwich, and was supported by Elston. The same year, in conjunction with Thomas More, Peto privately urged conservative members of parliament to resist the king’s proceedings, and he was also active in smuggling manuscript treatises out of the country for publication abroad. Peto was suspected of conveying overseas John Fisher’s De Causa Matrimonia, published at Alcalá in 1530, and he was certainly involved in the publication of another work, which may or may not have been by Fisher, a reply to the official propaganda tract A Glasse of the Truthe, entitled Parasceve. Under the pretence of attending a general chapter of the order at Toulouse, Peto managed to obtain permission to go abroad in the spring of 1532, arranging for the work’s printing in Antwerp. As a consequence of their open (rather than these covert) resistances, Peto and Elston were imprisoned, but about the end of the year a decision seems to have been taken to release them. If so, this was a serious mistake. By the early summer of 1533, Peto and Elston had taken up residence in the Observant convent in Antwerp, where they determined to prove themselves a thorn in the side of the English government for the rest of the reign.13 13 Knowles, Religious Orders, pp. 207–8; K. Brown, ‘The Franciscan Observants in England, 1482–1559’ (unpublished D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 1986), pp. 137–44;



The other identifiable exile of 1533 was a very different case, a Welsh gentleman named James Gruffydd ap Hywel, who had been caught up in the fall and execution of his nephew, the powerful Rhys ap Gruffydd, in 1531 on charges of planning rebellion (Rhys had also reportedly disparaged Anne Boleyn). Hywel was pardoned in June 1532 (having provided evidence against his nephew) but about a year later he took ship with his family and dependents from Somerset to Ireland. After a short stay sounding out opinions on the divorce, he sailed on to Scotland, professing his loyalty to Queen Katherine and Rome and ‘alledging himself to be the gretest man in Wales’. He was feted by James V and the Scottish court, and in 1534 he left Scotland for the continent, trumpeting his Catholic credentials, and the military resources he could call on in Wales, to a succession of rulers in the Low Countries, Germany and Italy. In between, he arranged a return visit to Ireland during the unrest there in September 1534.14 Hywel may not have been quite the threat he cracked himself up to be, but his activities were alarming enough. His triangulated criss-crossing of the Irish Sea between the south-west, Scotland and Ireland, and his courting of support in the Low Countries, recalled the menace posed to the Tudor dynasty by the actions of Perkin Warbeck a generation before. The exile count increased markedly in 1534, a direct consequence of the decision to suppress the seven convents of the Franciscan Observants in England, and disperse their members to the houses of the laxer Conventual Franciscans, after the Observants’ reluctance to take the oath of supremacy. In June two cartloads of Franciscans were delivered to the Tower.15 Others, however, made their escape, some to join Peto and Elston in the Low Countries, some fleeing across the border into Scotland. More than any other identifiable group, the former Observants raised reformist hackles and prompted official concern. Much of our knowledge of the whereabouts of Franciscan Observants during these years comes from a comprehensive list which Cromwell caused to be compiled in the early part of 1538, detailing which friars remained in the realm (and where), which had died, which had left the religious life, and which had fled the realm. Thirty names were in the

J.A. Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven and London, 1980), pp. 193, 199. Although Cromwell was informed that Fisher had composed the Parasceve, for the argument against his authorship, see R. Rex, The Theology of John Fisher (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 180–81. Fisher is discounted on the grounds that the writer claimed to have studied at Paris. 14 LP, vi. 876, 1547–48, 1591; R.A. Griffiths, Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Family (Cardiff, 1993), p. 107; Kellar, Scotland, pp. 16–18. 15 Knowles, Religious Orders, p. 210.



final category.16 No order came close to matching this level of intransigence, though a handful of other religious expressed their disavowal of the royal supremacy in flight even before the survival of their houses came under direct threat. The prior of the Cambridge Dominicans, Robert Buckenham, who had clashed publicly with Hugh Latimer there in 1529–30, fled to Scotland in 1534.17 The reformer John Gough described him to Cranmer as ‘an exile from our parts … one who will do mischief wherever he is’.18 Another Dominican, William Peryn, fled to Louvain in the same year, and a third, Richard Hargreave, sought refuge in Brussels.19 In the following year, a fiery Conventual Franciscan of Canterbury, Friar Arthur, preached against the reforms and fled to Dieppe, and a Cistercian of Jervaulx in Yorkshire, Thomas Madde, made his way to St Andrews after retrieving and hiding the head of George Lazenby, a fellow monk executed for publicising visions condemning the royal supremacy.20 A no less heart-felt, but evidently more intellectually rationalised, decision was taken by the Dominican prior of Newcastle, Richard Marshall, in early 1536. From exile in Scotland, he wrote to his former community giving seven reasons why he could not declare the royal supremacy as he was required to do: the teaching of Scripture, of the Catholic Church, of general councils, of the Fathers, of nearly all the universities, the consent of Christendom to the pope’s authority, and his own oath of obedience to the same. Like all the exiles, Marshall was conscious that in choosing to fly he was eschewing the higher calling of martyrdom: ‘I feel my flesh grudge with death’.21 Most of the clerical exiles were, like Marshall, members of religious orders, but the secular clergy were by no means unrepresented: the priests Ralph Baynes, Richard Boorde, Henry Bretton, John Helyar and Richard Moore had all left the realm by 1538.22 16 Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 299–305; LP, vii. 1607 (misdated to 1534). Brown (p. 219) speculates that the compilation may have been prompted by the discovery of the treasonous activities of Friar Forest, on which see above, Chapter 10. 17 P. Zutchi and R. Ombres, ‘The Dominicans in Cambridge, 1238–1538’, Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, 60 (1990), 345–7. 18 LP, vii. 805. 19 ODNB; Zutchi and Ombres, ‘Dominicans in Cambridge’, 348. 20 H. Foley (ed.), Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus … in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (7 vols, London, 1875–83), iii. 239; A.G. Dickens, Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York (Oxford, 1959), pp. 79–81; G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge, 1972), p. 16. 21 Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 18–19; LP, x. 594. 22 ODNB (Baynes); Kellar, Scotland, p. 43; Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 84, 367; H. de Vocht, History of the Foundation and the Rise of the Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense 1517–1550 (3 vols, Louvain, 1951–55), ii. 423–7.



The year of Marshall’s flight, 1536, witnessed the transformation of the government’s exile problem from a minor irritant into a major headache. In the first place it saw the emergence of a powerful figurehead of exiled resistance, in the person of the king’s kinsman, Reginald Pole. In the aftermath of the executions of John Fisher and Thomas More, Pole resisted all blandishments to return to England from Italy as the king’s loyal subject, and spent the autumn and winter of 1535–36 composing a ferocious attack on Henry’s actions in his Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione.23 Through to the end of the reign and beyond, Pole was the all-too-public face of principled non-accommodation to the royal supremacy, all its works, and all its empty promises. A clutch of English adherents, including Michael Throckmorton, Thomas Goldwell and George Lily, shared Pole’s exile from the outset, and numerous others would follow later. The second transformative event of 1536 was the outbreak of rebellion on a massive scale across the northern counties and Lincolnshire, beginning in October, settling into an uneasy truce in December, and reigniting in various locations in the early months of 1537. As the ‘postpardon revolts’ were crushed, and martial law was imposed by the duke of Norfolk, dozens of rebel leaders escaped across the border into Scotland. The exact numbers here are unknowable: we can account for twenty-seven rebels fleeing north in the aftermath of the risings, but the true number is likely to be much higher. Rumours were soon circulating of thousands of Englishmen waiting to return from Scotland.24 There was a smaller-scale reprise in 1541, after the collapse of the so-called Wakefield Conspiracy in Yorkshire. About twenty-five plotters were arrested, but a larger number fled, according to the French ambassador Marillac, ‘some to the land of Scotland, the others to mountains and desert places’.25 A truly mountainous event which might have been expected to swell exiles numbers further – the dissolution of the larger monasteries in 1538–39 – in fact added barely more than a mole-hill’s height to the profile of English Catholic exile. The Bridgettine double community at Syon (which, like the Observant and Carthusian houses, had been a noted centre of resistance to the royal supremacy) fell in 1539, under an assertion of praemunire, rather than by voluntary surrender. The abbess, 23 For analyses of the tenor and arguments of Pole’s treatise, see D. Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience in Tridentine Italy. Cardinal Pole and the Counter Reformation (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 38–41; Mayer, Pole, pp. 13–33; Shagan, Popular Politics, pp. 36–9. 24 Shagan, Popular Politics, pp. 125–6. 25 A.G. Dickens, ‘Sedition and Conspiracy in Yorkshire during the Later Years of Henry VIII’, in idem, Reformation Studies (London, 1982), pp. 6–7, 14–15.



Agnes Jordan, accepted her pension, but a group of her nuns (and three brothers) under the leadership of Catherine Palmer escaped to Antwerp, taking their convent seal, relics, and part of the library. They also carried with them a stone column from Syon’s gatehouse, on which had been displayed the remains of Richard Reynolds, a monk of the community executed in 1535 for his denial of the royal supremacy. After Abbess Jordan’s death in January 1546, Palmer returned to England and escorted more of the surviving nuns to a new home at Termonde in Flanders.26 This appears to be the only instance of a group of religious (with the exception of the pockets of Observants) attempting to continue their corporate life overseas in Henry’s reign: more would do so after 1559. But the last stages of the dissolution process did precipitate at least one prominent defection. In December 1539, Bishop Tunstall’s chaplain, Dr Richard Hilliard, after conversing with fellow conservatives ‘about putting down of monasteries’ decamped from Tunstall’s palace at Bishop Auckland for Scotland, en route preaching several (seditious?) sermons. It transpired that he had ‘advised houses yet unsuppressed not to surrender till they were violently put therefrom’. In particular, he had counselled the Carthusian prior of Mountgrace to resist the royal commissioners. Ominously, Hilliard had told the prioress of Coldstream that ‘more would follow him’.27 In the 1540s (with the exception of the Wakefield conspirators) Catholic defectors tended to head south rather than north: with the outbreak of war between England and Scotland in 1542, the Stuart kingdom was perhaps coming to seem a less certain safe haven. Despite the conservative turn in English religious policy after the fall of Thomas Cromwell, there was little sign of the seepage of exiles drying up. In 1540 a crack-pot scheme hatched by Lord Lisle’s chaplain, Gregory Botolph, known as ‘Gregory Sweet-lips’, to ‘get the town of Calais into the hands of the Pope and Cardinal Pole’ ended in Botolph’s flight to Bruges and later Louvain.28 By this time, the Flemish university town was attracting a growing trickle of disaffected English priests and students.29 There was also a continuing drift of both priests and laymen into the arms of Reginald Pole, either entering his service in the Low Countries, or making 26 Knowles, Religious Orders, pp. 220–21, 440; G.J. Aungier, History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery (London, 1840), p. 90; ODNB (Reynolds); A.M. Hutchison, ‘Syon Abbey: Dissolution, No Decline’, Birgittiana, 2 (1996), 253–5; idem, ‘Transplanting the Vineyard: Syon Abbey 1539–1861’, in W. Liebhard (ed.), Der Birgittenorden in der Frühen Neuzeit (Frankfurt, 1998), pp. 82–4. 27 LP, xiv (2). 723, 724, 750; xv. 125, 747. 28 The Lisle Letters: An Abridgement, edn M. St Clare Byrne (London, 1983), ch. 19. 29 de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 210, 279–81.



their way across the Alps to join his entourage in Rome itself.30 The most spectacular of these desertions was of Henry’s ambassador to the emperor, Richard Pate, a defector in an almost cold war sense. Pate had known Pole as a student in Paris, and had entered royal service as ambassador in Madrid in 1533. He was perceived to be lukewarm about the divorce and supremacy, and was replaced in 1537. In April 1540, however, he was restored to the post, having made repeated assertions of his detestation of the usurped authority of the ‘Bishop of Rome’. But the discovery of letters addressed to Pate from Pole’s associate, the exiled priest John Helyar, plunged him under suspicion again. Deflecting a summons to return to England, Pate travelled with Charles V to Germany in January 1541, ‘feigning a curiosity to see Cologne’. He pressed on post-haste to Rome, where the pope welcomed him in July 1541 by creating him bishop of Worcester (a see traditionally occupied by Italians serving the English crown at the papal court, but currently held by the former royal chaplain, John Bell). Pate was part of Pole’s retinue when the papal legates made their first visit to Trent in 1542. He accompanied him there again in 1545 for the opening of the council which would set in train a process of remodelling and renewing Catholic identity, English or otherwise.31 II The exile problem was no nearer to being solved at the time of Henry’s death than it had been a decade earlier, but this was not for want of therapeutic actions on the part of the English authorities. The most effective form of medicine here was the preventive: to inhibit disaffected subjects from leaving the realm in the first place. When a Scottish councillor challenged an English herald as to ‘the cause ye send your friars to us’, the response was disarmingly frank: ‘we had liever keep them ourself’.32 Local officials were instructed to keep watch for disaffected runaways, and had some success in catching them. In 1537, for example, a priest called William Dickinson was arrested on the Sussex coast ‘in jorney towards Rome’.33 A year earlier, Katherine of Aragon’s confessor, George D’Athequa, had attempted to flee the realm disguised as a sailor, but was caught and placed in the Tower.34 An especially close lookout was kept 30

See below, pp. 249–51. Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience, pp. 151–5. 32 W.H.D. Longstaffe, ‘The Connection of Scotland with the Pilgrimage of Grace’, Archaeological Journal, 14 (1857), 333. 33 H. Ellis (ed.) Original Letters Illustrative of English History (11 vols in 3 series, London, 1824–26), III, iii. 95. 34 ODNB. 31



for itinerant members of the religious orders, particularly those who had shown themselves recalcitrant at the imposition of the succession and supremacy oaths.35 Not all the Franciscan Observants who attempted to flee the realm in 1534 succeeded in doing so. In June, two friars of Newark, Hugh Payne and Thomas Hayfield, were arrested in Cardiff ‘in secular habit’, having negotiated passage with the master of a Breton ship to convey them over to Brittany. This was the culmination of a crosscountry pursuit involving the sheriffs of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, in which Cromwell had taken a direct personal interest. They did not come quietly, railing against the heretics who wrote and read officially licensed books. When asked if they had been present at Princess Elizabeth’s baptism (which took place in the Observants’ church at Greenwich), and whether she had been christened in cold or hot water, they answered ‘that she was crystenyd in whot water, but hytt was nott whot inowghe’.36 The incident underlined the advice Cromwell had received from his agent in Antwerp, Stephen Vaughan, a year earlier: ‘take hede that fryers do not go out of England in laie mennys clothes’.37 Arguably, the friars, who were used to making their way in the world, found the business of flight easier to contemplate and arrange than the enclosed religious. Despite their heroic passive resistance to the king’s proceedings in 1534–35, it does not seem that any members of the Carthusian order succeeded in getting out of England before Henry VIII’s death. In the summer of 1535, the prior of Mountgrace refused permission to some of his brethren to depart for Scotland, saying he could not grant it without committing treason (or so he later claimed). Two members of the community, Richard Marshal and James Neweye, set off anyway, but were caught and brought back to imprisonment.38 The situation was even more difficult for the survivors of the London Charterhouse, after the execution of their prior, John Houghton. Years later their chronicler, Maurice Chauncy, lamented how he and his confreres were ‘compelled to remain in that desolation and captivity, for we had no means of getting forth hence … It was not once indeed that we tried to leave the kingdom, but in vain. For so strictly were the ports and 35 An exception here is the fate of the Franciscan Observants in S. Pierre Port, Guernsey, who were quietly expelled on Cromwell’s orders in 1536. But in this case the friars were of French origin, and returned to ‘theyr natural contry’, Normandy: D.M. Ogier, Reformation and Society in Guernsey (Woodbridge, 1996), p. 41. 36 TNA: PRO, SP 1/185, fo. 21r (LP, vii. 939); LP, vii. 1020. Diarmaid MacCulloch, in Thomas Cranmer: a Life (New Haven and London, 1996), p. 98, observes that the selection of Greenwich for the ceremony represented ‘a deliberate assertion of triumph over this former place of resistance to the Boleyn marriage’. 37 TNA: PRO, SP 1/178, fo. 76v (LP, vi. 934). 38 LP, viii. 1038.



sea-shore watched that without danger of death we could not escape.’39 But no system for watching the ports was infallible. Although Gravesend in Kent was recognised to be a likely point of escape, that did not prevent a ‘gentilman by similitude with two servantes’ from arriving there in October 1535, claiming to have a commission from Cromwell and that a ship had been appointed for him. Once on board, ‘he spake obprobriouse wordes agaynst the kinges highenes and the quenes’ and sailed off.40 The number of successful escapes – if seldom as flamboyantly executed as this – suggests, however, a distinct patchiness of enforcement. In this, as in so many other areas of policy, the Henrician ‘regime’ was far from being a well-drilled machine or a stately monolith. Towards the end of 1539, John Uvedale, a loyalist northern gentleman, and secretary of the duke of Norfolk’s Council in the North, was writing to Cromwell recommending that a sizeable garrison be located near Tyndale, ‘considering that there is of late soo many foxes and wulfes put at large and let lowes out of cloysters. It will make them fere tapproche nere unto those partes and tabstayne theymselfes from ronnyng into Scotland.’41 This was only a couple of years after Norfolk himself had simply sent back to Scotland the exiled English friars who had reoccupied the Observant house at Newcastle during the Pilgrimage of Grace. Had he waited a week or two, he would have received a letter from Henry, identifying the Observants as ‘disciples of the bishop of Rome and sowers of sedicion among the people’, and ordering Norfolk to search out ‘all the freres of that faction’ and hold them in close arrest.42 To deal with those who managed to get away, different strategies were called for. One of several advantages the English state possessed in its contest with the exiles was its possession of the law, and a number of legal measures in these years testify to official anxieties about the activities of Englishmen overseas. The Treason Act of 1534 included a clause making treasons committed outside England triable within the realm, while the Proclamations Act of 1539 laid down that anyone offending against its provisions and then departing the country rather than answering for his offence ‘shalbe adjudged a traytor and his fact high treason’.43 In December 1538 a group of the most prominent English exiles – Pole, Throckmorton, Helyar, Goldwell, Peto – were formally indicted on a charge that they did ‘betake themselves to the … Roman pontiff in parts 39

E.M. Thompson, The Carthusian Order in England (London, 1930), p. 495. TNA: PRO, SP 1/98, fo. 68r (LP, ix. 691). 41 TNA: PRO, SP 1/155, fos 147v–8r (LP, xiv (2). 748); R.W. Hoyle, The Pilgrimage of Grace (Oxford, 2001), p. 421. 42 Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 209. 43 Elton, Policy and Police, p. 290; 31 Hen. VIII, c. 8. 40



beyond sea, and maliciously, falsely, unnaturally, and traitorously renounce their natural prince’.44 Subsequent general pardons specifically excluded ‘all manner of treasons committed or done by any person or persons in the partes beyonde the see or in any other place out of the Kinges dominyons’.45 The legal instrument most regularly employed against the exiles, however, was the act of attainder. This might seem like an exercise in shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but in the absence of a physical body, attainders were an attractive form of retribution, serving simultaneously as punitive measures (through their forfeiture of property and obviation of any future trial), and as highly public forms of propaganda. The first exile to be attainted (in 1536) was John Lewes, a servant of Gruffydd ap Hywel, who fled abroad after breaking out of confinement and murdering two of his gaolers.46 This was small beer compared to the act of 1539, passed in the wake of the suppositious ‘Exeter Conspiracy’, and attainting no fewer than fifty-three persons (more than a third of those attainted in the entire course of the sixteenth century). A dozen or so of these were exiles, including the Observant William Peto, the Dominican Robert Buckenham, the priests John Helyar, Richard Hilliard and Thomas Goldwell, Reginald Pole’s factotum Michael Throckmorton, and Pole himself. Other exiles to undergo attainder included Gregory Botolph in 1540, and Richard Pate and his chaplain Seth Holland in 1542.47 The 1539 Act of Attainder excoriated the exiles who had ‘most traitorously adhered and submitted themselves unto the Bishopp of Rome’, a theme reinforced in Richard Morison’s nastily effective propaganda works against Pole of the same year.48 But in itself, name-calling could do little to bring the traitors to book. Throughout the period, considerable diplomatic efforts were expended to get foreign governments to disavow the ‘rebels and traitors’ resident in their territories, and if possible hand them over to the English authorities. In March 1536, for example, Henry was writing to the Consuls and Senate of Nuremberg, asking them to apprehend two ‘criminals’ who were expected to pass through their territory on their way to Italy – James Gruffydd ap Hywel and Henry Phillips (the betrayer of Tyndale), who had apparently teamed up. At the same time Henry was instructing his ambassador Richard Pate (not yet a 44

LP, xiii (2). 979. 35 Hen. VIII, c. 18. 46 27 Hen. VIII, c. 59. 47 31 Hen. VIII, c. 15 (BL, Lansdowne MS 515, fos 34r–43r); 32 Hen. VIII, c. 60; 33 Hen. VIII, c. 40. See S.E. Lehmberg, ‘Parliamentary Attainder in the Reign of Henry VIII’, Historical Journal, 18 (1975), 675–702. 48 BL, Lansdowne MS 515, fo. 35v; Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 202–7. 45



traitor and exile himself) to brief the emperor about their grievous crimes, and wrote to Charles V requesting that they receive no support in his dominions but be arrested and delivered to the ambassador.49 There were periodically frenetic diplomatic efforts in 1539–42 to secure the extradition from both French and imperial territories of Robert Branceter, or Brampton, an expatriate English merchant who moved from the service of the emperor to that of Cardinal Pole.50 These exertions came to nothing, but such requests were not invariably ignored by Catholic authorities overseas. In 1540, the mayor of Louvain was persuaded (temporarily) to detain the fugitive Calais priest, Gregory Botolph, and in 1543 English agents prevailed upon the governor of Milan to imprison another fugitive, George Dudley, a son of a minor nobleman, John, Lord Dudley, who had fled England to join Pole. He was to hold him pending the arrival of the imperial court and the English ambassador Edmund Bonner, though (rather suspiciously) Dudley was able to escape.51 Characters like Dudley were small beer of course compared to Pole himself. In March 1537, when Pole was expected to turn up in Paris, Stephen Gardiner was ordered to seek an audience with Francis I and persuade him to have the cardinal arrested. Indeed, an Anglo-French treaty had been careful to stipulate that the French king was to hand over any English traitors from his territories.52 The most sustained diplomatic pressure over the exile issue, however, was directed at James V of Scotland, the only exile destination enjoying a substantial land border with Henry’s kingdom. Gruffydd ap Hywel’s arrival in Edinburgh in 1533, and the signal marks of favour he received from the Scottish court, prompted indignant diplomatic protests. His arrival took place during negotiations for an Anglo-Scottish peace, and 49

LP, x. 529, 530, 535. See also LP, xiv (1), 308, for Thomas Wriothesley’s efforts to get the Flemish authorities to agree to the extradition the Louvain student, William Leighton. 50 SP, viii. 219–32, 240–42, 248–9; ix. 107–9, 141–5; LP, xiv (1). 462; xiv (2). 694, 766; xvi. 57. At one point, Henry’s ambassador in Vienna, Thomas Seymour, considered Branceter to be an alias of Gruffydd ap Hywel, and the identification of the two figures is followed by the editors of SP, as well as by G. Parks, ‘The Reformation and the Hospice 1514–1559’, Venerabile, 21 (1962), 208 and by T.F. Mayer in his edition of The Correspondence of Reginald Pole. Volume 1. A Calendar, 1518–1546 (Aldershot, 2002), pp. 195, 229n. Accounts of their movements in the earlier 1530s, however, clearly reveal two different individuals. Some of the difficulties are resolved by J.J. Scarisbrick, ‘The First Englishman Round the Cape of Good Hope?’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 34 (1961). 51 The Lisle Letters, ed. M. St Clare Byrne (6 vols, Chicago, 1981), vi. 112–13; LP, xviii (1). 505, 739. 52 T.F. Mayer, ‘A Diet for Henry VIII: The Failure of Reginald Pole’s 1537 Legation’, Journal of British Studies, 26 (1987), 318–19.



Henry’s commissioners informed their Scottish counterparts that Henry ‘dothe not a litle marveile whye that the king thair master intending to enter amytie and peas, woll receive, mainteyne, or suppoorte withyne his realme any youre rebelles as of liklihoode this Welshe man is’. 53 Gruffydd’s departure for further adventures on the continent momentarily eased the tension, but the emergence of Scotland as destination of choice for the wave of Franciscan Observants who left the realm after the suppression of their order was soon racking it up again. As early as January 1535, the imperial ambassador Chapuys was reporting that an English embassy to Scotland headed by Lord William Howard was to ask James V ‘to send back some English Observants who go about preaching there that this king is schismatic’.54 According to the Scottish Franciscan Adam Abell, another of Henry’s embassies of that year had as a primary purpose a call to James to return to England ‘or forsaid bredren that fled his persecutioun’.55 Such calls became more insistent in the aftermath of the Northern Risings, when the renegade friars were joined by a number of the lay leaders of the defeated rebellions, men whose military experience and standing among their ‘countrymen’ in the north made them particularly dangerous opponents to have at large. Repeated requests were directed to the Scottish council for the apprehension and return of the refugees, Cromwell supplying various detailed lists of ‘the names of certain Englishmen rebels reset within Scoteland’. For reasons partly pragmatic, partly propagandist, the names of the political exiles were usually tacked onto longer lists of ‘the usual suspects’, the reiving families of Charltons, Robsons, Dodds and Hunters who terrorised the Anglo-Scottish border through to the end of the century.56 Periodically, the Scottish authorities made an effort to show willing. In early 1537, James’s chancellor, Archbishop Dunbar of Glasgow, wrote to assure Henry that steps would be taken that ‘faveure, ayde and recueille nane salbe patent nor be coloure in ony sorte gevin unto youre rebellis and brokin man’. A messenger was despatched to the border wardens, instructing them ‘nocht to ressatt Inglismen fleing fra justice to be done be the duke of Norphok’. In December 1539, James himself wrote to Henry, assuring him that his officers were ready to prevent disobedient 53

SP, iv. 651 (LP, vi. 802). LP, viii. 48. 55 Kellar, Scotland, p. 52. 56 LP, xv. 96, 160; The Hamilton Papers: Letters Illustrating the Political Relations of England and Scotland in the Sixteenth Century, ed. J. Bain (2 vols, Edinburgh, 1890–92), i. 90, 136; Kellar, Scotland, pp. 34, 42. See G.M. Fraser, The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers (London, 1971). 54



subjects from finding refuge in Scotland.57 But there is little evidence that such measures were enforced, and James’s usual response was to temporise, telling Henry that he knew of no English ex-patriots except legitimate merchants, or that he could not meddle in such matters without encroaching on papal authority, and that the treatment of any friars in Scotland had to be left in the hands of his prelates. Specific requests for the return of named English clerical exiles in exchange for Scottish border reivers arrested in England were rejected on the (frankly reasonable) grounds that it was not a case of like for like.58 In fact, James seems to have seen his patronage of exiles as part of his duty as a Catholic prince. In 1534 he wrote to Ferdinand, king of the Romans, that ‘this partnership of kings, especially in the matter of the faith, is particularly gratifying as offering a place of refuge from the Lutheran madness to learned and loyal men’.59 Individual exiles received marks of favour: Tunstall’s former chaplain, Richard Hilliard, was granted an audience with James in 1540, and when the priest Henry Bretton prepared to depart for Rome in 1539, James wrote to an Italian cardinal, asking him to recommend Bretton to the pope, and praising the Englishman for ‘his constancy to the Faith’.60 In short, the exile problem was a running sore in relations between the two kingdoms through the later 1530s and into the 1540s. In the view of Clare Kellar, ‘for Henry the rebel issue became a fixation’, as Anglo-Scottish relations deteriorated in the early 1540s. When, following James’s failure to turn up at a planned meeting at York in September 1541, the cold war ignited into open hostility, Henry published a Declaration of the Just Causes of the Warre with the Scottes. Prominent was the accusation that James had ‘receyued and entreriegned suche rebelles, as were of the chief and principle, in sterringe the insurrection in the North agaynst us’.61 There is certainly no doubt that Henry was always extremely touchy about any suggestion of assistance, tacit or otherwise, from foreign governments to the English exiles. In response to a proposal from Francis I (made in the aftermath of the executions of Fisher and More) that he might simply expel supporters of the pope from England, ambassador John Wallop was instructed to let the king know that Henry considered it ‘neyther thoffice of a frende nor of a brother’ that Francis should ‘counsaile the kynges hyghnes to banysshe his traytours into straunge partes where they myght have good occasion tyme 57 Kellar, Scotland, pp. 34–5; The Letters of James V, ed. R.K. Hannay (Edinburgh, 1952), p. 385. 58 Kellar, Scotland, pp. 73, 75; Letters of James V, ed. Hannay, p. 390. 59 Ibid., p. 271. 60 Kellar, Scotland, p. 44; LP, xiv (1). 439. 61 Kellar, Scotland, pp. 72, 74.



place and oportunyte to worke their feates of treason and conspiracie the better agaynst the kinges highnes and this his realme’.62 Henry and his ministers were able to lecture foreign governments about their hospitality to ‘traitorous’ exiles because the English authorities were careful to keep tabs on their whereabouts and activities. Ambassadors were of course a major source of information, but many reports came through less formal channels. In the summer of 1533, for example, Cromwell received a flurry of messages about the actions of Peto and other friars in Antwerp from the London mercer, William Locke, from the English Merchant Adventurers’ chaplain, John Coke, from his client Stephen Vaughan, the king’s factor in Antwerp and from Lord Lisle, the deputy in Calais.63 Twelve years later, Vaughan and other informants in Antwerp were still reporting on the activities of Friar Elston as a conduit of mail between Pole and Cardinal Beaton in Scotland.64 Cranmer received reports from an agent named Thomas Theobald (perhaps a client of the Boleyn family), who apprised him of Robert Buckenham’s doings in Louvain in 1535 and of Michael Throckmorton’s in Padua in 1538.65 After his delivery of Pole’s De Unitate to the English court in June 1536, Michael Throckmorton himself was run by Cromwell as a double agent. Or so at least Cromwell thought. Throckmorton seems cleverly to have hoodwinked Cromwell, feeding him a drip of low-grade information while remaining loyal to his master.66 Information about the location and undertakings of the exiles in Scotland came from a variety of sources. In 1537, the authorities in Leicester forwarded the report of an informant who had been in Edinburgh, where ‘he saw two Inglishe men, oon beyng a gentilman by estimation, weryng apon hym a cote of black velvet, beyng but a pore man in England’.67 In December 1539, a chain of correspondence stretching from the prioress of Coldstream’s brother, to the constable of Berwick castle, to the border deputy Sir William Eure, to the President of the Council in the North, Bishop Holgate, reported how a cleric had been deputed ‘to inquire in Edinburgh the cause of the prestys [Richard Hilliard’s] beyng fugetyve furth of your realme’. A slew of depositions 62

TNA: PRO, SP 1/95, fo.159r (LP, ix. 157). LP, vi. 726, 899, 900, 902, 917, 934, 1324. 64 LP, xx (1). 40, 696. 65 LP, viii. 1151; xiii (2). 117. For the suggestion of a Boleyn connection: Mayer, ‘Diet for Henry VIII’, 310n. 66 Ibid., 313–14. Cromwell’s bitter letter of remonstrance to Throckmorton of September 1537 is printed in Thomas Cromwell on Church and Commonwealth. Selected Letters, 1523–1540, ed. A.J. Slavin (New York, 1969), pp. 78–82. 67 TNA: PRO, SP 1/121, fo. 6r (LP, xii (2). 6). 63



was also gathered concerning Hilliard’s itinerary and contacts on his way out of England.68 Keeping track of the exiles was sometimes seen as a prelude to direct steps to neutralise them, some schemes having their authorship in England, others originating from enthusiasts on the ground. Writing to Cromwell in October 1533, Stephen Vaughan vented his patriotic ire against Friar Peto: ‘an ipocrite knave, as the more parte of his brethren be, a wolff, a tyger cladd in a shepes skyn … a perilous knave, a reyser of sedycon, an evyll reporter of the kynges heighnes’ – ‘Wolde God I could get hym by any polycie’. He promised Cromwell that ‘I will worke what I can’, but Peto carried on his agitation unimpeded.69 Later that year, Cromwell had managed to recruit one of Gruffydd ap Hywel’s men, Henry Ellington, who had been sent by his master to Brussels with a letter for the bishop of Palermo, chancellor to the regent, Mary of Hungary. Ellington wrote from Antwerp, promising that if the king would let him have a ship, he would secure Gruffydd, and protesting that he would willingly die ‘yf I deliver hyme not to his grassys hands or Candellmas next’.70 This was clearly a non-starter, but attempts to recover the persons of political fugitives were sometimes sanctioned at the highest level. In April 1540, Henry himself instructed the commissioners investigating the conspiracy at Calais to have letters sent to Gregory Botolph at Louvain, ‘purporting some apparent hope of a benefice prepared for him’ as a means of luring him back within the Calais Pale (he didn’t fall for it).71 Less subtle methods were also considered. Thomas Wyatt offered to ensure that Robert Branceter should ‘never scape my hands’ in France in late 1539, and an assassination attempt on George Dudley was briefly mooted by English diplomats in Milan in 1543 when they heard he was carrying letters to Reginald Pole.72 More importantly, there were at least three attempts to kidnap or exterminate Pole himself. After the failure to get Francis I to hand Pole over in spring 1537, an agent named Peter Mewtas was despatched to Paris with a ‘hand goon’ and orders to shoot the cardinal. At much the same time, the English ambassadors Gardiner and Sir Francis Bryan were instructed to have Pole ‘by some means trussed up and conveyed to Calais’, employing ‘suche felows for the enterprise … as [are] by secret wise and for their corage mete for the purpose’. A third attempt involved the English ambassador in Brussels, John Hutton. But Pole managed to ‘turn’ the agent Hutton was attempting to 68 69 70 71 72

TNA: PRO, SP 1/155, fo. 133r (LP, xiv (2). 723); LP, xiv (2). 724; xv. 747. TNA: PRO, SP 1/180, fos 5v–6r (LP, v. 1324). TNA: PRO, SP 1/81, fo. 8v (LP, vi. 1547). Lisle Letters, ed. St Clare Byrne, vi. no. 1672. LP, xiv (2). 694; xviii (1). 505.



infiltrate into his service, an impoverished Welsh exile named William Vaughan.73 In each of these cases poor intelligence on the ground, and a suspicious degree of foot-dragging by the senior agents involved, led to failure. All in all, instances of ‘direct action’ against the exiles seem to have been remarkably unsuccessful: there were in the end no assassinations or successful kidnappings.74 Yet equally striking is an apparent unwillingness or inability on the part of the regime to conciliate or win over exiled opponents: if there were no assassins’ bullets, there were few olive branches either. Some approaches were made. An unsuccessful attempt was made in 1538, for example, to entice Branceter home, Cromwell remarking (disingenuously?) that ‘I doubt not but he shall find the king gracious’ were he to return. In 1538 Thomas Theobald advised the renegade Henry Phillips to come home from Italy and sue for pardon. Early the next year Thomas Wriothesley met with him in Brussels, suggesting that he had not gone too far to ‘turne again and receyve, peraventure, grace bothe of God and of the kinges majestie’.75 Clerical exiles seem to have been regarded more unforgivingly. Two Franciscan Observants, Henry Bukkery and Thomas Danyell, returned voluntarily from Scotland in November 1537 complaining of the ‘veray mysery and great penury’ they had experienced there, and offering to recant ‘their old cankered opinions’ and ‘submytt them holly to yor highness’. Yet they were convicted of treason and executed in October 1538, despite Tunstall’s recommendation that they be shown mercy.76 In September 1537, a scheme was hatched to send the clerics Nicholas Wilson and Nicholas Heath to meet with Pole at Liège. But the terms of reference for their mission hardly suggest a serious attempt at conciliation. On meeting with the cardinal (whom they should ‘in no wise call … by any other name thenne by the title of Mr Pole’), they were to declare plainly ‘his miserable state and condytyon’, urge him to ‘return home from his follye, knowleage his fault and desyer forgyvenes for it’, and for good measure encourage him to read Gardiner’s De Vera Obedientia and the recently compiled Bishops’ Book.77 73 For discussion of all these shenanigans, see T.F. Mayer, ‘If Martyrs are to be Exchanged for Martyrs: The Kidnappings of William Tyndale and Reginald Pole’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 81 (1990), 297–301; idem, ‘A Diet for Henry VIII’, 317–31. 74 A contrast here with Mary I’s regime, which successfully orchestrated the kidnapping of Sir John Cheke and Sir Peter Carew in the Low Countries in May 1556: D.M. Loades, The Reign of Mary Tudor (2nd edn, London, 1991), p. 187. 75 LP, xiii (1). 710; xiii (2). 597; TNA: PRO, SP 1/ 143, fo. 34v (LP, xiv (1). 247). 76 TNA: PRO, SP 1126, fos 117r–18v (LP, xii. (2) 1077); LP, xii. (2) 1045; Kellar, Scotland, 35. 77 TNA: PRO, SP 1/124, fos 148v–50v (LP, xii (2). 620). Pole’s departure from the city meant the conference failed to take place: Correspondence of Reginald Pole, ed. Mayer, pp. 177–8.



In fact, only one clerical exile of any stature seems to have returned to a safe berth in England: the Dominican theologian William Peryn, who had left for Louvain in 1534, but returned to England in 1543, supplicating for the degree of B.D. at Oxford. In 1546 he published a set of highly traditionalist sermons on the eucharist (largely plagiarised from a Latin work of John Fisher’s).78 With this exception to prove the rule, it seems that the phenomenon of Catholic exile was markedly less porous than its evangelical counterpart. Evangelicals exiled in the late 1520s and early 1530s were often able to return during Cromwell’s ascendancy, and several of those leaving after the passing of the Act of Six Articles also felt it safe to come back later in the 1540s.79 ‘Heresy’ was a moving target during the last decades of Henry’s reign, and the threat to evangelical sympathisers usually came from conservative elements within the regime, whose ability to do them harm was to a great extent contingent on political circumstance. Catholic exiles by contrast had defied the title and authority of the king himself, an almost unforgivable sin. When one of Cromwell’s servants, Anthony Budgegood, fled to Paris in 1538, his friend John Broke was frank with him: ‘I think that thou would’st go to Rome to that traitor Cardinal Pole; if though goest thither thou shalt never have pardon … but death if ever thou shalt come into England.’80 III Official paranoia about the existence and activities of Catholic exiles is understandable, but was it actually justified? How great a threat to the schismatic regime in England did the relatively small numbers of exiles in reality pose? The perception and the reality here are not of course entirely distinct. There was certainly an understandable sense of being almost literally surrounded by exile machinations: Henry’s English kingdom was ringed by potential boltholes. Not just Scotland to the north, but also Ireland to the west (technically part of Henry’s dominions) could be the focus of anxiety, particularly after the outbreak of Kildare’s rebellion there in 1534. In September of that year, Chapuys reported to the emperor that Gruffyd ap Hywel had set out from Germany to join the Irish rebels.81 If, as seemed highly possible, English 78

Rex, Fisher, p. 90. See above, pp. 190–91. Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, pp. 266–8. 80 LP, xiv (1), 1. Thomas Wriothesley similarly warned two English students at Louvain against going to ‘the traitor cardinal’ in 1539: ‘You may do it … but beware what you do; the King’s majesty is a wise prince, and hath a wise and discreet council’: LP, xiv (1). 264. 81 LP, vii. 1193. 79



friars fled to Ireland, they had the will and the means to cause trouble there: according to Chapuys, the Observants in Ireland were universally ‘feared, obeyed and almost adored’, ‘especially among the Wild Irish’.82 To the south-east, the exiles could choose from a variety of locations on or near to the North Sea coast. Antwerp, home to a long-established English merchant community, was an obvious and convenient destination. Here at least the English authorities found it relatively easy to keep tabs on the exiles’ activities. There was not much they could do if fugitives travelled the extra fifty kilometres or so to the bishopric of Liège, lying between the duchies of Brabant and Luxemburg, and ruled by the formidable Cardinal Bishop Erard de la Marck, a leading figure on Mary of Hungary’s regency council. It was here that Reginald Pole felt safest during Cromwell’s attempts to apprehend him in early 1537, declaring that the ‘divine goodness’ of the bishop had saved him from repeated ambushes and that the citizens of Liège would do anything to keep him safe. It may also have been in Liège that Pole first met the priest John Helyar, who would later join him in Italy.83 The Calais conspirator Gregory Botolph made his way to Liège in June 1540, the duke of Norfolk receiving a report that Botolph was ‘highly entertained with the Bishop of Liège, sitting daily at his table’, and from early in Edward VI’s reign Reginald Pole’s brother, Sir Geoffrey, also made his home there.84 Just to the west of the bishopric lay the university town of Louvain, a favourite haunt of the exiles, and later described by the sixteenth-century Catholic historian of the English Schism, Nicholas Sander, as ‘the nearest harbour of the faith to which Englishmen driven out for the faith might run for refuge’.85 Foreign universities presented the regime with a troublingly ambivalent face. They supplied young Englishmen with a more or less legitimate reason to be overseas, but also with multiple opportunities for subversive association.86 It is significant that in 1535 Cranmer’s agent Thomas Theobald tried to win the trust of Henry Phillips by ‘pretending that I was minded to study at Louvain’.87 One of the earliest and most enduring of exile clusters had its origins in the coterie of English scholars

82 83

LP, vii. 957. Mayer, ‘Diet for Henry VIII’, p. 318; de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, ii.

427. 84

Lisle Letters, ed. St Clare Byrne, vi. 114; ODNB (Geoffrey Pole). Nicholas Sander, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, ed. and tr. D. Lewis (London, 1877), p. 201. 86 For the tradition of English students studying abroad, see M. Dowling, Humanism in the Reign of Henry VIII (London, 1986), pp. 140–75. 87 LP, viii. 1151. 85



around Reginald Pole at the University of Padua in the early 1530s.88 There is some evidence that exiles deliberately employed the ambiguities of student residence and status to their own advantage. Gregory Botolph claimed (whether truthfully or not) that Cardinal Pole had advised him to seek permission to study at Louvain in order to perfect the arrangements for the seizure of Calais. He certainly wrote to his friend Edward Corbett in March 1540, asking him to ‘remember and labour my good lord [Viscount Lisle] to grant me his licence, sealed, to go to the university of Louvain, in Lombard land’.89 After his flight to Paris in 1535, John Helyar was writing disingenuously to a correspondent in England that ‘I am conscious of no crime, unless it be one to have gone over sea to study, as many Englishmen have done these many years’.90 Witnesses examined during the unmasking of the ‘Exeter Conspiracy’ in 1538 recalled how a couple of years earlier Sir William Paulet had sent a messenger to Helyar in Louvain, asking him to acquire a certificate from the university of his being a student there. He hoped to use it to get the sequestration on Helyar’s benefices in Hampshire lifted.91 Small wonder that in 1539 Thomas Wriothesley remarked to Cromwell that he considered study at Louvain to be ‘but a cloke for the rayne’, a cover story for dark seditious purposes. He wished that no Englishman might be allowed to study abroad ‘onles he could lyve of himself withowte helpe of Englande’.92 Wriothesley’s proposed remedy takes us near the heart of the matter. Exiles cut off from regular traffic with their homeland were less of a threat. Most exiles, however, had not shaken the dust from their sandals, severing their ties with the people left behind. It was precisely because so many exiles retained English links and connections, fuelling the to and fro of letters and messengers, that they seemed so dangerously insidious. Certainly, it was the cross-channel connections of the friars Peto and Elston that made them such a focus of anxiety in 1533. Vaughan reported to Cromwell that ‘Peto hath every weke a fryer coming to hym out of 88 This was a coterie fractured by its response to the king’s Great Matter, with some of its members, like Richard Morison and Thomas Starkey, returning to England to compose loyalist propaganda. On this theme, see W.G. Zeeveld, Foundations of Tudor Policy (Cambridge, MA, 1948), ch. 4. There is a helpful biographical register of individual English ‘Paduans’ as an appendix to J. Woolfson, Padua and the Tudors: English Students in Italy, 1485–1603 (Cambridge, 1998). 89 Lisle Letters, ed. St Clare Byrne, vi. no. 1668. 90 LP, ix. 128. 91 LP, xiii (2), 797, 829. 92 TNA: PRO, SP 1/143, fos 56r–v (LP, xiv (1). 248, 264). Louvain’s growing reputation as a centre of resistance to Henry VIII makes it likely that alienation from developments within England was a prime motive for going to study there, and a handful of English matriculands from the early 1540s about whom nothing else is known are included in the Appendix below.



England’. By such means eighty copies of the Parasceve had been smuggled back into the country from Antwerp. Peto was, moreover, ‘much helped out of England with money’. Thomas More’s friend, the London merchant Anthony Bonvisi, had tried to send him £10, and More himself had sent Peto copies of his polemical writings against William Tyndale and John Frith. In exasperation, Vaughan noted that Peto ‘is not able to were the clokys and kulyllys [cowls] that be sent out of England, they be so many’.93 The close links between exiles abroad and disaffection at home was, of course, most graphically displayed during the Northern Rebellions of 1536–37. Pardon for the exiles was one of the demands of the committee of clerics meeting in parallel with the Pilgrims’ council at Pontefract in December 1536.94 Some of the exiles did not wait on such an eventuality. As we have seen, a group of the Observant friars who had fled to Scotland in 1534 recrossed the border, and occupied the suppressed house of their order at Newcastle.95 After the collapse of the risings in early 1537, and the exodus of a larger group of former Pilgrims to Scotland, rumours circulated that huge numbers of armed Englishmen were itching to return to their homeland. A report originating in Edinburgh in 1537 had it that there were no less than 15,000 Englishmen in Scotland, and that some of them had promised to be in the ‘voweward’ of a Scots invasion and expected to have ‘in ayde of them the holle comenes of Northumberland’.96 The numbers had gone up by November the following year, when it was being bruited about in Lincolnshire and Suffolk that the king of Scots had 60,000 ‘of good Inglysshe men and fytynge men as were in Englond’.97 If there was even a whisper of truth behind these exaggerated reports, Henry’s obsession with repatriating the leading exiles in Scotland seems understandable. The potential for militancy on the part of the post-Pilgrimage refugees was graphically displayed in 1542, when an English envoy, Somerset Herald, was treacherously murdered near Dunbar by the exiles William Leache and John Priestman. The envoy’s companion escaped, hearing one of the assailants exclaim, ‘Fie, we have lost the other heretic!’98

93 TNA: PRO, SP 1/78, fo. 75v (LP, vi. 934); SP 1/180, fo. 6r (LP, vi. 1324); Brigden, London, p. 212. 94 Dickens, Lollards and Protestants, p. 163. 95 Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants, pp. 207–8. 96 TNA: PRO, SP 1/121, fo. 6r (LP, xii (2). 6). 97 TNA: PRO, SP 1/138, fo. 148r (LP, xiii (2). 776). 98 SP, iv. 404–7; Longstaffe, ‘Connection of Scotland with the Pilgrimage of Grace’, 340–44. After the Scottish defeat at Solway Moss, the perpetrators were handed over to the English, and Leache at least was executed.



One exile who did not return during the Pilgrimage of Grace was Reginald Pole. But the outbreak of armed rebellion on this scale dramatically underlined the threat posed by a charismatic exile leader who was both a Yorkist prince and (from 1536) a cardinal of the Roman Church. Even before the revolt, in his De Unitate, Pole had sought to persuade the emperor that there were ‘whole legions lurking in England’ ready to support a Catholic invasion.99 It was the possibilities suggested by the Northern Risings that prompted Pole to persuade Paul III to create him papal legate in February 1537, with the task of restoring England to the faith. The bull of appointment recognised that force would likely be required, and a crusading indulgence would be on offer to rebels taking up their arms again. As well as looking to stir up a new rebellion, Pole urged Francis I and Charles V to impose a commercial embargo on England. Pole’s first legation achieved few practical results, but the propitious circumstance of a truce between Charles and Francis at Nice in June 1538 inspired Pole to seek and receive a second appointment from the pope with the aim of fomenting armed action against England.100 This is the context in which Henry struck against Pole’s family in England, executing his brother Lord Montague and (a little later) his mother the countess of Salisbury. The interrogations initiated by the council provide little evidence of full-scale conspiracy, but did reveal the existence of extensive contact between the Pole connection in England and the scion who was an exiled traitor. In early 1537, the merchant Hugh Holland (who had earlier facilitated the flight of the priest John Helyar) carried a message to Pole in Flanders from his brother Sir Geoffrey, informing him of the fate of conservative clergy and of his view that ‘the world in England waxeth all crooked, God’s law is turned upso-down’. More pertinently, Sir Geoffrey warned his brother that Cromwell was planning to assassinate him, and that Francis Bryan and Peter Mewtas had been despatched to France for the purpose. Holland was sent back with words of encouragement for Pole’s mother and brothers. Pole’s eldest brother Lord Montague seems not to have had direct contact with Reginald, but was careful to keep himself informed of his movements. Meanwhile, the servants in Montague’s household spoke unguardedly about the prospects of a marriage between Reginald and the Lady Mary, declaring that the cardinal ‘should do them all good one day’, and swearing to take revenge on anyone who harmed him.101


Cited in Mayer, Pole, p. 28. Ibid., ch 2. 101 LP, xiii (2), 797, 804, 702, 828. See M.H. Dodds and R. Dodds, The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Exeter Conspiracy (2 vols, London, 1915), ii. ch. 22. 100



In the later 1530s, Pole was a magnet as well as a magnate, exercising a seemingly irresistible pull on a variety of exiles, and enticing them to join the faithful remnant from his earlier Paduan circle. He was sought out in June 1537 by the earl of Kildare, heir of the executed ‘Silken Thomas’ who had led the 1534 rising in Ireland (giving Pole hopes of renewed rebellion there).102 Almost inevitably, the wandering Gruffydd ap Hywel ended up gravitating to Pole in Rome, and the disreputable Henry Phillips approached him for aid in Padua in autumn 1538. Pole was initially suspicious of ap Hywel, and Phillips was sent away, Pole’s servants, alarmed by his military attire, fearing he was an agent or an assassin sent by Cromwell.103 A former servant of Cromwell’s, Anthony Budgegood, did flee to Pole in Rome in 1538, and George Dudley took the same path in early 1543.104 In addition, a number of figures who had established themselves in other exile centres moved subsequently to join up with Pole, particularly in the years after 1538 when the pope created the cardinal superintendent of the hospice which served English pilgrims in Rome (later to become the Venerable English College or Venerabile), displacing the custos or warden appointed by the English crown.105 John Helyar moved there from Louvain, and died as penitentiary of the English hospice in 1541.106 The Cambridge Dominican Robert Buckenham, who had fled to Scotland in 1534, and subsequently moved on to Louvain, was also there in 1538–39. Another exile by way of Scotland, Richard Hilliard, joined Pole’s circle in Rome in 1543, becoming auditor of the English hospice.107 By 1544 the veteran conspirator William Peto was similarly resident at the English hospice, Paul III having provocatively created him bishop of Salisbury in 1543.108 Pole himself seemed destined for even greater honours. ‘Our cowntryemen which follow hym’, an agent of Cromwell’s reported from Italy in 1538, ‘do beleve that he shalbe pope, after this mans dethe.’109


Mayer, Pole, p. 70. Parks, ‘Reformation and the Hospice’, 208; Zeeveld, Foundations of Tudor Policy, p. 101; LP, xiii (2), 507. ‘Captain Griffith’ did, however, later become a favoured client: CSP, Venetian, ed. R. Brown, C. Bentinck and H. Brown (9 vols, London, 1864–98), v. 560. 104 LP, xiv (1), 1; G. Alexander, ‘The Life and Career of Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, until his Deprivation in 1549’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of London, 1960), pp. 260–61. 105 B. Newns, ‘The Hospice of St Thomas and the English Crown 1474–1538’, Venerabile, 26 (1962). 106 de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, ii. 423–7. 107 Parks, ‘The Reformation and the Hospice’, 206. 108 Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 279–80. 109 Ellis, Original Letters, ser. III, iii. 127. 103



The English government could be in no doubt, then, that the cardinal was the pole around which an ever-greater volume of exile activity revolved. It was known, for example, that he had despatched Peto on a mission to Scotland in 1537.110 A French ship driven by storms into the harbour of South Shields in March 1539 was found to contain a ‘nyst of traytours’: two Irish priests and a fugitive English one, Robert More, who had escaped from Hexham gaol to Scotland the previous year. With them were letters to the pope and Cardinal Pole, one of them from the Irish rebel leader, Gerald Fitzgerald.111 In January 1545, the indefatigable Stephen Vaughan was writing from Antwerp to the king with news gleaned from a Scot named John Drummyd, who had his information from an Italian lately arrived in the city. The bishop of London’s chancellor, Henry Cole, had been spotted heading towards Rome, for what purpose he knew not. In Milan he had heard that ‘the marquys of Gwast had stayed two English gentilmen that were goyng to Pole with letters’. Two packets of letters from Pole, addressed to the Scots Cardinal Beaton, had lately arrived with the master of posts in Antwerp. They had been forwarded to the Observant house ‘to one Nelson [Elston], an English fryre, to be conveyed into Scotland’.112 Four months later, the confession of William Thomson, a ‘Scottish priest latlie taken on the sea’, confirmed that Friar Elston ‘rasavis fra the post of Italie and sendes with the said wrytynges tae the cardinal of Ingland callit Poull, and sends the same in all places conform tae thaire direction, as wel to and fro the realm of Ingland as other partis’. Elston claimed to have ‘a suer gard be inquisition’ who were the cardinal’s friends. Thomson himself had twice delivered letters from ‘ane Inglish priest as now is servitor to the Cardinal of Sanctandres’ in Rome and Italy, to Beaton in Scotland.113 The constellations of exiles of which Pole was the pole star thus dotted themselves across a galaxy of Henry VIII’s dark apprehensions: his ‘British problem’, his uneasy relationships with foreign Catholic powers, his dynastic insecurity, his anxieties about internal stability. It was a heady brew. Paradoxically, therefore, it was the intimate proximity of the exiles, rather than the fact of their absence, which endowed them with dangerous potential. There appeared to be a rather permeable distinction between the overtly traitorous and their ostensibly conformist agents and sympathisers within the realm. Ethan Shagan has argued that the fact of exile should alert us to a ‘division among Catholics, as important as the nascent division between Catholics and evangelicals … based on 110 111 112 113

LP, xii (2). 635. Elton, Policy and Police, p. 367; Kellar Scotland, p. 64. TNA: PRO, SP 1/197, fos 53r–v (LP, xx (1). 40). TNA: PRO, SP 1/200, fos 174v–75r (LP, xx (1). 696).



deepening fault lines running through the polity, separating those willing to live in Henry VIII’s vision of England from those who considered that vision incompatible with their own’.114 But to contemporaries on all sides this neat taxonomy often appeared distinctly fuzzy around the edges. It is true that the decision for exile might involve a breaking of ties, a splintering of friendship. One thinks here of the very public letters of pained remonstrance directed to Reginald Pole by his former associates Cuthbert Tunstall and Thomas Starkey in 1536.115 Yet a parting of the ways between exiled papalist Catholics and loyal ‘Henrician’ ones was not invariably absolute. At the time of the Exeter conspiracy, it came out that Starkey had warned Lord Montague about the threats to his brother in 1537, and that his servant had brought back letters to England from John Helyar. Despite the formal breach, Starkey had done his best to warn Pole about the measures the government was plotting against him, and he only narrowly escaped inclusion in the 1539 attainder.116 The prominent (conforming) conservative cleric Nicholas Wilson (whom Cromwell had planned to use to entice Pole home in 1537) was suspected of facilitating the flight of Richard Hilliard to Scotland in 1539.117 Even figures firmly within the Henrician establishment periodically displayed a less than wholehearted commitment to the pursuit and destruction of the Catholic exiles. Thomas Wriothesley seems to have facilitated the escape of a number of Franciscan Observants in 1534.118 During Pole’s first legation in 1537, the papal nuncio in Paris reported that one of the English ambassadors, Sir John Wallop, was favourable to Pole and to good religion.119 Yet more intriguing is the behaviour of Bishop Stephen Gardiner, leading theorist of the royal supremacy. As John Helyar’s diocesan in Hampshire, he delayed reporting his defection until well after the priest had gone.120 In 1537, Gardiner (as ambassador in France) was reported to be doing everything possible to facilitate the cardinal’s arrest. Nonetheless, a disturbing rumour reached Henry that Gardiner had merely urged Francis to expel Pole from his kingdom rather than hand him over to the English authorities. Gardiner was shrewd enough to refuse a request for an interview from Gianmatteo Giberti, bishop of Verona and Pole’s deputy in the legation, to discuss relations between 114

Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 127. LP, xi. 72; S.J. Herrtage, England in the Reign of Henry VIII, I, Starkey’s Life and Letters (EETS, extra ser., 32, 1878), pp. xxxv–xxxvi. 116 T.F. Mayer, Thomas Starkey and the Commonweal: Humanist Politics and Religion in the Reign of Henry VIII (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 201, 271–6. 117 LP, xv. 747. 118 Kellar, Scotland, p. 24. 119 Mayer, ‘Diet for Henry VIII’, 308. 120 Mayer, Starkey, p. 275. 115



England and Rome. But he allowed his secretary (and nephew) Germaine Gardiner to act as go-between. Later it emerged that Germaine had paid a call on Pole in the French capital, and it was probably for this that he suffered a traitor’s death in 1544, a fate his uncle was fortunate to avoid.121 Two other conservatives received pardons in that year for like offences, having most probably cravenly recanted. The priest Henry Cole, Bishop Bonner’s chancellor, was guilty of various ‘dealings and conversations’ with ‘the detestable traitor Reginald Pole’ at Rome and elsewhere, of carrying letters and tokens from Michael Throckmorton to persons in England, and of procuring for Pole in Paris ‘a certain medicine for the healing of his eye’. John Beckensall of Hampshire had likewise held ‘treasonable colloquies’ with Pole in Paris, and had carried messages between Pole and Richard Pate to provoke the latter to defect.122 The French ambassador reported to Francis I in January 1541 that Pate’s flight had precipitated the arrest of his uncle, Bishop John Longland of Lincoln, and that the English were ‘searching his writings and those of all his relatives and friends for practises of Cardinal Paoul in England’.123 In the event, Richard Pate’s decamping to Rome in 1541 was the only defection of a prominent figure from within the highest Henrician elite circles after Pole’s own in 1536. But it is easy to see how the king might have feared that more were teetering on the edge (and perhaps also why he decided that potential papalists like Gardiner were not fit persons to be around his son in a minority). A broad penumbra of prominent wellwishers at home may have been even more pervasive. Pole’s leading modern biographer, Thomas Mayer, has drawn up an impressive list ‘of the high and mighty with more than passing sympathy for Pole’, one which includes Sir William Paulet, Sir Anthony Windsor, Viscount Lisle, the marquis of Exeter, the earl of Southampton, Sir John Russell, Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Delawarr.124 To this one might add Sir Edmund Peckham, cofferer of the household, whose son Robert was resident with Pole at the English hospice in Rome in 1538.125 Small wonder then if the exiles themselves did not necessarily consider conformists at home to be irredeemable collaborators. Although Gardiner received a rough time passing through Louvain on his return 121 G. Redworth, In Defence of the Church Catholic: The Life of Stephen Gardiner (Oxford, 1990), pp. 78–9, 205; Mayer, Pole, p. 64. On Giberti’s longstanding links with England, see J.P. Carley, ‘Henry VIII’s Library and Humanist Donors: Gian Matteo Giberti as a Case Study’, in J. Woolfson (ed.), Reassessing Tudor Humanism (Basingstoke, 2002). 122 LP, xix (1). 444 (11); 610 (62). 123 LP, xvi. 449. 124 Mayer, ‘Diet for Henry VIII’, 325–7. 125 Parks, ‘The Reformation and the Hospice’, 204.



from Germany in 1541 (the professors of theology, perhaps spurred on by some of the exiles, refused him the vestments he requested to say mass), he was not without friends among the exile community there. The transplanted Cambridge scholar Richard Brandisby termed himself Gardiner’s deditissimus cliens, and persuaded the professor of Latin at Louvain, Peter Nannius, to dedicate his Sapientia Solomonis to the bishop of Winchester.126 When Pole met with his brother’s man, Hugh Holland, at the Abbey of Anno near Cambrai in 1537 he made a point of asking him which of the bishops in England ‘were named honest men’. Holland replied that the bishops of London (Stokesley) and of Durham (Tunstall) were thought to be so. Pondering this, Pole remarked that ‘the bishop of London, I think, is an honest man, but the bishop of Durham is none’.127 For the moment at least, some friendships were destined to remain broken.128 IV So far, I have been emphasising the extent and severity of the exile ‘threat’, particularly as it presented itself to the English authorities. But it is worth stepping back for a moment to adduce some caveats and qualifications. It would be misguided to envisage a co-ordinated exile ‘movement’ in the 1530s and 40s, with a single set of motivations and priorities, even allowing for the existence of clear if informal networks, often in various elliptical orbits around the person of Reginald Pole. Overall exile numbers remained relatively small, compared to the movement of dissidents across frontiers in later decades. Here too it is important to consider the fact of non-exile, the decision not to leave on the part of those who sympathised with much of the exiles’ agenda – a phenomenon not entirely accounted for by the practical difficulties of flight and the governmental watch on the ports. The disincentives in contemplating departure from kin and neighbourhood for an uncertain future in a world where nobody else spoke English must have been considerable indeed. A decade later, in Edward’s reign, Roger Ascham (who had seen at least two of his Cambridge friends depart for Louvain in the 1530s) scornfully pitied the English exiles there: those who ‘to see a mass freely in Flanders, are content to forsake, like slaves, their 126

de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 282–3. LP, xiii (2). 797. 128 The two men would, of course, serve together as bishops under Mary, Tunstall being one of those who followed Pole’s instruction early in 1555 to supplicate for a dispensation for having gained office irregularly: Mayer, Pole, p. 225. 127



country’.129 It is striking that so many of the exiles we know about made their journeys alone, or were in any case celibate clergymen. In circumstances where the government was actively trying to prevent people from leaving, travel with families may have seemed prohibitively difficult.130 Gruffydd ap Hywel took his wife and daughter with him on his departure from Wales in 1533, but his was an unusual case. We can document at least one instance where post-rebellion flight had separated spouses. In October 1537, John Patenson of Old Felton confessed that he had been paid to go to see Richard Wilson’s wife in Beverley, and that she gave him tokens and messages for her husband in Edinburgh.131 Even Catholics who firmly detested the break with Rome were divided about the wisdom of exile. Margaret, countess of Salisbury opposed the flight of her priest, John Helyar. Her son, Sir Geoffrey Pole, often considered flight overseas, but was finally talked out of it by the arch-conservative chancellor of Chichester Cathedral, George Croftes. Croftes offered a fairly unanswerable argument: he had had a marvellous dream in which ‘Our Ladie did appear unto him and shewed hym that it shoulde be the destruction of the said Sir Geoffrey and of all his kin if he departed the realm’. This was fairly ironic, given that it was to be testimony from a psychologically broken Sir Geoffrey which would precede the bloodletting of 1538. Perhaps Croftes was seeking supernatural validation for his own difficult life-decision. When the statutes abolishing papal authority were first passed, ‘he was minded to have fled the realm’. But hearing a rumour to the effect, Lord Delawarr had persuaded him to conform, ‘for if he should flee he would be had again wheresoever he were’.132 Given the low success rate the Henrician regime enjoyed in actually apprehending fugitives, Cromwell would probably have found it gratifying that this perception was at large. Among many of those who did determine to leave, it is worth noting that agitation against the regime in England does not invariably seem to have been an all-consuming passion. In particular, the polemical literary output of the exiles was somewhat meagre. William Peto in Antwerp brought out a tract against the divorce in 1533, which, as we have seen, caused some consternation in official circles, and in his Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione (usually known as De Unitate) Reginald Pole supplied 129

de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 279–80; Brigden, London, p. 453. A considerable number of evangelical exiles did depart with wives and children, but the authorities were in general less concerned with their movements. 131 LP, xii (2), 918. 132 LP, xiii (2). 796, 829. Lord Montague was also accused at his trial of having said to Sir Geoffrey, ‘I like well the doings off my brother the cardinal, and I would we were both over the sea’: LP, xiii (2). 979. 130



a comprehensive indictment of the English Schism. He followed this up in 1539 with an ‘Apology to Charles V’ (intended as a preface for a printed edition of De Unitate), which excoriated Henry’s actions in the interim, including the dissolution of the monasteries.133 But these works seem to have been the iceberg itself, rather than its tip. An English student at Louvain (probably John Helyar) was reported to have suggested to Pole that English polemics against the pope required confutation.134 Yet despite his evident accomplishments – he had studied under the famous humanist Juan Luis Vives at Oxford – Helyar does not appear to have taken on the task himself, beyond adding some topical marginalia (‘as now in England, where even more atrocious things are perpetrated’) to his translation of Chrysostom’s De incomprehensibili providentia ac potentia Dei.135 Other distinguished Henrician exiles at Louvain included the classical scholars Richard Brandisby and Stephen Tennand, and the learned Dominicans Robert Buckenham and William Peryn, yet between them they generated no equivalent to the barrage of polemical works that were to sound forth from Louvain in the first decade of Elizabeth’s reign.136 It is not entirely easy to say why this was so: there was certainly no shortage of official and semi-official propaganda being produced in England, with which the exiles might have been expected to take issue. Perhaps there was a reluctance in some quarters to pursue the act of bridge-burning beyond all hope of a future re-crossing: William Peryn certainly displayed an aptitude for polemically tinged theological writing after his return to England in 1543. For some exiles whose motivation was to preserve their conscience intact and not have to dissimulate their loyalty to Rome, driven abroad in other words by considerations of personal purity rather than political expediency, the very act of withdrawal may have been fulfilment enough.137 In other cases, a growing absorption into the life of the host community may have left restricted 133

Mayer, Pole, pp. 78–100. In October 1538 Cromwell’s agent Thomas Theobald reported an interesting conversation with Michael Throckmorton in Italy. The exiles thought that Henry expected Pole to ‘publish books in revenge’ for the arrest of his brother, something they thought the king ‘fears more than all the world besides’. Throckmorton said that his master had books about him, which ‘if they cam forth would cause heaven and earth to quake’: LP, xiii (2). 507. 134 Mayer, ‘Diet for Henry VIII’, 316. 135 ODNB. 136 See P. Milward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age (Lincoln, NB, 1977), ch. 1. It is worth noting, though, that a number of English divines at Louvain, probably including Buckenham, participated in the examinations of William Tyndale at Vilvorde in 1535–36: J.F. Mozley, William Tyndale (London, 1937), p. 333; ODNB (Buckenham). 137 A suggestion I owe to Alec Ryrie.



time or energy for other pursuits, something particularly applicable to members of religious orders with an international profile. Seventy years ago, the Dominican historian Bede Jarrett portrayed friars in Henry’s reign seeking refuge in Scotland, and then moving on to the Low Countries, ‘where in the priories of their own order, without political or other intrigue, they quietly prayed away their lives’.138 The sketch is overdrawn, but it captures some likeness. It is interesting that when the Dominicans Richard Marshall and Henry Maxton arrived in Scotland in 1536, their instinct was to secure a transfer to the Scottish province of the order.139 The transplanted Franciscans were equally square pegs for square holes. The Scottish Franciscan friar (and world chronicler) Adam Abell recorded in 1537 how fugitives from England had been graciously received in Observant houses in Scotland ‘as we wer oblist baith in ye rewll and law of natur’, and also (significantly) that the motivation of the exiles was ‘to keip yare obserwans amang ws’.140 The Observants in the Netherlands were similarly grafted onto local communities of their order, and sometimes achieved positions of prominence within them. Henry Elston (when not busy redirecting mail for Reginald Pole) had risen to become warden of the Antwerp convent in 1545. By 1549 he was acting as provincial minister of the Lower German province of the order and had served two terms as its visitor.141 After explaining his decision to flee from England in 1536, Richard Marshall seems largely to have immersed himself in Scottish ecclesiastical affairs. He participated in reforming provincial councils of the Scottish Church in 1549 and 1552, and seems to have been chief compiler of a vernacular catechism which the latter ordered to be produced. This embroiled him in controversy with fellow friars in St Andrews over whether the Paternoster could be addressed to saints or only directly to God (he took the latter view).142 Marshall was not the only exile to be swept up into local currents of Catholic reform. In September 1535, Pole’s client George Lily wrote to Thomas Starkey from Italy that he was seriously considering joining ‘this new school of Chieti’ – i.e. the reformist Theatine order, founded by Bishop Carafa (later Paul IV) the previous decade.143 138

B. Jarrett, The English Dominicans, ed. W. Gumbley (London, 1937), p. 141. J. Durkan, ‘The Cultural Background in Sixteenth Century Scotland’, in D. McRoberts (ed.), Essays on the Scottish Reformation, 1513–1625 (Glasgow, 1962), p. 328. 140 Kellar, Scotland, pp. 25, 52. 141 Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 226. 142 A. Ross, ‘Some Notes on the Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation Scotland’, in McRoberts (ed.), Essays on the Scottish Reformation, p. 226; A. Ryrie, ‘Reform without Frontiers in the Last Years of Catholic Scotland’, English Historical Review, 119 (2004), 36–7, 44–5. 143 LP, ix. 292. 139



Another of Pole’s circle, his chaplain Thomas Goldwell, did become a Theatine in 1547.144 Depending on perspective, the internationalism of the Catholic religious orders can be considered either a fundamental structural support of Henrician Catholic exile, or a potential dilutant of its political focus and restorationist energies. To some degree it was both. In these respects, the Catholic exile experience exhibits some fundamental dissimilarities to the evangelical diasporas of the Henrician and Marian periods. The exiles did not for the most part live in inwardlooking English-speaking ghettos obsessively nursing the embers of their resentments (though the lay exiles in Edinburgh after the Pilgrimage of Grace may conceivably fit this pattern). Rather they were embodiments of the perception for which they had left England in the first place: that Europe’s Christians constituted a common society, gathered under the authority of a single church hierarchy. V What lessons, then, should we draw from our brief excursion through this still under-explored terrain? In the first place, attention to the phenomenon of Catholic defection in the 1530s and 40s should serve as a further reminder of the essential European dimension to the early Reformation in England, a warning against the insularity that still bedevils the historiography of the subject.145 The international locations and connections of the exiles constituted a political threat (as the tireless tracking and reporting of the regime’s agents testifies), but they were also a source of theological and cultural enrichment. Arguably, the existence of its exile limb helped English Catholicism to maintain an important toehold in the European mainstream at a crucial time for the take-off of Catholic reform.146 We have noted already the interest of Lily and Goldwell in the new spirituality of the Theatines, but these were not the only cross-currents. It is courtesy of John Helyar that we possess the earliest extant manuscript of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Helyar met Ignatius, probably in Paris, and copied the Exercises into the notebook that he kept between 1534 and 1537. It is even possible that Helyar 144

ODNB. For a brief survey of the issues, see P. Marshall and A. Ryrie, ‘Introduction: Protestantisms and their Beginnings’ in idem (eds), The Beginnings of English Protestantism (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 9–11. 146 This suggests a modification to the picture drawn by L.E.C. Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England (Oxford, 2000), who sees Marian Catholicism as ‘belonging within an English Catholic tradition’, which must not be ‘judged by European standards’ (p. 115). 145



may have introduced Ignatius to Reginald Pole.147 William Peryn was another exile displaying an openness to the first shoots of Jesuit spirituality. In Louvain, Peryn had met the Fleming Nicholas van Ess, who introduced him to Ignatian devotion. Later, in 1557, Peryn published his own set of Spiritual Exercyses and Goostly Meditacions based closely on van Ess’s work.148 A few Englishmen had more public roles to play in the unfolding of the Counter-Reformation. Pole, of course, was a major figure in the spiritual reform movement which lived to see its hopes realised (and partially dashed) in a general council of the Church. Another was that Johnny-come-lately of Catholic exiles, the former diplomat Richard Pate. As bishop of Worcester, Pate participated in the deliberations at Trent and argued forcefully (and ultimately ineffectually) in the debates preceding the decree on justification for a position minimising the role of free will, a view which was very close to Pole’s (and indeed, Martin Luther’s).149 Both of these spirituali played important roles in the Catholic restoration in England after the accession of Queen Mary. There is no opportunity here to attempt to assess the part played by the phenomenon of exile in forming the character of Marian Catholicism, but the question is certainly worth raising. The most persuasive recent writing on Marian Catholicism has stressed the extent to which its outlook was marked by the experience of compromise and collusion, and its desire to accommodate itself to the best aspects of ‘Henrician’ Catholic reform.150 But it is worth remarking that four of the Marian bishops (Baynes, Goldwell, Pole, Pate) had been Henrician exiles, and a fifth, John Christopherson, had been in Louvain throughout Edward’s reign.151 At Mary’s accession the aged William Peto resigned the bishopric of Salisbury that had been bestowed on him in 1543, but in 1557 bizarrely found himself appointed legate by Paul IV to replace his fellow Henrician exile, Reginald Pole.152 The monastic revival of Mary’s reign, such as it was, depended heavily on exile leadership and manpower, the Venetian ambassador reporting in March 1555 that the queen had ‘sent for many English friars of the 147

de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, ii. 424; T.M. McCoog, The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland, and England 1541–1588: ‘Our Way of Proceeding?’ (Leiden, 1996), pp. 25–6. 148 A.G. Dickens, The English Reformation (2nd edn, 1989), p. 44. See The Spiritual Exercises of a Dominican Friar, ed. C. Kirchberger (1929). 149 Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience, pp. 149–50. 150 E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580 (New Haven and London, 1992), ch. 16. See also Wooding, Rethinking Catholicism, ch. 4. 151 Usefully tabulated in L.B. Smith, Tudor Prelates and Politics 1536–1558 (Princeton, NJ, 1953), p. 308. 152 Loades, Reign of Mary Tudor, p. 365.



orders of St. Dominick and St. Francis, who to escape the past persecutions, withdrew beyond the sea, and lived in poverty in Flanders’.153 Peto, Elston and a handful of confreres returned to reoccupy the house at Greenwich, and a group of nuns returning from Termonde formed the nucleus of a re-established Bridgettine community at Syon. The Henrician exiles William Peryn and Richard Hargreave were successively priors of the refounded Dominican friary of St Bartholomew’s, Smithfield. The Carthusian refoundation at Sheen was instigated by a group of Edwardian exiles, including the martyrologist Maurice Chauncy, whose discomfort at having to remain in Henry’s schismatic England we have already observed.154 In the end, however, the exiles’ contribution was not towards a permanently restored Catholic establishment in England. Exile and persecution were to be the inheritance of English Catholics for another two and a half centuries. Here the Henrician exiles played a part in establishing places and patterns for the future, though one that is scarcely recognised in the voluminous literature on recusant Catholicism. Edward’s accession, and the intensified theological and cultural assault on traditional Catholicism that it heralded, initiated a second wave of exile, drawing in some who had stood their ground in England during Henry’s reign. The conservative theologian, Richard Smyth, for instance, took the well-trodden route to St Andrews in 1549, and then followed the example of Robert Buckenham by pressing on to Louvain.155 Louvain itself was certainly well established as a convenient and congenial refuge for English papal loyalists long before the Elizabethan ‘Louvainists’ like William Allen, Thomas Harding, Nicholas Sander and Thomas Stapleton established it as their base for anti-government agitation in the mid-1560s.156 The Dominican William Peryn retraced his steps there in 1547, along with John Christopherson, a friend of the established exiles Brandisby and Tenhand. Another refugee was the London rector, and former Carthusian, John Foxe, bringing with him the arm of his martyred prior, John Houghton.157 Two years later they were joined there by a further band of exiles, many of them family and associates of Thomas More: John and Margaret Clement, Thomas Roper, William and Winifred Rastell, John Story, John Boxall, Nicholas Harpsfield and others, including More’s friend Anthony Bonvisi, who had 153

Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 226; CSP, Venetian, vi (1). 32. Knowles, Religious Orders, pp. 438–41; ODNB (Peryn). 155 J. Andreas Löwe, Richard Smyth and the Language of Orthodoxy: Re-imagining Tudor Catholic Polemicism (Leiden, 2003), pp. 43–4. 156 P. Marshall, Reformation England 1480–1642 (London, 2003), pp. 174–5. 157 de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 281; Charles Wriothesley, A Chronicle of England, ed. W.D. Hamilton (2 vols, CS, new ser., 11, 20, 1875–77), i. 184–5. 154



succoured William Peto in Antwerp in the 1530s. The Edwardian exiles in Louvain exhibited a restless energy which would be emulated by their Elizabethan successors. Rastell spent his time there preparing an edition of Thomas More’s complete works. Smyth swiftly executed no less than three polemical attacks on the reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Peryn, Story and others laboured to smuggle works of Catholic devotion and propaganda into England.158 Another locale established as a centre for English exiles in Henry’s reign, the English hospice in Rome, was to enjoy an illustrious future in the construction and preservation of English Catholic identity. In 1576 it was formerly converted into a seminary, ‘the English College’, and had soon become a centre for training priests for the English mission. In the following decade it formally came under the control of the Society of Jesus, to which, nearly half a century after the early expressions of interest by Henrician exiles like Helyar and Peryn, there were now plentiful English recruits.159 The Catholic defectors of Henry VIII’s reign were a diverse group, one which included leading intellectuals, as well as obstinate friars, colourful Welsh adventurers, and obscure Lincolnshire yeomen. Their motivations were not identical with one another’s, and their activities in exile should be seen, not as a flood-tide of co-ordinated resistance, but rather as a pattern of overlapping waves, eroding the imagined coastlines of what the antiquary John Leland was pleased to call Henry’s ‘moste catholique realme’.160 Yet their collective significance for long-term patterns of religious identity-formation in England was profound. The existence of the exiles ensured that almost from the outset Henry VIII’s claims to the headship of a unitary English ‘Catholic’ Church were publicly, and internationally, contested. Their travails enable us to see that processes of confessionalisation usually associated with the reigns of Henry’s daughters were firmly under way during the preceding two decades. The difficult decisions taken by the exiled Catholics, as well as the sometimes equally difficult decisions taken by the non-exiles, and the complex weave of interactions between the two groups, all help us to understand the extent to which English Roman Catholic identity was not the residue of the political processes of the 1530s, but in a real sense their result.

158 Löwe, Richard Smyth, pp. 44–5; de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 424–5; Brigden, London, pp. 453–4; Sander, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, pp. 200–202. 159 Marshall, Reformation England, p. 175. 160 The Itinerary of John Leland, ed. L. Toulmin Smith (5 vols, London, 1964), i, p. xxxviii. See above, Chapter 9.

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Appendix: List of Henrician Catholic Exiles This list gives details of 127 English and Welsh people (and a couple of foreigners domiciled in England) who are known, or can reasonably be supposed, to have moved abroad (or failed to return home) as a consequence of ideological objections to the reformist policies of the Henrician regime. It also contains the names of a further seven individuals who attempted to flee the realm, but failed to get away. It does not include names of those who merely travelled abroad as intermediaries between exiles and Catholics in England. Nor does it attempt to include exiles from Henry’s Irish dominions. It undoubtedly represents a very partial and incomplete picture of Catholic exile in this period. It has not been possible, for example, to identify any of the plotters who were said to have fled to Scotland after the exposure of the Wakefield conspiracy in 1541. Nor have I been able to establish the names of the Bridgettine nuns (quite possibly a significant proportion of the 52 pensioned at Syon in 1539) who followed Catherine Palmer to the continent. Where not supplied, full bibliographic details of references given can be found in the notes to Chapter 11. Adam, Thomas. Observant Franciscan. Reported to have fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 243.] Alyn, Edmund. Student. Matriculated Louvain August 1540, described as of Cambridge. [de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 210.] Arkryges, ___. Augustinian canon? Described as a friar from Cartmel on a list of rebels in Scotland in February 1540 and said to be now ‘a broder in the Abbay of Holy Rudus’. [Kellar, Scotland, p. 73.] Arthur, ____. Conventual Franciscan of Canterbury. Preached ultraconservative sermon at Herne, Kent, on Easter Sunday 1535. Imprisoned and released, though then fled abroad. In Dieppe November 1535. [Elton, Policy and Police, p. 16.] Ashton, Edward. Trinitarian friar. Ring-leader and rumour-monger in the Pilgrimage of Grace, known as ‘the friar of Knaresborough’. Evaded capture and reported to be in Edinburgh 1537. [Hoyle, Pilgrimage of Grace, p. 186; LP, xii (2). 918.] D’Athequa, George. Bishop of Llandaff. Spanish Dominican friar who came to England 1516 as Katherine of Aragon’s confessor. Attempted to flee the country after her death in February 1536, but arrested and placed in the Tower. After representations by imperial ambassador, allowed to depart for Spain in September. [ODNB.]



Augustine, Dr. Physician. A native of Venice, doctor to Cardinal Wolsey and subsequently agent of the Howards. Appointed royal physicianin-ordinary in 1540, but fled England by the end of 1546, as the Howards fell. [E.A. Hammond, ‘Doctor Augustine, Physician to Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII’, Medical History, 19 (1975); S. Brigden, ‘Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and the “Conjured League”’, Historical Journal, 37 (1994), 531–2.] Bartram, William. Observant Franciscan. In Scotland by 1538, and included on list of English rebels there in January 1540. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 245.] Baynes, Ralph. Priest and scholar. Lecturer in Hebrew at St John’s Cambridge c. 1530. Refused to accept royal supremacy and fled to France. Lectured at Paris, and published a Hebrew grammar and Old Testament commentaries. Appointed bishop of Coventry and Lichfield by Mary. [R. Rex, ‘The Role of English Humanists in the Reformation up to 1559’, in N.S. Amos, A. Pettegree and H. van Nierop (eds), The Education of a Christian Society: Humanism and the Reformation in Britain and the Netherlands (Aldershot, 1999), p. 31.] Beau Teaw, John. Servant of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Sailed with him to Ireland and Scotland, summer 1533. [LP, vi. 1591.] Beckinsall, John. Scholar. A student in Paris, employed by Stephen Gardiner and other English diplomats. Came under suspicion in 1538 when failed to accompany Gardiner back to England, and was rumoured to have spoken against the dissolution and the royal supremacy. Later pardoned for having held ‘treasonable colloquies’ with Pole, and carrying messages between Pole and Richard Pate. But returned to England 1540, and in 1546 published a tract in defence of the royal supremacy. [ODNB; LP, xix (1). 610 (62).] Boorde, Richard. Priest. Reported to have fled abroad c. 1535 after preaching in Sussex that he would ‘rather be torn with wild horses’ than assent to royal supremacy. Subsequently wrote to a monk of Lewes urging him to join him in exile. [Elton, Policy and Police, p. 84.] Botolph, Gregory. Priest. From 1538 chaplain of Lord Lisle at Calais and author of ‘Botoloph Conspiracy’, a hare-brained scheme to deliver the town to Cardinal Pole. Fled to Bruges April 1540, thence to Louvain where matriculated September 1541. Attainted 1540 and excluded from general pardon of July that year. [Lisle Letters: An Abridgement, ed. St Clare Byrne, ch. 19; de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 210.] Branceter, Robert. Merchant. A Londoner who had moved to Venice before 1530, taking part in trade with the Orient. In February 1530 went as diplomatic envoy from Charles V to Shah of Persia. In mid1530s entered Pole’s orbit; later alleged to have secretly visited marquis of Exeter on his behalf in aftermath of Pilgrimage of Grace.



Attainted 1539 for ‘having knowledge of the late rebellion’ and for having ‘stirred and procured diverse outward princes’ to make war on Henry. In Paris 1539 as part of papal embassy to prepare for visit of Pole, where seized by Henry’s ambassador Thomas Wyatt, and released after intervention of Charles V. In Vienna 1542 with papal letter recommending him for military command against the Turks. [LP, xiii (1). 710, 1104; xiv (1). 462, 867; xiv (2). 694, 766; xvi. 57; BL, Lansdowne, MS 515, fos 39r–v; SP, viii. 219–32, 240–42, 248–9; ix. 107–9, 141–5; 521–2; Scarisbrick, ‘First Englishman Round the Cape of Good Hope’.] Brandisby, Richard. Student of St John’s Cambridge. Left for Louvain 1538. [de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 279–80.] Bretton, Henry. Priest. In Scotland 1538; patronised by Cardinal Beaton. Fellow of St Andrews, 1540, and moved on to Rome later that year, James V recommending him to the pope. Condemned by the pope and cardinals 1546 for fraudulently attempting to claim possession of the see of York. [Kellar, Scotland, pp. 43–4; Correspondence of Reginald Pole, ed. Mayer, pp. 345–6.] Brylys, Cornelius. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 305.] Buckenham, Robert. Dominican. Prior of Cambridge convent. Fled to Scotland 1534, and on to Louvain 1535, where he played a role in preparations for the trial of William Tyndale. Attainted with Pole and others 1539; joined Pole’s circle at English hospice, Rome in 1538–39. Zutchi and Ombres, ‘Dominicans in Cambridge’, 345; Parks, ‘The Reformation and the Hospice’, p. 206; ODNB.] Bucker, George (alias Adam Damplip). Priest. A chaplain of Bishop Fisher’s who attempted to attach himself to Pole in Padua in 1536, and to Bishop Gheri of Fano, telling him he had repented of his adherence to Henry VIII after the executed Fisher appeared to him in a vision. Appeared in Calais late 1538, calling himself Damplip, and espousing radical reforming opinions. Attainted for his contacts with Pole in July 1540, and executed 1543. [ODNB.] Budgegood. Anthony. Layman. A servant of Cromwell’s, suspected of making indiscreet remarks while in Ireland. Fled to the continent 1538, taking 100 marks of Cromwell’s money. Went via Paris to Rome, securing an interview with Pole, though the cardinal would not see him a second time. From prison in Rome petitioned the pope, promising to foment rebellion in England, and drawing up plans ‘for reconciling England to the Church’. Exempted from the general pardon in 1540. [LP, xiii (2). 433; xiv (1). 1, 186; 32 Hen. VIII, c. 49.] Bucklar, ___. English scholar in Paris. Received John Helyar after his flight from England in 1535. [LP, xiii (2). 797.]



Bukkery, Henry. Observant Franciscan lay brother. Went to Scotland, but returned to Newcastle house during Pilgrimage of Grace. Banished again by Norfolk, but came south once more in November 1537 complaining of ‘mysery and great penury’. Imprisoned and interrogated, and sentenced to execution for treason October 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 210, 249; Kellar, Scotland, p. 35.] Byllynge, John. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 249.] Cole, Henry. Priest and canon lawyer. Student in Padua 1533–34. With Reginald Pole in Padua and Venice during writing of De Unitate, and in Italy until at least September 1536. In Paris 1537. Returned to England. Warden of New College 1542. Pardoned April 1544 for communications with Pole and Michael Throckmorton and traitorous journeys to Rome, but reported January 1545 to be on way to Rome for subversive purpose. [Brigden, London, pp. 354–5; Woolfson, Padua, pp. 225–6.] Cony, Thomas. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538, and included on list of English rebels there in January 1540. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 251.] Curtney, Thomas. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 305.] Dansy, James. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 305.] Danyell, Thomas. Observant Franciscan lay brother. Went to Scotland, but returned to Newcastle house during Pilgrimage of Grace. Banished again by Norfolk, but came south once more in November 1537 with Friar Henry Bukkery. Imprisoned and interrogated, and sentenced to death October 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 254; Kellar, Scotland, p. 35.] Davey, John. Parishioner of St Sidwell’s, Exeter. Fled country after being accused of treason 1538. [R. Whiting, The Blind Devotion of the People (Cambridge, 1989), p. 184.] Donkson, John. Participant in Pilgrimage of Grace, included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540. [LP, xv. 96.] Dudley, George. Son of John Sutton, Lord Dudley. Arrived in Paris from Calais in early 1543, intending to travel to Pole in Rome. Arrested by Ambassador Paget, but escaped and headed for Bologna with letters for Pole from the vice-legate of Avignon. Briefly detained in Milan by instigation of English diplomats, but again managed to escape, Bonner suspecting complicity. [LP, xviii (1). 113, 125, 163, 505, 739.] Elkyn, Thomas. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 255.]



Ellington, Henry. Servant of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Sailed with him to Ireland and Scotland, 1533, and subsequently despatched on a mission to Flanders. Became informant of Cromwell’s, promising to deliver Gruffydd. [LP, vi. 1547, 1548, 1591.] Elston, Henry. Observant Franciscan and Warden of Greenwich convent. Imprisoned for opposing divorce 1532, but escaped to Antwerp with William Peto and other friars in 1533. Warden of Antwerp convent 1545. Active in campaigning against the divorce, and subsequently in Cardinal Pole’s business, forwarding letters between England, Scotland, Padua and Rome. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 256.] Elwyn, Richard. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 256.] Flegh, John. Observant Franciscan. Reported to be at Bergen op Zoom convent, Flanders in 1536. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 258.] Fordham, William. Benedictine of Worcester. In exile in Scotland at Dunfermline in 1546. [J. Durkan, ‘The Cultural Backgound in Sixteenth-Century Scotland’, in D. McRoberts (ed.), Essays on the Scottish Reformation (Glasgow, 1962), p. 301.] Forgate, Arnold. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 305.] Goldsmith, Francis. Student. Matriculated Louvain August 1540, described as of Cambridge. [de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 210.] Goldwell, Thomas. Priest. Student at Padua 1532. Became chaplain to Reginald Pole, and attainted with him 1539. By 1541 custos of English hospital, Rome. November 1547 entered Theatine order. Appointed bishop of St Asaph by Mary 1555. [ODNB; Woolfson, Padua, pp. 238–40.] Gray, John. Smith of Alnwick, and participant in Northern Rising 1536. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540. [LP, xv. 96.] Gruffydd ap Hywel, Alice. Wife of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Fled abroad with him 1533. [LP, vi. 1591.] Gruffydd ap Hywel, James. Welsh gentleman. Fled with family to Ireland summer 1533. Inveterate plotter and conspirator, travelling between Ireland, Scotland, the Low Countries, Germany and Italy over the next five years. By 1538 had attached himself to Pole’s service, evading recurrent attempts by the Henrician authorities to secure his person. Attainted 1539. By 1543 resident at English hospice, Rome, when rumoured he was about to be sent to Scotland. In 1549, along with Hilliard and Throckmorton, despatched with a letter from Pole to Protector Somerset. [LP, vi. 750, 802–3, 828, 876, 892, 895, 907,



1448, 1523, 1547–8, 1591; vii. 650, 710, 1193, 1567; ix. 319; x. 529–30, 535; xii (1). 845; xiii (1). 592; xiii (2). 507, 509; xiv (1). 1; Parks, ‘The Reformation and the Hospice’, 208.] Gruffydd ap Hywel, Sache. Daughter of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Fled abroad with him 1533. [LP, vi. 1591.] Gumbry, William. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 261.] Hadley, Richard. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 261.] Halter, Henry. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 261.] Hargreave, Richard. Dominican. Ordained 1529 from Cambridge priory. Went into exile at Brussels; returned under Mary as prior of St Bartholomew’s, Smithfield. [Zutchi and Ombres, ‘Dominicans in Cambridge’, 348.] Hartlepool, Roger. Cistercian of Jervaulx. Fled to Scotland after involvement in Pilgrimage of Grace. [Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 125.] Hartwell, Henry. Listed, with Pole, Throckmorton and others as resident at the English hospice in Rome in 1538. [Parks, ‘The Reformation and the Hospice’, 203.] Helyar, John. Priest and scholar. Student of Juan Luis Vives at Oxford, where a fellow of Corpus. Rector of countess of Salisbury’s parish of Warblington, Hampshire. Left England for Paris 1535, and moved to Louvain 1536. Around this time met Ignatius Loyola, and produced oldest extant manuscript of the Spiritual Exercises. Active in promoting correspondence with Pole family in England; attainted 1539. Through Pole’s influence became penitentiary of English hospice, Rome, where died 1541. [de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, ii. 423–7; Mayer, Starkey, pp. 273–4; ODNB.] Henry, Philip ap, alias Vaughan. Pardoned and returned to England 1540 (at request of Richard Pate), having been ‘long in company of Poole and James ap Howell’, whose daughter he had married at Regensburg. [LP, xvi. 32, 160.] Hilliard, Richard. Priest. Chaplain to Bishop Tunstall of Durham. Intrigued against dissolution of larger monasteries. Arrived in Scotland December 1539, having left London and preached at many places en route against king’s policies. Given fellowship of St Andrews 1540, patronised by Cardinal Beaton, and included on list of wanted rebels by English government in that year. Joined Pole’s circle in Rome 1543, becoming auditor of the English hospice 1545. [Kellar, Scotland, 43–4, 58; Correspondence of Reginald Pole, ed. Mayer, pp. 337, 343–4.] Holland, Seth. Priest. Chaplain to Richard Pate. Accompanied him in defection to Rome 1541 and attained with him in 1542. Later secretary



to Cardinal Pole. [Brigden, London, p. 354; Correspondence of Reginald Pole, ed. Mayer, p. 37.] Holywell, James. Scrivener. At English hospice in Rome 1535, when said he was not or would not be sworn to the king. [LP, viii. 763.] Horsekey, James. Priest. Vicar of Watton, East Riding. Fled to Scotland after involvement in Pilgrimage of Grace. [Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 125.] Hunte, Robert. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 305.] Hunter, Thomas. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 305.] Hygon, Sebastian. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 304.] Jobbe, John. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. May have returned to Scarborough convent before dissolution June 1539. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 265.] ––, John. English priest in Rome, d. 1538. Approached by Anthony Budgegood to attempt to gain audience with Cardinal Pole. [LP, xiv (1). 1.] Joy, Christopher. Student at Louvain, matriculated there 1531. Involved in attempts to get Henry Phillips returned to England in 1539, but suspected of allowing him to escape, and considered a ‘rank traitor’ by the ambassador Thomas Wriothesley, to whom he expressed a desire to travel to Italy. Yet submitted himself, returned to England, and was placed in the Tower. Attainted 1539 for promoting papal supremacy. [Dowling, Humanism, p. 154; LP, xiv (1). 248, 308, 365; xiv (2). 554; BL, Lansdowne, MS 515, fo. 39v.] Lambert, John. Observant Franciscan. In Scotland by 1538, and included on list of English rebels there in January 1540. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 267.] Leache, Richard or Robert. Brother of William Leache, ringleader in Lincolnshire rebellion. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540, and suspected of involvement, with his brother, in the 1542 assassination of Somerset Herald, after which he was handed over to the English authorities. [LP, xv. 96; Longstaffe, ‘Connection of Scotland with the Pilgrimage of Grace’, 340–44.] Leache, William. Yeoman of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Ringleader in Northern Rising 1536. Fled to Scotland. Attainted 1539, and included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540. Accused with John Priestman of murder of Somerset Herald on diplomatic mission 1542, handed over and executed in May 1543. [Kellar, Scotland, pp. 34, 66, 72, 76; Longstaffe, ‘Connection of Scotland with the Pilgrimage of Grace’, 340–44.]



Legh, John. Associate of Pole in Rome. Had dwelt ten or twelve years in Italy by 1540, when persuaded to return home. Imprisoned in Tower, and interrogated about contacts with the cardinal. [LP, xv. 468, 697, 721.] Leighton, William. Student at Louvain. Brother of Cromwell’s henchman, Richard Layton. Involved in attempts to get Henry Phillips returned to England in 1539, but suspected of allowing him to escape, and considered a traitor by the ambassadors Thomas Wriothesley and Edward Carne. Expressed desire to travel to Italy, and reported to have said he would not return to England ‘til he saw a change’. Ambassadors requested Mary of Hungary to have him sent to England for questioning. [LP, xiv (1). 247–8, 264, 308, 365, 393.] Leson, Anthony. Student at Louvain. Named by Thomas Wriothesley in 1539 as one of those who used their study at Louvain as ‘but a cloke for the rayne’. [S. Brigden, ‘New Learning and Broken Friendship’, English Historical Review, 446 (1997), 405.] Lewes, John. Servant of James Gruffydd ap Hywel, and active on his behalf in ‘diverse places of this realme’. Arrested August 1534, but fled abroad after murdering two gaolers, for which attainted 1536. [27 Hen. VIII, c. 59.] Lewes, ___. ‘A mariner’. Part of the company James Gruffydd ap Hywel took with him to Ireland and Scotland 1533. Perhaps identifiable with Gruffydd’s servant, John Lewes. [LP, vi. 1591.] Lily, George. Priest. Student at Padua 1534, considered joining Theatines 1535. Became domestic chaplain to Reginald Pole, and with him joint administrator of English hospice, Rome from 1538. [Woolfson, Padua, pp. 251–2.] Loyd, ____. Welsh exile? Reported to have had much communication with James Gruffydd ap Hywel in Edinburgh, summer 1533, and to have subsequently travelled to Denmark. [LP, vi. 1591.] Madde, Thomas. Cistercian. Monk of Jervaulx. Fled to St Andrews after retrieving and hiding head of George Lazenby, a confrere executed for treason 1535. [H. Foley (ed.), Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus … in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, 7 vols (1875–83), iii. 239.] of Mainz, Peter. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538, but may have been at Llanfaes convent (Anglesey) at its surrender in August 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 272.] Marshall, Richard. Dominican. Prior of Newcastle. Fled to Scotland 1536 after treasonous sermon against royal supremacy. Wrote to former confreres justifying action. Transferred to Scottish province of order and admitted to St Andrews. In 1550s active in abortive humanist reform movement within Scottish Catholic Church. [Elton, Policy and Police, pp. 18–19; Kellar, Scotland, pp. 26, 42.]



Marshall, Thomas. Parish clerk of Beswick, East Riding. Fled to Scotland after involvement in Pilgrimage of Grace. [Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 125.] Massey, John. Lay brother of Syon. Death at Termonde in 1556 strongly implies membership of the group accompanying Catherine Palmer into exile after 1539. [LP, xix (2). 581; J.R. Fletcher, The Story of the English Bridgettines of Syon Abbey (South Brent, 1933), p. 56.] Maxton, Henry. Dominican. Accompanied Prior Marshall of Newcastle in flight to Scotland 1536. [Kellar, Scotland, p. 26.] Middleton, Edward. Layman. Ringleader in Richmondshire Rising 1536; escaped to Scotland 1537. [M. Bush, The Pilgrimage of Grace (Manchester, 1996), p. 142; Kellar, Scotland, p. 34.] More, Richard. Priest of Chichester. Arrested conspiring in north, but broke out of Hexham gaol in 1538 and escaped to Scotland. Took ship south again, and rearrested in possession of treasonous correspondence after driven by storms into Shields harbour. Included in 1539 attainder. [Elton, Policy and Police, p. 367.] a Morgan, John. Kinsman of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Sailed with him to Ireland and Scotland, 1533. [LP, vi. 1591.] Musgrave, Nicholas. Layman. Ringleader of rising in Westmorland 1536. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland, February 1540 when said to be at Dere Abbey and to have been entertained by James V’s surgeon. [M. Bush and D. Bownes, The Defeat of the Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Postpardon Revolts of December 1536 to March 1537 and their Effect (Hull, 1999), p. 252; LP, xv. 160.] Owen, John. Servant of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Sailed with him to Ireland and Scotland, summer 1533. Described as ‘a gunner’. [LP, vi. 1591.] Packe, Thomas. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 276.] Palmer, Catherine. Bridgettine nun of Syon. On suppression of house in 1539, granted pension of £6 (which continued to be paid through the 1540s). Led part of the Syon community to Antwerp, and later to live at their sister house at Termonde in Flanders. Returned to England 1546 to collect others who had been living with the former abbess, Agnes Jordan. Appointed abbess of restored Syon community by Queen Mary in 1557. [LP, xix (2). 581; xv. 1032; xvi. 745; xix (1). 368; xx (1). 557; xxi (2). 725; Hutchison, ‘Syon Abbey: Dissolution, No Decline’, 253–5; idem, ‘Transplanting the Vineyard: Syon Abbey 1539–1861’, pp. 82–4.] Pate, Richard. Priest and diplomat. Graduated Oxford 1523; studied under Vives at Bruges. Friend of Pole’s at Paris. November 1533 ambassador to Charles V. Replaced 1537 after pleading for legitimation of Princess Mary, but restored April 1540. Discovery of letters



directed to him from John Helyar precipitated defection. Despite summons back to England November 1540, in January 1541 travels with emperor to Germany, and carries on to Rome. July 1541 appointed by pope to see of Worcester. Attainted 1542. Accompanies Pole to opening of Council of Trent. As delegate there argues for quasi-Lutheran position in debates over Justification. [Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience, pp. 149–58.] Peckham, Robert. Gentleman. Son of royal administrator Sir Edmund Peckham. Named by pope as confrater of the English hospice in Rome in March 1538 (along with Pole, Throckmorton and others) but seems to have gone home quietly to England. Returned to Rome as religious exile in Elizabeth’s reign. [Parks, ‘The Reformation and the Hospice’, 202–4.] a Pen Brere, John. Servant of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Sailed with him to Ireland and Scotland, summer 1533. [LP, vi. 1591.] Percy, Arthur. English exile, rumoured to have returned from France to Berwick with seven ships in 1537, and taken refuge with Lord Lumley at Hall Park. [LP, xii (2). 918.] Peryn, William. Dominican. BD at Oxford 1530. Preacher against heresy in London and chaplain to Sir John Port. Went to Louvain in 1534, but returned to England in 1543, publishing a conservative work on the eucharist in 1546. Went into exile again on Edward’s accession. [ODNB.] Peto, William. Observant Franciscan. Provincial minister in 1532, when preached against divorce in presence of king. In Antwerp 1533 with Elston and others, occupied in preparation of works against the divorce. Active campaigner against English regime, in frequent communication with Pole circle. Attainted with Pole and others 1539. Created bishop of Salisbury by pope 1543. From 1544 a resident at English hospice, Rome. In Mary’s reign created cardinal and legate by Paul IV. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 279–80.] Petwell, John. Suspected by the Privy Council of having fled the realm to join Pole’s party in Flanders. In June 1545, however, a four-month safe-conduct was issued to him to return to England. [LP, xx (1). 782, 997, 1006, 1256.] Phillips, Henry. Gentleman. Exile in Louvain by 1535 when betrayed William Tyndale to authorities in Antwerp. English agents record his railing against Henry. Arrived Rome 1536 claiming to be kinsman of Thomas More; rebuffed after English ambassadors report him a scoundrel. Similar experience in Paris. Returned briefly to England before fleeing again to Louvain. Went to Italy 1538 and unsuccessfully tried to insinuate himself into Pole’s service. In Flanders again 1539, where thought better of an offer to give himself up to English ambas-



sador. Included in 1539 attainder. Last heard of in Vienna 1542. [D. Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography (New Haven and London, 1994), ch. 14.] Pole, Reginald. Cardinal and Plantagenet prince. After early participation in divorce campaign, allowed to go abroad 1532. In 1535–36 wrote Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione against royal supremacy. Most energetic and dangerous exiled opponent of Henrician regime, which made several attempts to kidnap or kill him. Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary. [ODNB; Mayer, Pole.] Priestman, John. Yeoman of Helmsley. Ringleader of rising in North Riding 1537. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540. Accused with William Leache of murder of Somerset Herald on diplomatic mission 1542. [Bush and Bownes, Defeat of the Pilgrimage of Grace, pp. 132, 138, 341; LP, xv. 96; Kellar, Scotland, p. 76.] Priestman, John. Father or son of the above. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540. [LP, xv. 96.] Pyning, Henry. Servant of John Helyar, accompanying him to Louvain and Rome. After Helyar’s death entered Pole’s service, becoming his chamberlain and general receiver. [Mayer, Starkey, p. 273.] Reynolds, ___. English scholar in Paris. Received John Helyar after his flight from England in 1535. [LP, xiii (2). 797.] Rhys, Thomas ap. Gentleman. Son of Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd (executed 1531). Placed in household of Bishop Tunstall, but fled to Scotland and died in battle there 1544. [ODNB, sub. ‘Rice family’.] Rycket, John. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 305.] Shelley, Richard. Englishman in Venice. In 1538 warned Anthony Budgegood not to travel to Rome, because Edmund Harvel would immediately inform Cromwell of the fact. [LP, xiv (1). 1.] Shorte, Robert. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 287.] Smythe, William. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 287.] Stercke, Oliver. Londoner. Matriculated at Louvain June 1540. [de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 210.] Stoke, ____. Student at Louvain. Nephew to John Clerk, bishop of Bath and Wells. Involved in unsuccessful attempts to deliver Henry Phillips to Thomas Wriothesley and Edward Crane in 1539, but reporting to Cromwell, Carne found inconsistencies in his story, suspected him of complicity with Phillips, and declared that that ‘the English students of Louvain are all of the same sort’. [LP, xiv (1). 247.] Symonds, Cornelius. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 288.]



Symson, William. Observant Franciscan. In Scotland by 1538, and included on list of English rebels there in January 1540. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, pp. 288–9.] Talcarn, Robert. Layman. Granted monthly stipend of two ducats under revision to statutes of English hospice, Rome, in 1546. [Correspondence of Reginald Pole, ed. Mayer, pp. 365–6]. Tennand, Stephen. Priest and scholar. Left England for Louvain, 1541. Returned to England briefly under Mary. [de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 281.] Terlington, William. Lay brother of Syon. Death at Termonde in 1556 strongly implies membership of the group accompanying Catherine Palmer into exile after 1539. [LP, xix (2). 581; Fletcher, Story of the English Bridgettines, p. 56.] Throckmorton, Michael. Layman. Law student at Padua 1533. Entered Pole’s service c. 1537 and delivered his Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione to Henry VIII. Able to return to Italy by promising to spy for Cromwell, but kept loyalty to Pole, remaining one of his closest and most useful servants. [Woolfson, Padua, p. 276; Correspondence of Reginald Pole, ed. Mayer, pp. 135–6.] Tonnye, Friar. Observant. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540. [LP, xv. 96.] Vaughan, William. Welsh exile in Flanders. Unsuccessfully recruited by English ambassador John Hutton as a spy against Pole and Throckmorton in 1537. [Dodds and Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, ii. 283–4.] Walker, John. London business agent of Reginald Pole, who arranged for Walker to join him in the Low Countries. May be the John Walker who matriculated at Louvain August 1540, described as of Cambridge. [Mayer, ‘A Diet for Henry VIII’, 314; de Vocht, Collegium Trilingue Lovaniense, iii. 210.] Wallwoode, Richard. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 290.] Webster, George. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 290.] Wharton, Abraham. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 291.] Wilkinson, Philip. Observant Franciscan. Fled to Scotland by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 292.] Williams, David. Servant of James Gruffydd ap Hywel. Fled with him to Ireland and Scotland 1533, and sent by him back to Wales, where arrested and interrogated. [LP, vi. 1591.]



Wilson, Richard. Layman. Ringleader of rising at Beverley 1536. Reported to be in Edinburgh 1537. [Hoyle, Pilgrimage of Grace, p. 182; LP, xii (2), 918.] Wolls, John. Observant Franciscan. Fled overseas by early 1538. [Brown, ‘Franciscan Observants’, p. 292.] Woodmansey, William. Layman. Ringleader in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire Risings 1536. Sought by authorities 1537, but fled to Scotland. [Bush, Pilgrimage of Grace, pp. 26–9; Kellar, Scotland, p. 34.] Woodford, Elizabeth. Augustinian nun. After suppression of her house (unclear which), lived for a time in household of John Clement before leaving for Flanders and entry into St Ursula’s Convent, Louvain. Decided not to return to England under Mary, although a place had been provided for her at the restored Syon Abbey. [J. Morris, The Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, Related by Themselves (3 vols, London, 1872–77), i. 5–6, 32–3.] Unnamed canon. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540, and said to be at Holyrood Abbey. [LP, xv. 96.] Unnamed canon. Included on list of English rebels in Scotland January 1540, and said to be at Augustinian priory of Cambuskenneth. [LP, xv. 96.] Unnamed gentleman. Took ship at Gravesend 1535, getting past customs officers by claiming to come from Cromwell. Once on board ‘spoke opprobrious words’ against Henry and Anne Boleyn and sailed away. [Elton, Policy and Police, p. 366.] Unnamed Englishman. Spoke treasonably against the king at English hospice in Rome in 1535, and imprisoned by loyalist warden, John Borobrigg. [LP, viii. 763.] Would-be Catholic Exiles in Henry VIII’s Reign Chauncy, Maurice. Carthusian. Fled to Bruges in early months of Edward VI’s reign. Later claimed that he and confreres had tried several times to leave kingdom under Henry. [Thompson, Carthusian Order, p. 495.] Dickinson, William. Priest. Arrested on Sussex coast on way to Rome. [Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 35.] Hayfield, Thomas. Observant Franciscan. Arrested at Cardiff June 1534 while attempting to take ship for Brittany. [Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 35.] Marshal, Richard. Carthusian monk of Mountgrace. Arrested attempting to flee to Scotland in July 1535. [Kellar, Scotland, p. 25.]



Newye, James. Carthusian lay brother of Mountgrace. Arrested attempting to flee to Scotland with Richard Marshal in July 1535. [LP, viii. 1038; Kellar, Scotland, p. 25.] Payne, Hugh. Observant Franciscan. Arrested at Cardiff June 1534 while attempting to take ship for Brittany. [Shagan, Popular Politics, p. 35.] Prestwich, James. Schoolmaster to royal wards at Woburn Abbey. Arrested in county Durham en route to Scotland July 1538 in possession of incriminating letters. Attainted for papalist treason 1539. Fate unknown. [Brigden, ‘New Learning and Broken Friendship’, 396–407.]

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Index Abbad, Juan: 103–5 Abbis, Richard: 112, 117, 122 Abell, Adam: 240, 257 Abell, Thomas: 201 Acts of Parliament Appeals (1533): 148, 178, 183 Forbidding papal dispensations (1534): 179, 188 Treason (1534): 237 Attainder (1539): 238, 252 Proclamations (1539): 237 Six Articles (1539): 93–4, 114, 188, 245 For the Advancement of True Religion (1543): 8, 94, 114 Chantries (1547): 46 Actes and Monuments, see Foxe, John adiaphora: 93 Alesius, Alexander: 91–2 Allen, William: 46, 260 anabaptism: 192 Antichrist: 69, 71, 129, 134, 143, 145 anticlericalism: 35, 64, 161–2 Ap Rice, John: 135–6 Aquinas, Thomas: 214, 219 Arthur, Friar: 232, 263 Arthur, Thomas: 162 Arundel, Archbishop Thomas: 152 Ascham, Roger: 254–5 Askew, Anne: 9, 39, 40, 194 D’Athequa, George: 177–8, 235, 263 Augsburg, Confession of (1530): 3 Augustine, St: 89, 174–5, 193 Azpilcueta, Martin de: 214, 219 Bainham, James: 65 Baldwin, Sir John: 63 Bale, John: 9, 15, 30, 31, 35, 38, 39, 40, 69–70, 71, 191–2, 194, 221–2 baptism: 92–3, 98 Barlow, Jerome: 1, 48 Barlow, John: 35, 75 Barlow, William: 39, 75, 78, 139 Barnes, Robert: 5, 26, 40, 65, 68, 83, 129, 184, 189, 201 Barton, Elizabeth: 69, 126–8, 130, 143, 144, 146, 202, 207, 212

Basyng, Roger: 111, 178 Batmanson, John: 130, 146 Bayfield, Richard: 31, 39, 74 Baynes, Ralph: 232, 259, 264 Baynton, Sir Edward: 36, 75 Beaton, David Cardinal 242, 251 Beaufort, Lady Margaret: 34 Beckinsall, John: 253, 264 Becon, Thomas: 35, 55, 96, 192 Bedyll, Thomas: 221 Bernard, George: 12 Bernher, Augustine: 223 Bible, authority of: 7, 13, 38–9, 51, 57–8, 81–99 passim ‘Great Bible’: 1 Tyndale’s Bible: 2, 66 Vulgate: 105 Bigod, Francis: 32 Bilney, Thomas: 21–2, 31, 32, 40, 128, 162, 173 Bishops’ Book (1537): 12, 91–2, 182, 208–9, 244 Blagge, George: 194 Blickle, Peter: 41 Boccacio, Giovanni: 132 Bocking, Edward: 127, 207 Boleyn, Anne: 8, 68, 69, 75, 76, 147 Boleyn, Thomas: 181 Bonde, William: 53, 58, 172 Bonner, Edmund: 14, 103, 189, 192, 194, 239, 253 Bonvisi, Anthony: 248, 261 Boorde, Richard: 232, 264 Botolph, Gregory: 176, 234, 238, 239, 243, 246, 247, 264 Bowyer, William 65 Boxley, Rood of: 138–9, 143, 144 Bradford, John: 52, 59, 96 Branceter, Robert: 239, 243, 244, 264–5 Brandisby, Richard: 254, 256, 260, 265 Bretton, Henry: 232, 241, 265 Brigden, Susan: 78 Brinkelow, Henry: 29, 30 Broke, John: 245 Bryan, Sir Francis: 243, 249



Buckenham, Robert: 232, 238, 242, 250, 256, 260, 265 Budgegood, Anthony: 245, 250, 265 Bukkery, Henry: 244, 266 Bulkeley, Arthur: 78 Bulkeley, Charles: 103 Bullinger, Heinrich: 35, 99, 143 Bullock, Henry: 158 Burgess, Clive: 43 Calahorra, Rioja: 107–8 Canterbury, shrine at: 133–4, 141, 143–4 Cardmaker, John: 40 Carew, Sir Nicholas: 32 Carthusians: 10, 146–7, 217, 224, 236 Catholicism, definitions of: 9–11, 12, 111, 117–20, 169–97 passim, 225, 261 Caxton, William: 25 Chapuys, Eustace: 109, 117, 177–8, 180, 240, 245 Charles V: 109–10, 117, 224, 239, 249 Chaucer, Geoffrey: 132, 140 Chauncy, Maurice: 218, 236–7, 260, 275 Cheyney, Sir Thomas: 206 Christopherson, John: 259, 260 Clement VII: 177, 208, 209 Clement, John: 260 Clement, Margaret: 260 Clichetove, Josse: 88 coining: 152–4 Coke, John: 242 Cole, Henry: 251, 253, 266 Colet, John: 73, 133, 161, 173 Collins, William: 199 Colyns, Robert: 75 Compendium Compertorum: 136 confession, auricular: 40, 43, 126, 219–22 confessionalisation: 2–4, 14, 228, 261 Consensus Tigurinus: 3 Constant, Gustave: 169 conversion: 19–42 passim Cooke, Hugh: 218 Cooke, Laurence: 203 Corbett, Edward: 247 Courtenay, Henry, marquis of Exeter: 253

Coverdale, Miles: 31, 48, 193, 228 Cowbridge, William: 74, 199 Cranmer, Thomas: 8, 29, 30, 31, 35, 48, 55, 91, 103–4, 125, 147, 163, 178, 195, 199, 203–5, 206–7, 216, 223, 232, 242 Crewkerne, Robert: 147, 222 Crispe, Thomas: 78 Crispin, Richard: 96 Croftes, George: 218, 255 Crome, Edward: 68, 70, 190 Cromwell, Thomas: 8, 65, 75, 90–91, 109, 115–16, 135, 139, 140, 146, 162–3, 164, 180, 186, 193, 200, 203–5, 210, 223, 226, 231, 236, 240, 242, 244, 249, 252 Danyell, Thomas: 244, 266 Davies, Cliff: 12 Delawarr, Lord: 253, 255 Denham: 65 Denys, Sir Thomas: 186 Dickens, A.G.: 23, 225 Dickinson, William: 235, 275 Diez, Pero: 119 Dionysius Carthusianus: 34 Dissolution of the Monasteries: 116, 119–20, 135–41, 150, 234, 256 Doctors’ Commons: 73–4 Donation of Constantine: 148 Dowling, Maria: 171 Driedo, John: 88 Drummyd, John: 251 Dudley, George: 239, 243, 250, 266 Duffy, Eamon: 31, 43, 126, 149, 154 Eck, Johan: 192 Edgeworth, Roger: 51, 56, 58–9, 94, 188 Edward VI: 211 Elizabeth of Leominster: 131 Elizabethan Settlement: 2, 227 Ellington, Henry: 243, 267 Elliott, J.H.: 121 Elston, Henry: 230, 231, 242, 247, 251, 257, 260, 267 Elton, G.R.: 209, 225–6 Elyot, Sir Thomas: 145–6, 160 English hospice, Rome: 250, 261 Erasmus, Desiderius: 89, 130, 133–4, 136–7, 142, 146, 147, 158–9, 181


Erikson, Eric: 23 Ess, Nicholas van: 259 Eucharist: 8–9, 78–9, 94, 96, 149–50, 190–91; see also sacramentarianism evangelicalism, definitions of: 5–7, 20, 31–2, 78–9, 171 Exeter Conspiracy: 238, 247 Exeter, marquis of, see Courtenay, Henry exile and exiles: 10, 195, 227–61 passim factional politics: 11, 14 Featherstone, Richard: 201 Felipez, Francisco: 217 Ferdinand, King of the Romans: 241 Field, John: 68 Finucane, Ronald: 140 Fish, Simon: 45, 46, 47, 59, 65 Fisher, John 10, 50, 56, 57, 83, 88, 147, 172, 173, 177, 178, 224, 230, 233, 241, 245 Fitzgerald, Gerald, earl of Kildare: 250, 251 Fitzgerald, Thomas, earl of Kildare: 250 Fitzwilliam, William, earl of Southampton: 253 Ford, William: 37 Forest, John: 183, 199–226 passim Forty-Two Articles (1553): 81, 97 Foxe, John: 11, 31, 39, 71–3, 77, 79, 199 Foxe, John (Carthusian): 260 Francis I: 224, 239, 241, 249 Franke, Peter: 40 Frith, John: 5, 39, 40, 45, 47, 48, 49, 51–2, 53, 54, 55, 57, 59, 83, 128, 162, 173, 228 Gage, Sir John: 164 Gardiner, Germaine: 173–4, 253 Gardiner, Stephen: 11, 14, 74, 94, 145, 186–7, 189, 190, 195, 224, 239, 243, 244, 252–3, 253–4 Garrett, Thomas: 201 general councils: 96, 114, 158, 180, 184–5, 207–11; see also Trent, Council of Giberti, Gianmatteo: 252


Goderidge, William: 173 Golden Legend: 25–6 Goldwell, Thomas: 15, 233, 237, 238, 258, 259, 267 Goodale, John: 68 Gough, John: 34–5, 232 Grafton, Richard: 70, 76 Gray, William: 143, 193 Gregory the Great: 214 Gruffydd ap Hywel, James: 231, 238, 239–40, 243, 245, 250, 255, 267–8 Guebera, Francisco de: 107 hagiography: 34, 130, 141 Haigh, Christopher: 1, 225 Hailes, Blood of: 139, 144 Hale, John: 206 Hall, Edward: 62, 66, 70–71, 157 Hall, Francis: 62, 68 handguns: 62–3 Harding, Thomas: 260 Hargreave, Richard: 232, 260, 268 Harpsfield, Nicholas: 22, 77, 260 Hawes, Stephen: 25 Hayfield, Thomas: 236, 275 Heath, Nicholas: 207, 244 Helvetic Confession: 3 Helyar, John: 232, 235, 237, 238, 246, 247, 249, 250, 252, 255, 256, 258–9, 268 Henry VIII: 1, 2, 93, 110, 112, 114–15, 117, 119, 127, 144–5, 180, 184, 225, 229, 238, 241, 243, 253; see also royal supremacy Christmas speech (1545): 15, 157–8, 187 religious beliefs: 8, 12–14, 83–4, 87–8, 165, 169–70 Heynes, Simon: 121, 179 Heywood, John: 132 Hickman, Rose: 69 Hilarie, Hugh: 96 Hilliard, Richard: 234, 238, 241, 242–3, 250, 252, 268 Hilsey, John: 138, 212, 221 Holland, Hugh: 249, 254 Holland, Seth: 238, 268 Hollinshed’s Chronicle: 76–7 Holme, Wilfrid: 142



Hooper, John: 35, 47, 49, 51, 52, 54, 96, 97, 195 Horne, Robert: 195 Horne, William: 203 Horsey, Dr William: 71 Houghton, John: 147, 163, 217, 260 Howard, Thomas, duke of Norfolk: 11, 164, 175, 180, 204, 233, 237, 240, 246 Howell, Thomas: 117 Hughes, Philip: 169 humanism: 6, 12, 35, 134, 154–5, 158–61 Hunne, Richard: 70–71 Hunt, William: 189 Hutton, John: 243 iconoclasm: 125–56 passim, 204; see also images images: 117–18, 129, 148, 206 Imitatio Christi, see Kempis, Thomas Incent, John: 72–9 Ingworth, Richard: 139 Inns of Court: 63, 65 Inquisition, Spanish: 108, 109–11, 115, 117, 118–19, 121–2 Ipswich, Maid of, see Wentworth, Anne Ireland: 231, 245–6 James V: 115, 179, 229, 231, 239–41 Jarrett, Bede: 257 Jerome, William: 201 Jetzer case (1507): 131, 143 Jordan, Agnes: 234 Joye, George: 5, 26, 28, 30, 31, 32, 37, 38, 39, 45, 48, 193, 228 justification by faith: 7, 21–22, 27–9 Katherine of Aragon: 127, 147, 177, 178, 202, 216, 217, 230 Kellar, Clare: 229, 241 Kempe, Margery: 25 Kempis, Thomas: 24, 27 Kildare, earl of, see Fitzgerald, Thomas, Gerald King’s Book (1543): 8, 12, 46, 92, 114, 145, 183 Knowles, David: 228–9 Ladron, Pedro: 103–8, 116–17, 122–3 Lambert, John: 30, 31, 39, 199

Langland, William: 132 Lascelles, John: 194 Latimer, Hugh: 31, 36, 40–41, 45, 48, 52, 54, 57, 97–8, 137, 139, 147, 152, 164, 188, 204, 211, 223–4, 232 Lawrence, John: 202 Layton, Richard: 135–6 Lazenby, George: 146, 232 Leache, William: 248, 269 Lee, Edward: 187–8, 217 Lee, Rowland: 186 Legh, Thomas: 74, 135 Leland, John: 179, 261 Leonicensus, Nicolas: 160 Lesse, Nicholas: 112 Liège: 246 Lily, George: 233, 257, 258, 270 Lisle, Lord, see Plantagenet, Arthur Locke, William: 69, 242 Lollardy: 6, 134, 173, 176 London, John: 140, 145 Longland, John: 253 Louvain: 246–7, 260 Loyola, Ignatius: 123, 258–9 Luther, Martin: 21–3, 24, 28, 44, 83, 88–9, 162, 175 Lyst, Richard: 202 MacCulloch, Diarmaid: 3, 170–71 McGrath, Alister: 23 Madde, Thomas: 232, 270 Maldon, William: 31 Mandeville, Sir John: 25 Marck, Erard de la: 246 Mardy, John: 96 Marguerite of Navarre: 34 Marius, Richard: 23 Markham, Sir John: 221 Marshal, Richard (Carthusian): 236, 275 Marshall, George: 68 Marshall, Richard (Dominican): 177, 232, 257, 270 Marshall, William: 181, 182 martyrdom: 39–40, 78, 199, 232 Mary, Virgin: 86–7, 88, 92, 95, 136, 147, 255 Mary of Hungary: 113, 243 Mason, John: 109, 115, 161 Mass, see Eucharist


Matthewe, Simon: 181 Maxton, Henry: 257, 271 Mayer, Thomas: 253 Maynard Smith, Henry: 169 Melanchthon, Philip: 162 Mendoza, Luis Sarmiento de: 113–14 Melton, William: 161 Mercers’ Company: 64–5, 67, 78 Merchant Adventurers: 63–4 Messenger, E. C.: 169 Mewtas, Peter: 243, 249 Monmouth, Humphrey: 68 Montague, Lord, see Pole, Henry Moore, Richard: 232 Mordaunt, John Lord: 222 More, Robert: 251 More, Thomas: 10, 22, 45, 48, 49–51, 53, 56–7, 58, 74, 78, 83, 85–6, 87, 130–33, 143, 152, 156, 161, 174–5, 175–7, 178, 180, 184, 200, 215, 219, 224, 230, 233, 241, 260, 261 Morice, Ralph: 29, 191 Morison, Richard: 14, 238 Myllys, John: 188 Nannius, Peter: 254 Navarrus, see Azpilcueta, Martin de Neweye, James: 236, 276 Nicolls, Philip: 96 Nock, A. D.: 41–2 Norfolk, duke of, see Howard, Thomas Northern Rebellions (1536–37), see Pilgrimage of Grace Nun of Kent, see Barton, Elizabeth oaths and oath-taking: 211–18, 231, 236 Observant Franciscans: 202, 221, 222, 237, 240, 246 Oecolampadius: 5 Oglethorpe, Bishop Owen: 195 O’Grady, Paul: 170 Olde, John: 30, 40 Oliver, John: 186 Ostrych,William: 111, 112 Pace, Richard: 158, 159–60 Packington, Augustine: 66, 72 Packington, Humphrey: 78


Packington, Robert: 61–79 passim Palmer, Catherine: 234, 271 papacy, attitudes towards: 10, 47, 180–81, 206–10, 235 pardoners: 132–3 Parker, Matthew: 26 Parkhurst, Richard: 163 parliament: 62–4, 151, 205–6 Parr, Katherine: 30, 32, 34, 35, 38 Pate, Richard: 113, 118, 235, 238, 253, 259, 271–2 Patenson, John: 255 Paul III: 209, 249, 250 Paul IV: 257, 259 Paulet, Sir William: 247, 253 Payne, Hugh: 236, 276 Peckham, Sir Edmund: 253 Peckham, Robert: 253, 272 Peñaforte, Raymond of: 218, 219 Pery, Thomas: 110–11, 118–19 Peryn, William: 69, 190–91, 232, 245, 256, 259, 260, 261, 272 Peters, Christine: 6 Peto, William: 230, 231, 237, 238, 243, 247–8, 250, 251, 255, 259, 260, 272 Petre, William: 157 Petyt, John: 32 Philips, Thomas: 206 Phillips, Henry: 238, 244, 246, 250, 272–3 Phillips, Rowland: 94, 183 Philpot, John: 195 Pilgrimage of Grace: 10, 61, 68, 216, 233, 240, 248 Placett, John: 163 Plantagenet, Arthur, Lord Lisle: 113, 186, 242, 253 Plumpton, Robert: 29 Pole, Sir Geoffrey: 246, 249, 255 Pole, Henry, Lord Montague: 249, 252 Pole, Margaret, Countess of Salisbury: 249, 255 Pole, Reginald: 15, 176, 185, 196, 229, 233, 234–5, 238, 242, 243–4, 246, 249–51, 253, 254, 255–6, 259, 273 Pollard, A.F.: 169 Powell, Edward: 201 Price, Elis: 205



Priero, Silvestro Mazzolini da: 214, 219 Priestman, John: 248, 273 Protestantism, see evangelicalism purgatory: 7, 13, 43–60 passim, 68, 78, 90, 125, 126, 147, 149, 206 Pylbarough, John: 144, 192 Rastell, John: 39, 45, 50 Rastell, William: 260, 261 Rastell, Winifred: 260 recantations: 95, 98, 173, 189–90, 203 Redworth, Glyn: 169 relics: 117–18, 127, 132–4, 135–44, 146 Reinhard, Wolfgang: 2 Rex, Richard: 6, 24, 162, 170 Reynolds, Richard: 177, 220, 234 Rich, Richard: 194 Rogers, John: 195 Rolle, Richard: 24 Roper, Thomas: 260 Roper, William: 22, 39 Rowland, George: 215, 220 royal supremacy: 1, 8, 14, 99, 116–17, 178, 216–17, 233 Rugge, William: 188 Russell, Sir John: 253 Ryrie, Alec: 7, 8 sacramentarianism: 8, 194, 199 sacraments: 90, 92, 152; see also baptism, Eucharist Sadler, Ralph: 115, 179 St German, Christopher: 184 St Leger, Arthur: 163 saints’ lives, see hagiography Salcot, John: 103–4, 207 Salisbury, Countess of, see Pole, Margaret sanctification: 27–8 Sander, Nicholas: 246, 260 Santander, Cantabria: 106–7 Scarisbrick, J.J.: 169 Schatzgeyer, Kaspar: 88 Schilling, Heinz: 2 Scotland: 115, 179, 227, 231, 233, 239–41, 248 Scott, Cuthbert: 189 Scripture, see Bible Serles, Robert: 188

Seton, Alexander: 70, 189 Seymour, Jane: 147 Shagan, Ethan: 7, 9, 15, 229, 251 Shakespeare, William: 31 Shaxton, Nicholas: 39, 142, 147, 173, 190 Shether, Edmund: 188 Shipman, Thomas: 110 Singleton, Robert: 76 Six Articles (1539), see Acts of Parliament Skypwyth, Thomas: 162 Smith, John: 75 Smyth, Richard: 14, 95–6, 98–9, 191, 260, 261 Solt, L.F.: 169 Somerset Herald, murder of: 248 Southampton, earl of, see Fitzwilliam, William Spain: 103–23 passim Standish, John: 189 Stapleton, Thomas: 260 Starkey, Thomas: 51, 109, 161, 181, 185, 187, 252, 257 Stokesley, John: 36, 71–2, 91–2, 206, 254 Story, John: 260, 261 Stow, John: 77 Swynnerton, Thomas: 184 Sylvester, see Priero, Silvestro Mazzolini da Syon Abbey: 58, 221, 233–4, 260, 263 Tack, John: 108 Taylor, Rowland: 30, 39 Ten Articles (1536): 14, 46, 90 Tennand, Stephen: 256, 260, 274 Tewkesbury, John: 39 Theatines: 257–8 Theobald, Thomas: 118, 242, 244, 246 Thirlby, Thomas: 103 Thomas, William: 144–5 Thomson, William: 251 Throckmorton, George: 175–6, 220 Throckmorton, Michael: 233, 237, 238, 242, 253, 274 Tjernagel, N.S.: 170 Tolwyn, William: 70, 189–90, 192 Tracy, Richard: 38, 192 Tracy, William: 53, 55, 67 Tregonwell, John: 135


Trent, Council of: 3, 81, 83, 88, 235, 259 Tunstall, Cuthbert: 14, 21, 66, 185, 196, 217, 234, 244, 252, 254 Turner, William: 30, 41, 186, 192 Tyball, John: 39 Tyndale, William: 2, 5, 26–7, 28–9, 31, 32, 39, 40, 45, 48, 49, 52, 53–4, 55, 57, 65–6, 83, 85, 87, 128–9, 134, 141, 162, 173, 175, 184, 228 Typton, Hugh: 110 Tyrel, John: 40 Underhill, Edward: 164 unwritten verities: 7, 46, 71, 81–99 passim Uvedale, John: 237 Vaughan, Stephen: 65, 186, 236, 242, 243, 247–8, 251 Vaughan, William: 244, 274 Vermigli, Peter Martyr: 261 Veron, Jean: 46, 52, 54–5

Wallop, John: 241, 252 Ward, Robert: 190 Warne, John: 195 Walsingham, shrine at: 133–4, 136–7, 143 Waren, Gregory: 162 Warham, William: 173 Wentworth, Anne: 69, 130, 143 Wentworth, Thomas Lord: 40 Weston, Hugh: 191, 194 Whalley, John: 163 Whitford, Richard: 56, 221 Wilson, Nicholas: 94, 244, 252 Windsor, Sir Anthony: 253 Wisdom, Robert: 147, 191 Wolsey, Thomas Cardinal: 64, 162 Wriothesley, Charles: 62, 224 Wriothesley, Thomas: 145, 194, 244, 247, 252, 253 Wyatt, Sir Thomas: 109, 112, 115, 122, 243 Wyclif, John: 175, 190 Wyse, Nicholas: 30, 32, 142 Younge, John: 149

Wabuda, Susan: 6 Wakefield Conspiracy (1541): 233, 234, 263


Zouche, George: 30 Zwingli, Huyldrich: 175

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