Reformation, Protestant (in the British Isles)
REFORMATION, PROTESTANT (IN THE BRITISH ISLES)
The English Reformation was intricately bound up with dynastic politics. It began when henry viii (1491–1547), unable to secure a male heir from his 24-year marriage to catherine of aragon, divorced and married Anne Boleyn. Although Henry officially severed ties between the English Church and Rome, the Reformation in England is generally seen as having been completed by Henry's daughter elizabeth i (1533–1603). By 1590, Elizabeth had secured England's place within the ranks of Protestant countries and the majority of English men and women were united in their opposition to the reestablishment of Catholicism. The English Reformation had become a fact that was to affect the modern history of Great Britain, Europe, and the West.
The 16th century was a time of quickening change in Europe and the Channel did not keep the effects of these transformations from England. The 95 theses on indulgences, while intended by Martin luther as a routine challenge to formal scholastic debate, were elaborated into a declaration of independence, and neither the Christian Church nor Christendom itself was ever the same again. At the moment when the religious revolution began, other changes already had announced the birth of the modern world. Gunpowder altered the methods of warfare and shifted the centers of political power because no longer could the armored man on horseback count on automatic military superiority. The use of the printing press had demonstrated by 1517 how swiftly and cheaply information might be disseminated. Renaissance humanism had already produced all over Europe a group of critical and restless intellectuals, and the pendulum of European economic preponderance was swinging for the first time in recorded history away from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard, as Portuguese sailors opened cheaper and safer trade routes to the Orient and Spanish adventurers ransacked the wealth of the newly found continents.
Economic and Political Change in England. The medieval alliance in English economic and political life between static rural feudalism and the protectionist guild-directed towns was fast disappearing. The possibilities of commerce, particularly in wool production, and of small industry, which could escape the restrictions of the local guilds, led to a new partnership between enterprising landlords and provincial business men or London merchants who could provide domestic and foreign markets. In the new economy some vast fortunes were accumulated at the cost of considerable social dislocation. In a land where nine of ten inhabitants were directly engaged in farming, much unrest arose from the practice of enclosure, whereby the landlord fenced off the village common lands, plowed them, and planted wheat, or converted arable land into sheep pasture. The resultant eviction of tenants led to riots, protests, and even statutes in opposition.
The Englishman of Luther's generation witnessed political alterations no less dramatic. The kings of England had enjoyed during the Middle Ages a much greater control over their feudal realms than sovereigns on the Continent, yet in Tudor times, when an absolute monarch could be found in every European capital, it was ironic that whoever wore the crown in Westminster had to remember that the king of England, though below no man, was below the law. Nevertheless, with the Tudors (1485–1603), the English monarchy attained a power and prestige seldom known before and certainly never known since. This achievement was the triumph of Henry VII (reigned 1485–1509), shrewd, grasping, and meticulous, who brought peace and stability to a kingdom harassed for more than a century by foreign and civil wars and general distress; of his son, Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47), who concealed behind a soft, self-indulgent exterior a will of iron and not a small talent for the workings of government; and of his granddaughter, Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603), perhaps the most skillful woman politician in the history of the West.
The Tudors, however, were never able to employ fully those absolutist principles of sovereignty contained in the Roman law and so commonly accepted on the Continent. Though they secured an important advantage in that at Henry VII's accession in 1485 large numbers of feudal barons had been killed or discredited by the aristocratic Wars of the Roses, and though they were ingenious in asserting financial independence, still ultimately all had to turn to Parliament for money, usually receiving less than demanded. In the final analysis the Tudor monarchs were allowed more political power because instead of disregarding cherished English institutions, they learned to manipulate them with unmatched skill. The willingness of 16th-century Englishmen to follow their rulers proved the deciding factor when the religious crisis arose. Because it was precipitated not by a theologian but by a ruler, it took a radically different direction from its counterpart on the Continent. Questions of doctrine, matters of primary importance to Luther and Calvin, were secondary in England to personal and political considerations. Henry VIII remained convinced that the sacramental system was the normal efficacious means of salvation for the Christian, and therefore rejected the Continental Reformers' fundamental tenet. Elizabeth, more inclined than her father to treat religion as an abstraction, would probably have kept the Mass in England had she judged it politically advantageous.
Englishmen, however, were not uninterested in the theological controversies raging round them. Not long after 1517, small but intense groups of genuine English Lutherans began to appear in London and environs. Devotees of the new doctrinal views surrounded the Tudors, and during the reign of the child king, Edward VI (reigned 1547–53), were effective in creating a truly Protestant England. But the real architects of the religious change, Henry and Elizabeth, were professionally concerned with politics and economics. In England, therefore, the order of events was rather the reverse of that on the Continent. Henry VIII's primary objective was control over the judicial machinery and the financial resources of the Church, not deviation from traditional doctrine.
Provision of Benefices. The polity of the English Church had few of the features of centralization familiar today. Its finances appeared inextricably bound to the medieval system of land tenure, at a time when that system was being transformed by commercial and monetary revolution. Increasingly, churchmen, like their lay contemporaries, tended to think of their "income" no longer in terms of bushels of wheat, but in terms of money payments. Ancient feudal practice conflicted with newer ideas about financial and constitutional organization, especially in the key issue of appointment of ecclesiastical personnel. Attached to every diocese, parish, or monastic community was a source of income to support the cleric in the performance of his religious functions. Though the bishop possessed sole right to confer sacramental power on a priest, he did not have an unrestricted right to place him in a parish of his diocese. The parish, and no less the diocese and monastery, was an economic as well as a spiritual entity, whose revenue came for the most part from the land.
Hence, besides the ecclesiastical superior, the nobleman whose ancestor had originally endowed the parish with a parcel of land also controlled clerical appointments. Between himself and every priest who enjoyed a living on his land existed a feudal contract to be renewed each time the benefice fell vacant. The nobleman was no less interested in the appointment to the parish when, as the economy changed, its endowment brought cash rents instead of baskets of produce. The protection of that nobleman's rights prompted the legislation that ultimately made possible the kind of reformation Henry VIII brought to England. The 14th-century Statutes of provisors and praemunire checked in England the papacy's attempt to gain more direct control over the appointment to benefices. They made it a crime to invoke papal aid in securing a benefice contrary, to the wishes of the local patron, and defined the king's court as the final legal arbiter in cases involving ecclesiastical appointments. These laws, which, to a large degree, delivered the machinery of the Church into the hands of the king, did not deny the pope's theoretical control over any ecclesiastic anywhere. They simply maintained the feudal principle that centralization was a corruption. Feudal lawmakers could hardly feel otherwise, since the whole structure of their economic and political life was built upon the supremacy of the locality.
Pope and King. The pope's position was equally defensible. Landed patrons disregarded the spiritual qualifications of candidates to benefices, and as a result Christian communities were afflicted with unworthy and uneducated clerics. The nobles retorted that those priests who appeared with a papal license to a benefice were not noticeably better than those who sought the approbation of the landed patron, and that the papacy was really engaged in a money-making venture, since the papal court charged a fee for every petition it satisfied with a benefice. The Statutes of Provisors and Praemunire, in the tradition of magna carta, regarded the king as the first feudal baron of the realm. But the English Lords and Commons, particularly after 1485, found that the laws they had passed were rarely enforced, because the king found it more to his advantage to use them as a threat. Clerics continued to secure benefices with papal licenses, but none was named to whom the king objected, and only his candidates became bishops. Thus, for more than 100 years before the accession of Henry VIII, the kings of England were blessed with a clergy, and thus a large part of the literate population, completely submissive. They had at the same time the use of a free civil service, for a clergyman who served the crown could be easily rewarded with a benefice. The popes, on their side, received theoretical recognition of their prerogatives and some concrete financial considerations as well. This latter was attractive to the Renaissance popes with their luxurious tastes and expensive political ambitions.
The Dynastic Marriage. Royal personages ruled by reason of their blood, and one of their favorite tools of diplomacy was marriage. No treaty could be sealed, no war concluded, without such alliances. No prince dreamed of choosing a mate for himself, and often he was betrothed before he had reached the age of reason. Thus it was agreed as early as 1492 that six-year-old Arthur, Prince of Wales (1486–1502) and heir to Henry VII, should wed seven-year-old Catherine (1485–1536), fourth daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Nine years later, November 14, 1501, the ceremony was performed at St. Paul's, London, to the delight of King and people. Four months afterward Prince Arthur died. The Spanish-English diplomatic connection, to which the marriage had given expression, still appeared mutually beneficial, and so negotiations were opened between the two courts with a view toward new nuptials between the widowed Princess and her brother-in-law, Henry, now heir presumptive to the English throne. A serious obstacle, however, stood in the way of the proposed union. Catherine and Henry were related to one another by affinity in the first degree, because Catherine had been the wife of Henry's deceased brother. The Church's law on this point was severe, and it was almost unheard of that two Catholics so related would be allowed to marry.
Henry VII and Ferdinand sought a dispensation from this strict law; it was granted in 1503 by Julius II, though six years passed before it was used. Meanwhile, Henry VII followed a devious course, assuring Ferdinand of his constant interest in the Spanish match, and, at the same time, watching for proposals that might be more advantageous politically. The unfortunate Catherine lived on in England, her dreary widowhood made more grim by her father-in-law's miserly restrictions and her father's apparent indifference. At Henry VII's death, the new king immediately announced to his Council his intention to marry Catherine. Any objection based upon affinity was dismissed because of the papal dispensation and Catherine's solemn declaration that her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated. The archbishop of Canterbury witnessed their exchange of vows June 3, 1509, and the coronation followed three weeks later. Henry VIII had just turned 18; his bride was six years older. Most Englishmen were pleased with their vigorous and intelligent young king, the firm alliance with the rising power of Spain against the ancient French enemy, and the new queen whose charm and virtue had already won a devotion from her people that would not be lost even in the days of her deepest troubles.
A Decree of Nullity. Five children were born to the royal couple, only one of whom, the Princess Mary (1516–58), survived infancy. Such domestic tragedy for the head of a ruling family such as the Tudors, who had come to power by conquest only a generation before, presented concern. The survival of his dynasty weighed heavily upon Henry's mind, but that this serves as adequate explanation for the king's extra-marital liaisons may be doubted. One of his mistresses bore him a son in 1519. Another, Mary Boleyn, closely related to the powerful Duke of Norfolk, was married to one of his gentlemen when Henry was tired of her, a fate that provided a ready example for Mary's younger sister Anne, when her own charm infatuated the king. Anne made it clear that if she could not be his wife she would not be his mistress. By 1526 the possibility of making her his wife was absorbing almost all of Henry's attention. Divorce, in the sense of the termination of a marriage validly contracted and consummated, did not then or ever figure in the king's calculations. What he sought, and what finally he gave himself, was a declaration of nullity, a definitive legal statement that his marriage to Catherine had never been valid. Could the dispensation of 1503 be successfully challenged? If Julius II could not or should not have given the dispensation, then the degree of affinity between Henry and Catherine still existed and rendered true Christian matrimony impossible in their case.
Wolsey's Failure. Early in 1527 the king placed his "great matter" in the charge of Cardinal Thomas wol sey, Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor, and papal legate. Wolsey could stand as the archetype of self-seeking churchmen of Renaissance Christendom. As legate Wolsey acted almost independently of Rome, thus providing for his sovereign a useful and ominous precedent. Because Wolsey did not know, at first, that Henry intended Anne Boleyn to be queen, the King's desire for an annulment was not unwelcome. The Tudors, with scanty resources and a small population, could not compete with the continental titans, the Valois of France and the Hapsburgs of Spain and Austria. But an English policy of shifting alliances might give England a position more significant than her means alone could have won. This policy Henry and Wolsey had adopted, though in their hands it had enjoyed a singular lack of success. Now, when Wolsey was in the midst of negotiating a new treaty with the French, the diplomatic possibilities of a marriage between his master, free of Catherine, and a French princess struck him immediately. Two things, however, he did not know: first, that he had once again chosen the losing side in the Continental struggle, for the French cause lay prostrate almost everywhere in Europe; and second, that Henry meant to have Anne Boleyn and his own way, over all obstacles.
From 1527 to 1529 Wolsey exerted pressure on Clement VII, even when he learned that Henry's passion for Anne ruled out a French marriage. He saw now that his career, perhaps his life, depended upon the success of the suit, which had a certain prima facie strength. The dispensation of 1503 was unusual. Henry had given diplomatic support to the papacy, and he could hope, as Defender of the Faith (a title won from Rome in recognition of his book against Luther, Assertio septem sacramentorum in 1521), that he would receive a friendly hearing; Julius II had granted the dispensation on the grounds, among others, that certain international advantages would accompany the marriage. If the phrases of this grant were rhetorical only, then the dispensation was invalid and the marriage, too. He could argue further that Julius, though Vicar of Christ, had no power to permit a man to marry his brother's widow in the face of Scripture. But Wolsey knew how unsound this position was, with one ambiguous Old Testament passage (Lv 20.2) easily balanced by another (Dt 25.5).
Soon after negotiations opened, Clement was further handicapped by imprisonment. From the fateful sack of Rome on May 6, 1527, until November, he was the captive of Catherine's nephew, Charles V. To envoys from the King he made promises, thus hoping that somehow the trouble would go away. After delays, he named Lorenzo campeggio as Wolsey's colleague in the trial proceedings. Campeggio arrived in London in October 1528 with secret instructions to keep the business from solution. In January 1529 Henry threatened schism if Campeggio did not speed the proceedings. The pressure on the Pope mounted as Charles, whose armies controlled Italy, reminded him that he expected his aunt to receive unbiased treatment. Catherine appealed to Clement for a fair trial and weakened her husband's case by producing a brief, signed by Julius II, with none of the technical flaws alleged to have invalidated the dispensation in Henry's possession. In the summer of 1529 Clement could procrastinate no longer and recalled the case to Rome for special hearing. Henry, feeling betrayed by Wolsey's assurance and Clement's promises, avenged himself upon his minister. Wolsey was dismissed in 1529, banished in disgrace to his diocese, in which he had never resided, and died November 30, 1530.
Royal Supremacy. The king charged that Wolsey had broken the Statute of Praemunire by exercising in England a foreign jurisdiction, namely, that of papal legate. Henry confronted the Parliament in November 1529. Through his new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas more, significantly a layman, he requested suitable legislation against the abuses of the clergy. During the next month the members of Parliament passed several acts aimed at clerical practices that had nettled them and their ancestors for generations: arbitrary fees set by bishops for probate of wills; nonresidence, pluralism, and secular business engaged in by clerics; and the mortuary rights exercised against deceased parishioners. The king was not a step closer to his goal, but the anticlerical spirit of this Reformation Parliament placed in his hand an indispensable tool. Since the legal authority claimed by the Church had blocked his way, he would absorb it into the authority of the state. He would become "under God, the Supreme Head" of the Church in England.
To overturn with legality loyalties and procedures 1,000 years old, he needed the support of his high court of Parliament. As a prelude to the new legislation, Henry, by threatening to invoke the penalties of Praemunire, extracted from the clergy, with scarcely a demur, a formal submission on May 16, 1532. This surrender was later confirmed by statute in a series of parliamentary acts that reached flood tide in the two sessions of 1534, when it became the law of the realm that no longer was it heresy to deny the pope's divinely instituted supremacy, that the pope had no more rights than any other foreign bishop with regard to ecclesiastical appointments and dispensations, that the king was the Supreme Head of the English Church, and that to deny this was treason. Finally, in the Succession Acts, it was defined that the marriage between Catherine and Henry, or any like it, was against God's law, "any foreign dispensations notwithstanding," and that the marriage between Anne and Henry was "undoubtful, true, sincere, and perfect." It was further decreed that every adult should swear an oath in support of the contents of these Acts, with stern penalties for those who refused. For Anne Boleyn was now Queen Anne, after her secret marriage to the king in January 1533, and her coronation on June 1 by Thomas cranmer, Henry's new archbishop of Canterbury.
Catherine, now styled Dowager Princess of Wales, had been banished to a rural exile. On March 23, 1534, Clement VII, as a last exercise in futility and anticlimax, decreed that Catherine was indeed Henry's true wife and ordered her restoration as queen.
The Supression of the Traditional Church. Henry VIII accomplished his seizure of the Church's adminis tration with remarkably little resistance, but not without some bloodshed. The servant girl Elizabeth barton, the "Nun of Kent," was executed on April 20, 1534, for preaching against the divorce; the priors of the Charterhouses of London, Beauvale, and Axholme, John hougton, Robert lawrence, and Augustine webster, together with the Brigitine Richard reynolds and the pastor of Islesworth, John Haile, were tortured to death on May 4, 1535; John fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Thomas More, after dubious trials, suffered martyrdom on June 22 and July 6, 1535, respectively (see england, scotland, and wales, martyrs of). But the nation as a whole, whether it approved or not, remained quiet. The King's lieutenant was Thomas cromwell, a man of keen intelligence and without a trace of scruple. Under his direction the crown explored the possibilities of exploiting the Church. Taxes and fees, once paid to the Roman court, now poured into the royal coffers. The monasteries were suppressed, first the small ones (1536) and then the large (1539), 800 houses in all. Their lands, plate, and other valuables were confiscated, thus setting in motion a massive redistribution of wealth. In October 1536, Robert Aske, a London lawyer, led an insurrection in protest. Calling it the pilgrimage of grace, he marched on York, drove out the King's tenants, and returned expelled nuns and monks to their houses. The pilgrims grew to 35,000, but after Aske's execution on July 12, 1537, they were scattered by forces of the Duke of norfolk.
Edward VI. On Henry's death, Jan. 28, 1547, the kingdom passed from his firm hand into that of a child of ten years. Under the reign of the sickly boy, Edward VI, son of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour, continental Protestantism was able to take hold. During the lifetime of Henry, justification by faith alone and the consequent rejection of the sacramental system stood no chance. His Six Articles Act of June 1539 prescribed hanging or burning for those who denied transubstantiation, Communion under one species, the value of Masses for souls in purgatory, auricular confession, clerical celibacy, or the binding force of solemn vows of chastity. During Edward's reign of six years, however, Protestant divines became influential.
In the summer of 1547 the government placed in the hands of the clergy the First Book of Homilies, much of it composed by Cranmer himself, in which the fundamental Protestant doctrines were thoroughly explained. These dogmatic lessons were to be read as instruction from the pulpit on Sunday. The next spring The Order of Communion appeared, an English adaptation of the Lutheran Communion rite that, as the directives stated, was to be added to the Mass on Communion days. It provided for the reception of Communion under both species, and explicitly dispensed communicants from the prior need of the Sacrament of Penance. Then, on January 21, 1549, Parliament gave its blessing to the most revolutionary venture so far, The book of common prayer. It replaced the Missal, the Breviary, and all the rest of the old Church's liturgical books. Written in singularly graceful language, it furnished a service of great linguistic beauty and manageable length.
The introduction of the Prayer Book on Pentecost Sunday 1549 provoked riots. But they were put down, and Somerset, blamed for the crisis, was replaced in power by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (1502?-53). In 1552 Cranmer, with the approval of Dudley, now Duke of Northumberland, produced a revision of the Prayer Book, a catechism for children, and in the next year a formal statement of belief, The Forty-Two Articles of Religion. Edited by Cranmer and the Bishop of London, Nicholas ridley, the articles were to be accepted under threat of severe penalties and were so radically Protestant that an orthodox Lutheran would have rejected much of what they contained. Edward VI died July 6, 1553, and his eldest sister, Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, became the new monarch.
Marian Restoration. The possibility of the accession of Catholic mary tudor led to an attempted coup d'etat. Northumberland, Cranmer, and Ridley succeeded in persuading the Council to declare Lady Jane Grey, Mary's 16-year-old cousin, queen; but their rebellion, lacking public support, collapsed in a few days. Mary Tudor, now queen at 37, had known little but distress since the day, more than 25 years before, that her father had repudiated her mother and had declared Mary herself illegitimate. Now, as queen, she could find few in England whom she could trust. The Council, the bench of bishops, the lay lords had all been involved in one way or another in the assault upon her religion and herself. Her choice of a chancellor, the gifted Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, was a good one; but Mary knew that Gardiner, though no Protestant in the continental sense, had accepted the Royal Supremacy, and had been an active agent of Henry VIII in the divorce. She turned for guidance to the members of her mother's family, the Hapsburg Emperor Charles V and his son, Philip of Spain, despite their single-minded dynastic interests. On July 25, 1554, a marriage was celebrated between Mary and Philip, 11 years her junior, that proved disastrous for the Queen and the nation. Philip cared little for her and after his father's abdication in October 1555 turned his attention completely to continental politics. Though Philip and his entourage were intensely unpopular in England, Mary loyally supported her husband's anti-French policy and declared war upon France in 1557. In spite of allied successes, the French captured Calais in January 1558. The loss of this Channel port, which had been in English hands for two centuries and which recalled the glorious days of the Black Prince and Henry V, was a blow to English pride from which the Queen never recovered. Against this background of disappointment and failure, Mary worked to undo the religious reformation of her father and brother. By the end of 1554 the religious statutes of the previous 20 years had been repealed. Pope Julius III commissioned Cardinal Reginald pole (1500–58) legate to England with sweeping powers to restore the Catholic religion. A kinsman of Mary and once her father's intimate, Pole had exiled himself from his homeland at the time of the divorce. He came to his new task with the reputation of an ascetic, scholar, and diplomat. He had been lately legate to the Council of trent. But because he was known to oppose the Spanish marriage, Charles V placed every obstacle in his path. Pole did not reach England or assume his duties as legate and archbishop of Canterbury until October 1554. Even after his arrival the work of restoration proceeded with tragic slowness. The chief complication was the new pope, the erratic and bitterly anti-Spanish paul iv, who imagined that Pole, since he served a queen wedded to a Spanish husband and Spanish policy, might well be a heretic. He canceled Pole's legatine commission and summoned him back to Rome in April 1557. Though Pole managed to evade the order, much of his effectiveness disappeared.
Ineffective though Pole might have been, the Marian regime is remembered chiefly not for that but for the persecutions. Between February 1555 and November 1558, 273 men and women were burned to death for heresy. This total included the five bishops: Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Robert Ferrar, and John Hooper; 16 other clergymen; and a handful of gentlemen. But for the most part the victims were peasants and artisans. Most suffered in London and the southern counties-nearby under statutes passed 150 years before. The law directed that once it had been determined by a bishop's court that an individual held unorthodox beliefs and refused to abjure them, an officer of the crown should "receive" him and "before the people in a high place cause him to be burned, that such punishment may strike fear into the minds of others …." That Queen Maryburned heretics did not shock her contemporaries. Those who condemned her did so because, in their judgment, she burned the wrong people, the very elect of God. Society in those days, as surely in Calvin's Geneva as in Mary's London, considered nobody so dangerous to the commonweal as the heretic. It was also taken for granted that no heretic held his views in good faith, and that he was, therefore, a willful criminal. Add to these social convictions a penal code harsh beyond modern imagination—in England, capital punishment was inflicted for a list of felonies running to several hundred—and a necessary backdrop is drawn behind the infamous "Fires of Smithfield."
Nevertheless, Mary's persecution evidenced elements of unusual horror and futility, unmatched in intensity by anything heretofore in English history. Furthermore, those who suffered belonged largely to a social class that could do Mary or the work of Catholic restoration little harm. The wealthy mostly fled abroad, with little government interference, free to intrigue and to await a fairer day. Finally, general religious sentiment was profoundly damaged by the cynicism of the officers who enforced the statutes. Heresy laws had been framed for the protection of the Catholic community threatened by a hostile minority. But the whole English nation had formally abandoned the Catholic faith 20 years before the first Protestant martyr suffered in 1555. The police who ferreted him out, the bishop who determined the heterodoxy of his views, the sheriff who bound him to the stake had all accepted at least some of the things for which their victim was burned. Farmers and shopkeepers went to their deaths because they had believed what their clergy and lawmakers had been telling them for two decades about the pope and the Mass. In the persecution that brought her unhappy fame Mary demonstrated a typical Tudor ruthlessness and a curiously un-Tudor fanaticism, but at least the charges of hypocrisy and opportunism must be laid at other doors.
Elizabeth I. Mary died on Nov. 17, 1558, and was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth. With each change of government, Elizabeth had had to shift her theological alliances, and during Mary's reign she outwardly practiced Catholicism. For some weeks, therefore, it remained unclear what course she would follow in ecclesiastical affairs. By Christmas, however, all doubts were dispelled, and the Parliament that convened a month later was presented with a government program calling for the reestablishment of Henry's and Edward's religious legislation and the repeal of Mary's. After four months of maneuver the Elizabethan Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, which once more made the English sovereign a kind of local pope and imposed upon the nation a Protestant form of worship, received the royal assent (May 8, 1559). Resistance to it came immediately from two sides and continued. The Catholics who fought the losing battle in the Parliament of 1559 proved to be more resolute than their ancestors of a generation before. All the bishops and many of the lower clergy now refused to follow the direction of the government. Elizabeth deprived them of their offices and replaced them with men more pliable. Catholic laity who refused to attend the Protestant services she fined and restricted with increasing severity as the years passed. But she made traitors of them, not martyrs as Mary would have done in like circumstances. Not that Elizabeth hesitated to shed blood, and in great quantity, wherever her religious policy went unaccepted; for example, in 1569, after the failure of the Rising of the North, a mismanaged and half-armed protest against the heretical policies of the government, no less than 800 men were executed for their part in a "rebellion" whose military operations had produced five fatalities.
This and similar savage reprisals persuaded most Englishmen of Elizabeth's generation that conformity was necessary for survival. As they attended the Protestant service on Sunday, Catholics could soothe their consciences with the thought that what had been taken away had once been restored and might be restored again. Their sons, however, who did not remember the marching and countermarching between 1534 and 1559, were much more prepared to accept the government's story that acceptance of the settlement was both a religious and a patriotic duty and that it represented no fundamental change in England's traditional faith. But this myth seemed threatened during the later years of the reign by the post-Tridentine Catholic revival, reflected in England by the work of the secular and Jesuit missionary priests. Excommunicated by pius v in 1570 through the bull Regnans Excelsis, Elizabeth reacted, especially after 1577, with a brutal determination that sent 183 Catholics to their deaths and many more to torture, mutilation, and exile.
The second source of opposition came from the more radical Protestants, soon to be lumped together under the name puritans. They quickly discovered that Elizabeth was not prepared to go nearly so far as they wanted in the task of cleansing the English church of papistry. They disliked her retention of the episcopal structure and sternly disapproved of the continued liturgical use of vestments and ceremonial, all of which, they said, was but an aspect of the pomp and display of the Roman Antichrist. They also had serious misgivings, as did their continental mentors, about the Queen's defined position in the church, "Supreme Governor of this realm … as well in all spiritual … causes as temporal." The bitter lesson they had to learn in the years after 1559 was that Elizabeth considered the pope not as Antichrist but as a political enemy. She did not share their zeal for the establishment of God's kingdom, as they conceived it, and she abhorred their notions of an evangelical theocracy on the Zurich or Geneva model. It was the political value of her position as head of the English church that Elizabeth prized most highly. To protect this supremacy she used the devoted talents of William Cecil (Lord Burghley, 1520–98), her confidant for 40 years, a ruthless secretary of state who saw that religious unity was a needed prelude to England's movement toward greatness, and Sir Francis Walsingham (1530?-98), an alarmist intriguer who saw spies everywhere and who was largely responsible for bringing about the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Conformity Elizabeth demanded, and obedience she insisted upon. However divergent Englishmen's views might be on points of doctrine, they had to conform to the government approved 39 Articles and be content with them. For Elizabeth, as for Henry VIII, reformation of religion in England meant primarily that the State should control the Church.
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[m. r. o'connell]